And they still have to pay Wilson
Seattle Seahawks salary cap outlook: Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas are bargains in the secondary
Russell Wilson is one of several bargains on the Seahawks (USA Today Sports Images)
The "Shutdown Countdown" is down to the final two teams. In addition to previewing each team, Shutdown Corner will be taking a brief look at each team's salary cap situation heading into the 2013 season and beyond. We continue the series with the Seattle Seahawks.
2013 Adjusted Cap Number: $136.704 million (6th-highest in the NFL in 2013)
2013 Cap Room Remaining: $3.352 million (25th in the NFL, as of Aug. 2)
[Related: Seahawks still elite despite Percy Harvin injury]
Best Bargains: There are quite a few bargains on the Seahawks, but the biggest is clearly quarterback Russell Wilson, who will earn $526,217 in base salary in 2013. In terms of cash, Wilson's base salary has him ranked 85th out of 120 active quarterback contracts in the NFL. Among likely starting quarterbacks in the NFL this season, only Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Nick Foles ($520,000) is set to earn less cash on the field than Wilson.
Wilson has plenty of company. Wide receiver Golden Tate caught 45 passes for 688 yards with seven touchdowns and was 18th among NFL wide receivers in Football Outsiders' receiving DYAR (Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement) last season. With Percy Harvin undergoing hip surgery, Tate should have a major role in the Seahawks' offense this season, which will have the 2010 second-round pick out of Notre Dame earning the league minimum base salary of $630,000.
All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman is also a steal with a $555,000 base salary and $600,606 cap charge in 2013. There are 110 cornerbacks in the NFL with base salaries larger than Sherman's, including two who will earn more per week than Sherman will make all season. One of those is Darrelle Revis, Sherman's social media sparring partner who'll take home $764,706 per week during the 2013 season. Staying in secondary, Earl Thomas is one of best safeties in the NFL and will earn a modest $2.15 million in base salary and workout bonuses with a $2.921 million cap number. Both numbers rank outside the Top 15 among current safety contracts.
Potential Camp Cap Casualty: It's somewhat of a long shot now that Harvin is out until November/December, but wide receiver Sidney Rice and his $8.5 million base salary belong in the cap casualty discussion. Given his injury history coming when he was signed by Seattle, his five-year, $41 million contract has always been somewhat ridiculous. Rice's first season with the Seahawks was derailed by injuries, including a few concussions, but he rebounded to lead the 'Hawks in the three main receiving categories and was 14th among NFL receivers in FO's receiving DYAR metric last season. This week, Rice spent 25 hours (round-trip) on a plane to Switzerland for a 20-minute procedure to alleviate tendinitis in his knee. $3.5 million of Rice's base salary is guaranteed for injury, but the $5 million that is non-guaranteed and the Seahawks' willingness to make bold and surprising moves when trimming down to 53 players is what has Rice in this discussion.
In Pete Carroll and John Schneider's first season in Seattle, they released wide receiver T.J. Houshmandzadeh and his fully guaranteed $7 million base salary before the start of the regular season. Last summer, they axed tight end Kellen Winslow, a decision the tight end has not gotten over. The difference is that Carroll and Schneider had nothing or little invested in Houshmandzadeh or Winslow, whereas Rice was a priority free agent signing after the 2011 lockout who has pocketed over $15 million from the team in the last 24 months.
Other cap casualty candidates in Seattle include cornerback Antoine Winfield, whose $1 million in guaranteed money might not be enough to secure a spot in what is a deep secondary. The projected starters on the right side of Seattle's offensive line — guard Paul McQuistan and tackle Breno Giacomini — are also vulnerable. According to Football Outsiders Almanac 2013, Giacomini led all right tackles and was second among all offensive linemen in blown blocks. Giacomini was second in the league in penalties, including four for "unnecessary roughness". McQuistan tied for the league lead with 11 blown blocks on running plays. McQuistan and Giacomini are each due over $3 million in non-guaranteed base salaries in the final year of their contracts.
Looming Contract Issues: 2014 is shaping up to be a very interesting offseason for the Seahawks, particularly along the defensive line. Michael Bennett, O'Brien Schofield and Tony McDaniel signed one-year deals in Seattle and will be free agents next offseason. Cliff Avril signed a two-year contract, but if he doesn't work out, the Seahawks can pull the chord and avoid $5 million in base salary becoming fully guaranteed by releasing Avril within five days after Super Bowl XLVIII. Chris Clemons, who is coming off a torn ACL and turns 32 in October, has a non-guaranteed base salary of $7.5 million in 2014, the final year of his contract. Then there's Red Bryant, who is due a $3 million roster bonus on the fourth day of the league year, which could be converted (perhaps with some of his $4.5 million base salary) to create additional cap space that the Seahawks might need.
Tate, McQuistan, Giacomini, cornerbacks Brandon Browner, fullback Michael Robinson, defensive tackle Clinton McDonald and long-snapper Clint Gresham will be unrestricted free agents next offseason, while wide receiver Doug Baldwin and safety Jeron Johnson will be a restricted free agents. The Seahawks may also want to think about extensions for Sherman and/or Thomas, who will be free agents in 2015 and will likely be seeking contracts that will make them the highest-paid players at their positions.
Long-Term Cash/Cap Outlook: The current "Top 51" contracts on the 2014 Seahawks have cap commitments totaling $126.992 million. With only $3.352 million in current cap room remaining in 2013, the Seahawks will be pressed up against the cap in 2014 if they don't release a few players this season and the new television money doesn't kick in.