The Elephant in the Locker Room: That Tyler Lockett Contract


By Greg Wright

Just prior to the beginning of the regular season, the Seahawks announced the signing of Tyler Lockett to a 3-year contract extension worth a reported $37.8 million. Lockett was one of only two veterans offered extensions, the other being OT Duane Brown, who has been with the team less than a year.

Meanwhile, Earl Thomas and the team remain at a standoff over contract extension. With K. J. Wright and Frank Clark in the wings as well.

Lockett’s extension raised eyebrows around the league. With Doug Baldwin being the clear number-one receiver for the Seahawks–from depth chart, targets, production, and salary standpoints–the general reaction was that Seattle was overpaying for an undersized number two receiver whose numbers don’t justify the pay.

Saner brains, of course, pointed out that Lockett is not just a receiver–he’s also an ace kick returner, and Pete Carroll was right in pointing out that no one in the NFL has racked up more combined receiving/return yards than Lockett during his tenure in the NFL.

Still… I have yet to find an analyst who thinks this was a good deal on paper, particularly at the time of the signing. It has certainly been looking better with Baldwin injured and on the bench, as Lockett has led the receiving corps through three games with 196 yards and 3 TDs. At that pace, Lockett would finish the season with over 1000 yards receiving and 15 or 16 TDs–the latter number one that would break Baldwin’s single-season team record.

But one factor in all these discussions that has not been talked about is what the Seahawks might know that we don’t.

Everyone assumes that the Hawks are expecting to be paying Lockett as their long-term number two receiver. If that’s the case, then yes–they are shelling out a lot of dough, over $20M a year, between their two top receivers. (One might think that is unusual for the Seahawks… until you consider the combined salaries for Baldwin and Jimmy Graham the last couple of years.)

But what if they are expecting to be paying Lockett as their number one receiver over the next three years? From that standpoint, Lockett’s contract will be a bargain.

Wait, you say. Am I suggesting that the Hawks plan to trade Doug Baldwin?

No, I am not. But I am suggesting that both the Seahawks and Baldwin might know a thing or two that we don’t.

Since Baldwin’s rookie season, I’ve noticed that Baldwin has been protecting his knees. When he knows he’s about to be tackled, he doesn’t plant his feet, Marshawn Lynch-style, and power through the hits to maximize yards after the catch. Instead, he leaves his feet, and lets his body be pinballed around during the collision. This takes a tremendous load off his lower body during hits. And it tells me that he has always been concerned about his knees.

Given the lack of details about the preseason problem with Baldwin’s left knee, my guess is that the parties involved all know that Baldwin’s longevity is in question. The fewer games he plays, and the fewer hits he takes, the better. By the time Lockett’s contract is in full flower, everyone in the organization is expecting that Lockett will in fact be Seattle’s number one receiver.

From that theoretical standpoint, the contract makes perfect sense.

There’s always some key issue that’s getting glossed over. It’s the elephant in the locker room, if you will, and gosh darn if I’ll let that ride. 

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