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Seahawks may need to allocate extra cap space for injury payments in 2020

NFL: OCT 03 Rams at Seahawks Photo by Jeff Halstead/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

With the 2020 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, the doldrums of summer are right around the corner. Creating the potential for things to be even quieter than usual this offseason is the ongoing pandemic which has forced the NFL into a virtual offseason program, news could be even more sparse than usual come June and July. In any case, with the slow period having arrived, it’s a chance to take a quick look at one of the changes in the recently ratified collective bargaining agreement that is relevant to the Seattle Seahawks this coming season.

For those who are unfamiliar with Article 45, it is the Injury Protection portion of the CBA, and it is the section of the CBA which provides some level of injury protection to all NFL players who have contracts that extend into future seasons. This is the injury benefit under which Cliff Avril qualified for $1.15M payment for the 2018 season, even though he did not play. Likewise, it’s the same benefit under which Doug Baldwin qualified for a $1.2M payment during the 2019 season even though he had been released by the team months earlier.

This portion of the CBA is relevant to the 2020 Seahawks as it relates to the recently released Justin Britt, Ed Dickson and Tedric Thompson, as all three were released with injury designations.

The reason the failed physical designation is important is because that designation is the first requirement for a player to qualify to collect the injury protection benefit. Once a player qualifies to receive the injury protection benefit, that player earns whatever is laid out by the formula set forth in the CBA. Under the prior CBA, the formula was 50% of the player’s base salary, up to a maximum of $1.2M.

So, for Justin Britt and Ed Dickson, who were scheduled to have base salaries north of $2.4M each, they would each be eligible for the maximum payment of $1.2M. For Thompson, his 2020 base salary automatically increased to $2.133M under the Proven Performance Escalator of the CBA based on his playing time during his three years in Seattle. Taking half of that base salary, he qualifies for $1,066,500 in injury protection payments.

Thus, while it’s likely that Britt could sign with a new team in the coming weeks or months, Dickson and Thompson seem far less likely to wind up with another team. It certainly could happen, as the offseason is at the point where rosters may not yet be set, but they’re getting there quickly. In any case, if those three remain unsigned, this is the amount the team would owe under Article 45:

  • Justin Britt: $1.2M
  • Ed Dickson: $1.2M
  • Tedric Thompson: $1.0665M
  • Total: $3.4665M

To head off the question before anyone jumps into the comments to ask: Yes, those numbers would all count against the salary cap.

Now, moving to the new CBA, the payments under Article 45 were increased for injuries suffered during the 2020 league year and after. That means that any payments to Britt, Dickson and Thompson won’t be calculated under the new formula, so no one need worry about that since potential injury protection payments did increase. However, going forward the formula for payments was adjusted as such (Author’s note: Bolding added is mine):

Section 3. Benefit: (a) Except as otherwise required by operation of Section 1 above, a player qualifying under Section 2 above will receive an amount equal to 100% of his Paragraph 5 Salary for the season following the season of injury. Notwithstanding the immediately preceding sentence, under no circumstances shall the above-described amount (i.e., 100% of the player’s Paragraph 5 Salary) exceed the following maximum payments: $2,000,000, in the 2021-22 League Year; $2,050,000, in the 2023-24 League Years; $2,100,000, in the 2025-26 League Years; $2,180,000, in the 2027-28 League Years; and $2,260,000, in the 2029-2030 League Years.

That means that for payments starting in 2021, the amount will be 100% of a player’s base salary up to a maximum of $2M. As noted, there is no change to the formula for 2020 payments, meaning that of the $21M or so in cap space which currently lists the Seahawks, just under $3.5M may be earmarked for players no longer on the roster beyond any dead money in their prior contract. Whether those players

Add in that the $21.3M number on OTC does not include the cap hits of Bruce Irvin or any of the 2019 draft picks, and it quickly gets a lot smaller. In short, while the Seahawks have more than enough cap space to do whatever they wish to do over the remainder of the offseason, they are not sitting on top of a powder keg of available space, in part because of the injuries suffered by various players during the 2019 season.