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2017 NFL salaries: How the Seahawks are keeping the band together

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Minicamp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Here’s how the Seattle Seahawks’ top-paid player at each position ranks league-wide at his position strictly in terms of 2017 salary cap hit. Numbers courtesy of OverTheCap.com.

Russell Wilson, QB

2017 cap hit: $18.8m

Rank: 13

Wilson counts $18.8 million against the cap this season, taking up 11.1% of the team’s total cap space. He slots in just behind Drew Brees, who has a cap hit of $19 million for the Saints. Wilson’s base salary “cash payout” is $12.6 million, which is 8% of the Seahawks 2017 cash spending. His $31 million signing bonus equates to a $6.2 million prorated cap charge for each season.

Eddie Lacy, RB

2017 cap hit: $3.562m

Rank: 19

High-paid running backs are a dying breed, but maybe $3.5 million for a single season of a position that tends to be highly fungible with extremely variable results is more than fair. Lacy’s 2017 cap hit is just behind Gio Bernard, who is maybe the number three back on the Bengals now? Lacy’s base salary is just $1.365m, with some of his potential payout being tied to weigh-in and roster bonuses.

No other Seattle RB is even close to the top 30, with CJ Prosise making a little more than Thomas Rawls this year.

Doug Baldwin, WR

2017 cap hit: $9.65m

Rank: 12

Dez Bryant has the highest cap hit at receiver, at $17 million. Up next? Larry Fitzgerald with the Cardinals at $15.85m and then Tavon Austin of the Rams at $14.97m. Jermaine Kearse ranks 40th at $4.03m.

Jimmy Graham, TE

2017 cap hit: $10m

Rank 3

Graham is set to be a free agent after the year and he’s already making more than all but two tight ends: Jason Witten ($12.26m) and Greg Olsen ($10.35m). Will he want more or is Graham content with $10 million a year? Will the Seahawks even want to extend him at $10 million a year? Graham only signed this deal after a franchise tag argument with New Orleans over whether he was a receiver or a tight end. Money is important to Graham -- and that’s perfectly okay — but if he accepts his fate as a tight end and not as a top-end receiver, then $10 million/season is a fair payout for what he is.

Luke Joeckel, OL

2017 cap hit: $7.25m

Rank: 34

If not for Joeckel, no Seattle lineman would even come close to the top-50 paid offensive linemen. Germain Ifedi checks in next for the Seahawks at $1.878m, while Justin Britt is just a hair under $1.1m. Joeckel will make more next season than every other Seattle offensive lineman combined, whether we’re talking about last season’s unit or this season’s.

They’re currently set to spend $15.9m on the offensive line, still the least total amount spent there in the NFL. The Cleveland Browns are spending $48.4m on the line.

Ahtyba Rubin, 4-3 DT

2017 cap hit: $3.7m

Rank: 22

Even when breaking it down by defensive tackles who play in a 4-3, Rubin still only ranks 22nd for next season’s cap hits. It’s a position that tends to get really inflated deals, like Ndamukong Suh making $19.1m in 2017, and now the Cowboys even paying Tyrone Crawford $10.35m. The Panthers are paying their two defensive tackles, Kawann Short and Star Lotulelei, a combined $16.76m, which now doesn’t sound so bad given how much Suh is getting. Still, that’s about 11% of their total cap room, same percentage that Seattle uses on Wilson.

Rookie Malik McDowell will make a tiny bit more than Jarran Reed, because he was drafted a year later and a few picks earlier.

Michael Bennett, 4-3 DE

2017 cap hit: $10.75m

Rank: 4

Rest easy, Bennett’s doing quite well for himself. Only Olivier Vernon, Ezekiel Ansah, and Cam Jordan are set to have a bigger cap hit next season than Bennett.

Cliff Avril ranks 16th in this category with a 2017 cap hit of just $5.5m. So, the Seahawks are spending a combined $16.25m on their two Pro Bowl defensive ends, less than what Carolina spends on Short and Lotulelei. Almost less than what the Rams are paying Austin.

Bobby Wagner, ILB

2017 cap hit: $7.6m

Rank: 6

Wagner has a solid case as the best inside linebacker in football, but he’s making far less than Luke Kuechly this season ($12.36m salary), as well as Mark Barron ($11m), NaVorro Bowman ($9.6m), Brian Cushing ($9.3m), and Alec Ogletree ($8.37m). That’s right, the Rams have two of the top five paid inside linebackers for next season. Over $19m on two inside linebackers who don’t equate to the value of one Bobby Wagner.

K.J. Wright, 4-3 OLB

2017 cap hit: $6.8m

Rank: 5

Who is set to make $200k more than Wright? Former teammate Bruce Irvin, now with the Raiders, and always probably going to be noticeably, slightly worse than Wright. It’s a choice that the Seahawks had to make somewhere along the line — “do we commit to Wright or Irvin?” — and I think we all agree they made the right decision there, especially given the cost. The Browns will be paying Jamie Collins $12.1m, making it a significant jump between him and second-place Thomas Davis at $8.25m.

Richard Sherman, CB

2017 cap hit: $13.6m

Rank: 6

Guess which team is paying a lesser cornerback much more money than what Seattle is paying an elite cornerback. You got it: The LA Rams, who are paying Trumaine Johnson $16.7m on the franchise tag. That’s still far less than the $20m that Washington must allocate for Josh Norman. Janoris Jenkins, Joe Haden, and Patrick Peterson also have a bigger cap hit than Sherman next season.

Jeremy Lane is 30th at $5.25m, which is tragically just a hair ahead of Casey Hayward, who signed with the Chargers last year and transformed into one of the top corners in the game. For a season, at least. Hopefully Lane’s disappointing performance is only for that one season.

Earl Thomas, S

2017 cap hit: $10.4m

Rank: 2

Kam Chancellor, S

2017 cap hit: $8.12m

Rank: 4

I’m not splitting free and strong safety because Earl and Kam both rank in the top four of safeties overall. This is where the Seahawks are really spending their money next season, with $18.5m going to their two star safeties. Lumped with Sherman and Lane, that’s over $38 million of the 2017 cap going to four secondary players. They also gave one-year deals to Bradley McDougald and DeShawn Shead that bumps it over $40m for six secondary veterans.

Only the Patriots spend more on their safeties ($23.1m to $22.8m), while six teams spend more on their cornerbacks (Seattle spends $24m there), including the Giants, Rams, Broncos, Washington, Browns, and Bengals.

The Seahawks spend the third-most money on their defense ($96.6m), behind the Broncos and Giants, both of whom did have very successful Ds last year. Still, it’s incredible that Seattle has two Pro Bowl defensive ends and two Pro Bowl linebackers, all on veteran deals, and the Seahawks don’t rank in the top 10 in spending at either of those positions.

Smart year-to-year planning, good timing on when to buy on certain players and sell on others, and while the team has a lot of great, superstar-types who rank in the top 15 at their position in terms of salary, you’ll also notice that they didn’t grossly overpay those guys either. That’s how you keep the band together.

So far, at least.