No more big deals on Hawks’ horizon

Salary cap logoBobby Wagner’s signing pretty much ends Seattle’s big-money deals for the foreseeable future. Now the Seahawks find themselves in wait-and-see mode, just like John Schneider and Pete Carroll’s early years in Seattle.

The Seahawks acquired and developed a lot of talent from 2010 to 2013 and were able to pay all of the top guys: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Russell Wilson, Wagner, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Doug Baldwin.

The Seahawks are still counting on Wilson, Wagner and Wright — all of whom got third contracts this year. But the team now needs to see which players, if any, become the next generation of stars in Carroll’s program.

As Carroll said on 710 ESPN the other day, “You always have a chance to create your own value. (Wilson and Wagner) have maxed it out. They’ve created their own importance and significance here in a manner that we’re more than willing to go ahead and recognize it and keep them here for the rest of their career.”

So who’s next?

The Seahawks, who declined to pay Thomas and Frank Clark this year, figure to have over $50 million (plus up to $20 million in carryover) for free agents and extensions next offseason. But, at this point, they have few players to consider using it on. In fact, it might not be until 2021 that they will have any new stars worth paying.

Wilson, Wagner, Tyler Lockett and Duane Brown are the only big contracts on the books through 2021. Beyond them, the Hawks basically have short-timers on large deals (Justin Britt and Wright through 2020), affordable vets who might not be signed again (Bradley McDougald, D.J. Fluker, Ed Dickson, Jaron Brown, Mychal Kendricks, Barkevious Mingo) and young players on rookie contracts.

Jarran Reed, Ziggy Ansah and Germain Ifedi are the top pending free agents in 2020, but none is expected to be offered superstar money by Seattle — regardless of performance.

If the Hawks could keep Reed for $10 million or so, they probably would — and maybe his six-game suspension will make that feasible — but they won’t want to pay even close to the top-market $17 million. And, if veterans Al Woods and Earl Mitchell play well, the Hawks could re-sign either for much less than Reed might want.

The Seahawks already have proven they are not interested in paying pass rushers $20 million; if Ansah has a great year, he will price himself out of their interest and bring a comp pick in 2021 while Schneider goes looking for another LEO (unless Jacob Martin emerges as a force and/or Rasheem Green or L.J. Collier steps up on the other side).

The Hawks have a couple of options (George Fant and Jamarco Jones) behind Ifedi, so they won’t be interested in paying him a lot either — they basically revealed that when they declined his 2020 option at over $10 million.

Seattle might do a few middling re-signings: Fant, Mingo, Kendricks (if he’s not in prison) and Mike Iupati (on the off chance he stays mostly healthy in 2019 — though he’s not off to a good start).

The Seahawks probably won’t be interested in any big extensions though. The key UFAs in 2021 are Britt, Wright, McDougald, Fluker, Shaquill Griffin and Chris Carson. The team probably won’t want to extend any of the older vets in 2020, waiting to decide in 2021, and they wouldn’t command huge money anyway (they average $7.3 million this year).

That would leave Griffin and Carson as the top two possibilities — if they stay healthy (Carson has not so far) and perform at high levels in 2019. But the Hawks seem unlikely to pay Carson much (they also have Rashaad Penny), and Griffin does not look like he is going to merit Sherman money (though some other team certainly might overpay him). Odds are both Griffin and Carson will play out their contracts before Seattle considers whether to pay either in 2021.

So, if the Hawks are not going to spend any of that projected $50 million on their own players next offseason, that means they are going to go big-game hunting in free agency, right?

Heh heh, probably not.

Schneider has gone away from spending heavily on outside veterans, largely because he was paying his own players. He hasn’t invested major multi-year money in a veteran since 2015, when he signed Cary Williams for $6 million a year and traded for Jimmy Graham, who was making $10 million a year. Neither deal worked out.

Yeah, Schneider made a couple of big moves in 2017, trading for Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown. But each was in a contract year and brought no long-term investment other than loss of some future draft picks. (As they did with Avril and Bennett, the Seahawks ended up giving Brown a big contract to stay.)

As already mentioned, defensive line is the main spot where Seattle might really need veteran help next offseason, but Schneider has shown he is not going to overpay. He’ll probably just do some cheap to middling deals like he did with Ansah ($9 million), Woods ($2.125 million) and Mitchell ($1.02 million) this year.

And then he’ll wait for young stars to emerge for 2021 paydays.

See the three-year lineup projection, based on current contracts.

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