The Seahawks find themselves in unfamiliar circumstances. They sit at home on wild card weekend—and not in the fun way—and have major questions and concerns entering their offseason. The first of these major questions appears to have been answered. Seemingly, head coach Pete Carroll has avoided the chopping block and there are no whispers that general manager John Schneider is going anywhere either.
Now, the team begins an exclusive negotiation window with its many premium free agents and extension candidates. Perhaps none loom larger than receiver DK Metcalf’s pending extension talks.
Metcalf has been nothing short of amazing in his first three seasons with the Seahawks. Dinged for his route-running and injury issues in college, the former Ole Miss standout has greatly improved his mechanics with Seattle and hasn’t missed a single game in his NFL career, despite having to gut out the final 14 weeks of the 2021 campaign with a foot injury that may require surgery this winter. He fell just shy of his second consecutive 1,000 yard season, but set a career-high in touchdowns (12).
All of these point to a massive extension coming the way of Metcalf and he has earned everything that is coming his way. But do the Seahawks need to be the team to give it to him? Almost certainly, the answer is yes. The Seahawks love Metcalf and his hypothetical departure would be nothing short of shocking. But that doesn’t mean a conversation shouldn’t be had. Every player has a price, including the star receiver.
The 24-year old wideout is likely eying a new deal that will land somewhere north of $20 million APY over the span of four or five seasons. Currently, the highest-paid receiver—in terms of cumulative value—is Amari Cooper, who signed a five-year, $100 million contract with the Cowboys as a 25-year old. Metcalf has similar numbers to Cooper over their first three years and the salary cap is only going to go up as the next decade progresses.
Metcalf could reasonably ask for $20 million per season, and he may get it. Julio Jones is earning $22 million a year in Tennessee, while DeAndre Hopkins is earning $27 million a season from Arizona. Metcalf could also be looking to break the guaranteed contract record of $64 million, which is currently held by Jones.
Whether Metcalf is worth that kind of money can be fairly debated, but this isn’t just about what he's going to cost. It’s about allocating your resources in a way to best position yourself for success. Towards the end of the 2021 season, we saw the Seahawks re-commit to the running game with great success, and with that came relatively modest success for Metcalf. In the final five games of 2021, Metcalf snagged 23 of 45 targets for 257 yards and four touchdowns.
If Seattle is going to commit to the run in a similar method in 2022, paying $20 million a year for a player who may see no more than nine targets a game isn’t ideal. It’s certainly not a deal-breaker, but could that money be spent elsewhere more efficiently?
As for the trade cost, all offers would need to start with a first-round pick. It’s hard to imagine Seattle moving him for that, but it was the cost for Dallas to acquire Amari Cooper from then-Oakland. Could a team be lured into giving up a first- and a fourth-round pick for Metcalf, who will play in 2022 at a $1.5 million cap hit? Maybe. The 2022 draft class is solid across the board (with the exception of quarterback) including at receiver, which may dampen the demand for Metcalf.
But there are a few places that could make some sense. Might the Dolphins be willing to trade their first-round pick and DeVante Parker for Metcalf? Parker is under contract through the 2023 season at a reasonable $9.5 million APY. The Jets have two first-round picks and haven’t gotten their money’s worth from Corey Davis. Philadelphia has seen Metcalf’s dominance up close. Would they part with the 15th pick to pair Metcalf with DeVonta Smith? These are all real possibilities.
But ultimately, the Seahawks do not need to trade Metcalf. He’s under contract for one more season. By all accounts, he is open to signing an extension in Seattle. He’s insanely popular with the fans, and if the offseason needs to be spent placating Wilson, trading his most explosive weapon is going to be difficult.
Even if the Seahawks can’t get Metcalf signed to a long-term deal, Schneider can leverage the franchise tag after the 2022 season. That would pay Metcalf a cool $22 million and give the organization a de facto two-year, $24 million contract for its young superstar with a booming salary cap.
So yes, the Seahawks are in a really good spot with Metcalf. But just because something seems far-fetched on the surface doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of discussion and critical thought.
Are the Seahawks going to trade Metcalf? Almost definitely not. But should they be open to it, and even have discussions with other teams about it? Absolutely, unequivocally yes. Leveraging an asset to garner the most possible value is a general manager's job. And by not even considering it, Schneider would not be doing his job properly.