The Seahawks’ Free Agency Budget for 2014

Building an NFL team into a legitimate championship contender is a hell of a task.  To begin with you need great players and great coaches, obviously, and you need all of them to work well together.  Bad blood and poor chemistry have spoiled a lot of otherwise stacked teams over the years (like the Seahawks in ’03 and ’04, for example).  Luckily for us, that hasn’t been a problem for the squad Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built over the last four seasons, and now they’ve got a Lombardi trophy to show for it.

But if building a Super Bowl winning team is tough, maintaining one is nearly impossible.  As soon as the confetti starts falling, you know that there are 31 other front offices that will be targeting your best pending free agents in the hopes that some of that championship magic will rub off on their teams.  Hell, at the rate some teams lose players after a Super Bowl win you’d think they were having a going out of business sale.  But lost players or no, what separates teams like the Ravens and Giants whose championship windows only seem to stay open for 2-3 years and teams like the Patriots who have managed to keep their window open for a decade-plus is how well your front office manages its salary cap every offseason (well, that and the ability of your coaching staff to adapt their schemes to changing personnel, but that’s a topic for another day).

Here’s how the numbers currently work out for the Seahawks:

 

Offensive Line $23,489073
Quarterbacks $1,312,302
Running Backs $9,456,388
Receiving Corps $24,904,633
Offense Total $59,162,396
Defensive Line $28,651,990
Linebackers $8,440,035
Secondary $18,613,185
Defense Total $55,705,210
Specialists $2,287,500
Team Total $117,155,106
Rule 51 Total $113,804,116
Dead Money $6,307,367
Rookie Cap Hit (Estimated) $1,254,410
2014 NFL Cap Limit $133,000000
Current Usable Cap Space $11,634,107

 

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the NFL’s salary cap rules, a little explanation is in order.  The rule of 51 is a temporary thing; when the 2014 season officially begins this fall, each NFL team will still have to make sure that all 53 players on their roster fit under the salary cap.  However, during the offseason, when rosters balloon out to 90 players as teams get ready for training camp, your cap hit only counts the 51 highest paid players on the roster.  How they arrived at 51 players as the cutoff I have no idea, but for practical purposes it means that teams will have to make sure that they have at least an additional $840k in cap space at the ready for their 52nd and 53rd players when week one rolls around (the minimum contract for a rookie in 2014 is $420k).  Currently, the Seahawks have 59 players under contract, hence the $3.35M difference between the two totals.

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For how a player’s cap figure and/or dead money is calculated, let’s take a look at an example.  Team A signs aging star DE Bob Bobberson to a hefty four year, $40 million dollar deal with $20M guaranteed and a $10M signing bonus.  Assuming that $40M is evenly distributed across all four seasons (which is never the case in the NFL, but we’re making things easy on ourselves here), Bobberson will be paid $10M per year in base salary.  The signing bonus is prorated over the life of the contract, so in Bobberson’s case only $2.5M will count against the team’s cap each season.  Add those together, and you have a total cap figure of $12.5M for your star DE.

A few seasons later, Team A decides to cut Bobberson to free up some cash to sign some younger, more talented players.  However, it’s not as simple as clearing up $12.5M in cap space by giving him the heave-ho.  Once he’s gone, the remainder of Bobberson’s prorated signing bonus and any guaranteed salary yet to be paid becomes dead money, and the whole sum of it would then counts against Team A’s cap the very next season.

 

Years Remaining on Contract Cap Hit Remaining Bonus Remaining Guarantee Dead Money Cap Space Freed Up
3 $12,500,000 $7,500,000 $10,000,000 $17,500,000 ($5,000,000)
2 $12,500,000 $5,000,000 $0 $5,000,000 $7,500,000
1 $12,500,000 $2,500,000 $0 $2,500,000 $10,000,000

 

So, get rid of him after three years clears up $10M for Team A, but cutting him after just one year would actually cost them an additional $5M in cap space.  That said, if he was traded after one year, only the signing bonus would count as dead money — Bobberson's new team would be on the hook for his remaining guaranteed base salary.  There's a lot more that factors in to cap figures like roster bonuses, incentives, and so on, but this is basically how the whole shebang works (if you'd like a more detailed explanation, I highly recommend this article by Jason Fitzgerald over at OvertheCap.com.  The salary figures used throughout this article come from his site.).

