Reports Sunday have the 2021 NFL salary cap set to come in somewhere in the $182M to $183M range, and the natural questions for fans of the Seattle Seahawks is what exactly this means for the team and offseason plans. It’s no secret that teams are able to dip into future cap seasons using various contract features to overcome cap limitations in any given season, however, the Hawks have not taken advantage of these tools to be aggressive in recent seasons. That said, regardless of how aggressive the team may or may not be while signing free agent contracts during the upcoming free agency period, how much cap space a $182M or $183M cap leaves for the team is rather simple to calculate.
The starting point for this analysis will be the $4,391,354 in available space that the team has according to OverTheCap.com. Now, of note is that the $4,391,354 number is based on a cap of $180.5M, so it’s necessary to adjust the available space to account for a bump into the $182M-$183M range. For the sake of simplicity, the midpoint of the two numbers will be used, $182.5M, which is $2M above the projected cap OTC has been using, and pushes the 2021 cap space available to the Hawks to $6,391,354.
However, that number only includes the salaries for the 47 players currently signed for the 2021 season, so the next order of business is to fill out the roster to 51 players, which is the number of players who count against the salary cap during the offseason. At an absolute minimum, assuming these four spots are filled with street free agents making rookie minimum, they will cost $660,000 against the cap each, for a total of all four players of $2,640,000.
Deducting the $2,640,000 from the $6,391,354 leaves the team with $3,751,354 in cap space before considering any exclusive rights free agents or any restricted free agents tenders which are due prior to the start of the new league year on March 17.
So, in order to account for the prospective tenders, here is a best guess at how the team will tender its RFAs and ERFAs:
- Poona Ford (RFA): Second round tender - $3,384,000
- Shaquem Griffin (RFA): Non-tender - no cap implications
- Jordan Simmons (RFA): Non-tender - no cap implications
- Ryan Neal (ERFA): Minimum salary tender - $920,000
- Kyle Fuller (ERFA): Minimum salary tender - $920,000
- Bryan Mone (ERFA): Minimum salary tender - $850,000
- Linden Stephens (ERFA): Minimum salary tender - $850,000
- Jayson Stanley (ERFA): Minimum salary tender - $780,000
Now, before fans start worrying about how much cap space these tenders may appear to be taking up at first glance, the full amount of the tenders do not go onto the cap. Because only the top 51 cap hits count against the cap during the offseason, and because the roster has already been filled out using minimum salary contracts, each of the tenders counts as the tender amount less $660,000 against the cap. So, in this case, that means the net impact on the cap of these tenders is as follows:
- Ford: $2,724,000
- Neal: $260,000
- Fuller: $260,000
- Stephens: $190,000
- Mone: $190,000
- Stanley: $120,000
Adding all of those together, the tenders for these players will have a total combined net cap hit of $3,744,000. Subtracting that amount from the $3,751,354 in cap space available yields a total of $7,354 in cap space for 2021, assuming the cap comes in at $182.5M and these players are indeed tendered.
While that amount of available cap space may be alarming to some fans on the eve of free agency, it is not something over which the Hawks fans or front office should fret. Seattle has the ability to make more than enough cap space for its offseason needs through a combination of extensions, trades or restructures if necessary. While the team will likely continue to operate conservatively so as not to mortgage the future as teams like the New Orleans Saints and Philadelphia Eagles have done in recent seasons.
That all said, as regular readers know, while the numbers at OTC are in the ballpark, they are not always 100% precise. In this situation, the NFLPA public salary cap report lists the Seahawks with $176,561,999 in current contractual obligations for the 2021 season based on having 47 players under contract. Using those obligations and assuming a $182.5M salary cap, the Hawks would be $445,999 over the 2021 cap based on a filled out roster and the extension of the tender offers. This is no reason to panic, as the team can easily create a good amount of cap space through any of several roster moves, but it will be key to keep in mind while discussing the possibility of using a franchise or transition tender.