The Hawkstorian: Caponomics 2005

The Hawkstorian, Seahawks.NET's Salary Cap Guru, takes a detailed look at the moves the Seahawks have made so far this offseason - players retained and players gained. How close is the team to the ceiling, and how exactly did they get there? Learn all you need to know in this article.

Every time I try to write about the Seahawks and the salary cap, I’m still amazed that I have to expend so much energy to provide information that the league could very easily just publish on its own. I hate to sound like a broken record, but will SOMEONE in league circles explain to me what the big secret is? Is it that the Seahawks are paying Byron Hardmon for an injury settlement from 2004? Is that the big embarrassment? Is it the $9M in dead money, soon to grow close to $12M once Chad Brown is cut?

The beauty of sports is that ultimately, the results are seen on the field. There’s no hiding from a disappointing 9-8 record, with 3 losses to a division rival. Sure, the Seahawks can plaster “division champs” on the top of their web site, but no serious fan believes it. You can’t spin losses… but you can spin the hope that the team will get better.

Maybe that’s the big secret… the hope that all 32 teams are going to improve by 5 wins each year. Maybe if fans understood how little money most teams have to spend on players in the trumped-up hope of the off-season.

In order to evaluate the Seahawks’ off-season from a cap perspective, I calculated a “what if” assuming all the cap room the team had to work with. In order to do that, I assumed Anthony Simmons, Jerry Rice, Damien Robinson and Chris Terry were all cut before any players were signed. This give the total pot of money the team started with when deciding how to spend its money. Terry may have but cut a few weeks after Walter Jones signed his deal, but certainly the team had a good idea Terry would be gone, so this scenario gives the most realistic perspective on how the team spent its dollars.

The team’s total available cap space after those players were cut would have been about $25.6M. This figure comes after all the restricted free agents were offered minimum deals, the $2,320M option bonus was paid to Marcus Tubbs and the bottom of the roster was filled out with street free agents, many of who were allocated to NFL Europe.

Since that $25.6M total, 14 players have been signed to deals and 1 player has been tendered a $6,323,000 tender. The total of these 15 cap figures is about $29.7M. By adding these 15 players to the teams “top-51” deals, 15 other players fall below that threshold, giving the team a credit of $4.35M. The net effect is therefore about $25.3M. Subtract from the $25.6M the team started with, the Seahawks are left with a miniscule $300,000 in cap room as of April 10, 2005.

The 15 contracts that have impacted the salary cap in order of total value are:

Shaun Alexander -- $6.3M
Matt Hasselbeck -- $6.2M
Walter Jones -- $4.9M
Floyd Womack -- $2M
Kelly Herndon -- $1.62M
Bryce Fisher -- $1.5M
Itula Mili -- $1.175M
Alex Bannister -- $950K
Robbie Tobeck -- $890K
Chris Gray -- $890K
Joe Jurevicius -- $850K
Chartric Darby -- $827K
Kevin Bentley -- $650K
Leo Araguz -- $455K
Joe Tafoya -- $455K

Of the available cap space, over 75% was spent on existing players. The most expensive “new” player is Kelly Herndon, who came over as a restricted free agent from Denver. The reality of the Seahawks’ off-season is that big money was spent to preserve the offense (primarily the core of Hasselbeck, Jones and Alexander), and modest dollars were spent to add some pieces on defense.

The big killer, of course, is the $9.15M devoted to players not currently on the roster. That figure will grow if the team can’t reach a restructuring agreement with Chad Brown. Whether that dead money is due to injuries or attitudes or poor play is irrelevant. The reality is those dollars are held hostage and have prevented the team from pursuing more expensive free agents.

With close to zero dollars left under the cap, the Seahawks have no choice but to target existing players to free up more space to sign the 10 draft picks who will be joining the fold in a few weeks. (After the draft, I’ll go back over how the rookie pool and the salary cap work together). Cutting Brown would save $2.37M, and bring the dead cap space up to nearly $12M. Bobby Taylor is another vet whose health has been in question, although it may make more sense to cut him after June 1 when his bonus wouldn’t all accelerate into the current year, although he would leave a charge of $1.5M dangling into 2006.

The bottom line for this off-season is it has been a convergence of bad luck caused by washed-up veterans and free agents who got big paydays. Many have blamed management for “letting this happen”, but football is a game of risks, and contracts are often the biggest risks of all. Even in this age of wise caponomics, it seems every team has to clean house ever 3 or 4 years and that time had to come this year for the Seahawks.

The good news is the landscape for 2006 could be much smoother. Fewer key players will become free agents and a new collective bargaining agreement coupled with the impact of new TV contracts could give the Seahawks a lot more freedom to pursue premium players.

Thank you to “AdamJT13” for once again providing the data necessary to produce salary cap information for Seahawk fans.

"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 Top Stories