Tuesday afternoon the 2022 NFL Trade Deadline came and went, and the Seattle Seahawks opted to avoid making any deadline additions for the stretch run. The team also was apparently unable to find any other teams interested in cornerback Sidney Jones, who was widely reported to have been on the trade block for weeks. Then, after standing pat at the deadline, the Hawks opted to move on from Jones, sending him to the waiver wire, and the timing of that move tells says everything about whether or not the move was cap related.
to understand why the timing is important regarding the cap, it is necessary to understand a second function of the trade deadline in the NFL beyond just the disallowance of trades. In addition to the fact that players cannot be traded after 4:00 pm New York time Tuesday, all players become subject to waivers when released. In contrast, prior to 4:00 pm New York time Tuesday, veterans such as Jones are not subject to waivers, and can be released outright.
The difference is crucial in this case. If the team had waived Jones at 3:59 pm (or earlier) on Tuesday, he would have immediately been a free agent able to sign with any other team. In addition, his 2022 base salary would have been fully guaranteed as a vested veteran on the Week 1 roster, making him eligible for termination pay. That means he would have been able to collect the unpaid portion of his 2022 salary from the Seahawks, while also having the ability to sign with another team and earn a second salary, similar to what Tom Johnson did when Seattle released him in 2018.
However, the team did not announce waiving Jones until 5:31 pm New York time on November 1, meaning the transaction was not officially processed until 4:00 New York time on Wednesday. That in turn means that the amount of time it was known across the league Jones was subject to waivers was effectively maximized by publicly announcing the move basically as early as possible, while Jones would be subject to waivers through Thursday.
The reason for maximizing the amount of time it is known Jones was on the waiver wire is that if another team claims Jones it would free up not just the $480,000 in per game roster bonuses immediately, the claiming team would take on the remainder of the $900,000 he is owed. That would allow the Seahawks to have freed up $1,380,000 of cap space, though how much additional space would be recognized would depend on how the roster spot is filled.
If the empty roster spot goes to Tre Brown, because Brown is already in full pay status and his salary counts against the cap, another team claiming Jones means the Seahawks would have created that $1,380,000 of cap space for the stretch run by releasing a depth player who had been a healthy scratch multiple times this season. To many it may not seem the $1,380,000 is a whole lot of cap space, but down the stretch the Hawks are likely to run tight against the cap as they use the limited cap space they do have to cover the cost of IR replacements, practice squad elevations and absorb the impact of the contract incentives Geno Smith and Uchenna Nwosu are likely to hit down the stretch.
Boiling it all down to the simplest terms, had the Seahawks released Jones prior to 4:00 Tuesday, it would have freed up $480,000 of cap space and allowed Jones to sign wherever he wanted. By waiting until after 4:00 Tuesday, it made Jones subject to waivers and he would be required to play for whatever team claims him, but the team has the potential to save an additional $900,000 of cap space. The Hawks didn’t wait 92 minutes to announce the release of Jones because he requested his release. They waited the 92 minutes because of the potential cap savings created by releasing him after the trade deadline.
In short, others will certainly argue that the release of Jones was done for any of a number of reasons other than for the cap savings created. Hogwash.
"This article positing they will cut him simply to save $480k because they’re that tight against the cap? Hogwash."— John P Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) November 2, 2022