By John Boyle Herald Writer
RENTON — The Seattle Seahawks made plenty of splashy acquisitions this offseason, trading for wide receiver Percy Harvin and signing the likes of defensive end Cliff Avril, defensive end/defensive tackle Michael Bennett and cornerback Antoine Winfield.
None of that, however, was as important to Seattle’s front office as was locking up Kam Chancellor before the safety could hit free agency after the 2013 season. And the Seahawks were able to check that top priority off their to-do list Monday, signing Chancellor to a four-year extension that, with one year left on his rookie contract, runs through the 2017 season.
“When we started the offseason this past year, our primary goal was to get to this day, to have Kam be a Seahawk for a long time,” said Seattle general manager John Schneider. “From the get-go, anything that happened other than being able to sign Kam was going to be a bonus for us. It was our absolute number one priority.”
Monday’s announcement, which came at a formal press conference with Chancellor on a stage, flanked by Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, was intentionally made to be a big deal. Chancellor, a fifth-round pick turned Pro Bowler and team leader, came to Seattle without any fanfare as a player taken on the last day of the 2010 draft. But on Monday he became the first player drafted by Carroll and Schneider to earn a contract extension, which according to reports will pay $28 million with $17 million in guaranteed money.
“I really appreciate this moment,” Chancellor said. “I think I deserve this moment, I think I worked hard for this moment. I don’t think it was given to me, I worked really hard for this moment. Being that people said I couldn’t play safety in this league. Getting drafted in the fifth round. These guys giving me a chance. Just being able to go out there and prove myself day in and day out, showing I can be a leader of this team and be a game changer — it just shows you how much they appreciate the core guys, the guys who laid down the foundation. They promised me something and they did it. All I can do is just thank them.”
Chancellor’s signing isn’t just a statement to Seahawks fans that they want to keep their young talent in town, it’s also a reminder to other young players on the roster that if they buy in and succeed, the Seahawks will eventually reward them. The Seahawks will be looking to retain more talent in the next few years, most notably with cornerback Richard Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas both entering the final year of their deals in 2014. Looking even further ahead, two cornerstones of Seattle’s offense, quarterback Russell Wilson and left tackle Russell Okung, are free agents after the 2014 season.
“We’re really proud of the fact that we’ve been able to see guys elevate their game and get to the top of their game and get paid accordingly and do it the right way and compete to earn it and get it done,” Carroll said. “We hope it’s understood that in this program, that’s how we’re operating. … To make the statement to our players that we do care and we do see it. I’ve been telling these guys for a long time that the core is here for the long haul, and hopefully we’ll just continue to send the message.”
Chancellor, who credited his rookie season playing behind Lawyer Milloy with helping his development, became a starter in 2011. After intercepting four passes and forcing two fumbles, he was named to the NFC’s Pro Bowl squad in his first season as a starter. He had a career-best 101 tackles last season while continuing to emerge as an intimidating presence on the field and a leader in the locker room.
“He’s been nothing but a positive influence on our program since the day he got here,” Carroll said. “… He is a leader, he’s a great football player, he’s a physical guy who plays right in the vein of the way we want to play our game. He stands for toughness and being physical, and we love every bit about that. That’s the way he likes to play.
“He has led in so many ways. He doesn’t have to say much; when he does, everybody’s listening. He’s got the power leadership brings and he’s done a good job handling it.”
That leadership, those big hits, the impressive rise from special teams standout as a rookie to Pro Bowler, all of that led to Monday when Chancellor could put on a suit and held up a Seahawks jersey for the cameras, something he didn’t do as a fifth-round pick three years ago.
“This is a big deal and we’re trying to make a big deal out of this day for Kam,” Schneider said. “This is Kam’s day. Kam was a fifth-round draft pick, he hasn’t been able to experience something like this. Hopefully he’s here for the rest of his career. He’s taken away unrestricted free agency for himself for this day. This is a very important deal.”
The most important of the offseason, in fact.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.