We’ve talked recently about Seattle’e estimated $37m in cap space for 2017. There is an opportunity, for the first time in a few years, for the Seahawks to add a significant contributor from another team.
That said, here are some points that are worth considering:
1. With the cap rising, other teams also have more to spend
Seattle’s estimated cap space for 2017 puts them 20th only in the NFL per spotrac. So 19 other teams will have more to spend. And while it might be difficult for the Cleveland Browns at #1 ($108m in cap space) to attract free agents, here are some of the other teams with major money available:
#1 Cleveland ($108m)
#2 San Francisco ($87m)
#3 Tampa Bay ($84m)
#4 Tennessee ($74m)
#5 New England ($72m)
#6 Washington ($67m)
#7 Jacksonville ($67m)
#8 Carolina ($63m)
#9 Chicago ($63m)
#10 Indianapolis ($60m)
Teams like San Francisco could be aggressive in free agency as they try and rejuvenate the roster and avoid a repeat of 2-14. Jacksonville were big spenders a year ago. Contenders like New England and Carolina could make a splash — while teams like Washington, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Indianapolis will feel they can take a step forward with a strong off-season.
Only New England can compare to Seattle in terms of track record and an opportunity to win a Super Bowl — but players will realise that the likes of Carolina and Tampa Bay aren’t a million miles away. If it becomes a battle of finance, the Seahawks might get priced out.
2. Teams have room to retain the big names
If the Bengals wish to keep Kevin Zeitler, they have $47m to spend. If the Cardinals really like Calais Campbell, they have $39m to spend. If the Panthers want to retain Kawann Short, they have $63m to spend.
In the case of Zeitler and Short, the franchise tag is very much in play. A franchise tag at defensive tackle in 2016 was worth $13.6m. Something similar in 2017 would be a bargain for Short considering Mo Wilkerson’s average salary is $17.2m a year.
The Bengals, a notoriously thrifty organisation, might be less willing to pay a $13-14m O-line tender for Zeitler — but with the highest paid guard in the NFL (Kelechi Osemele) earning $11.7m a year and those just below getting around $10m, they have a nice benchmark to begin negotiations.
3. Who could be available?
Calais Campbell and Arizona will be an interesting case. This year his cap hit was $15.25m and he earned $14.75m in 2015 and $11.25m in 2014. He’s a similar age to Michael Bennett with a similar reputation — and it doesn’t appear Bennett will touch those types of numbers on his new contract.
Will Campbell appreciate the situation and work on a reduced pay extension to stay with Arizona? Possibly. He might also wish to see if he can continue to earn around $14-15m on the open market, considering the way D-line salaries have ballooned in recent years.
That doesn’t mean he’d get that type of money as a free agent — but if it gets that far, teams will have the opportunity to lure him away from Arizona even if it’s for $10-12m instead of $14-15m. With the way Campbell played in 2016 — he’s worth every penny of the salary he received this year.
Bruce Arians stated in his end of season press conference they will franchise tag Chandler Jones if they can’t agree a contract extension. That will be costly.
The Ravens might make a business decision on right tackle Ricky Wagner. They only have $19m to spend in 2017 and will likely prioritise defensive tackle Brandon Williams. It’s possible Williams eats up a large portion of that $19m — making it likely Wagner reaches free agency.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a bit of a cap problem. They currently have around $4m to spend in 2017. That will rise when they cut backup quarterback Nick Foles to save $10.75m. Cutting injury plagued Jamaal Charles saves them a further $7m.
That would create enough room to sign Eric Berry to a contract extension. They would have to make further cuts to try and retain defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
4. As the cap rises, so will contracts
Remember a year ago when every fan base was discussing the possibility of adding Olivier Vernon? He was considered a value option. He had 7.5 sacks in 2015, had 6.5 the year before. Maybe you could get him on a Cliff Avril type deal for a couple of seasons?
Vernon eventually agreed a contract with the Giants worth $17m a year.
Kelechi Osemele’s big contract in Oakland showed this wasn’t just a D-line craze. Teams have more money to spend than ever with the cap increasing rapidly every year. It’ll be interesting to see if the market steadies in 2017 or continues to boom. Who’d bet against another big pay rise for those available? And will that price out the Seahawks at the top end of the market?
5. What could be an alternative for Seattle?
Veteran trades can eliminate the need to negotiate a contract. The Seahawks dealt for Jimmy Graham knowing what his salary was for the next three years. They did sign a contract extension with Percy Harvin — but he was towards the end of his rookie deal.
We’ve seen this team be creative before. Would the Niners be willing to allow Joe Staley to move on as rumoured a few weeks ago? His deal is worth $11m in 2017 but drops to $7.7m in 2018 and 2019. If the Panthers draft one of Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook with the #8 overall pick — would they consider dealing Jonathan Stewart? His cap hit is $8.25m in 2017 but drops to $2.5m in 2018.
The Seahawks don’t have a ton of draft capital to spend but Over The Cap is estimating they’ll receive compensatory picks in rounds three and five. For the first time in 2017, teams will be able to trade compensatory picks. Would they gave up the third rounder for a veteran?
Several big name prospects declared for the draft in the last 24 hours including:
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
John Ross (WR, Washington)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Elijah Qualls (DT, Washington)
Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
By the time you’ve read this there’ll be others to add to the list. It’s that time of year, with only the National Championship game left to play in the college season.
Two players to keep an eye on during the draft process are David Sharpe (T, Florida) and David Njoku (TE, Miami). Sharpe has quite an interesting frame and played well at times this year. We highlighted him at the start of the season as someone who could rise amid a poor overall offensive tackle class. With so little depth at the position this year, Sharpe has a chance to really bolster his stock with a good combine.
Njoku meanwhile is an absolute freak. Until his decision I didn’t know he was intending to turn pro. He’s a big time athlete at 6-4 and 245lbs and could be a winner at the combine. This highlights video will give you a flavour of what he’s capable of:
The Seahawks might not be in the market for another tight end having drafted Nick Vannett in 2016 and with Jimmy Graham still under contract. They could also try and re-sign Luke Willson. Yet Njoku looks destined to have an impact at the next level and could be the next big ‘move’ TE. He might even get some first round love by the end of the draft process.
One final name to monitor is Bradley Chubb at NC State. Earlier today I watched Louisville’s blow out victory against NC State from a few weeks ago. Despite the one-sided scoreline Chubb did as good a job as anyone corralling Lamar Jackson in the open field and had a sack working the interior rush. He’s the cousin of Nick Chubb — and we know he’s a special athlete.
Chubb’s 21.5 TFL’s in 2016 is second all time at NC State — only beaten by Mario Williams’ final year before becoming the #1 pick in 2006. At 6-4 and 275lbs — he has inside/out rusher potential but also experience playing linebacker.
In a loaded year for defensive ends and EDGE rushers, Chubb might provide some value.