This is a guest article written by Curtis Allen…

With the main period of Free Agency winding down and the draft looming, it’s a good time to talk about where the Seahawks stand in relation to the salary cap.  There are decisions the team will have to make soon that will have an impact next season.

How they play this will be interesting.  It will give us insight into how close to truly competing the management thinks they are.

Where the Seahawks Currently Stand

They currently are just under the cap but the signing of Laken Tomlinson, adding their draft class and practice squad players will require the Seahawks to make some moves to create more cap room:

The Seahawks need to find about $11.5 million in cap space between now and the start of the season.

For reference, I added the most viable cap gain options underneath and added the 2024 cap benefits (including the Top-51 effect) and the impact on the 2025 salary cap.

As you see, the three Restricted Free Agents have very little guaranteed money on their numbers for 2024.  However, their cap numbers will likely pale in comparison to their output.  Darrell Taylor may not be anyone’s idea of a top Defensive End at this stage of his career, but 21 sacks in 3 seasons is easy to like for a cap hit of $3.1 million.  Same for Mike Jackson.  He has started at corner and at times been their best outside player last year.  A bet of $3.1 million to see what he can do in Macdonald’s defense is not hard to justify at all.

The simplest options for this year are the restructures of Smith and Metcalf.  They pick up almost the exact amount the team requires to operate and there is no impact on the current roster, as it is simply a bookkeeping move.

However, look at the 2025 impact.  If the team made those two moves, it adds that exact amount to the 2025 cap.  While that is workable, spending next year’s money might put limitations on their decision-making process come the next offseason.

The same limitations Seahawks are experiencing this year because of 2023’s offseason moves.

At this time last year, the team was in nearly the exact same cap shape as they are now:  tight against the cap and needing remedies to create more space.

They chose to restructure Tyler Lockett in May, Quandre Diggs in July and Jamal Adams in August (as well as extending Uchenna Nwosu in July).  Those three restructures gained them about $18.4 million in cap room but also pushed significant money into future seasons. As an aside, this was ‘just to pay the bills’ money.  The team needed to pay the Giants significant trade compensation to get them to eat about $10 million of Leonard Williams’ contract when they traded for him last fall.

About $12 million of that 2023 money is now dead 2024 money due to the Seahawks releasing Diggs and Adams.  Tyler Lockett agreed to a salary reduction with incentives going forward but the $5.69 million of room they gained last year is guaranteed, so there is no getting around that cap hit.

You see the irony.  That $12 million of dead cap for Adams and Diggs is the exact amount they are short in cap this season.  Therefore, when we talk about the options to gain cap this year and restructuring Metcalf and Smith is raised as the easiest option, just remember – the team is not freeing themselves of that obligation, they are just kicking it down the road.

Which is fine.  But it does force another ‘tough decisions and piling up more dead cap money’ situation in 2025.

Why?  The team is not flush with cap next year at the outset.

A Very Early Cap Outlook for 2025

At this moment in time, Over the Cap has the Seahawks with cap room of just under $3 million for 2025.  That is not good.  However, we can project things to get an idea of what it will truly look like before any major moves are made.  This will provide clarity to see the big picture of what the Seahawks may want to do – or avoid doing – the rest of the way this offseason.

From the top:

-OTC’s $2.99 million starting number is based on a $260 million cap in 2025.  They have yet to consider the large 2024 increase up to $255.4 million.  Revenues are going to provide robust growth, and a typical increase would put them at about $275 million, so the Seahawks get $15 million more breathing room.

-And then that breathing room gets eaten immediately.  The beginning number does not include the draft class the Seahawks will add in a few days.

-Four later-round players have been playing significant snaps for the Seahawks and will get a salary raise in the fourth year of their contracts courtesy of Player Performance Escalators baked into the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

-That leaves the team over the cap by $3.3 million with 40 players, and when you add another 11 players at minimum salaries to get to the top 51, they are now over by $13.8 million.

