PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The Seattle Seahawks' public comments leave no doubt that they want to extend DK Metcalf but there's a good amount of uncertainty as to whether they will.
"Yeah," general manager John Schneider said Tuesday at the NFL owners meetings when asked whether he thinks they'll get a deal done with the star wide receiver, "that's our intent."
That answer from Schneider was similar to the one coach Pete Carroll gave to the same question earlier in the day.
"We intend for him to be with us," Carroll said. "We'd love to figure that out. We're in a normal kind of mode this time of the year. We're not to that topic yet specifically because we've got so many other things going on. But we'd love to have him. There's no way I could imagine playing without him."
Under normal circumstances, those comments would have quelled any doubt about Metcalf's future in Seattle. But these aren't normal times. The top of the wide receiver market has exploded thanks to some recent megadeals that, as Schneider has said, gave him sticker shock.
The Seahawks, meanwhile, are a team in transition -- even if not in rebuild mode -- after trading quarterback Russell Wilson and cutting another franchise cornerstone in linebacker Bobby Wagner.
News of the Wilson trade broke a week after Carroll told reporters at the scouting combine that he had "no intention" of parting with him. The plan changed, per Carroll, when Denver made the Seahawks a better offer than anticipated.
The lesson: Seattle's intent to extend Metcalf hardly assures it'll happen.
The Metcalf situation began generating serious buzz when Schneider told Seattle Sports 710 AM last week that there was a "sense of shock" at where the wide receiver market has gone. The three deals he mentioned were those of Tyreek Hill (which set a new standard for the position at $30 million in annual average salary), Davante Adams ($28 million average) and Mike Williams ($20 million average).
"It is what it is now, right?" Schneider said Tuesday. "This is the market. So we'll get to that when we get to it. But yeah there is a bit of, 'whoa,' but then you have to figure out: OK, well, where's the cap going? What's it going to look like? How do you build your team? We do that every day, we're constantly moving stuff around."
Schneider answered in the affirmative when asked whether his surprise at the receiver market is similar to what the Seahawks felt in 2019 after the Dallas Cowboys extended DeMarcus Lawrence for $21 million per season, making him the NFL's second-highest-paid edge player at the time. A few weeks later, the Seahawks traded Frank Clark in lieu of giving him that kind of deal.
"Yeah, it is a little bit," Schneider said. "It kind of throws you off a little bit, but you kind of have to readjust, right?"
If the Seahawks were to make Metcalf available in a trade, he'd have a robust market. According to ESPN's Rich Cimini, New York Jets general manager Joe Douglas -- who tried to trade for Hill -- told reporters in Palm Beach that he'll "strike" on a trade for a premier receiver if the opportunity and price are right. The Green Bay Packers are another team that needs receiver help after trading Adams.
Carroll's comment about the Seahawks' "normal" order of offseason operations references how they typically put off extensions for under-contract players until well after the draft. Tyler Lockett's four-year, $69 million extension last year was an exception. The Seahawks got that deal done in March in part to help clear cap space for more free-agent signings.
If the Seahawks extend Metcalf at an excess of $20 million per year, they'd be paying two receivers big money to play in an offense that Carroll prefers not to be centered around its passing game. They might want to lean more on the run post-Wilson.
But as Schneider mentioned Tuesday, the Seahawks' MO has been to pay their best players regardless of position. The best example was shelling out big-money deals to Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman to keep the Legion of Boom intact.
"People were like, 'You can't spend your money there. You're going to suffer somewhere else,'" Schneider said. "Well, you've got to be developing somewhere else too. You've got to keep all your best players."
If Metcalf isn't the Seahawks' best player, he's the one with the most long-term upside. He has racked up 3,170 receiving yards and 29 touchdowns in three seasons. That includes a franchise-record 1,303 yards in 2020 and a career-best 12 TDs last season, despite Wilson missing three-plus games.
At 24, he's young enough to be a long-term building block on a team that will probably need a couple of years before realistically returning to contender status, unless quarterback Drew Lock surprisingly speeds up the process.
With Wilson gone, the Seahawks have the most cap flexibility they've had since before he signed his first extension in 2015. They'll really reap the savings next offseason, when his dead money comes off their books.
But Metcalf and the Seahawks still have to agree to a price, which is easier said than done right now.
Metcalf said on locker clean-out day that he believed an extension would get done this offseason. That was before the Wilson trade and the market spike.
For now, he's set to make $3.986 million in the final year of his rookie contract. Conventional wisdom suggests that a player who has produced as much as Metcalf has in three seasons wouldn't play at that number -- especially considering Metcalf suffered a career-threatening neck injury in college.
In an interview last week with Seattle's 93.3 KJR, Carroll said extending Metcalf this offseason is "really important."
"We love him," Carroll told the station. "He's such a great competitive kid and he's got so much upside. Maybe [he] will go down as one of the great draft picks we've ever had here. ... We're going to do everything we can to get it done."
In other words, they intend to.