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Seahawks Justin Britt appears unlikely to become a cap casualty

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Photo by Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Since the curtain came down on the 2019 season of the Seattle Seahawks in a divisional round playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers in January, many fans have been calling for the release of Justin Britt in order to free up cap space. It’s no secret that fans have been concerned about how much space the Hawks might need in order to retain several of their own free agents. With fans having seen Quinton Jefferson and George Fant leave for greener pastures elsewhere, some fans appear to be getting impatient as the team continues to hold on to Britt, while waiting for news of Jadeveon Clowney’s future.

At this point, however, the likelihood of the team releasing Britt for cap purposes appear to be shrinking fast for a couple of reasons. The most simple reason why is the fact that Britt is still on the roster. As noted here on Field Gulls before the opening of free agency, when the team has released veteran players for cap purposes, they have traditionally made the transaction prior to the opening of free agency. With that in mind, the fact that Britt is still around would seem to indicate that he won’t be released for cap purposes.

That said, it would appear there are a handful of possibilities:

  • Waiting until May 1 or later to process the release,
  • Waiting until Britt passes a physical to process the release,
  • Waiting until the end of training camp to potentially release him or
  • Keeping Britt around.

These four options are relatively simple to work through in order to gain a better understanding of what each could mean.

The first option, waiting until May 1 or later to release Britt would be less of an indication that the team is not interested in Britt’s services and more of an indication that Britt may not play in 2020. Specifically, as the Seahawks have done in past seasons, including with Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor and Doug Baldwin, players released on or after the first day of May are afforded extra benefits under the CBA. Specifically, if a player is released with a failed physical designation from an injury suffered in the prior season, they may be eligible for an injury protection payment to replace part of their salary.

In addition, however, under Article 58 of the CBA, the section which lays out the details of the group health and life insurance each player gets, provides the following for players released after May 1:

Players vested due to their Credited Seasons under the Retirement Plan who are released or otherwise sever employment after May 1 in a calendar year will continue to receive the benefits provided under this section until the first regular season game of the season that begins in the following calendar year.

So, if Britt is released with a failed physical designation he could earn $1.2M in injury protection payment, and if that release comes after May 1, he’d make that $1.2M while sitting at home and maintaining his health insurance through the start of the 2021 season without dipping into his post-career health insurance coverage. That certainly is far from the most likely or expected outcome, but with everything going on in the world a father with two young children choosing to stay at home with his family for a year likely wouldn’t be a choice that would lead to a lot of regret in the future. Thus, while it’s not a likely outcome, it is a possible outcome.

Moving to the second option, the torn ACL Britt suffered in Week 8 against the Atlanta Falcons happened on October 27. Obviously his surgery did not take place on the same day he was hurt, but using the injury date as the start of a recovery timeline, the typical eight to twelve months needed to return from ACL reconstruction puts him on track to be able to pass a physical sometime between late June and late October. Even an insane six or seven month rehab timeline would not put him back until the end of April or May. In short, Britt won’t likely be able to pass a physical until after the offseason program, if the offseason program happens, so there should be more information available to fans on his recovery in the coming weeks.

Putting that all together, it means that if the team is waiting for Britt to pass a physical before releasing him, that is probably not something that will happen in the next few weeks, or even in the next few months. That means this is an option that seems unlikely to happen, and if it does it likely won’t happen for several months, so fans can quit worry about releasing Britt until after they’ve had their Fourth of July barbecues.

The next option is certainly a possibility. While many are assuming Britt will become a cap casualty, every day he remains on the roster seems to make it more likely that he will stick around. The Hawks have been no stranger to asking players to take a pay cut, as they reportedly did with Brandon Mebane back in 2015, but with little access to players this time of year, there is not a lot that is known about his recovery and what he and the team may have discussed. As such, this is an option that need not be worried about until well into the summer.

Lastly, the final option is to keep Britt around. This could be on the contract he has, it could be on a restructured contract where Britt agrees to a pay cut in exchange for salary guarantees or it could be on an extension. All of these are options, and while fans may not like it, the Seahawks line is facing multiple questions. Specifically, the Hawks have questions about center, left guard and right tackle for 2020, and coincidentally during his career in Seattle Britt has experience at center, left guard and right tackle.

Before anyone misunderstands this statement, this is in no way calling for Britt to be the starter at right tackle. Most fans remember the pains of watching Britt play right tackle in 2014, and while he’s improved in the years since and the team appears to have signed Brandon Shell to be the starter at right tackle, anything can happen. Many fans have certainly come to question whether Always Compete still exists, or if it has become an empty slogan. That said, it is possible that Britt could turn out to be the best option at left guard or right tackle, and the Hawks certainly value positional flexibility on the offensive line. Add in that it costs the Seahawks absolutely nothing in terms of cap space to keep Britt on the roster for the next five months, and it becomes clear that the only true advantage of releasing Britt is clearing up cap space. Further, at this point in time the Hawks have no need to use that cap space, so there is no motivation to release Britt for any reason in the immediate future.

So, while fans may want Britt gone, at this time it would appear as though the odds of him sticking around, at least for the next several months, are far higher than the odds of him being cut.