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The Seahawks cutting DE Cliff Avril may not save as much cap space as fans expect

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Green Bay Packers Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Not long ago I took a look at why Kam Chancellor is likely to be a member of the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 regardless of whether he plays or not , and Friday new Field Gulls writer Andrea Hangst took a look at ways the Hawks might look to clear cap room in 2018. One of the moves mentioned in that article is the release of defensive end Cliff Avril, and while it is absolutely the case that releasing Avril will result in a large 2018 cap savings, exactly how large that savings would be remains to be seen. While that may not make a lot of sense since the cap seems cut and dried, what is at play is a seldom used portion of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, specifically Article 45.

Article 45 of the CBA is the injury protection portion, a section designed to provide a small level of injury guarantees to players who do not have explicit injury guarantees built into their contract. The basics for qualifying for this injury protection are laid out in Article 45, Section 1 and are as follows:

In summary, if a player suffers an injury in one season and is under contract for the next season, but is unable to play in the second season due to the injury sustained in the first season, they are afforded some level of financial protection. Obviously the player has to rehab and work towards getting healthy in order to collect under this portion of the CBA, as NFL owners are not wont to simply hand out money left and right to players not working to get back on the field. In any case, the amount to which Avril could be entitled under this portion of the CBA is spelled out in Article 45, Section 2, which is as follows (portion pertaining to 2018 league year highlighted):

Thus, if Avril is unable to play in 2018 due to his neck injury and qualifies for the injury protection benefit under Article 45, he would be entitled to the maximum amount of $1.15M. Since his Paragraph 5 salary is simply his base salary, which is scheduled to be $7M in 2018, fifty percent of that amount would be $3.5M. $3.5M obviously exceeds the maximum allowable amount of $1.15M as laid out by the CBA. Therefore, that would be the amount the Seahawks would owe Avril if his neck injury indeed proves to be career ending, as Pete Carroll hinted it may be.

The next question then is obviously whether the $1.15M would count against the salary cap for the Hawks in 2018. For that answer we look to former agent Joel Corry, who is a phenomenal resource for information on contracts and the salary cap. Corry specifically addressed that back in December with the following Tweet:

Thus, if Avril’s neck injury indeed proves to be career ending, or even if it simply prevents him from playing in 2018, then the Hawks could be looking at $1.65M in dead money rather than $500k. Obviously, either amount would represent a significant cap savings over his scheduled cap charge of $7.625M, but whether the true cap savings ends up at $7.125M or $5.975M will only be known once the team learns whether or not Avril will be able to pass a physical in 2018.

This same portion of the CBA will also be relevant to Richard Sherman following the Achilles injury he suffered this past season. However, it would not be relevant to those who landed on injured reserve during 2017, but are not under contract for 2018. Thus, players such as Josh Forrest and Oday Aboushi would not be covered, since they would not meet the requirements of Article 45, Section 1(c) of having their contracts for 2018 terminated since neither of them is under contract for 2018.

Again, it would not be a huge amount of cap space that would go towards this, however, with the team slated to be tight up against the cap yet again in 2018, every dollar will count. OverTheCap reports the Hawks are slated to have roughly $13.5M in cap space in 2018, but once the roster is filled out (that $13.5M only accounts for 46 players), the team allocates money for its draft picks, injury replacements and the practice squad, 2018 looks as though it could end up being as tight as 2019. Thus, any additional cap charges the team could be forced to take could be material, and might make things tighter than fans would prefer.

That said, this predicament does put the team in a situation where it could take advantage of some other options. What exactly are those options? Well, it’s the offseason, so I’ll cover those options in another post on another day because it’s a long time between now and free agency next month.