With the start of a new league year and free agency one month away, the NFL has informed teams that the salary cap floor for the 2021 season will be $180 million.
This is certainly a positive development for the Seahawks and the other 31 teams, as the previous estimate for the salary cap floor was set at $175 million. While that may not seem like a ton of wiggle room, an additional $5 million helps cover a draft class and could also be used to retain a key veteran who otherwise may have been cut.
Based on this latest change, per OverTheCap.com, the Seahawks currently have an estimated $4.391 million in cap space. Digging deeper, they have $1.751 million in effective cap space, which represents the maximum space the team will have with the top 51 players signed to the roster.
Compared to the rest of the NFC West, Seattle has the third-most cap space available. San Francisco and Arizona are estimated to have $13 and $11 million in cap space, while the Los Angeles Rams are $26 million over the cap currently.
From a league perspective, the Seahawks rank 19th in cap space, which further illustrates the financial issues teams are dealing with right now. A total of 12 teams are in the red, including a whopping eight teams that are $18 million or more over the cap.
These figures are destined to change rapidly before free agency starts and general manager John Schneider has numerous options at his disposal to create quick cap flexibility.
First, Schneider could turn a portion of quarterback Russell Wilson's 2021 base salary into a signing bonus, pushing cap hits to later years on his contract and manufacturing up to $12 million in instant relief. The team could do something similar with linebacker Bobby Wagner as well.
Second, Schneider and the front office could extend several players with one year remaining on their current contracts, including receiver Tyler Lockett, defensive tackle Jarran Reed, and defensive end Carlos Dunlap. To lower their 2021 cap hits, they would simply convert some of the base salary to a signing bonus and spread cap hits over the extension years.
Third, Schneider could potentially try to move one of the aforementioned players via trade to land draft capital and open up cap space. This year, however, that could be far more difficult than usual with other teams trying to create space as well.
Any combination of these methods could net the Seahawks at least $25-30 million in cap space, which would allow for them to potentially re-sign some of their own free agents such as running back Chris Carson and cornerback Shaquill Griffin while also being active pursuing outside free agents next month.
As indicated in a memo from the NFL, this is not the final salary cap for the league year and it could go higher, depending on final accounting numbers and revenue figures coming out of a 2020 season impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic and fan-less stadiums. It remains unclear when teams will learn of the final cap number and this lingering uncertainty keeps Seattle and other teams in the dark in regard to developing budgets, pursuing free agents, and re-signing their own players.
With that said, the confirmation of an increased salary cap floor still should help foster more activity league-wide in coming weeks. Along with many more high-priced veterans receiving pink slips, there should be more impending free agents signed to new contracts and with free agency rapidly approaching, expect the Seahawks to make several moves in the near future as they begin executing their offseason plan.