Analysts commonly say that Kam Chancellor plays safety like a linebacker.
No way. He plays safety like a Thracian gladiator.
Big men, proud men back away when they see him stalking. Professional athletes consider career longevity and make post-career plans when Chancellor is locked onto target.
When the Seahawks took the field in the last Super Bowl, Chancellor ignored a torn knee ligament and a severe bone bruise to not only play in the game, but make 10 tackles.
And then you talk to him in the locker room and discover he’s so humble and thoughtful that he makes you wonder how such a savagely physical player can exude such a sense of what … dignity … nobility?
Seriously. This guy is Spartacus.
And that’s what makes it so hard to define his value.
Teammates will say he’s pretty self-contained until the team is facing a pivotal moment, when the season’s trajectory needs immediate redirection, and then Chancellor speaks and everyone in the room takes heed.
How do you not pay this guy for what he is — one of the very best to ever play his position in the NFL?
But then there’s the versatile and sometimes unblockable Michael Bennett, who shares Chancellor’s dyspepsia over his contract. (Although Bennett has shown up for the first days of training camp while Chancellor has been elsewhere to make his point).
All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner answered these questions Friday when asked about some of the Seahawks’ new roster realities: “You can’t keep everyone.”
It’s an NFL truism since the salary-cap era began. And that’s why the days of dynastic franchises ended.
Although the Seahawks proved that you can keep almost everyone when you have a franchise quarterback, Russell Wilson, making less money than backup center Lemuel Jeanpierre in 2014.
That luxury ended Friday morning when Wilson agreed to a four-year contract extension for a reported $87.6 million. It was a win-win for Wilson and the Hawks. Make that win-win-win if you add the enamored fan base.
But reality started about as soon as the confetti from the Wilson celebration hit the ground.
Wagner cited his own needs. Bennett restated his worth. And Chancellor then missed his second day of training camp Saturday.
Wagner reportedly got his just desserts with an extension Satuarday night. But both Chancellor and Bennett have multiple years remaining on existing contracts, cases in which the Seahawks historically ignored players’ pleas of fiscal injustice.
But how difficult is it to ignore Chancellor? A player that all agree is the blueprint for what this era of Seahawks players are supposed to be about.
He was so highly thought of, in fact, that he was one of the first of the core defensive guys to get contract extensions. He turned into a bargain for the team.
NFL front-office types, though, know they face a future of guys lining up at their doors whenever they start giving out early extensions and merit raises.
It becomes a greater issue when the player is somebody like Chancellor, whose worth is unanimously regarded.
The obvious tactic is to reiterate your undying love and respect, and cite the team’s history of rewarding the deserving at the appropriate time. Until now, the Hawks have been masterful at keeping their core guys happy with big-number extensions at an early opportunity.
To stay competitive, though, they have to draft well, be committed to playing young guys early so they can develop. And those who don’t develop to a high degree don’t earn the second contract.
Churn at the mid and lower ends of the roster is a fact of life in the cap era.
Chancellor knows that he has never been more valuable, with backup safety Jeron Johnson gone as a free agent and All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas out for now following shoulder surgery. He also understands that his style of play takes a toll, even if he’s only 27.
Nobody in the league is going to feel sorry for the Seahawks, who are facing the First World problem of having too many guys deserving elite-level contracts.
But the Chancellor situation, particularly, is a tough one.
How do you find ways to pay an unhappy gladiator?