How Marshawn Lynch’s retirement would impact Seahawks’ salary cap

Jan 26, 2016, 11:06 AM | Updated: 1:39 pm
If Marshawn Lynch were to retire, the Seahawks could potentially gain cap relief beyond what they would get by releasing him, though likely not until 2017. (AP)
(AP)

Comments from Seahawks general manager John Schneider on 710 ESPN Seattle about running back Marshawn Lynch “leaning towards retirement” invite a closer look at how that would impact Seattle’s salary-cap situation.

Former NFL agent Joel Corry and NFL salary cap/contract expert Brian McIntyre helped clarify the particulars of the situation.

The upshot is that if Lynch were to retire, the Seahawks could potentially gain cap relief beyond what they would get by releasing him, which is the other of the two likeliest outcomes. That means Lynch deciding to retire wouldn’t just save the team from the predicament of having to move on a franchise icon. It might also save Seattle additional cap space, though likely not until 2017.

Based on the reported terms of the two-year extension he signed last offseason, Lynch is scheduled to count a hefty $11.5 million against Seattle’s salary cap next season. The Seahawks would save $6.5 million against next year’s cap by releasing him, depending on when they did so. That $6.5 million figure is Lynch’s scheduled cap cost minus his $5 million in remaining signing-bonus proration, which is $2.5 million in each of the final two years of the deal.

Technically, Seattle could spread that $5 million cap charge over two years as opposed to absorbing it all at once by releasing Lynch after June 1 or designating him a post-June 1 release. If the Seahawks took the $5 million hit in 2016, Lynch would be completely off the books in 2017, when he’s scheduled to count $12.5 million against that season’s cap.

The Seahawks would also save that $6.5 million against next season’s cap if Lynch were to retire, assuming he did so before June 1. The difference, though, is that they could also make Lynch repay any portion of the $5 million in remaining signing-bonus money, recourse the team wouldn’t have if it released him. The Seahawks could recoup up to $2.5 million for each of the next two seasons, Corry said.

Whatever money Lynch paid the Seahawks back would count positively toward their salary cap. But Corry explained that based on the timing, it likely wouldn’t take effect right away.

“You’ll get a cap credit for the amount you collect but you don’t get it until the following year, so they wouldn’t be getting a cap credit until 2017 and 2018 if they collected the full $5 million,” said Corry, who spent 15 seasons as an NFL agent and now writes about contract matters for CBSSports.com. “If they don’t collect any money from him … they don’t get any cap relief. So it can be a cap and cash rebate, but you’ve got to collect the money in order for it to give you the cap relief.”

Would the Seahawks do that? They wouldn’t be required to recoup that money from Lynch, but it’s an option that Corry believes they would exercise.

“If Seattle wants to be benevolent towards Marshawn, they can,” he said. “But I always expect teams to exert their rights to the maximum extent possible when they can.”

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Corry said it’s his understanding that Lynch’s contract includes no special provisions – beyond what is standard – about the possibility that he retires, which he’s considered in the past. According to Corry, it’s “really hard to carve something like that out.” He said contracts typically include language that allows teams to recoup the maximum amount of money from players under Article 4, Section 9 of the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement, which spells out forfeiture of salary.

“They’ll just have that one catchall in there, and that’s in Marshawn’s contract,” Corry said.

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How Marshawn Lynch’s retirement would impact Seahawks’ salary cap