The Seattle Seahawks could hardly have asked for a better way to open training camp, awaking to the news Friday morning that quarterback Russell Wilson had signed a four-year contract extension.
OK, well maybe they would have changed one thing -- the beginning of a holdout by strong safety Kam Chancellor. But the Wilson news overshadowed any pall from Chancellor's absence.
Seahawks fans had spent the offseason fretting over every seeming twist and turn in the Wilson contract drama, with speculation increasing throughout the summer that he could play the year without a new deal.
Wilson had set a deadline of the beginning of camp to reach a deal, with his agent Mark Rodgers confirming that Wilson did not want it hanging over his head.
After a week of talks, the two sides finally came to an agreement, with one of the key breakthroughs coming when the two sides agreed on a four-year extension, beginning in 2016. That will allow Wilson to hit free agency when he's 31.
The deal will pay Wilson $87.6 million with a $31 million signing bonus -- the most ever awarded by the Seahawks -- and $61.5 million in guarantees overall, the most in the NFL.
Wilson said news of the deal, which he received Thursday night around 11, was "exciting."
"I've always been confident it was going to happen, I never really doubted it was going to happen," he said.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll sang a similar tune.
"It was imminent, it was coming the whole time," he said. "We wanted to do it, it was his turn, you know how we've done it, you've watched this. We give guys opportunities and we try to take full advantage of nailing them when we can. It was a long process to get it done but now that it's over, it's good for him, it's good for our club."
The contract leaves the Seahawks with about $4 million left in cap space for the 2015 season and with one major goal left: a similar extension for middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who like Wilson is entering his fourth season.
Wagner and the Seahawks have been in talks throughout the summer and there had been some thought the two were close to a deal, especially if things fell through with Wilson.
Carroll said he thinks a deal can still get done quickly.
"We're on it," he said, adding that anyone who says the Seahawks don't now have room to get something done with Wagner is "not right."
As for Chancellor, Carroll said he hoped there was something that could be done to bring the team's standout strong safety into camp. It remained unclear what Chancellor wants as he has three years left on his contract, and the Seahawks have been adamant about not redoing contracts with that many years left.
Carroll said he did not think Chancellor's holdout would be a distraction and said "we'd love to have him back with us. He has his points. He's got his thoughts, he's a very smart guy. He's thought this out and made it very clear the choice this time."
What the Seahawks knew for sure is that they will have the services of Wilson through the 2019 season. They had to give him a guarantee that ranks as the biggest in NFL history -- $61.5 million -- but also were able to keep the salary to a shade below that of Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers, who is making $22 million a season.
Wilson said he was able to keep the money side separate from the playing side during the talks, but was glad it was now over with.
"I don't think it was personal," he said. "I know it was business. At the end of the day I'm happy to be a Seahawk, I wouldn't want to be anywhere else. It's a blessing, a championship type team, and the goal is to win the Super Bowl this year, Super Bowl 50 is on our minds. No matter what, I was going to be focused on the season, I was going to be ready to play no matter what the circumstances."
July 30: Entire team reported
July 31: First practice
Aug. 19: Camp ends
--Team strength: Secondary.
The health of Seattle's secondary seemed a big question at the end of the Super Bowl when there were rumblings that Richard Sherman (elbow), Earl Thomas (shoulder) and Kam Chancellor (knee) might all have to have surgery. But Sherman and Chancellor evaded surgery and were able to fully participate in offseason drills and while Thomas may be limited early in camp, it is expected he will fully recover by early in the season. The Seahawks lost Byron Maxwell to free agency but replaced him with veteran Cary Williams. Assuming there are no setbacks in Thomas' recovery and that Williams plays to the level he has in the past, the Legion of Boom should be as salty as ever.
--Breakout player: Tight end Jimmy Graham.
Is it fair to call one of the best tight ends in the NFL a breakout player? It may be when he's on to a new team, having been traded to the Seahawks in March in a deal that netted the Saints center Max Unger and Seattle's first-round pick. Seattle tried a similar gamble two years ago with Percy Harvin, that other than one memorable kickoff return in the Super Bowl was pretty much a disaster. The team is much more confident that things will work out with Graham, who already has earned raves from coaches and players for how he has integrated himself into the Seahawks way and accepted his role.
