What are the Seahawks Motives Behind These Moves?
Please note - The cap space mentioned doesn't allow for the Bradley McDougald signing as this piece was written about 3 hours before it happened. I can neither confirm nor deny that I had to remove a paragraph about how I think McDougald will sign with a different team in the $6-7M range...
It’s pretty well documented that Richard Sherman and Jeremy Lane has been released, Michael Bennett has been traded and DeShawn Shead is to be released, too. But why?
You have to look at it from a business point of view to make rhyme or reason out of it, from a fan perspective you keep the loved players and spend, spend, spend. But from the business side of the NFL, rarely, if ever, does that make sense. Even less so when a team faces a defense that’s ranked top 4 in age, has a huge difference in cap spend on offense to defense and has various holes up and down the roster. Things needed to change, the very basics of science dictate that, as does the salary cap lead NFL.
I believe it is fair to assume that this team has a plan in place for the short term, medium term and long term of the organization, that’s a given. This team is managed very well, you can argue that they’ve made some wrong decisions with certain players in free agency as well as making some draft mistakes. However, on the whole, this team is managed to a very high degree. It’s easy to forget that despite having no run game, an untrusted kicker and severe injuries all over the roster, this team still won 9 games last season. This team still has the likes of Russell Wilson, Duane Brown, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner on the roster, with those names on the field, this team will always have a chance, just remember that.
But back to my original question, why makes these moves? Seattle had about $13M in cap room as of last week which now sits at about $30.5M. John Schneider and Pete Carroll want to do one of the following –
Extend current players currently on rookie contracts (Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett)
Go heavy on bringing back soon to be UFA (Paul Richardson and Sheldon Richardson)
Have cap flexibility to spend how they wish in free agency
Carry over a decent chunk in 2019 to continue improving the roster
Ultimately, I think the team wants flexibility with their transactions, they want to have an ear in every deal and as soon as they see value, they want to be in a position to pull the trigger. That may well not be on the likes of Andrew Norwell or Allen Robinson, as they won’t necessarily provide ‘value’ from a contract point of view.
You may note my use of the word ‘value’ used on repeat. It’s something that this team is pretty good at, overall. Sure, they don’t get value out of every deal they’re in, but what team does? Value can come in a number of factors from blue chip $10M+ a year contracts all the way down to vet minimum guys, Justin Coleman last year is a tremendous example of great value. The same could be applied to Dion Jordan, providing the team tender him as an original round tender he could very easily be the team’s leading sack artist in 2018, and all it cost the team was $1,907,000. I don’t think you can get much more value than that outside of third round rookie QB’s who take teams to back to back Super Bowls. On the flip side, the value for second round pick Malik McDowell has been non-existent but I don’t put too much of that on the team. Who could have known he’d have the accident he did, after all. I don’t think that’s being a homer, either, I know the team did some serious due diligence on McDowell as they tend to do with a lot of their early draft picks.
It’s really hard to peg what Seattle are going to do in free agency, they have too many holes on the roster to plug and play every position via the preferred route of the draft so I have no doubt they will be active, at what level of that activeness is what I’m unsure of, though. What it ultimately comes down to, though is with these moves Seattle can do whatever they choose without having to mess about with current rostered players contracts, essentially using them as a credit card to push money into later years as the team did with Russell Wilson and Doug Baldwin for the Duane Brown and Sheldon Richardson acquisitions. It’s really poor practice from a cap management point of view.
These moves seem the most likely to me, I will also give a breakdown on the cap implications, too.
Current cap space - $30,492,600
Cliff Avril – cap savings of $7,125,000
Jon Ryan – cap savings of $2,000,000
Current cap space - $39,617,600
ERFA and RFA acquisitions –
Dion Jordan DE (original round tender) - $1,907,000
Justin Coleman CB (second round tender) - $2,914,000
Quinton Jefferson DT (ERFA) - $630,000
Branden Jackson DE (ERFA) - $630,000
J.D. McKissic RB (ERFA) - $630,000
Tyler Ott LS (ERFA) - $555,000
That brings the cap down to $32,351,600
UFA’s who were on the team last year –
Byron Maxwell – 3 years $15M with a 2018 cap charge of $3,666,667
Luke Willson – 3 years $9M with a 2018 cap charge of $2,116,667
The draft will likely cost the team around $6,000,000. Although that’s assuming they make no trades (which won’t happen), it also assumes that every drafted player makes the final 53-man roster, also unlikely so a fairer assumption would be for this draft class to cost Seattle $4M in cap.
With those two free agency additions and the draft accounted for, that leaves the team with $22,518,266 with 50 men on the roster plus however many draft picks that make the team.
Please note I haven’t accounted for an Earl Thomas or Duane Brown contract extension (both of which are highly likely in my opinion), however when playing around with contract possibilities, my best guess is a Duane Brown extension would likely lower his cap hit slightly in 2018 while an Earl Thomas extension keeps his cap number around the same as it currently is +/- $1M, how they structure that year one cap hit will likely very much depend on how much they plan on spending in free agency. If they go lighter they may bump his number up in 2018 (done via a higher P5 base salary + various roster bonuses) to reduce his numbers in 2019 and beyond (much like SF have done with the Jimmy G contract). Typically, contracts rise year on year, largely due to the increases in cap year on year, however it isn’t exactly unheard of to have higher cap hits early in the contract.
They could decide to go all in on two big names to spend that money, they may wish to pick up more middle graders in the $4-7M a year range or keep a hold of that money to carry over, although as I’ve mentioned before, I don’t entirely believe that will happen. Pete Carroll will never accept 2018 being a down year and throw in the towel, he will go for it as he always does.
With Seattle’s seeming inability to draft blue chip players over the last several years they may well have recognized that and decide to buy them instead, or they may be happy with the blue chips already on the roster and see that as enough to be in contention moving forwards.
It is a very unique situation the Seahawks find themselves in, their draft success in 2010 – 2012 has finally gone full circle and caused problems with affording everyone. I could think of worse situations to be in, quite honestly. The next two weeks of free agency are surely going to be exciting, I will keep everyone up to date on all the moves the team makes and what that means from a cap and roster perspective in terms of needs etc.