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Clayton: Seahawks won’t need to wait until free agency to build 2021 roster

The Seahawks have holes to fill this offseason and won't have much free money to do so. (Getty)

The next month should be interesting for Seahawks general manager John Schneider.

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Schneider likes to keep on top of every deal in the NFL, and there should more brewing this year than any other offseason. Free agency starts March 19, but before then there will be more action than usual.

The new salary cap could drop a total of $18 million from 2020, settling around $180 million for next season. That puts more teams in a position to cut or trade high-priced players in order to stay under the cap. Each day there seems to be a big name cut. Last week, it was J.J. Watt set loose by Houston. On Tuesday, it was defensive tackle Kawann Short released by Carolina.

Some are reporting that the Philadelphia Eagles have talked to the Seahawks about tight end Zach Ertz, who is scheduled to make $8.25 million next season. He could be available in a trade for a mid-round choice because the Eagles are more than $60 million over the cap. They are also talking to Chicago, Indianapolis and others about quarterback Carson Wentz.

I started to put together a list of potential salary cap casualties around the league and I easily came up with more than 110. That is going to overload the market with players. The Seahawks only have four draft choices, so trades could be difficult, but what will help Schneider is he might not have to wait until free agency to upgrade the roster.

A lot of the released players could be options for Seattle, and that would give Schneider the ability to make signings while still building up 2022 compensatory picks based on how many unrestricted free agents they lose. Players who are released as opposed to becoming free agents due to their contracts ending can be signed before the free agency period begins, as Seattle did with tight end Greg Olsen in 2020, and they won’t count against teams when it comes to compensatory draft picks.

One thing I noticed is that teams might release players they signed as unrestricted free agents last year, which is really unusual. Quinton Jefferson, Mario Addison, Jimmy Graham, Desmond Trufant, Danny Shelton and so many others from last year’s free agency class could get cut or traded.

Take a look at what might happen at tight end. Graham, C.J. Uzomah, Blake Jarwin, Jesse James of the Detroit Lions, Tyler Eifert, Kyle Rudolph, Evan Engram and Tyler Higbee of the Los Angeles Rams could be available. The Rams are around $35 million over the cap if you include the Matthew Stafford trade that won’t be official until the new league year starts on March 17. Higbee makes $7.25 million a year and fellow Rams tight end Gerald Everett is unsigned. It’s likely the Rams can’t keep both, which would be interesting to the Seahawks.

New Seattle offensive coordinator Shane Waldron started as the Rams’ tight ends coach in 2017, and adding one of his former players might intrigue the Seahawks for their new Rams-like offense. The Seahawks might be satisfied to stay with Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson, though, and they could also bring back Luke Willson on a minimum salary.

Safe to say there are plenty of options at just about every position. Even at guard, where the unrestricted free agency class isn’t all that good. The Seahawks will be looking for a left guard, but the only top guards are Brandon Scherff from Washington and Joe Thuney of the Patriots. After that you have Matt Feieler of the Pittsburgh Steelers, Joe Feliciano of the Buffalo Bills and Lane Taylor of the Green Bay Packers. But there could be guards that get cut who might be interesting to the Seahawks.

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