After the Seahawks cut Al Woods last week, John Schneider told Seattle Sports 710 “… we needed to create some space to try to get something done.”
And then they got that “something done,” bringing back Bobby Wagner on a deal reportedly worth up to $7 million.
It put the cap on perhaps the most aggressive free agency period we have seen by Schneider and Co., who signed six projected starters – five of them on defense – and paid an aggregate annual average of $8.5 million, the most they have ever spent on outside free agents in an offseason. Most of that is thanks to paying $17 million per year to new star defensive lineman Dre Jones, but all except Evan Brown got more than $3.5 million per year.
As expected, Schneider has remade Seattle’s front seven. Wagner and Devin Bush replace Cody Barton and injured Jordyn Brooks, and Jones and Jarran Reed replace Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson. Just one starting spot (nose tackle) is unfilled, but the Hawks need more linemen and linebackers.
“It’s definitely coming along,” Schneider said at the league meetings in Phoenix. “We definitely need three or four more guys that we need to help out on that side. But the quality of guys we’ve added, I’m really happy about it.”
Schneider called nose tackle “an issue for us that we’ve got to figure out.”
Pete Carroll echoed that in Phoenix: “There’s a lot of work to do still. We know that. And we’re faced with different circumstances to deal with just because we’ve spent a lot of money already.”
(UPDATED) Wagner’s deal reportedly is worth up to $7 million but counts $5.5 million. So the Hawks have about $4 million left. They might need up to $5 million more for draft picks, and they eventually will need about $6 million more for the practice squad and injury replacements during the season.
“We are pretty tapped out,” Schneider confirmed. “So we have to be very careful how we proceed.”
Making more cap space
A lot of fans have been coming up with suggestions for where the Hawks can create more space. The top salaries that could be used for that belong to Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Tyler Lockett, Uchenna Nwosu and Noah Fant. Let’s look at each idea:
Cut Adams (June 1): $8.4 million savings ($14.2 million in dead cap hit). A lot of fans were thinking this was going to happen when Seattle signed former Giants defensive captain Julian Love, but Carroll made it clear Adams is in their plans and Schneider said, “The Julian thing had nothing to do with Jamal.”
It always seemed unlikely that Schneider and Carroll would give up on Adams just two years after signing him to a $70 million deal. They will give him 2023 to show he is worthy and finally admit defeat in 2024 if he still fails to live up to the lofty contract.
Restructure Adams: $6.6 million savings, split over 2024 and 2025. If they do not restructure Adams, but they cut him in 2024, it would be $14.2 million in dead money ($9.4 million savings). If they restructure this year and still cut him in 2024, he would count $20.8 million in dead money ($6.1 million savings).
If he remains on the team in 2024, his unrestructured number would be $23.6 million and his restructured hit would be $26.9 million. Unless he plays out of his mind in 2023 (at least 10 game-turning plays) and earns that cap number, he is likely gone in 2024. So the Hawks need to decide whether they would rather have that $6.6 million this year or next year.
Restructure Diggs: $6.2 million savings, pushing that to 2024 for a $21.5 million cap hit. Some fans want to cut Diggs simply because they don’t want to pay any safety (not just Adams), which is dumb. Diggs came back from a tough leg injury last season and seemed more comfortable in the last half. He is signed through 2024 and should see it through. The restructure comes down to needing the space now or preferring it in 2024.
Restructure Lockett: $5.7 million savings, split over 2024-25 and bumping those cap hits to $26.9 million. Lockett is signed through 2025 and should be good for it, even at age 33.
Extend Nwosu: $2 million to $4 million savings (if new money was deferred to a 2024 full guarantee). An extension for Nwosu probably would require $15 million per year ($45 million over three years) and would not save as much as any of the restructures. The Hawks seem more likely to see what they get in a good draft for outside linebackers, before trying to extend Nwosu.
Extend Fant: $1 million to $4 million savings. Fant will want more than Will Dissly’s (ridiculous) $8 million per year, so figure $10 million (which would be top 12 in the NFL). Even if the Seahawks were interested, it would not offer much cap space unless it was basically a restructure combined with an extension that paid the bonus in 2024.
Trades: Darrell Taylor would save $1.5 million and ideally return a second-rounder. But the draft is stacked at his position (many veterans remain on the market because of it); even if the Hawks were thinking of moving him (and they should be), the interest likely is not there yet. … Some have suggested moving Fant, which would bring back $6.85 million, but the Hawks definitely should keep him. (UPDATE: We suggested a trade of Ryan Neal could be possible, but he was cut a day after this first posted.)