Seattle Seahawks 2014 offseason financial primer (UPDATED)

At the risk of taking away from the romance and pageantry of the Super Bowl, the Seattle Seahawks second appearance in football’s biggest game, I’ve taken some time to look ahead to the offseason, when the Seahawks will have some pretty difficult decisions to make.

The opportunity to make tough decisions is a byproduct of being good, and this iteration of the Seahawks team has unarguably more young talent than they’ve ever had before. Some of those tough decisions inevitably include cutting players, but with the end of some of their stars’ rookie contracts looming, they’ll have to make the right decision as it relates to long-term extensions.

Projected 2014 Salary Cap: $126.3 million

Projected 2014 Seahawks Cap room: $2.5 million

Feb. 20 update:

Salary Cap: $130 million

Cap Room: $2.9 million (with the inclusion of rookie minimum, no guarantee contracts)

 

*Please note that all of these will be studied more in-depth as the offseason goes on, and linked to on this page. To keep up with this series of posts we encourage you to bookmark this page and check back frequently. *

Updates:

February 9: Potential Cap Casualties and Cap Savings

February 11: Potential Free Agents

February 19: Extension Candidates

February 20: Higher NFL salary cap projection doesn’t help Seattle Seahawks

February 23: Red Bryant, Former Seattle Seahawk

Potential Cap Casualties and Cap Savings (Also potential contract restructure candidates)

Having only $2.5 million in cap room is something of an ominous message. With that amount of cap room the Seahawks wouldn’t be able to sign all of their draft picks, and that level of payroll only includes 42 players, meaning they’d have 11 more spots to fill on the roster with an average salary about half that of rookie minimum.

There is no doubt that some things will have to be shaken up, and that some players will have to go, or have their contract restructured. This of course means dead money, or money the Seahawks will have to count against the cap despite the player not being on the roster. The following are Seahawks that may be considered potential cap casualties, and the amount of money against the cap the Seahawks would save were they to cut any of them. Another option may be to restructure their contract, be that a pay cut or an extension that lowers their 2014 cap number.

Sidney Rice: $7.3 million

Chris Clemons: 7.5 million

Russell Okung: $6.7 million

Red Bryant: $5.5 million

Brandon Mebane: $5.3 million

Zach Miller: $5.0 million

Heath Farwell: $1.5 million

 

Free Agents

Having coveted free agents is a good problem to have, for what it’s worth. The Seahawks have the following upcoming free agents that all have some unique degree of likelihood of a return. One of the most likely would seem to be Golden Tate, who has really found some synergy with Russell Wilson it would seem, and one of the least likely is Brandon Browner, who is facing a year-long suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.

The restricted free agents below that are even less likely to leave. The Seahawks will have the opportunity to tender each an offer with attached draft pick compensation depending on the level of the tender offer. Those levels can be first or second round tenders, each of which will exceed $2 million in salary, or a “right of first refusal” tender. In the case of the first and second round tenders, the Seahawks would receive either a first or second round pick, depending on the tender level, were a team to sign their restricted free agent who had received the tender offer.

For the sake of comprehensiveness, there is also a tender offer entitled “original round,” which is the same dollar value as the “right of first refusal” offer. In that case the tendering team would receive compensation for the same round that the restricted free agent was drafted. In the case of the Seahawks, none of their restricted free agents were drafted, so they can only be attached to draft pick compensation in the first and second rounds.

 

Unrestricted Free Agents (2014 season ages)

Breno Giacomini, OT, 29 years old

Golden Tate, WR, 26 years old

Michael Bennett, DE, 29 years old

Walter Thurmond, CB, 27 years old

Brandon Browner, CB, 30 years old

Steven Hauschka, K, 29 years old

 

Restricted Free Agents

Doug Baldwin, WR, 26 years old

Mike Morgan, LB/DE, 26 years old

Lemuel Jeanpierre, OL, 27 years old

 

Extension Candidates

You may remember last year when Bus Cook – the agent of Russell Wilson – was alleged to have demanded an extension for Wilson in the offseason. What made those specific demands unique was that because of the new collective bargaining agreement, Wilson isn’t eligible for an extension until after the 2014 season. That hold true for another would-be extension candidate in Bobby Wagner, also.

Of the guys who are actually eligible for extensions, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas make the most sense for the Seahawks to extend. In football, there is rarely a substantial salary discount like in baseball as it relates to extending players early in their career. Rather, what it does is allow you to have a happy and productive player through their prime. In Seattle we’ve seen the ramifications that Joey Galloway‘s holdout had on the team, and on the future of his career. One need look no further than Darrelle Revis for a guy who has had health and productivity issues coming out of a holdout.

Richard Sherman is going to make a lot of money from somebody. The other advantage to signing these players early on is that it means that their remaining prorated bonus (dead money) will be lower earlier, giving teams the flexibility to release the player if they aren’t performing up to the level of compensation.

Thomas’ case is a little bit different. His 2014 cap number ($5.2 million) is high enough that an extension may actually help the Seahawks save money against the cap, as they could structure his contract in a manner that reduces his 2014 cap number by lowering his base, and spreading his bonus over the next five seasons.

Richard Sherman, CB, 26 years old

Earl Thomas, FS, 25 years old

Byron Maxwell, CB, 26 years old

K.J. Wright, LB, 25 years old

 

Draft Needs (in order based on the author’s opinion)

There are a lot of ways to create a team’s draft needs. In some cases, taking into account the strength of a position in a draft is a way to determine draft needs. Raw depth may be important too. For example, the Seahawks are likely to have several openings in the secondary depth chart next year. Player quality on the roster at the position is another way. For example, The Seahawks have potential to have a bunch of scrubs behind Percy Harvin next year (Jermaine Kearse isn’t exactly a scrub, but you get my point). Another way to tilt one’s head is to consider scheme importance at a position. For example, the Seahawks have been able to find value in the back half of their defense late in the draft.

The best method is probably consider some of all of those methods, and I hope I’ve done that here. These are the Seahawks needs as I see them, in order based on what I think is the most important.

1. OT

2. OG

3. WR

4. TE

5. DT

6. DE

7. CB

8. C

9. LB

10. S

11. QB