The Seattle Seahawks opened the 2019 season with hopes for offensive success grounded in the fact that the team had the most prolific rushing offense in the NFL in 2018 and was set to return four of five starters on the offensive line. At left tackle Duane Brown was coming back and playing in the first year of a three year extension he’d signed the year before, while the right side of the line had Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi all manning the same spots as they had played in the prior season.
Then the season started, injuries hit every starting offensive lineman outside of Ifedi miss, and, as would be expected, the line struggled at times with first year starters Jamarco Jones and Joey Hunt filling in. The injury concerns of the line peaked in the postseason, when left tackle Brown started against the Green Bay Packers less than three weeks after having knee surgery, Hunt was playing on a broken leg and Jones, already playing in place of an injured Mike Iupati, left the game. Jones’ injury pushed rookie Phil Haynes into the lineup for his first ever offensive snaps in the NFL, and while his performance was up to the moment, it seems unlikely that is the way the team planned it.
That said, this offseason continuity could be something that the offensive line does not see. Both Iupati and Ifeid, who each logged more than a thousand snaps in 2019, are free agents, as is George Fant who played 472 snaps between spot starts at left tackle in Weeks 6, 7 and 17 and his role as a sixth offensive lineman. Add in the 504 snaps Britt played and his potential to be a cap casualty, and the 613 snaps played by his soon-to-be restricted free agent replacement, Hunt, and the Hawks could be looking at needing to replace 3,711 snaps of offensive line play this offseason.
On the defensive side of the ball, the front line could potentially see just as much turnover with Jadeveon Clowney, Quinton Jefferson, Jarran Reed and Mychal Kendricks all looking at possibly finding greener fields elsewhere once free agency starts in March.
So, before teams truly get into the groove of signing extensions and free agency opens in five and a half weeks, here’s how the Seahawks stack up compared to the rest of the NFL in terms of snaps the team will need to replace and the cap space to address those possible losses.
Potential Snaps lost to free agency vs cap space— Jason_OTC (@Jason_OTC) February 7, 2020
Top Right= Need to be active in free agency or signing own players
Bottom Right= Potential cap issues
Bottom Left= Not much cap room but not a lot of expected turnover
Top Left= Can be active in free agency to add pic.twitter.com/96tKNKCpPz
On Twitter I was asked whether it’s ideal to be in the upper left quadrant, and while from a theoretical perspective one would certainly prefer to be in that quadrant from a cap management perspective, the reason teams end up there is because they’re typically not very good. Specifically, teams like the Cincinnati Bengals, Miami Dolphins, New York Giants and Cleveland Browns are in that particular portion of the chart because, frankly, they aren’t quality teams. They don’t have players that need to be given new contracts, in part possibly because their lack of players warranting a large contract leads to a subpar performance on the field.
It’s certainly true that if everything else were equal, it would be ideal to be in the top left quadrant of the chart, but since the Hawks actually have quality players who have large contracts, like Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson, not having the most cap space is fine. In addition, while it would certainly be more comforting to not be near the top of the league in snaps that need replaced, I’m fairly confident many fans aren’t overly concerned, and in fact are welcoming, the potential departure of the 2,122 snaps played by Ifedi and Iupati during the season.
In addition, Seattle certainly seems to be in a better situation than either the New Orleans Saints or the Atlanta Falcons, both of which could see an above average loss of snaps played and very limited cap space with which to replace those snaps. Thus, this chart is less about being in a specific quadrant, and more about the comparative positions of teams in relation to the rest of the league.
In short, while the Seahawks have lots of needs to address during the offseason, they have the cap space to do so, unlike some other teams across the league.