The Seattle Seahawks have arguably the deepest and most talented roster in the NFL this season. That is one of the reasons they are just one of the four teams still remaining in the playoffs. Keeping much of that roster together in 2014 should be a major priority, but the NFL salary cap will likely make it difficult to do so.
At first glance, the Seahawks seem to be in some salary-cap trouble this offseason. Seattle has almost a third of its roster about to become free agents, and very little money with which to re-sign or replace them.
Number of Players Currently Under Contract for 2014: 45
Current 2014 Salary-Cap Spending: $124,645,077
Projected 2014 Salary Cap: $126,600,000
2013 Salary-Cap Rollover: $2,949,684
Projected Current Salary-Cap Space: $5,041,607
Players With Expiring Contracts: 19
Clearly, the Seahawks have some very tough decisions to make this offseason. Five million in cap space isn't enough to re-sign or replace 19 free agents. They are going to have to free up some additional cap space in one way or another.
The Seahawks will also need some young players to step in and replace veterans whom the team can no longer afford. While the core of the team will remain the same, there could be considerable turnover on the rest of the roster.
On each of the following slides, you'll find a breakdown of how much of the 2014 cap spending is currently allotted for each position, salary-cap details for each player and a summary of what the Seahawks will likely do this offseason from a salary-cap perspective.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $681,085
On 2014 Roster: Russell Wilson ($681,085)
Free Agents: Tarvaris Jackson, B.J. Daniels (Practice Squad)
Russell Wilson's low cap number provides the Seahawks with a lot of flexibility that can be used at other positions. He has to play one more year on his rookie deal before he and the team are allowed to negotiate an extension.
The Seahawks will need to find a backup at some point this offseason. This will likely include B.J. Daniels on a futures deal and a veteran on a minimum deal. If Tarvaris Jackson is willing to return on that type of contract, there would be no reason for the Seahawks to go elsewhere.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $9,465,388
On 2014 Roster: Marshawn Lynch ($7 million), Christine Michael ($766,916), Robert Turbin ($684,114), Spencer Ware ($519,358), Derrick Coleman ($495,000)
Free Agents: Michael Robinson
The Seahawks already have five players under contract in the backfield for 2014. Fullback Michael Robinson, who was brought back to the roster only because of injuries to Derrick Coleman and Spencer Ware, would appear to be the odd man out yet again.
Hypothetically, the Seahawks could cut or trade Marshawn Lynch and his large salary and go with Christine Michael as the team's featured back in 2014. While it would save the team plenty of salary-cap space, that scenario remains extremely unlikely at this point.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $7,539,633
On 2014 Roster: Zach Miller ($7 million), Luke Willson ($539,633)
Free Agents: Kellen Davis, Anthony McCoy (injured reserve), Cooper Helfet (practice squad)
The possible spending at tight end for the Seahawks could go in one of two directions. One option would be for the team to choose to stick with Zach Miller and add a low-cost backup like it did with Kellen Davis this season.
The other option would be to try to replace Miller and his high salary with either a high-round draft pick or with a free agent. This option would be betting that the development of Luke Willson continues, but it is certainly a possibility. The team would also need to add a low-cost backup to the mix as well.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $24,810,000
On 2014 Roster: Percy Harvin ($13.4 million), Sidney Rice ($9.7 million), Jermaine Kearse ($570,000), Ricardo Lockette ($570,000), Bryan Walters ($570,000)
Free Agents: Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin (Restricted)
The Seahawks have some serious decisions to make at wide receiver this offseason. They have a tremendous amount of cap space tied up in a pair of players who were hurt for most of the 2013 season, while their two most productive receivers are both set to become free agents.
Sidney Rice appears to be an obvious choice to be a salary-cap casualty given Seattle's need for cap room. After that, the team will need to re-sign or replace Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin.
Baldwin is a restricted free agent. Whether or not he returns likely depends on what size contract he is offered by Seattle. If he is given the $2 million tender, then any team that signs him would have to give Seattle its second-round draft pick. If the Seahawks tender Baldwin at the $2.8 million level, then it would cost another team its first-round pick to sign Baldwin.