Here’s the breakdown for the Seahawks’ dead money for 2014:

 

Ex-Seahawk Dead Money
Red Bryant $3,000,000
Sidney Rice $2,400,000
Chris Harper $309,447
Jaye Howard $217,432
John Moffitt $150,000
Winston Guy $51,794
Ryan Seymour $44,568
Ty Powell $37,074
Jared Smith $34,422
John Lotulelei $16,667
Ron Parker $15,300
Stephen Williams $12,500
Allen Bradford $9,829
Craig Wilkins $8,334
Total $6,307,367

 

Finally, the Seahawks will also have need to make sure they keep about $1.25M in cap space clear to sign all their picks in the upcoming draft.  Add all that together, and the Seahawks have roughly $11.6M in space to work with, with most of that coming by way of releasing Sidney Rice and Red Bryant (those moves freed up $7.3M and $5.5M, respectively).  Should they succeed in re-signing their highest priority free agent Michael Bennett (and I think we all hope they do), his contract will likely cost them in the neighborhood of $8M a season.  That doesn’t leave a whole lot to sign any of their other free agents like Golden Tate and Steven Hauschka, nor does it give them much wiggle room to work out new contracts for any of their star players like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman who are scheduled to hit free agency in 2015.

In short, the Seahawks need more money, so expect to see them announce that more guys have been released or had their contracts “restructured” to clear up more cap space.  For those of you who are curious which guys on the team represent the biggest potential savings, I’ve included a breakdown of every player’s current cap hit grouped by position, along with how many regular season games and starts they had in 2014, how much dead money and/or cap space the Seahawks would get if they axed said player, and when each guy is scheduled to hit free agency, along with the team's current free agents for that position.  I’ll be keeping my commentary to a minimum, though – I had surgery to remove my appendix recently, and my ability to string words together is at low ebb.

(Note: Veteran minimum salaries for free agents are educated guesses and as such may be lower than I've stated.  I just don't have enough energy left in me to check to make sure each and every season counted as accrued under the CBA.)

Offensive Line

 

Name Position Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Russell Okung LT 8 (8) $11,240,000 $4,560,000 $6,680,000 2016
Max Unger C 13 (13) $6,100,000 $3,300,000 $2,800,000 2017
James Carpenter G 16 (10) $2,431,387 $1,014,364 $1,417,023 2015
Lemuel Jeanpierre C/G 16 (3) $645,000 $0 $645,000 2015
J.R. Sweezy G 15 (15) $584,212 $28,424 $555,788 2016
Greg Van Roten G NA $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Michael Bowie G/T 9 (8) $506,474 $34,422 $472,052 2017
Alvin Bailey G 14 (0) $497,000 $4,000 $493,000 2016
Caylin Hauptmann T 1 (0) $495,000 $0 $495,000 2016
Jared Smith G PS $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Free Agents Position Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Breno Giacomini T 9 (9) $730,000     UFA
Paul McQuistan G/T 16 (14) $855,000     UFA

 

If Schneider has one flaw, it's been his inability to acquire decent offensive line talent.  Okung, Unger, and Jeanpierre are probably the only players in this bunch whose jobs are safe; Okung and Unger are the only two above average starters on the o-line, and Jeanpierre was just re-signed to reprise his role as the team's only really viable backup option at center. Jeanpierre's contract numbers have yet to be released, so I've just listed what he would get at the veteran minimum — I expect he'll be earning more than that.

I could see the team bringing Giacomini back for a minimal deal in case they can't find a decent RT to replace him this offseason, but I'm hoping that we've finally seen the last of McQuistan's patented blend of versatility and subpar performance.

 

Quarterbacks

 

Name Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Russell Wilson 16 (16) $817,302 $309,736 $507,566 2016
B.J. Daniels PS $495,000 $0 $495,000 2016
Free Agent Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Tarvaris Jackson 4 (0) $855,000     UFA

 

Enjoy the bargain while it lasts — Wilson only has one year to go before his contract can be renegotiated (for now he's prohibited from doing so by the CBA rules governing rookie contracts).  After that, a lot of other contracts are going to have to be thinned out in order to afford to keep him on.  But hey, it beats not having a decent QB, right?

I'd like to see Jackson return, and it sounds like the odds are good that he will.  He knows OC Bevell's offense inside and out, but more importantly he can be counted on to win some games should the need arise, which is something you can't say about every backup QB in the league.

