Is This the Last Year of Doug Baldwin in Seattle?


It seems unthinkable. The image of Doug Baldwin wearing something other than a Seahawk uniform in 2017 is disorienting and unfathomable. But could it be reality?

The three-year contract extension Doug Baldwin seemingly signed just a few months ago actually runs out at the end of the 2016 league year. Absent another contract extension between now and then, Baldwin will be free to shop his talents to 31 other teams beginning early next March as an unrestricted free agent.

You may be thinking “Ah come on. They won’t let Baldwin walk!”

Let’s hope you’re right.

Roster building in the NFL is a free-flowing, complicated process that is made especially difficult by the constraints of a hard salary cap. While you want your favorite team to have as many good players on it as possible, the better a team is the harder it is to keep the band together.

For example, let’s look ahead to the 2017 league year as it pertains to the Seahawks.

According to, the Seahawks have 27 players under contract for next season. This number includes Marshawn Lynch, who hasn’t filed retirement papers yet, but that matter will be cleaned up this month. So consider it 26 players under contract.

These 26 players roughly account for an eye-opening $118M in cap dollars. A robust 10 out of the 26 players will have cap hits of $5M or more, led by Russell Wilson at $18.8M and Richard Sherman at $13.3M.

In other words, half of the 53-man the roster’s cap charges are currently scheduled to soak up all but about $50M in space.

Doug Baldwin
Jan 10, 2016; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Seattle Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin (89) scores a touchdown past Minnesota Vikings cornerback Josh Robinson (21) in the second half of a NFC Wild Card playoff football game at TCF Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports /

In fairness, this year’s draft picks are not considered part of this equation yet as they are currently unsigned. It is fair to assume about 10 players, comprised of draft picks and UDFA’s, will make the team. Let’s say those 10 players take up about $8M in cap space in 2017. That brings us to 36 players making $126M, leaving approximately $42M in space for the purposes of this article, assuming another 8% bump in the league cap.

Considering cap room needed for IR, the practice squad and dead money, you can see where finances get tight and preclude the team from adding many or possibly any more high-dollar contracts considering the obligation to fill around 17 more roster spots under the cap.

So, where does this leave Doug Baldwin? Does team brass look at him with sad eyes, pulling lint out from their pockets and shrugging at him in an apologetic manner?

Consider what we know about the player and the team.

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports
Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports /

Baldwin is coming off easily the best of his five years as a professional football player with 78 catches for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns. Those are bona fide #1 receiver numbers, but they are an outlier compared to the first four years of production in Seattle’s run-heavy offense. If Baldwin puts up similar stats in 2016, what’s to stop him from asking for top-tier WR money? Those guys get $14M per year.

Seattle will not pay that much for a wideout. Heck, even if Baldwin acknowledged that his body type and age preclude him from the very top of the WR money list, he could fairly argue for a deal commanding around $10M annually if he puts up gaudy numbers again. Unfortunately, I still believe the Seahawks would be forced to balk at this amount of money.

With the emphasis in the 2016 draft on offensive linemen and running backs, it’s clear the Seahawks are going to continue employing a balanced offense that features plenty of clock-chewing runs. Jermaine Kearse is back and Tyler Lockett should expect to have an expanded role in the offense. For these reasons, I suspect Doug Baldwin’s year-end numbers will regress to the mean and fall somewhere between his early year stats and last year’s explosion just because of fewer opportunities and also increased attention from opponents.

Does a stat line of 66 catches for 920 yards and 8 touchdowns sound reasonable? We’ll go with it.

If I had to guess, Doug Baldwin’s next contract will pay him an average of around $7-8M based on statistics, body type, and age. The question then is- will the Seahawks be the team offering that contract?

It’s important to consider something PCJS talk about every so often. They often speak about wanting to make sure they retain their core guys. It’s important to do this in order to show the other players that rewards await those that are “All In” and prove it with their actions. Previous core players have included Wilson, Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Lynch, KJ Wright and, on his short term deal, Baldwin himself.

It all comes down to this question- is Doug Baldwin still considered a core guy by the front office?

You better believe he is.

Away from the field, Doug Baldwin is a pillar of the community. Whether it’s being charitable with his time or bringing a well-reasoned, passionate voice on important social issues, Baldwin is exactly the kind of guy you’d want your children to emulate.

Between the end zones, he’s even better. He practices the right way- hard and focused. No wonder he plays the same way- it’s all he knows. His on-field chemistry with Russell Wilson is special and is maybe the #1 reason why you don’t let a guy like this go. Four years of non-verbal communication between the two has developed into a special relationship between quarterback and receiver.

More from Seattle Seahawks

If Baldwin is amenable to another three-year deal for, say, $24M and $10M guaranteed, the Seahawks could fit the contract in with the others. If said deal is agreed upon this summer, the team can prorate the signing bonus in 2016, which would modestly increase Baldwin’s cap number this year but helps dissipate the cap hit by the same amount over the course of the three-year extension term.

The contract above could include a $6M signing bonus, prorated from 2016-2019 at $1.5M per year. Salaries could be $4M in 2017 (guaranteed), $6M in 2018 and $8M in 2019. Cap hits in 2017-19 would be $5.5M, $7.5M and $9.5M, respectively.

Can the Seahawks handle another $5.5M cap hit in 2017? For a guy as important to the team, locker room and community as Douglas Dewayne Baldwin Jr? Yes.

Anything above $8M annually will be a problem, however. It could still happen, but now you get into having to cut someone else in order to keep Doug. Think Jimmy Graham. Maybe Kam. These would be at or near net zero moves in terms of on-field quality. I’m greedy. I want to keep all of the bazookas in the artillery, if possible.

More from Emerald City Swagger

Baldwin recently stated he has not heard from the organization about extending his deal, but was not concerned about it. He understands that the spring is dominated by unrestricted free agency and draft preparation.

However, Seahawk fans should consider this summer as an artificial deadline to get a deal done with Doug. Sure, the two sides could come to a deal all the way up to February, 2017, but if a deal is going to take place, it would most likely happen this summer for several reasons. The player isn’t distracted during the season by his impending contract expiration and the team can use any room in the 2016 cap to help disperse costs, as outlined above. It’s your proverbial win-win.

Ultimately, it appears the decision is Doug Baldwin’s to make. If he is willing to extend his contract for a contract in the high single digits per year, I believe the team will make room for him in its future roster models.

However, if Doug is willing to bet on himself and put up numbers that rival last year’s, he would essentially be pricing himself out of Seattle and would likely be offered more money on the open market, in an unfamiliar city with a different quarterback and a foreign locker room.

If there’s a player in the league that I think would take those outside variables into actual consideration, it’s thoughtful, balanced, and reasoned Doug Baldwin.

Next: Seahawks Add Depth on Day Three of Draft

I hope and expect the Seahawks and Doug Baldwin to come to an agreement this summer that keeps 89 in a Seattle uniform for the rest of this decade.