clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The Seahawks know exactly what they're doing with the salary cap

Seattle should be successful for many more years because they've done a great job of maneuvering deals to fit within their cap space.

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

I, Evan Hill, have been commissioned by the salary cap Gods to bestow upon you a great wealth of knowledge;€” Knowledge so powerful that if sufficiently studied will lead you to countless victories in the midst of many comment section wars. A power so strong that even the hottest of hot takes will be useless against your shield of salary cap truth. No more "The Seahawks will lose all their players", no more "Russell Wilson is overpaid", no more "The Seahawks are destroying their salary cap space", and no more "The Seahawks can't pay everyone".

The time is now to abolish this rascal thinking.

Studying the salary cap, performing contractual analysis, and researching the viewpoints behind competing roster philosophies across the NFL is one of the most personally satisfying hobbies I have. Great Evan, now you sound like a massive nerd.

But when you study the guiding financial philosophies behind these organizations, suddenly those moves begin to make a whole lot more sense. If you're really good, you'll begin to be able to predict the types of financial moves teams will make before they even make them. Truthfully, it's a lot less difficult than people imagine it to be. Studying the salary cap means analyzing the structure of a roster, looking at resource allocation trends (both monetarily and via the use of draft picks), evaluating guiding philosophies of management (both in the present and in the past), pinpointing roster holes, and making strong use of free resources like Over the Cap and Spotrac.

In the NFL, the salary cap is much more crucial to sustained success than people realize. Poor cap management can completely sabotage the future of a franchise. Cap management is equally as crucial as scouting, talent development, and the structure of the coaching staff. Cap health will determine whether a team's potential can be maximized. In this article, we're going to jump around and touch on a few things here and there. We're not going to go super in depth -€” but rather give you a basic understanding of the Seahawks' salary cap. Some numbers are drawn from Over the Cap, some from my own personal spreadsheets, and other sources. Let's get into this.

Overall, the Seahawks cap spending tilts significantly towards the defense. As of today, Seattle currently spends $63M on offense and about $77M on defense (top 51 per OTC). Below is a chart I created to demonstrate the cap allocation towards each position group. For simplicity sake, I lumped free and strong safety together. I also did the same for the defensive line. As you can see, the three most highly paid position groups are the defensive line, cornerback, and safety. It's clear that Seattle's core football philosophies center around a strong, invested defense.

The wide receiver category will jump significantly assuming a Doug Baldwin extension gets done. As of right now, Russell Wilson's contract takes up 12% of the Seahawks adjusted cap space of $154,522,927. I note this because no team in the salary cap era has ever won a Super Bowl with a quarterback taking up more than 13.1% of the team's cap space. If the QB takes up too much cap space, the team will be challenged to provide a strong supporting cast around him. Essentially, the team becomes a one-man show scattered with a few solid players throughout the roster. No team wants that. Cough, Colts, cough.

Additionally, Seattle has done a really strong job of maintaining their core group of players. Players locked up with the club through 2018 include Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Cliff Avril, KJ Wright, Bobby Wagner, Jeremy Lane, and several more. Those are some big names and a couple of those will probably even be Hall of Famers. For the most part, the Seahawks have done a strong job in making tough decisions to ensure sustained success. They've let Bruce and Maxwell walk, among others, in order to retain cap space and flexibility.

A lot of cap articles will throw around the world "cap space." If I'm blunt, cap space is really insignificant. Cap flexibility is a greater indication of where the team's financials sit at. Cap Flexibility just refers to the team's ability to open up cap space€” by either cutting a player, trading him, or negotiating his pay. However, it's kind of a weird media-induced-narrative to scare fans if their team doesn't have space or flexibility. The Seahawks have their core locked up -€” and they're mostly healthy. Paying your star players a lot of money is not a bad thing. Many teams are still trying to find star players. You want talented and durable players you can pay. A team that maintains cap flexibility while bolstering a deep and talented roster is in the best financial position. As of right now, Seattle is maintaining an elite level roster with a moderate amount of cap flexibility. Jason Fitzgerald from Over the Cap wrote an analysis on the Seahawks' cap a few months ago that summed up things really well:

"Because the Seahawks have executed a number of large extensions with high-profile players, there is a tendency to assume that the team must soon be entering a period in which salary cap considerations may force a break-up of the familiar core.  These extensions may account for a considerable amount of cap space from the perspective of total contract value, but the more important consideration is that the portion of the contracts representing an actual salary cap commitment have largely passed in the cases of Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and KJ Wright.

This is reflected in the team's 15th place ranking in Commitment Index (low for a team with a large QB contract on the books), and it has two important consequences.  First, any contract restructurings will be more productive in terms of freeing up current-season cap space.  Second, the team can walk away from these contracts more freely as the players see their performance decline (therefore providing the players with less leeway to suffer declines).  It is therefore not a coincidence that some of these players have demanded new contracts, and it is also not surprising that the team has declined to acquiesce.

The takeaway is that any Seahawks demise will be due to a combination of aging and poor drafting, rather than salary cap considerations. The team has not even had to begin engaging in the type of contract gymnastics that teams such as the Saints, Steelers and Cowboys have performed, and eventually doing so will likely buy a few year's worth of time beginning in the year of such policy change."

Aging and injuries are inevitable, but the Seahawks have done a phenomenal job of giving themselves cap flexibility€” so there's a much higher probability that they remain competitive for several more years after this.