This isn’t a topic I really wanted to address at this juncture, but this is the reality of the NFL today. If you’re still a great player heading into the final year of your deal (or “couple of years” if you’re especially great and underpaid), you’re going to want to snap up an extension while the snapping’s good. If Duane Brown had spent the majority of his 2020 season injured or underperforming, he might be more than happy to play out his deal (then again, if that were the case, the Seahawks might’ve been more proactive in finding his replacement and would either come to him with a restructured deal or an outright release).
The NFL is ruthless, in other words. One slip-up and you could find your pink slip waiting in your locker. So, it only makes sense for players to try to leverage as much power as they can into getting as much money as they can.
It was reported recently that Duane Brown was in minicamp, but not participating. From there, reports diverge. Pete Carroll says there’s no need for Brown to practice because he’s a veteran and they’re taking care of him ahead of the regular season. People whose jobs are to actually comment on the news have said Brown wants an extension. He’s heading into the 2021 season on the final year of his deal, set to earn $10 million, plus up to another $1 million in active gameday bonuses. This will also be his Age 36 season.
Obviously, that’s a solid chunk of change, but for all the reasons stated above, it makes sense for Brown to want to capitalize on his high-quality play. He’s played the better part of four seasons in Seattle, and has been our rock on an offensive line that has otherwise been varying degrees of shaky. He played in every game for us in 2018 and 2020, and he’s heading into this season in just as good of shape.
But, let’s face it, as I’ve been saying all along: he’s one major leg injury away from calling it a career. At his age, at his size, at the length of his football career (14 years and counting), you don’t just bounce back from a catastrophic injury like you would have in your 20’s.
The plus side to this argument is that his most recent contract with the Seahawks was a 3-year extension worth just over $34 million. Meaning he was 3 years younger then, making that pretty much the cap of what a new deal would look like. The $8 million signing bonus and his $8 million 2019 salary was all that was guaranteed.
I’m guessing any extension would probably only tack on 2 more years, with a similar $16 million guarantee. Maybe his 2021 salary converts to signing bonus, we guarantee a portion of his 2022 base salary, and there’s a similar non-guaranteed base salary for 2023 that’s otherwise attainable if he continues to stay healthy and play at a high level. You can play around with the non-guaranteed salary however you want to make it look better than it actually is, while maybe even freeing up some extra cash in case the 2021 Seahawks want to add another star player to the mix.
I’m just spit-balling here; I actually have no idea.
The opposing viewpoint is: the Seahawks can force Brown to honor his existing deal. Of course, he’s already proven to be someone who’s all too happy to hold out – doing the same down in Houston, before getting the trade to Seattle that he wanted – so don’t be shocked if he calls that bluff. The Seahawks are usually reluctant to let things go to those extremes – unless you’re Kam Chancellor and you’re trying to re-up your deal with more than one year remaining – so that’s not something I would expect here. Brown has not only been a great player for us, but he’s been a leader and an important figurehead among the players (especially for the O-Line). As an organization, you don’t shit on those guys unless you’re fully prepared to move on from them.
And the Seahawks are in NO position to do that. We’ve got Stone Forsythe – 6th round draft pick this year – who is absolutely not even close to being ready to start in this league. We’ve got Jamarco Jones, who can’t stay healthy. We’ve got Brandon Shell, who is a right tackle and isn’t even guaranteed to keep THAT job, with swingman Cedric Ogbuehi breathing down his neck. There isn’t a viable starting left tackle in the bunch! And, while I haven’t done a deep dive (or ANY sort of dive), I’m assuming there aren’t any in the free agent scrap heap, or on the trade block.
This is what happens when you fail to develop a viable backup. You’re stuck, more or less, kowtowing to the demands of the entrenched starter.
I’ve been more than happy to ride the Duane Brown train as far as he’ll go, but that’s the thing: with these types of guys, you usually can’t see where the endpoint is. The Seahawks rode Walter Jones until his knees were like a jelly. Then, they had to suffer the consequences of a year (or, really, a couple years) of scrambling to back-fill the position. Jones went down in the middle of the 2008 season, and we ended up needing a high first round pick to bring in Russell Okung in 2010. I will expect nothing less when Brown is ultimately carted off the field.
As a football fan, you want to see your stars retire with the team you love. As smart organizations, though, you want to maximize the value of those stars, and get out of there just ahead of the inevitable downfall. Let some other team overpay for a washed up veteran. My hunch is, we’ll continue to see solid play out of Brown in 2021, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him fall apart in 2022. MAYBE 2023, if he’s lucky. Even the seemingly-immortal Andrew Whitworth was limited to 9 games in 2020, his age 39 season. Does Brown have what it takes to play into his 40’s? He might, but this is Seattle. We have obnoxiously-bad injury luck around these parts. So, I wouldn’t count on it.
So, get that short-term extension done, with no guarantees beyond the 2022 season, and then get to work ASAP trying to find Brown’s long-term replacement.