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Tarvaris Jackson Trade Rumors, Again: Salary Cap Implications

Aug 7, 2012; Renton, WA, USA; NFL: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tavaris Jackson (7) passes during a training camp scrimmage at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE
Aug 7, 2012; Renton, WA, USA; NFL: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tavaris Jackson (7) passes during a training camp scrimmage at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-US PRESSWIRE

Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk is now reporting that according to "a source with knowledge of the situation," the Seahawks are in talks with several teams to trade Tarvaris Jackson. According to that source, the Seahawks are hoping to wait things out a bit to see one or several teams suffer injuries at quarterback, raising demand so they can get more in return. This report follows speculation from Chris Mortensen a few weeks back on an ESPN NFL Insider Special on which Mort said that the Seahawks would 'love to' move Tarvaris, or something along those lines. Following Mort's speculation (which, I would guess, was probably based on some insider info and not just his opinion), Rob Rang mentioned on KJR's Chalk Talk with Doug Farrar that he'd been hearing the same things. Yesterday, Jason La Canfora wrote that barring an injury to either Matt Flynn or Russell Wilson, we should "look for Tarvaris Jackson to be shopped." Now, at some point, do we accept the old maxim, "where there's smoke, there's fire?"

Look, I don't know. Maybe? A lot of rumors happen at this time of year and with the way the Seahawks' QB competition appears to be going, it's a logical conclusion to arrive at, based on some assumptions that I'm sure people are making. Jackson is not getting any reps in preseason games. Assume that means he's more or less third in the competition. If the Seahawks like Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson more than Jackson, that means he'd ostensibly be third string. These jumps lead us to the conclusion that the Seahawks want to trade Tarvaris. Are these reports based on real, substantial information or a confluence of assumptions and logic? Who knows, but the important thing to note here is that it would seem that the Seahawks don't want to pay Tarvaris Jackson $4 million in 2012 to be a second, or even worse, third string quarterback.

The "Oh, who cares, it's Paul Allen's money" quip just doesn't hold any weight.

With the way the NFL salary cap is set up, keeping Tarvaris Jackson and his $3.5 million cap hit* in 2012, instead of rolling it over, frankly, could cost the Seahawks the ability to retain or acquire a key free agent in 2013 (think Jason Jones, if he turns out to be as good as we all hope he is). Davis Hsu explains (he sent me the following information over email - so tip of the cap to Hsu for the money numbers and the implications therein, particularly regarding the Seahawks' future ability to retain or acquire a marquee free agent):

*Jackson's cap hit is $4.75M, but if you cut him you still owe $.75M in prorated dead money, so that leaves you at $4M. Since you only count your highest 51 players or 53 players - and you figure Josh Portis gets paid about $500k, that's where the $3.5M swing comes -- $4.0m less $500k salary to Portis.

As a review, the 2012 official league-wide cap is $120 million. In 2013, that number is expected to grow only to $121 million. Tucked into the new CBA is a provision that allows NFL teams to rollover unused cap space into the next year, making their Adjusted Cap the base NFL Salary Cap plus a team's rollover. Example - Once a team rolls $10M, their adjusted cap for the next NFL season increases by that rolled $10M. If a team had the league-wide standard of $120M in 2011, their 2012 Adjusted Cap would be $130M because of the rolled $10M.

In 2012 the Seahawks have an Adjusted Cap of $143M, which is one of the highest in the NFL. Their Adjusted Cap is so high because they rolled over $21M in Cap Room from 2011 to 2012, which was in the top five of highest rollovers in the NFL. The Seahawks will not be able to rollover $21M from 2012 to 2013.

As for the rough numbers, and bear with me because these numbers are liberal estimates- the Seahawks' Adjusted Cap in 2012 is $143M, and they have about $7.8 million in space as their roster stands now, per Brian McIntyre. For this exercise, I will use an $8M estimate. So, simply, Seattle has "spent" $135M or so on their 2012 roster against the salary cap, as is today.

Looking forward, if the Seahawks roll $8M, their 2013 Adjusted Cap will be $129M ($121 Base Cap + Rollover).

That is really bad news - as there are over $20M in raises coming - and now your payroll is shrinking by $6M! There is $16M or so in dead money that will be coming off the books in 2013, related to Aaron Curry & Marcus Trufant's old contracts - but that is more than offset by the natural growth in salaries to the multitude of players on the roster, plus signicant raises coming to Matt Flynn, Zach Miller, Marshawn Lynch, Red Bryant and others. There are also more modest raises coming to Breno Giacomini, Max Unger, Chris Clemons and others. I could go on and on - but you get the point.

The Seahawks would create $3.5M in cap room by cutting/trading TJack - and that move in and of itself would boost the 2013 Adjusted Cap to $132.5M. Similarly, cut/trade Ben Obomanu and you could get to $134M (which is getting close to the current spend of $135M).

The bottom line is that cuts and/or contract restructures are coming, this year, and again in 2013. Tarvaris Jackson is just likely one of the first. A contributing factor is that the Seahawks do operate on a cash budget, and $4M is still $4M. Also, the increased flexibility allows Seattle to take advantage of another available player if Seattle suffers a key injury or is not getting production at a position.

It's no surprise to anyone that the Seahawks may try to restructure Tarvaris Jackson's salary if he's not the starter, and a lot of people have believed for a while that the team will ask him to take a pay cut. Maybe he'll refuse, and they'll cut him outright. It seems likely they're trying to trade him though, particularly if you make the jump to the conclusion that they like Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson more (or, they just like them enough to make the financial decision). Finding a trade partner will be tough, and this is why, reportedly, the Seahawks are waiting for an injury to happen.

It's just important to realize that paying for the 'insurance' of Tarvaris Jackson as a backup (probably one of the better backups in the NFL) is also quite possibly going to cost you the chance to retain or acquire a free agent in 2012 or 2013. The question the Seahawks must answer is whether or not they believe in Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson enough to do the job at quarterback. I don't know the answer to this -- what is the value of a upper level backup QB for this year? It could be worth a lot - and injuries to quarterbacks happen. A lot. Jackson, then again, may not even see a meaningful snap, depending on Wilson's development. So - obviously, it's a complicated matter.