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1230: 2023 positional spending for the entire roster will have your imagination running wild
The best news about the Seattle Seahawks might be that they are not the Carolina Panthers.
Though the franchises have somewhat felt like cousins over the past 20 years, especially when debating Bobby Wagner vs. Luke Kuechly or Russell Wilson’s MVP argument in 2015 against Cam Newton, they are headed down different paths at the moment. This seems to be in contrast with the fact that Baker Mayfield rumors oscillated between Carolina and Seattle for the past three months, but even if the two teams have a similar record in 2022, and have significant connections in their front offices, they should be in much different positions in 2023.
At least, financially speaking.
The Panthers traded for Mayfield and will be holding a competition between him and Sam Darnold, with third round pick Matt Corral biding his time for the day in January that Carolina’s interim head coach calls on him for his first career start. With both Mayfield and Darnold on the roster, the Panthers are paying $25.3 million to quarterbacks in 2022, 10th-most in the league. However, both of those contracts are set to expire next year and the only obligation that Carolina will have left is Corral’s, which will only carry a small cap hit and that’s only if he makes the team.
OvertheCap.com currently slates the Panthers with $0 in obligations for quarterbacks in 2023, though I do believe they would at least incur some dead money on Corral’s deal at the very least.
However, imagine if the Seattle Seahawks owed $0 to quarterbacks, but still had the fifth-most expensive offense in the NFL AND were set to be $30 million OVER the projected $225 million salary cap. That’s the scenario that Carolina is currently staring at next year, as the Panthers have the second-most money committed to running backs, the fifth-most to wide receivers, and the seventh-most to the offensive line.
It would be one thing if the Carolina Panthers had an offense that resembled the ‘99 Rams and all they had to do was plop a grocery clerk or a plumber or a Sam Darnold at quarterback to make it work. But is anyone that high on Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Ikem Ekwonu, and Robbie Anderson right now? Is Matt Rhule that high on the Panthers? Is GM Scott Fitterer—formerly of Seattle’s front office and another example in the “cousins” column—that high on his roster?
Oh okay, uhhhh, I guess he is.
The Panthers are also set to spend the most money on linebackers in the NFL in 2023 and they really don’t have savings at any one position at all other than at quarterback—a fact that would have to change if Mayfield or Darnold prove to be adequate this year.
And then what is Carolina going to be do to prepare themselves for at the very least, a franchise tag, a move that would cost a team almost $32 million?
Essentially, the Panthers should be able to cut, extend, renegotiate, and restructure their way into signing a quarterback if that becomes a necessity, but then that’s what Fitterer’s entire focus has to center around in 2023: “We must center our efforts on retaining Bam Darnfield and then let’s hope we hit on the draft.”
I don’t know, maybe that works for the Panthers. The defense was average last season, often challenged more than they had to be because Darnold is so bad. If their 31st-ranked offense cracks the top-16, Carolina could be a surprise contender for the seven-seed and Rhule might even survive a season that feels as un-survivable as the one-hour mark of Black Hawk Down.
But how much better could this Panthers roster be in the next few years than a fringe wild card contender? Without money to attract free agents or to finalize blockbuster trades, without discounts on key players, without a roster of rookie contract starters, and without a top-five quarterback, it would seem like Carolina is hitting their ceiling if they produce even an average season.
And unless he wins MVP, no contract will draw more criticism than the four-year, $66 million extension for running back Christian McCaffrey. We know this to be the case because of the way that the media and fans have talked about Ezekiel Elliott’s extension with the Dallas Cowboys.
Elliott signed a six-year, $90 million extension in 2019 and he has an $18.2 million cap hit this year. The Cowboys were not necessarily going to be in this position when they gave Elliott his contract originally, but it became a necessity when Dallas restructured his deal last August in order to save cap space. The Cowboys will likely avoid another restructure so that they have the option to release or trade Elliott in 2023.
(What those people choose to ignore is that DeMarcus Lawrence’s extension has proven to be much worse for Dallas than a top-of-the-market running back contract.)
In Carolina’s case, McCaffrey has an $8.7 million cap hit in 2022 (fifth-highest) but it jumps to $19.5 million in 2023 and there’s nothing that the Panthers can do to get away from that commitment. The Panthers would also still have $10 million in dead money in 2024 even if they release or trade McCaffrey before that season.
