That much is clear after John Schneider said Wednesday that they have not decided whether to pick up the 2016 option on the 2012 first-round player.
“Those options can be tricky,” the GM said. “That’s all I can get into right now.”
He might not want to get into it, but his meaning is clear: Picking up the option would set a baseline for any future contract negotiations while also forcing the Hawks to take a certain direction with their 2016 salary cap.
It’s hard to see the Hawks exercising the option when they don’t know what Russell Wilson’s contract will look like in 2016 and might not have decided what they are doing with Russell Okung.
All reports indicate the Seahawks and Wilson are not anywhere close to a long-term deal yet, which means the Hawks will have to decide on Irvin without knowing how it might affect Okung and other 2016 free agents.
Assuming the Hawks are prioritizing Bobby Wagner over Irvin, they figure to reserve somewhere around $6 million in salary cap space for Wagner in 2016.
An extension for J.R. Sweezy likely would cost $3 million in 2016, and the Hawks probably would need $2 million for Jon Ryan and $3 million for a veteran defensive tackle (Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Ahtyba Rubin all will be free agents). They also would need to reserve up to $5 million for miscellaneous charges (rookie bonuses, practice squad, injury replacements).
If the Hawks picked up Irvin’s option, that would leave about $16 million in space under a $150 million cap. Even if Wilson counted a minimal $11 million, the Hawks would have just $5 million left for other free agents (Okung, Robert Turbin, Jeremy Lane, et al.), and the only way they would be able to keep Okung is if Marshawn Lynch retired ($6.5 million cap savings) or they extended Jimmy Graham’s deal (with two years left) to lower his $9 million cap hit.
Basically, a lot of dominoes would need to fall right for the Hawks to keep both Irvin and Okung next year — which is why we previously pointed out that the Hawks likely have to choose between the two former first-round picks and seem unlikely to pick up Irvin’s option.
They must decide by May 3, right after draft weekend, and it very well could come down to which position the Seahawks draft best — pass rusher or offensive tackle.
And, if they find promising young players at both spots, the Hawks just might let Irvin and Okung play out their rookie deals and let them go next year if they value themselves more than the Hawks do.
If the Hawks come up with cheaper replacements, it would give the team some flexibility in 2016 while adding a comp pick or two in 2017.