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Return of Tre Brown could lead to release of Sidney Jones

Jacksonville Jaguars v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The NFL Schedule for Week 8 sports a matchup between the Seattle Seahawks and New York Giants which could carry surprising playoff implications for two teams who are outperforming expectations to this point of the season. However, perhaps more importantly, it also means that the NFL trade deadline of 4:00 PM New York Time on Tuesday, November 1 is rapidly approaching.

Deals have already started happening, with the Kansas City Chiefs adding Kadarius Toney from the Giants on Thursday, after the Philadelphia Eagles landed Robert Quinn from the Chicago Bears on Wednesday. There have not been a lot of rumors linked to the Seahawks so far, which is not surprising given the limited cap space with which the Hawks will be operating for the remainder of the 2022 season and very few ways to create additional space immediately available. Cap space is so tight that as of Friday the team has not had a full 53-man roster for two weeks since moving Rashaad Penny to injured reserve on October 14.

With very limited opportunities for the Hawks to free up additional cap space and second year cornerback Tre Brown set to potentially return from the Physically Unable to Perform list, the Seahawks could make a move that would surprise many and release Sidney Jones. Jones, of course, was a highly touted prospect out of the University of Washington, but whose fortunes took a turn towards misfortune when he tore his Achilles tendon at his pro day in the lead up to the 2017 draft. After the injury Jones spent time with the Philadelphia Eagles and the Jacksonville Jaguars, but was never able to carve out a role as a starter until 2021 with the Seahawks.

That, of course, led to the team retaining his services after he reached free agency in the spring, and the expectation that he could play a key role as a veteran starter for the defense in 2022. But then, once again, things were derailed by a concussion during training camp, which opened the door for youngsters behind Jones, and they seized the opportunity. Tariq Woolen has staked his claim to one starting cornerback role, with Mike Jackson holding things down on the other side and Coby Bryant emerging as the nickel.

Those three have taken advantage of their greater practice time and experience in the Seahawks current defensive system and performed more than admirably on the field. In addition, combining their on field performance with the fact that all three of those players are either under contract or under team control while Jones is slated to hit free agency again in the spring, so far this season the team has opted to build for the future by allowing the youngsters to gain experience.

And with Brown returning to practice earlier in the week and the opening of his three week practice window, it could spell the beginning of the end for Jones’ time with the Hawks. It’s already been reported that Jones is available in trade, but if the front office is unable to find another team willing to acquire Jones, it’s possible the team could opt to simply release him. Should Brown prove healthy enough to contribute, it would give the team seven cornerbacks at a position where they tend to only play four guys on Sundays. In addition, releasing Jones gives the team something else that moving on from many other players would not, and that’s cap space.

As a vested veteran, Jones’ 2022 base salary is fully guaranteed under the Termination Pay provisions of the collective bargaining agreement. However, the contract Jones signed in free agency in the spring also included up to $680,000 in per game roster bonuses, or $40,000 for each game for which he was on the gameday active roster. As Jones was active for 16 games in 2021, $640,000 of the $680,000 in per game roster bonuses is counting against the Seahawks cap in 2022, and will continue to count through the remainder of the season or until he is no longer on the roster.

So far in 2022 Jones has been active for four games and inactive for the other three. That means he has earned $160,000 of $680,000, but the Hawks will not receive a credit on the cap for any unearned per game roster bonuses until 2023. Or, as note, the Hawks could accelerate their receipt of cap credit for unearned per game roster bonuses for Jones if he is no longer on the roster. Thus, while releasing him would not save any cap space on the base salary side, doing so would free up $480,000 of cap space that is currently tied up in per game roster bonuses.

To head off the question of why the team would move on from Jones rather than Artie Burns, the answer is the cap space that could be created. Burns’ contract does not include per game roster bonuses, meaning there is no ability for the team to create cap space by releasing Burns like it could releasing Jones. Putting that together with a depth chart that likely has at least two, if not three or four players above Jones at outside corner following Brown’s return, the likelihood that either would see significant playing time down the stretch seems minimal. Creating $480,000 of cap space may not seem like a lot, but according to the NFLPA public salary cap report, as of Friday the Seahawks have barely $3.5M of cap space to operate for the remainder of the season, in spite of sitting on an open roster spot for the past two weeks.

When all the pieces are then combined, the reality is that Jones is behind younger players who are under contract for longer, and is unlikely to see the field much between now and the end of the year. He’s played just 45 snaps through the first seven weeks, and with the potential return of Brown soon, that number seems unlikely to increase significantly. There seems little question that his tenure with the Seahawks likely ends after this season, but even if he is not sent to a new team at the trade deadline, it should not be a surprise if his time with the Hawks comes to an end sooner than the end of the year.