Best & Worst Contracts: Seattle Seahawks


A few weeks ago Jason LaCanfora published a list of best and worst contracts in the NFL so I thought it might make a good idea for us to do the same here at OTC, with a team by team approach. I’ll try to be a bit more analytical in terms of why money was paid and how it fits in the market, but the general premise is the same. The one key difference is outside of restructured rookie contracts under the old CBA we will only use veteran contracts as there is a big difference between best draft picks and best contracts.  Please note that there is a difference between a bad player and a bad contract when discussing some of the selections. Clicking on a players name will take you to his salary cap page.

Max ungerBest Contract: Max Unger

I guess it is worth pointing out again that I’m not considering rookie deals for best value unless the rookie contract had something out of the ordinary in it. So that is why Russell Wilson isn’t here. Sure he is the best bargain on the team, but there is almost no thought process to the rookie contract. His value is due to the draft selection not due to any negotiation or value pricing of the player.

Finding the best contract on the Seahawks is not the easiest task.  They have run a contractual system that is very close to that of the New York Jets in terms of conditional guarantees and modest signing bonuses that tend to drive prices of players a little higher and can be damaging to the cap when such a player fails to work out. The two contracts that stand out as better than others on the team are those given to C Max Unger and S Kam Chancellor.

To be honest I could see naming either player as the best contract. Both provide escape dates and those escape dates are not met with excessive cap charges or other payouts. Both are well priced deals but I chose Unger for two reasons. One is that you can make an argument that he is the best Center in the NFL but the Seahawks didn’t have to go into the crazy Center money territory that the Jets and Panthers went to with Nick Mangold and Ryan Kalil. The other is that there were no vesting dates for his guarantees. Only his 2013 salary was fully guaranteed and after that the Seahawks, if needed, could easily use the June 1 designations on him. Chancellor has two sets of vesting guarantees that occur in February.

Unger’s contract, which was worth just under $25 million for 4 seasons, represented a 24% savings in annual value over Ryan Kalil’s contract with the Panthers. His $11.5 million in guarantees is less than Chris Myers of the Texans and Scott Wells of the Rams. The contract itself is also a well structured deal with no real peaks or valleys making the cap management job of such a player relatively worry free. His cap charges fluctuate from $5.6 to $6 million, though there is some room for small escalators to advance those numbers.

The contract figures are very manageable and with no spikes there is never a point where the Seahawks will be forced to renegotiate the terms of the contract for cap relief as will likely happen with Mangold in 2014 and has already happened with (and will likely happen again with) Kalil. This is the kind of deal that both sides should be happy with over the term of the contract especially if Unger continues to prove himself to be one of the best in the game.

Zach MillerWorst Contract: Zach Miller

Because of the rivalry between the two teams in 2012, the Seahawks are often compared to the 49’ers from the top all the way down. From a player valuation and contractual design standpoint that should not be the case, There were a number of players to look at here at bloated salaries and relatively damaging contract structures. Both the Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice contracts were way out in left field type deals. Rice has never lived up to the salary and Harvin is going to have to develop into a different level of player to ever justify his salary, but Miller’s deal was just so bad from day 1 that it is hard to say that it is not the worst on the team.

I remember Charles Barkley once telling a story in an interview where he discussed a trade that occurred while he was in Philadelphia. His GM told him how they got him a certain player ( I think it was “The Hammer” but I can’t say for certain), and Barkley told him “why did you do that he cant play”. His GM was bewildered and said “Charles he averages 19 and 9” to which Barkley replied how it was on an awful team with no other options and that he’s played against him and he wont produce in Philly. I think that story holds true for Miller.

Miller had a nice career with the Oakland Raiders. Statistically he probably surpassed his expectations averaging around 750 yards a season in his three years prior to free agency. He was a Pro Bowl alternate in 2010. It was hard to look past those numbers as he was the leading receiver on a NFL team. But that team was the Raiders and the offense they ran was archaic compared to the rest of the NFL.

Seattle bit anyway expected Miller to become a key player in a great offense. There was no thought of failure in the contract they gave to Miller, a contract that totaled $34 million over 5 seasons. Upon signing Miller was awarded $13 million in fully guaranteed salary. The guarantee consisted of a $5 million dollar signing bonus and $8 million in guaranteed base salaries, but the deal grew even worse from there.

The Seahawks included a third year of guarantees worth $4 million dollars in 2013. This guarantee was conditional in that Miller had to be on the roster at a certain date to earn the guarantee. The problem was that date occurred in 2012. Miller had $6 million in salary guaranteed in 2012, plus $4 million in prorated money left on his contract, meaning the cost to cut was $10 million in cap and $6 million in cash. Essentially the Seahawks fully guaranteed Miller $17 million, a pretty obscene number for a player not named Witten or Gates.

