While the Denver Broncos and Carolina Panthers prepare to clash in next week’s Super Bowl 50, the Seattle Seahawks are in the unfamiliar position – at least from the past two seasons – of already thinking about next year.
The reality of today’s salary cap constrained NFL is that teams often become victims of their own success, with the nucleus of core players all wanting to get paid for contributing to past accomplishments and team success. It’s a good problem to have, and one the Seahawks would rather have than not. Still, the coming offseason poses numerous salary cap challenges.
In the past two off seasons, the Seahawks have dished out big contracts to quarterback Russell Wilson and cornerback Richard Sherman, not to mention other deals for linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Earl Thomas. This year, the Seahawks have 19 – yes 19! – unrestricted free agents to deal with, and that number doesn’t include salary cap-related decisions on players like running back Marshawn Lynch.
So, who will stay in Seattle and who will go?
Ahtyba Rubin (DT) – One of two free agent DTs, Rubin had a better year and will come less expensively than line mate Brandon Mebane.
Bruce Irvin (LB) – Irvin might take less than market to stay with the Seahawks; he’s a critical edge rusher who is accountable in coverage.
Tarvaris Jackson (QB) – Experienced backup quarterbacks are worth the money, and with luck, the Seahawks never have to find out how valuable Jackson could be.
J.R. Sweezy (RG) – The offensive line struggled for most of the season, but began to perform better later in the year. Sweezy provides a gamer’s demeanor, and continuity in his position will potentially help offset other losses in the line.
Jeremy Lane (CB) – Lane is going to get a huge raise from his 2015 salary of $556,279; with luck his injury history will keep opposing teams from jacking his salary up and over $4 million annually.
Patrick Lewis (C) – Both Lewis and his backup Lemuel Jeanpierre are free agents. Both might be kept, but Lewis first and foremost.
Russel Okung (LT) – Okung, perhaps the best offensive lineman, will be too expensive to keep, with last year’s salary of over $8 million already
awfully high; Just not enough dollars to spread around
Brandon Mebane (DT) – A tremendous run stuffer and the player that opens things up for Michael Bennett and Wagner, he likely demand a raise over his current $5 million, which is too much for a player with an injury history
Jermaine Kearse (WR) – Kearse has said he won’t give a hometown discount for the Seahawks, and he shouldn’t as he didn’t enter the league with a big rookie contract. But, Kearse is a 3 or 4 on almost every team, and the Seahawks can upgrade his position for the money, particularly with a receiver-heavy rookie draft class.
Jon Ryan (P) – As a punter, Ryan and his $1.5 million plus salary is expendable. However, as a holder for place kicker Stephen Hauschka, he might be worth retaining if the price isn’t too high.
Fred Jackson (RB) – Jackson is a dependable third down back, with great hands and an ability to pick up the blitz. He would be a nice luxury to keep, but at $900,000-plus, one that most likely can’t be afforded.
In addition to the free agents, the Seahawks will undoubtedly be looking at extensions for WR Doug Baldwin and DE Bennett, and both of those extensions will take free agent money out of the coffers.
One area the Seahawks will be able to save money is by releasing RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch has been a stud for the Seahawks over his career, but the facts are simple: by next season he will be 30 years old with a lot of hard mileage on him, he’s coming off an injury prone season, and most importantly, his salary cap hit for 2016 is $11.5 million. With Thomas Rawls expected to come back full strength, Lynch is expendable.
It isn’t pretty, but that’s the reality of today’s salary cap constrained NFL.
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