It’s the final Monday of June, and that means less than a month remains until the Seattle Seahawks will report for training camp ahead of the 2023 season. Following a 2022 campaign that saw the Hawks make the playoffs, and with the addition of a pair of first round picks in Devon Witherspoon and Jaxon Smith-Njigba, optimism is high for the season.
However, with training camp rapidly approaching, two of the Seahawks top four draft picks remain unsigned, with Witherspoon and second round selection Zach Charbonnet yet to ink their rookie contracts. Sunday Seaside Joe took a look at the Seattle cap space in terms of where things currently stand, and what it will take to sign Charbonnet and Witherspoon based on their projected rookie contracts from OverTheCap.com. No need to duplicate that work, so here’s what was written:
According to OvertheCap.com’s most recent projection, the Seahawks have $7.152 million in cap space right now, which you’re saying to yourself, “That’s more than $5.79 million!”
I may have flunked math at both the high school and college levels when I was a kid, but even I know that.
Let’s say hypothetically that Seattle signed Witherspoon and subtracted one number from the other, then they’d be left with $1.36 million, give or take the price of a couple of cryotherapy booths. Now, I’m not the salary cap expert that my friend John Gilbert of FieldGulls is, but I know that’s not enough for an NFL team to operate their season, sign a practice squad, make up for lost injuries, etc.
But it gets much worse than that because Witherspoon’s not the only unsigned Seahawks rookie…
Second round running back Zach Charbonnet has yet to sign his four-year, $6.876 million contract with a $2 million signing bonus and a $1.25 million 2023 cap hit. That means that the number of remaining money isn’t $1.36 million after Seattle signs all of their draft picks. It’s $110,000.
This is pretty accurate, and the overall sentiment of the post - that the Seahawks will need to create cap space between now and the start of the season - is on point. There are only a couple small corrections that are worth noting, so here they are.
The first is that Field Yates of ESPN posted the official cap space numbers for teams a week and a half ago, and the Seahawks haven’t made any moves since then. Thus, rather than the estimate from OverTheCap.com regarding the $7,152,379 of space the team has for 2023, in all probability it’s likely more accurate to use the $6,802,095 from Yates’ June 15 tweet. It’s a difference of roughly $350k, which is enough to almost sign a pair of practice players for the entire season, making it enough to note, but not enough to bother truly correcting.
The second, and more important item of note, is that the Rule of 51 remains in place since the regular season has yet to arrive. For those who may be unfamiliar with it, under the Rule of 51, only the 51 largest caps hits for a team count against the salary cap during the offseason. In the Seahawks case, the 51st largest cap hit is currently $870,000, so any player the team signs to a contract which carries a 2023 cap hit larger than $870,000 will bump the 51st largest cap into 52nd place. What that means is that the net cap impact of signing a player to contract with a 2023 cap hit is that doing so will require $870,000 less in cap space than the actual cap hit of the player.
Therefore, in Witherspoon’s case, using the $5.79M projected 2023 cap hit, the net cap impact for 2023 of signing Witherspoon would be $4.92M ($5.79M - 870k = $4.92M).
In addition, the 50th largest cap hit on the Seahawks roster, which would get bumped to the 51st largest cap hit by Witherspoon signing, is also $870,000. Again applying the Rule of 51 to the projected $1.25M cap hit for Charbonnet in 2023, the net cap impact of signing Charbonnet should land right around $380,000 ($1.25M - $870k).
Now, that leads to the question of why the Seahawks have yet to sign the pair, given that nearly half the league has already completed signing their draft picks, as noted by Miguel Benzan on Friday.
Fourteen NFL teams have completed signing their 2023 draft class. 10 teams have 1 pick left to sign. 5 including the Patriots have 2. 2 teams have 3. The Rams have 5 left. pic.twitter.com/5MVJJgWIvU— Miguel Benzan Patriots Cap Space is 14,145,985 (@patscap) June 23, 2023
The overwhelming majority of draft picks who remain unsigned, specifically 24 of the 31 unsigned drafted players, were selected in the first or second round.
Every fifth and seventh-round pick has been signed. Almost half of the unsigned draft picks were drafted in the second round. The battle over 2025/2026 salary guarantees continues. pic.twitter.com/ANSiKQZCt6— Miguel Benzan Patriots Cap Space is 14,145,985 (@patscap) June 23, 2023
Now, in addition to the 2025/2026 salary guarantees noted in the second tweet, there are probably details that need to be ironed out that aren’t exactly of the most urgent nature. The money is theirs and the contracts will be signed in due time. There’s no true rush, and the difference in their ability to contribute on the field if they sign today as opposed to signing four weeks from today is absolutely zero. In addition, given that the states in which both played football in 2022 have individual income tax rates significantly higher than the 0% income tax rate in Washington, it would be prudent to have established residency in Washington prior to inking a contract that could potentially send significant amounts of money into the coffers of a state in which they no longer reside.
So, when exactly will the pair sign their rookie deals? Who cares? As long as it’s in the coming weeks and not after the start of training camp, it’s not really all that important. Under the collective bargaining agreement, veterans will report for training camp on Monday, July 24th, with the team having the ability to ask rookies to report the Monday prior. So, that means the Seahawks have at least three more weeks, and there is exactly zero point getting worked up about whether or when Witherspoon or Charbonnet will sign between now and July 17th.