The Cash Flow Structure of a Russell Wilson Contract

According to a report by Ian Rapoport of NFL Network and, a big disconnect that currently exists between Russell Wilson and the Seahawks is because of the year by year breakdown of the Seahawks contract, specifically the payments made in 2015. Rapoport indicated that the Seahawks offer would pay Wilson less than $20 million this season, which is a far cry from the $28 million earned by Matt Ryan and $30 million earned by Cam Newton on their extensions. This is something I had discussed as a potential problem a few weeks ago. The problem lies primarily in the other two contracts having large on the book salaries when they signed their deals compared to Wilson’s $1.542 million salary. So let’s look closer at those two contracts and see what the Seahawks are likely offering compared to what Wilson may want. Continue reading The Cash Flow Structure of a Russell Wilson Contract »

The Russell Wilson Guaranteed Salary Problem

This past weekend there was again much talk about Russell Wilson’s contract with the Seattle Seahawks, mostly centered around the guaranteed portion of the contract. This was something I speculated about months ago when the Seahawks mentioned “outside of the box” thinking on Wilson’s contract and it looks to be a divisive issue between the sides.  Wilson’s agent is primarily a baseball agent, a sport where contracts are fully guaranteed so it is a logical point for them to take. So let’s see if we can sort this out. Continue reading The Russell Wilson Guaranteed Salary Problem »

Seahawks 2015 Salary Cap Outlook

Estimated 2015 Cap Space: $24.0M ($143M cap limit)

Roster Overview

Players Under Contract: 64
Pro Bowlers: 5
Unrestricted Free Agents: 16(2 with 50%+ playtime)
Draft Selection: 31

Salary Cap Breakdown

Seahawks 2015 Salary Cap

Seahwks Offensive Spending

Seahawks Defensive Spending

Free Agents to Re-sign

I don’t believe that Seattle needs to make a major push for any of their unrestricted free agents. If Kevin Williams looks to continue playing in the NFL he should be an affordable rotation guy to keep for another season on a one year deal. Similarly if O’Brien Schofield doesn’t test the market and will come back on another minimum type contract he will be a reasonable payer to keep in the rotation.

Free Agents to Let Walk

With heavy commitments to Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, and Earl Thomas I am not sure how wise it would be to also sign Byron Maxwell to a lucrative contract extension. Because of the limited options at the positions in free agency Maxwell will likely command a premium on the market which will probably exceed his true value…The team passed on the expensive option for James Carpenter last season and I would not expect him to be a priority as they prepare for free agency. I don’t discount that he may be back, but it should be after they make a run at others at the position.

Contracts to Modify

Extensions should be the name of the game for the Seahawks this offseason. Obviously the big question here is what dollar figure will make Marshawn Lynch happy to not cause a distraction during training camp or consider retirement. While it is rare that a team needs to overcompensate at this particular position I don’t think there is any possible way to claim that Lynch is replaceable at this point. His running style and ability to carry the ball so many times is simply not a trait you see any more in the NFL and the Seahawks need to run him until he simply shows he can’t run anymore…While it may take some work to accomplish the best thing the Seahawks can do for their long term salary cap situation is to sign Russell Wilson to an extension now to better spread out the cap charges over the next few seasons. There are many ways to go with that contract, but eventually he will, by some metric, be the highest paid QB in the NFL…Bobby Wagner is also up for an extension and given the history of their extensions with the players in the secondary it would see as if he will be re-signed this offseason…Russell Okung may also be in the discussion for an extension since this is the final year of his contract, but he may opt to play the year out in hopes of increasing his value.

Players to Consider Releasing

Releasing Brandon Mebane saves the team $5 million. He will be 30 this season and coming off injury the team will likely see more benefits to cycling that money into other players…Tony McDaniel is in the final season of his contract and the team saves $3 million by releasing him. McDaniel is a solid enough pro, but again I think the consideration will be that there are players that can replace him. This is a good group of free agents for the interior of the defensive line. McDaniel could be a player that is released and then re-signed if they fail to find an upgrade in free agency…Zach Miller missed pretty much the entire year and releasing him creates $2.4 million in cap room. Again this is a player that could be released and brought back on a lower cost deal, but they should look at free agency before deciding Miller is the guy.

Offseason Plan

Too much has been made of the Seahawks pending “salary cap doom” that will occur when Wilson is re-signed. Seattle did what they had to do last season by releasing a number of veterans and trading malcontent Percy Harvin and his bloated salary off the team to ensure that at least the next two seasons will be ok in terms of cap constraints. Other than Maxwell there are really no home grown free agents that can really change their flexibility either.

Seattle can definitely use another wide receiver or athletic tight end to add to the mix. Seattle is going to want explosive players and guys capable of making those big plays when the ball is thrown their way. I think Jordan Cameron is a natural fit for the team and worth the risk unless the costs get excessive. He can complement the players they already have on the team.

