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A look ahead to the roster decisions facing the Seahawks in 2018

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

With the 2017 NFL season finished for the Seattle Seahawks, fans of the team will now turn to free agency and the draft to fill the void until training camp, and this year that void will be a couple weeks longer as a result of the team having missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011.

To start, here are some key dates for the NFL offseason:

Scouting Combine: February 27 - March 5

Transition and Franchise Tag designations due: 4:00 PM New York time on March 6

Free Agency Legal Tampering Period (free agent negotiations can start): 4:00 PM New York time on March 12Actual start of free agency (when players can actually sign with new teams): 4:00 PM New York time on March 14

2018 NFL Draft: April 26 - 28 at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, TX

Credited Seasons versus Accrued Seasons

Credited seasons and accrued seasons are salary cap terminology for years of experience, but each has a different meaning. A Credited Season is any year where the player was on the roster for at least three regular season games. Credited seasons mean absolutely nothing towards free agency for a player and are used solely to compute a player’s earned retirement credits and minimum salary requirements under the terms of the CBA.

An Accrued Season is any year where the player is on the roster for at least six regular season games, and Accrued Seasons are used to determine a player’s free agency status at the end of a contract.

For Accrued Seasons, being “on the roster” means being in full pay status. This means that players on the 53 man roster, as well as those on IR get counted as being “on the roster”. For the Hawks, this means that even though neither George Fant nor DeAndre Elliott played a regular season snap this season, both players earned an Accrued Season towards free agency calculations.

Players on the Practice Squad do not earn credit towards either a Credited Season or an Accrued Season while they are on the Practice Squad.

Exclusive Rights Free Agent

Exclusive Rights Free Agents (ERFA) are players whose contracts have expired and have two or fewer Accrued Seasons. The options for these players are to play for the contract the team puts on the table or to sit at home. GMs will almost always offer these players league minimum contracts because the players do not have any leverage to demand more.

ERFAs for the Seahawks this offseason are:

  • Josh Forrest
  • Joey Hunt
  • Branden Jackson
  • Paul Dawson
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Garrison Smith
  • Tyler Ott
  • J.D. McKissic
  • Tyrone Swoopes
  • Tyrus Thompson
  • Christian French
  • Jordan Simone
  • Akeem King

Restricted Free Agent

A Restricted Free Agent (RFA) is any player whose contract has expired and has exactly three Accrued Seasons. For RFAs, a team has to make a decision whether to tender them at one of three different levels, and if the team fails to tender them, they become an unrestricted free agent. If a team tenders them, they have the right to negotiate a contract with any other team, but their old team retains the right of first refusal on any contract the RFA signs.

A tender is an offer of a one year contract for a specific amount that is predetermined and uniform across the league. The three different tender levels are First Round tender ($3.91M for 2017; likely $4.1M - $4.25M for 2018), Second Round Tender ($2.746 million for 2017; likely $2.85M - $2.95M for 2018) and original round tender ($1.797M for the 2017; likely $1.9M - $2.0M for 2018).

In order to negotiate a contract with a RFA from another team, the new team must have its draft pick in the round corresponding to the tender offer placed on the player by the old team. Thus, the Seahawks will be ineligible to negotiate with any RFA that received a second round tender from their old club, or with any RFA who received an original round tender and was originally selected in a round in which Seattle no longer holds its native draft pick.

One important point to keep in mind is that because there is already draft pick compensation involved (or at least potentially involved), RFAs do not count towards calculating compensatory picks.

The Seahawks have several restricted free agents this offseason, including:

  • Dewey McDonald
  • Dion Jordan
  • Justin Coleman
  • Mike Davis
  • Thomas Rawls

Of this list, Justin Coleman and Dion Jordan are obviously the most likely to receive tender offers. Jordan, despite missing the first eight games of the season and then missing three more games with a neck injury, finished third on the team in sacks after playing in only five games and as a former first round pick, an original round tender will likely secure Jordan’s services for the team in 2018. Coleman, acquired for a seventh round pick at the end of camp, will likely receive a second round tender, as the secondary could be thin heading into 2018 depending on the ability of Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor to recover from their 2017 injuries.

Running backs Mike Davis and Thomas Rawls are likely to go untendered, making them unrestricted free agents, and with Dewey McDonald coming back from a serious knee injury he is likely to fall into this category as well.

Unrestricted Free Agent

An Unrestricted Free Agent (UFA) is any player whose contract has expired and has at least four Accrued Seasons. We all know how free agency works, so I’m not going to bore you here with data about how PCJS have largely stayed away from big name free agents since the top free agents get overpaid in free agency. I will bore you with that information another day.

A player who has been cut (or waived and cleared waivers) is also an UFA able to sign with any team. The difference between the two is that a player who has been cut or waived does not count in the calculation of compensatory draft picks.

The Seahawks have several important contributors who are set to become unrestricted free agents in March including:

  • Jimmy Graham
  • Luke Joeckel
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Sheldon Richardson
  • Bradley McDougald
  • Luke Willson
  • Michael Wilhoite
  • Paul Richardson
  • Blair Walsh
  • Marcus Smith
  • Oday Aboushi
  • Matt Tobin
  • Terence Garvin
  • Austin Davis
  • Byron Maxwell

It will obviously be interesting to see how the offseason plays out, but it is highly doubtful that 2017 free agent acquisitions Lacy and Walsh return while other position groups would be nearly completely overhauled if one of the free agents is not retained. For example, Graham and Willson represent nearly 80% of the snaps played by Seattle tight ends over the course of the 2018 season, so not retaining at least one of the two would spell a complete overhaul at the position group.

This is likely to be the most interesting offseason the Seahawks have had in several years, and there is likely to be tons of debate regarding who goes, who stays and who the team should add through free agency as well as the draft.