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Planning cap space for the Seahawks draft picks

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Seattle Seahawks v Philadelphia Eagles Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

The 2020 NFL Draft is right around the corner, giving fans something to look forward to while the quarantine that has many people staying at home and inside. Over the past couple of days we’ve looked at what the odds of finding productive players in each round of the draft are, as well as looked at the roster of the Seattle Seahawks in relation to their training camp norms to see what clues that might yield. With all of that already evaluated, let’s go ahead and look very quickly at what the salary cap requirements are for the Seahawks to sign their draft picks.

The easiest place to start is to look at the seven draft picks the team currently holds and what the cap hit of each of those picks will be. Without wasting any time, here they are:

  • Round 1, Pick 27 with a 2020 cap hit of $2,224,656
  • Round 2, Pick 59 with a 2020 cap hit of $987,945
  • Round 2, Pick 64 with a 2020 cap hit of $952,995
  • Round 3, Pick 101 with a 2020 cap hit of $818,073
  • Round 4, Pick 133 with a 2020 cap hit of $777,610
  • Round 4, Pick 144 with a 2020 cap hit of $733,600
  • Round 6, Pick 214 with a 2020 cap hit of $642,353

It would seem logical that the cap space necessary to sign those picks would therefore be simple to compute. Simply add the cap hits of the seven picks the team currently holds, which yields a sum of $7,137,232, but that would be far too easy. The team actually needs far less because of how the NFL calculates a team’s salary cap obligations during the offseason.

Specifically, from the time the new league year starts in March until roster cuts at the end of training camp, in addition to any dead money or money for players on injured reserve, only the 51 largest cap hits on a team’s roster count towards its salary cap obligations. For the Seahawks, the cap hit of the player in spot 51 is currently $750,000, which means two things.

First, it means that any time a player with a cap hit greater than $750,000 is added to the roster, that player bumps the person in spot 51 off and only the net difference is necessary. The second is that if a player is added to the roster with a cap hit of less than $750,000, then that player’s marginal cost for the salary cap is zero. With those two things in mind, here is how the cap obligations shake out once those are taken into consideration.

Cap space needed for Seahawks 2020 draft picks

Pick Cap Hit Replacing Net Cap Needed
Pick Cap Hit Replacing Net Cap Needed
1.27 $2,224,656 $750,000 $1,474,656
2.59 $987,945 $750,000 $237,945
2.64 $952,995 $750,000 $202,995
3.101 $818,073 $750,000 $68,073
4.133 $777,610 $750,000 $27,610
4.144 $733,600 N/A $0
6.214 $642,353 N/A $0
Total $7,137,232 NA $2,011,279

Now, as everyone reading this is likely well aware, the Hawks rarely make the pick with their native first round draft choice. In fact, the selection of James Carpenter in 2011 was the last time the team actually used their first round pick to draft a player rather than trading down or trading the pick for a player. Since then the Seahawks have:

  • Traded down before selecting Bruce Irvin,
  • Traded for Percy Harvin,
  • Traded down before selecting Paul Richardson,
  • Traded for Jimmy Graham,
  • Traded down before selecting Germain Ifedi
  • Traded down before selecting Malik McDowell
  • Traded down before selecting Rashaad Penny
  • Traded down before selecting Marquise Blair

That said, I expect that Hawks to trade down from 27th overall into the mid thirties, adding a third, a fourth/fifth and seventh in doing so. That would give the team ten draft picks, and here is a look at how it would impact the cap requirements. (Author’s note: I’ve randomly selected a late third, a fourth and a seventh round pick without bothering to find actual trade partners. While I could put together theoretical trades that would yield these picks, this is simply to illustrate a ballpark on what the cap requirements would be, so the details are less important than the outcome the process yields.)

In any case, the following is how the cap hits would look like assuming the Seahawks traded down from 1.27 to 2.35 and in the process added 3.95, 4.127 and 7.252.

Seahawks cap space needed if picks added by trading back

Pick Cap Hit Replacing Net Cap Needed
Pick Cap Hit Replacing Net Cap Needed
2.35 $1,552,530 $750,000 $802,530
2.59 $987,945 $750,000 $237,945
2.64 $952,995 $750,000 $202,995
3.95 $824,317 $750,000 $74,317
3.101 $818,073 $750,000 $68,073
4.127 $786,528 $750,000 $36,528
4.133 $777,610 $750,000 $27,610
4.144 $733,600 N/A $0
6.214 $642,353 N/A $0
7.252 $628,873 N/A $0
Total $8,704,824 NA $1,449,998

So, trading back not only increases the number of players the team can add, increasing the odds of finding an impact player, it also reduces the amount of cap space the team needs in order to sign its draft picks for 2020. This is just another reason why trading back is beneficial, and another reason why the Seahawks continue to do so year after year.