At the end of the day, there’s just so much untangling that Fitterer has to do and that’s whether or not the Panthers are great, good, bad, or terrible.
And when Pete Carroll and John Schneider come out of the other side of the 2022 NFL season, the Seattle Seahawks will instead be staring at a smorgasbord of spending sprees like playing Supermarket Sweep with Sally Struthers.
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Seahawks 2023 positional spending
All of these marks are for NEXT year and are UNOFFICIAL.
QB - 30th out of 32
One of my favorite Seaside Joe articles this year is the one in which Joe covers how much the Seahawks are going to save in the next four years by not paying Russell Wilson. And one of our most-read articles in June was the post about how Wilson is likely asking for a contract north of $250 million that Seattle now won’t be on the hook for anymore.
This is again where Bill Barnwell’s assessment of the Seahawks having the worst offseason is UNFATHOMABLE if you have any interest in how to build a championship roster in the era of salary caps and $50 million quarterbacks.
As I said earlier, the Panthers have the least amount committed to QB next year, followed by the Baltimore Ravens and then the Seahawks. I’ve written about Lamar Jackson a few times already and why I don’t think Seattle should be the ones to relieve the Ravens of that ongoing situation. He’s one of a few potential trade/free agent targets for 2023.
What will most-likely happen is that the Ravens will either franchise tag or extend him, so Seattle is more likely to be 31st or 32nd in QB spending than 30th.
The Seahawks have $1 million in non-guaranteed money going to Jacob Eason. That’s it.
RB - 32nd out of 32
They criticize the Seahawks for re-signing Chris Carson in 2021, they criticize the Seahawks for re-signing Rashaad Penny in 2022, they criticize the Seahawks for drafting Kenneth Walker in 2022 because the team had already signed Carson and Penny, they criticize the Seahawks for spending too much at running back, they criticize the Seahawks for drafting a rookie contract replacement at the position.
Do you get the feeling that these contradictory criticisms are more about a need to feel superior to Pete Carroll than being based in any sort of reality?
Seattle is currently slated to spend $2.63 million at the running back position in 2023, the least of any NFL team, but I’m sure that Twitter will find reasons to criticize that too. Keep in mind that these numbers are unofficial and may not accurately reflect the four-year, $9.2 million deal for Walker, but rookie contracts are backloaded and Walker’s 2023 cap hit will be negligible. The Seahawks can also save $1 million by releasing DeeJay Dallas in a year, which does not seem farfetched.
The other $1.5 million is a dead money hit leftover from Carson’s two-year contract.
Barring a breakout season by Rashaad Penny that warrants a big contract extension, Seattle will not be spending much at the running back position next year. Almost certainly less than $4 million, while 19 teams are slated to spend at least $6 million at running back, and 12 teams will spend at least $10 million.
Packers running back Aaron Jones is set to make $20 million in 2023.
If Penny has a great season, then not only will the Seahawks be able to afford to retain him, but it will mean that…A SEAHAWKS PLAYER HAD A GREAT SEASON. This has to be a good thing, but it is something that often gets left out of the debate.
WR - 22nd out of 32
Seaside Joe expects the Seahawks to extend DK Metcalf before this season and that will raise this commitment up into the teens. First-year cap hits tend to be low, so Seattle won’t feel the brunt of Metcalf’s extension until 2024 at the earliest.
The Seahawks are pretty hard-committed to Tyler Lockett’s $16.75 million cap hit in 2023, but could save $9.7 million by doing something with a post-June 1 designation.
TE - 6th out of 32
Will Dissly has a $9.25 million cap hit, Noah Fant’s fifth-year option carries a $6.85 million cap hit.
Random fact: The Patriots went so far all-in at tight end last year that Jonnu Smith and Hunter Henry are the two highest-paid tight ends in the NFL this season, then they rank second and third in 2023. New England is paying $11 million+ more than second-place Miami at the tight end position in 2022.
OL - 29th out of 32
I would also say that it is a foregone conclusion that the team will save $6.5 million by releasing or trading Gabe Jackson between now and next year. That one move would mean that the Seahawks would rank 32 out of 32 in offensive line spending, a fact that caused great anxiety and anguish to Seattle fans when Wilson was the quarterback.
But could be a blessing when the Seahawks are considering free agent options to protect their new franchise quarterback in 2023 and 2024.
