JAKE AND STACY

Jake and Stacy: Why Seahawks may catch a break before free agency

Feb 8, 2021, 8:20 AM | Updated: 9:47 am
Seahawks LB K.J. Wright...
Seahawks LB K.J. Wright is set to enter free agency after 10 years in Seattle. (Getty)
(Getty)

It’s been well-documented throughout the entirety of the 2020 NFL season that because of revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, the salary cap will be decreasing from 2020 to 2021. While that’s almost assuredly going to happen, a new report says the cap may not be going down by as much as initially anticipated, which is good news for the Seahawks and other NFL teams.

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Per NFL Network’s  Tom Pelissero, sources have told him the salary cap will likely be around $185 million for each team next season, rather than closer to $175 million, which is the minimum it could be. It was thought that the cap would decrease from $198 million in 2020 by roughly $20 million, but it appears it will be closer to a $10 million decrease.

How does that impact the upcoming offseason for the Seahawks? Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy shared their thoughts on Pelissero’s report on Thursday.

“It would be huge news for the Seahawks in particular, who are struggling cap space-wise,” Heaps said. ” … For the Seahawks, they’re in a space where this cap number could change for them the ability to make moves and the ability to acquire or retain.”

The Seahawks were expected to enter the offseason with roughly $3 million in available cap space. That number looks even more daunting when you consider the amount of players the Seahawks may lose in free agency and that they have just four picks in April’s draft, including no first- or third-round selections.

Seattle has more than 20 players hitting unrestricted free agency and many of those players are starters, such as cornerback Shaquill Griffin, running back Chris Carson and center Ethan Pocic. But with the cap reportedly set to be higher than anticipated, that could change how the Seahawks attack the upcoming offseason.

“The big question becomes if that is going to be the case, how do you maximize that number and are you going to try and bring back anybody that you otherwise wouldn’t have been able to,” Heaps said.

Along with the three listed above, players like cornerback Quinton Dunbar, defensive end Benson Mayowa, linebacker/defensive end Bruce Irvin, No. 3 receiver David Moore and No. 2 running back Carlos Hyde are also going to be free agents, as is the Seahawks’ longest-tenured player, who is someone Rost thinks may return for 2021, especially given Pelissero’s report.

“I would love for K.J. Wright to come back to Seattle,” Rost said of the 10-year linebacker. “I know they have a lot of depth at linebacker, I know (2020 first-round pick) Jordyn Brooks is prepared to play at either middle or outside linebacker, I understand that, I just think that Wright is so good. It’s not that he’s gotten better with age, it’s that he’s stayed really consistent despite turning 31 this past season.”

While Rost thinks Wright may price himself out of Seattle after another productive season, Heaps thinks Wright is more of a situational or role player rather than a three-down linebacker going forward, which could help the Seahawks keep him if his market isn’t that great.

Rost’s other pick to keep would be running back Chris Carson, a three-year starter who rushed for over 1,000 yards in 2018 and 2019. Though Rost would love Carson to return to Seattle, she thinks it’s unlikely to happen even with the reported boost in the salary cap.

“When we talk about Pete Carroll wanting to focus on the run game … you need a semblance of a run game, preferably a really good one, to be an explosive offense,” she said. “Even teams who pass a ton still have the threat of the run.”

Rost pointed out that Carson is the only running back the Seahawks have drafted under Carroll who has been successful. Before Carson, only Marshawn Lynch, who the Seahawks acquired in a trade in 2010, rushed for over 900 yards in a season.

Heaps thinks to keep Carson, the Seahawks may need to make other moves such as contract restructures or cutting veterans because he’s one of the two best running backs hitting free agency along with Aaron Jones. But even though Carson is a top back in this free agent market, Heaps has reservations about the Seahawks paying him what he may be looking for.

“When it comes to paying a running back, you can’t invest in a running back you already know has issues,” Heaps said of Carson, who’s never played a full 16-game season and has suffered two season-ending injuries in his four-year career. “It’s one thing when you pay a guy who’s been durable and then they break down after that contract, it happens, sometimes it just works out like that. But if you’re going to invest heavily in a running back that you already know is injury prone, I don’t understand that whatsoever.”

While Rost would like the Seahawks to try and retain both Wright and Carson, Wright is the only pending free agent Heaps really would stump for bringing back next season.

“Outside of (Wright), I don’t know if you bring any of these guys back, to be quite honest with you,” he said. “… I could maybe see them bringing back Benson Mayowa or Quinton Dunbar if it was an incentive-laden contract, but those guys are a little less expensive.”

Heaps would rather see the Seahawks use this good news of a larger salary cap than anticipated to help solidify one position group in particular.

“To me, you’ve got to go invest in this offensive line and this gives you an opportunity to do that,” he said.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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