DK Metcalf can hold out... but he can't hold out
Seaside Joe 1189: There won't be much "real" news about the DK Metcalf situation because there couldn't possible be a situation
The NFLPA has long been at a disadvantage when it comes to CBA negotiations and agreements with the owners. The two biggest issues: Numbers and longevity.
There are only 32 owners or ownership groups and many of them have been around for decades. They also have many shared interests and are often looking to win the same battles, where as the player’s association is largely made up of men who will only be in the league for a few years. It is easy then for the owners to concede small, immediate “losses” in the form of upfront cash (for example) to those not making as much as Russell Wilson in exchange for big picture “wins” that help teams in all sorts of ways, including contract negotiations.
An example of this is the franchise tag, which does a lot more to benefit teams than it does players. At worst, a team will have to pay top-of-the-market prices for one season of someone who doesn’t do live up to their expectations. Like in 2020, when the Bengals tagged A.J. Brown but he suffered through the worst season of his career.
But the tag option gives teams extraordinary leverage in negotiations with their top players because it guarantees that he’s not going anywhere without another team suffering major consequences to sign him. The Packers tagged Davante Adams this season and the Raiders had no choice but to treat Adams like a superstar in his prime by sacrificing first and second round picks plus a mega-sized new contract.
This is rare though and usually players sign the best contract offer they are given because it is extraordinarily difficult to turn down millions more in guaranteed money and bet on yourself like you’re Darrelle Revis.
To what degree is DK Metcalf willing to bet on himself if the Seattle Seahawks do not offer him contract figures that he believes that he’s worth?
Well, in 2022, this should not even matter.
So Tuesday’s news that Metcalf is not present at the start of Seattle’s mandatory three-day minicamp is not really news at all. It is, at best, a tidbit.
A tidbit that I have no doubt is sparking thousands of words about “What could this mean?!” (not much) and “Will the Seahawks trade DK???” (they won’t) and “Is Pete Carroll a tyrant?!” (he’s not).
DK Metcalf isn’t missing anything important and he will only miss key training camp dates if he’s willing to sacrifice his opportunity to be an unrestricted free agent* in 2023.
Thanks to countless wins by ownership through the Collective Bargaining Agreement process over the years, a holdout by Metcalf when training camp begins would only cement the fact that players are at a massive disadvantage in negotiations—If Metcalf holds out, he will lose his free agency status in 2023 and instead become a RESTRICTED free agent.
That’s an even stronger hold on his rights than the franchise tag* which is what the Seahawks will apply to Metcalf in 2023 if he is set to become an unrestricted free agent next year, should Seattle fail to come to a long-term agreement.
Essentially, there’s nothing that DK Metcalf can do to free himself of the Seahawks in either of the next two years. If you want to stretch it further than that, Seattle also has the option to franchise tag Metcalf in 2024 and 2025.
The players lost this battle years ago, it has very little to do with what Metcalf or the Seahawks want to do at this moment.
Though Seattle can choose to fine Metcalf up to $88,000 for missing these mandatory minicamp practices, that is really inconsequential to either the player or the team. As much as you or I would love to have the down payment for a Tesla Model S Plaid, $88,000 is a joke amount to someone like DK Metcalf.
Metcalf’s ole’ teammate A.J. Brown signed a four-year, $100 million contract after he was traded to the Eagles in April. It is reasonable to assume that Metcalf is looking for a deal similar to that, with a minimum of $56 million guaranteed. So, if the Seahawks fine Metcalf $88,000 for this week’s “transgressions” they would essentially be robbing him of…
.088 percent of a $100 million contract.
Not 9 percent. Not .9 percent. But .088 percent.
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I’ve been writing all offseason that the Seattle Seahawks will sign Metcalf to a contract extension in 2022. It will almost certainly happen in August. Perhaps the Seahawks would get to the negotiation table a week before training camp begins, just to put Metcalf’s mind at ease with a deal in late July.
Or maybe they’d find it reasonable to have Metcalf show up on the first day without a contract, knowing full well that a deal is imminent, but showing that indeed players have little-to-no leverage in these situations.
A sign to anyone on the team who is considering a 2023 stalemate… Maybe don’t do that.
But today’s “news” about Metcalf is simply a way for the NFL media to pass the time. Yes, I am engaging with that news myself, but only to put your mind at rest in case you actually think that any of this reporting matters. It does not. Neither does it matter if Metcalf is actually posturing a holdout, because there’s nothing he can do to escape Seattle short of demanding a trade and getting his wish.
However, that almost certainly will not happen either. The only time to trade Metcalf would have been before the 2022 NFL Draft. The Seahawks saw a number of receivers traded for first round picks this year, they won’t turn around and now trade Metcalf—he would almost certainly be making a good team a better team and that means that Seattle’s return would be a LATE first rounder.
The only time to consider a Metcalf trade would be after the conclusion of the 2022 season, when the Seahawks would know exactly what they’re getting. And not a minute sooner. It is also in Seattle’s best interest to extend Metcalf this year because they don’t have many other players to worry about in the long-term; the only other Seahawks on veteran contracts for 2024 are Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Tyler Lockett, Will Dissly, and Michael Dickson. And the most solid of those five contracts may be Dickson’s.
What’s the cap space for, if not to pay players like Metcalf?
To wrap this up:
If DK Metcalf misses all of mandatory minicamp, he will only suffer an inconsequential fine, but he might also not be fined at all
If DK Metcalf misses a single day of training camp, he will not gain an accrued season in 2022 and will be a restricted free agent in 2023; he won’t miss any training camp
Nothing important has happened today with regards to the Seahawks-Metcalf negotiations
The only important news that could possibly happen between now and the first day of training camp is: Metcalf is extended, Metcalf is traded, or Metcalf publicly states that he will never play for the Seahawks again
I so appreciate your analysis, Kenneth. I agree that teams have overwhelming leverage. That said, not anywhere close to the leverage they once had, when they owned players like indentured servants. In other words, Metcalf will get an insane amount of money and soon. The Seahawks can't avoid it because those same rules which favor teams overall require a tagged player to be paid well. Given the negatives for the team to tag Metcalf, they'll want to avoid it. So, in other words, we can expect to see DK get a contract of roughly 25 million bucks a year for four years with a good chunk of it guaranteed. Not a lot of drama but that won't stop all the outlets from writing about it as if there were.
I think there is a remote chance Seattle trades DK. It would have to account for the fact that the receiving team is going to be better as a result of his addition. So I'm thinking maybe for a couple of first round picks. Is anyone desperate enough to trade two firsts for DK?
From our team's point of view, I wouldn't advocate that trade. I'd rather sign DK. But if it's clear he's unhappy or wants out, I might change my mind. Every move is a calculated risk. Who knows when or if we find another great receiver. At the same time, an unhappy player in the locker can be a major drag, particularly on a team trying to rebuild.
Every now and then there is talk about some player signing a “team-friendly contract.” In the NFL, *every* contract is team-friendly.