It’s not surprising that linebacker Aaron Curry, the Seahawks’ top pick, is a holdout.
This is exactly the situation we projected two months ago, right after the New York Jets signed quarterback Mark Sanchez. And it’s looking like the Hawks are going to have to guarantee Curry $30 million, as we said then.
The crux of the problem: Curry’s agent, Mike Sullivan, wants Curry’s deal to pay more than Sanchez’s because the linebacker was picked one spot higher than the quarterback (fourth vs. fifth).
But the Seahawks don’t want to base their negotiations off a quarterback contract, which typically is worth more than deals for players of other positions. Sanchez got $28 million guaranteed in a five-year deal that could be worth $50 million.
“We’ll discount the quarterback deals,” Ruskell told reporters last week, “and they’ll say, ‘Nope, there it is.’ Therein lies the rub of where the deal will get done.”
Ruskell said the rules regarding the final capped year add to the problem. The biggest change is that salaries can’t increase by more than 30 percent for each year of the contract.
“Those kind of rules have just made it very difficult for us—those teams in the top 10,” Ruskell said. “It’s just very restrictive. It just has made it that much harder. There’s just a feeling of panic. And then there’s the quarterback deals. So, a lot of factors are adding to these not getting done.”
Typically the value of each contract is slotted in order, so teams try to wait for the players picked above and below them to sign.
“When a guy has a ceiling that’s a few picks ahead of him, and there’s a guy below him, then at least you have your range,” Ruskell said. “And if you have your range, then you can negotiate off of that.”
Well, the Seahawks have their range, because St. Louis signed Jason Smith, the No. 2 pick, to a six-year deal worth $62 million, with $33 million guaranteed.
Even though they were picked three spots apart, Smith and Sanchez each got guarantees at an average of $5.5 million per year. That illustrates the premium paid to quarterbacks and the reason Ruskell wants to “discount” that amount in Curry’s deal.
But even if the Hawks try to go off the deal paid to last year’s No. 4 pick, they face the same problem. Darren McFadden, drafted fourth by Oakland last year, got $26 million guaranteed in a six-year deal—an average of $4.33 million per year.
So the absolute floor for the Seahawks would seem to be $5 million per year. In a six-year deal, that’s $30 million.
The only thing that might help the Seahawks would be if the Kansas City Chiefs signed the third overall pick, Tyson Jackson, to a lesser deal.
But the Chiefs apparently are waiting on the Seahawks, mainly because they can’t use last year’s No. 3 as a point of reference because last year’s No. 3 was quarterback Matt Ryan, who got $34 million guaranteed from Atlanta.
But Ruskell doesn’t seem like he feels it’s necessary to wait on the Chiefs.
“We’re going to try to get it done,” he said, “even without these other deals in. It is kind of a unique year that way.”
And that is why the Seahawks are probably going to have to guarantee Curry $30 million.