Yet as Wednesday marked Day 48 of Kam Chancellor’s old-school holdout from the Seattle Seahawks, it is best billed as a battle of leverage vs. precedent.
The absence of the NFL’s best strong safety will be glaring as the revised version of the Legion of Boom tries to contain Aaron Rodgers during the NFC title game rematch on Sunday night – especially if the Seahawks leave Lambeau Field at 0-2.
In 1993, 0-2 was the breaking point when Emmitt Smith withheld his services from the defending Super Bowl champion Dallas Cowboys.
Like Chancellor, Smith was like an electrical current running through his team. After he returned – aided by the strong message that Charles Haley delivered in the locker room immediately after a Week 2 loss against Buffalo, when he slammed his helmet into a wall as team owner Jerry Jones stood in close proximity — the Cowboys went on to repeat as champs.
Which Seahawks star would most likely pull a Haley?
My pick would be Marshawn Lynch, of course. The running back, who had his own brief holdout from camp last year, wore Chancellor’s jersey in practice last week as a symbolic gesture.
Maybe his next message will be a bit stronger – although it would take a lot to top the venom tweeted by Lynch’s mother, Delisa, at the end of Sunday’s loss at St. Louis.
Meanwhile, Seahawks general manager John Schneider is holding the line while trying to avoid setting a precedent by restructuring the deal for a player who has three years left on his contract.
Who caves first?
Chancellor recently described the stalemate to the NFL Network as “petty.”
On Monday, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, summed it up as follows: “Nothing’s changed.”
Chancellor – the first holdout to miss a regular-season game since the new CBA was instituted in 2011 with more protections for teams against holdouts — is respected as an ultimate team player. His commitment was undoubtedly exemplified as he played in Super Bowl 49 with a torn MCL. But this has to be a bit counterintuitive, knowing that the perception of his value increases if the Seahawks falter.
On Sunday, Chancellor’s replacement, Dion Bailey, stumbled to allow Rams tight end Lance Kendricks to roam wide open for the touchdown that sent the game to overtime. And another score, off a sweep by slot receiver Tavon Austin, was aided by miscommunication that might not have been the case with Chancellor on the field.
The Seahawks, who were the best in the NFL last season defending passes 15 yards or longer according to ESPN Stats, let Nick Foles complete 7 of 8 for 175 yards and a touchdown.
Now consider economic nuts and bolts: Chancellor, who signed a four-year, $28 million extension in 2014, has reportedly sought to shift $4 million of his salary in 2017 to 2016. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the sides were merely $900,000 apart in striking a deal, which is pretty much chump change in the NFL, assuming that they can account for the nearly $2 million that Chancellor has lost in fines, lost wages and forfeitures during his holdout.
Did it have to get to this?
No doubt, NFL contracts almost never live up to the headlines. Players are often released with years left on their contract. So given that culture in the league, Chancellor, the fourth-highest paid strong safety in the NFL with an average salary of $7 million, is merely flipping the script — as bold as it seems — with three years left.
Perhaps Chancellor’s agent, Alvin Keels, might have insisted on some type of escalation clause – yes, something in writing, as opposed to an oral agreement – when the extension was done last year in anticipation of a changing market.
Now they sweat it out.
The Seahawks obviously were willing to do something to address Chancellor’s displeasure with his contract, evidenced by the fact there have been negotiations.
But when Chancellor didn’t show up for camp, it pushed the Seahawks into a corner. Every other key Seahawks player —and perhaps others around the league — with years left on their deals can check out the reaction from management.
In the meantime, everybody suffers — which is another way of losing as a team.