Percy Harvin’s contract was an albatross from the ill-advised moment the Seahawks decided to guarantee him $25.5 million in a deal that included salary cap hits north of $12 million from 2014 through 2017.
It seemed farfetched that he would last that long at those numbers; thanks to his alleged anti-team antics, the Hawks just ended up cutting ties much earlier than anyone thought they would.
Even though he will still count $7.2 million in proration in 2015, the Seahawks divested themselves of the remainder of his $11 million salary this season and his $10.5 million salary in 2015.
With the trade official, the Hawks are not paying his $647,000 salary this week, so they will recoup $7.1 million this season. Add that to their net savings of $5.7 million in 2015, and the Hawks pulled an extra $12.8 million in cap space for next offseason.
That gives the Hawks a lot of wiggle room to re-sign some of their key free agents, if they choose.
They probably have earmarked at least $10 million in cap space for quarterback Russell Wilson, who is expected to get an extension worth $20 million a year. With a large signing bonus prorated, the Hawks can keep his 2015 cap hit at about $10 million if they want to.
Wilson’s deal figures to dictate how the Hawks handle key free agents such as defensive end Cliff Avril, cornerback Byron Maxwell, linebackers K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith and left guard James Carpenter.
With Harvin on the team, it seemed likely that the Hawks could keep perhaps only two of those players. But it now seems the Hawks could keep maybe four of them — assuming they want to return, are realistic about their price tags and/or aren’t offered outrageous contracts elsewhere.
If the Hawks make no extensions during this season and roll over their unused 2014 cap space, they figure to have at least $40 million in room under a projected $140 million salary cap in 2015.
That effectively would leave about $30 million to extend Wilson and decide among Avril, Maxwell, Wright, Smith and Carpenter — plus, a tender for restricted free-agent receiver Jermaine Kearse.
If Wilson counts just $10 million in 2015, that would leave maybe $20 million for other free agents.
Avril, 28, surely is hoping to hit $10 million a year in one last big NFL contract, but he is not putting up numbers that would merit it. His best deal probably will be something like what the Hawks gave Michael Bennett this year — $32 million for four years — but the Hawks might not want to pay him any more than what they are right now: $7 million.
Maxwell’s market seems to be around $5 million a year, and the Hawks might be willing to do that — unless they think they already have enough money tied up in the Legion of Boom.
Wright and Smith might hope to get $5 million per year, but their market ceiling might be $4 million — and the Hawks might not even go that high, at least for Smith.
The Seahawks reportedly were talking to Avril and Wright about possible extensions before the season started, but it’s not known whether those talks advanced very far.
With Harvin gone, some are also speculating that Marshawn Lynch seems safer. But Lynch’s status is really based on his health. The Hawks could afford his $8.5 million cap hit — with or without Harvin.
It’s just a question of whether they want to ride him longer or move on. With Christine Michael not seeing the field yet this season, it seems as though Lynch is still the main man — even if the Hawks have not gotten him the ball as much as they should yet.
Plenty of fans were playing the what-if game in the wake of the Harvin trade, with many lamenting that the Hawks cut Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and failed to re-sign Golden Tate because of Harvin’s contract.
None of that is necessarily true. Bryant and Clemons were overpaid in any circumstance and would have been asked to take pay cuts regardless. Tate had his own attitude problem and the Hawks still might not have wanted him back. Even with Harvin, they could have afforded to re-sign him if they wanted to, but he simply was not worth $5 million a year to them.
The Seahawks took advantage of a deep receiver class in the draft to select Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood, who now likely will see plenty of playing time.
The one guy they might have made a run at keeping was defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who is playing well in Tampa Bay after a breakout 2013 season that earned him a deal worth $3 million a year.
Clearly, the Hawks made a major (and very predictable) mistake by paying so much for Harvin. But it did not greatly affect their 2014 offseason.
And, with Harvin now gone, it will only help their 2015 offseason.