Kam Chancellor remains on Seattle's active roster. But it's not because the Seahawks think he has a chance to play again this season.
Three weeks after it was first reported that Seahawks strong safety Kam Chancellor was headed to the team’s Injured Reserve list and would be out for the season he remains on the team’s active 53-man roster.
Which raises the obvious question — why?
The answer is not because the team thinks he has a chance to return to play this season.
The team has made clear that is not happening and Chancellor has not been participating at practice (he was not visible anywhere around the field or sidelines during any of the times when media could watch this week).
Instead, Chancellor remains on the active roster because of the NFL’s salary cap.
Chancellor’s base salary for the 2017 season of $3 million was guaranteed upon signing and the Seahawks have to pay it whether he is on the active roster or on Injured Reserve. In fact, base salaries for almost all players have to be paid if they are on Injured Reserve unless their contracts say otherwise (one thing becoming common is what is called a “split” contract where a player makes one salary if he is active and another if he is on IR. But that is not the case with Chancellor’s contract.)
If Seattle were to place Chancellor on IR it would then replace him with another player. But that player’s salary would then be added to the salary cap and that’s where things become problematic.
Seattle has very little salary cap space left for the 2017 season — in fact, according to the NFLPA (National Football League Players Association) listings, the Seahawks were $184,459 OVER the cap as of Friday (the salary cap for 2017 is $167 million per game). Teams cannot be over the cap so there is likely some adjusting being done here that maybe hasn’t been computed yet. (The NFLPA listing isn’t regarded as always being up-to-date to the minute).
Regardless of exactly what the number is, it indicates well the dire straits the Seahawks are in when it comes to the cap. Seattle simply doesn’t have room to add a salary to its roster unless it needs to. Remember that even promoting a player from the practice squad, as the Seahawks did this week with center Joey Hunt, adds to the cap — Hunt had been making at least $7,200 on the practice squad (he could be making more but likely not a lot more) and by being signed to the active roster is making $31,750.
Seattle needed Hunt as depth with guard Oday Aboushi out for the year and with guard and backup center Ethan Pocic entering the week with an ankle injury that held him out of practice on Wednesday (Pocic will be good to go Sunday, according to the team, but that was unclear on Tuesday when Hunt was promoted).
Also, Seattle has just four players who appear likely to sit out Sunday due to injury while teams have to declare seven players as inactive each week. That means Seattle will have to declare three players as inactive who are healthy. Which means Seattle doesn’t really have any roster issues that have to be addressed at the moment that require adding a player — and his salary — to the roster.
Aboushi also remains on the active roster even though the team has apparently known for a little while that he also will be out for the season. And he remains on the roster for the same reasons as Chancellor.
One exception to this is cornerback DeShawn Shead, who this week returned to practice after being on the Physically Unable to Perform list all season. The team has had to pay Shead’s $1.050 million salary all season, so if he is activated to the 53-man roster at some point in the next few weeks it will not impact the salary cap. The same would hold true for running back Chris Carson, who has been on the IR since October and whose $465,000 salary the team has also had to pay.
Had Carson returned in the next week or two, as the team had indicated there was a chance of happening before the news Friday that he had turned his ankle and had a setback that makes it unclear if he can come back this season, he could have been added without any change to the cap.
In other words, the Seahawks might have been waiting been/are waiting to know what will happen with Carson/Shead before putting Chancellor on IR. Or more likely, they are just waiting until they have a need to make a move. Obviously, with each week that passes they’d have to pay the player who replaces Chancellor on the roster for one less week.
So while it might be nice to think that the fact Chancellor remains on the active roster means there’s a chance he will play this season, the answer is far more mundane and pragmatic.