Midway through 2011 the Seahawks had to realize the mistake they just made. The output in Oakland didn’t translate at all in Seattle. He finished the year with 25 receptions and 233 yards and was relegated to more of a blocking Tight End role. Even with the improved QB play in 2012 Miller didn’t stand out in the regular season at all, grabbing 38 passes for 396 yards. While Miller came alive in the playoff run it can’t make up for the fact that he has the Seahawks pretty much pinned from a contractual standpoint.

Miller’s $11 million dollar cap charge is the highest on the team as well as the highest among Tight Ends in the entire NFL. Due to the vested guarantee the Seahawks  had little leverage to force their way into more favorable terms. At the end of the day they will end up paying $23 million to Miller for 3 years of blocking and little effectiveness in the passing game.

Check out Our Other Best & Worst Contract Articles

AFC East: Buffalo BillsMiami DolphinsNew England PatriotsNew York Jets

AFC North: Baltimore RavensCincinnati BengalsCleveland BrownsPittsburgh Steelers

AFC South: Houston TexansIndianapolis ColtsJacksonville JaguarsTennessee Titans

AFC West: Denver BroncosKansas City ChiefsOakland RaidersSan Diego Chargers

NFC East: Dallas CowboysNew York GiantsPhiladelphia EaglesWashington Redskins

NFC North: Chicago BearsDetroit LionsGreen Bay PackersMinnesota Vikings

NFC South: Atlanta Falcons, Carolina PanthersNew Orleans SaintsTampa Bay Buccaneers

NFC West: Arizona CardinalsSt. Louis Rams, San Francisco 49’ers, Seattle Seahawks



Percy Harvin Requires Surgery


Percy Harvin himself broke the news that he would need surgery to repair a hip injury, leaving the Seahawks one WR short for a majority of the season. In some ways it is lucky that Harvin suffered an injury before camp began. Because Harvin had yet to pass a physical with the team he landed on the Physically Unable to Perform list. The Seahawks can stash him on PUP until late in the season and then activate him at a later date, which I believe is sometime in late November under the new NFL rules. This frees up short term IR designation for a player who is injured during training camp or early in the season.

From a salary cap perspective the move is not devastating to the Seahawks. Harvin, who signed a large extension this offseason, was only going to count for $4.9 million against the salary cap this season, so Seattle had not built their financial structure strictly around him. However the injury should now make Sidney Rice, whose $9.7 million dollar cap charge could have made him expendable or at least forced into a paycut, 100% safe to play out the year at his current cap charge. The injury should also open the door for Golden Tate to see more looks in the offense.

The cap and contractual situations of these players should be beneficial to the Seahawks. Seattle already made it known that they were committing financially to Harvin, meaning the other two would likely not have futures in Seattle. Rice knows his cap charges will most likely see him cut after the year while Tate is in the final year of his contract. Even TE Zach Miller, another overpaid target in the offense whose contract will most likely be terminated following the season, should help fill the void. Players looking for new contracts have every incentive to outperform expectations and show up ready to go so that may bode well for Seattle.

Unfortunately for Seattle they had structured Harvin’s contract to have this as his “bargain” year before the salary cap charges would spike well into the double digits. Though he may still play this year, the injury likely ruins whatever visions they had from a roster management standpoint for the short term. Next season Harvin’s cap charge will rise to $13.4 million.

The injury to Harvin shows why teams are often so hesitant to extend players early. While we all focus on the player perspective, such as Jeremy Maclin’s whose ACL injury may have cost him millions, Harvin is going to be exhibit A as to why teams do not overpay early for players. Harvin, who has only played 16 games once in his career and finished last season on IR, was given a top of the market contract extension following a trade in which the Seahawks gave up a 1st round pick for Harvin. You can bet that other GM’s around the NFL will look at this when considering offers made to their own free agents and factor in the injury possibility as reason for offering lower price points to their players. Both sides need protection from the injury, the players via guarantees and the team via a “sticker price discount” for taking some of the injury risk away from the player. Seattle got neither.

Essentially Seattle treated Harvin as if he was a Restricted Free Agent with a 1st round tender. Most players, such as the Giants Victor Cruz, would not even get a sniff from another team with such a high price tag. Seattle went all in on the player, including $14.5 million in cash  obligations alone just for the 2013 season. It was a risky deal and they will probably not gain much benefit at all from him in 2013.

Seattle has so much invested in Harvin that they also need to be careful not to rush him back and risk further injury. Harvin has $11 million dollars in 2014 already guaranteed for injury. The guarantee vests to a fully guaranteed salary a few days after the Super Bowl. The last thing they want is to have a much larger cap charge on IR next season because they tried to get him back sooner rather than later. Seattle was fine without Harvin last year and their cap structure isn’t hurt by the injury. His being injured next year would be much more crippling to the financial structure of the team.

View Percy Harvin’s Salary Cap Page