Getting Kam Chancellor back doesn't solve all of the Seahawks' problems, but once he's back in football shape, it certainly helps.
Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor, who had held out through the preseason and through the first two games of the 2015 regular season, returned to the team's facility and ended his holdout Wednesday, according to a text message he sent to ESPN's Stephen A. Smith. SI.com's Andrew Brandt confirmed the news, also noting that the Seahawks are holding firm on the parameters of Chancellor's contract. There is no indication as to whether the team will forgive Chancellor's lost fines and bonuses accrued while he was away. Between those debits and two lost game checks, Chancellor's holdout cost him over $2 million. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Chancellor took a private plane from Los Angeles to Seattle to get to the facility.
“Ima go help my teammates that are understanding of my position and the ones who aren't,” Chancellor said in the text. “God forgives all, why can't i? Time to help us get back to the big dance. I can address business after the season. Me and Marshawn started a mission 2 years ago. I can't let my Dawg down....Real talk.”
Chancellor, who has made three Pro Bowls throughout his NFL career since he was selected in the fifth round of the 2010 draft out of Virginia Tech, had become one of the best strong safeties in the game, and he came to believe that he had outperformed the five-year, $29.323 million contract extension he signed in April 2013. A rover linebacker/safety combo player in college, Chancellor eventually became a good cover man as well, and his absence was conspicuous during Seattle's 0–2 start.
“It provides an emotional boost, first and foremost,” said former Seahawks fullback and Chancellor teammate Michael Robinson, now an NFL Network analyst. “A guy [coach] Pete [Carroll] can use to do some of the dirty work in the locker room. Also, he's an intimidating factor. It may not happen this week against Chicago, because I don't think he'll be ready this week, but [he's] the Boom to the Legion of Boom.”
The Seahawks knew that if they bent to one holdout, they'd have disgruntled players lined up outside the door of general manager John Schneider, but the effect of Chancellor's absence was clear. Seattle was frequently out of sorts on defense in losses to the Rams and Packers, and backups Dion Bailey and DeShawn Shead simply couldn't match Chancellor's field awareness and intimidation. According to ESPN's Stats and Info, Chancellor has played 73.6% of the Seahawks' defensive snaps throughout his career, and the team has allowed a Total QBR (ESPN's proprietary stat that measures quarterback play on a 0-to-100 scale) of 34.7 with him on the field, compared to 56.7 without him.
From a play-to-play perspective, Chancellor's return is crucial. The Rams killed Seattle with the kinds of intermediate crossing routes and middle-distance runs that Chancellor is generally tasked to stop, either by his tackling or by the opponents' awareness that he's ready to deliver an intimidating hit. Star safety Earl Thomas has credited Chancellor for keeping the secondary lined up, and his absence could very well be the cause of Seattle's unusually high number of defensive misalignments against the pass this year.
Chancellor's teammates have said to a man that they don't resent Chancellor's holdout, but after Sunday night's loss to the Packers, Thomas let it slip that things were not going well.
“At this moment, he's not battling with us, so I can't really tell you what [his absence means],” Thomas said. “It would be great if he comes back, but we're gonna keep on truckin' ... You never know what's going on with someone in that situation. He's in a whole other place right now. He's handling his situation, [rather than] helping us. I try not to deal with that energy.”
Chancellor is under contract through the 2017 season, and there was talk that the Seahawks may have been willing to move some of his '17 dollars into the '16 league year to give him more guaranteed money. All along, though, Carroll and the team said that there was no movement along those lines.
Through two games this season, Seattle's defense ranks 28th overall in Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics, 28th against the pass, and 21st against the run. Getting Chancellor back doesn't solve all those problems, but once he's back in football shape, it certainly helps.