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Seahawks can afford five contract extensions: The blueprint

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One big misconception about the Seahawks' looming contract extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, et al., is that they need tons of room under the salary cap this year to do them.

The fact is the Hawks could get extensions for Thomas, Sherman, K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril and Doug Baldwin for a net hit of around $6 million more than their current cap numbers, still leaving Seattle close to $10 million under the cap.

The recent pay cuts taken by Zach Miller and Jeron Johnson were reasoned by some to be the team making room for the big extensions. While the Hawks did save $3.12 million on the Miller restructure and a reported $830,000 on the Johnson cut (see more on him below), it's not like they really needed that money.

The Miller move probably was made with an eye toward signing Jared Allen, but it turned out the Hawks didn't need that room. Instead, it gives them a bit of a slush fund and possible rollover money to next year's cap.

With more than $15 million available, the Hawks also can feel free to take a big cap hit this year on at least one of their big extensions (e.g., give Sherman a huge roster bonus and lower signing bonus).

Here's one way they could make it all work, if all sides came to agreements:

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Earl Thomas

Current cap hit: $5.47m

Proposed deal: 6y, $60m ($27m guaranteed, $10m signing bonus)

New 2014 cap hit: $4.75m

Future cap hits: $8m, $11m, $13m, $12m, $12m

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Richard Sherman

Current cap hit: $1.48m

Proposed deal: 6y, $72m ($30m g, $5m SB)

New cap hit: $12.05m ($10m roster bonus)

Future cap hits: $6m, $10m, $15m, $15m, $14m

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

K.J. Wright

Current cap hit: $1.55m

Proposed deal: 5y, $21m ($5m SB)

New cap hit: $2.12m

Future cap hits: $4m, $5m, $5m, $5m

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Cliff Avril

Current cap hit: $9.25m

Proposed deal: 4y, $28m ($6m SB)

New cap hit: $4.75m

Future cap hits: $8.5m, $8.5m, $8.5m

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Doug Baldwin

Current cap hit: $2.187m

Proposed deal: 4y, $18m ($6m SB)

New cap hit: $2.5m

Future cap hits: $4.5m, $5.5m, $5.5m

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

WHAT ABOUT OKUNG?

Left tackle Russell Okung could be an option for an early extension (his rookie deal runs through 2015), but the Hawks probably prefer to wait and see whether he can stay healthy in 2014.

He has played in just 45 of 64 possible games in his first four seasons – a far cry from the iron man that predecessor Walter Jones was (missed eight games in his first 11 seasons).

Okung reportedly was in a walking boot last week, a possible sign he had surgery on his troublesome toe. And the Hawks reportedly want to draft a tackle who might be able to replace Okung on the left side in 2015 or 2016 – if he can't stay healthy or wants too much money.

Remember, the Hawks marched to the Super Bowl without Okung for much of the season, so they probably aren’t married to the idea that they have to pay Okung alongside their other stars.

WHY PAY JOHNSON SO MUCH?

The Seahawks obviously value Johnson. They tendered him at the second-round level (just like Baldwin), which meant they offered him $2.187 million for 2014 while guaranteeing themselves a second-round pick if another team tried to poach him.

They were never going to pay a backup safety that much money, though, especially when Johnson missed most of last season with hamstring injuries. But, even after the pay reduction, they are still paying him $1.36 million in 2014. Having lost Chris Maragos and with Kam Chancellor's bothersome hip a potential problem, they obviously feel they need him.

NO ALLEN MEANS AVRIL NEEDS A DEAL

Because the Seahawks were not able to sign Allen, they should make sure to lock up Avril for a few more years – assuming he would be amenable to the same kind of deal Michael Bennett signed.

Avril just turned 28, so a new four-year deal would seem perfect if they could get it done later this offseason – or at least before Avril becomes a free agent next year.

A new deal also would lower his cap hit this year and help fit some of the other extensions comfortably under the cap.

WHAT'S LEFT IN 2014?

The five extensions above would leave the Hawks with close to $10 million in cap space. They need to keep about $6 million in reserve for rookie signing bonuses, injury signings during the season and practice squad players, so they would have something like $4 million to roll over to 2015.

HOW WOULD THIS IMPACT 2015 & 2016?

Based on a projected $140 million cap in 2015, the Hawks would be about $18 million under (per the wonderful calculator at OverTheCap.com). Add the $4 million rollover, and they would have around $22 million in cap space.

That's enough to absorb extensions for quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner and possibly re-sign pending free agents such as cornerback Byron Maxwell and linebacker Malcolm Smith.

In 2016, they free up the big contracts of Marshawn Lynch, Brandon Mebane and Miller. They probably will already have their cheaper replacements on hand – although it is not out of the question that any of the veterans return at lesser rates.

We outlined last month how the Hawks could have up to $20 million in discretionary cap room available for beyond-the-minimum contracts in 2016, and that includes the possibility of being more active in free agency.

As for this offseason, there is no reason for any handwringing about money for extensions. The Hawks can fit them all in – pay Thomas and Sherman as the best at their positions and give fair deals to Wright, Avril and Baldwin – and still have money left.

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