SEATTLE — In a move that had become increasingly expected but no less stunning when it arrived, the Seahawks announced Thursday that they have terminated the contracts of two of most pivotal players of the Pete Carroll era — safety Kam Chancellor and receiver Doug Baldwin.
The contracts were each terminated with the designation that they had failed a physical.
“The Seahawks have made the difficult decision to terminate/failed physical Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said in a statement released by the team Thursday. “These are two of the most iconic players in franchise history and both were instrumental in establishing our championship culture, great examples of competitiveness and leadership on the field and in the community. These legendary players will always be a part of our Seahawks family.”
The move was no surprise at this point with Chancellor as he did not play last season and had essentially announced his retirement via social media last July 1, later revealing that he is suffering from spinal stenosis, an injury suffered in a game at Arizona on Nov. 9, 2017. He had remained on the roster since then for salary cap purposes.
Baldwin, meanwhile, had been said considering retiring in recent months as he dealt with knee, shoulder and sports hernia injuries in 2018 and has had surgeries on each in the offseason.
Carroll hinted again last Friday at Baldwin being unable to return, saying “I was with him today in the training room. He’s working out and working hard, trying to get himself right. It’s a big challenge and, you know, he’s got a lot to overcome.’’
Still, if the writing was on the wall for each move, the reality of the end of the Seattle careers of two of the greatest players of the team’s greatest era struck harsh.
Baldwin had no more guaranteed money in his contract but by being cut instead of retiring he will not have to pay back any of the $7 million in bonus money received in a four-year deal he signed in 2016. He will end up not playing the final two seasons of that contract, years in which he would have made $9.25 and $10.25 million. However, per the league’s collective bargaining agreement, he should get $1.2 million in an injury protection payout for the 2019 season.
Chancellor had injury guarantees paying him $5.2 million for 2019. But the Seahawks are now not on the hook for any more money with Chancellor, whose contract also went through the 2020 season. Assuming the moves are not designated as post-June 1, then Seattle will save $2.3 million against the cap this year and $12 million next year with Chancellor and $6.8 million and $11 million on Baldwin, according to figures from OvertheCap.com.
Put more simply, the two moves mean Seattle now has an additional $9.1 million in cap space for the 2019 season. Seattle had roughly $26 million before the agreement with defensive end Ziggy Ansah and the signings of three other players on Thursday.
The moves also mean there are just three players left on the roster from the team that won the Super Bowl following the 2013 season — quarterback Russell Wilson and linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright.
Chancellor arrived as a fifth-round pick in 2010 — the first year for Schneider and Carroll — earning a starting spot at strong safety the following season when the famed Legion of Boom secondary first burst into prominence.
Baldwin, who turns 31 in September, made the team in 2011 as an undrafted free agent receiver out of Stanford.
Baldwin finishes his Seattle career third in team history in receptions (493) and receiving yards (6,563) and second in touchdowns (49) while also having made the Pro Bowl in 2016 and 2017.
The only Seattle receiver to score more touchdowns as a Seahawk is Hall of Famer Steve Largent, who has 100. The two formed something of a mutual admiration society during Baldwin’s Seattle career after Baldwin reached out to Largent for receiving advice — something Largent said didn’t happen as often as one would think.
“His competitive spirit,’’ Largent told the Times then of what impressed him most about Baldwin. “I mean, nobody wants to win more than Doug Baldwin does. He’s a small receiver (listed at 5-10, 192), but he makes big plays.’
But Baldwin suffered through myriad injuries in 2018, including a knee issue that held him out of the preseason and then a sprained MCL suffered in week one. He also later had the abdominal/sports hernia issue that in all caused him to miss three games — the first he had missed since 2012.
After a late-season win against the Chiefs in which he had seven receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown— the final TD of his Seattle career as it turns out — Baldwin called the season “hell.”
“Ha, this year has been hell,” Baldwin said then. “This year has been absolutely hell. I’ve been…oh my goodness. We don’t have enough time for that. It’s been hell. But I’m so grateful to be healthy enough to be on the field with my teammates to celebrate victories and just enjoying playing football again, just like a kid.”
Chancellor has made it clear he does not intend to play anymore, but it was unclear as of Thursday afternoon if Baldwin would try to play elsewhere if he could get medically cleared.
Seattle took steps to replace Baldwin during the draft last month, selecting DK Metcalf in the second round out of Ole Miss, Gary Jennings out of West Virginia in the fourth and John Ursua out of Hawaii in the seventh.
Seattle last year also re-signed Tyler Lockett to an extension through the 2021 season. Lockett responded with career highs of 57 receptions, 965 yards and 10 touchdowns, becoming the first player since Golden Tate in 2013 to lead Seattle in receptions or yards other than Baldwin.