I know most people do not feel as if the team will be in play for a big wide receiver, but they had allocated millions of dollars to Harvin just two years ago and planned on him being an important part of the mix this season. Both Jeremy Maclin and Torrey Smith would be two free agents that would fit the bill.  Smith doesn’t have the best of hands, but he would lighten the load for Doug Baldwin and make the overall group more effective.

Defensively they should be able to find a moderate cost defensive tackle this year. Names like Melton, Paea, Peters, Knighton, etc… are all available and come at a cost lower than the savings realized on releasing Mebane and McDaniel. They should be able to find an all around performer that aids in run and pass.

When it comes to the draft I would anticipate the process of adding to the offensive line and finding some young guys to potentially replace some of the players who may be gone in the coming seasons. I would not discount the possibility of using free agency to find a player, as there are some good interior lineman and right tackles out there, but I think the draft is the best way to go for the long term. They should be able to find some defensive lineman to groom behind the starters as well.

If you are not a fan of the Seahawks it is scary to see how the team is positioned. In a salary cap era this looks to be one of the rare teams that really has the ability to keep an extensive core of players together for a 3 or 4 year window. While other teams have been successful, names the Patriots, those teams are few and far between. Though the Super Bowl was lost in a heartbreaking fashion the Seahawks should remain one of the top teams in the NFL for the foreseeable future.

Seahawks Links

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Seahawks Trade Percy Harvin to the Jets


According to Jay Glazer the Seattle Seahawks have traded wide reciever Percy Harvin to the New York Jets for a mid round draft pick. In my opinion this is one of the rare actual “work out best for both sides” trades.

The Seahawks acquired Harvin via trade in 2013 from the Minnesota Vikings in what was a bit of a head scratcher. Seattle gave up their first round pick in 2013 and a mid round pick in 2014 for the rights to Harvin. Harvin had worn out his welcome in Minnesota due to his unhappiness with his contract following an injury filled season. The Seahawks would turn around and sign him to a $67 million, 6 year contract that contained $12.85 million per year in new money. The salary moved him, depending on how one valued it, into either the top 3 or top 5 at the position in salary despite never having a 1,000 yard season.

The Seahawks paid Harvin $14.5 million in 2013 to catch 1 pass for 17 yards in an injury filled regular season. Harvin would have two big runs and a kickoff return for a TD in the Super Bowl that year. Since the Jets played their game this week Harvin I believe will be paid by Seattle, leaving Seattle with a $4.5 million bill for 22 receptions for 133 yards. This will likely go down as one of the worst trades in NFL history.

Moving on from the contract and getting anything in return was good for the Seahawks. It seemed clear he did not fit in their offense and they had no idea if there was a way to utilize him. Seattle will now save $6.47 million in salary cap space and salary this year by trading him, money that can be rolled over to the 2015 season and used for the Wilson extension. Harvin will carry a $7.2 million dead money charge on the Seahawks 2015 salary cap, which represents another $5.7 million in freed up cap space, though it was likely they were releasing him next year anyway.

From the Jets perspective the team was devoid of talent and it was worth taking a risk on a player like Harvin. His ability in the short passing game should fit with what the Jets are currently running on offense and allow Eric Decker to see less help when he goes down the field.  In theory it can open up two layers of field if teams still have any fear of Harvin or he re-earns the fear of defensive coordinators.

The Jets had the lowest payroll in the NFL and one of the largest cap surpluses in the league. Harvin will eat up $6.47 million of the Jets cap room this year in what will amount to a half season audition to keep his contract. In 2015 Harvin will carry a $10.5 million salary and salary cap charge.  None of that money is guaranteed so if Harvin fails to perform the Jets can either release him or look to renegotiate the salary back down to a more reasonable price range that fits with his performance. Harvins total contract value over the next four seasons works out to $10.375 million per year so there are many ways to work within the contract to reduce the salary while keeping his value at a high level to keep any egos happy.


For the Jets there is no risk here. He is not displacing anyone of importance on the team. He can be released at any time. The Jets cap space was projected to be so high that there was likely no way they could spend all of it so even if he stays at his full price it does not make a material impact in any plans moving forward. The Jets also are in a position where thy will need to spend money just to meet the salary minimums in the CBA so this gives them a chance to see a player in uniform before commiting that money to him, which is always a plus. I would assume that this does mean Jeremy Kerley will not be back with the Jets next season.

Harvin will get to be one of the rare players in the NFL that will be paid for two bye weeks. The Seahawks already had their bye week while the Jets is still upcoming.

