Seahawks Breakdown: The 3 big roster decisions this offseason

Feb 9, 2024, 10:03 AM | Updated: 9:29 pm

Seattle Seahawks Leonard Williams NFL Free Agency...

Leonard Williams of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates a tackle in 2023. (Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

(Jane Gershovich/Getty Images)

The Seattle Seahawks have a number of roster decisions to make, including perhaps their biggest by next Friday.

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Let’s take a close look at the three biggest and what’s at stake.

The decision: Is Geno Smith your quarterback this year?

The finances: Smith had a team-friendly $1.2 million base salary and $10.1 million cap hit in 2023, both exceptionally low for a starting quarterback. But those both bump up for 2024, when Smith is due a $12.7 million base salary and will account for a team-high $31.2 million against the cap. While those numbers don’t touch the top 15 salaries in football, they’re also a notable jump for a team that had a comparably risk-free investment last year.

The catch: The Seahawks needs to decide earlier than you’d think; Smith’s $12.7 million base salary becomes fully guaranteed next Friday, Feb. 16.

Why it’s tough: In an ideal world, the Seahawks find their version of Patrick Mahomes or Josh Allen or Joe Burrow or Josh Herbert, moving onto a younger model. But that option might not exist when they pick at No. 16 overall in the NFL Draft this year (though there will be options available, like a potential pick of Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy). New head coach Mike Macdonald could be tempted to bulk up his defense with Seattle’s only pick in the first two rounds, as well. Re-signing backup QB Drew Lock as cheaper option also remains a potential path forward, and it’s a popular one with fans who enjoyed Lock’s play in relief of Smith, the latter of whom took a step back from his 2023 Comeback Player of the Year campaign. But worth considering is whether Seattle’s inability to make it to the playoffs was because of Smith, or if a banged-up offensive line and a bottom-five defense played a larger role.

The decision: Should the Seattle Seahawks cut Jamal Adams?

The finances: Adams will account for $26.9 million against the cap in 2024, which is the third-highest on the team behind Smith and wide receiver Tyler Lockett. Cutting him with a pre-June 1 designation would save $6 million but also carries $20.8 million in dead cap. Cutting him post-June 1 saves $17.5 million and spreads that dead cap over two seasons ($10.4 million in 2024 and 2025).

The catch: Cutting Adams post-June 1 means that extra cash saved doesn’t do Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider any good for this year’s free agency period. Is the $6 million saved and $20 million dead cap worth moving on?

Why it’s tough: I can hear Seahawks fans now saying this is an easy decision given the low return on Adams’ overall: his high cost, injury history and lack of production leaves a bad taste. ESPN’s Brady Henderson told us on Seattle Sports’ Bump and Stacy that he has a hard time seeing Adams on the roster with the contract as is, which means we can probably expect some kind of change. But there are two more factors at play here: first, the hiring of a head coach in Macdonald who got a career year in Baltimore out of a 30-year old Jadeveon Clowney, then on his fifth team. Could he salvage Adams’ career and help him find a version of his All-Pro self? The second: pride. Sometimes moving on is the right decision, and that may very well be the case here, but it’s hard to swallow that one of your biggest trades ever didn’t pay off.

The decision: Do you pay Leonard Williams?

The finances: Spotrac has the market value for the 29-year-old Williams’ contract at around $16.7 million per year, similar to that of Grady Jarrett (who was also 29 when signed).

The catch: You’re already paying one defensive lineman more than that, and Williams outperformed him. Williams and his agent will certainly be looking to surpass the $17.1 million average salary earned by Dre’Mont Jones, who signed a three-year, $51.5 million contract with Seattle last March.

Why it’s tough: Wanting Leonard Williams on your defense isn’t a tough decision in itself. He was one of Seattle’s most quietly consistent players after being acquired in a midseason trade with the Giants. Investing $17 million per year apiece into two starting defensive lineman is also worth it… if you get strong play out of both. Seattle’s been investing plenty into its defense without the results from the entire unit. There’s temptation to bring in younger talent through this year’s draft, where they should absolutely take a defensive lineman, and with that comes an opportunity to save money here. That said, it’s hard to say no to bringing back a bright spot from a bad unit.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

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2024 Pro Football Hall of Fame class includes two who were briefly Seahawks
What’s up with the JSN comments about ex-Seahawks OC Waldron?
What are Seattle Seahawks’ options with crucial QB decision looming?
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