--Work in progress: Offensive line.
The offensive line continues to be the biggest question on what otherwise still is one of the most talented rosters in the NFL.
Interestingly, four of the five spots on the line appear set -- left tackle Russell Okung, left guard Alvin Bailey, right guard J.R Sweezy and right tackle Justin Britt.
But the one open spot is a big one -- center, where Max Unger played the last four years. Unger was regarded as the steadying force of the line and the glue that kept it together. But he was traded to New Orleans as part of the deal that netted tight end Jimmy Graham.
However, Unger missed 10 games last season with the Seahawks getting some fairly able play in his absence from Lemuel Jeanpierre and Patrick Lewis. Jeanpierre was the starter throughout the offseason, but Lewis and Drew Nowak, a member of the practice squad last season, also remain in contention as does rookie Kristjan Sokoli.
Coaches hope to get that one settled fairly early in training camp so the line can get needed continuity heading into the season.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--Starting free safety Earl Thomas was one of four players to begin the season on the physically unable to perform list as he continues his rehab from offseason shoulder surgery. Carroll said there was no set timeline on when Thomas will return to practice and said the Seahawks will take a long-term approach to his recovery and exercise patience.
The other three on PUP are cornerbacks Jeremy Lane (knee/arm) and Tharold Simon (shoulder) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (knee).
The only question with Wilson is whether the team signs him to a long-term extension by the time camp starts. If not, then he will likely play this season for $1.54 million and talk to the Seahawks again when the season ends. Jackson is back for his third season as the backup. Archer is a former Arena League player who earned raves for his accuracy and decision-making in the spring and could be a long-term backup option.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters -- Marshawn Lynch, FB Derrick Coleman. Backups -- Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Thomas Rawls, Rod Smith, Will Tukuafu, Brandon Cottom.
Lynch will make $12 million this season, so don't count on the Seahawks going into the year planning to use him any less. He's 29 now, but Seattle feels he's still the bell cow running back and another 300-carry season could be in the offing, especially at that salary. This is a big year for Michael to prove he can still be regarded as the heir apparent. Turbin is coming off hip surgery but figures to again be the back in the two-minute offense. Rawls earned raves in the spring and could have a legit shot to make the team if Michael falters. Coleman is healthy again and the projected starter at fullback. Tukuafu played both fullback and defensive line last season (and in the Super Bowl) and has the inside track to be the fifth running back due to his dual role.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter -- Jimmy Graham. Backups -- Luke Willson, Anthony McCoy, Cooper Helfet, RaShaun Allen.
Graham should redefine the position for the Seahawks after being acquired in exchange for Max Unger and a first-round pick. At 6 feet 7, he's the big target the team has lacked forever and should give the Seahawks a dimension they have never had in the red zone. Willson, the starter most of last season with Zach Miller out, likely reverts to a backup role. But the Seahawks will continue to look for ways to get his speed on the field. McCoy and Helfet likely will battle it out for the third spot. Helfet is said to have some of the best hands on the team while McCoy was a regular as a second tight end in 2011-12 but has missed the last two seasons with Achilles injuries.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Chris Matthews. Backups -- Paul Richardson, Ricardo Lockette, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Norwood, Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams, Deshon Foxx, Douglas McNeil, B.J. Daniels.
Baldwin is back as the starting slot receiver and Kearse also returns as a jack of all trades with a knack for big plays. The 6-5 Matthews had a breakout game in the Super Bowl and the team will hope he can pick up where he left off and emerge as the other starting outside receiver in three-receiver sets and offer another big receiving target. Lockett, a rookie from Kansas State, will have a key role as a returner and will be Baldwin's backup inside, and sure to get ample chances in the offense. Richardson figures to begin the season on the PUP list after having knee surgery. Norwood, a fourth-round pick in 2014, could have a tough time making the roster. The 6-3 McNeil had a strong offseason and could make a legit run at a roster spot if he can play special teams. Lockette has been a valuable special teams player but will have to be more consistent as a receiver to make it. Williams is a former star at nearby Washington and figures to be tough to keep off the practice squad. Smith impressed during camp last year on special teams and is now healthy.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LT Russell Okung, LG Alvin Bailey, C Lemuel Jeanpierre, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Justin Britt. Backups -- Jesse Davis, Garry Gilliam, Terry Poole, Mark Glowinski, Keavon Milton, Drew Nowak, Kona Schwenke, Kristjan Sokoli, Will Pericak, Patrick Lewis.
