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Update on Seahawks cap space as free agency officially starts Wednesday

Seattle Seahawks v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The legal tampering period of NFL free agency for the 2022 league year kicked off Monday with a flurry of activity for teams and players across the league. The Seattle Seahawks, as is typically the case, stayed out of much of the first wave of free agency. However, they did move to retain a quartet of their own unrestricted free agents in Quandre Diggs, Sidney Jones, Al Woods and Will Dissly while watching cornerback D.J. Reed depart for the New York Jets.

In addition the Hawks also tendered the majority of their exclusive rights free agents, including Ryan Neal, Tanner Muse, Bryan Mone, Jon Rhattigan and others, putting them well over the 51 players under contract threshold important for the salary cap during the offseason. Thus, with the second wave of free agency set to start during the back half of the week, it’s a good time to gain a basic understanding of the cap situation for the Seahawks from a 30,000 foot overview.

As always, the starting point is with the $39,657,502 of 2022 cap space the team has available per OverTheCap.com. That number takes into account the 2022 cap hits for Woods ($3.46M) and Dissly ($4.59M), but does not include the cap hit for Diggs for Jones. It’s likely that the combined cap hits for these two are somewhere in the $10M range for the upcoming season, but until the specifics of their deals are made known, they will be excluded from the analysis.

Next, while the Seahawks trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos freed up $11M of cap space, the draft picks the team received in return will, of course, eat up some of this $11M. Specifically, the first and second round picks Seattle received from the Donkeys will require $4.51M of cap space, with the entirety of the draft class set to require $5.688M of space. Removing this $5.688M from the $39,657,502 yields just under $34M, which is close enough for the purpose of this analysis.

From that $34M number, the team will need to field a practice squad and maintain a pool to pay for players added to replace those who land on injured reserve. With the NFL no longer operating under the terms of the COVID Amendment to the CBA, practice squads will shrink from 16 players to 14 for the 2022 season. As the minimum salary for practice squad players is $11,500 per week, assuming a team carries a full practice squad for the duration of the season will require $2.898M of cap space.

Now, while the 16 man practice squad of the COVID Amendment are now a thing of the past, the ability of teams to elevate two players from the practice squad to the active roster is a feature of the 2020 CBA and will remain. When a team elevates a player from the practice squad for a game the player is paid league minimum salary rather than the practice squad salary, which requires a minimum of $27,700 of cap space per elevation. Thus, a team that averages one practice squad elevation each week will use up around $500k over the course of a season, and a team that takes advantage of both elevations each week will require roughly $1M of cap space for these elevations.

When it comes to a pool to cover the cost of replacing the players who land on injured reserve, that obviously depends on how many players land on injured reserve over the course of a season. A dozen players winding up on injured reserve over the course of the season likely requires a little over $4M in reserve, and this is a close enough number to use. Obviously the number could wind up higher or lower, but this is a number that is close enough to ballpark.

Next combining the cap space requirements for the injured reserve pool, the practice squad and practice squad elevations yields a total requirement in the $7M-$8M range. Deducting that from the $34M of space from above leaves $26M-$27M left for the Hawks to deploy in free agency. As a reminder from above, however, that number does not include the 2022 cap hits for Sidney Jones and Quandre Diggs, so the true amount of space the team has available is likely somewhere in the high teens.

Now, it is, of course, important to remember that many of these cap requirements, such as the practice squad and injured reserve replacement pool, will not be necessary until the season starts in September. Thus, there is nothing preventing the Seahawks from utilizing every dollar of cap space during the offseason before freeing up cap space in August or September through extensions or releasing more expensive players.

That said, the bigger questions for the Hawks at this point are likely to revolve more around who will be under center and who will be filling the three holes on the offensive line than worries about cap space because until such time as the Hawks have anyone on the roster at quarterback other than Jacob Eason and Drew Lock, everything else is effectively irrelevant.