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Seahawks safety Jeron Johnson unlikely to play under $2.2M tender

Jeron Johnson during a playoff game against the Washington Redskins on Jan. 6, 2013
Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images

Backup safety Jeron Johnson reportedly received a $2.187 million tender offer from the Seahawks on Tuesday, but don't expect him to play for that amount in 2014.

As a restricted free agent, Johnson could have been tendered at one of three levels: first round, worth $3.113 million; second round, $2.187 million; or for the right of first refusal, $1.431 million.

By extending a tender to a restricted free agent, a team basically protects itself against losing him. The first-round tender means the team would receive a first-round pick from any other club that signed the player to an offer sheet. The second-round and original-round tenders work the same way.

Johnson was not drafted when he came out of Boise State in 2011, so the Hawks had no original-round option. Rather than just use the right of first refusal, they chose the second-round tender.

But they almost certainly will not pay a backup more than $2 million.

Their strategy regarding restricted free agents has been to tender them and then redo their contracts later in the year.

Last year, they tendered safety Chris Maragos, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and long snapper Clint Gresham at $1.32 million. None of those players played for that tender, though. Maragos took a pay cut, Gresham was given a cheaper extension and McDonald was cut and re-signed after Week 1 for the veteran minimum.

The Seahawks likely will take the same tack with Johnson and their two other restricted free agents this year: center Lemuel Jeanpierre and wide receiver Doug Baldwin.

Considering his importance to the offense, Baldwin – an undrafted rookie in 2011 -- probably will be tendered at the first-round level. And then the team probably will try to extend his contract later in the offseason.

Jeanpierre, who was undrafted in 2010 and didn't make an active roster until he joined Seattle in 2011, probably will get the same deal as Johnson. And the Hawks will either have him take a pay cut or perhaps extend him to a cheaper multi-year deal paying him more in line with his backup status.

The deadline for RFA tenders is March 11. Other teams can sign RFAs to offer sheets through May 2. Each player can sign only one offer sheet, although other teams rarely are willing to go to the effort because the tendering team almost always matches.

The Seahawks actually signed restricted free agent Nate Burleson away from Minnesota in 2006. Of course, they did it by using the same kind of poison pill tactic the Vikings had used to procure transition-tagged All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson from Seattle that year.

Usually, teams will work out a trade rather than pay the tender price. It's possible the Hawks would be open to that, but it is more likely they are just protecting their players so they don’t lose them.