Four of five starting jobs appear set -- Okung, Bailey, Sweezy and Britt. Bailey takes over for the departed James Carpenter while the others all started a year ago on a team that set franchise records for rushing yards, if regarded as a little spotty in pass blocking. The big question entering camp is who takes over at center for the departed Max Unger. Jeanpierre, who has been with the team since 2010 and started three games last year, is the leader heading into camp. Lewis and Nowak, though, also should get their shots. Nowak was one of the surprises of the spring and finished as the No. 2 center to Jeanpierre. The other big question in camp is which of the younger players emerges as the swing player needed to be the seventh lineman on game days. Gilliam, a backup at tackle who also played some guard last year as a rookie, could be the leader heading into camp. Draft picks Glowinski, Poole and Sokoli will all be interesting to watch as camp begins. The Seahawks will be looking to see how much progress each has made. The team is high on Davis, an undrafted rookie free agent who worked much of the spring with the second unit at tackle. Schwenke, a college defensive lineman, is also intriguing, with the Seahawks looking to convert him to offense.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters -- LE Michael Bennett, DT Tony McDaniel, NT Brandon Mebane, RE Cliff Avril. Backups -- Frank Clark, Demarcus Dobbs, Obum Gwacham, David King, Cassius Marsh, Greg Scruggs, Julius Warmsley, T.Y. McGill, Jordan Hill, Ahtyba Hill, D'Anthony Smith, Jimmy Staten, Jesse Williams.
The starting four entering camp could be the same as a year ago. The big question is the health of Mebane, who missed the last seven games of last season with a torn hamstring that required surgery. But, if he's back, the Seahawks can again roll out a proven line led by the end duo of Bennett and Avril (though Bennett remains unhappy with his contract). Bennett emerged last season as one of the team's most valuable players playing both at end and inside in the nickel, leading the team in sacks. Avril had a steady season at rush end. McDaniel also was steady as a run-down tackle and, while he could be in his last year with the Seahawks, will again be counted on for a key role. Rubin was signed away from Cleveland in free agency to back up Mebane and McDaniel. Clark, the team's controversial second-round pick, will have a chance to play a role similar to that of Bennett, filling in at both end and tackle in the nickel. Hill, now in his third year, will be counted on to back up at both inside spots, though he needs to stay healthy. Smith could make a legit run at a spot at tackle, having had some impressive moments in 2013 before missing last year due to injury. Marsh had some good moments as a rookie in 2014 before missing the last 10 games with a foot injury. But he appears now to be more of a rush end/strongside linebacker. Dobbs emerged as a valued and versatile player near the end of last season.
LINEBACKERS: Starters -- WLB K.J. Wright, MLB Bobby Wagner, SLB Bruce Irvin. Backups -- Mike Morgan, Brock Coyle, Kevin Pierre-Louis, Tyrell Adams, Alex Singleton, Quayshawn Nealy, Eric Pinkins.
Seattle's starters are set and are the same as a year ago. Wagner is maybe the best middle linebacker in the NFL outside of Luke Kuechly. The 6-foot-4 Wright is perfectly suited for the WLB job, serving as a solid pass defender (the touchdown catch allowed to Rob Gronkowski in the Super Bowl aside) and solid tackler. Irvin, whose contract situation for 2016 remains uncertain and who could be in his last year with the Seahawks, has proven to be a playmaker at strongside linebacker; he returned two interceptions for touchdowns last season and also rushed well on passing downs. Pierre-Louis is being groomed as Irvin's possible successor. Coyle made the team a year ago as an undrafted rookie at middle linebacker but could have a tough time repeating that feat this year. Morgan is a trusted special-teamer who has been with the team since 2011 and also serves as Irvin's backup. But he, too, could be challenged this season. The team seems particularly high on the athletic Adams, who could emerge at either outside spot. The team is trying Pinkins, a former college safety drafted in 2014 to play corner, as a strongside linebacker. That will be an intriguing experiment to watch in camp.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters -- LCB Richard Sherman, RCB Cary Williams, FS Earl Thomas, SS Kam Chancellor. Backups -- DeShawn Shead, Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, Will Blackmon, Marcus Burley, Tye Smith, Keenan Lambert, Ryan Murphy, Ronald Martin, Dion Bailey, Triston Wade, Tyrequek Zimmerman.
