Big-money extension, holdout, trade? Where things stand between Seahawks, DK Metcalf

RENTON, Wash. -- If DK Metcalf had any doubt at the end of last season whether he'd get a contract extension from the Seattle Seahawks, you couldn't tell based on this response:

"It's gonna get done, in my opinion," Metcalf said in January. "I'm just gonna let the chips fall where they may and let God and the Seahawks and my agent take care of the rest. I know everything is going to work out just fine."

A lot has happened since.

The Seahawks traded quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. The wide receiver market skyrocketed to the point that Seahawks general manager John Schneider expressed sticker shock at some of the megadeals signed early in free agency. And most recently, Metcalf skipped mandatory minicamp -- without permission from the team -- in what seemed like a clear indication that he and his representation were unhappy with where his contract negotiations stand.

The Seahawks have expressed optimism both publicly and behind the scenes since then that a deal will get done, but it hardly seems like a slam dunk.

Let's take a look at some of the key questions.

What should we make of Metcalf skipping minicamp?

It was mildly surprising for a couple of reasons.

Metcalf had participated in some of the voluntary portion of the team's offseason program. He showed up in the early stages even though his recovery from foot surgery meant he couldn't participate in workouts.

The recent trend with Seahawks players (and others around the NFL) who are seeking new contracts has been to attend the mandatory portions of offseason work (i.e. minicamp and training camp) but not take part in practices. For the player, the "hold-in" is a best-of-all-worlds approach because it allows him to avoid fines as well as the risk of injury, all while making a statement about his desire to get paid. Bobby Wagner did it in 2019. Jamal Adams and Duane Brown did it last summer.

Metcalf's foot surgery gave him an easy out to do the same thing during minicamp, yet he stayed away entirely. That subjected him to more than $93,000 in fines for missing all three days. He'd be subject to $40,000 in fines for every day of training camp he misses. He also risks losing an accrued season toward free agency by not reporting on time.

Coach Pete Carroll said he's no less optimistic about getting a deal done with Metcalf than before his minicamp no-show, citing the team's strong track record of extending players it wants to keep long-term. The Seahawks typically finalize big-money extensions after the start of training camp.

"These are crucial weeks to get something done, and we'll see what happens and hope that we can work something out," Carroll said earlier this month. "[We've] really intended to get that done."

What Metcalf's market?

The short answer is that it's probably in A.J. Brown territory but below Davante Adams and Tyreek Hill territory.

Adams and Hill signed deals early in free agency averaging $28 million and $30 million per year, respectively, prompting Schneider to express "a sense of shock" at where the market has gone. Brown then got a four-year, $100 million extension that includes more than $57 million in guarantees after the Philadelphia Eagles acquired him from the Tennessee Titans during the draft.

Metcalf and Brown, college teammates at Ole Miss, entered the NFL together as second-round picks in 2019. They're both 24. So Brown's deal might be a more apples-to-apples comp for Metcalf than those of Adams and Hill, who are both in their late 20s and have accomplished more over a longer period.

Over his three seasons, Metcalf has more catches (216), targets (358), yards (3,170) and touchdowns (29) than Brown. Hill and Adams have Metcalf beat in all four categories over that same span.

ESPN polled three NFL agents who aren't involved in the Metcalf negotiations but are well-versed in the receiver market. One predicts the Seahawks will extend Metcalf on an annual average similar to Brown's $25 million. Another thinks they won't go any higher than $25 million per season and around $60 million guaranteed -- assuming a four-year extension, Seattle's preferred length. The third agent doesn't think the Seahawks will go that high and predicts they team will trade Metcalf.

All three agents noted the massive base salaries in the final year(s) of the aforementioned deals, which artificially inflate their overall averages and make it tougher to pinpoint Metcalf's range.

What kind of cap shape are the Seahawks in?

They're fine.

OverTheCap.com lists them with around $16 million in available 2022 cap space, taking into account their recent extension for defensive tackle Bryan Mone. Metcalf is set to make just under $4 million in the final year of his rookie deal. An extension could be structured so that his 2022 cap number would be increased by only a couple million dollars or so, which would leave enough for other expenses like the practice squad and in-season injury replacements.

The Seahawks will start to reap the cap savings from the Wilson trade next year, with OTC ranking them third in 2023 cap space at around $58 million. The agent who predicts a Metcalf trade thinks his representation will drive a hard bargain knowing Seattle has the financial freedom that comes with Wilson's huge contract no longer being on the books.

Don't Metcalf and Brown have the same agent?

Yep. Tory Dandy also represents three other big-name receivers: Mike Williams, Chris Godwin (both just got deals averaging $20 million per season) and Deebo Samuel (who's seeking an extension).

Schneider said at the owners meetings that Dandy's representing those other receivers shouldn't complicate negotiations with Metcalf, noting that the Seahawks have an "awesome" relationship with Dandy.

But two of the agents polled by ESPN think Dandy will be more motivated to top Brown's deal than he would be if another agent negotiated it.

Could the Seahawks really trade Metcalf?

The fact that they didn't do so before the draft suggests some optimism that a deal will get done, because waiting until after the draft would mean having to wait a year to reap the benefits of a trade.

ESPN simulated the Metcalf trade possibility in April, with NFL Nation reporters making offers on behalf of the teams they cover. None of the seven offers matched the Seahawks' presumed asking price of two first-round picks or something of similar value.

The Seahawks received calls from teams interested in trading for Metcalf before the draft and, according to a source, told those teams they weren't looking to trade Metcalf. But they'd have to at least start listening to offers if, whenever negotiations resume, they don't feel like a deal is possible.