By SCOTT M. JOHNSON
KIRKLAND – In the past 19 months, Sean Dawkins has had two opportunities to test the free agent market, and a third is probably just a few weeks away. He knows free agency as well as anyone.
He also knows he won’t be getting $252 million on the open market.
If Alex Rodriguez is the poster boy for what is wrong with baseball’s financial discrepancies, Dawkins represents the ills of free agency in pro football. He’s one of the mid-level players who may well have to spend the remainder of his career signing and voiding contracts so that his team can stay under the salary cap.
“Basketball players and baseball players are spoiled, man. They’ve got one hell of (a players’) association or something,” Dawkins said. “But we’re starting to come into our own. It’s going to get better, but it’s nowhere near baseball.
“Football’s the No. 1 sport, but it’s a difficult situation. It’s a violent sport, and we take a beating. Athletes feel like they should be getting a lot more money, but guys get hurt. So it’s kind of hit and miss (for the teams).”
The Seattle Seahawks signed Dawkins to a five-year, $8.5 million contract in the offseason, just a few weeks after the team released him in a cap-related move. But his current contract was designed to pay him a relatively small salary this season ($440,000) while spreading out his bonus over the five years to ease its effect on the cap.
In essence, Dawkins’ contract was designed to keep him here only one year. Then he will probably be released, out on his own to test the free-agent waters again.
“I don’t even know what’s going to happen,” Dawkins said. “One thing I learned from last year is that you never know what’s going to happen. I’m just living in the here and now, trying to put up some good numbers and secure my future – wherever it may be. I’ll be somewhere. Where and how much, that’s still to be determined.”
Dawkins’ agent, Angelo Wright, said the current deal would count almost $3 million against next year’s salary cap if he’s still with the team in March. With that in mind, Wright thinks Dawkins will be a free agent again sometime in the next three months.
“But we’ll take it if they want to pay it,” he said.
Dawkins’ original decision to re-sign with the Seahawks came down to the fact that he thought he could put up big numbers this season, thereby putting himself in position to command a higher salary on the open market in the offseason.
Early on, it looked like it wasn’t going to happen. Through eight weeks, he quietly had 26 catches for 336 yards and no touchdowns. The big dollars Dawkins saw in his future seemed hopeless.
But lately Dawkins has started to come on. In the past six games, he has 31 receptions for 332 yards and five touchdowns. He has moved onto the radar screen among AFC receivers (he ranks 12th in receptions among wideouts) and has a chance to set career bests in receptions (68) and touchdowns (seven).
What that will mean in two weeks is subject to debate. With a plethora of holes to fill, the Seahawks might be better served to free up money by releasing Dawkins. On the other hand, his release would create another position in need of upgrading.
“They may come back and say, ‘We didn’t give you a fair deal, but now we’ll give you one,’” Wright said. “It depends on what else is out there. They may think he’s better than any of the alternatives.”
The list of available free agent receivers seem to be in Dawkins’ class. Buffalo’s Eric Moulds, the best of the bunch, is expected to be given the franchise-player tag by the Bills, keeping him there. The other names will include Hakim Az-Zahir of St. Louis, Albert Connell of Washington, and Dedric Ward of the New York Jets. Dawkins has better numbers than all of them.
Someone will undoubtedly pay his salary next season, although it won’t be $25 million.
“I just want to be one of those guys to get a decent contract,” Dawkins said. “I’m not trying to break the bank, that’s what (ticks) me off. But you can’t do anything about it; you can’t gripe about it. You’ve just got to go out and do the best you can.
“Football’s a big part of my life, and I try to make the best of it. I try to enjoy it the best I can and not get grumpy.”
His agent is taking a similar approach.
“Whatever happens happens,” Wright said. “We’ve been down this road before.”
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