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Salary cap implications of Seahawks release of Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Tampa Bay Buccaneers Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Thursday afternoon fans of the Seattle Seahawks were looking for a big announcement from the team, specifically concerning the signing of defensive end Ziggy Ansah. Fans are still waiting for that announcement, but the Seahawks hit fans hard with the announcement of the release of two of the best players in franchise history in Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin.

Chancellor and Baldwin have been fixtures on the team, with Chancellor joining the Seahawks in 2010 when Pete Carroll came to town, and Baldwin joining the squad as an undrafted free agent at the conclusion of the 2011 lockout. As core members of the team, the two carried cap hits commensurate with their status, and as such there are significant salary cap savings from their release. It is easiest to understand the cap savings when the ramifications for each of the two seasons is worked through individually.

2019 salary cap savings of Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor release

Player 2019 Scheduled Cap Hit 2019 Dead Money 2019 Cap Savings
Player 2019 Scheduled Cap Hit 2019 Dead Money 2019 Cap Savings
Doug Baldwin $13,143,750 $6,287,500 $6,856,250
Kam Chancellor $12,500,000 $10,200,000 $2,300,000
Total $25,643,750 $16,487,500 $9,156,250

That’s all pretty simple, and the only question may be why Kam’s dead money is so large when he had only $5M in unamortized signing bonus remaining. The answer is that $5.2M of his 2019 base salary was guaranteed for injury, and thus he will be paid that money on top of the remaining prorated signing bonus.

Now, there is one caveat to these 2019 savings, and that is the fact that Baldwin was released with an injury designation, which makes him eligible for Article 45 Injury Protection payments under the CBA. I’ve written about these payments in the past, including earlier this offseason when former Seahawk and San Francisco 49ers linebacker Brock Coyle was forced to retire following a neck injury, as well as last offseason when Cliff Avril was forced to retire following a neck injury.

The short version of the caveat is that until Baldwin passes a physical, he will carry an additional $1.2M cap charge for the 2019 season to cover the injury protection provided by the CBA. Now, if he recovers enough to pass a physical or signs with another team, then that $1.2M would go away. Assuming that he is truly done playing in the NFL, however, and that $1.2M will stay on the cap, the Hawks would be left with an additional $7,956,250 in cap space for the 2019 season.

Once the accounting for 2019 is done, then 2020 becomes extremely simple because all of the dead money hits the cap this season. For 2020 the numbers look like this.

2020 salary cap savings of Doug Baldwin and Kam Chancellor release

Player 2020 Scheduled Cap Hit 2020 Dead Money 2020 Cap Savings
Player 2020 Scheduled Cap Hit 2020 Dead Money 2020 Cap Savings
Doug Baldwin $13,393,750 $0 $13,393,750
Kam Chancellor $14,500,000 $0 $14,500,000
Total $27,893,750 $0 $27,893,750

The same caveat from the 2019 season applies here, as Baldwin could potentially collect $575,000 from the extended injury protections provided by the CBA. In contrast, Kam will not be eligible to collect under the extended injury protections provided by Article 45 of the CBA due to a technicality.

Per the CBA, in order to qualify for the extended injury protections, a player must have qualified for and received injury protection benefits. In order to qualify for the initial injury protection benefits, the player must have had their contract terminated in the league year following the season of injury. This is where Chancellor fails to meet the criteria. Specifically, he was injured during the 2017 season, but because he was not released until the 2019 league year, he does not technically meet the criteria to collect. Now, this is something for which the NFLPA could potentially file a grievance, however, the purpose of the injury protections are to provide for up to $1,775,000 in salary over the two years after a player suffers a severe injury. In Chancellor’s case, in the two seasons following his injury he will have been afforded $12,000,000 in injury protection payouts, so I’m not certain how sympathetic the NFL Management Council would be to his appeal for an additional $575,000.

Getting back to the 2020 cap savings, removing the $575,000 which Baldwin would be eligible for under the injury protections of the CBA, it leaves the team with no less than $27,318,750 in additional cap space. Again, if he recovers enough to pass a physical, that $575,000 is off the table, and the full $27,893,750 in savings for 2020 would be realized.

Thus, the Seahawks are now sitting pretty in terms of salary cap for the 2019 and 2020 seasons, with somewhere in the neighborhood of $33M and $82M in cap space, respectively.