With an extra $1-2 million in cap space after safety’s extension, Seattle has flexibility to pursue another medium deal if it wants
As the details of Kam Chancellor’s recent contract extension emerged this week, most observers focused on the later years of the deal and what that means for the likelihood Chancellor finishes out its entire length with the Seattle Seahawks. Our own John Gilbert highlighted the form of the new signing bonus to make another point about the special signal the contract may send to future players tempted to hold out like Chancellor did at the beginning of 2015. But while Gilbert added the remainder of the reworked details “are pretty straightforward and do not need yet another analysis added into the countless which have already been authored”, I want to focus on an aspect of the deal that hasn’t got as much attention.
Others including HawkBlogger’s Evan Hill have already pointed out the extended contract lowers Chancellor’s 2017 cap hold from more than $8 million to a little less than $6.75 million, reducing the safety’s base salary this year by more than half while making up for it with the new bonus. So beside adding future flexibility by backloading the deal, the arrangement also grants John Schneider a little extra wiggle room right now—in case Seattle decides to shore up its 2017 roster with another veteran costing one or two million dollars this year.
Before 2016, as you recall, Seahawks aimed to add some competitive pressure and veteran tutelage into its patchwork offensive line mix by signing former New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans—for a figure ($1.1 million) that would fit nicely inside the remainder freed up by Chancellor’s extension. You also know how that turned out: Seattle let Evans go after the preseason opting to roll with its young core—a tenuous situation that was immediately exacerbated when Germain Ifedi, the rookie playing exactly Evans’s position, sprained his ankle the practice before Seattle’s first game.
There’s no way the Seahawks front office could have predicted that turn, and there’s also no telling how keeping Evans might have disrupted the long plan in Seattle; it looks easy to say now that swapping Evans for J’Marcus Webb would have been an upgrade and the obvious move (Evans went back to New Orleans and started all 16 games), but considering the money tied up in Webb at that time the more likely casualty would have been Rees Odhiambo who for better or worse remains in competition for a starting spot in 2017, and also Evans didn’t offer the versatility to play tackle (however poorly) that Webb granted. Regardless, rehashing 2016’s mistakes is not my purpose here. The point is the Seahawks are probably keeping their eyes open for available veterans, just like at this time last year, and they now have a little more extra money to afford it.
Technically, according to Spotrac, Seattle now has about $7 million in free cap space (adjusted for a hypothetical 53-man roster). But the Seahawks need to set $2-3 million of that aside to pay the practice squad, anybody who ends up on injured reserve, and for later-season roster contingencies. Hill estimates Seattle’s “true” cap space between $3.5 and $4.5 million for 2017.
Schneider also may choose to bank the remaining space and roll it toward 2018, which is how the Green Bay Packers do it to keep being able to pay big sums to both offense and defense (by coincidence, the Packers now have Evans), but in case someone desirable to the Seahawks finds themselves out of favor in another team’s camp the Chancellor extension hands them an underrated opportunity to make that move. I won’t try to predict who that name might be, but here are a handful of free agents already on the market who might have value for Seattle in the $1-3 million range:
Although, like with Evans in 2016, you would circle offensive line right away as an obvious need for the Seahawks, there aren’t too many players who fit the value Seattle could wring out of the available cap. Green Bay surprisingly released Josh Sitton at the end of camp last year, but the Chicago Bears snapped him up with a three-year, $21 million deal. As we saw with the T.J. Lang saga, Seattle just doesn’t have the resources to buy at that level on the line. However, earlier this summer our friend Danny Kelly identified Austin Pasztor as one of the surprising talents remaining among unsigned free agents.
The sixth-year player fits the Seahawks’ and Tom Cable’s “grit” model, having worked his way through undrafted free agency and the CFL before catching on with the Jacksonville Jaguars and Cleveland Browns. According to Kelly, Pasztor “can play tackle or guard (he started 15 games at right tackle last year and one at guard), and at worst could be a valuable swing lineman for a number of zone-blocking teams.” With his last contract paying less than $1.7 million for his year in Cleveland, he falls well within Seattle’s budget.
Of course, anyone available to the market this late should probably have to take a discount considering the lack of interest from other teams. The Seahawks have a stellar defensive line group at the top, but 2016 and all of NFL history suggests you can never have enough depth along the front four. Given the probable unavailability of Malik McDowell and unlikelihood Dion Jordan gets healthy in time to make any impression in training camp, Seattle ought to be looking for more talent to shore up its pass-rushers and run-stuffers. Jared Odrick, formerly of Jacksonville, is like Jordan another ex-first rounder who fell out of favor following injuries. But unlike Jordan Odrick actually put up a body of work that got him a serious second contract before getting bounced by the Jaguars in the offseason after finding his way to the IR. Odrick signed for mega millions in 2015 but his shoulder troubles have clearly reduced his asking price, and Odrick’s combination of size and speed plus experience in a similar defense under Gus Bradley could make him attractive to the Seahawks at a few million a year. Jason Jones should be a name familiar to Seattle fans, having played on the 2012 squad also under Bradley, and also with the length and versatility like Odrick to play either on the interior or end to fill some of those snaps expected for McDowell or hoped for Jordan.
There’s also always Colin Kaepernick, who as I discussed back in May might be a value as a backup for the Seahawks at less than $3 million for 2017. Seattle obviously declined to offer ink to paper after meeting with Kaepernick at the time, but considering the reported struggles by Trevone Boykin and Austin Davis during the first weeks of camp there might be renewed consideration. Another long shot I would be remiss if I didn’t mention is DeAndre Levy: Quite possibly the best player of all the talents left on the market, Levy’s unsigned status is a head-scratcher. Seattle probably needs his abilities least of all, considering its base linebacking corps might be the strongest unit on the club, and given his persistent availability it seems like the league knows something about his injuries I don’t. Yet any chance to gamble on such a dynamic upside makes me wonder …
What veterans would you like to see the Seahawks spend their cap space on, or do you prefer the idea of holding onto the money to help extend the likes of Justin Britt, Jimmy Graham or Thomas Rawls in 2018?