Ten days into free agency, the Seahawks have less salary cap space devoted to their offensive line in 2016 than any other NFL team.
It’s a little risky to make sweeping judgments about an NFL team in March. There obviously remains lots of time for significant moves to still be made.
But so far, the Seahawks have not only not made the big splash-addition to the offensive line that some might have expected given some of the struggles of 2015, but have only further perpetuated their reputation for trying to assemble a line on the, well, inexpensive side.
Consider that as of Friday, with Russell Okung now officially gone to Denver, the Seahawks have just $8.7 million in salary cap dedicated to its offensive line, according to Overthecap.com. That is by far the lowest total in the NFL — the Titans are 31st at $13.9 million.
Here’s another way to look at it — as of today, the Seahawks have less salary cap space devoted to their offensive line in 2016 than the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have devoted to J.R. Sweezy alone ($9.5 million).
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The team with the most cap space at the moment devoted to its offensive line in 2016?
The New York Jets, at $39.4 million, which is telling because it’s the Jets who have agreed to big deals in the past few years two players the Seahawks declined to re-sign — right tackle Breno Giacomini and left guard James Carpenter.
As was well-noted yesterday, Okung leaving for Denver means none of the five offensive linemen who started the Super Bowl win over the Broncos two years ago remains with the Seahawks.
Giacomini was the first to depart, signing with the Jets after the 2013 season a four-year deal worth $18 million overall.
Two more departed after the 2014 season — Carpenter, who took a four-year, $19 million deal with the Jets, and then center Max Unger, who was traded to New Orleans as part of the Jimmy Graham deal.
Two more departed in the last two weeks — Sweezy and Okung. (In fact, unless Seattle re-signs free agent Lemuel Jeanpierre, then none of the nine linemen who were on the active roster for the Super Bowl will remain with the Seahawks in 2016.)
At the moment, the largest salary cap hit for a Seattle offensive linemen is the $2.52 million of newly-signed J’Marucs Webb. Every other Seattle linemen is either working on a tender, their original rookie contract, or a one or two-year essentially minimum deal.
Not only does Sweezy’s 2016 salary cap number dwarf that of any other Seahawk, but so too do those of most of the others that got away — Giacomini’s is $5.65 million, Carpenter’s is $5.75 million and Unger’s is $6.2 million.
Okung’s cap number has not yet been revealed, but the continuing revelation of details on his contract — specifically, that it doesn’t include a single dollar of guaranteed money — make clear that the Seahawks remain willing to make hard choices even when it comes to some of their most productive players (Seattle didn’t have an offer to Okung at the end of his negotiations).
Going thrifty on the offensive line is nothing new for the Seahawks, of course. They had a salary cap number for the line last year of $12.8 million, which ranked 30th in the NFL.
The salary cap (which this year is $155.2 million) forces all teams to make decisions, and Seattle for the past few years has been near the bottom in spending money on offensive linemen.
Seattle instead has spent the bulk of its money on defense — the Seahawks have almost $76 million in cap devoted to defense, currently sixth in the NFL; and select core players at other spots — Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Jimmy Graham to name three. (In fact, due to Lynch’s deal remaining on the books until he officially retires, the Seahawks have a higher cap at tailback, $12.9 million, than any other team.)
It’s probably something that more or less just happened then was part of any grand strategy. Seattle has simply decided that its core players that it couldn’t let get away were at other positions (it’s worth remembering the Seahawks re-signed Unger to a four-year $25.8 million deal in 2012, illustrating the team isn’t reluctant to spend on the offensive line when it feels it makes sense).
Seattle surely will make more additions to the offensive line, and if it pulls off a trade for a big-ticket veteran such as Cleveland’s Joe Thomas (whose 2016 cap hit of $9.5 million would more than double what the Seahawks currently have dedicated to their line) then the picture could change some.
But it’s also worth recalling what Seahawks general manager John Schneider said last month at the NFL combine when asked about the offensive line.
Essentially, Schneider said the team wouldn’t make a big move just to make a big move, comments that seemed to foreshadow that the team might not do anything drastic in the free agency period.
“In terms of our philosophy, we are going to keep attacking it the same way we always have,’’ Schneider said at the combine.
So far, they’ve stuck to their word.