The NFL's deadline of 1 p.m. Pacific Time today for teams to identify players upon whom they will place the franchise-tag contract designation for 2015 has passed without the Seahawks using theirs for this year, just as general manager John Schneider had predicted last month at the NFL combine in Indianapolis.
Some had wondered if Seattle might use its franchise tag to keep starting cornerback Byron Maxwell out of unrestricted free agency. But the one-year tender for using the tag on a cornerback this year is $13,075,000, far too expensive for what else the Seahawks need to do money wise this offeason. That includes giving Marshawn Lynch a new contract with more money up front -- once and if the about-to-turn-29-year-old running back gives the team the go-ahead he indeed wants to play this season -- plus extending the rookie contracts of quarterback Russell Wilson and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner that expire after 2015 and signing free agents to potentially shore up the receiver and line positions.
And no, Detroit did not use its franchise tag that would have been north of $26 million in 2015 salary on defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh. So he is a free agent -- one that will command a hefty salary that will make it a challenge for the Seahawks, who are in need of defensive tackles, to become a candidate to sign him.
The Seahawks not using their franchise tag leaves them with the following unrestricted free agents for this year:
Maxwell, G James Carpenter, DT Kevin Williams, LB Heath Farwell (who may retire after season-ending groin tears last summer and then becoming essentially a special-teams player-coach), S Jeron Johnson, TE Anthony McCoy, backup QB Tarvaris Jackson, LS Clint Gresham, DT Demarcus Dobbs, LB Malcolm Smith, DE O'Brien Schofield, G-C Steve Schilling, FB Will Tukuafu, TE Tony Moeaki, DT Landon Cohen and WR-PR Bryan Walters.
Seattle's restricted free agents (the Seahawks having the right to first tender contracts then match any offer these players may get) are: WRs Jermaine Kearse and Ricardo Lockette, LB Mike Morgan, S DeShawn Shead, DT Greg Scruggs and WR David Gilreath.
Schneider said he expects to be in the running to re-sign many of these free agents, though it sounds from him and others that the top one, Maxwell, is going to get a richer offer elsewhere than Seattle will be able to afford to keep him. That has Tharold Simon the current heir apparent at cornerback opposite Richard Sherman. The fact Simon had emotional outbursts for personal fouls and was exploited in coverage, most notably by Tom Brady for two of New England's four touchdowns in last month's Super Bowl, during his lone NFL season so far make a cornerback a possibly higher priority for the Seahawks to draft and/0r acquire this spring.
The free-agent market opens for business March 10.
Teams learned today from the league that the salary cap for 2015 will start at $143.28 million per club. That's up $10 million from last year, $20 million from 2013. The NFL Players Association is reporting the actual cap for the Seahawks will be $148,257,738. Teams can carry over unused cap money from the previous year and apply it to the current cap, so Seattle has $5 million in carryover from 2014 to use in '15. That's the third-highest carryover of the four teams in the NFC West.
The list of adjusted salary cap numbers this year for each team is here.