Okay, simple premise: How can Seattle free up more money or maximize the money they have to sign free agents this offseason? I'm going to jot down my ideas as they occur to me, so this might be a bit disorganized.
Green is due 1.3 million in 2008. No reason Seattle should pay that.
Cut Jason Babin?
I don't see a good reason to do this, unless Babin has really been the tremendous disappointment I've seen reported elsewhere. He only counts a little under 900k against the cap in 2008, but, though that's peanuts in the NFL, if he offers Seattle next to nothing as far as production, cut him.
No longer seems like a viable tackle or guard. Gone.
Will likely make it to training camp, doesn't cost Seattle much, but provides even less. I'll be surprised if he finds his way on the roster, but a big body is worth keeping around until properly replaced.
Walter Jones: No.
Jones is due 5 million in 2008, that's about as cheap as his contract gets. He's still outside his backloaded expensive seasons and including his signing bonus (prorated over the life of his contract) he's counts about 7.1 million against the cap. No reason to bother the man once known as the "franchise".
Kerney: Not a chance.
Kerney's contract is already about as friendly as a contract can be. His base salary for 2007 and 2008 is $750,000. Serious. Now, added to that, Kerney receives a "roster bonus" for making the roster in 2008 (5 mil), and a 3 million dollar bonus for making the roster in 2009 (on top of his 4 million dollar base salary). This was a smartly designed out for the Hawks if Kerney was injured or ineffective in 2007. Kerney's cap number is about set in stone.
Another backloaded contract.
Peterson: Probably not.
Pete's in his last cheap season (3.5 mil) before he gets very expensive (6.9 in 2009 - 8.5 in 2012). We'll revisit this next season.
Deion Branch: Yes.
Branch is due 3.5 million in 2008, plus his prorated signing bonus plus a 660K roster bonus - should he make the roster - and Branch represents a wopping 5.3 million against the cap. In light of his recent injury, I'd be very surprised if Tim Ruskell doesn't ask for Branch to restructure his contract. Something around 1 million with performance and playing time incentives.
Gray counts about 1.7 million against the cap in 2008, a sizeable sum for a player who should be making post retirement plans. One would hope Gray will retire amiably, rather than being forced into the long stroll.
Assuming Seattle doesn't discard its only cornerback with any kind of ball skills or open field tackling prowess, a move that would be monumentally stupid, a smart decision would be to sign Tru to a long, heavily backloaded contract with a big bonus. An 8 year, 70 million dollar contract sounds nutso expensive, but try this on for size: 18 million signing bonus, 1 million base salary 2008, net cap impact = 3.25 million.
Free Cap Space: 13.85
With Ashworth, Green, Babin and Green out of the picture, Branch's contract restructured, rookie salaries factored in, and not even broaching what to do with Shaun Alexander, the Hawks would have nearly 13 million dollars of cap space to work with. Not too shabby, really. Maybe Seattle can be players in free agency.