The market for Tate will likely set Seattle's plan of action for the position. If he can be retained fairly cheaply, then the Seahawks will almost certainly do so. If not, then they'll be forced into using a high draft pick on the position.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $21,354,050
On 2014 Roster: Russell Okung ($11,240,000), Max Unger ($5,600,000), James Carpenter ($2,431,364), J.R. Sweezy ($584,212), Michael Bowie ($506,474), Alvin Bailey ($497,000), Caylin Hauptmann ($495,000)
Free Agents: Paul McQuistan, Breno Giacomini, Lemuel Jeanpierre
What the Seahawks do this offseason will depend greatly on their evaluation of Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey. Bowie replaced James Carpenter and Paul McQuistan at left guard last Saturday, and the improvement was obvious. Bowie also played in nine games (starting seven) at right tackle this season.
Bowie is almost certainly going to start at either guard or tackle next season. Which position, and if the team views Bailey as a possibility at the other, will determine the team's strategy in free agency and the draft.
The Seahawks should also consider extending the contract of left tackle Russell Okung this offseason. He does have two years remaining on his rookie deal, but a contract extension would allow the team to reduce his large cap number without just pushing the cap problem into future seasons.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $35,886,989
On 2014 Roster: Chris Clemons ($9,666,667), Cliff Avril ($9,250,000), Red Bryant ($8,500,000), Brandon Mebane ($5,700,000), Greg Scruggs ($582,358), Kenneth Boatright ($499,166), Benson Mayowa ($495,000), Jordan Hill ($651,035), Jesse Williams ($547,763)
Free Agents: Michael Bennett, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald
This is an area in which the Seahawks are likely to see a lot of changes before the 2014 season. They already have a lot of resources invested in the defensive line, and they still need to re-sign Michael Bennett, who was arguably their best lineman this season.
There are two obvious ways to help free up some cap room from this position group. The first would be cutting defensive end Chris Clemons. Clemons saw a major drop in his production this season, and his contract calls for a large raise before next season. That is unfortunately a recipe for becoming a salary-cap casualty.
The other option for creating some salary-cap space would be to give Cliff Avril a contract extension. He has just one more year on his current deal, and a new contract could be structured in a way that lowers his cap number for 2014.
At defensive tackle, the Seahawks already have rookie Jordan Hill, who managed to get some playing time this season. They also have rookie Jesse Williams and second-year player Greg Scruggs, who both spent the entire year on injured reserve. Those three young players offer some hope that the Seahawks can retool without investing heavily in the position this offseason.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $7,307,368
On 2014 Roster: Bobby Wagner ($1,174,854), K.J. Wright ($766,500), Bruce Irvin ($2,547,872), Heath Farwell ($1,666,667), Malcolm Smith ($656,475), Korey Toomer ($495,000)
Free Agents: Mike Morgan, O'Brien Schofield
The Seahawks bring back most of their incredibly deep group of linebackers in 2014. The return of an injured Korey Toomer also offsets the loss of one of the two linebackers with expiring contracts.
Both K.J. Wright and Malcolm Smith are entering the final year of their respective contracts. This sets up a situation where one of them could be signed to a contract extension this offseason. It also means that the other might be traded for a draft pick if a deal becomes available.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $15,476,973
On 2014 Roster: Kam Chancellor ($5,825,000), Earl Thomas ($6,075,000), Richard Sherman ($690,606), Byron Maxwell ($673,363), Jeremy Lane ($601,279), DeShawn Shead ($570,000), Tharold Simon ($546,725), Chandler Fenner ($495,000)
Free Agents: Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, Jeron Johnson, Chris Maragos
This is an area where a lot of cap space will be spent this offseason. Both Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas are entering the final year of their rookie deals, and both are likely to be given large contract extensions.
The Seahawks are also set to lose both of their backup safeties and a pair of key cornerbacks to free agency. While the depth at corner removes some of the concern there, the team will need to reload some of the roster at both positions with late-round draft picks.
Current 2014 Cap Spending: $2,287,500
On 2014 Roster: Jon Ryan ($1,400,000), Clint Gresham ($887,500)
Free Agents: Steven Hauschka
The Seahawks were able to get away with paying kicker Steven Hauschka near the veteran minimum in 2013, but that likely won't happen again in 2014. Hauschka had the best season of his career and was named a Pro Bowl alternate.
Hauschka will almost certainly get a decent raise this offseason, but it remains to be seen if the Seahawks will be the one giving it to him. If not, then the team will likely look to a younger player at the position who would be willing to sign for the minimum salary.