A late-season bye week is always a good opportunity to take a step back from the grind of the NFL season and look ahead to what's in store after the season is over. For the Seattle Seahawks, 2014 brings problems that they haven't faced before in the Pete Carroll era.
The Seahawks have a long list of players with expiring contracts and almost no salary-cap room for which to re-sign those players. This coming offseason will be a big test for general manager John Schneider and his staff.
Impending Free Agents
Of the 53 players currently on the roster, 18 of them are set to become free agents. That means that over a third of the current team must be replaced or re-signed before the 2014 season.
|Unrestricted Free Agents|
|Player||Position||age||2013 Cap Number|
|Paul McQuistan||OT, OG||30||$3,375,000|
|O'Brien Schofield||OLB, DE||26||$630,000|
|Lemuel Jeanpierre||C, OG||26||$555,000|
There are some important names on this list. Cornerbacks Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond are the team's No. 2 and No. 3 CBs on the depth chart. Defensive tackles Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald have both played major roles on the defensive line. Defensive end Michael Bennett has been the team's best pass-rusher.
On offense, the situation is similar. Golden Tate has been the team's top pass-catcher this season. Right tackle Breno Giacomini, guard/tackle Paul McQuistan and fullback Michael Robinson have all played key roles on offense.
That is a tremendous amount of production that must be re-signed or replaced, and with very little cap room to do so.
|Restricted Free Agents|
|Player||Position||Age||2013 Cap Number|
As a general rule, restricted free agents rarely change teams. Teams simply aren't willing to give up a draft pick for a player when there are other options available in free agency.
Restricted free agents do tend to get a hefty raise. Both safety Jeron Johnson and DE/LB Mike Morgan are likely to get the $1.225 million tender, while wide receiver Doug Baldwin will almost certainly receive the $2.5 million tender.
This means that roughly $5 million of the Seahawks' cap space will be used to retain their restricted free agents.
Current Salary-Cap Situation
This is where things begin to look ugly for the Seahawks in 2014. Despite having 18 current players, and one on injured reserve, that are set to become free agents, the Seahawks have just an estimated $8.7 million in projected cap room to try and replace those players.
|2014 Salary Cap Status|
|Projected 2014 Cap||$127 million|
|2013 Rollover||$2.5 million|
|Current 2014 Cap Spending||$122.8 million|
|Current 2014 Cap Room||$8.7 million|
With the restricted free agents accounting for $5 million of that space, and with a first-round pick that will account for approximately $1.2 million against the cap, the Seahawks have very little cap room left to work with.
And that is with a prediction of a moderate salary-cap increase. In the current "flat cap" era, there is no guarantee that the salary cap will increase by the same amount that it did before the current season. It is possible that the Seahawks will have even less room than what is projected here.
Part of the problem is that the Seahawks "overspent" this season. The Seahawks rolled over approximately $13 million on cap space from 2012 and used that extra cap space to spend $10.5 million more than the league salary cap for this season.
By rolling over just $2.5 million from this season into 2014, the Seahawks have set up a scenario for the team's total budget for 2014 that will actually be less than what they have spent in 2013.
On top of needing the cap room to re-sign or replace the free agents above, the Seahawks have a trio of other players whose contract situation must be considered. Cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Earl Thomas will both be entering the final year of rookie contracts. Both of them are going to be due a very large pay increase, and the team will want to lock them up to long-term deals this offseason if it is possible to do so.
Quarterback Russell Wilson will also be due for a massive pay raise but not until the following year. The Seahawks will want to carry over as much cap space as possible to avoid having to trim off large portions of the roster in order to pay their franchise QB.
Finding the Cap Room
The Seahawks have a few players with large enough contacts that the team could find significant cap space by cutting them, though many of them have been key contributors this season. Cutting any of these players might create considerable cap room, but it will also create a large production void that will have to be filled.
|Potential Salary Cap Casualties|
|Player||Cap Number||Dead Money||Cap Relief|
|Over The Cap|
Wide receiver Sidney Rice would seem to be the most logical on the list to be cut. He was unable to contribute much this season due to a pair of knee injuries, and the Seahawks have managed to play well in his absence.
It is also worth noting that four of the seven players on this list are defensive linemen. Combine that with the three defensive linemen who are currently set to be free agents, and Seattle's defensive line could end up looking very different in 2014 than it does right now.
Putting It All Together
The Seahawks are unlikely to be able to find the cap space to keep everyone on the lists above. That is the unfortunate side of being a successful football team. Players will want to get paid, and other teams will be willing to pay more for Seattle's players than what the Seahawks will be able to afford.
A few fan-favorite players are certain to not be back. Roster turnover is part of the game in the NFL. Players leave, and other players come in to take their place. The Seahawks simply lack the cap flexibility to avoid major changes to the roster in the coming offseason.
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