The 2023 NFL Draft holds a lot of weight for the Seattle Seahawks, as the team has two first-round picks, including their first top-five selection since John Schneider took over as general manager 13 years ago.
While discussion over whether the Seahawks will select quarterback Anthony Richardson should he be available, or nab controversial defensive tackle Jalen Carter, there’s a world where Seattle doesn’t select anyone at No 5.
The Athletic‘s Michael-Shawn Dugar wrote on Tuesday, April 25 that due to the sad state of the Seahawks’ financial situation, the team must “seriously consider” trading down in order to sign a top prospect for less money. According to OvertheCap.com, the Seahawks have approximately $6.23 million in cap space, but Dugar points out that Seattle is “$3.4 million over the cap in effective space, which accounts for the money required to sign draft picks.”
Because each draft pick comes with a fixed price, the Seahawks may not be able to afford to keep their No. 5 pick. Dugar explained, “This year, Over the Cap projects the No. 5 pick to sign a four-year, $34.01 million deal ($12.7 million signing bonus). The contract would have a Year 1 cap hit of $6.1 million. In my final mock draft, the Seahawks traded back to the No. 11 pick in exchange for a third-round selection (No. 72) and a 2024 first-round pick. The No. 11 pick this year is projected to sign a $20.8 million deal ($12.1 million signing bonus) and have a 2023 cap hit of $3.7 million. A deal of that nature is not out of the realm of possibility for Seattle.”
Giving up the No. 5 pick due to money issues sounds depressing, as the front office should be able to make something work if a player they love is still on the board, but therein lies the rub. Such a big decision can’t be made until the Seahawks see which players go No. 1 through No. 4. Dugar surmises, “Trading back to avoid taking a player they feel isn’t worth the No. 5 pick, collecting more assets and saving money in the process could be viewed as a win inside the building, depending on how the board falls Thursday night.”
The Seahawks Could Instead Allocate Those Funds Toward Low-Cost Free Agent Options
In a perfect world, all top prospects in the NFL Draft would be immediate starters, but that tends to be the exception, not the rule. While the Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll got a ton of production from their 2022 draft picks, expecting a repeat of that “would be a mistake,” Dugar wrote.
The Seahawks could instead hedge their bets on a low-cost veteran. “These are not sizeable gaps in the grand scheme,” Dugar wrote of the $13.21 million they’d save by trading down a few slots, “but they could matter to a Seattle front office that knows it might need to sign veteran players on minimum salaries after the draft to fill out the roster. This is something worth considering as the draft approaches. The Seahawks don’t consider their team-building process to be over once the draft ends.”
In addition to beefing up their defense, a major need considering Seattle only has three tackles and three inside linebackers at full health on the roster, the Seahawks need to find another running back, as they only have two under contract after they cut Darwin Thompson. They can also gather depth at a discount by signing undrafted free agents after the final name is called in Kansas City this weekend.
The Seahawks Only Have 52 Players on the Roster
After waiving five players last week, the Seahawks only have 52 players on their 90-person roster. While most teams move to restructure a few major contracts to free up some money ahead of free agency and the draft, Schneider said last month, “We’re pretty tapped out,” when it comes to “cash and cap.”
As for the possibility of moving up or down when the NFL Draft kicks off on April 27, Schneider said it’s impossible to comment until they see which four players come off the board first. He also noted that serious calls about trading picks don’t really heat up until Tuesday or Wednesday, per Seahawks reporter John Boyle.
“Those are really the two days that people kind of set up broad parameters for moving up, moving back at different spots, and then you have to be really pliable once it starts because if you’ve moved, you’ve got to be able to move to the other spots or move up. You have to be ready to roll,” Schneider said.