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Why the Seahawks are freeing up cap space

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Los Angeles Chargers v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Saturday has been a busy day for the Seattle Seahawks. After trading for Jadeveon Clowney in the morning, the team has parted ways with veterans Cassius Marsh and Jaron Brown in what can be described as cap moves. In addition, the team freed up some cap space when it traded Barkevious Mingo to Houston as part of the Clowney trade, and that raises the question about why the team would be looking to create cap space with more than $21M in cap space prior to the Clowney acquisition.

With Clowney’s cap number under $16M, and with the team having cleared up space by moving Mingo, it would seem on first glance that the team has plenty of available space. However, as the old saying goes, never judge a book by it’s cover.

Back in the spring I took a look at the new structure of contracts the team had used to retain free agents K.J. Wright and D.J. Fluker, and they continued to use that structure through the offseason. Multiple Seahawks were signed to contracts during this past offseason that carried large per game roster bonuses, and this is significant for a couple of reasons.

For starters, a player’s cap hit when they have per game roster bonuses is determined by how many games the player was on the gameday roster the prior season. So, with players like Wright, Fluker, Kendricks, Iupati and Ansah having a good portion of their contract tied up in per game roster bonuses, the potential existed for the Hawks to find themselves pushed flush against the cap if all of these players stay healthy. For example, Kendricks has $2,000,000 in per game roster bonuses at $125,000 per game. Since he appeared in only four games in 2018, when figuring his cap hit for 2019, only the roster bonuses for the four games in which he played are counted. However, if he plays all sixteen games, then the full $2,000,000 in per game roster bonuses would could against the 2019 salary cap.

Between Ansah, Iupati, Wright, Fluker and Kendricks, just in per game roster bonuses the Hawks have nearly $5M in 2019 cap space that could disappear simply due to these five players staying healthy. Add in the potential for not just these players, but for others on the roster to hit performance incentive thresholds, and all of the sudden, if the Hawks used all their cap space they could be looking at a ticking time bomb when it comes to the salary cap. Here’s a look at the per game roster bonuses for each of these players, and how much each could eat into the cap space for Seattle that currently appears to be available.

Per game roster bonus possible cap space consumption for Seattle in 2019

Player Per game bonus Counted Max Bonus Potential Potential space eaten
Player Per game bonus Counted Max Bonus Potential Potential space eaten
D.J. Fluker $62,500 10 $1,000,000 $375,000
K.J. Wright $93,750 5 $1,500,000 $1,031,250
Ziggy Ansah $187,500 7 $3,000,000 $1,687,500
Mychal Kendricks $125,000 4 $2,000,000 $1,500,000
Mike Iupati $31,250 10 $500,000 $187,500
Total N/A N/A N/A $4,781,250

In any case, just as we saw in 2017 when the Hawks were actually over the cap at times down the stretch, if these players stay healthy and contribute, this may be a situation that warrants monitoring.