What to do with Mebane
The Belly Roll Monster. Mebane gives Seattle's opponents nightmares. They wake up in cold sweats in the middle of the night with traumatic visions of his titanic belly rolling multiple times over. He’s scarred my mind multiple times over.
But I’m not even mad.
On July 29, 2011, the Belly Roll Monster signed a five year/25 million dollar contract with the Seahawks. Mebane is now entering the final year of his deal and is slated to make $5.5M this year and have a $5.7M cap hit ($200k proration from his signing bonus).
Just a couple days ago, the Hawks released another member on the defensive line, Tony McDaniel, in order to save $3M in cap space. That move was partly due to the Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner extensions that had decently sized signing bonuses for each. The Tony McDaniel release was not a surprise – many of us had predicted this move a while ago due to the big upcoming extensions the Hawks were going to give out and Tony was one of the logical cuts.
Mebane is a little more interesting. He is still pretty good, and definitely better than Tony. However, he is currently the 9th highest paid Seahawk. Is he worth it? That’s where this gets testy. The Seahawks currently have $4.8M in cap space for 2015. That’s not very much. I would even argue they’re in the red – since the Hawks have to put aside $5M at the beginning of each season for IR ($4M) and practice squad ($1M).
So in terms of actual room – the Seahawks are about $200k over the cap. They may need to make a move to open up some room. Mebane is the only logical cut the Hawks could make without serious dead money effects (the only other option is Jermaine Kearse…who is like a $2.3M cap hit…but it’s highly unlikely he gets cut).
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The Hawks have several options with Mebane. Option one is cut him and immediately open up $5.5M in cap room (which would be more than enough for the season). No further moves would be needed. However, this is not preferred – since I believe Mebane is still very serviceable on the D-line, and is a great NT for the Hawks. Option two is restructure and extend Mebane. Add a couple years onto his deal, lower his base salary this year a by few million, and give him a couple million injury guaranteed next year (or something around those lines). I’m not a huge fan of converting his base 2015 base salary into a future signing bonus – since it essentially mortgages your future (COUGH COWBOYS COUGH).
Mebane is one of two Seahawks remaining on the roster from the Pre-Carroll/Schneider era (along with Jon Ryan). I would like to see him extended, but with minimal guarantees. This is my favorite option. Option three is ask him to take a pay cut, but he has already said this week that was approached about that and refused. So, that doesn’t look like an option anymore.
I believe the Hawks will potentially pull option two in order to provide immediate cap relief and keep Mebane here a couple more years. The Hawks like Mebane. Mebane likes the Hawks. I think the two sides will reach a compromise.
Do we extend Irvin?
Irvin was selected in the first round by the Seahawks in the 2012 NFL draft. He is now entering the final year of his contract after Seattle recently decided to not pick up his fifth year option. He is slated to have a $2.9M cap hit in 2015.
In 2014 – Irvin had 6.5 sacks and 2 interceptions. Rumor on the street is that he bulked up 20 pounds this offseason. I was at training camp recently and I can confirm this – he looks bigger. You can definitely tell. Irvin is good – but not one of the elite members of our defense (yet). Barring a breakout year from, Irvin will likely be looking for somewhere between $8-9M AAV (average annual value) in free agency.
Any team courting Bruce will have to pay what we call the "LOB tax" (credit to Davis Hsu for coining the term). Despite Bruce not being an elite player (yet) – he will seek elite money because he comes from one of the greatest defenses in NFL history – and he will likely get it. There is a strong possibility Bruce returns to Atlanta, his hometown, and joins former Seahawks DC Dan Quinn with the Falcons.
There’s also another hinge factor here: Marshawn Lynch. If Lynch retires in 2016 – that would open up enough room for the Hawks to throw enough money at Irvin (assuming a breakout year from him). But do the Hawks really want to throw even more money towards the defensive side of the ball? That remains to be seen.
The Seahawks currently spend the third most on the defensive side of the ball at $83M, compared to just $59M for the offense. However, with Wilson’s base salaries increasing each year, the Seahawks will naturally increase their offensive budget. If Irvin has a breakout year where he acquires 10+ sacks and racks up a ton of QB pressures, we might see the Seahawks be more inclined to give him an extension.
On the other hand, Seahawks linebacker coaches have been ecstatic about Kevin Pierre-Louis. Recently, he has been making pushes for first team reps and is projected to push for starting time. If Irvin balls out and becomes an efficient pass rusher, the Hawks may look to extend him. If he doesn’t, and continues to be average pass rusher, he’ll likely be replaced by KPL.
Does Seattle let Okung walk?
With Unger headed to New Orleans in the trade for Jimmy Graham, Russell Okung is easily now the best offensive lineman on the Seahawks. The Seahawks picked Okung in the first round of the 2010 draft - which was still subjected to the old CBA guidelines. As a result, being picked sixth overall gifted Okung a $48.5M contract over six years.
A two time pro-bowler, Okung has been one of the clear assets in the position group. Assuming a productive year from Okung, an extension at the right price will certainly be on the table. However, it isn’t their only option. The rest of the offensive line seems to be steadily improving. Justin Britt debuted last year as a competent run blocker but an inconsistent pass blocker. Coaches have raved about his progress in training camp and expect him to take the next step in 2015 in his development as a pass-blocker. Additionally, Alvin Bailey could potentially assume the role of Okung post 2015 if they see him as a left tackle (he's played there in relief in the past).
The Seahawks could also draft a tackle in the first round next year (assuming John Schneider doesn’t trade down). The bottom line is: the Seahawks have options. They don’t have to extend Okung, but they will likely have the option if they want to. Assuming Lynch doesn’t retire, the Seahawks will have around $14M in cap room come 2016, assuming a $150M cap. I believe the cap will reach $156M in 2016 – but we’ll keep it conservative for now.
The Hawks can afford to extend Okung – but if so, it also likely means that they can’t extend Irvin. Theoretically – they could do some tricky layering and bonuses…but it just gets too close. If Lynch stays on the books past 2015, the Hawks have a choice: Okung or Irvin. If Lynch retires after 2015, you can easily extend Okung or Irvin and potentially even do both (although, I don’t think that’s likely). If Irvin breaks out and has 10+ sacks, it may be best to extend Irvin and look to replace Okung. If Irvin doesn’t break out, an extension for Okung becomes more likely.
Without a doubt, the Hawks will continue to have big roster decisions to make. However, it’s not like they haven’t had to make these tough decisions before. In Pete Carroll, John Schneider, and the Belly Roll Monster I trust.
Note: all salary cap numbers were pulled from Over the Cap.