Kam Chancellor just got guaranteed money from the Seahawks – but the team has no guarantee he’ll ever play again.
That’s the danger of agreeing to a multiyear extension with upfront cash to a rugged veteran who’s had a history of injuries. Even when he’s that team’s soul.
Friday, the fifth day of the NFL’s waiver period that began after the Super Bowl, was the trigger day for the Seahawks guaranteeing all of his $6.8 million in base salary for 2018. The team did not have any moves listed on the league’s official transactions for Friday. As expected, no retirement by, or the releasing of, Chancellor.
His money is now guaranteed for this year. That’s from a guaranteed-for-injury clause in Chancellor’s three-year contract extension he signed with Seattle last summer.
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The four-time Pro Bowl strong safety sustained a nerve injury in his neck Nov. 9 making a tackle late in a win at Arizona. That was three months and a week after Chancellor signed an extension through the 2020 season that included $25 million guaranteed against injury. The neck condition not only ended his 2017 season two months early but puts his career in doubt.
Coach Pete Carroll said in January that Chancellor and Pro Bowl defensive end Cliff Avril, who also got a career-threatening neck injury this past season, “are going to have a hard time playing football again” – though the coach then backed off that later that day and said the team will have to wait and see.
Chancellor, who turns 30 in April, has missed 18 games over the last four regular seasons because of injuries. He was briefly in a wheelchair last offseason after surgeries on both ankles.
As of Friday, Chancellor has collected $19.8 million of the $25 million in guaranteed money from his new deal he’d held out two years earlier to get. Injuries like the one he has now and sudden career mortality he is facing are why he wanted this deal and its guarantees, before his earning potential ended.
His first $13 million was fully guaranteed when he signed the contract and included a $10 million signing bonus. He will get his remaining $5.2 million in guarantees if he is still on Seattle’s roster this time next year, five days after Super Bowl 53 in February 2019.
He’s unlikely to retire between now and then without some sort of potential injury settlement with the team. The Seahawks couldn’t have cut him before Friday’s guarantee kicked in for 2018 without being liable for an injury grievance. Teams cannot cut injured players without a financial settlement. A settlement can’t come until after a player fails a physical. And a physical exam can’t come for 2018 until after the league year begins. That’s March 14.
That’s how boxed in the Seahawks are with the contract they gave Chancellor last August. It’s why the team is likely thinking twice – or thrice – about giving six-time Pro Bowl free safety Earl Thomas the extension he wants now, entering the final year of his deal. Thomas turns 29 in May. He has been dropping hints he may hold out this summer without a new contract.
The Seahawks are carrying a salary-cap charge for Chancellor of $9.58 million for this year. There is a possibility, if he doesn’t retire or reach an injury settlement before training camp starts in July, that Chancellor begins the preseason and 2018 regular season exempt from the roster on the physically-unable-to-perform list, since Seattle is now paying him this year anyway.
The Seahawks are believed to have about $8.2 million in working cap space for 2018 currently, a month before free agency begins. That’s after taking out approximately $6 million the team would need to sign the eight draft choices they are scheduled to select in April.
Chancellor is waiting for a next round of magnetic resonance imaging exams to further define whether he will play again. This past month he’s been in Italy and New York with his wife, including this week in Manhattan for New York Fashion Week.
Right now, he’s got nothing but time – and, as of Friday, something cherished in the NFL: guaranteed money for this year.
Whether he plays or not.