Premier free agent guard T.J. Lang is visiting the Seattle Seahawks on Friday about their apocalyptic situation on the offensive line, and there’s some question about if they can afford him. Not just if they can fit him into the budget for 2017, but if they can do it without releasing any notable players or if it will kill their chances of signing anyone else of note.
The short answer: Absolutely.
The long answer:
The Seahawks have $25.4 million in cap space per OverTheCap.com. That does not include the contract signed by offensive tackle/guard Luke Joeckel on Thursday, which was reported to be up to $8 million. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that Seattle’s cap space is automatically down to $17.4 million. Joeckel’s deal is expected to be heavily incentivized, so if only half of it is guaranteed and half of it is based on per game roster bonuses, that’s not money that will be counted against the cap right now.
In that case, Seahawks would be down to $21.4 million. Joeckel was not a very good player during his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars and he missed almost all of last season so I can’t imagine his guarantee is very large. I’m guessing it’s between the $3-4 million range, though I could be wrong. Either way, I think the Seahawks still have $20 million to work with.
Out of that guesstimated $20 million, set aside $5 million for rookies. Now you’re left with $15 million. What does Lang cost? Well, given the deal signed by Kevin Zeitler with the Cleveland Browns on Thursday (five years, $60 million) there has to be some concern that Lang will cost $12 million a season. I mean, “concern” in one sense of the word but in another sense, the Seahawks would be getting an elite guard who could also potentially play tackle. Potentially. The cost of someone like this, based on recent deals by Zeitler and Kelechi Osemele, is apparently around $11-$12 million a season. However, there are some concessions that could make Lang slightly cheaper.
For one, Zeitler turned 27 on Wednesday, making him about two and a half years younger than Lang. This is not a monumental difference, but it is a difference. The same could be said for Osemele when he signed with the Oakland Raiders last year. Second of all, Seattle provides Lang with an opportunity to win a Super Bowl next season, something that Zeitler knew he wasn’t expecting in Cleveland. Maybe in the future, but the Seahawks are much closer to a Super Bowl appearance, since they just went to two in a row recently.
To some degree I’m just throwing hopeful contingencies into the wind, but I could see Lang signing with Seattle for “only” $10 million per season. That’s also what Kyle Long and David DeCastro make. But does that drop their 2017 cap space way down to $5 million based on the earlier estimate?
No, not necessarily. the Seahawks could easily get Lang in on a deal that cost them like $4 million in cap space next season and then perhaps up to $12 million in some subsequent seasons when other expensive players could surely be gone. This doesn’t even take into account the $2.2 million they would save by releasing Jermaine Kearse with a post-June 1 designation and $1.8 million if Garry Gilliam doesn’t come back on the one-year tender, which I kind of don’t expect him to do.
Does signing Lang potentially end their bid for any other high-profile players? Yes, potentially. But I expected Seattle to make at least one big splash in free agency, and Joeckel doesn’t qualify. I just didn’t expect them to do it for the offensive line because Pete Carroll basically said in January that they wouldn’t. It’s fine if they want to make that move with Lang though, because one huge upgrade on the offensive line kind of results in four other huge upgrades just by proxy. Look what Alex Mack did for the Atlanta Falcons last season as an example. I also don’t think it necessarily does preclude them from making more notable signings.
They definitely would not have to release anyone that would be missed in order to do it. Just to clear that up.