Prior to the start of a new league year in March, the Seahawks held nearly $50 million in available salary cap space, leading experts and fans alike to predict the team would be very active in free agency.
However, general manager John Schneider stuck with status quo for the most part, choosing not to break the bank signing any big name players to multi-year contracts. This included, at least to this point, not re-signing star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who remains unsigned heading towards July.
With the exception of re-upping Jarran Reed and signing tackle Brandon Shell and center B.J. Finney to two-year deals, Schneider handed out one-year contracts in bunches to fill out Seattle's roster on both sides of the football.
Phillip Dorsett, one-year deal. Cedric Ogbuehi, one-year deal. Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, one-year deal. Carlos Hyde, one-year deal. Even Quinton Dunbar, who the Seahawks traded for in March, has just one year left on his current contract before he tests free agency.
It's not a new way of conducting business for Schneider, who has enjoyed giving affordable veterans one-year "prove it" deals throughout his decade at the helm. Such tactics have allowed him to build a playoff-caliber roster around quarterback Russell Wilson without destroying the team's salary cap.
But unlike previous offseasons, there may be more to the bevy of one-year pacts this year than simply trying to save pennies in the short-term while fielding a quality team.
Per multiple sources, the NFL Players Association anticipates the NFL could lose up to $3 billion in revenue this upcoming season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. While it remains unclear if teams will be able to have fans in stadiums at any point, it seems guaranteed there will be significant losses, which will impact both players and owners.
As a result, there's a strong possibility the salary cap could drop substantially in 2021, leaving teams with less money to spend building their rosters and hurting players scheduled to hit the market as free agents.
By signing the vast majority of their own players as well as outside free agents to one-year deals, the Seahawks currently are projected to have $67 million in available cap space next season. Only five players - Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Reed, Tyler Lockett, and Duane Brown - will carry cap hits north of $6 million for 2021.
On the flip side, that also means the Seahawks will have several quality starters potentially leaving in free agency, including running back Chris Carson and cornerback Shaquill Griffin. Neither of those players would be on the books and if they depart, the team will need young players to emerge or draft well to replace them.
These estimates obviously don't account for projected cap decreases created by the lack of spectators at games this fall, but it still presents significantly more flexibility than most other teams. For example, the Saints are currently projected to be $34 million in the red and the Eagles are projected to be $50 million over the cap in 2021.
If there is a substantial drop in the salary cap for next year, those teams will be hurting even worse, while other organizations hovering barely above the threshold will have to find ways to clear space as well.
Obviously, there's much uncertainty moving forward. Nobody knows what the future holds for the NFL or professional sports in general during this health crisis. It's still unclear if the league will be able to conduct a full season, which muddies up any projections being made about lost potential revenue.
But whether done intentionally or not, the Seahawks will be better equipped to handle the negative impact of an economic downturn than most teams. Regardless of what happens with the cap, Schneider will be able to adjust accordingly while still having several of his best players under contract and signing free agents may prove to be cheaper than it has been in years.