It’s well known that Pete and John do not like dipping into first or even second-wave free agency. However, the Seahawks have made some exceptions with the offensive line, sometimes meeting with notable free agents (like Trent Brown this year) and even trading for Duane Brown during his contract dispute with the Texans not long ago.
It’s common to see teams with new franchise quarterbacks upgrade their offensive line through free agency: The Jets signed Laken Tomlinson this year to protect Zach Wilson, the Jaguars added Brandon Scherff to protect Trevor Lawrence, and the extremely-cheap Bengals added La’El Collins to protect Joe Burrow.
By not spending at quarterback and running back, the Seahawks could finally open the checkbook for offensive line support in free agency next year.
Offense - 29th out of 32
The only teams set to spend less on offense next year are the Falcons, Bears, and Steelers; Chicago and Pittsburgh have committed about $20 million less on offense than Seattle, which is quite the spread.
IDL - 9th out of 32
About half of the Seahawks’ $27 million commitment to this position is slated to go to Shelby Harris and I don’t think we can say for certain that Seattle will stick to that deal. The Seahawks save $9 million by parting with Harris—but full disclosure, I’m unsure if OtC is accounting for Harris’s new deal as part of a recent restructure.
If Seattle does save $9 million here, they would drop to 20th out of 32. But they could turn around give it to Poona Ford, who is a 2023 free agent.
EDGE - 25th out of 32
I’ve written about this a lot too: The Seahawks will draft more edge players and pass rushing help early in the 2023 draft. Edge has to be one of the top priorities, after QB. Even if Darrell Taylor has a breakout season. Even if Boye Mafe is everything and more.
Taylor’s breakout season would open contract extension negotiations in 2023. But the Seahawks could entertain adding a veteran pass rusher because they are spending so little at the position as is and they have at least flirted with top names before, such as Jared Allen.
LB - 27th out of 32
Could Cody Barton play well enough to earn a second contract? What about Joel Iyiegbunwe or Tanner Muse or Ben Burr-Kirven? In all cases, I can’t imagine Seattle’s financial commitment to linebacker going up considerably in 2023.
The Seahawks ranked 1st in linebacker spending in 2020 with Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, then fourth in 2021. That’s one example of how positional spending does not necessarily reflect an organizational philosophy; the Seahawks were spending a lot at linebacker because they understandably loved the linebackers that they drafted.
Does Jordyn Brooks command that sort of love when the question of his fifth-year option is raised next offseason? What about any extension talks?
S - 1st out of 32
They say never to keep your money in a savings account, but what about in your safetings account?
Seattle’s $39.7 million commitment to safeties in 2023 is $14 million more than the second-place Vikings. The Seahawks last ranked first in this category in 2018 with Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, but they’ve been roughly middle of the road in safety spendings until now.
With few other players worthy of big contracts, Quandre Diggs was perfectly situated to be paid by Seattle at a time when Carroll couldn’t let every fan favorite leave in a single offseason. Jamal Adams will always be measured against having two first round picks instead, but in a vacuum there are not many better safeties in the NFL and he’s only 26.
CB - 31st out of 32
This is also unofficial, but officially Seattle has no veteran cornerbacks under contract for 2023 and that’s why they will be spending as little at the position as any team in football unless they go out and make a big move.
If the Seahawks come out of the 2022 season feeling good about Tre Brown, Coby Bryant, and Tariq Woolen, there would be little reason to move the needle considerably with any outside help. But should the Seahawks want to get involved in the bidding for a veteran cornerback, or want to re-sign Sidney Jones (which is more likely), the money and opportunity is there to get something done.
Defense - 23rd out of 32
The Seahawks have $93 million committed to the defense and $65 million committed to the offense. By trading Wilson, releasing Wagner, and staying the course with a low-activity offseason, Seattle will be in position over the next nine months to extend DK Metcalf, while also leaving the door open for long-term commitments with Ford, Penny, Jones, Barton, Marquise Blair, Phil Haynes, Artie Burns, and Jason Myers, should he rebound. All of which falls under Carroll’s m.o. for retaining his own players rather than looking for outside help.
However, the Seahawks will also be able to consider trade options, which we know is where the most exciting moves happen these days, as well as talking to free agent guards, centers, pass rushers, and cornerbacks without needing to tear apart half of the team in order to do so.
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