The contract figures are finally in for one of the Seahawks’ most notable free agent additions of the year — linebacker/rush end Bruce Irvin — and his salary turned out to be a little bit higher than had generally been speculated.
As reported first by ESPN and later confirmed when the contract became available on OvertheCap.com, Irvin’s one-year deal has a base value of $5.5 million with incentives that mean its cap number is $5.906 million. The contract includes a base salary of $2.5 million and a bonus of $2 million, with $5 million guaranteed at signing. The incentives include $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses. After accounting for Irvin’s contract, the Seahawks now have $16.1 million in cap space, according to OTC.com.
Irvin, 32, agreed to the contract on March 18, the first day unrestricted free agents could sign with teams other than their own. But travel restrictions meant the contract wasn’t actually announced by the team until April 23, and the numbers hadn’t become publicly available until Friday.
Conventional wisdom had been that the salary might be more in the $3-4 million range, which would have been in line with what Irvin made last year with Carolina, when he had a one-year contract that ended up having a $3.8 million cap hit.
But Irvin had a career-high 8.5 sacks last season with the Panthers while playing 15 games, helping revive his market a bit, and the Seahawks know him well, with Irvin having played for Seattle from 2012-15 after being a first-round pick in 2012. Seattle also wanted to get a player it trusts to beef up the pass rush, especially with the uncertainty over Jadeveon Clowney. As is clear now, it was obvious at that point to the team that Clowney wasn’t being overly receptive to the team’s initial offer.
The cap number is the eighth-highest on the team in 2020 and the fourth-highest on defense behind linebackers Bobby Wagner ($14.7 million) and K.J. Wright ($10 million) and defensive tackle Jarran Reed ($9.3 million).
While Seattle still has $16.1 million in cap space, that number doesn’t include bonuses for the draft picks (which will add $3 million or so to the cap) and needing to keep money for Injured Reserve and the practice squad and simply needing some money for making moves during the season.
General manager John Schneider stressed the latter point during a radio interview this week with longtime CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on 105.7 The Fan in Baltimore, saying, “We are just one of those teams that wants to be active throughout the season as well, so we try to budget accordingly.”
Cap space can always be created, of course, through either cutting players, or working with some really big-salaried players such as Russell Wilson and Wagner to convert some of their salaries into bonus, which creates immediate cap space by passing it on to future years while giving the player a significant immediate payday.
However, Schneider seemed to hint that the Seahawks will be cautious in doing much finagling to the cap other than potentially shedding players when he noted in his interview with La Canfora that the Seahawks have both cap and cash budgets they need to manage and that “they work hand in hand.”
Realistically, at this point, the Seahawks would most likely have to cut a player or two to make room for any significant contract.
Clowney made what appeared to a pretty blatant appeal to other teams to let them know he’s available when he consented to an interview with a Houston television station this week in which he was shown going through a workout and declaring that he is healthy after having core/sports-hernia surgery a few months ago. That Clowney has not been able to make visits to take physicals at team facilities has unquestionably impacted the offers he received.
But as long as he remains unsigned, then the option of returning to Seattle is likely going to be there — even if at a lesser salary than the team originally offered — and Schneider said this week the Seahawks will continue to keep in contact.
“He knows the door is not closed,” Schneider said.
But the details on the Irvin contract help further explain why the door might have shut a little more than people thought for a while now.
The only free agent Seattle signed to a greater deal this offseason is veteran tight end Greg Olsen, whose one-year deal carries a cap hit of $6.9 million.