Clayton: How the Seahawks avoided needing to restructure Wilson, Wagner

May 20, 2021, 12:44 PM | Updated: 1:09 pm
Seahawks Bobby Wagner...
Only Russell Wilson has a higher-paying contract for the Seahawks than Bobby Wagner. (Getty)

A lot of people keep asking why the Seahawks haven’t restructured the contracts of Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.

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Some blame the players, particularly Wilson. Some blame the team. But no one is to blame. It’s not needed at the moment. The Seahawks are in good shape salary cap-wise.

First, you have to understand the cap. Sure, it’s different this year. Because of COVID-19, the cap dropped 8 percent to $182.5 million for 2021. It put strain on most teams, particularly those who pay big money to their quarterback, like the Seahawks (Wilson makes $35 million a year). But let’s study the Seahawks’ cap and see why they don’t need the room now.

Currently, the Seahawks have $7.365 million of cap room. They have the maximum number of players signed at 90. Until the Saturday before the start of the regular season, each team only counts its top 51 cap numbers. At no point can you go over the cap, and no team has since the cap was installed.

Base salaries have grown since the NFL and the NFL Players Association did a 10-year extension of the collective bargaining agreement. But here’s the key for the Seahawks: their 51st player under the cap is at $850,000. That’s the minimum for a third-year player, but it’s also the cap number of a player who signs for the minimum salary exception. For example, if a player gets a $990,000 base salary and accepts the exception, it counts $850,000 against the cap. This late in free agency, very few veterans are getting more than the minimum.

Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll was asked over the weekend about Wagner and Wilson doing potential replacement deals where you replace base salary with a signing bonus. He noted that it wasn’t needed.

Unless the Seahawks give linebacker K.J. Wright a contract bigger than the minimum to return to Seattle, it’s doubtful the Seahawks will sign a player for more than the minimum until the start of training camp. Two of the Seahawks’ three draft choices are now under contract, leaving just fourth-round pick Tre Brown unsigned. His first-year cap number is $820,166, so less than $850,000, and once he signs, the Seahawks’ available money under the cap will stay where it is at $7.365 million.

The Seahawks currently have six players with cap numbers bigger than $6 million: Wilson ($32 million cap hit), Wagner ($17.135 million), Duane Brown ($13.291 million), Jamal Adams ($9.860 million), Tyler Lockett ($8.050 million) and Quandre Diggs ($6.144 million).

The Lockett extension this offseason is the move that put Seattle in a good spot at $7.365 million available. His cap number dropped. And instead of reworking a contract, the Seahawks could save more than $4 million of cap room if they extend Adams past 2021. They could pay him over $15 million a year but strike a deal that puts his first-year cap number between $4 million and $5 million. That would give general manager John Schneider extra money if he wants to add a pricey player during the season like he has in the past couple of years.

Restructure Wilson or Wagner? Don’t hold your breath.

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