How could Seahawks afford to sign Mathis? Let us count the ways

Evan MathisNo surprise: Evan Mathis reportedly left Seattle without a contract Saturday.

But, according to Mike Garafolo of FOX Sports, he didn’t close the door on his way out.

Mathis, a Pro Bowl guard cut by the Philadelphia Eagles in June, reportedly has been holding out for at least $5 million a year. The Hawks can’t really afford that. But they might be able to give him around $3.5 million, if they moved some things around.

And, just so everyone is clear: This move would be completely unrelated to the contract issue with Kam Chancellor — or even Michael Bennett. Those guys are under contract, and the Hawks don’t have any reason to acquiesce to their requests/demands or be concerned about what they think about the Hawks signing a new player.

Of course, the Hawks would do it only if they felt Mathis would be superior to Justin Britt at left guard. Britt probably would then battle Garry Gilliam at right tackle — unless the Hawks thought he would be their best option at center.

So, if the Hawks wanted to sign Mathis and he was amenable to $3.5 million, how could they manage it? They basically would need to create around $2.5 million in cap space. (They have about $5 million now, not counting Chancellor’s “Did Not Report” $4.55 million, but they need probably $4 million in reserve for the season.)

They could restructure Richard Sherman’s
$10 million salary; paying $4 million now would free up $3 million.

They could extend Brandon Mebane for a couple of years, turning $4.5 million of his $5.5 million salary into a signing bonus, which would net the team $3 million. They are not going to cut Mebane because they already let Tony McDaniel go and need Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin to anchor their run defense. And, for the same reason, they have no leverage any more in asking Mebane to cut his salary.

They could extend Russell Okung
for perhaps three years, lowering his $4.8 million salary while paying him something like $8 million up front. Of course, if the Hawks have not yet laid the groundwork for extensions for either Mebane or Okung, they might not be easy to do before the season.

They could cut Jermaine Kearse, which would save $2.36 million. But, he apparently has had the best camp of his four NFL seasons and Paul Richardson is still recovering from his torn ACL, so the Hawks seemingly want to keep Kearse and probably are fine paying him his RFA tender.

Least likely: They could adjust the contracts of their unhappy defensive stars, Chancellor and Bennett. If they repackaged the 2015-16 salaries into signing bonuses and lower salaries and then bumped the players’ 2017-19 pay to around $9 million per year (including $2 million game bonuses), they could (1) satisfy the players’ desire to get more money this year and overall, (2) lower their cap hits in 2015 and 2016 and (3) partially protect the team in case either player breaks down. Of course, adjusting their deals so soon would open the door for every player on the team to pout about their contracts in the future.

Also unlikely: The Seahawks could just hope Chancellor stays out; his $4.55 million salary currently is a credit back to their cap and will remain so until he reports.

The Hawks have the ability to sign Mathis now. But — assuming he would settle for around $3.5 million — they would need to make one of the above moves by the time the season begins.

They also could pay him $5 million if they made a combination of those moves. But are they really that desperate? And is Mathis really interested or just using the Hawks as leverage?

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