With five games left in the 2018 season, the Seattle Seahawks are beginning to get some attention as a team that could pose dangers during the postseason as the youth of the roster continues to develop deep into the season.
However, looking ahead towards the offseason we can begin to take a look at the Seahawks 2019 salary cap situation. At first glance it would appear that the Seahawks are flush with cash and can go on a spending spree, but let’s get a little bit more detail about what the Hawks cap situation looks like for 2019 before we start making a wish list.
OverTheCap.com is a great place to start when looking at this question, which lists the Seahawks as having $63.625M in available cap space for the 2019 cap year. However, as fans who have been following my work for several years, or who are familiar with the salary cap know that there never really seems to be as much space as the initial numbers may make it appear.
How is it that OTC would list the Hawks with $63.625M in available space when the team could have far less? For starters, OTC lists the Hawks as only having 33 players under contract with that $63.625M. That means that in order to fill out their 53 man roster the Hawks need to add a full 20 new players to the roster. Assuming an average salary of $550k for each of these 20 new players on the roster, all of a sudden there is $11M less of cap space available. That puts the team at $52.625M in space.
Then, once the roster is filled out, there is the need to allocate money for the practice squad, injured reserve and signing bonuses for 2019 draft picks. Putting $4M down for injured reserve, $1M for the practice squad and $2.625M for draft picks means $7.625M is needed for these three areas. That also, conveniently, leaves the team with right at about $45M in available cap space to play with.
What will the team do with that cap space?
Well, the first thing that needs to be addressed is the team’s in house exclusive rights free agents. Those include the following players who are certain to be retained as ERFAs and their 2019 cap hits:
- Austin Calitro ($525k)
- David Moore ($570k)
- Branden Jackson ($720k)
- J.D. McKissic ($720k)
- Joey Hunt ($720k)
When those salaries are netted against the $550k for each salary assumed when filling out the roster, it ends up just over $500k, so the available space drops down to $44.5M, and it becomes time to move to restricted free agents (RFAs).
The restricted free agents for the coming offseason are as followings:
- George Fant
- Tre Madden
- Quinton Jefferson
- Tyler Ott
The RFA tender levels for the 2018 season were $4.149M for a first round tender, $2.914M for a second round tender and $1.907M for an original round tender. Assuming the cap will go up about five percent in 2019 and these tenders will go up accordingly. A first round tender will likely be around $4.35M, a second round tender is likely to be $3.1M and an original round tender right around $2M.
I find it unlikely that either Madden or Ott receive a tender, though I could see Ott getting an original round tender (though Nolan Frese remains a free agent last I checked). Assuming neither of these two key special teamers receive a tender, they are likely signed back to the Seahawks roster at league minimum salary for their experience level. For each of these players that means a salary of $720k in 2019.
As for Jefferson, my guess is he gets tendered at the original round level. He hasn’t been a world beater, but he’s produced enough that some other team likely snags him if he hits the market. The original round tender also gives the Hawks the ability to match any offer QJeff would receive on the market and decide at that time whether or not to match.
Fant is the Seattle RFA who is likely to draw the most attention from other teams. If he is given an original round tender I have zero doubt that an o-line needy team will sign him to a tender that would be front loaded with not insignificant guaranteed money ($5M-$10M), and that likely means he is tendered at no less than a second round level. The second round tender would all but assure the team that Fant would be a member of the Seahawks next season, and would give them another year to see what they have in Jamarco Jones. They only got an extremely limited glimpse of Jones and his potential during camp, so the second round tender buys them another season to see if they can let Fant leave and keep Jones around as tackle depth.
So, operating under the assumption that QJeff gets an original round tender and Fant gets a second round tender, along with Ott and Madden being retained at the league minimum, that uses up $6.54M in cap space. That’s $4.34M more than the $2.2M that would be allocated based on the $550k per roster spot assumption above. I’m going to round that up to $4.5M because this is an estimate and round numbers make my life easy. This drops the overall available cap space for the team to $40M to retain their own free agents and to sign free agents from other teams.
And that is where things get interesting. Here is a list of players who are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents in the spring:
- Earl Thomas
- K.J. Wright
- Justin Coleman
- Shamar Stephen
- Sebastian Janikowski
- Dion Jordan
- J.R. Sweezy
- D.J. Fluker
- Mike Davis
- Frank Clark
- Mychal Kendricks
- Maurice Alexander
- Brett Hundley
A couple of those names can likely be retained fairly inexpensively, such as Hundley and Alexander, while Kendricks will have to wait and see whether he’ll even be able to play, or whether he will be locked up.
In any case, with about $40M in cap space, it will certainly be interesting to see how exactly the Seahawks approach things, and how they allocate the salary cap space they do have. In addition to the large contracts that Clark, Sweezy, Fluker and Coleman may sign, Seattle could be in a position of wishing to extend Jarran Reed or Germain Ifedi. In addition, the leaders of both the offense and the defense, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, will be entering the final season of their contracts and possibly looking for an extension.
Things will certainly be interesting over the next three and a half months until free agency starts on March 13 at 4pm New York Time.