 

Running Backs

 

Name Position Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Marshawn Lynch RB 16 (16) $7,000,000 $3,000,000 $4,000,000 2016
Christine Michael RB 3 (0) $766,916 $805,599 ($38,683) 2017
Robert Turbin RB 16 (0) $684,114 $228,228 $455,886 2016
Spencer Ware FB 2 (0) $519,358 $73,074 $446,284 2017
Derrick Coleman FB 12 (3) $495,000 $0 $495,000 2016
Free Agent Position Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Michael Robinson FB 9 (3) $855,000     UFA

 

At this point, I have my doubts about whether Robinson will return to the team, and I'm not so sure Ware is going to stick around, either.  The team only needs one fullback, and Coleman is the better option.  Robinson also has value as a special teams ace, but Jeremy Lane has more or less supplanted him as the best special teamer on the roster not named Heath Farwell.

Also, I'm seriously looking forward to seeing more of Michael next year, assuming he can master the vagaries of blocking.  Turbin is serviceable enough and is well above average as a receiving threat, but Michael is far more like Lynch in his ability to bulldoze his way through tacklers.

 

Receiving Corps

 

Name Position Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Percy Harvin WR 1 (0) $13,400,000 $20,600,000 ($7,200,000) 2019
Zach Miller TE 14 (12) $7,000,000 $2,000,000 $5,000,000 2016
Travis Beckum TE NA $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Jermaine Kearse WR 15 (5) $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Ricardo Lockette WR 8 (1) $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Bryan Walters WR 4 (1) $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Luke Willson TE 16 (7) $539,633 $133,899 $405,734 2017
Chris Matthews WR NA $425,000 $10,000 $415,000 2016
Phil Bates WR PS $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Arceto Clark WR PS $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Cooper Helfet TE PS $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Free Agent Position Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Doug Baldwin WR 16 (9) $2,187,000     RFA
Kellen Davis TE 15 (4) $730,000     UFA
Anthony McCoy TE IR $645,000     UFA
Golden Tate WR 16 (13) $730,000     UFA

 

I think Baldwin has a better chance of coming back than Tate, if only because I think there are a couple of desperate teams out there who might be willing to overpay for Tate's services.  The Seahawks tendered Baldwin at a 2nd round level — the salary I listed for him is what he would get if he were to sign the one-year deal and play on that through 2014 (odds are better that a long term deal with different numbers would be negotiated should he sign the tender).

Miller looks to be a good bet for a potential cut, but I get the impression that the Seahawks' coaching staff values his contributions much more highly than most fans and reporters do.  He's better than most TEs as a blocker, which works against him stat-wise when he's forced to help shore up the o-line's pathetic pass blocking instead of releasing into a route.

Beyond that, I have two questions here: 1) will the Hawks finally find a big-bodied target to replace Mike Williams, and 2) will Helfet finally step up this offseason and claim the #3 tight end spot behind Miller and Willson?

 

Defensive Line

 

Name Position Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Chris Clemons DE 14 (11) $9,666,668 $2,166,668 $7,500,000 2015
Cliff Avril DE 15 (2) $9,250,000 $7,250,000 $2,000,000 2015
Brandon Mebane DT 16 (16) $5,700,000 $400,000 $5,300,000 2016
Jordan Hill DT 4 (0) $651,035 $408,105 $242,930 2017
Greg Scruggs DE PUP $582,358 $24,716 $557,642 2016
D'Anthony Smith DT PS $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Benson Mayowa DE 2 (0) $495,000 $0 $495,000 2016
Jesse Williams DT IR $472,763 $158,289 $314,474 2017
Kenneth Boatright DE IR $424,166 $8,334 $415,832 2016
Michael Brooks DT 1 (0) $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Dewayne Cherington DT PS $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Free Agent Position Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Michael Bennett DE 16 (3) $730,000     UFA
Tony McDaniel DT 16 (15) $855,000     UFA
Clinton McDonald DT 15 (1) $730,000     RFA
O'Brien Schofield DE 15 (2) $730,000     UFA

 

Clemons is probably the number one possibility on the team as a potential cap casualty/candidate for restructuring, 'cause this team desperately needs to bring Bennett back into the fold.  Don't get me wrong, I think Clemons has plenty left in the tank and his burst should be back now that he's more than a year removed from reconstructive knee surgery, but a guy who can consistently get pressure from both the DE and 3-tech spot like Bennett is a pass-rush weapon like no other.

