With the start of free agency only three weeks away, the vast majority of the NFL's 32 teams will need to make significant moves to create salary cap space in coming days. Currently, per OverTheCap.com, 15 teams have less than $2 million in estimated effective cap space available.
For teams such as the Seahawks who see themselves in middle of a title window, unloading talented players isn't the ideal option to accomplish this goal. Instead, the organization would rather extend or restructure contracts to open up cap space without creating additional needs to fill on the roster.
But sometimes, in order for a franchise to truly move forward, they have to take a few steps backward first. Considering the Seahawks only have four draft picks along with minimal cap space, trading a high-priced veteran or two to add picks and create cap flexibility needs to be an option on the table for general manager John Schneider.
If Seattle decides to go that route, which players are most likely to be moved? Here's a close look at five Seahawks who could be shopped before free agency, their 2021 cap number, the likelihood of being traded, and projected compensation in return.
2021 Cap Number: $13.975 million
Projected Compensation: Fourth or fifth round pick
Still in the prime of his career, the 28-year old Reed finished the 2020 season on a tear, racking up 5.5 sacks over the final nine regular season games and bringing down Jared Goff for a pair of sacks in a wild card round loss to the Rams. Though he wasn't quite able to reach his 2018 production, he wrapped up the year with the second-most sacks (6.5) and quarterback hits (14) in his career, showing he can still be a game wrecker rushing the passer from the interior.
But when it comes to landing draft compensation this spring, Reed may be Seattle's best bet, as any team acquiring him would only have to pay $8.975 million of his salary and has solid depth at his position. Since the Seahawks already paid the other $5 million via signing bonus, moving him would generate a dead cap hit. Given his age and recent performance, with one year left on his contract, the team could probably land an early day three pick from a defensive tackle-needy suitor.
Likelihood of Being Traded: 60 percent
2021 Cap Number: $14.037 million
Projected Compensation: Fifth or sixth round pick
After arriving in a trade with the Bengals, Dunlap immediately made his mark for the Seahawks, producing a sack in his team debut and generating 5.0 sacks and 14 quarterback hits in just eight games. Two of those sacks came in clutch moments, as he registered a fourth down sack on Kyler Murray to secure a Week 11 win over the Cardinals and also produced a critical sack late in a Week 15 win over Washington. His presence instantly improved the play of everyone around him as well, including Reed and Benson Mayowa, who had 4.0 sacks in the final six games.
But with Dunlap recently turning 32 years old and set to begin preparation for his 12th NFL season, the Seahawks likely can't afford to retain him at his current price point. Like with Reed, an extension remains on the table, but it's possible the team could either trade or release him outright to create an instant $14 million in cap space. Since he's older than Reed and the free agent market is saturated at the defensive end spot, other teams may not be willing to give up more than a sixth rounder for him, so releasing him with hopes of re-signing him to a new deal may be the route to take.
Likelihood of Being Traded: 40 percent
2021 Cap Number: $14.95 million
Projected Compensation: Third or fourth round pick
Coming off the first 1,000-yard season of his career, Lockett proved his breakout 2019 campaign wasn't a fluke by breaking a Seahawks' franchise record with 100 receptions last season. In addition, he surpassed the century mark in receiving yardage and hit double digit touchdown receptions for the second time in his career. Interestingly, however, 2020 was a year marked by inconsistency for the veteran receiver, as 27 receptions and 290 receiving yards came in two games at State Farm Stadium and he had seven games with less than 50 receiving yards.
Now 28 years old and entering the final year of his contract, Seattle has to make a decision on whether to extend Lockett, let him play out the 2021 season and risk losing him in free agency next March, or shop him. Per sources, the team hasn't actively been trying to trade him, but with DK Metcalf set to begin negotiations for a mammoth extension next spring, Schneider may be willing to consider moving him due to concerns about being able to afford paying both star receivers.
Likelihood of Being Traded: 15 percent
2021 Cap Number: $17.15 million
Projected Compensation: Second round pick and day three selection
Continuing to play at an elite level, the 30-year old Wagner eclipsed 130 tackles for the fifth straight season and the sixth time in his illustrious career. Starting all 16 games for the fourth time in five years, he also registered 3.0 sacks, 11 quarterback hits, and eight passes defensed, helping him earn his sixth First-Team All-Pro selection in seven years. He capped off an outstanding season with 16 tackles in a wild card loss to the Rams, tying for the fourth-most by a player in a playoff game in NFL history.
Parting ways with a franchise icon and future Hall of Famer like Wagner isn't something Schneider or the Seahawks want to do, especially considering how well he played a year ago. But with his cap number sitting north of $17 million this year, his 31st birthday approaching, and 2020 first-round pick Jordyn Brooks potentially ready to replace him in the middle, if another team offered up an early second round pick and a day three pick in exchange, the front office would be wise to at least entertain the possibility.
Likelihood of Being Traded: >5 percent
2021 Cap Number: $9.86 million
Projected Compensation: First or second round pick and day three selection
Joining the Seahawks as part of a late offseason blockbuster trade with the Jets, Adams dealt with injuries throughout his first season with the team. But despite missing four games due to a groin strain and playing in several others at well below 100 percent nursing finger and shoulder ailments, he still racked up 83 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, and 9.5 sacks, breaking Adrian Wilson's record for the most sacks by a defensive back in NFL history. Despite his share of struggles in coverage, he was named a Second-Team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl roster.
After giving up a pair of first round picks and a third round pick to acquire him, the Seahawks aren't interested in turning around and trading Adams elsewhere after one season. At 25 years of age, his best football should still be in front of him and with him expected to be fully healthy for training camp, he should be far more comfortable in coach Pete Carroll's defensive scheme in year No. 2. With that said, he wants to be the highest paid safety in the game and if the two sides can't agree on a long-term deal, expect other teams to call about his availability, even if Schneider has no intentions of moving him.
Likelihood of Being Traded: >0.005 percent