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An Uncapped 2010: Implications and Possibilities.

I'm not a football expert.  I don't truly "know" the game.   

Sure.  I played football as a kid (as many young teenagers do).  Mountain View Jr. High's coach was a great shop teacher named Mr. Dunning.  He ran one hell of a West Coast SBTFU-ARYGDP offense.  For those of you thinking "I have never heard of that offensive set", it's more commonly reffered to in Pop Warner as "Stop Bunching the Fuck Up, and Run Your Goddam Play". We ran it to perfection. Dare I say... we were potent!  

I've also played quite a bit of Madden Football on the PS2(3).  I know how to exploit the hell out of any 4-3 base defense. I can punish your nano blitzes, and exploit your zone coverage with zone beaters. I'll confuse you by flashing false tendencies, and build schemes around my money plays.  I can recite, verbatim, every formation in the Seahawks playbook.  I know.  Big deal right?

I read.  I study box-scores, game-tapes, and scouting sources, and although I'll never be called upon in an Appeal to Authority football argument, I fancy myself one of the more educated football fans roaming around the planet.  Most Field Gulls members generally are.  It's all part of my point though. I'm simply a fan who reads and commits countless hours of resources to memory, then finds logical ways to re-present the information with a twist.  There is certainly nothing in my experience that would qualify me as an authority for anything on-field related.

What I might offer though, is potentially a unique business perspective to the Seahawks discussion.  Without going through the pain of forcing you to read a resume', my company has grown now to nearly 20,000 employees, with 7 factories spread over 3 countries.  My daily battles are fought with the "Swoosh" and the "Trefoil".

With an uncapped 2010 looming, I want to offer a few thoughts on the business side of this labor stale-mate, and the implications they might have on the Seahawks make-up in the coming year.

Implications of An Uncapped 2010

I believe nearly every editorial I read on the internet has it wrong. 

A common thought process amongst those not understanding what happens in an uncapped year goes something like this:  An uncapped year in 2010 will bring about rich teams going on spending sprees in an effort to stockpile talent. An NFL version of the New York Yankees if you will. This obviously isn't in and of itself true. The threshold for unrestricted free agency would move from 4 to 6 years and affect over 200 players.  What this means is that the current teams holding rights to those players would have first right of refusal for their restricted free-agents.  John Clayton writes this:

Approximately 212 players -- including Braylon Edwards and Brandon Marshall -- will become restricted free agents instead of unrestricted free agents, severely shrinking the pool of potential starters for teams in need of help. Not only do teams have a franchise tag to prevent top players from leaving, but they will also have an extra transition tag, further watering down the free-agent market.

This is the conventional rebuttal to those that are ignorant to the free-agency restrictions that arise from an uncapped 2010. This rebuttal  however, is a train of thought grounded in conventional terms.  I can't be certain if these are Clayton's' actual feelings on the matter, or if he is simply in auto-pilot mode based on what he has experienced as status quo in the NFL. I can be sure of this.  He ignores some very important financial loopholes that teams could be looking to exploit.    

 

Using the Get Out of Jail Free Card

The prevailing wisdom is that a very low number of UFA's, high number of transition and franchise tags, in addition to the unlimited (uncapped) budgets of the teams, would create an atmosphere that promote teams being able to spend way over the cap to retain all of their players.  I don't subscribe to this philosophy. The net result of an uncapped year, could very well produce more cap casualties than Clayton (or any of the other internet analysts) ever projected.  

How is it that I can be talking about "cap casualties" in a year without a cap? 

It all boils down to bad and unproductive contracts.  In a fixed (capped) system, the cap savings from a  player that gets released, represents the amount of money a team would have to replace that player.  It is prohibitive by design, and prevents teams from simply jettisoning large contracts and picking up new players.  A team is still responsible for a players "cap hit" even if he is released.  It becomes very hard for a team to compete if it continually dispatches bad or unproductive contracts, having to absorb the negative cap hits.  Herein lies the crux of my argument.

In an uncapped system, a team has zero responsibility to stay below a cap line.  A bad contract can be eaten in a single year by cutting a player and absorbing his entire cap number that same year. Your talking about the equivalent of a get out of jail free card.  Teams would be able to buy their way out of bad and unproductive contracts with absolutely no affect on their ability to compete going forward (as the cap numbers won't transfer into 2011 and beyond).  It's like ditching JaMarcus Russell without taking it in your "salary cap shorts".

A capped year forces teams into a very conventional business philosophy.  Simply stated.  Production vs Compensation.

 

Possibilities in an Uncapped 2010

Having established a baseline of understanding, I want to introduce a few of the possibilities that could arise from an uncapped 2010 for the Seattle Seahawks.

Patrick Kerney is a goner.  Due 5.17 million in 2010, the production vs compensation debate starts here.  A quick look at Kerney's stats shows he made over a million dollars per sack over the last couple years.  That's just too heavy a price to pay.  Factor in his health issues and it's not difficult to imagine the scales tipping heavily in favor of his release (a 1.17 million cap savings to begin with). 

Deion Branch more than likely would be gone anyway, given that  his remaining cap hit (6.8) exceeds both his productivity and the remaining portion of his pro-rated signing bonus (1.4 M), but in an uncapped year this becomes a near certainty.  The seahawks can eat the entire number in an uncapped  2010, and rid themselves from the bad experience altogether.

Marcus Trufant may be on thin ice.  This may sound blasphemous to some, but hear me out.  Trufant is due to be paid 8.7 million this year, and has most of a 10 million dollar signing bonus remaining to be pro-rated.  

Even having missed 6 games, Trufant led the league in pass interference penalties against.  He has always been a streaky player, but since the big contract (he's 2 years into) his performance has been less than stellar.  Considering the Seahawks are still likely to employ a cover 2 defense, and a cover 2 doesn't stress physically elite corners, Trufant could be watched very closely.

I would expect the team to monitor this into the season.  Should a CBA deal appear imminent come mid-season, and Trufant hasn't yet turned the corner, I could see the team eating the entirety of his contract this year, and freeing themselves from his "hit" in a capped 2011.

Colin Cole (thanks to Fear for pointing it out):  How many of us have secretly (some not so secretly) wished there was a reset button for this deal?

Surprisingly, I don't see Hasselbeck being released quite yet.  I am certainly riding the "Seattle needs to make a QB change NOW" train, but Holmgren's move to Cleveland, and the impending void in Minnesota could means there is a chance Matt may have some trade value after all.  Even should he net  a mid round selection, that would be a welcome change from the prospects of releasing him without compensation at all.  Matt's contract numbers are actually quite attractive to  a team believing he has football left in him.

Anyone else think it a bit odd that the new FO is hard-selling Matt's value?  Did everyone just get dumb?  I didn't think so either.  

An uncapped 2010 could provide creative teams a one-time opportunity to get themselves out from under restrictive contracts they with they hadn't made in hindsight.  A do-over. Since the likelihood of a CBA eventually getting done is high, teams may never again have this opportunity to zero the books

 

Load the Trade Machine

While the unrestricted free agent market would undoubtedly suffer, the trade market could be hotter than ever in an uncapped year.  

Typically, finding suitors for a player on the block is as algorithmic as a chose-your-own-adventure book.  Not only do the teams need to agree on value, but the cap figures need to balance as well.  It's the reason you just don't see many trades go down in the NFL; however, the unprecedented financial flexibility that an uncapped year would bring, could bring far more teams into play, and facilitate a trade market like we have never seen before.  

Additionally, you may find teams unloading overvalued contracts for future draft considerations believing that a rookie pay scales could be on the horizon.

 

These things make business sense to me.

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