-Add in your standard draft class, practice squad and injury piggy bank and the Seahawks will need to create almost $28 million of cap room in the 2025 offseason to stay cap compliant.  That’s before they go shopping in the market.

You see the dilemma here.  If the Seahawks push cap money into 2025 just to pay the bills in 2024, there is no soft landing they would like to have waiting for them the following offseason.  They will just have to cut deeper into the roster, collect more dead money and once again have their future plans restricted a bit.

Have a look at what the most obvious options are for the Seahawks:

Smith and Lockett have roster bonuses that will require quick action by the team.

Dre Jones seems an obvious target at this point after an underwhelming 2023 season.

Those three moves pick up $58.5 million of cap room and give the team $30.6 million free and clear to work with.  But that means the Seahawks will need to have another big dead cap money season in 2025, absorbing $34 million in charges.

However, if the team restructures Smith & Metcalf this offseason, that borrows almost $12 million from their free cap (and would add another $5.8 million to the dead cap pile if they cut Smith, making it almost $40 million), leaving them with just under $19 million to spend.

Another option to gain 2025 room is to extend Smith and pick up about $19 million.  To do that though, you are talking about locking him up for his age 36-37-38 years with good money to get cap space this year.  If he produces another season like 2023, that will not be a viable option.

So, What Does This Mean for 2024?

The obvious answer is the Seahawks need to determine what to do with Dre Jones this offseason.  They will need to know sooner rather than later how he fits into this defense and if he will be able to provide the value they are paying on the cap for him, as well as determine if there is a trade market for him.

If I had to guess, the Seahawks will restructure D.K. Metcalf shortly after the draft to pay for their draft class, like they did with Tyler Lockett last year.  This move is something that is not hard to get behind.  Metcalf is a player you want on the roster beyond 2025 and in that light, this is just moving money around.  Restructuring a young, star-level player with several productive years in front of him is far less punitive than an older veteran who you are wondering if he will be with the team next year.

Speaking of Tyler Lockett, cutting him (or him retiring) next year leaves a hole on the roster.  Yes, the Seahawks would go into 2025 with Metcalf, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Noah Fant on the roster as great targets.

If there is a Wide Receiver that falls in the draft this year (conceivable, given how deep a class it is), the 2025 cap and roster construction could easily sway them to make that pick, given the value they would receive.

Dre Jones?  With his cap cost, there is a good argument to be made for cutting or trading him after investing a pick in his spot on the defensive line this year.  Starting over there and pairing a draft pick with Leonard Williams and all the edges they have collected is very persuasive and could positively impact the rest of the defense.

Then we get back to Geno Smith.  $25 million in cap savings next year is a juicy target that is easy to bank right now.  But what of the actual season of 2025?  The Seahawks would go into the offseason with only Sam Howell on the roster.  Is that enough?  Do the Seahawks desire to plan for the position in 2025 before they see how Smith and Howell perform in the new offense?

And will that all take a backseat to the team having a quarterback they rate available in this year’s draft?

One way or another, the Seahawks will need to make some very big choices.  If they truly do feel Geno Smith and/or Sam Howell can be effective enough to take a Macdonald-coached team deep into the playoffs, a bold draft that selects talent that could help them quickly, perhaps followed up with a ‘damn the torpedoes’ move or two this fall or next spring would be in order – such as a bold trade for say Micah Parsons or Tee Higgins at the expense of 2025 draft capital.  A two-year run at a championship with all chips thrown to the center of the table might be a sight to behold.

And if they do not believe they are ready to make some noise next year, would drafting a quarterback this year become more a necessity than just an option to consider?  It is possible that a shrewd trade down followed by a trading up for say Michael Penix Jr or Spencer Rattler could be viewed in 2025 as the Move of the Offseason, positioning the Seahawks with several young talents who can form the core of a team that will compete for years.

Which will it be?

Hard to say.  And that is why John Schneider makes the big bucks.

One thing we do know – the draft picks and moves they make on the salary cap this offseason may very well signal how close he thinks this team is to competing.