A little over a week into free agency, and the Seattle Seahawks have done exactly what they’ve done for the better part of the last decade: Sit out much of the big money wave in free agency. Specifically, the team did not sign any of the big dollar free agents many fans had hoped for in Jack Conklin, Bryan Bulaga, Graham Glasgow, Robert Quinn or Byron Jones, and instead, as the team has consistently done in recent years, focused on targeting value.
To that end, the team has added the following free agents:
- B.J. Finney,
- Brandon Shell,
- Cedric Ogbuehi,
- Chance Warmack,
- Phillip Dorsett and
- Bruce Irvin
While at the same time the team has seen the following free agents depart:
- George Fant
- Quinton Jefferson
- Germain Ifedi
- Al Woods
As in the past, the first step in answering this question would be to identify how many free agents that count in the comp picks count the team had added compared to how many free agents had been lost. This is the result of the portion of the comp pick calculations that a team may not receive more comp picks than the net difference between the number of free agents lost and the number of free agents gained. Effectively, if a team loses four players as free agents while signing two players, that team cannot receive more than two comp picks. Similarly, if a team signs more eligible players than it loses, it is not eligible for comp picks.
In determining eligibility, the first item to do is eliminate players who do not count towards the calculation. These players, as in the past, include those who were not coming off a contract which expired after the 2019 season, which means Warmack can be crossed off the list. With Warmack excluded, that leaves Seattle with five additions and four departures.
Addressing those specific players, the new CBA significantly alters the calculations of players to be taken into consideration for comp picks. The first thing is to note that players who sign a contract for a single season at a salary of less than $1.75M are automatically excluded.
For the Seahawks, that means there is a reasonable chance that Ogbuehi will also be excluded. After spending four disappointing seasons with the Cincinnati Bengals, Ogbuehi spent the 2019 season making vet minimum for the Jacksonville Jaguars. During his time with the Jags Ogbuehi saw the field for only 155 snaps, making it seemingly unlikely that the non-incentive portion of his contract with Seattle is for more than the $1.75M minimum threshold. Thus he is likely to be excluded from the comp pick calculations as well.
The next step is to look at the contracts of Dorsett and Irvin. Irvin played the 2019 season on a one year contract that paid him $4M, and it is completely possible that the contract to which the Seahawks signed him for 2020 will be an incentive driven contract which gives Irvin the ability to earn more. How those incentives may be structured and whether Irvin winds up reaching them or not may play a significant role in determining whether he counts in the calculations. The reason for this is that in addition to the $1.75M minimum threshold noted above, there is a second threshold of exclusion which is determined by the contracts and performance of players signed in free agency who count towards comp picks.
Specifically, at the end of the period during which free agent signings do count towards comp picks, which this year is until 4:00 PM New York Time on April 27 (the Monday after the draft), only the top 35% of players are included in the formula. That means that a player whose contract is valued in the bottom 65% of contracts does not count. Nick Korte, the comp pick expert at OverTheCap.com had the following to say about this threshold earlier in March while looking at the new comp pick formula.
3. If applied to the 2020 compensatory picks, the APY cutoff for qualification would be around $2.3 million, not the $1.75 million that was previously reported.— Nick Korte (@nickkorte) March 5, 2020
With a $2.3M threshold in place, it’s possible, though seemingly unlikely, that Irvin would fail to qualify in the calculations. However, looking at Dorsett in relation to this approximate $2.3M threshold becomes interesting.
In particular, Dorsett’s 2019 production isn’t going to wow anyone, but the fact that he played 2019 on a one year contract that paid just $2.6M is certainly interesting. It’s not difficult to see the Seahawks having handed Dorsett an incentive heavy contract where he is able to make more than the $2.3M, but which carries a cap hit of less than $2.3M.
In short, it is impossible to discern where Seattle stands in terms of comp picks at this point because there is no knowing what the incentives within the Irvin, Dorsett and Ogbuehi contracts cover. If those players have incentives that they do not hit, they could be excluded from the calculations. On the flip side, if they have incentives that they hit, those players could be excluded currently but hit performance incentives which cause them to be included in the calculations.
With the new CBA laying out in detail the formula for comp pick calculations, there is a lot more transparency in terms of what to expect. However, at the same time, the changes to the formula mean that it’s possible that whether the Hawks qualify for comp picks may not be known until the end of the 2020 season. What it boils down to is that nothing will be known until the specifics of contracts and the included incentives are released, and even then how a player performs during the season could have a significant impact.