Right after the Seahawks’ season ended prematurely, we put forth an offseason to-do list that included extending Frank Clark, improving the defensive line, addressing the future of right tackle, re-signing guards, deciding the fate of their linebackers, adding a vet safety and, of course, extending Russell Wilson.
Earlier this month, we also outlined the projected market for Seattle’s free agents — predicting the team would franchise Clark and keep at least one of the guards while probably/possibly losing Earl Thomas, K.J. Wright, Justin Coleman, Mike Davis and Shamar Stephen.
We also listed pass-rush options beyond Clark — as a No. 2 pass rusher should be Seattle’s top outside priority.
If the Seahawks wanted to, they could retain Clark and at least one guard; extend Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed; and still have around $20 million for other moves.
Here’s a detailed look at how Seattle could accomplish all of that:
After deducting money for exclusive-rights tenders, rookie bonuses, practice squad and injury replacements, the Seahawks have about $42 million available for free agents and extensions. Cutting Jaron Brown and (at some point) Kam Chancellor would add about $5 million more, bumping it to $47 million.
Tagging Clark would cost $17.3 million. (An extension probably wouldn’t shave much off that either, which is why the tag might make sense for both sides.)
Figure the Hawks can keep one of their guards — D.J. Fluker or J.R. Sweezy — for $3 million. They probably won’t pay both that much though — unless they choose not to tender George Fant.
Fant could cost $3 million if tendered at the second-round level — which the Hawks would do only if they (a) thought he might be a long-term player in Seattle or (b) just wanted to keep their depth intact and their 2020 options open.
Add up those moves and they would have about $24 million left for extensions for Wilson, Wagner and Reed, plus filling in roster holes at pass rusher, defensive tackle, linebacker and safety. The extensions will come after free agency and the draft, but we need to account for them now, so we’ll work in reverse for this part of the budget.
Assuming they plan to extend Reed late in the summer, the Hawks need to reserve around $2 million in space for his bonus proration (his salary for 2019 would remain unchanged — based on how the Seahawks do rookie extensions).
Then it just comes down to how they want to distribute money in the Wilson and Wagner extensions. John Schneider really has some flexibility if he wants to go after a couple of mid-priced (circa $8 million) free agents — whether cap cuts or UFAs.
Extending Wilson without altering his 2019 salary from $17 million would take about $12 million off the cap — the proration from a $60 million bonus on an expected four-year, $140 million deal. But the Hawks also could play the redistribute game with Wilson, adding a few more million to 2019 while bumping his future salaries.
Wagner is slated to make $11.5 million (counting a $1 million roster bonus) in 2019, but Schneider and team contract negotiator Matt Thomas could adjust his salary in an extension as well.
We figure Wagner deserves $30 million over three years (basically the same $10 million a year he has been making, which rates him second behind Luke Kuechly). Seattle could pay Wagner a $10 million signing bonus and cut his 2019 salary to $6 million. That would give him an extra $4.5 million in 2019, but the Hawks would save about $2 million via that move.
Basically, the Hawks could set it up so they had around $20 million for any moves beyond Clark, Wilson, Wagner, Fluker, Fant/Sweezy, Reed.
Bottom line: The Seahawks have plenty of flexibility to pay their top guys and craft their roster as they like.