Commentary: Just one more reason to appreciate Doug Baldwin, Seahawks

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SEATTLE — You might have thought Oprah Winfrey was doling out the multi-million dollar contracts in the NBA this week – because he got one, and he got one, and they got one….heck everybody got one! – or so it seemed.

And while I’d love nothing more than to have an NBA team here, at the very least, it relieved us from seeing Jim McIlvane-like deals reincarnated on an even more head-scratching level in Seattle.

Still, I’m not going to stand here and bemoan the destructive forces of free agency in modern day pro sports, because we all understand that it’s simply the name of the game. We all realize that unfortunately an athlete’s loyalty to a city has become more and more defined by the paycheck he receives. Obviously we’re not immune – we can all name local athletes who wouldn’t be here if not for a big payday.

But to me, there’s something – something – about Doug Baldwin’s contract extension with the Seahawks that screams old-school – a throwback vibe incorporating a loyalty between team and player that reminds us of the days before modern-day free agency.

You can call me biased – and don’t get me wrong: Baldwin definitely got paid. The $11 million a year and $24 million guaranteed is significant. But it’s market value based on last year’s numbers – and more importantly, it’s now the second time Baldwin has accepted a deal without exploring free agency – this time a full year early. And it’s the second time the Seahawks have rewarded Baldwin with an extension, sticking with their strong philosophy of rewarding their own players.

Remember, Baldwin stood here himself four years ago, arguing in favor of a player’s right to explore free agency and in general, he probably still feels the same way now. But he’s still made the personal choice to forego that right and make Seattle his permanent home.

And nothing makes me appreciate him more than what he told me long before this deal was announced – as part of an exclusive interview that will air in a few weeks. Candid, revealing – and incredibly honest. Take a look:

“It’s funny – my fiancé and I are going through pre-marital counseling right now. And one of the things that was pointed out in my personality profile was that loyalty, honesty and trustworthiness ranked very high for me. And I think that’s one of the reasons why I’ve developed such a warm heart for Seattle and this area – is because I’m loyal to it.

John and Pete gave me an opportunity to come out here as an undrafted free agent, the fans welcomed me with open arms – they supported me – I saw loyalty there. I have a lot of love for that.

Being able to live here, build a house here – it’s not just about right now. It’s about 30 years down the line when my kids are going to school and they get to look back and say that their dad got to play for the Seattle Seahawks and what that truly means in the bigger picture. That’s what it means to me.”

You won’t find more openly old-school loyalty than that. Deal or no deal, it proves the kind of appreciation between an athlete, an organization and a city that’s becoming all-too-rare in a sports world tainted by players jumping to their next big payday.

No, Baldwin’s extension isn’t the biggest deal or the most glamorous the Seahawks have awarded over the past five years. But to me, it captures the essence of what’s still good about sports – of a player, committed to his team, committed to his city, committed to a community that’s embraced him as one of their own.

For that, I thank Baldwin for being that kind of player – and that kind of man. And I thank the Seahawks for making it all work out.

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