I’ll update Harvin’s contract to reflect the trade later tonight or early tomorrow morning. But for now you can view is old contract here 


Best & Worst Contracts 2014: Seattle Seahawks


We finish our best and worst contract series with the Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks

Best Contract: Max Unger

Max unger

I know this is going to be a complete rehash of last year’s post on Seattle but there is really no reason to change anything with this selection. Max Unger is one of the top centers in the NFL and one of the reasons the Seahawks offensive line continues to be a strength for the team.

Seattle has a tendency to jump high on certain players either with high value contracts or favorable contract structures. Unger did not get that. Rather than jumping up into the Nick Mangold/Ryan Kalil contract territory, which one may have expected, they signed Unger to a reasonable contract, one that only looks more reasonable in light of the Maurkice Pouncey and Alex Mack contracts. There were no outlandish guarantees as just his 2013 salary was fully guaranteed and at any point after that he could have potentially been released.

Unger’s contract, which was worth just under $25 million for 4 seasons, represented a 24% savings in annual value over Ryan Kalil’s contract with the Panthers. His $11.5 million in guarantees is less than Chris Myers of the Texans and Scott Wells of the Rams had at the time the contract was signed. The contract itself is also a well structured deal with no real peaks or valleys making the cap management job of such a player relatively worry free. His cap charges fluctuate from $5.6 to $6.1 million, though there is some room for small escalators to advance those numbers.

The contract figures are very manageable and with no spikes there is never a point where the Seahawks will be forced to renegotiate the terms of the contract for cap relief which has already happened multiple times with Kalil. This is the kind of deal that both sides should be happy with over the term of the contract especially if Unger continues to prove himself to be one of the best in the game. This is the type of solid veteran contract that allows the Seahawks to go out and take chances on some of the more questionable deals they have done over the years.


Worst Contract: Percy Harvin

Percy Harvin

There are 11 receivers in the NFL who have contracts worth over $8.5 million a season. Of those 11 just one failed to produce a 1,000 yard season before signing a new contract. That one player is Percy Harvin, whose contract is worth a whopping $12.849 million a season.

There is almost no justification in the entire decision making process as it related to Harvin. Harvin was unhappy with the Minnesota Vikings and wanted out of Minnesota unless he received a new contract. Harvin had minimal leverage. He was coming off another injury filled season that saw him appear in just 9 games. Harvin was very productive in those games, but teams are always cautious with players who seem to miss at least a game each season.

Seattle came in and threw a number 1 draft pick at the Vikings to take Harvin. Believing that Harvin’s production was hurt by the Vikings lack of offense they assumed he would perform much better in Seattle. They put a big value on the fact that Harvin was kind of a jack of all trades that was a very good kick returner and could also run the football.  Kind of like what the Bears did with Devin Hester, except at 2.5 times the cost.

The team bought in at huge dollars and gave themselves no protection. There are no roster bonuses tied to health, despite the fact that Harvin was recently injured and you could pencil him in  for at least one missed game a season and a few late week decisions. Harvin received a $12 million signing bonus that likely protects his roster spot through 2015.

As a receiver Harvin has no additional negotiating leverage than Victor Cruz of the Giants and was statistically inferior to Cruz. Cruz had to settle for $8.6 million a year and a $9.5 million signing bonus. In fact of all the players who earn over $7 million a season Harvin is just one of three players to have not produced a 1,000 receiving yard season before signing. The other two were Pierre Garcon ($8.5M) and Mike Williams ($7.924M).  Harvin should have been paid in that $8-$9 million a year range, but somehow he made Mike Wallace’s $12 million a season contract look a bit less comical.

Harvin missed all but one game in the 2013 regular season, before making his return in the playoffs. He had three big plays in the Super Bowl, including a kick return for a touchdown. The Seahawks need to see a lot more of that to justify the contract that the signed with Harvin.

2013’s Best and Worst Seahawks Contracts:

2013 Best Contract: Max Unger (See above)

2013 Worst Contract: Zach Miller (Reworked contract to remain on team)

Click Here to Check out OTC’s other Best and Worst Contracts from around the NFL!




Marshawn Lynch Reworks Contract with Seahawks


According to, the Seahawks have agreed to modify running back Marshawn Lynch’s contract in return for him ending his holdout and returning to training camp. Per the report the Seahawks have agreed to convert $500,000 in gameday roster bonuses, $500,000 in incentives, and $500,000 in 2015 base salary into Lynch’s 2014 base salary. The new contract will increase Lynch’s 2014 cap charge and cash salary by $1 million.

Though this is not the big raise that Jamaal Charles received from the Kansas City Chiefs, it was likely the best case scenario for Lynch, who had almost no leverage in the situation. Charles had been woefully underpaid and is the centerpiece of the Chiefs offense and projects to be in that role for at least one more season. Lynch has been paid well and is likely going to be phased out of Seattle over the next season.

