Seahawks Offseason Headlines Fail To Consider The Domino Effect


This is the 40-Something Files! 

A weekly take on the state of Seattle Sports through the lens of a guy whose four decades of fandom has earned too many scars, and seen too few celebrations.

When I was a kid, maybe around eight or nine years old, I immersed myself in a complex practice. Using whatever materials I could get my hands on – Lincoln Logs, Legos, anything “tip-over-able” would do – I would strategically, individually place each of the hundreds of little toy pieces, and in the process hold hostage an unreasonable amount of floor space in the house.

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The resulting display and subsequent one-chance show was called a Domino Topple, and if you could build one that lasted more than a minute, and somehow incorporate a popping balloon into the mix, then man… that was genius!

My mother, to this day (usually as a not-so-subtle expression of displeasure with my lack thereof as an adult) likes to remind me how much patience and concentration I could muster as a child, when I would spend hours carefully placing the components, with thought given to how the movement of one piece would effect the next, and so on and so forth, until all of the pieces were placed.

Wagner’s deal, as dictated by the complexities of the salary cap, has been targeted as the first domino that needs to fall. And, as has become customary during the Carroll/Schneider regime (yet, often seems lost on the very folks who engage in the practice of smugly reporting, talking, or tweeting about the team), that means that no one outside of the organization will have seen it coming when the REAL news hits.

Back then, a nine year old kid’s mind was challenged by some neat little domino topple set off during a goofy TV variety show – and a new hobby was born. Today, however, the internet is peppered with elaborate “Rube Goldberg Machines” (like this), that apply the principles of the domino topple to limitless materials and landscapes and elevations, and you can forget about a kid’s sense of wonder… these new millennium creations blow minds of all ages.

Navigating the NFL Salary Cap, my friends, is on par with creating an elaborate Rube Goldberg Machine. Successful organizations know better than to tip the first domino without meticulously, patiently, cautiously, and sometimes ruthlessly setting each successive piece in place.

As we wade through the headlines dogging the Seahawks during this overly reported-upon offseason, we can’t help but feel like there is much more going wrong than going well between the front office and the players.

Russell Wilson, red carpeting his way into the tabloid racks (a concerning topic of discussion in itself, best saved for another time), has not come to an agreement with the Seahawks on what “everyone” thought was a no-brainer contract extension of endless piles of money and years. What could possibly be holding this up, besides… gasp… perhaps Wilson and his new basebally agent would rather he play baseball, or maybe the Seahawks and their defensey coach think they would be just as successful with (insert middling QB here). 

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Turn on the radio, look at the Twitter, read the paper, tune into the NFL network, and those are your answers on the subject.

It’s either A or B or both, because no one would dare speculate on the toll the NFL’s Rube Goldberg Machine of a salary cap takes on negotiations like this.

I mean, where’s the entertainment in that?

You want to know why Bruce Irvin‘s $8 million option for 2016 wasn’t picked up by the deadline?  Look no further than the Salary Cap/Berg Machine, and watch how many dominoes would have subsequently failed to fall.

Instead, talking heads and bloggers simplemindedly advance Bruce’s rumored, and if you are to believe one obscure blog post, stated dissatisfaction with his team. He was dissed when the Seahawks failed to pick up the option. And the 2012 first round pick (15th overall, many would consider a reach at the time) wants out. Period.

Because reporting on the impact of picking up that option, vs. the myriad other potential means to a satisfying end for both parties, can’t be packaged in dumbed-down soundbyte.

I mean, who’s going to stay tuned for a complex discussion like that?

Michael Bennett feels underpaid… and likes to talk about it to whoever will listen. Or, does he feel underpaid? He’s a masterful mixer of messages. Just when one person reports that he zigged, there’s the next report that he zagged. 

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A self-congratulatory media engages in out of control regurgitation when one of it’s members snags a comment from the intriguing, bicycle-commandeering D-Lineman.

Because why would a team’s fan base care to focus on how Michael Bennett’s current contract status is not only solid for years to come, but also on par with similar performers at his position throughout the league, when they can get zig-zagging commentary that amounts to zero on the relevance scale?

I mean, there’s no chance what-so-ever that Bennett is playing the media like a fiddle, is there?

Bobby Wagner, a proven impact player on Seattle’s league-leading defense, has also reached that point in his rookie deal where he is free to negotiate a contract extension. Yet, there seems to be radio silence on that front. Perhaps talks about Wagner’s potential new deal are just drowned out by all the other Seahawks offseason noise. But I would venture to guess this:

Wagner’s deal, as dictated by the complexities of the salary cap, has been targeted as the first domino that needs to fall. And, as has become customary during the Carroll/Schneider regime (yet, often seems lost on the very folks who engage in the practice of smugly reporting, talking, or tweeting about the team), that means that no one outside of the organization will have seen it coming, when the REAL news hits.

I mean, except me, and now you.

Put simply, logic dictates that because we haven’t heard “boo” about Wagner’s deal, from his camp or the Hawk’s, that there’s probably something brewing. Just like there was something brewing that no-one saw coming when Percy got his walking papers, or just like there was something brewing when Jimmy got his welcome mat. Again, you can’t point to many moves Pete and John have pulled off over the years, that were previewed in the rumor mill. As the mill churns out headlines on Russ, Bruce and Michael, my money’s on Bobby’s money.

Taking into account the extreme complexities that make up the NFL’s salary cap, there’s much more at stake with each move a GM makes than just getting a deal done because the previous contract allows for it. They have to consider the cap number, the carryover, how or if to use the Franchise Tag, deadlines that change the number of players on a team’s roster that will actually count against the cap, and in the case of the best in the business at navigating these waters, anticipated changes to the cap rules for seasons to come. (For even more detail on the topic, a basic overview of the 2015 Salary Cap parameters was published back in March by SB Nation and can be found here.) 

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Schneider is, by all measures, top flight at his craft. That means he treats the impact that the salary cap has on the success of the Seahawks like assembling a lengthy, complex chain of mixed and matched parts, each one set up perfectly so the next one can fall, resulting in a mind-blowing display of prominence on the field. One move out of turn, in an NFL designed to swallow up most teams in a sea of parity, and John Schneider knows his Seahawks will quickly fall back to the pack.

No matter the noise created by players who express frustration with their contracts, or the pressure mounting from fans sucked in by the headlines, John Schneider, Pete Carroll and the Seahawks as an organization press on without distraction, as masters of their salary capped craft. They are painstakingly assembling a complex Rube Goldberg Machine… one intended to reach it’s conclusion at the Super Bowl.

Meanwhile, Pete and John have earned our trust. We fans need to show patience, concentrate on the process, and ignore the noise… at least as much as a nine-year-old does while placing a domino topple of Legos and Lincoln Logs down the hall.

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