Dos and Don'ts of DK Metcalf
Seaside Joe 1196: What you should realize about Metcalf's situation before jumping to conclusions about AAV or negotiations
I went to bed last night and woke up this morning (phew) with the same idea in mind to write an article about the dos and don’ts of the whole DK Metcalf “situation” but then one of the first things I saw today was that Danny O’Neil had already addressed this topic before I could start.
That did not stop me from writing my version of these events, but I wanted to give Danny a fair shout out because this article comes hours after his own.
Come onto the Seaside Joe podcast, Danny. Let’s combine forces.
The Seattle Seahawks are not often in a position to sign great football players who are only in the presumable early stages of their careers. I mean, how often has that actually happened during the Pete Carroll era? Even if you were to include every possible name you can think of, from Sidney Rice to Jamal Adams, the highest number you could reach is maybe one player per year.
It is even lower than that over the last five years.
Therefore it is interesting when the Seahawks do find themselves in a position to negotiate with one of the best players under 25 in the entire league. No other player from 2019’s exceptional receiver draft class has more career yards or touchdowns than Metcalf. No other player on Seattle’s roster signed prior to the 2022 draft really makes you nervous when you consider the prospect of him not being on the roster anymore.
DK Metcalf is a standout for all those reasons and more, which is why it’s understandable that he’s been a daily topic of conversation for Seahawks fans and those keeping tabs on the contracts going out to wide receivers over the past few months. However, I’ve also seen some patterns emerging in that time that I think could miss the point on the negotiations and present “stand off” between Metcalf and the team.
My intention here, hopefully different from anyone else’s articles about the same topic, is to clear up those matters with the reality of the situation.
In case you missed any articles in the last week for premium subscribers, it’s less than .10 cents per article for a sign-up: A profile of Seahawks OTAs standout Tariq Woolen, my top-5 QBs for the 2023 NFL Draft, my QB rankings for the 2022 NFL season
Don’t be mad at DK Metcalf
He’s worth a lot more than his $4 million 2022 base salary. He is not a locker room cancer or a headcase. He shows up, works hard, and he was never to blame for the fact that he went about 50 picks later than when he should have been drafted, a reality that has cost him at least $10 million already.
I still can’t wrap my head around the idea that rookie contracts are based on how you’re viewed as a draft prospect even though we know that the NFL horrendously screws up those evaluations every year.
Because the Raiders are bad at their jobs and picked Clelin Ferrell fourth in 2019, he signed a $31 million contract that is fully guaranteed. Because the NFL blew their evals on DK Metcalf that year, it’s DK Metcalf who had to sign a contract worth $4.5 million with only $2.2 million in guarantees.
Where is the logic in that?
I am not saying that you should feel sorry for Metcalf. But I think if people are mad at him for repeating the same motions as countless NFLers before him, we are once again trying to blame the player for something that is more likely the fault of the owners who have dominated CBA negotiations for decades.
More: DK Metcalf can hold out, but he can’t actually holdout
Do remember the difference between “value” and “earnings”
Imagine that three years ago, a company hired you to do whatever job it is that you do and you knew going in that you were being undervalued. Then you proved you were being undervalued with your job performance over the next three years, so when the first opportunity to even ask for a raise presents itself, naturally that is what you do. Because that is what we are all taught to do from an early age.
From “Know what you’re worth” to “Get the bag”.
Now imagine that during that entire negotiating period there are thousands of people tweeting whether you’re worth it.
Not just people… Your biggest fans!
You look at Metcalf’s $4.3 million cap hit in 2022 and think about how that is such a great value, but to a player, he never wants to be a “good value”. Anyone described as a bargain is just a player who isn’t making as much money as he ought to be earning, even though this entire culture we live in today seems centered around making more money than what you’re actually worth.
Now before you get on me about how Metcalf’s 2022 cap hit likely won’t even change that much once he does sign an extension (in all likelihood, the only difference will be a portion of his prorated signing bonus—A.J. Brown’s 2022 cap hit is $5.6 million) let’s be clear about the value that Seattle has already gotten out of their 2019 second round pick.
Through three seasons, Metcalf has produced 216 catches on 358 targets for 3,170 yards and 29 touchdowns, he has 315 yards and three touchdowns in three postseason contests, he’s never missed a game, and he’s added immense entertainment value and hope to a roster that is otherwise depleted from the Seahawks’ other draft decisions.
For those accomplishments, Metcalf has earned barely more than $2 million in salary. Last season, Jaguars receiver Jamal Agnew earned $2.6 million. Jalen Reagor and Kendrick Bourne and Zach Pascal all earned over $3 million. I can list the players for days and days, you already know that the system is nonsensical, but your version of “That’s awesome, DK Metcalf is a great value” is DK Metcalf’s “How would you like to earn 5% of the salary that you deserve?”
Metcalf isn’t playing GM in his basement, tinkering on Madden dynasty mode, or dreaming of how to fit the perfect 53 players onto a roster like Tetris.
He’s only trying to assure himself the amount of money that he’s worth over his career, which may never happen because he has already been such an insanely good value over the life of his inherently unfair rookie contract.
Don’t worry about his contract
1) It will get done.
2) How much he makes has nothing to do with you.
3) His earnings won’t negatively impact what the salary cap or Seahawks are able to do.
4) It will drive you crazy for no reason.
Outside of a few tidbits coming out of three days of practice, there actually hasn’t been any news since the draft ended six weeks ago. It might feel like there has been because the NFL media cycle no longer has a break but it’s almost all filler. Though the Seahawks could extend Metcalf any day, there’s an equally good chance that the team will not finalize his contract until sometime during or after training camp, so that would be at least six more weeks of “news winter”.
