Kam Chancellor, one of the top strong safeties in the NFL, is holding out from Seattle Seahawks’ activities until his contract is renegotiated by the team. Now with the first Seahawks’ game only days away, if Chancellor continues his holdout into the regular season he stands to lose more than $250,000 for every game he misses. He has yet to practice or play once this offseason.
Chancellor’s side is saying that they are only looking to move some of his 2017 salary into 2016. While only Chancellor and his agent know how accurate this claim actually is, by itself, it doesn’t seem to be a big enough reason to risk $250,000 a week in lost pay. Likely there is more in play than just a slight shift in money being paid in one year compared to another. So that opens the question as to what other factors could be in play from Chancellor’s side.
Since signing a contract with the Seahawks in 2013, Chancellor has seen the team recently hand out big contracts to seven of his teammates who now have higher average salaries than he does (Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Marshawn Lynch, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett). So the hold out could be an issue of envy – wanting a bigger piece of what he has seen his teammates collecting.
Also, while Chancellor is one of the league’s top safeties, he can argue that in terms of guaranteed money, he is not paid like the top safety in the NFL. Chancellor currently ranks thirteenth among fellow strong safeties as far as guaranteed money is concerned.
Although, when looking at average money per season, Chancellor ranks second among all strong safeties, making a mere $2,498 less than Reshad Jones.
It is likely that at the time the contract extension was put into place, Seattle gave out a very high average salary in exchange for giving out less guaranteed money – although it would seem that now Chancellor wants both – to keep the high salary, and shift money sooner, which acts more like a guarantee.
Looking at Seattle’s reasoning for not caving into to Chancellor’s demands, there are several factors in play.
As mentioned previously, the team recently handed out a lot of money to a lot of their top players. The Seahawks have based these salaries on what they had already committed to Chancellor. By shifting Chancellor’s money sooner, it affects the entire structure of their cap space and payroll.
Second, the Seahawks recently gave Chancellor a big extension – just two years ago. They have a reason to expect that Chancellor would be happy with the contract extension that he agreed to, and honor his commitment to the team and his teammates.
A third factor is the position which Chancellor plays. While there is no "unimportant" position on an NFL team, some positions tend to carry more weight in terms of a team’s success, and in terms of perceived value.
In this regard, the unquestioned top position in the league is quarterback. After that, usually left tackles, cornerbacks, and defensive front seven players who can pass rush effectively follow in the second tier. Eventually, you make it down to interior offensive linemen, tight ends, and safeties. Since Chancellor plays safety, his position is not one which will carry the same importance or sense of urgency as if a quarterback was holding out.
Also, the team knows that it will generally have the support of the fans on their side. Usually in a case where a player is deemed to be "underpaid", fans will side with the player, since they recognize that players have short careers and should try to get as much as they can while they can.
Although in a case like this one, where a player already has recently signed that big second contract, but then decides to hold out, the fans tend to side with the team – especially with Chancellor recently admitting that the gap between what he has and what he wants is "petty".
Finally, and most significantly for other NFL teams (like the Bengals), a team’s willingness to stand firm in a contract negotiation, or in this case, a re-negotiation, sets a tone across the league. Unlike baseball, where teams routinely cave in to agent demands and labor union tactics, the NFL has generally held firm. In fact, the 32 NFL teams have done such a good job at showing a firm face in negotiations that the last major holdout which lasted into the regular season was the Cincinnati Bengals’ own Carson Palmer. And as many recall, that had little to do with money, but was a trade demand by a player who already had his money and was tired of playing for the Bengal organization (which has made the playoffs every season since Palmer left the team).
Most players back down once they realize they have gone a bridge too far, and end their holdouts. It remains to be seen whether Chancellor will return to Seattle, or spend the entire season watching from home.
The Bengals have several key players with big contracts (such as Geno Atikns and now A.J. Green) and several players with contracts expiring after this season including George Iloka, Andrew Whitworth, Andre Smith, Marvin Jones, Mohamed Sanu, and the list goes on. And, like the Seahawks have shown (so far), the Bengals will likely hold firm if any of their contract talks become protracted.