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Expiring Contracts Primer: How the Seahawks could tender their four restricted free agents

Wild Card Round - Detroit Lions v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Steve Dykes/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks have a sizable amount of cap space (approximately $55M) and a fairly large group of players on expiring deals—30 between unrestricted, restricted and exclusive rights free agents. On Friday, we went through the team’s unrestricted free agents and assessed who is likely to be re-signed and who isn’t.

Today, we’ll do something similar with their four restricted free agents—Quinton Jefferson, Akeem King, George Fant and Tre Madden—while also assessing which tender they could receive from the Seahawks.

Quick explanation of the three tenders available to teams: (1) First-round tender (the team would receive a first-round pick as compensation), (2) Second-round tender (second-round pick as compensation) and (3) Original-round tender (the round the player was selected as compensation). A team could also simply not extend a qualifying offer, thus making the potential RFA into an unrestricted free agent.

With all three tenders, the team placing the tender has right of first refusal; the difference is in the cost of the tender. Per Over The Cap’s projection for 2019, a first-round tender would cost Seattle $4.429M, a second $3.11M and original round $2.035M. So how will the Seahawks handle their restricted free agents?

George Fant

Fant is the most interesting RFA of the group. Entering 2017, there was optimism the former UDFA with a tremendous athletic profile would be able to develop into the long-term solution at left tackle. A torn ACL robbed him of that season, and in 2018 he returned to play 34 percent of the offense’s snaps—the majority of which came as a sixth offensive lineman.

An original-round tender would see Seattle lose him for nothing if they didn’t match an offer sheet from another team. However, with Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi under contract for 2019, Fant’s role on a one-year deal would likely remain restricted to that of a sixth lineman.

Would the Seahawks pony up the extra $1.1M necessary to place a second-round tender on Fant, all but assuring no team would give him an offer sheet? It wouldn’t be a terrible use of money, but I don’t expect them to do so.

Verdict: Original-round tender.

Quinton Jefferson

Another valuable rotational piece for Seattle in 2018, Jefferson stepped up in a big way and was evidence of how important utilization is: Used as a 5-tech/big end capable of reducing inside for the first time, Jefferson enjoyed his best season yet and started 12 games.

The Seahawks will surely be adding pieces to their defensive line ahead of the 2019 season, but lessening Jefferson’s workload wouldn’t lessen the value his versatility brings. However, his draft position (fifth-round pick) makes it a fairly easy decision. It’s doubtful another team would sacrifice a fifth-round pick of their own to sign Jefferson to an offer sheet, and if they did, Seattle would have no issue finding a similarly useful rotational player.

Verdict: Original-round tender.

Akeem King

King was a pleasant surprise for the Seahawks in 2018, playing meaningful snaps after injuries forced Delano Hill out of the big nickel role and into the starting lineup. The fifth year cornerback has the profile Seattle seeks and impressed after initially being cut at the end of training camp.

However, if the Seahawks were to even offer an original-round tender to King, one would have to imagine he would sign it immediately. Per Over The Cap, King’s career earnings are just over $1.3M. A tender of more than $2M would be highly appealing to King, even coming off his best season to date.

Verdict: No qualifying offer made, though Seattle would be interested in having him in training camp on a smaller deal with no guarantees.

Tre Madden

It’s kind of incredible that in 2018, Madden was on the Seahawks’ roster for the entire season. Injuries limited him to 14 games, but Madden stuck around despite existing in a crowded backfield and playing just eight percent of the offense’s snaps. On special teams—the reason Madden’s on the roster—he played 55 percent on a unit that finished 24th in DVOA.

Madden’s situation is closely similar to King’s. Seattle may want him to return to again compete for a roster spot in camp, but a tender of roughly $2M would guarantee him $700,000 more than he’s made in his career up to this point.

Verdict: No qualifying offer made, could return on a deal with no guarantees.

Though the decisions aren’t nearly as difficult as some of the Seahawks’ unrestricted free agents, it will be fascinating to see how Seattle navigates restricted free agency, particularly in the case of Fant. It’s doubtful the Seahawks will be in line for compensation, but if it means hanging on to several rotational players from 2018, then they’ll be in good shape.