Written by Julian Rogers
At some point, the Seattle Seahawks’ reign atop the NFC West will end. With an array of unanswered questions, the blue birds have the aura of a team poised to fall off their perch — possibly soon.
OK, calm down. My guess is that they’ll win the NFC West once again in 2015. That doesn’t mean your local favorites are entering the 2015 campaign with as much momentum as they did the past two Super Bowl seasons. Far from it.
Fortunately, their NFC West competitors, the St. Louis Rams, the Arizona Cardinals and the artists formerly known as the San Francisco 49ers, have talent deficits that outpace the Seahawks. The NFC West crown will remain in the Northwest for at least one more season.
But let’s be realistic. This is a different team as it tries to bounce back from a devastating championship game loss and the strains of stars demanding (usually successfully) to be paid like Super Bowlers. Like every NFL team simultaneously preparing for the start of the season while attending to their longer term goals, the Seahawks have questions. And holes.
- Non-existent production from their recent high draft picks,
- Approximately $100M committed to only 10 players,
- A veteran Legion of Boom that is now more commonly referred to as the Legion of Whom, and
- An offensive line that only scares people who work at the VMAC.
If you want the full breakdown of the Seahawks’ ouchy parts, you can read a full examination here. For now, let’s talk about their vexing salary cap situation. The good news for you, dear reader, is that you can choose to believe the glass is either half empty or half full. There are good arguments for both sides. Here’s my argument for the not-so-good.
With the recent big-money contracts handed out to (deserving) Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks have now committed a cool $100 million to 10 players. That kind of salary disparity is at the heart of why other already highly paid players like Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor are asking for similar treatment.
Of course, the Seahawks can no longer afford to buy chewing gum, let alone sweeten deals for other “deserving” players. The cap is tight this year and will be again next year, according to Over The Cap. The Seahawks have a shade under $5M in cap space, placing them ahead of only the Rams, Cardinals, New York Giants, Detroit Lions and New Orleans Saints. Note that two of their cap-strapped compatriots are NFC West foes.
Here’s the glass-half-full side: If you want to feel better about the Seahawks’ cap situation, I recommend you read Evan Hill’s analysis of the Seahawks’ cap situation on Field Gulls. His premise is that the kvetching you’ve likely heard is probably wrong. He goes into a lot of depth and has a firm grasp of the Seahawks’ cap realities.
However, there are two fundamental flaws to Hill’s prognosis that all is well. Here is an excerpt:
“At the beginning of each season, teams put aside $4M for IR and $1M for practice squad. So in terms of “real space” … the Seahawks are slightly over the cap. They will have to make a move before the NFL season starts, to open up space. However, this can be easily done. This can come in the form of an extension, restructure, or flat-out cut of a player.”
Did you catch that? The Seahawks are out of money, which is not news. According to Hill, they’re not close to the cap — they’re over it. He further opines (wait for it) that they’ll have to cut or restructure player(s) to fix their problem.
Cut players? Who thinks that cutting players is not only not a preferred solution, but exactly the type of problem smart NFL teams strive to avoid? Cutting players is precisely the problem when you’re in cap hell. If you’re OK with cutting players, then nobody is ever in cap trouble. Ever. One’s argument is, let’s say, full circle if you want to claim that cutting players is an “easy” solution to having no cap space. Restructuring, of course, only pushes the problem into the future — it does not solve it.
Tony and Pete agree with me
When it comes to being out of money and looking around the room to see who is gonna go, put the Seahawks at the top of that lamentable list. Just ask Tony McDaniel. And Pete Carroll. The Seahawks already cut McDaniel for reasons solely cap-related. Carroll’s “This decision sucks” pronouncement is just the preamble to the future of Seahawks roster shaping. Was cutting McDaniel “easily done”? Carroll doesn’t think so. And he won’t think so again when the Seahawks, as predicted by Hill, will do so again before cutting down to 53 players.
That’s just this year. The Seahawks’ expensive 10 will all, presumably, be around for the next few seasons, with the likely exception of Lynch. Lynch’s salary will be more than compensated for in the 2016 cap when Wilson’s $7 million cap hit in 2015 more than doubles in following seasons.
So if you buy cutting players as the way to go, then yippee! The Seahawks are sittin’ pretty. If you’re in the Pete Carroll camp, and you don’t like jettisoning valuable (starting!) role players to keep a handful of stars, then you have legitimate reasons for concern.
Cut me, Mick
Speaking of cutting, the NFL’s first cut-down date is today. All NFL teams will be down to 75 players today and will have to do final cuts down to 53 on Saturday. It’s always a bit rocky to trim the roster. This year, it’s going to be even tougher, thanks to the Seahawks’ salary cap situation. One valuable veteran was already let go. Look for at least one more significant cap cut coming out of Renton before the Seahawks settle on their opening-day squad.