Seahawks' ample cap space years in the making

eric.williams@thenewstribune.comMarch 17, 2013 

The Seattle Seahawks surprised many NFL observers by wading into the deep waters of the first week of free agency, acquiring receiver Percy Harvin through trade, and signing free agent defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.

But taking a closer look at how John Schneider expertly managed the team’s salary cap since taking over as general manager three years ago, maybe this year’s spending spree should have been anticipated.

“This was the kind of year where they were poised to make a big splash,” said Brian McIntyre, salary cap specialist for Yahoo Sports. “They had ample cap room. And they are close (to competing for a Super Bowl), clearly.”

Those three players represent a significant financial investment for Seattle. Avril’s two-year, $17 million contract and Bennett’s one-year, $5 million deal are more representative of the short-term, prove-it contracts Schneider likes players to sign so they stay motivated.

But Harvin’s six-year, $67 million contract is a much riskier proposition, made possible by the proactive way Schneider and Seattle’s former cap specialist, New York Jets general manager John Idzik, managed the team’s salary cap over the past three years.

“It was really a conscious effort over the first several years as we were building this thing in trying to balance acquiring talent, and being competitive at every position as much as we possibly could,” Schneider said this last

week. “With paying as we went along and seeing how these young guys develop, now we’ve gotten to a point where we feel like we could add a piece or two or three here. And then also continue to try to make the correct decisions in the draft moving forward, and then, like I said, being able to do a couple things in free agency. But at the end of the day, we’re trying to do what’s right for the guys in the current locker room.”

The Seahawks carried over about $13.2 million in salary cap space from 2012, boosting their limit from the standard $123 million to about $136.2 million. They also saved $5 million in cap space by cutting popular, but aging, veterans Leon Washington and Ben Obomanu.

But after making a big splash in free agency, the Seahawks are nearing $130 million in charges against this year’s salary cap. Seattle likely will focus more on signing its own players in the second week of free agency, with an executive contingent representing the team headed to Arizona for the upcoming NFL ownership meetings, which begin today.

Seattle’s next target could be re-signing defensive tackle Alan Branch. The University of Michigan product played well for Seattle in 2012, and likely will receive some interest from Jacksonville, with former Seattle defensive coordinator Gus Bradley now the Jaguars’ head coach, along with former Seattle defensive line coach Todd Wash moving with Bradley.

“You have to analyze your draft board, see where you’re at, see which players you think will be available and how much emphasis you need to put on different positions in free agency,” Schneider said, when asked about the possibility of Branch returning to Seattle. “Regarding Alan specifically, he did a great job here. We’ve been in contact with his people. Our coaching staff has been talking to him and we’ll see where that negotiation goes.”

Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 eric.williams@thenewstribune.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams

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