The three key founding members of the Legion of Boom remain intact -- Sherman, Thomas and Chancellor. Thomas is rehabbing from offseason shoulder surgery but should be healthy soon enough for the secondary to again be among the most feared in the NFL. Sherman and Chancellor shrugged off late-season injuries and appear ready to go for the season. Williams was signed to replace the departed Byron Maxwell -- they essentially were traded for one another -- and did nothing in the spring to prove he won't be the other starter at corner. Blackmon, who was with the team in the offseason in 2013, appears set as the team's starting nickel back to enter the season because Lane is still sidelined with knee and arm injuries suffered in the Super Bowl. Simon is recovering from offseason shoulder surgery, but the team hopes he can emerge as the main backup at outside corner in his third season. Shead has emerged as the backup to Thomas and would start at free safety if Thomas were not ready for the season. Burley will battle to be the backup nickel and Smith will contend with Simon as the main backup at outside corner. The team needs to find a backup at strong safety with Jeron Johnson departing for Washington. Lambert serves as the most intriguing story as the half-brother of Chancellor (they share the same mother). But Bailey, a former star at USC, was impressive a year ago before suffering an ankle injury.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Steven Hauschka, P Jon Ryan, LS Clint Gresham, KR/PR Tyler Lockett, LS Nate Boyer.
The kicking battery is in line to return for another season. Hauschka has emerged as one of the more consistent kickers in the NFL while Ryan has been a steady punter since 2010; he is entering a contract year. Gresham was re-signed to a three-year deal, but he will get some competition from Boyer, a feel-good-story undrafted rookie from Texas. Boyer is 34 years old and a former Green Beret. He'll have a tough time beating out Gresham, though. The team traded three picks to move up 26 spots to get Lockett, who is expected to be the kickoff and punt returner. Richardson also will factor in as a kickoff returner once healthy, and Baldwin is a steady option at both spots.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--DL Landon Cohen (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Heath Farwell (not tendered as UFA).
--WR David Gilreath (not tendered as ERFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE-RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all signed)
--DE Frank Clark (2/63): $3,732,226/4 yrs, $1,210,844 guaranteed/$974,344 SB.
--WR Tyler Lockett (3/69): $3,318,752/4 yrs, $786,752 SB.
--G Terry Poole (4/130): $2,730,252/4 yrs, $450,252 SB.
--G Mark Glowinski (4/134): $2,625,688/4 yrs, $345,688 SB.
--CB Tye Smith (5/170): $2,446,252/4 yrs, $166,252 SB.
--DE Obum Gwacham (6/209): $2,370,484/4 yrs, $90,484 SB.
--C Kristjan Sokoli (6/214): $2,370,484/4 yrs, $90,484 SB.
--S Ryan Murphy (7/248): $2,333,492/4 yrs, $53,492 SB.
--DE Demarcus Dobbs: UFA; $825,000/1 yr, $80,000 SB.
--LS Clint Gresham: UFA; $2.705M/3 yrs, $300,000 SB.
--QB Tarvaris Jackson: Not tendered as UFA; terms unknown.
--C Lemuel Jeanpierre: UFA; $825,000/1 yr, $80,000 SB.
--WR Jermaine Kearse: RFA tendered at $2.356M with second-round pick as compensation; $2.356M/1 yr.
--WR Ricardo Lockette: ERFA; terms unknown.
--TE Anthony McCoy: Potential UFA; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--LB Mike Morgan: Potential RFA; terms unknown.
--DE Greg Scruggs: Potential RFA; $785,000/1 yr, $100,000 SB.