RENTON, Wash. — The contract that got away, Seahawks defensive end O’Brien Schofield says, is more of a driving force than a reason for regret.
For about 24 hours after the free-agent signing period began in March, Schofield thought he was a member of the New York Giants, having agreed to a two-year deal reportedly worth $8 million.
All that was left was to pass a physical and Schofield would be in line for his biggest payday after four years in the NFL.
After the physical, though, the Giants delivered bad news, telling Schofield he had failed because he was starting to form arthritis in his left knee, the same knee in which he had suffered a torn ACL while preparing for the Senior Bowl in 2010.
“I didn’t know,’’ Schofield said. “The doctors didn’t tell me until I was going to sign my contract. That’s how I found out.’’
The deal was viewed as especially good for Schofield because he had made only 11 starts in four NFL seasons, the first three with Arizona, the team that cut him early in training camp in 2013 before he was signed by Seattle.
Once the deal was taken off the table, Schofield was forced back into the free-agent market. While there was mutual interest in returning to Seattle, Schofield says he was looking for a team where he might have a larger role after having been a backup most of last season.
He said he got a couple of offers and passed a physical in Tennessee — teams are free to deliver their own verdicts of the health of players and Schofield says he feels as healthy as ever.
But nothing really materialized until the Seahawks — who had been unable to come to agreements with other free-agent defensive ends, including Jared Allen — called with an offer in early May.
It was a lot less than what he had lined up with the Giants, though, a one-year deal worth $730,000, the minimum for four- to six-year veterans.
Schofield sounds more practical than bitter.
“In this business, the money is going to come,’’ he said. “It’s going to come when it’s time to come. And really, it’s about just coming out and being as good as you can be. Come out and have a year like we had last year and me be able to get more film and produce, the offers will be there (after the 2014 season).’’
Still, he says, the collapse of the Giants deal, along with having been waived by Arizona last season, serve as constant motivation.
“I have a big chip on my shoulder from getting cut to the New York Giants thing,’’ he said. “I just always wanted someone to believe in me and give me a shot so I can produce because I know what type of player I am.’’
And through two weeks of training camp, it looks like the Giants’ willing loss of Schofield might be Seattle’s gain.
Unlike last season, when Schofield played both strongside linebacker and defensive end, he is concentrating this year almost solely on end. He’s mostly playing the left defensive end spot, competing primarily with Benson Mayowa, with Bruce Irvin still out while recovering from offseason hip surgery.
Schofield prepared for that move in the offseason by adding weight, going from his listed 242 pounds to about 260.
It appeared to pay off in Seattle’s exhibition opener against Denver last week, when he played 28 snaps and was a consistent presence in the Broncos’ backfield.
In fact, the football analytic website Pro Football Focus gave Schofield its game ball saying he “showed the ability to make a decent player in (Denver right tackle) Chris Clark look foolish at times.’’
Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Sunday that Schofield has “been really effective’’ and that he’ll get a long look this week with the starting defense as a pass rusher in nickel situations opposite Cliff Avril.
“I have a one-year deal and I’m trying to make the best of it,’’ said Schofield, a Wisconsin grad who turned 27 in April. “Last year, I didn’t get to play as much as I wanted. I’m just tired of being a backup guy and I want to prove otherwise, that I can be a starter and be a force and an impact on this defense.’’