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A pair of Seahawks earned a raise for 2021

NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Arizona Cardinals Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

Less than eight weeks remain until the scheduled start of the 2021 NFL league year on March 17, which means that it is almost time for the annual hope and hype of fans that their team will make a big splash. For 2021 that means the added fun of a salary cap set to see its biggest decline, both in terms of absolute dollars and percentage terms, since the league adopted the cap during the nineties. Multiple teams across the league will need to tighten the belt and make tough decisions, however, before a true idea on the moves that must be made can be undertaken it’s important to factor in all the variables.

For teams with a lot of their own draft players on the roster, one of these factors that can sneak up on fans are the base salary increases available to eligible players through the Proven Performance Escalator. The PPE rewards drafted players entering their fourth year in the league who are still on their rookie contract and have hit playing time or performance thresholds with a base salary increase in the final year of the rookie contract. For teams across the league, that means in order to evaluate this factor it now becomes necessary to look at the 2018 draft class to see which, if any, of the members of the class will see their cap hits increase in 2021.

The starting point, obviously, is to look at the draft class. For the Seattle Seahawks the 2018 draft class is as follows:

  • 1st Round: RB Rashaad Penny
  • 3rd Round: DE Rasheem Green
  • 4th Round: TE Will Dissly
  • 5th Round: LB Shaquem Griffin
  • 5th Round: CB Tre Flowers
  • 5th Round: P Michael Dickson
  • 5th Round: T Jamarco Jones
  • 6th Round: LB Jacob Martin
  • 7th Round: QB Alex McGough

Many of these may be quickly eliminated by looking at the eligibility requirement. Specifically, to be PPE eligible, a player must have been drafted in the second through seventh rounds, and must still be on the rookie contract they signed after being drafted. This eliminates several of the members of the 2018 Seattle draft class, including:

  • Penny (first round picks are not eligible)
  • Griffin (rookie contract ended when he was waived at the end of training camp this season)
  • McGough (rookie contract ended when he was waived end of training camp in 2018)

In addition to those three, since Martin was traded to the Houston Texans as part of the Jadeveon Clowney deal, whether he reached the PPE or not is not relevant to the 2021 salary cap of the Seahawks (he did not hit it, for those wondering). Along a similar line as Martin, in addition to the players listed above, D.J. Reed was drafted by the San Francisco 49ers in the fifth round of the 2018 draft, and as he was claimed off waivers his original rookie contract remains in place.

Before evaluating whether these players reached the requirements of the PPE, it is important to review the changes to the PPE in the new collective bargaining agreement. Previously the PPE had only one level - a player played either 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps over the first three years of their career OR they played 35% of his team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of three seasons. Either of those qualified the player for a fourth year raise that increased their base salary to the equivalent of that of an original round restricted free agent tender.

However, under the new CBA there are three different raises a player may earn, each with a higher performance threshold. The three different levels and the associated raise are as follows:

  • Level 1 PPE: Base salary increase to Original Round Tender (likely around $2.3M in 2021): Play 35% of team’s offensive or defensive snaps over first three years OR play 35% of team’s offensive or defensive snaps in two of the first three seasons.
  • Level 2 PPE: Base salary increase to Original Round Tender + $250,000 (likely around $2.55M in 2021): Play 55% of team’s offensive or defensive snaps in each of first three seasons in NFL
  • Level 3 PPE: Base salary increase to Second Round Tender (likely around $3.4M in 2021): Be an original ballot selection to the Pro Bowl in any of their first three seasons

With that laid out, here is how each of the following players on the Seahawks roster fared when it comes to playing time as measured by snaps in their first three years and Pro Bowl selections.

2018 Seahawks Draft Class Proven Performance Escalator evaluation

Player 2018 Snap Pct 2019 Snap Pct 2020 Snap Pct 2018-2020 Snap Pct First Ballot Pro Bowl
Player 2018 Snap Pct 2019 Snap Pct 2020 Snap Pct 2018-2020 Snap Pct First Ballot Pro Bowl
Rasheem Green 20.28% 50.93% 31.71% 34.60% 0
Will Dissly 11.88% 22.45% 52.35% 28.78% 0
Tre Flowers 91.12% 91.23% 50.22% 76.51% 0
D.J. Reed 33.55% 12.15% 48.65% 32.12% 0
Michael Dickson 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 0.00% 1
Jamarco Jones 0.00% 28.58% 18.05% 15.70% 0

That table makes the analysis quick and sweet, with Flowers hitting the lowest escalator and Dickson hitting the top level escalator. So, as Seahawks fans prepare for the 2021 offseason and free agency in the coming weeks, when looking at the cap space available to the team it will be necessary to account for raises for each of Dickson and Flowers to around $3.4M and $2.3M, respectively. That amount eats into a reduction of nearly $4M in cap space for 2021 if one is looking at the amount of space the team is projected to have on OverTheCap.com.