The large yearly increases in the NFL salary cap is leading to rapid inflation of free agent salaries and making the Seahawks search for a new OT difficult.
Holy Inflation Batman!
Before you ask, that is not a joke about the Patriots and properly inflated footballs. No, I’m talking about costs, specifically the cost required sign NFL free agents. Those costs are exploding, which will make it difficult for Seattle to find the offensive tackle they desperately need.
We all laughed when the 49ers signed Earl Mitchell to a four year, $16 million contract last week. That’s crazy money for a backup nose tackle, or so we thought.
Next up was the Carolina Panther and backup DE Mario Addison. They agreed to a 3 year, $22.5 million contract over the weekend. 9.5 sacks looks good on paper, but it was his 1st good year and he’ll turn 30 before next season.
Then the Steelers got in on the action by re-signing Antonio Brown to a record-setting contract.
I have no issue with Brown getting paid. He’s been the best WR in the NFL for a couple of years now. Over $15 million per year though? That’s QB money.
One instance is an anomaly. Two is a coincidence. Three is a trend. We officially have a trend.
The NFL salary cap has been rapidly expanding for the last three offseasons. It appears that the salaries of the players is finally coming up to match that.
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In 2013, the final year of the “flat cap era,” The NFL salary cap was $123 million. The 2017 salary cap will be at least $168 million when the league sets the official value later this week. That’s a 36 percent increase in just four years.
Player salaries haven’t risen at the same rate, except perhaps for quarterbacks. Instead what we’ve seen is a larger middle class in the NFL, but with the average salaries of those middle class player only increasing slightly.
That wasn’t a sustainable trend. There is a fixed number of players worth being elevated into that middle class. Teams were going to eventually have to choose to either to elevate lesser players, or begin bidding more for players already in that middle class.
We’re beginning to see that correction now. Journeyman backups are being given salaries formerly reserved for starters. Starters are being given raises formerly reserved for Pro Bowlers. Elite stars are being given contracts only QBs have dreamt of before now.
For the Seahawks, this greatly impacts their quest for a new offensive tackle. If they had hoped to sign Russell Okung for $8 million per year, they’ll likely have to up their offer to closer to $12 million. That $12 million contract that Kelvin Beechum was looking at now will inflate to $16 million.
As salaries go up, it’ll become increasingly more expensive for the Seahawks to re-sign their own players as well. Kam Chancellor, Jimmy Graham, and Cliff Avril all need new contracts. The Seahawks would also like to keep Luke Willson from leaving as a free agent. All of those deals will cost them significant cap space this year.
The Seahawks only have about $26 million in usable cap space available. By the time the Seahawks allocate the funds to re-signing their own guys, there won’t be much left for bringing in that offensive tackle they need.
This is an unfortunate development for the Seahawks. For the first time since their Super Bowl championship in 2013 it looked like they might have the salary cap space to make a significant addition in free agency. Now it appears they may be shopping from the bargain bin once again.