I’ve said for some time that Lynch holds more importance for the Seahawks early in the season moreso than late in the year and I think this compromise indicates that they feel the same way. The Seahawks have a stable of potential replacements for Lynch, but it often takes time to work such players in to the offense in an ffective manner. Lynch should carry the workload early in the year while everyone else gets their feet wet in the system. Seattle easily could have held firm, continued to fine Lynch and further enforce forfeiture clauses in his contract, but instead they agreed to a slight raise.


While it is being widely reported (and is technically true) that this deal means no new money for Lynch, from a practical standpoint this is an additional $1 million for the player. The $500,000 incentive was only going to be earned if Lynch ran for 1,500 yards in 2014, something Lynch has only done once in his career. Considering his workload is expected to be reduced the odds of earning that incentive was next to nothing. It is now part of his base pay.  Lynch should still be scheduled to earn $7 million next year at an $8.5 million cap charge, which is not a safe spot for any aging running back to be. Lynch is still a strong candidate for release in 2015 so any money being moved from that season to this one is effectively a raise for him.

So he gained something with the hold out, a fact that may not make many NFL owners and General Managers very happy.



Hard to Compare Marshawn Lynch and Jamaal Charles


While we already have discussed the Marshawn Lynch contract on the site in the past I thought in light of his holdout that we could use this as an opportunity to look at certain distinctions between contract situations. On it’s face the immediate reaction to Lynch holding out is that Jamaal Charles got a raise and thus the Seahawks should follow the pattern to give Lynch what he deserves. However, the two contract situations are very different.

Charles was underpaid during the term of his agreement. Based on his production at the time of signing (which was more or less near the end of the 2010 season) the Chiefs got a tremendous bargain. The fact that he produced at an even higher level in the future made it even more of a bargain. For the most part Charles was giving the Chiefs $10 million a year production at 55% of the cost.

Lynch was paid very well upon signing his contract in 2012. The Seahawks follow a different contract model than many other teams. Many of their contracts appear to be very forward looking rather than using the past as a guide for future performance.  Whether it was Percy Harvin, Zach Miller, Sidney Rice, or a number of other players on their team, they often try to identify the future benefits they will realize once the player is fully immersed in their system. Lynch is one of those players.

Lynch began his career in Buffalo and fell out of favor in 2009. During the 2010 season he was traded to the Seahawks and had a relatively lackluster run averaging 3.5 yards per carry and producing 573 yards in 12 games. Lynch would have a much better season in 2011 running for 1,200 yards on a 4.2 YPC as he looked for a contract in free agency.

I like to use a matrix on valuing contracts (and there are plenty of other ways to do this) where we use a weighted average of three years of stats to help identify a range of pay. I usually split the numbers 50/35/15.  Lynch signed in the same offseason as many other players. I included Charles in the list as comparison even though he signed in 2010. Here were the numbers leading into the contracts signed by the player:


In terms of production Lynch was near the bottom, only better than Jonathan Stewart. In terms of per play performance Lynch was at the bottom of the list and was also one of just two players to be a non-factor in the passing game.

One of the ways we can break down the valuation on the contract is by looking at the annual value and the three year contract average value per rushing yard and yard from scrimmage. This tells us what the player would have cost, in an average year, per yard of production.


Dollar per yardDollar per yard

dollar per total yard

So when you look at Lynch what you see is a player who was compensated, at the very least, fairly over the terms of his original contract. On an annual basis he was more or less compensated at the top of the position (discounting Adrian Peterson and Chris Johnson’s outlier deals). That was balanced out somewhat by the cash flows of the contract which were steady rather than frontloaded like Rice, Foster, and McCoy, but it was still a contract that called for a high level of salary based on what he had done before. Due to the lack of expected receiving production he would likely have been a player that a team would have required a partner for passing downs.

As things turned out the Seahawks were correct in their projections and Lynch was worth the risk, but it was one of the better player contracts in the NFL. He was also guaranteed $17 million right from the start, higher than all but two players on this list, both of whom signed longer contracts.

That’s why it is hard to compare the situation of the Charles and  Lynch and expect the same results, even just on the principle of “fairness”.  Charles was the most underpaid of the group. If the Seahawks took an optimistic eye with Lynch, then the Chiefs took a super pessimistic one with Charles. Even if we factor in Charles’ new money ($5 million) into the deal, he would simply come up to the Forte/Rice levels on annual value per run yard and still be the lowest paid using total yards from scrimmage as a metric.

While its understandable that Lynch is holding out, Charles was far more deserving of the raise he received. In Lynch’s case, his improved performance was built into the contract he signed in 2012. We’ll see if Seattle budges, but this is a spot where the fans may not be on the player’s side