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NFL Salary Cap: Top Teams In Terms of Cap Space & Estimating Where the Seahawks Check-In

On the John Clayton Radio Show on Saturday (Feb 11th, 2012), the Professor threw out a number - he said that the Seahawks had $34.8M in Salary Cap Room for 2012.

Mr. Clayton wrote an article for ESPN on Monday, explaining how 30 of the 32 NFL teams "rolled over" their cap room from 2011 to 2012. Apparently, per Andrew Brandt. this is part of the new CBA - that teams can roll over their remaining cap into the next year. Apparently there is no downside to this, even in 2013 when the new salary cap floor goes into effect - the min cash spend of 89% is tied to announced cap NFL-wide, not adjusted per rollover.

The Seahawks were not in the top five teams in terms of salary cap room for 2012 - those were JAX, CIN, KCC, TB, and WAS. These teams had anywhere from $45M to $63M in room.

The Seahawks will be close to these "leaders" once they cut or restructure Marcus Trufant. He restructured his deal for 2011, but his 2012 contract is still in effect. That contract called for a base salary of $7.2M and his signing bonus when the deal was struck was $10M. That $10M is spread out over the life of the deal ($1.67M on top of the base salary for cap purposes).

I checked in with Brian McIntyre via Twitter and he confirmed that the Seahawks $34.M is most definitely "post-conversion" but does include Trufant's 2012 salary/bonus.

Since this is amateur salary cap, I don't know what cutting Trufant does in terms of the acceleration of the signing bonus and dead money and all of that. What I do know is that once they cut Trufant - the Seahawks will clear an estimated $7M in cap room.

Rough math: once this happens, the Seahawks will have about $42M in cap room.

I haven't seen how Clayton and ESPN builds these numbers, but I have to believe they have factored in Sidney Rice's cap number increase from $3.2M in 2011 to $8.2M in 2012, as well as Zach Miller's cap bounce from $3.0M to $7.0M. This should all be factored into the $34.8M - which we have now converted to $42M.

Where is this money going to go? These are rough cut cap estimates:

-$6M The Draft ($2.5M to the 1st rd pick and $3.5M to everyone else)
-$8M Marshawn Lynch (assume no deal gets done and he get's franchised at $7.7M)
-$5M Red Bryant (Brandon Mebane money)
-$3M David Hawthorne (I don't think it will be this high, could see more $2M, but give some cushion)
-$2M Mike Robinson (He made $1.35M last year and went to the Pro Bowl)
-$1M Paul McQuistan (He may or may not re-sign-but think of this as a placeholder for this type of depth)
-$2M Breno Giacomini (I am assuming Clayton did not include this - if he did - my apologies)

Subtotal =$27M
Again, the Seahawks have about $42M in room, so there is only about $15M left once you re-sign your top guys. Can you really see Leroy Hill getting a modest deal? I don't.

So, what's left? About $15M - and that is not enough for two big money free agents, unless you structured their 2012 base salaries extremely low (like Miller and Rice in 2011).

Is there enough money for Peyton Manning and Mario Williams? Uh, it might not even enough money for Mario Williams, folks. Matt Flynn and Mario Williams? Nuh uh - even if you cut Tarvaris and save $4M, I can't see $19M getting both Flynn and Mario getting done - can you?

So, basically there is room for:

(A) Two big FA if structured creatively (don't count on it - but if two "stars" took low base salary in 2012 maybe)
(B) Two modest deals
(C) One big monster deal
(D) Two modest deals and leave some space for later

Here is the problem with option A - if these two stars took that route - they would demand a big jump in pay in 2013, which could force cap problems later.

What do I think the Seahawks will do? Gut says two modest deals and leave some cap room open for 2012, that they can roll into 2013 and have flexibility over the next year or so for other opportunities/extensions.

In 2013 - there is only one key player that I see coming due on his deal - Max Unger. The second key player would be Alan Branch. The reason the Seahawks need cap room in 2013 is to begin extensions for players that come due in 2014 and 2015 (huge wave). Again, these are the Kam Chancellors, Doug Baldwins and many more. These late round gems won't be the NFL's best value's forever.

I'll follow up on this soon.