Joel Corry wrote an article this week mentioning that the 2014 NFL Salary Cap will likely be $128M, above the previous guidance number of $126.3M. With some small rollover, the Seahawks should have about $130M to work with in adjusted salary cap for 2014.
I have mentioned in previous blogs that you need to set aside about $10M for the Injured Reserve, Practice Squad, three Specialists (K, P, LS), and "already taken" dead money. The Seahawks have less than $1M in "already taken dead money" for 2014, but in the projection below - I have six additional future cuts and have added that dead money from those future cuts into the "Total Defense" and "Total Offense" categories.
The Seahawks have previously, under Carroll and Schneider, tilted their salary cap balance between offense and defense towards the offensive side of the ball, even beyond 60% in some years. If the Seahawks are successful in extending Richard Sherman and possibly cutting Zach Miller, I can see the cap being split almost evenly, 50-50 for offense and defense.
The Seahawks have about $120M to spend on their 50 man roster (25 Offense and 25 Defense) and right now I have them landing just under $60M on each side of the ball. I was not trying to engineer the split -- but it just happened to work out that way. It will be interesting to see where it truly lands once free agency and the Draft are concluded.
Here is the spreadsheet for the defensive side of the football, with all cap numbers from OverTheCap.com:
Let's go position group by position group.
For the sake of this analysis, I am going with four LEOs on Seattle's final roster. In this case, I have Chris Clemons being cut, a year before the end of his contract. Bruce Irvin thus moves back to the DE spot he was drafted for, and he fills Clemons' spot. Cutting Clemons is the biggest single cost cutting move the Seahawks can make, even more than cutting Russell Okung or Percy Harvin -- not that they would cut Okung or Harvin. Harvin would actually add to your cap if you cut him, as he has $20.6M in dead money!
The four LEOs I project are Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, and a 2014 Draft Pick (I have him slotted for the 5th Round for now). I can see them draft an edge pass rusher at any point in the Draft, even with their first pick. This position group is vital to the Seahawks' salary situation long-term, as controlling multiple young (cheap) pass rushers frees up money to keep your very best players in your defensive back-seven (your secondary and linebackers).
Cliff Avril is not going anywhere. He is productive and is on the right side of 30. I do not have the Seahawks extending him early in this scenario though.
Having Malcolm Smith, K.J. Wright, and Bobby Wagner as your starting linebackers is more than fine. That is a very good group, and the original plan for Bruce Irvin was to be a weak-side DE -- I don't think it is out of the question to move him back to DE.
As for the defensive line, this is the one and only position group where I can see the Seahawks go out and make an "A" or "B" level move in outside free agency.
When I define Free Agency, I say "A" level free agents command more than $6M per year. "B" level free agents command $2-6M per year. "C" level free agents command under $2M per year. The Seahawks will likely make some C level moves, as they do every year, but this does not upset your cap situation. Defensive line is a position group that the Seahawks have hit in outside free agency with success and are able to integrate the players into the rotation it seems in a smoother fashion than the offensive side of the ball. Perhaps continuity is less important on DL? Perhaps Carroll is just a defensive wizard (likely).
In this scenario, I have the Seahawks going after DT/DE Arthur Jones from Baltimore. He is 27 years old, and I have him tied up in a four-year deal at $6M per year. He can play either base 5-technique (Red Bryant's spot) or 3-technique (Tony McDaniel's spot). He is two years younger than Red Bryant, who I have the Seahawks cutting for a net save of $5.5M in cap.
For the Seahawks, we regularly see a player salary cap hit in Year 1 of their deal that is lower than their "Per Year" average. This is a normal course of business because the team is able to pro-rate the signing bonus over the life of the contract while paying the player a low base salary in Year 1. This creates low cap hits in "Year 1" of new deals.
I have the Seahawks retaining Michael Bennett on a 3 year, $21M dollar deal, and Tony McDaniel on a modest two year deal (shot in the dark estimate of his 2014 cap I used was $1.8M). McDaniel had a good year, but is 29 years old, and didn't find a big market last offseason, signing for the vet minimum.
I have the Seahawks retaining Brandon Mebane and Jordan Hill, with Greg Scruggs battling out a host of "AAA" type players like Jesse Williams, D'Anthony Smith, Michael Brooks, Dewayne Cherrington, and Kenneth Boatright. The Seahawks could very well draft a big DL, which could be the 5th or 6th interior D-lineman. Whether they draft one or not, it won't impact the overall salary cap in a material way.
I have Clinton McDonald moving on to greener pastures after his 5.5 sack year, with Jordan Hill taking his role. I think there will be a market for McDonald, and he is only 27 years old.
No real action here. I have the Seahawks taking a linebacker late in the draft to stock depth. I have recent futures contract signing Mike Taylor taking Heath Farwell's key special teams spot, and the Seahawks are able to save $1.5M by moving on from Farwell.
I hope they bring Farwell back as a Special Teams Assistant Coach. He wants to be a ST Coach, and would likely be phenomenal. What better place to begin his next career than with the Seahawks, who value special teams from the Head Coach on down?
I have Korey Toomer battling with Mike Morgan, who is a restricted free agent (RFA). The type of RFA tender the Seahawks would give Morgan would be somewhere around $1.4M, but would not be guaranteed. The Seahawks gave this similar tender in 2013 to Clint Gresham, Clint McDonald and Chris Maragos. None of those players played on that tender.
Gresham, toward end of the offseason, negotiated a 2-year deal around $800k per year. Clint McDonald was cut outright and re-signed at a minimum one year contract a few weeks later. Maragos took a one-year deal at around $800-850k. I have some wiggle room built in, so if they wanted to keep Morgan at $850k, they could do it.
