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Do the Seahawks have any cap casualty candidates in 2017?

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NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Every year teams must go through the difficult process of deciding whether or not they need to fire some players. In the past, the Seattle Seahawks have had to do this with guys like Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, and Sidney Rice. This usually means that the player is underperforming, but also sometimes it might just be that the team needs to save money and get further under the cap to make other moves.

So is there anyone on the Seahawks right now that is underperforming or who has a big chunk of money on his contract that could instead be a big chunk of cap space? Not really.

As of now, it looks like Seattle will be about $27 million under the cap, per overthecap.com. That’s enough to work with their own free agents (Steve Hauschka, Tony McDaniel, Mike Morgan, Kelcie McCray, a few other small deals, while probably letting Luke Willson walk) and still play in the market a little bit. But let’s go over the players that people are going to mention anyway.

Jimmy Graham, $10 million salary cap hit, $10 million saved if released

The Seahawks releasing or trading Graham would be a major shock. Fans see the $10 million saved and their eyes get wide like Goofy as if it was actually coming out of their own pockets. But Graham is a dynamic, one-of-a-kind player who the team gave up Max Unger and a first round pick to acquire, along with getting back a fourth rounder, and they aren’t going to be satisfied with a 1.5-season rental. Graham broke single-season franchise records for catches and yards by a tight end and Pete Carroll probably has his eyes set on building the offense more around him next year, not getting rid of him.

If anything, Graham is an extension candidate. Graham had negotiation issues with the New Orleans Saints in the past, wanting to get paid like a wide receiver instead of a tight end, but I think it’s safe to say that he is a TE and by the way, is the highest-paid TE in the NFL per season. As far as what an extension could look like, there is no great starting point because there are no tight ends like Graham; Rob Gronkowski and Travis Kelce recently signed extensions, but they are three years younger than Graham and were on rookie deals, not second contracts; Greg Olsen signed a three-year, $22.5 million extension in 2015, but is Graham willing to take a paycut?

With the fact that his career was almost over, maybe Graham would be happy signing any deal that guarantees him two more years worth of money. Seattle could offer him something like a two-year, $20 million extension, that perhaps pushes back some of his 2017 salary onto a backloaded 2019 salary. I am not a cap expert though. And while it may seem like “Isn’t he getting old?” I would add that Tony Gonzalez played forever, so I wouldn’t think it’s impossible that Graham is playing just as well in 2019 as he did in 2016, if not better.

Cut? No. Extension? Maybe.

Kam Chancellor, $8.125 million salary cap hit, $7.125 million saved if released

Same as above. You can’t replace Chancellor, just like the team could not replace Earl Thomas. There is nobody on the roster that can do what Chancellor can do, so if you release him, you signal the demise of the Legion of Boom and therefore, the demise of the defense.

The issue with Kam at this point is health, as he has missed 11 games over the last three seasons. The team needs to study this draft hard to find a potential “next generation” at safety, because I don’t think it’s McCray. However, he is only turning 29 this year, so I also don’t think it’s safe to be quick to judgment on signaling the end of his career. He could be playing in 2020 and beyond. I think you have to be careful with any extension because of his injury problems, but the LA RamsMark Barron is an interesting place to start.

Kam’s current deal pays him a hair over $7 million per season, currently the 11th-highest APY for safeties. Barron signed a five-year, $45 million with the Rams last year, which is obviously $9 million APY. That is a significant raise for Kam, but here’s what I like about the deal: LA can get out of it after next season with only minor cap consequences. With just $15 million guaranteed at time of signing, the Rams save most of the money on the contract if they release him after only two seasons. I think the Seahawks could do a similar deal with Kam, give him $8.5 or $9 million per year, maybe with one less year, and something that allows them to walk away by 2019 if they have to.

Cut? No. Extension? Maybe.

Jeremy Lane, $5.25 million cap hit, $1.5 million saved if released

I was against the Lane signing at the time, I obviously haven’t changed my opinion. Seattle would not save much by releasing him, and they are in trouble at the cornerback position following the knee injury to DeShawn Shead.

Cut? No.

Jermaine Kearse, $4.033 million cap hit, $366,666 saved if released

I was against the Kearse signing at the time, I obviously haven’t changed my opinion. But I think unlike the Lane situation, they should release Kearse. It just would not be a “cap casualty” so much as it would be giving better players more opportunities and taking away Russ’s shoddy safety net. Do I think they will? No, not really. If they do, it will come at final cuts in September though.

These are really the only players who I could see being mentioned as “cap casualties” and I don’t think any of them will be. There are other extension candidates, mainly just Justin Britt, but perhaps they even work out a longer deal with Cassius Marsh. They obviously love him as a special teams player and maybe they think he’d be cheaper on an extension than letting him get hot on defense next year and hit the open market, where defensive ends are getting paid ridiculous sums of money.

That’s for another article though.