The 2021 season is not going as fans of the Seattle Seahawks had planned. The team currently sits at 2-4 all alone in last place of the NFC West after dropping four of five following the season opening win over the Indianapolis Colts. With starting quarterback Russell Wilson out for at least two more games following surgery to repair a broken and dislocated finger, there is a real possibility the team could fall to 2-6 prior to the November 2 trade deadline.
In seasons past the Seahawks have, obviously, been shoppers at the deadline. The additions have included Quandre Diggs, Carlos Dunlap and, of course, Duane Brown. All three of those players continue to be key contributors for a team that still possesses a ton of potential, and as with any Russell Wilson quarterbacked team, a puncher’s chance in any game. The question then for the Hawks becomes how aggressive they might be at the trade deadline in order to try and salvage the season, and the simple answer is that with limited draft capital in 2022 and no opportunity to be above .500 when the deadline arrives, it seems logical that they might sit this trade deadline out.
However, even if they sit the trade deadline out, that doesn’t mean there won’t be significant additions during the second half. The big offseason moves by teams to address the salary cap drop caused by the pandemic were to shed costly veterans and to structure contracts in such a way that cap hits were pushed into future seasons. However, as teams that might not be competitive down the stretch begin to transition from hopes for 2021 to planning to 2022, the trade deadline could be a lot quieter this season compared to years past. Specifically, as teams look to unload the costly contracts they have on the books to ease their cap issues in future seasons, there aren’t a whole lot of teams with the cap space to absorb these contracts.
According to the NFLPA public salary cap report, 20 of the 32 teams across the league have less than $5M in salary cap space available for the remainder of 2021. So, while teams may want to unload big contracts, acquiring those contracts requires cap space. What that could mean is twofold. First of all, there may not be a whole lot of movement at the trade deadline simply because the number of teams that will consider themselves competitors down the stretch and which are looking to take on new obligations is likely to be small.
Secondly, however, teams could look to save money a second way, and that could result in a lot more player movement than usual after the trade deadline. In particular, while the trade deadline marks the end of the period of the season during which teams can trade players, it also marks the beginning of the period when all players, regardless of experience become subject to waivers. For teams that are out of the hunt and have higher priced players who may not be in the future plans of the team could be released with the hopes they would be claimed, relieving the releasing team of the salary obligations for that player both this season and in the future.
Again, this is not to say that there will be a flood of veterans hitting the waiver wire and getting claimed. Just as with trades, teams need the cap space to add those veterans, so the number of teams interested in high priced players will, just as with trades, be small. However, there could be an interesting middle market of above average role players that becomes available. For a team like the Seahawks, who have $12.3M of cap space according to the NFLPA, and who could be sporting a .500 record and looking forward to the return of Russell Wilson, adding a handful of less costly players could prove to be the difference between missing the playoffs for just the second time since 2012 or fighting their way into one of the final Wild Card spots.
In any case, with two weeks and two games to go before the trade deadline, the Seahawks will have as many questions they need to address regarding themselves as they need to answer about what will happen around the league in a very interesting season.