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Seahawks no longer only NFC West team tight on cap space

NFL: Los Angeles Rams Press Conference Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks entered the offseason facing a significant pinch when it comes to the salary cap, after spending much of the 2017 season flirting with the limits of the cap. However, as the 2018 NFL Draft approaches and the team looks to get ready to add young potential to the roster, Seattle finds itself in a position where it is not the only NFC West team that is tight against the cap. Here is a look at where each NFCW team stands as of today from the NFLPA Public Salary Cap Report. (Author’s Note: These numbers do not include the Seahawks addition of cornerback Dontae Johnson on Wednesday.)

NFC West team salary cap space for 2018 per the NFLPA

Team Cap Space NFL Rank
Team Cap Space NFL Rank
San Francisco 49ers $46,596,316 3rd
Arizona Cardinals $18,822,206 8th
Seattle Seahawks $9,309,406 19th
Los Angeles Rams $336,992 32nd

In addition to the $9.3M in cap space that it currently has, the Seahawks could potentially free up more space with any of a number of moves. Some of those potential moves could include:

  • Waiving Cliff Avril if he is not able to receive medical clearance (roughly $6M in savings),
  • Extending or trading Earl Thomas (up to $8.5M),
  • Extending K.J. Wright ($2M-4M) or
  • Extending Duane Brown ($2M-4M).

There are obviously other moves the team could make to create salary cap space if it finds that is necessary, including converting base salary to signing bonus for someone like Bobby Wagner or Jon Ryan. However, that is not to say that the team will absolutely be in a position where it will need to create cap space through a restructure, as it did with both of the trades for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown in 2017.

In addition, before anyone starts mocking me and arguing that no team would be stupid enough to convert base salary to signing bonus for a specialist like Ryan, let me simply point out one thing.

Yes, the reason the Los Angeles Rams have $336,992 in cap space and were able to fit Ndamukong Suh onto the roster and under the cap is because they restructured the contract of punter Johnny Hekker. If they had not restructured Hekker’s contract and waived cornerback Kayvon Webster, they would not have had the room to add Suh to the team. The Rams will most certainly need to make moves to create salary cap space between now and the opening of the season in September in order to be able to field a practice squad and fit injury replacements on the roster. However, for the time being there is no need for them to panic.

That said, before Seattle fans start jumping up and down that the Rams are over a barrel because of their 2018 salary cap situation, and before Rams fans jump down my throat for misrepresenting their cap situation, let’s take a step back in order to look at the cap situation.

The Rams have plenty of moving parts they can use to free up cap space should they need it during the offseason, and are in no way desperate to find cap space at the moment. The team could save some cap space if it gets desperate by cutting Mark Barron or Tavon Austin, but even then there are multiple players the Rams can, and likely would consider extending, in order to free up space.

The most likely to receive an extension would have to be Aaron Donald, Lamarcus Joyner or Brandin Cooks. Signing any of those three to a multiyear extension could free up several million dollars and give the Rams the space they need in 2018 for both injury replacements and the practice squad. Further, once any of those extensions start to take shape is when the Rams can begin to build using the massive amount of cap space they are slated to have in 2019.

The 2017 seasons for both the Seahawks and Rams went much different than many observers expected, and once through the 2018 season both teams have both the salary cap space and the cap flexibility to build the roster as they wish going forward.