“Duh-duh-duh DK Metcalf blah-blah-blah” is just filler to keep them from losing your attention for a single day.
“What about this very article? Aren’t you a hypocrite, you hypocrite?”
Hey, nobody understands a 365-news cycle like a guy who runs a daily newsletter about a football team. But my record with Metcalf is consistent and I’ve never wavered from this: the Seahawks will extend DK Metcalf and it likely won’t happen before August because that’s when Pete Carroll likes to do such things.
I’m not writing DK Metcalf articles that bait you into believing that he will be traded, that he will holdout for the season, that anything could happen. There is no way that “anything could happen” because the time to trade him would have been pre-draft and the CBA pretty much nixes any chance of a holdout or a hold-in.
I’m writing a Metcalf article for the same reason that I’ve written a lot of other articles: to caution you against being baited by the media into believing a reality that isn’t there.
More: Seahawks won’t be paying Russell Wilson’s $250 million asking price
Do know the difference between DK Metcalf, Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and Cooper Kupp
Tyreek Hill, Davante Adams, and Cooper Kupp all signed new contracts this year, with two of them coming during a trade to another organization, and they are all veterans now on their third career deals.
Hill ($30 million/year), Adams ($28 million/year), and Kupp ($26.7 million/year) are three of the four-highest paid receivers in the NFL by AAV (average annual value), joined by DeAndre Hopkins ($27.25 million/year).
You could certainly make the argument that Metcalf should be more valuable than them given that he’s 3-5 years younger, but he’s not in the same negotiating position as they were at the time of those deals. His negotiating position is that Seattle holds all the power in 2022 and they could franchise tag him in 2023 at a cost just over $20 million.
You can essentially say that for all intents and purposes, the Seahawks already have Metcalf on a two-year, $25 million contract.
Taken a step further, with perhaps a $24 million franchise tag value in 2024, Seattle’s negotiating position is that Metcalf is on a three-year deal worth roughly $50 million. And the benefit to the Seahawks in that case is that if they go year-to-year, any serious injury to Metcalf would set them free.
It’s the ugly side of the business but it is still a business.
Adams and Hill’s position was that the Raiders and Dolphins had sacrificed first round picks and more to acquire their services, giving Adams and Hill a much better position from which to negotiate. Kupp’s position was that he won 2021 Offensive Player of the Year and had one of the best seasons by a wide receiver in history.
You can’t compare Metcalf directly to Adams, Hill, and Kupp. You have to compare him to players like Deebo Samuel, Terry McLaurin, Marquise Brown, and Diontae Johnson, all of whom are also 2019 draft picks who are waiting to be paid fairly. Though A.J. Brown did get his extension early, that was only off the back of a trade to the Eagles, just like Adams and Hill, and that’s probably what expedited the negotiation process for him.
Help Seaside Joe out immensely by sharing an article on Facebook or Twitter:
Do know that no wide receiver has a “real” $25 million AAV
Does any QB have a real $50 million AAV? Does any WR have a real $30 million AAV?
First, what kind of a contract will Metcalf sign?
I do expect Metcalf’s contract to look a lot like Brown’s contract because the framework is all laid out there for a player of similar skill, age, production, and negotiating power. Brown signed a four-year, $100 million contract that carries a $25 million AAV, but that includes a $30.25 million base salary in 2026 that is more likely to lead to a release/renegotiation/restructure than to play out as written.
We only need look at the first three years.
2022: AJ Brown was already signed for 2022, this is an extension that starts in 2023, but he is guaranteed $40 million at signing and that is prorated over four contract years and two void years (think of void years as simply a way for a team to spread out the cap hits of these enormous deals).
2023: The new contract begins and Brown’s cap hit goes up to $8.3 million.
2024: Brown’s cap hit climbs to $12.4 million.
2025: Brown’s base salary goes up to $15.25 million but it is not guaranteed. However, an outright release prior to June 1 would still be a net negative for the Eagles because they have roughly $30 million in prorated bonus money to pay out. Brown’s cap hit is $26.5 million, a number that Philly could bring down by then if they really needed the space by converting his base salary into a bonus.
So what we have by now is three years, $17.5 million in base salary, and $40 million guaranteed at signing. Throw in some “change” for roster and workout bonuses, A.J. Brown essentially has a three-year, $57 million contract. What did I say earlier for Metcalf and his negotiating power?
The Seahawks could say that right now they have Metcalf on a three-year, $50 million contract. By giving him the A.J. Brown deal, they’re basically saying, “Okay, we’ll give you slightly more than what we already own your rights for” and THAT is how you come to these contract numbers.
The end result is that we say “Wow, it’s $25 million per season!” but those numbers are elevated by late-stage contract figures that are unlikely to ever be realized. Brown’s true AAV might end up more like $20 million.
Unless you believe that the Dolphins actually plan to pay Tyreek Hill a $50 million cap hit in 2026.
The Seahawks could give Metcalf a contract that technically averages $25 million per season, but that’s not what the Seahawks will actually pay Metcalf. They just like having you argue over the difference over several million fake dollars per year because it sounds better than the truth and most of this “news” is simply teams and players both trying to flex their power.
Don’t believe the news. Do subscribe to Seaside Joe.
Always interesting to see how complex an actual NFL contract is vs. the simplified media-friendly version. You make really good points regarding the relative negotiating power of a player in DK's position as opposed to Hill or Adams. I feel comfortable not worrying about this again for at least 6 weeks, so thanks for helping us Seasiders sleep better at night.
Sign DK. He's a once in a decade talent and a non diva team player.