The Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks have built one of the most talented rosters in the NFL. Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider have hit on multiple draft picks, re-signed core players on both sides of the ball and sprinkled in free-agent acquisitions along the way.
Yet, the time has come where key draft picks like cornerback Richard Sherman, free safety Earl Thomas and wide receiver Golden Tate all need new contracts. To keep the youth movement alive in Seattle, the front-office duo has to start trimming the fat. Aging and underperforming contracts have to go, it's that simple.
That's the only way the Seahawks will be able to retain talent and gear up for a second-straight Super Bowl run. With a current salary cap figure of $126,931,240 (via Spotrac), let's take a look at five different salaries Seattle should consider dumping during the offseason.
2014 Cap Hit: $8,500,000
Dead Money If Cut: $3,000,000
Cap Savings If Cut: $5,500,000
Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Bryant is going to be 30 years old in April, he's set to make more than running back Marshawn Lynch and he's as dreadful as it gets as a pass-rusher. In 18 games (playoffs included), he tallied 1.5 quarterback sacks, four quarterback hits and 15 quarterback hurries.
That's simply not good enough. Defensive end Michael Bennett plays the five-technique position better than Bryant does, which is why the Seahawks would be smart to use the $17.5 million in cap savings on the impending free agent.
Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Bryant is one of the best run defenders in the NFL when he's on the field. According to the analysts at Pro Football Focus, he finished the 2013 season with a plus-12.3 grade against the run. That's incredible based on the fact he only logged 261 snaps versus the run.
His rotational value and impact on first and second down could keep him around for another year.
2014 Cap Hit: $7,000,000
Dead Money If Cut: $2,000,000
Cap Savings If Cut: $5,000,000
Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Despite being a Grade A run-blocker, Miller leaves plenty to be desired as a pass-catcher. Since his arrival in the Pacific Northwest, he hasn't ever caught more than 38 passes or garnered more than 396 yards receiving in a single season. That pales in comparison to his career year in 2009.
As a member of the Oakland Raiders, in 2009, he hauled in 66 passes for 805 yards and three touchdowns. Will the 28-year-old tight end ever approach those types of numbers again? If his first three years in Seattle are any indication, there's no way he lives up to expectations, or the $7 million he is owed in 2014.
Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Even though Miller's receiving numbers are underwhelming, the organization could keep him around for the sake of continuity. Let's not forget, the Seahawks paid him $11 million in 2013 to run pass routes 40.8 percent of the time.
Clearly, Darrell Bevell's offense doesn't incorporate the tight end into the passing game the same way Sean Payton's offense does in New Orleans. Considering his role in the run game and Luke Willson's inexperience, the Seahawks may be stuck with Miller for another year.
2014 Cap Hit: $2,431,387
Dead Money If Cut: $1,014,364
Cap Savings If Cut: $1,417,023
Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Odds are Carpenter will never be a full-time starter for the Seahawks again. He couldn't beat out fellow left guard Paul McQuistan considering they rotated snaps, and rookie seventh-round pick Michael Bowie flashed signs of top-notch talent when he replaced the 321-pound behemoth in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Moreover, Carpenter's run-blocking skills are atrocious. Per PFF, he was the 10th-worst run-blocking guard in the NFL. When your offense is built to run the football, like the Seahawks offense is, the last thing any offensive lineman on the team wants to be is a horrific run-blocker.
Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: The one thing Carpenter does have going for him is Seattle's lack of depth on the offensive line. McQuistan, right tackle Breno Giacomini and center Lemuel Jeanpierre are all scheduled for unrestricted free agency.
The other thing Carpenter has going for him is his ability as a pass protector. In 429 pass-block snaps, he surrendered 17 quarterback pressures. This means he allowed a quarterback pressure once every 25 snaps. His pass-block grade from PFF reflected his stellar play. His grade was higher than the likes of left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger.
2014 Cap Hit: $9,666,668
Dead Money If Cut: $2,166,668
Cap Savings If Cut: $7,500,000
Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: As good as Clemons has been for the Seahawks over the years, his better days are behind him at 32 years of age. He doesn't have the same explosion and get off he once had. Not to mention, he posted his first single-digit sack season since 2009, he averaged a lowly 27 snaps per game and made $160,130.70 every time he pressured opposing quarterbacks.
He was also the third-most penalized defender on Seattle's roster. Officials flagged him six different times for being offside and one other time for holding. Schneider and the front office staff would be smart to use the $7.5 million in savings on Bennett.
Like Bryant, Clemons' play can't hold a candle to Bennett's.
Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: The 10th-year pass-rusher's chances of holding onto a roster spot in Seattle are slim. Yet, it could happen. However, there's only one way it could happen: Clemons would have to agree to a massive pay cut. Paying an aging defensive end $9,666,668 is not a sustainable business model for the Seahawks.
And for whatever reason, it shouldn't surprise you if he agrees to take a pay cut. Players seem to enjoy playing for Coach Carroll, he has already earned over half of his contract and he is entering the final stages of his career. Why not go for that second Vince Lombardi Trophy?
2014 Cap Hit: $9,700,000
Dead Money If Cut: $2,400,000
Cap Savings If Cut: $7,300,000
Why He Might Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Rice is an exquisite locker room guy who is loved by his teammates, but his body has been breaking down at an alarming rate for some time now. Amid his stint in Seattle, Rice has been plagued by knee, foot, head (concussion), calf and shoulder problems. To no one's amazement, the nagging injuries have affected his production on the field.
In three season's time for the Seahawks, Rice has appeared in 33 regular-season games, caught 97 of 172 targets, scored 12 touchdowns and accounted for 1,463 yards receiving. The aforementioned numbers aren't exactly eye-opening. For comparison's sake, undrafted free agent Doug Baldwin has outproduced the Pro Bowl wideout.
Why He Might Not Be a Salary Cap Casualty: Earlier in the week, Coach Carroll sounded optimistic about Rice's quick recovery from his ACL tear, via Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times:
He’s had an unbelievable recovery from his surgery. Within weeks he was back up with almost total reflection and extension and it’s just almost an unheard of type of recovery. It’s so far ahead of schedule, so that’s great for Sid. We’ll see how that turns out, but right off the bat we’ve never seen anybody (recover) like that.
Could Carroll's comments lead us to believe that Rice will be back in 2014? At this point in time, it's hard to tell. Nonetheless, the seventh-year receiver out of South Carolina has to be pleased with his coach's comments.
My bet is this: If Tate isn't retained in free agency, Rice will be back with the team at a reduced rate.