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Seahawks roster moves: Salary cap ramifications from Seattle’s transactions

NFL: Washington Redskins at Seattle Seahawks
Richard Sherman was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Tuesday
Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday the Seattle Seahawks officially moved cornerback Richard Sherman and running back C.J. Prosise to injured reserve, ending their seasons. With the team already tight against the cap after acquiring Duane Brown and Sheldon Richardson via trade earlier this season, these moves make the Hawks cap situation even tighter. It is highly doubtful that either Sherman or Prosise have salary reduction clauses for IR, thus their cap numbers should not change going forward. Their full cap hits should continue to count against the team’s salary cap for this season, and all the calculations here are based on that assumption.

Practice squad member Mike Davis was activated to the 53 to fill Prosise’s roster spot, and after spending the last two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, the minimum salary for Davis with two accrued seasons is $615,000. With seven weeks remaining in the season and each week Davis earning ($615,000 / 17) = $36,176, for the remainder of the season Davis will cost $253,235.

The team has announced that it has signed Byron Maxwell to replace Sherman, but I have yet to see any terms reported anywhere. Based on how tight the Seahawks are against the cap combined with Maxwell’s guaranteed salary in Miami, I would guess that Maxwell signed for the league minimum. Maxwell entered the league in 2011 and spending the first four years of his career with Seattle before playing 2015 as a member of the Philadelphia Eagles and the last year and a half for the Miami Dolphins. That gives him six accrued seasons, and the minimum salary for a player with six accrued seasons is $775,000.

As a veteran however, and assuming he indeed signed for the minimum, such a contract would qualify for the veteran minimum cap benefit. As we saw with Dwight Freeney, under the veteran minimum cap benefit rule, the cap hit for a veteran is reduced to that of a player with two accrued seasons, or $615,000. Thus, the math is easy, as the portion of Maxwell’s salary that will count against the salary cap for the Seahawks for the remainder of the season would be $253,235.

In addition, under the veteran minimum cap benefit rule a team may pay a player bonuses of up to $80,000 and still qualify for the cap hit reduction on the player’s base salary. Therefore, there could be up to an additional $80,000 in bonuses in Maxwell’s contract that could count against the cap. This means when the final accounting is all done, his cap hit will likely be somewhere between $253,235 and $333,235 for the remainder of the 2017 season.

Now, I have already been asked this elsewhere, so I will go ahead and address it here, even though it makes no difference in his cap hit. Maxwell earned an accrued season in each of 2011 through 2016, giving him six accrued seasons. In addition he also with the Dolphins for the first seven games of 2017, which would represent a seventh accrued season. Thus, some fans are wondering why Maxwell’s minimum salary is not equal to that of a player with seven accrued seasons, or $900,000. The answer to that is because the number of accrued seasons used to calculate a player’s minimum salary is only relevant on the first day of the league year in March. Therefore, when determining Maxwell’s minimum salary, only the six accrued seasons he had prior to the beginning of the 2017 league year last spring count, and his minimum salary is thus $775,000. Assuming he becomes a free agent next spring when the league year once again starts fresh, Maxwell’s minimum salary in 2018 will be $915,000.

Back to the present, however, the Seahawks also made multiple adjustments to the practice squad. While practice squad players cost significantly less than players on the 53 man active roster, it is still necessary to account for their costs, and with cap space tight, every dollar counts. An update on the cap costs of these practice squad moves will be provided in the coming days.