The legal tampering period which precedes the feeding frenzy that is NFL free agency kicks off on Monday, and as such fans have been left to wonder where the Seattle Seahawks stand in terms of the salary cap and ability to play in the free agent market.
According to OverTheCap.com, the team currently has just north of $13M in available cap space. That number does not take into consideration the reported moves the team is to make in the coming days, so the first thing to do is to adjust for those.
The move with the largest salary cap implications is of course the release of Richard Sherman. Reports are already coming in that Sherman has been released, however, as of this moment nothing has become official. It is, however, only a matter of time until it is official, and the release of Sherman will save $11M against the salary cap. That bumps the team up to the $24M range, with 45 players under contract.
The next biggest move should be the release of cornerback Jeremy Lane, which is reportedly set to happen Friday and will save $4.75M against the salary cap. That puts the team a hair under $29M in available cap space with 44 players under contract.
That then leads to the trade of Michael Bennett, which will become official on Wednesday March 14 at 4 pm New York time when the new league year starts. Once official, that trade will save Seattle an additional $2.2M, leaving the team with around $31M in available cap space and 44 contracted players.
The reason the number of contracted players is important is because the Hawks will obviously need to fill out their roster at some point. In order to fill the nine slots on the 53 man roster that are currently empty, the Hawks will need about $4.5M, leaving the team with about $27M in cap space.
From there the team can choose to release or rework the contract of Cliff Avril, should they so choose. In addition, the money that would be saved by cutting Avril ($7M) is close enough to the amount of money the team needs to set aside for draft picks, the practice squad and injury replacements, that leaving Cliff on the roster is a great way to act as a placeholder for these allocations.
Further allocations should likely be set aside for the restricted free agent tenders of Justin Coleman and Dion Jordan. I expect Coleman to be tendered at the second round level, with Jordan to be tendered at the original round level, and those two amounts will combine for just under $5M. As such, the available cap space is somewhere in the $22-23M range for the team to play with in free agency.
Now, astute readers will pick up on the fact that I have actually allocated enough money to cover not just the 53 man roster I filled out early on in this process, but 55 spots. With the full allocation of the tender amounts to Jordan and Coleman included in this calculation, it effectively spends an extra $1M on roster spots 54 and 55. The reason for this is that the Seahawks are likely to carry a 55 man roster in 2018. How and why? Based on Pete’s comments on the team rarely receiving updates on Malik McDowell and his medical status, it seems likely McDowell will spend a second season on the non-football injury list. Obviously, the team has the discretionary power to reduce his pay if he is on NFI, just as they did in 2017, but they will still be on the hook for the prorated portion of his signing bonus. Malik would be the 54th roster spot.
In contrast, teams must pay players who are on the physically unable to perform list their full salary. Based on reports of Kam Chancellor’s neck injury likely being career ending combined with the negative cap ramifications if the team cuts him, Chancellor seems likely to spend the entire 2018 season on the PUP list. As such, Kam becomes the 55th player on the roster.
Putting it all together, there is somewhere in the neighborhood of $22M in available cap space, with the ability of the team to create more should it wish to do so. THat’s not an insignificant amount, but it’s certainly far from a huge amount of space either. There are plenty of teams with much, much more cap space than the Seahawks, and it will certainly be interesting to watch what the team does in the coming weeks.