People are already wondering if Doug Baldwin’s renowned fire will dim now that he’s averaging $11.5 million per season, up from the $4 million he will earn this year in the final season of his old contract.
More people are wondering about the Seahawks now having $187.6 million in total contract values tied up in the four primary members of its passing offense: quarterback Russell Wilson ($87.6 million), Baldwin, tight end Jimmy Graham ($40 million) and No. 2 wide receiver Jermaine Kearse ($13.5 million).
Yes, that’s a ton of cash to the pass on a team that vows to remain based on the run. So this must mean Seattle is going to suddenly transform into the new Air Coryell San Diego Chargers, right?
No. That’s not what this means.
The deal for Baldwin, plus the ones to Wilson and Kearse over the last 11 months (Seattle inherited half of Graham’s contract in last year’s trade with New Orleans), are about a larger, longer-term message. It’s about the Seahawks rewarding and reinforcing their core.
It’s showing the rest of the players that if you do what three of the guys who have exemplified how general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll want their players to train, practice and prepare, you can get rewarded here, too.
The Seahawks didn’t pay Baldwin with his new contract this week as much as they rewarded him. And it’s for the traits you don’t see, far beyond the fact he set the franchise record for touchdown catches last year.
“Reward” is the word Schneider used in the team’s official acknowledgment of the top wide receiver getting a four-year extension through the 2020 season. It’s believed to have a remarkable $24.25 million guaranteed. That makes the Seahawks’ undrafted free agent from Stanford in 2011 the NFL’s seventh-highest paid wide receiver.
“On behalf of Mr. Allen, coach Carroll and the entire Seahawks family, we are pleased to reward a player of Doug's caliber and extend him through the 2020 season,” Schneider said in a team statement Wednesday. “We identified Doug as a key player in our 2017 unrestricted class and as we continue to push to be a consistent championship caliber team, we are committed to keeping as many of our core players together as long as we possibly can.”
This is how Carroll described Baldwin two weeks ago: “He's done an incredible job for us and been a great, great teammate.”
Baldwin is in many ways the pulse of the Seahawks. He’s the flame when they need more fire. He’s the man who ripped into his teammates on offense in the middle of last season, after Seattle began 2-4 following consecutive Super Bowl appearances. Everyone around him was assuring everything would be all right. Baldwin was the one who said pointedly inside the locker room that everything wasn’t OK -- and wouldn’t be until each member of the offense began doing his job more professionally. Then he went out and had a wowing 11 touchdown catches in five games during the Seahawks’ late-season run back into the playoffs.
My colleague Dave Boling nailed in today’s News Tribune the other reasons Baldwin just got $24.25 million guaranteed.
“You should see him in practice,” Boling writes. “It’s not that he fills every day with his noted sideline-tight-rope and Cirque du Soleil aerial grabs. Those are mostly reserved for game day.
“But in some ways, equally impressive is the remarkable manner in which he goes about his business, his focus and intensity, the concentration exercised on every route, every pass, every practice.
“Even on a team known for its fanatic preparation, Baldwin is conspicuous.
“It’s Baldwin being Baldwin, true to his essence; that’s how he got to the Seahawks. That’s how he stayed with the Seahawks. That’s how he’s turned into a star for the Seahawks.
“And that’s why they signed him for four additional seasons (after this one) for a reported $46 million.”
Schneider and Carroll have learned in the three years since they signed Percy Harvin for six seasons and $67 million he never saw. Harvin’s disastrous Seahawks tenure ended with the uber-talented wide receiver sent away a year and a half later as a locker-room outcast. They rewarded elite physical skill and on-field impact then.
With Baldwin, they are rewarding dedication, preparation and motivation -- on top of on-field production -- now.