(UPDATE: Bennett has been re-signed!  His contract is reportedly a 4 year deal ranging anywhere from $28.5M to $32M.  Huzzah!)

I'd love to see McDaniel and McDonald both return, but there's a good chance that one or both (mainly McDonald) will cash in elsewhere.  McDaniel, like Alan Branch before him, is a solid but not irreplaceable run-stuffer, and McDonald really came into his own last year as a pass-rushing DT on the nickel line.

 

Linebackers

 

Name Position Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Bruce Irvin OLB 12 (12) $2,547,872 $2,617,164 ($69,292) 2016
Heath Farwell MLB 16 (0) $1,666,668 $166,668 $1,500,000 2015
K.J. Wright OLB 13 (13) $1,552,500 $121,500 $1,431,000 2015
Bobby Wagner MLB 14 (14) $1,174,854 $786,472 $388,382 2015
Malcolm Smith OLB 15 (8) $656,475 $11,475 $645,000 2015
Mike Taylor OLB PS $421,666 $5,000 $416,666 2017
Korey Toomer OLB IR $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Free Agent Position Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Michael Morgan OLB 16 (0) $645,000     RFA

 

2015 is going to be an interesting year for the linebacking corps.  Carroll and Schneider have preferred to spend more on the d-line and secondary and go cheap on linebackers in the past, but that isn't going to be a viable option if they want to hold on to their two best LBs, Wright and Wagner.

 

Secondary

 

Name Position Games (Starts) Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Kam Chancellor SS 16 (16) $5,825,000 $8,725,000 ($2,900,000) 2018
Earl Thomas FS 16 (16) $5,473,212 $748,212 $4,725,000 2015
Jeron Johnson S 7 (0) $2,187,000 $0 $2,187,000 2015
Richard Sherman CB 16 (16) $1,476,606 $45,606 $1,431,000 2015
Byron Maxwell CB 16 (5) $673,363 $28,363 $645,000 2015
Jeremy Lane CB 15 (0) $601,279 $62,558 $538,721 2016
Deshawn Shead DB 5 (0) $570,000 $0 $570,000 2015
Tharold Simon CB PUP $546,725 $155,175 $391,550 2017
Akeem Auguste CB NA $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Chandler Fenner S 0 (0) $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Terrance Parks S NA $420,000 $0 $420,000 2016
Free Agent Position Games (Starts) Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Brandon Browner CB 8 (8) $645,000     UFA
Chris Maragos S 16 (0) $730,000     UFA
Walter Thurmond CB 12 (3) $730,000     UFA

 

Aside from the upcoming end of Wilson's rookie contract, this is the biggest looming fiancial crisis going for the Seahawks.  Chancellor is already locked up, but next year Thomas, Sherman, and Maxwell — i.e. the other three-fourths of the Legion of Boom — is scheduled to hit free agency, and some seriously hard choices are going to have to be made.  Of the three, Thomas is the absolute must to re-sign.  He's the reason Seattle is able to dial up so many cover one shells, which frees up Chancellor to roam as a hybrid safety/linebacker and mete out punishment wherever balls are being caught.

Johnson's contract figures are inordinately big because he recently signed his RFA deal, for which Seattle tendered him at a second round level.  Clearly the team values him highly, but he's still just a backup — I fully expect his cap figure to drop sharply once his agent and Schneider can work out a multi-year deal.

Thurmond would be nice to bring back, but he'll probably get priced out of Seattle's budget — he's way too injury prone to risk paying much beyond the minimum for him. 

 

Specialists

 

Name Position Games Cap Hit Dead Money Potential Cap Savings Free Agency Year
Jon Ryan P 16 $1,400,000 $0 $1,400,000 2016
Clint Gresham LS 16 $887,500 $137,500 $750,000 2015
Free Agent Position Games Veteran Minimum - - FA Type
Steven Hauschka K 16 $730,000     UFA

 

Ryan, Gresham, and Hauschka are all models of consistency.  The only question is whether or not Hauschka's Super Bowl ring will end up pricing him out of the Seahawks' market — that doesn't happen as often for kickers, mind you, but it has been known to occur from time to time (remember Josh Brown?).

 

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