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Seahawks with a whole host of roster questions to answer this offseason

Seattle Seahawks v Miami Dolphins Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

The curtain came down hard on the 2020 season of the Seattle Seahawks in the team’s 30-20 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card Round of the playoffs, and now it’s into the offseason for a team with a significant number of decisions to make. Specifically, more than 30% of the team’s 53 man roster is set to be unrestricted free agents in March, and that does not include the handful of players who will be restricted free agents.

Before jumping into the status of the various members of the Seahawks not under contract with the team for 2021, it is important to do one other thing first, and that is to explain what an accrued season is. Accrued seasons are one of two measures laid out by the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association for measuring a player’s experience. The number of accrued seasons a player has is what determines their ability to negotiate with other teams at the conclusion of their contract, and in normal seasons players earn an accrued season for being in full pay status for a minimum of six games. Full pay status basically means either on the 53 man roster or injured reserve, but does not include many other statuses, including spending time on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list, the Nonfootball Injury (NFI) list, the Practice Squad or on the commissioner’s exempt list during a suspension.

2020, of course, was a bit of a different season due to COVID. Under the COVID amendment to the CBA as executed between the league and the union last summer, most players needed to be on the active roster for only a single game over the course of the year in order to earn an accrued season. This does not have a huge impact on the Seahawks offseason this year, however, this amendment to the CBA did give running back Rashaad Penny an accrued season for the three games he spent on the roster in 2020, meaning he is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent following the 2021 season. Under non-COVID rules a player in Penny’s situation would not have earned an accrued season, and he therefore would have become a restricted free agent (RFA) at the conclusion of his rookie contract (assuming that his fifth year option is declined).

In any case, on to the actual players.

Unrestricted Free Agents

Unrestricted Free Agents (UFA) are players whose contracts have expired and who have four or more accrued seasons in the NFL. These players are the traditional free agents that fans dream of their team signing, as they are free to negotiate with any team in the league.

The Seahawks have two dozen unrestricted free agents, many of whom were starters for the team this past season. The full list of unrestricted free agents is:

  • Chris Carson
  • Lano Hill
  • Shaquill Griffin
  • David Moore
  • Damontre Moore
  • Jonathan Bullard
  • Damarious Randall
  • Josh Gordon
  • Branden Jackson
  • Phillip Dorsett
  • Nick Bellore
  • Luke Willson
  • Ethan Pocic
  • Geno Smith
  • Neiko Thorpe
  • Cedric Ogbuehi
  • Mike Iupati
  • Carlos Hyde
  • Benson Mayowa
  • Jacob Hollister
  • Quinton Dunbar
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Greg Olsen and
  • K.J. Wright

Restricted Free Agents

The next group of players, restricted free agents (RFA), are those who have exactly three accrued seasons. The decision making process with RFAs is slightly more complicated for teams, as they must first decide whether to extend a tender offer to the RFA, and then if the decision is made to extend a tender, there are three different tender levels available.

If a team decides not to extend a tender offer to an RFA, that player becomes an unrestricted free agent. However, if the team decides to extend a tender offer to the player, the three tender levels are:

  • Original Round Tender ($2.24M estimate per OverTheCap.com),
  • Second Round Tender ($3.422M estimate per OverTheCap.com) and
  • First Round Tender ($4.873M estimate per OverTheCap.com)

When a team extends those tenders, each comes with a set contract amount and a right of first refusal for the original team to match the terms of any offer sheet a player signs with another club. If the original team declines to match an offer sheet from a signing club, the signing club must send along a draft pick corresponding to the level of tender extended to the player. For simplicity sake, one can think of it as a trade whereby the signing team trades a draft pick to the old team in exchange for the services of the player being signed.

The draft pick sent is determined by the level of the tender. First round tenders require a first round pick be sent, while second round tenders require a second round pick be sent. Original round tenders require that the signing team send along a draft pick equal to the round in which the player was originally selected in the draft. In the case of players who were undrafted coming out of college, the original round tender does not require draft pick compensation, but the original team does retain a right of first refusal to match the offer sheet from another team.

Seattle has four players set to be RFAs this offseason, and they are:

  • Poona Ford,
  • Jordan Simmons,
  • Chad Wheeler and
  • Shaquem Griffin

Exclusive Rights Free Agents

Exclusive rights free agents (ERFA) are players with two or fewer accrued seasons in their NFL careers. Teams have two options with ERFAs, and that is to either tender them a minimum qualifying tender or to not extend a qualifying tender. ERFAs who are not given a tender become free agents. A qualifying tender is a tender for minimum salary or greater for that player’s experience level. What that means is that for most ERFAs, their options are to play for league minimum or sit at home on the couch and watch the games with the rest of us.

The Seahawks have six players on the roster set to be ERFAs:

  • Patrick Carr,
  • Jayson Stanley,
  • Kyle Fuller,
  • Linden Stephens,
  • Bryan Mone and
  • Ryan Neal

Practice Squad

Lastly, one other key item of note at this time of year is that practice squads are dissolved at the end of a team’s season. That means that the 15 members of the Seahawks practice squad will become street free agents in the coming days. These soon to be free agents are:

  • Ray-Ray Armstrong,
  • Alex Boone,
  • Tommy Champion,
  • Alex Collins,
  • Danny Etling,
  • Aaron Fuller,
  • Penny Hart,
  • Gavin Heslop,
  • Brad Lundblade,
  • Tyler Mabry,
  • Alex McGough,
  • Jordan Miller,
  • Cody Thompson,
  • John Ursua and
  • Cedrick Lattimore.

Many of these players are likely to be brought back to the team shortly after the practice squad is dissolved on futures contracts. However, there is no obligation on the part of the practice squad players to sign specifically with the Seahawks, as fans have seen in the past. One recent example is that of Alex McGough, who after spending the 2018 season on the Seattle practice squad left to sign with the Jacksonville Jaguars, where he likely felt he had a better shot at starting.

In any case, the countdown is on, as there are now roughly 200 days until the Seahawks report for training camp in July.