I was fairly (or unfairly, depending on your perspective) critical of the whole Clemons holding out for a new contract thing before last season even though he was still in the middle of his current deal. I don’t know why, but that shit just gets under my skin. Unless you are legitimately out-playing a poor deal by leaps and bounds, you should shut your mouth and honor your deal. Millions of dollars are millions of dollars and they should be enough to live on comfortably for the rest of your life.
At the same time, though, I knew the importance of retaining Clemons before last season. Yes, we had a rookie first round pick whose primary skill was speed rushing the passer, but those guys don’t just come in overnight to take over ballgames. Having depth, veteran depth, is important along a defensive line, especially along the edge.
Regardless of my feelings on the subject, the Seahawks re-signed Clemons to a 3-year deal. He earned himself a $6.5 million signing bonus, which is all guaranteed. He earned $2 million last year in salary. That figure jumps to $6 million, plus his pro-rated 1/3 of his signing bonus, for a total cap hit of $8.167 million in 2013. To cut Clemons, the Seahawks would immediately have to pay the remaining 2/3 of his pro-rated signing bonus (or $4.34 million) as well as a $1.5 million buy-out, for a total of $5.834 million in “dead money” (or, money you’re stuck paying someone who is no longer on the roster; also known as Chone Figgins Money). In other words, if the Seahawks choose to cut Clemons now, they could save themselves $2.33 million, which I guess is nothing to sneeze at, but let’s look at a few things.
First and foremost, people are going to point to the humongous deal we just gave Percy Harvin and start asking questions about how we could POSSIBLY afford such a thing! Well, actually, for 2013, Harvin is still on his rookie deal. His base salary is $2.5 million. He received a $12 million signing bonus, but that’s being pro-rated over five years (if we keep him for five years). So, his pro-rated signing bonus figure comes out to $2.4 million, for a total 2013 cap hit of only $4.9 million. Not too bad, right? Between him and Cliff Avril’s very reasonable deal, we should still be well within our cap figures to allow us to keep luxuries like Matt Flynn as a backup quarterback, and like Chris Clemons (who will surely start the season on the PUP list).
Obviously, Harvin’s cap figure is going to go way up starting next season ($11 million in base to go along with his pro-rated signing bonus of $2.4 million), but that’s next season. Let Future John Schneider worry about that.
What’s on everyone’s minds is: what else are the Seahawks going to do in Free Agency? Well, look at it logically: what else SHOULD they do in free agency? I would argue, as a whole, they are as complete a football team as you’re going to find. Secondary: check. Linebackers: will likely look in the draft. D-Line: MAYBE a veteran tackle on a minimum-type deal, for depth. O-Line: check. Running back: check. Wide Receiver: check. Quarterback: super-check. Special Teams: re-sign the kicker and we’re good to go. Also, think about it: how much do the Seahawks look to improve through free agency? Not very often! This is a team that builds through the draft. It builds young. If it opts to go the free agency route, more often than not it signs someone who’s still very young. Well, how many young free agents are left? Not too many. Don’t be surprised if the Seahawks are done with free agency (aside from the aforementioned D-tackle that will surely come on the cheap).
So, if the salary cap isn’t a problem, and if the Seahawks are finished making their big free agent splashes, then why do we need to waive Clemons?
I think it’s worth the risk in keeping him. He’s going to account for a whole shit-ton of dead money this year, so you’re not saving that much by letting him go. You don’t have a financial NEED to let him go, so it’s not like he’s actively hurting you by remaining on the team. His upside remains: if he fully recovers from surgery, you’ve got a readymade reinforcement at what is ALWAYS a position of need. When could you ever NOT use another defensive end who has a track record of getting a lot of sacks? Again, as long as he’s healthy. If he’s healthy, you know he’s going to produce. He’s familiar with the team, with the scheme (new D-coordinator is irrelevant, because it’s essentially going to be the same scheme), and he would be returning at a point in the season where everyone else is starting to get run down from the grind of it all.
A fresh sack-master a half-a-step faster than everyone else at mid-season? Sign me up!
And, let’s face it, the Seahawks likely WON’T be as lucky with regards to injuries in 2013 as they were in 2012. Who’s to say Avril won’t go down with an ankle sprain? Or Irvin, for that matter? The Seahawks are GOING to need a Chris Clemons back there next year at some point. So, we might as well keep him, right? And if not him, who would you bring in that would give you a comparable rate of production that wouldn’t break your bank more than it would already be broken by waiving him in the first place? I don’t think that player exists on the market right now.
If he returns and re-injures the knee, then fine, cut him. It will mean next-to-nothing to rid his salary from our books in 2014 (essentially, his contract was structured as such to make it really a 2-year deal). My guess is: even if he never injured his knee, the team still would’ve cut him and avoided paying out $7.5 million in 2014 anyway. 2014 is going to be a pivotal year for re-signing superstar Seahawks. They won’t have the money to throw around on high-risk veterans like Clemons at that point.
But, in 2013? Everything is shaping up absolutely perfectly for a magical season. What better story could you imagine than Clemons returning from a devastating knee injury to lead this team into a championship?