The Seahawks' plans for a dynasty got a big boost the other day.
Like just about every team – and perhaps more than many -- the Super Bowl champions had to be smiling when they found out the salary cap will be about $7 million more than expected this year. And keep climbing.
It means more than the simple idea of being able to re-sign free agents Michael Bennett and Golden Tate – something they probably were going to be able to do anyway (at the right price).
The salary cap reportedly will continue to jump, above $140 million in 2015 and beyond $150 in 2016. That is great news for Seattle's young Super Bowl club, which wants to retain as much of the core as possible.
This offseason, if all goes right, the Hawks could re-sign Bennett and Tate, add another playmaking defender in free agency, bring back key role players and do extensions for Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright, Doug Baldwin and Cliff Avril.
And they could still have $15 million in cap space in 2015 – enough to get extensions for 2016 free agents Russell Wilson, Russell Okung and Bobby Wagner.
We recently wrote that the Seahawks could keep 70 percent of their Super Bowl team together through 2015. Well, the cap news last Friday means the Seahawks probably can keep about 80 percent of this group together for the next two seasons (several veteran deals are up in 2016).
There will still be cap casualties. Sidney Rice and Red Bryant simply were not worth their hefty contracts, and the Hawks needed the $12.8 million in cap space created by releasing them. Chris Clemons, due $7.5 million at age 32, also likely will be let go. That would give them almost $25 million in cap dollars to work with this offseason.
That would be enough to re-sign Bennett (projected $4 million cap hit in 2014 on a deal worth $8 million a year), Tate ($3 million hit on a deal worth $5 million a year), Baldwin ($2 million) and kicker Steven Hauschka ($2 million) – plus cheap role players such as Chris Maragos, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Jeron Johnson, Mike Morgan and maybe O'Brien Schofield. They would have enough to go after Michael Johnson or another impact D-lineman, extend young stars and still end up with money (at least $5 million) to roll over to 2015.
If the cap jumps another $10 million next year, the Hawks would have somewhere around $15 million. Wilson figures to get a $100 million contract, but the first-year hit might be only about $5 million or $6 million. Okung is already due to count $7.28 million, so his 2015 cap hit could shrink a bit on a new deal. And the Hawks could extend Wagner as well and perhaps re-sign cornerback Byron Maxwell.
If the cap hits $150 million in 2016, the Hawks will have most of their key players locked up – minus the expiring contracts of running back Marshawn Lynch, tight end Zach Miller, defensive tackle Brandon Mebane and a handful of others.
The team will definitely change a bit in 2016, but the Hawks should still be in Super Bowl form.
If they make the moves outlined above, the Seahawks would have about $35 million for 30 players to fill out their 2016 roster. Some of these will be added this year and next through the draft or cheap veteran deals. The Hawks have to keep discovering treasure in the draft and converting it into on-field currency.
Thirty minimum salaries cost about $15 million to $20 million (depending on experience), so Seattle could have about $15 million to $20 million in discretionary spending available in 2016.
Lynch, Mebane and Miller will all be on the wrong side of 30 and probably won't be back. The team would then have to make decisions on young role players such as Bruce Irvin, J.R. Sweezy, Greg Scruggs and Jeremy Lane.
Of course, anything else they do in free agency (beyond the aforementioned impact defensive lineman this year) would draw from that extra cash in 2016, and the Hawks certainly could make a couple of splashy additions in 2016 if they chose to.
Bottom line: The Hawks are in great position to build only the second dynasty in the cap era, and the ballooning cap will only make it easier for the team with the best personnel/coaching duo (John Schneider and Pete Carroll) in the league to stay on top.