The Seahawks could have as much as $26 million under the cap if they want it this year.
They are currently about $16 million under and could add $2.3 million by cutting overpaid receiver Ben Obomanu, $3.25 million by moving quarterback Matt Flynn and around $6 million by extending tight end Zach Miller's contract. After adding in the replacement salaries of lower-paid players to fill out the top 51, that would leave about $26 million.
The extra cash could be helpful in signing a defensive lineman or two.
They wouldn't have to use it all this year, though. They could roll over any unused cap space into 2014, when they will be looking at trying to extend the contracts of their star-studded secondary.
Miller has the highest cap hit on the team in 2013: $11 million. The Hawks could add three years to his contract, which currently goes through 2015, and turn his $15.6 million in salary and roster bonuses the next two years into lower salaries and a guaranteed signing bonus.
That could free up $8 million in cap space over the next two years ($6 million this year) without costing the team another penny until the extension years arrive. At 27, Miller is young enough to make the move worth it.
Sidney Rice has the second-highest cap hit on the team, $9.7 million, but it does not make sense to extend his contract because the injury-prone receiver does not seem likely to make it through his current deal in 2015.
He is due $8.5 million salaries in 2013 and 2014. The Hawks could bump those down by guaranteeing this year's salary as a signing bonus and adding a year on to the deal. But it would be just a one-year fix and it just means more money would hit the cap if they let him go at any point. His proration -- the amount that applies to the cap even if he is not on the team -- is $1.2 million a year through 2015.
Schneider could ask him to take a pay cut, something Schneider has not yet had to do with a player he has signed. But if Rice refuses, would the Hawks really want to cut him when they are so thin at receiver? None of the free-agent receivers are any better, so odds seem better that the Hawks will let Rice play for $8.5 million this year and then address the contract in 2014, when they could save $7.3 million by cutting him.
The Hawks seem pretty likely to draft a receiver in the first three rounds this year.