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Where the Seahawks stand on cap space looking forward to 2021

NFL: New York Jets at Cincinnati Bengals David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

The trade deadline for the 2020 NFL season has finally passed, which means that outside of injuries or unexpected free agent signings, rosters are largely set for the remainder of the season. That means it is now possible to begin to project with some sort of accuracy what things will look like in terms of the salary cap for teams in the offseason, as well as for the 2021 season. For teams that made trade deadline acquisitions like the addition of Carlos Dunlap for the Seattle Seahawks, it’s the first true opportunity to see what their cap looks like in the future given the new acquisitions.

Thus, using the projected 2021 cap number for the Seahawks from as a starting point, OTC currently anticipates the Hawks having $19,118,752 in cap space for 2021. That number assumes the salary cap drops from it’s current $198.2M to $176M as a result of the revenue losses associated with the lack of fans in the stands due to the pandemic, so if the cap drops less than that the team would have additional space. In addition, $19,118,752 number is before accounting for the $3M roster bonus Dunlap would be owed on the fifth day of the league year if the Seahawks do not release him, meaning if he stays on the roster the Hawks will have around $16.1M in available cap space.

That $16.1M in cap space is based on the team having only 34 players under contract, however, meaning that to fill out the roster for the offseason, they will need to add at least 17 players on minimum salary contracts. With the rookie minimum salary for the 2021 season to be set at $660,000 next season, filling out the roster with those minimum salary players would require an additional allocation of $11.2M of cap space.

Once that has been taken out of the $16.1M from before, it leaves $4.9M in cap space heading into free agency. It, of course, does not account for the pro rated portion of signing bonuses for drafted players, which for the Seahawks is not a big number this season. With the Hawks holding only one pick in the first three rounds and likely just four Day 3 selections, it’s likely that no more than $400k of cap space will be needed to cover the team’s draft picks, assuming the team drafts late in rounds.

Accounting for those draft picks puts the team in the $4.5M in available cap space range, and from that number the team will need to cover the salaries of both practice squad players, as well as the salaries of players on injured reserve. If the pandemic has resolved enough by then that teams return to carrying just 12 players on the practice squad, then a minimum of $1.877M will be needed for the practice squad, while if things have not been resolved and the NFL again uses a 16 man practice squad, then a minimum of $2.502M is needed. Depending on which of those numbers is used, the team would be left with somewhere between $2M and $2.623M of cap space, which is an amount that is unlikely to cover the team’s cap space needs for an injury reserve for the 2021 season.

For those who prefer a visual representation of these numbers, here is what it looks like in table format.

Current Seahawks cap space projection for 2021

Adjustment Adjustment amount Cap Space
Adjustment Adjustment amount Cap Space
Starting Point N/A $19.1M
Dunlap roster bonus $3M $16.1M
Fill out roster $11.2M $4.9M
Draft picks $400k $4.5M
Practice Squad $1.877M-$2.502M $2M-2.623M

So, in short, what it all means is that the team will more than likely be making moves to free up space, whether by releasing players, restructuring contracts or through signing players to extensions in order to reduce the amount they cost against the cap during the 2021 season. That will be necessary because that minimal amount of cap space currently includes only Tre Flowers, Ugo Amadi and D.J. Reed under contract at cornerback, and on the interior of the offensive line, none of Mike Iupati, Jordan Simmons or Ethan Pocic are signed for 2021. Simmons, is set to be a restricted free agent, so his return could be ensured through the use of a RFA tender, but even that would require more cap space than a minimum contract and there might be some difficult choices for the team in the offseason when it comes to building the roster for 2021.

For now, though, fresh off a win over the last place San Francisco 49ers in Week 8, the Seahawks travel east to take on the first place Buffalo Bills in Week 9.