The 2022 NFL season remains more than three months away, but with the Seattle Seahawks slated to have a pair of selections in each of the first two rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft thanks to the trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos, fans are excited for the future. With that in mind, while there will certainly be tweaks to the roster, and therefore the cap situation, for 2022 in the coming weeks and months, things are clear enough for this season that it is possible to look forward into the cap picture for 2023.
With that in mind, the starting point to be used will be the $71,424,229 of cap space for 2023 that the Hawks are projected to have by OverTheCap.com based on a salary cap of $225,000,000. Now, the first thing to take into consideration is, of course, the rollover that the Seahawks will have for 2022. Given that the team is currently sitting somewhere in the $12M range of available cap space, and will likely use $6M to $7M of cap space between now and the end of the year on the practice squad and players placed on injured reserve, a rollover number of about $5.6M seems reasonable. That will give the Hawks close enough to a nice, round $77M of cap space at the starting point of this analysis.
The first item that will need to be addressed is to fill out the roster, as that $77M accounts for only 40 players. Now, because OTC has yet to include the four players the Seahawks drafted in the first three rounds of the 2022 draft and because the Seahawks currently hold a bevy of picks in the 2023 draft, these draft picks can be used to fill out the roster. Thus, once the Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas contracts are included and Boye Mafe and Ken Walker III sign and have their contracts updated, those four players will count for somewhere in the neighborhood of $10M in 2023. Then, with the Hawks holding four picks in the first two rounds, it’s likely that the team will require in the neighborhood of $10M to sign their 2023 draft picks. Deducting all of that from the $77M number with which the team started, it leaves $57M available.
Next, the team will have a pair of restricted free agents on which it will need to make decisions. These include Bryan Mone and Ryan Neal. Both are competent backups at this point, and neither is obviously a superstar, but both of them back up players who have either age or injury concerns, and thus could be kept. While things could change in the time between now the tender deadline next March, neither seems like a must have player, but it would certainly be nice to keep both of them around.
On the subject of RFAs, it’s an easy transition to any players from the 2019 draft class who have already or might yet qualify for the proven performance escalator. For the moment, Damien Lewis is the only member of the draft class to have already hit the snap count requirements for the PPE, and the escalator will bump his base salary by a little over $1.5M to just under $2.9M for the 2023 season. That doesn’t necessarily mean he would be the only one to see the PPE increase their 2023 salary. Any of the other members of the draft class selected in the second round or later who are still on the roster could qualify for the PPE by making the Pro Bowl this season. It would certainly seem unlikely that any members of the class perform at that level, but it’s not impossible given that Darrell Taylor could explode for double digit sacks given the playing time necessary to do so. Thus, for now, it’s enough to simply deduct a couple of million for the pay raise Lewis has earned, and that takes the amount of cap space down to $55M. (Author’s Note: Yes, I’m well aware that 57 minus 1.5 is 55.5 but these are ballpark numbers based on projections based on things that won’t be known for a significant amount of time, so worrying about things at that granular of a level is a waste.)
From there, the last pieces of the puzzle would be what the Hawks would need for their 2023 practice squad and injured reserve. Those two are likely to land in the same $5M to $7M range as for 2022, leaving Seattle with somewhere in the $45M to $50M in cap space available to spend in free agency.
The unknowns, of course, include what the team will do in terms of extensions. It would be a surprise if they don’t extend DK Metcalf this offseason, which would obviously reduce the amount of space available in 2023. They could also look to extend Jordyn Brooks, Taylor and Lewis prior to the 2023 season as well, should they decide any of those three are worth keeping around.
The biggest wild card when it comes to the 2023 cap will be the players who are currently set to be free agents. The more noteworthy members of the roster who are not signed past 2022 include:
- DK Metcalf
- Poona Ford
- Rashaad Penny
- Jason Myers
- Austin Blythe
- Sidney Jones
- L.J. Collier (*giggles*)
- Drew Lock/Geno Smith
Many will likely laugh at the last bullet point, and that’s more than fine. However, one of the biggest risks to the 2023 cap that the Seahawks face right now is the uncertainty at the quarterback position while having both of the top two players only signed for the upcoming season. Say the gamble on Drew Lock is true and he comes in and blows away the expectations of most observers and fans with a lights out career year in 2022. Or, things click for Geno Smith in his tenth season in the NFL and he lights things up like he did at West Virginia. Should either of those things happen, at the end of the season the team would be in a position where it would need to either extend the quarterback at market rate, or turn to the franchise tag and its projected $31.497M price tag.
Such a situation would create a decision for the team where they would have to decide whether to use a majority of their available cap space on a quarterback with one good season to that point in their career or to start the search for a franchise quarterback over from scratch. That is certainly not a desirable situation to be in, however, it’s certainly more desirable than being in a situation where a team does not have a franchise quarterback.
In any case, at the end of the day the Seahawks are likely to have plenty of cap space available to use ahead of the 2023 season, and the more important question is how they will look to use that space.