Staying in Seattle
Dilfer agrees to four-year deal, will start for SeahawksPosted: Saturday March 02, 2002 12:27 PM
Updated: Saturday March 02, 2002 1:09 PM
By Don Banks, Sports Illustrated
INDIANAPOLIS -- Promising to make him their starting quarterback heading into training camp this season, the Seattle Seahawks have reached a four-year agreement with free agent Trent Dilfer, the quarterback confirmed Saturday.
The deal is structured so Dilfer will either be paid $18 million between now and the end of the 2005 season or $8 million if he does not retain the Seahawks' starting job.
"There's no doubt, this was my first choice, to stay in Seattle," Dilfer said Saturday morning. "After the season, as I went through the evaluation process, the opportunity to spend another year with this team and this coaching staff was definitely something I wanted to have happen. To have it turn out that way was just wonderful."
Dilfer's unusual contract breaks down thusly: It includes a $4 million signing bonus and a $750,000 base salary this year. If the Seahawks win at least 10 games, and Dilfer's quarterback rating is 85.0 or higher, his salaries for 2003-2005 become $3.5 million, $4.5 million and $5.25 million. That totals $18 million over the life of the contract.
If Dilfer doesn't succeed to those levels in 2002, the contract calls for base salaries of $750,000, $1.25 million and $1.25 million from 2003-2005.
The key component of Dilfer's contract, however, is the opportunity to go into training camp as the Seahawks' unchallenged starter. More than anything else, Dilfer was seeking a starting opportunity in this year's free agent market.
In his most recent 20 starts, dating to late in the 1999 season with Tampa Bay, Dilfer is 19-1 with a quarterback rating above the 85.0 mark.
"Trent has the opportunity to prove that he can be the caliber of quarterback going forward that he has been over his last 20 starts," agent Michael Sullivan of Octagon said Saturday.
In 2001, Dilfer was 4-0 as a starter behind the Seahawks No. 1 passer, Matt Hasselbeck. Seattle was 5-7 in games started by Hasselbeck, and Dilfer statistically outdistanced him in every key comparison.
It is believed that Seahawks head coach Mike Holmgren was attempting to contact Hasselbeck Saturday morning to inform him of his decision to give Dilfer the first crack at the starting job this year. Dilfer must take at least 75 percent of Seattle offensive snaps to activate the rest of the contract at its higher compensation levels.
In essence, what the Seahawks have done is sign Dilfer to a one-year, $4.75 million contract that gives him the opportunity to parlay it into a four-year, $18 million deal if he maintains the standard of his recent 20-game performance. But after playing under $1 million per year deals the past two seasons in Baltimore and Seattle -- where he went 15-1 as a starter combined -- Dilfer's $4.75 million 2002 salary already is a hefty reward.
"It was never about the money or the other offers that might have bigger, brighter, better than somebody elses," said Dilfer, reached at home. "I wanted to paid as a front-line starter this year, and then I'll have to earn the rest. I believe in that kind of a contract and think we should do that more with younger players.
"There was going to be great opportunity on the free-agent market, and
some teams might have been greater financially. But looking at the big
picture, Seattle was right for me and right for my family. Obviously I wanted
to be under the tutilege of Mike Holmgren and guys like Gil Haskell and Jim
Zorn. I feel like I got better last year under them, and I want to make sure
I continue to develop and play to the fullest of my ability."