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Breaking down the Dwight Freeney contract

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The big news on the Seattle Seahawks this week was the addition of Dwight Freeney to fill the roster spot left empty when the team placed Cliff Avril on IR last week. On Wednesday, we took a look at some of the highlights of Freeney’s career, and now that the details of Freeney’s contract have been made public we can talk about that.

It was through a tweet from Field Yates that I first learned of the details of Freeney’s contract. If there was another source that broke the details earlier, I will happily edit this article to provide proper credit. In any case, the tweet from Yates was as follow:

Now, at first glance a contract for $1M and $8k in per game roster bonuses (which could total $80k over the remainder of the season) might seem to eat up much of the minimal amount of cap space the Hawks currently have available. According to the team had just under $1.8M in available space before adding Freeney, so giving up $1.08M of that space would be concerning. Luckily for the Seahawks, however, there are two factors at play that work to reduce that number into a much more team friendly cap hit.

The first item at play is the league minimum salary for someone of Freeney’s experience. Freeney has been playing for quite a long time. In fact, Freeney has been in the NFL so long that he has played in 209 games in his career, starting 157. Just for comparison, all ten Seattle offensive linemen on the 53 man roster have a combined 185 starts in their careers. So, Freeney's been doing this for some time and has fifteen accrued seasons. Under the current CBA the minimum salary for a player with fifteen accrued seasons is $1M. Since Freeney signed for the league minimum, as long as the contract does not pay him more than $80k in combined bonuses (signing, roster, workout, etc.) then the contract qualifies for the veteran minimum salary cap benefit. Because there are ten games left in the season, $8k in per game roster bonuses maxes out at $80k, and thus the contract qualifies for the vet minimum benefit. Under the veteran minimum salary cap benefit, any contract for league minimum, regardless of the actual dollar amount of the contract, carries a cap hit equal to that of the league minimum for a player with two accrued seasons.

League minimum salary for a player with two accrued seasons for this year is $615,000, so that would be the amount that would count against the Hawks cap if Freeney had signed for a full season. However, because we’re already seven weeks into the 2017 season, only a prorated portion equal to 10/17ths of that amount, or $361,764 counts against the cap. For simplicity sake, I’m rounding up to $362k.

Now, on top of the $362k the team would have to recognize against the cap any of the $8k per game roster bonuses that would be paid. As such, if Freeney is on the active 53 man roster for all ten remaining games, then his cap hit for the Hawks for 2017 would max out at $442k, with the final amount he would cost against the cap being somewhere between $362k and $442k, depending upon how many games for which he is actually active.

Thus, that still leaves the Seahawks with less cap space than previously, but adding Freeney did not make that dramatic of a dent in the team’s cap as the only additions that are likely between now and the end of the regular season are injury replacements.

If there are any impact moves made, or even proposed, as the trade deadline approaches next week, I’ll do my best to get the cap impact of those moves looked at in as timely manner as possible.