Closing The Books on 2004 – Looking Ahead to 2005

Our resident salary cap guru suggests you enjoy this 2004 team, because a lot could change in 2005.

In the middle of August, I reported the Seahawks still had around $4,000,000 in unused cap space. I even suggested that team could have added another big-name player in the off-season and still had enough dough going into the season. It turns out the team entered the season with less than $2,000,000 remaining, a responsible cushion that allows the team to add a veteran player or two should injuries hit.

There are two reasons I overstated the cap totals. First, a $325,000 additional credit I reported about in May seems to have gone away. I don’t know why. Of course I wasn’t entirely sure why it showed up in the first place. It’s possible the credit will show up in 2005. All I know is it was there and now it isn’t and no one can explain to me what happened.

The second reason for the lower cap total is when the team made final cuts, almost all the players released were low-salary guys. The only player of any consequence released was Jerry Wunsch. Some players with bigger salaries stepped up with solid camps to keep their roster-spots.

Lastly, late-camp injuries cost the Seahawks some cap-space. Damien Robinson sits on injured reserve with a $670,000 salary. Chris Davis was lost for the year in the last exhibition game forcing the team to keep Heath Evans and his $628,000 salary. Injuries to veteran players are real cap-killers this time of year.

So, by my calculations we’re sitting on between $1.8 and $2.0 million. Whatever is leftover can be manipulated into a credit towards our 2005 salary cap.

Looking ahead to 2005 is very difficult because a lot can happen between now and then. The figures I’m giving you here are based on my own analysis and should be taken with a giant grain of salt. 2005 will be a very interesting off-season and will keep fans on edge through the entire free-agency period.

Before I go into cap figures, it’s important to remember that the Seahawks have 17 players who will be unrestricted free agents including 8 current starters. It doesn’t matter how much cap space we have, we’re not going to keep everybody and the news and speculation will be flying next February and March. We also have 5 restricted free agents, including defensive contributors Rocky Bernard and Terreal Bierria who might warrant high-tenders to keep them here.

So, when I suggest the team should have over between $20 and $30 million in cap space entering next off-season, don’t get too excited. It will get spent in an awful hurry. For example, if you apply the franchise tag to a quarterback. That’s about $10 million right there.

There aren’t a lot of players who figure to be cut to add to our cap room. In 2004, a few players were obvious candidates to be cap casualties, but 2005 is more difficult. Chad Brown is scheduled to earn $4.2 million and is worth every penny when healthy. However, if the team isn’t sure he’s a full-time star player anymore his status will come into question. This fan is sure hoping #94 is on the field in 2005 and beyond.

One other consideration is in 2005 the collective bargaining agreement will only permit signing bonuses to amortize over five years. For that free agent crop it means it will be more difficult to make deals that are relatively cap friendly in the first year. Contracts will have to be more creative and likely take longer to consummate.

The offensive line in has a huge potential for tumultuous change. Three of the five starters will be free agents, as well as Floyd Womack, who has supposedly been groomed to take over at right guard. Recent draft choices Wayne Hunter and Sean Locklear may be pressed into service.

And so, enjoy this 2004 Seahawks team, because the 2005 version figures to be a LOT different.

Players who are Unrestricted Free Agents after 2004 (in order of projected value):

QB Matt Hasselbeck, T Walter Jones, RB Shaun Alexander, CB Ken Lucas, DE Chike Okeafor, TE Itula Mili, C Robbie Tobeck, OL Floyd Womack, G Chris Gray, LB Orlando Huff, WR Alex Bannister, DL Brandon Mitchell, C Dennis Norman, P Tom Rouen, QB Brock Huard, FB Heath Evans, S Tod McBride.

Players who are Restricted Free Agents after 2004 (in order of projected value):

S Terreal Bierria, DT Rocky Bernard, CB Kris Richard, TE Ryan Hannam, S Marquand Manuel.

"The Hawkstorian" writes about Seahawks history, the salary cap, and many other things for Seahawks.NET on an alarmingly regular basis. You can reach him at hawkstorian@yahoo.com.


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