Amid a turbulent offseason featuring a substantial roster overhaul, the Seattle Seahawks didn’t break the bank signing free agents to replace departed stars such as Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett last spring.
Instead, the salary cap-strapped Seahawks looked to lock up affordable veterans on short-term deals, agreeing to contracts with defensive tackle Tom Johnson, guard D.J. Fluker, cornerback Dontae Johnson, and a host of others. Some of these signings, including Fluker, wound up being excellent additions, while neither Johnson lasted past Week 1.
Nearly one year later, the Seahawks find themselves in a much more favorable situation financially, as OverTheCap.com currently has the franchise sitting pretty with $52.7 million in available cap space heading towards another critical offseason.
But with quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner entering the final year of their respective contracts and tough decisions to made with 13 unrestricted free agents, the Seahawks could use a bit more flexibility as they aim to continue constructing a championship-caliber roster.
To create additional cap space, which Seahawks should be most concerned about receiving a pink slip prior to the start of the league year? And what are the chances these players get sent packing? Here’s my predictions for three potential cap casualties in Seattle, plus a closer look at a surprise trade candidate.
Why He’ll Stay: After being activated from the Non-Football Injury list in late October, Dickson immediately gave the Seahawks a lift, catching a touchdown pass in his debut against the Lions. Though he’s far from an elite receiving threat, he caught 12 passes for 143 yards in 10 games and scored three touchdowns, including a game-winner against the Packers. He also provided a steady blocking presence without rookie Will Dissly, who saw his season come to an end with a devastating knee injury in Week 4. With Dissly’s status uncertain as he recovers from a torn patellar tendon and minimal depth at tight end, paying Dickson $3.3 million to stick around in 2019 would be justified.
Why He’ll Be Cut: Dickson has never been much of a weapon in the passing game, only posting over 273 receiving yards three times in nine NFL seasons. Set to turn 32 in July, there may be cheaper, younger alternatives available through free agency or the draft who offer as much upside. If Dissly makes it back from his injury successfully as anticipated, there’s a chance he could become an expensive third tight end on the depth chart.
Prediction: Considering Seattle’s priorities on offense, moving on from Dickson without a clear upgrade doesn’t make much sense, especially with Dissly’s status uncertain coming back from an injury that has ruined careers. Sure, cutting him would create nearly $3 million in cap space, but costs seem to outweigh benefits in this case. Expect Dickson to remain in the mix for snaps with Dissly and Nick Vannett when offseason activities start in April.
Why He’ll Stay: When called upon in the middle of the season, Mingo stepped up to the plate and played well in two spot starts at weakside linebacker replacing injured star K.J. Wright. He finished with a career-high 48 tackles while playing 52 percent of Seattle’s total defensive snaps while also occasionally playing defensive end in pass rushing situations. With Wright and Mychal Kendricks potentially both gone, Seattle may want to retain a serviceable veteran with youngsters Austin Calitro and Shaquem Griffin as the only other outside linebackers on the depth chart. He’s also one of the team’s best special team players and would be a significant loss on kick coverage teams.
Why He’ll Be Cut: He’s never lived up to the hype after being selected No. 6 overall by the Browns the 2013 NFL Draft, failing to exceed 2.0 sacks in a season since his rookie year. Early in the season, Seattle gave him plenty of snaps as a situational pass rusher along with his responsibilities as starting SAM linebacker. But by the second half, rookie Jacob Martin had supplanted him in that role and finished with 3.0 sacks in his final seven games, proving to be much more productive than his predecessor. Assuming Martin will continue to see the field with greater frequency, Mingo’s $3.4 million base salary would be inflated for a 29-year old special teams stalwart.
Prediction: This will be dependent on what Seattle decides to do during the free agency period. It wouldn’t be wise to cut Mingo now without knowing Wright will return or an outside free agent such as Anthony Barr would sign with the Seahawks. With so much uncertainty, Seattle will need to wait and see what unfolds in the next few months and needs to play it safe for now. If Mingo does hit the market, it’ll likely be after the initial free agency flurry in mid-March, giving the Seahawks an extra $3.7 million to work with for possible extensions.
Why He’ll Stay: Brown only caught 14 passes in 16 games during his first season with the Seahawks, but when Wilson did target him, the veteran receiver made his receptions count. Becoming a surprisingly reliable red zone threat to help replace departed tight end Jimmy Graham, he hauled in five touchdowns, finding the end zone on nearly half of his catches. He’s a willing run blocker on the outside who also contributes on special teams and could be a bigger fixture in the passing game with another offseason to immerse himself in Brian Schottenheimer’s offense.
Why He’ll Be Cut: Considering how minimal of an impact Brown had in an offense built heavily around running the football, Seattle could salvage $2.75 million in cap space by jettisoning him after just one season. Clearly behind Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, and David Moore on the depth chart, the Seahawks may be inclined to give Keenan Reynolds and Malik Turner a more extensive evaluation at Brown’s expense. There’s also still a chance Amara Darboh could finally contribute after missing all of last season on injured reserve and this year’s draft has plenty of talent as well.
Prediction: Brown played better than his overall statistics indicate and he will help out another team, but unless the Seahawks plan to open up the passing game a bit more next season, it doesn’t make much sense to pay a seldom-used receiver north of $3 million when cheaper alternatives already exist on the roster. He didn't produce as I expected and this may be a situation that works out better for both parties, as Brown could find his next home on a team that throws the football a bit more.
Why He’ll Stay: After years of struggling to find continuity along the offensive line, shipping Britt out of town would be a major risk for chemistry up front. Though he didn’t produce his finest NFL season and Pro Football Focus harshly graded him as the 29th best center in 2018, he’s been reliable and durable during three seasons starting at one of the most important positions in the game. He’s a strong communicator who handles all of Seattle’s line calls seamlessly and trying to fill that void would be easier said than done.
Why He’ll Be Dealt: Unlike the previous three instances, Britt isn’t in danger of being cut, but he could be one of the few trade chips the Seahawks have to acquire additional draft capital. General manager John Schneider likes to have a large quantity of draft picks and as it stands now, Seattle will only have four picks in April following a series of trades in recent seasons. Set to turn 28 years old in May, Britt’s value may never be higher for other teams who need a quality center and with Ethan Pocic best suited to play center, making a deal isn’t out of the question for the right price.
Prediction: Schneider and Seattle may have a tough time resisting if the right team offers adequate draft compensation, but trading Britt elsewhere seems unlikely. He’s in the prime of his career and even if a deal came to fruition, the Seahawks would only save $2.083 million against the cap and would owe a dead cap charge surpassing $5 million. While he’s not elite at his position, he’s a serviceable starter who loves playing in Seattle and they shouldn’t be actively trying to ship him out of town.