In another move that should leave quarterback Russell Wilson grinning ear-to-ear, the Seahawks have locked up one of his top weapons for the foreseeable future by rewarding star receiver Tyler Lockett with a four-year, $69.2 million extension.
Under the terms of the extension, Lockett will earn $17.3 million per year, which falls between Allen Robinson and Mike Evans as the 10th-highest paid receiver in the NFL. Set to receive $37 million in guaranteed money, only Julio Jones and DeAndre Hopkins have a higher percentage of their contract guaranteed.
While such a price tag may seem expensive for a receiver with only two 1,000-yard seasons on his resume, few players have been more productive than Lockett over the past three years. Per Pro Football Reference, since 2018, he's one of only 12 wideouts with at least 200 receptions, 3,000 receiving yards, and 20 touchdowns. Amongst that exclusive group, he has the highest catch rate (76.1 percent) and ranks fifth in touchdowns (28) despite being 10th in total targets.
Considering his consistency and reliability, his penchant for making highlight-reel grabs on a regular basis, and his impeccable chemistry with Wilson, Lockett rightfully earned such a lucrative pay day and the Seahawks were smart to open up the checkbook. But the decision to extend him now was a wise move beyond retaining one of the NFL's most underrated talents.
It's no secret Seattle has been hurt as much as any franchise by the league-wide salary cap crunch. With the cap plunging to $182.5 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, general manager John Schneider faced quite the challenge trying to improve the roster with minimal financial flexibility and the team has suffered some significant losses this offseason as a result, including being forced to release defensive tackle Jarran Reed last week.
Though details of the structure of Lockett's new contract have yet to be disclosed, extending him should significantly lower the receiver's cap hit from $14.95 million to a much more manageable number in 2021. Even if the cap hit drops only $5 million, coupled with money saved on a recent extension given to guard Gabe Jackson, that may be enough space to re-sign popular linebacker K.J. Wright or add another valuable veteran in free agency.
Extending Lockett now also allows the Seahawks to take advantage of a two-year window before it's time for the organization to pay star receiver DK Metcalf. Eventually, the ex-Ole Miss standout will undoubtedly be seeking top-five receiver money when he's allowed to begin negotiations after the 2021 season.
Depending on how Metcalf performs next season, such a contract could push upwards to $20 million or more per year. It's even possible he could ask for similar money to Hopkins, who currently is earning $27.25 million per year with the Cardinals. At that point, with Lockett being 31 years old, Seattle likely will not be able to squeeze both receivers under the cap and difficult decisions will need to be made.
But until then, even with his new contract in tow, the Seahawks can afford to pay Lockett as a top-10 receiver playing alongside Metcalf, who has two years left on his rookie deal with team-friendly cap hits of $1.25 million and $1.46 million in 2021 and 2022 respectively. The two should continue to grow together in new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron's scheme while keeping opposing defensive play callers up at night trying to prepare for them.
Most importantly, Seattle sent yet another strong message of commitment to Wilson. Despite having an unideal cap situation, the front office fortified pass protection in front of him by trading for and immediately extending Jackson, they brought back a two-time 1,000-yard runner in Chris Carson, and they added a playmaking tight end in Gerald Everett.
Now, the Seahawks have ensured the All-Pro quarterback will have both of his trusted star receivers together for at least two more seasons. While there remains work left to accomplish, these types of investments to upgrade the supporting cast around Wilson should go a long way towards mending the relationship between the signal caller and the franchise moving forward.