As the Seahawks get busy trying to infuse some varsity talent into their JV offensive line and perhaps add a veteran running back, defensive tackle and safety — and then potentially address extensions for three stars — plenty of fans are wondering just how much of this they can afford.
The short answer: All of it.
The Hawks have about $25 million in cap space right now.
Deduct $6 million for rookie bonuses, practice squad & in-season injuries (some of that might be left to roll over), and they really have $19 million for free agency.
Offensive lineman Luke Joeckel reportedly is going to sign a one-year deal worth as much as $8 million, but it probably will carry only a $4 million base hit in 2017 (the rest in play-time incentives that won’t count until earned).
So, figure Seattle will have perhaps $15 million left for another veteran O-lineman, plus a running back, defensive tackle and maybe a safety. Those are all positions they reportedly have been scouting in free agency this week.
T.J. Lang, the free-agent guard from Green Bay, is likely to get around $8 million a year from some team. If it’s the Hawks, the hit could be as low as $5 million in 2017 (thanks to the prorated signing bonus) before jumping in 2018 and beyond (Seattle likely would offer a four-year deal).
The Hawks are kicking the tires on Eddie Lacy, Jamaal Charles & Latavius Murray and won’t spend more than around $3 million on a veteran back. They probably consider that more of a luxury move so they wouldn’t have to rely on the draft to add a runner.
The D-tackle budget is usually around $2 million or $3 million. They could always bring back Tony McDaniel for near the minimum, but they will surely keep scouting for an affordable veteran inside rusher.
Those moves (two OL, RB, DT) would leave around $5 million for minimum-salary vets (DeShawn Shead, et al.) and possible extensions for Justin Britt, Jimmy Graham and Kam Chancellor.
On extensions, the Hawks typically add to existing deals, not really altering the current year’s salary and barely bumping the cap hit with the prorated portion of the signing bonus. But they did tear up Marshawn Lynch’s old deal for a new one and could do that with Graham and/or Chancellor to conserve 2017 cap space. That would help them sign a veteran safety for a couple million, if they wanted.
So, yeah, Seattle can fit all of their moves in 2017, if they find players to fit their budget. The bigger question is 2018.
If all of the above is done, the Hawks would be projected to have $13 million in 2018 cap space (not counting rollover or incentive deductions). After the “escrow” money for rookies, etc., was set aside, that would knock it down to $7 million for free agency.
If Britt, Graham and Chancellor were extended in 2017, Seattle’s top UFAs in 2018 would be Paul Richardson and Cassius Marsh. Thomas Rawls will be an RFA, and they also will need a kicker (whether Blair Walsh or someone else).
They also could create $5 million in extra room by cutting Jermaine Kearse, $4.75 million by cutting Jeremy Lane. Trading Richard Sherman (if he continues to be a huge distraction) would net $11 million. In other words, there are a number of ways to create cap flexibility in 2018, adding to that projected $7 million and allowing them to be a little more adventurous in free agency.
Bottom line: Seattle can accomplish all it needs to in 2017 and still be fine for 2018.