Earl Thomas is set to make $5.4M in salary cap dollars in 2014. If they extend him to a deal (perhaps $10-11M average salary?) I don't think a Year 1 cap hit of $5.4 is out of the question (Eric Weddle had a Year 1 cap hit of $3.6M in 2011, though Dashon Goldson had a Year 1 over $8M). I could be way off here, but I have left Earl Thomas's cap hit the same.
I have the Seahawks letting Chris Maragos walk, and drafting a depth safety (perhaps Round 6) to pair with Deshawn Shead. The Seahawks also could keep Jeron Johnson on a similar RFA deal that I outlined for Mike Morgan in the LB section. Same type of tender, and same type of numbers.
Call me crazy, but I think Richard Sherman would sign a deal for $11-12M per year. If Sherman gets stuck on the $16M figure for Darrelle Revis, then I think the Seahawks would likely keep him at his current salary in 2014 (which escalated up closer to $1.4-1.5M range) and then franchise him in 2015 (assuming Earl is locked up). After that, perhaps they would let him walk.
Once you get out of "Revis Contract Island" the contracts are closer to the $10-11M per year range (Champ Bailey, Brandon Carr, Cortland Finnegan, Leon Hall, Johnathan Joseph). We may laugh at the Champ Bailey contract now, but we forget how good he was years ago, and how good the other corners were when they signed their deals. Brandon Carr had a Year 1 Cap hit of $3.2M, and Year 2 of $5.4M, though it is probably dangerous to examine the Cowboys and their salary cap! Brandon Flowers had a Year 1 cap hit of $3.4M (On a Per Year Average of $8.25M). Perhaps you could get Richard Sherman's Year 1 at $5.5M.
In terms of the rest of the corners, I have the Seahawks letting Walt Thurmond walk, and drafting another corner (5th Round of course!) to add to Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane and Tharold Simon. There are some other darkhorses that may compete -- namely Akeem Auguste and Chandler Fenner.
Here are my thoughts on the offensive side:
Russell Wilson has one more year at the non-negotiable cap hit of $817k. (Thank you new CBA). I have Seahawks saving a few bucks here and going with B.J. Daniels as the backup. They could very possibly keep sign Tarvaris Jackson at perhaps $900k per year (vet min for a player with his number of accrued seasons). I have a little wiggle room in the budget here as well, so getting T-Jack back again could very well happen at a vet minimum number.
Cutting Sidney Rice saves the club $7.3M in cap, which is the second biggest savings from one single cut behind Chris Clemons. I have Rice as a cap casualty. I have the Seahawks re-signing Golden Tate at 5 years/$30M with a Year 1 cap hit of $2.5M. I have the Seahawks using the 2nd Round RFA Tender on Doug Baldwin at $2.1M. I don't think the Seahawks are in danger of losing Baldwin with a 2nd Round Tender, and if a team came after Baldwin (especially if their 2nd Round Pick was in the upper part of the Round) I could see them taking the Draft pick, especially if they locked Golden up.
I hope that does not happen -- I hope Baldwin stays a Seahawk forever -- but a 2nd Round pick in this draft is worth a lot. There are many good players (and good WR) that will be there at the top of the 2nd round, and if you slide that pick back you could gather up picks in the 4th and 5th round in a supposedly very deep draft (Mike Mayock's words).
I have the Seahawks adding another WR (in this scenario 4th Round). If Golden leaves, than I could see the Seahawks drafting a WR in the 1st or 2nd round.
Knowing the Seahawks, they will probably draft a RB, because they love them. I have them not drafting a RB, as they already have five players locked up in 2014 (and 2015) in terms of Marshawn Lynch, Christine Michael, Robert Turbin, Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware.
In this scenario, I have the Seahawks moving on from Zach Miller. It nets them $5.0M toward the salary cap. I have Travis Beckum on this roster, but the more I think about it, I could see it actually being Anthony McCoy on a modest deal -- perhaps vet minimum deal (which would not impact the cap). I can also see the Seahawks drafting for the TE position, perhaps in the 3rd -5th Round.
In this scenario I have the Seahawks letting Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan walk. Russell Okung and Max Unger stay locked in. I have the Seahawks retaining Lemuel Jeanpierre under a similar scenario that I outlined for Mike Morgan and/or Jeron Johnson. I thought that Lem was a UFA this year, but I believe he may actually be a RFA, as in 2010 he may have not earned an "accrued season". I have the Seahawks using their first pick on a Right Tackle (late 1st or early 2nd round) and letting Michael Bowie battle James Carpenter for the LG spot. I have Bowie winning the spot in this case, and the Seahawks moving on early from Carpenter for a $1.4M savings. The Seahawks have options here, they could keep Carpenter at LG and then use Bowie to battle for the RT spot.
For some personal reason, I have grown fond of the Seahawks drafting a stud right tackle to shore up the right side long term -- which would impact the cap in a positive way -- and bring impact to the run game and pass game long-term. I may be overvaluing the position- but I think it is so critical to the run game and would be a great asset to Russell Wilson. I really have no problem with Breno, as I think he is about a "league average" type RT (which isn't a bad thing).
I don't think right tackle as their first draft pick is out of the question, even though James Carpenter is considered a "bust" by many. The Seahawks felt comfortable using their highest draft pick in two consecutive years on a tackle, and this was on a 2011 team had holes everywhere. I could see them doing it again -- this time on a team with fewer holes.