The Seahawks entered the 2021 NFL free agency strapped for cash.
The salary cap was set at $182.5M this season, lower than originally expected due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The team was able to free up space by releasing Carlos Dunlap, which gave them an additional $14M to work with, but a lot of discussion ahead of free agency was why not attempt to restructure the large contracts of co-captains QB Russell Wilson and LB Bobby Wagner?
NBC Sports Northwest's Seahawks Insider Joe Fann shared his views on why it didn’t happen: “Seattle may have viewed that as a last resort. Clearly John Schneider preferred to use void years on new contracts rather than restructuring these two in order to create immediate cap space. The Seahawks were able to have a busy and productive offseason without having to do so. It may be as simple as that. However, avoiding a restructure for Wilson specifically will help make Seattle more flexible when dealing with the quarterback’s uncertain future.
On Saturday, Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll provided additional insight and didn’t rule out the possibility of it in the future:
“As always, we have all of the options available to us,” Carroll said following rookie-minicamp practice. “We have talked about all of that, as we do every year. What are our possibilities? Where do we need to go? What do we need to do, if we get to certain levels of need to stay in compliance (with the cap)?
Carroll added that the team has talked to its co-captains and their highest-paid players about renegotiating their contracts to create salary-cap space this year.
The Seahawks could have converted up to $17.9 million of Wilson’s $19 million base salary and save nearly $12M in cap this year and reportedly don’t need Wilson’s approval to do so. However, Carroll and GM John Schneider would likely work with Wilson before making that decision unilaterally.
Wilson has three seasons and $69 million remaining on his $140 million contract.
Wagner has a $13.15M base salary and the Seahawks could save just over $6M this season if they restructured his contract.
Between the two players, Seattle could have saved $18M this season, but it would have gone onto the books in 2022 and 2023.
Both Wagner and Wilson’s contracts end in 2023.
The team was able to bolster the offensive line and add key pieces without having to break the bank and have approximately $7.49 million left, per overthecap.com.
They re-signed lead running back Chris Carson, brought back Carlos Dunlap on more favorable terms, as well as defensive tackle Poona Ford and starting center Ethan Pocic.
Additionally they signed free agents Kerry Hyder, Gerald Everett and Ahkello Witherspoon. They also traded for Gabe Jackson and restructured his deal to a team-friendly contract.
Jackson’s $56 million contract they inherited in the trade from the Raiders to give them a more team-friendly salary-cap charge for him for 2021.
So, there’s good reason for the Seahawks to not restructure Wagner and Wilson’s deals and it’s also very on-brand. Carroll and Schneider aren’t one to punt on their salary cap issues, making them have to deal with it in the future. They’d rather deal with it head-on, right now.
They were able to get creative this offseason using void year deals, which allow teams the opportunity to spread cap money.
They did that with Chris Carson as well as Benson Mayowa and Kerry Hyder.
So, why haven’t they restructured their two largest contracts?
“It just hasn’t been necessary at this point,” Carroll said.