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Looking at the Seahawks salary cap situation beyond this season

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Cincinnati Bengals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

Week 1 of the 2019 NFL season is in the books, and the Seattle Seahawks are hoping for the start of some separation in an NFC West that was undefeated in the first week of the season. On tap for the Hawks is a trip to the Eastern Time Zone to take on the Pittsburgh Steelers in an early start that will be played on a grass surface. The Hawks may have a chance to unveil two new toys on the defensive side of the ball, with both Ziggy Ansah and L.J. Collier set to potentially make their Seahawks debuts.

With veterans who were on the roster for Week 1 having their full 2019 base salary guaranteed, the salary cap situation is far from complete, but the major moving pieces all appear to have fallen into place for the most part. Thus, at this time it’s possible to take a look a little bit further into the future in order to get an extremely high level view of what the salary cap situation will look like for the team heading into the 2020 offseason.

For starters, we know that as of last week, the Hawks had $8,566,271 in cap space per the tweet of Field Yates of ESPN.

Beyond that, we know that the Seahawks need to keep a reserve to cover the replacement players who come in when a player goes on injured reserve (typically around $3M), as well as a reserve to cover the per game roster bonuses for players like K.J. Wright, Mike Iupati, Mychal Kendricks and Ansah. Simply ballparking a number for that, I’m going to assign a random ballpark number for those two items $5,566,271, which would allow for a cap carryover of $3M from 2019 into 2020.

From there, we can turn our attention to 2020. My preferred cap site is OverTheCap.com, which currently projects the 2020 NFL salary cap to be $200M. Adding the $3M in rollover from the 2019 season gives Seattle an effective salary cap of $203M for 2020, while the team currently has cap obligations of $134,840,464 for the 2020 season. Thus, the difference between the two is $68,159,536 in available cap space.

Of course, that is not the actual amount of cap space the team will have available. The $134.84M in cap obligations only accounts for 41 players under contract, so the first thing to do is to fill out the roster to a full 53 players. Those 12 additional players at league minimum will cost at least $6.12M. In addition, the Seahawks will carry a practice squad during the 2020 season, which per the terms of the CBA will cost at least $1.428M. Next, the Hawks will need to set aside cap space to cover injury replacements, which will be somwhere around $3M.

On top of that, the Seahawks will need money to cover their draft picks, which obviously the amount of money that will be required for that will be determined by where in the draft those picks are made, which we won’t know for several more months. However, ballparking how much those picks will cost above league minimum, we can get some sort of an idea. Thus, the cost of the nine draft picks that the Hawks are currently projected to have are roughly as follows:

  • First round pick: $1.3M above league minimum
  • Second round pick (from KC): $500k above league minimum
  • Second round pick: $500k above league minimum
  • Third round (projected comp pick for Earl Thomas per OTC): $200k above league minimum
  • Fourth round: $175k above league minimum
  • Fourth round (projected comp pick for Justin Coleman per OTC): $150k above league minimum
  • Fifth round: $80k above league minimum
  • Sixth round (projected comp pick for Shamar Stephen per OTC): $35k above league minimum
  • Seventh round (projected comp pick for Mike Davis per OTC): $20k above league minimum

Adding all of those together yields a total of $2.942M above league minimum the team will need in order to cover draft picks.

From there the team will also need to cover the cost of retaining its restricted free agents. The players currently on the roster slated to be RFAs are Joey Hunt, David Moore and Branden Jackson. Assuming each of those three players will receive an original round tender at the cost of around $2.15M, it adds a further $4.908M the team needs to cover all three of those salaries above the league minimum.

Along the lines of RFAs, the Hawks also have several players in the third year of their contracts who could end up qualifying for the proven performance escalator. Long story short, the PPE is an incentive for players drafted in round three through seven still on their rookie contract who play either 35% of a team’s snaps over their first three season in the league, or 35% of their team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of the first three seasons of a rookie contract. Once either of those thresholds are hit, the base salary for the player in the fourth year of the contract is automatically increased to be equal to the original round tender for a RFA, which for the 2020 season is likely to be in the $2.1M-$2.2M range.

For the Seahawks, Shaquill Griffin has already hit that threshold, while Chris Carson is likely a little more than 300 offensive snaps away, only needing to hit 35% of the Hawks’ 2019 offensive snaps to have hit the 35% threshold in two of three seasons. Beyond those two, if either Lano Hill or Tedric Thompson lays claim to one of the starting safety roles for the remainder of the season, either of them will hit the requirement. That said, at this point, I’m going to base my projections off of only Griffin and Carson reaching the requirement, and thus, an additional $2.798M is needed to cover their raises for 2020 ($1.383M for Griffin’s raise and $1.415M for Carson’s).

Putting all of those pieces together, the Hawks will need somewhere in the neighborhood of $21.196M to cover all of these, and deducting that amount from the $68,159,536 we started at leaves things at $46.963M. Or, because we ballparked things so much over the course of projecting what these cap hits will cost, somewhere between $45M-$50M in cap space for the 2020 season.

Now, for those who prefer to see all of that broken down in a table format rather than written out, here’s what it looks spreadsheet style.

Seahawks projected 2020 cap space adjustments

Piece Cap Space After Adjustment Adjustment
Piece Cap Space After Adjustment Adjustment
Starting Space $68,159,536 N/A
Fill Out Roster $62,039,536 $6,120,000
Practice Squad $60,611,536 $1,428,000
Injury Reserve $57,611,536 $3,000,000
Draft Picks $54,669,536 $2,942,000
Restricted Free Agents $49,761,536 $4,908,000
Proven Performance Escalator $46,963,536 $2,798,000
Available cap space $46,963,536 N/A

Now, $45M-$50M might seem like a very large amount of cap space, but the team does have several significant free agent questions that it will likely need to address in the offseason. As of now the following players are all projected to be unrestricted free agents after the season:

  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Jadeveon Clowney
  • Ziggy Ansah
  • Jarran Reed
  • Germain Ifedi
  • George Fant
  • Quinton Jefferson
  • Mychal Kendricks
  • Al Woods
  • Jaron Brown
  • Mike Iupati
  • Jamar Taylor
  • Akeem King
  • C.J. Prosise
  • Nick Vannett
  • Geno Smith

In short, Seattle has the cap space to do what it wants in 2020, but it’s got a whole lot of decisions that will need to be made in the offseason. Further, if they’re not judicious in allocating the cap space, then they could find themselves bumping up against the cap, just as they did for much of 2017.