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Early Salary Cap Overview for 2018 Seattle Seahawks

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers
Cliff Avril's decision on retirement will have a major effect on the team's 2018 salary cap.
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Fans of the Seattle Seahawks are still giddy with joy at the addition of Duane Brown to take over at LT, however, as the pieces fall into place a new challenge will be facing the team. Instead of needing to work to protect franchise quarterback Russell Wilson, the team will now need to scrimp and save every penny possible going forward because the salary cap situation is very tight as the 2017 season enters the home stretch with the dawn of the 2018 league year just over the horizon of the Super Bowl.

The cap limitations on the team are twofold following the Duane Brown trade. First, in adding Brown, the team added nearly $5M in 2017 salary and almost $10M in 2018 salary, while failing to complete the trade of Jeremy Lane is currently slated to cost the team north of $2M this season and $6M next season. Now, that $6M number for Lane is not guaranteed, so the team can trade or cut him to free up $4.75M in cap space in 2018, however, even if they cut or trade Lane, the cap situation will remain very tight as according to the Hawks currently have $19.13M in available cap space for 2018.

However, that $19.13M number fails to take a couple of items into account, including the money that would be saved by cutting or trading Lane. Assuming that Lane is not on the roster in 2018, that leaves the team with $23.88M in available space.

The next item is very basic, as the $23.88M number does not take into account the fact that the roster is far from full for 2018. The Seahawks currently have only 37 players under contract for 2018, meaning there are 16 roster spots that will need to be filled, and that is if Lane is on the roster. Since we are assuming Lane will not be on the roster, that means there will be 17 spots that need to be filled. As the minimum salary for 2018 will be $480k, even if Seattle fills out these 17 roster spots with league minimum salary players, that is at least another $8.16M in order to field a complete team. That leaves $15.72M in available cap space for 2018.

The next item that needs to be deducted is the additional money beyond the minimum that will be required for the team to sign its draft picks. Using the current picks the team holds based on the great fanpost by Redhawk87 (if you haven’t read it, go do so now), the team will need about $1.69M minimum to sign these draft picks. Now, since $1.69M is very close to the $1.72M needed to keep these numbers nice and round to keep the math simple, $1.72M works for me. Thus, the amount of available cap space once the roster is filled out with minimum salary players and draft picks is around $14M.

That $14M also does not include any money set aside for the practice squad. The ten players on the practice squad will likely earn around $130,000 each for the season, meaning an additional $1.3M is required to cover their compensation. That drops the available cap space to $12.7M.

The next allocation that needs to be set aside is for injury replacements. According to the injury reports from Pro Football Reference, over the last four years the Seahawks have averaged 11.5 players finishing the season on IR each year. Rounding this number up to a nice good looking number 12 gives a good approximation of how many injury replacements the team will require. Taking the number of injury replacements likely to be necessary, 12, times a minimum salary for players with 2 years of experience ($630,000), yields $7.56M. However, as the injury replacements should be somewhat evenly distributed over the course of the season, the $7.56M should be divided by two to reflect this. That leaves the team needing roughly $3.78M to cover injury replacements, and leaves the team with just a hair under $9M in available cap space to play in free agency and to extend players with expiring contracts.

In addition, that is before the proven performance escalator is taken into account. I won’t bore you with all of the details, but under this part of the CBA, players drafted in rounds three through seven have their base salary in the fourth year of their rookie contract bumped to the equivalent of the original round tender for a restricted free agent. Based on the expected increase in the salary cap for 2018 and the 2017 original round tender amount, this number should end up in the $1.95M range. Both Tyler Lockett and Mark Glowinski should qualify for this pay raise, requiring somewhere in the ballpark of an additional $2.3M in cap charges. This leaves just $6.7M in free space for 2018 at this time.

Rough 2018 Seattle Seahawks Salary Cap Calculations

Adjustment Reason Adjustment Amount Available Cap Space
Adjustment Reason Adjustment Amount Available Cap Space
Currently Available - $19.13M
Cut/Trade Lane $4.75M $23.88M
Fill out Roster ($8.16M) $15.72M
Draft Pick Allocation ($1.69M) $14M
Practice Squad ($1.3M) $12.7M
Injury Replacements ($3.78M) $9M
Proven Performance Escalators ($2.3M) $6.7M
Final Available Cap Space $6.7M
2018 Seattle Seahawks Salary Cap Overview as of Now

Yes, there is the possibility that the team could make certain moves to free up additional cap space, including extending players such as Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, or Cliff Avril could retire as a result of his neck injury, however, barring any of those moves taking place, no one should expect the Hawks to be major players in free agency.

Now, as $6.7M is next to nothing when it comes to playing in free agency, and with multiple players up for an extension, including Paul Richardson, Sheldon Richardson, Luke Joeckel, Frank Clark, Tyler Lockett, Blair Walsh, Oday Aboushi, Thomas Rawls, Luke Willson and a host of others, I am very skeptical that the team will be much more than bystanders when it comes to the free agent market next spring. In addition, I would not be surprised to see some creative structuring of any extension for players the team might extend between now and the end of the 2018 season in order to push caps hits out into the future.

John Schneider has done a fantastic job managing the roster and the salary cap to keep the Hawks competitive, and the next year and a half will be the most challenging period he will have faced as GM of the team.