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Seahawks suddenly tight on cap space as season set to start

After extending Uchenna Nwosu and restructuring the contracts of Tyler Lockett and Quandre Diggs, many fans had expected a big ticket signing, but the current cap situation makes that seem unlikely.

NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Training Camp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

The start of the 2023 NFL regular season is just days away, with the Kansas City Chiefs and Detroit Lions set to start things off Thursday, followed by the full slate of Week 1 games Sunday.

With the start of the regular season on September 7 comes a move away from the Top 51 salary cap accounting used during the offseason, and to true cap accounting wherein the salary costs of all players must be accounted for. This includes not just players on the 53 man roster, but the practice squad, injured reserve and the physically unable to perform list.

For some teams this marks a significant change, and the Seattle Seahawks are one of those teams for several reasons, not the least of which is that there were no high priced veterans who were released at final roster cuts. This means of the top 51 cap hits that were on the roster prior to the cutdown to 53, Artie Burns is basically the only notable name to have been released after claiming Kyu Blue Kelly, and even that only saved the team a couple hundred thousand dollars of cap space.

So, for the time being the NFLPA public salary cap space lists the Seahawks as having $12,057,978 of available cap space, that only accounts for 51 players instead of 53, and does not include the practice squad, injured reserve or the players on the PUP list. Those expenses are as follows:

  • Injured Reserve: $2.275M
  • PUP: $4.125M
  • Practice Squad: $3.765M

Adding those three costs together totals $10.165M of cap space that the Seahawks will need to account for beginning on Thursday, and deducting that amount from the $12.058M that they have according to the NFLPA leaves Seattle with $1.893M of available cap space for the 2023 season. That number is slightly lower than the $2.756M that is currently listed for the Seahawks on, but the numbers are close enough to one another that figuring out the difference is not worth the time that would be needed. And, to answer the question that will undoubtedly be asked in the comments, yes, these numbers include the roughly cap space created by restructuring both Quandre Diggs and Tyler Lockett in order to create $11.853M of 2023 cap space.

With all that in mind, the Seahawks cannot simply run out on a shopping spree with that couple million of cap space that they do have. Over the four months of the regular season the team will need space to cover the cost of injury replacements, as well as for expenses like practice squad elevations. When a player is elevated from the practice squad to the gameday roster, that player gets paid the regular salary for a player of their experience rather than the practice squad salary for the week. What that means is that if a team elevates just one player from the practice squad to the gameday active roster each week, that will require roughly $500k of cap space over the course of the season.

In addition, as players get hurt and are moved to injured reserve, (Author’s Note: Insert your own Jamal Adams joke here) the player signed to fill the open roster spot must be paid as well. During an 18 week season a team will, of course, suffer a number of injuries, and it is would not be unexpected for the cost of these injury replacement players to exceed the amount of cap space the Seahawks are currently projected to have during the year. Thus, it should not come as a surprise that if the team suffers a rash of injuries early in the season that another contract restructuring of a veteran could be done. There are not a lot of great options available to the team in terms of restructuring, but reworking the contracts of either Jamal Adams or Will Dissly could be redone in a pinch. Alternatively, they could rework the deal of someone like Noah Fant or Damien Lewis, but reworking those contracts would require adding a void year or two onto the end of the contract, which is a little more involved that just converting base salary to signing bonus.

In any case, the moral of the story is that for those fans who had been holding out hope for a bigger signing on the defensive line in recent weeks, this is the reason why the front office has not made such a move.