Framing the 2016 Seattle Seahawks Salary Cap


As the NFL by and large takes a six-week nap after the mandatory June minicamp, it gives fans an opportunity to also take a deep breath before cranking up the anticipation of another upcoming season later this summer. Today we take a moment to dive into the sometimes murky waters of the salary cap to inform Seahawks followers of where their favorite team stands as it pertains to money available to spend in 2016.

While there are several variables still to be determined that will affect the amount of cap space the Seahawks have as the season gets underway, we can use the numbers that are currently available to get very close to their actual free space and understand what General Manager/Maestro John Schneider can and can’t do with additional player contracts under that pesky salary cap.

Let’s begin by outlining the major parts that make up Seattle’s cap spend/space as of today: the league-set cap number, top-51 player cap costs, dead money, prior year cap adjustments and the cap carryover from 2015.

The NFL has set a salary cap for each team at $155,270,000 for year 2016. In addition to this, the Seahawks were able to carry over a few unused pennies from the 2015 season to the tune of $11,587 to give them a total of $155,281,587 to spend in 2016.

Chipping away at that sum is the aggregate salary cap cost of the top 51 of 90 roster members ($135,885,560). Because it would be impossible to keep 90 players under the cap, the league at the moment only counts the highest 51 players’ cap numbers, which includes base salaries, prorated signing bonuses, option bonuses, roster bonuses, workout bonuses, etc. The highest of these cap numbers on Seattle’s roster is Russell Wilson’s $18.542M, and the 51st highest cap amount is Thomas Rawls’ $530,000. At the moment, all 39 players with less than a $530,000 cap number do not factor in the calculations.

Dead money to date is up to $8,485,044 with most of that damage caused by the acceleration of Marshawn Lynch’s signing bonus ($5M) after his retirement and the Cary Williams Debacle ($2.33M accelerated signing bonus after being cut) of 2015.

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Finally, another slice of the pie has been cut out via salary cap adjustments in the amount of $758,660. Most of that total stems from Doug Baldwin’s accomplishments in 2015. His current contract has incentives that were triggered by statistics from his 2015 season and must now be applied cap-wise in 2016. Getting 75+ catches earned him an additional $400k, 1000+ yards were worth $225k and 9+ touchdowns equaled another $100k for a grand total of $725k that must be included in 2016’s cap charges.

So how much money does this leave Seattle salary cap space-wise as of now? We take the league cap + 2015 carryover number of $155,281,587- known as the ‘adjusted salary cap’- and subtract the top-51 number ($135,885,560), dead money ($8,485,088), and previous year cap adjustments ($758,660). Simple, right?

Seahawks salary cap
Baldwin, shown here in camp, made an extra $725K in incentives last season that must be rolled into this season’s salary cap. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports /

It yields a cap space dollar figure of $10,152,323. But wait- there’s more…

Before anyone tries to spend that ten mil on available free agents, it’s important to remember that come September, the number and scope of debits will increase.

By week 1 of the regular season, teams will have to also account for the 52nd and 53rd players on their active roster, the 10-man practice squad, and some money set aside for transactions pertaining to players placed on Injured Reserve on their salary cap. So how much will these requirements cost?

Figure on the two additional players costing around $525k, so just over a million total. Practice squad players make a minimum of $6,900 per week for the 17 weeks of the regular season- or $117,300 each. Some players will make more as squads try to keep them from signing with other teams. Factoring this in, we’ll assume a cumulative cost of $1.5M for the practice squad.

Injured reserve costs are a bit unpredictable for salary cap figures because you don’t know how many players will end up on it, but costs for IR transactions can usually be handled with between $3-4M. We’ll go half way and call it $3.5M.

Adding up all of these costs, we come to a total of roughly $6M. So, after all is said and done, the Seahawks realistically have about $4M of cash to use to bolster the roster in whatever way they wish.

Should they blow all of that on an outside-the-organization player like Eugene Monroe? I would not. What I would do is close ranks on outside free agency and use that modest amount of money on contract extensions for in-house vets.

We recently discussed what a contract extension for Doug Baldwin could look like. Part of that contract extension included a prorated signing bonus of $1.8M on what was a $9M check. Even an extension as large as Baldwin’s will have a minimal impact on 2016’s salary cap.

That leaves over $2M to spend in salary cap money on similar prorated bonuses on any other player the team feels is deserving of a bump in pay. Could that be Michael Bennett? Kam Chancellor? Possibly, but not likely.

It could, however, be used to cover extensions for any of the upcoming free agents in 2017 such as Steven Hauschka, Luke Willson or Jordan Hill.

Summarily, the Seahawks are for all intents and purposes within sight of the 2016 salary cap ceiling, but they do have just enough wiggle room to extend any current roster player or players of their choosing.

Next: Could the Seahawks Make a Run at Eugene Monroe?

Expectations are they will agree to something this summer that keeps Doug Baldwin in blue-and-green for the rest of this decade. Rest assured there is enough cap space to handle such an event.

Hopefully this exercise helps folks understand the various constraints of the NFL salary cap and how they affect the actions of the Seahawks from now through the 2016 league season. For more detailed information, I suggest investing time in a couple of wonderful resource websites in and