RENTON Dwight Freeney is confused.
He’s not the only one.
Coach Pete Carroll gave his explanation Wednesday for why the Seahawks waived the future Hall of Famer, three-time All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl defensive end the day earlier. As he did, news broke that the Detroit Lions had claimed Freeney off waivers, so the 37-year old will be playing for the Lions, instead of for Seattle on Sunday at San Francisco.
After Carroll spoke, some Seahawks were shaking their heads in the locker room about Freeney--though ones I spoke to all realized and said “it’s a business.”
Carroll said how great Freeney was in his time here, which was less than a month. The coach said there were roster needs at other positions. He cited the Seahawks having 11 defensive linemen.
Seattle (6-4) signed rookie wide receiver David Moore off the practice squad Wednesday to take Freeney’s place on the active roster for Sunday’s game at San Francisco (1-9).
As you try to compute Dwight Freeney cut for David Moore, here’s the real explanation Carroll gave after I asked him a couple follow-ups trying to find one.
“There's cap concerns and all kinds of issues that we are dealing with right now,” Carroll said.
The Seahawks signed Freeney on Oct. 25 to a prorated amount for the rest of this season at the top value for a veteran-minimum contract the NFL has. Freeney has played 16 seasons. The top of the minimum pay scale tops out at 10-plus years, this season at $1,000,000.
Freeney was earning $58,823 per week from Seattle, as he now will from Detroit, plus an $8,000 roster bonus The Seahawks save $400,941--his total for the remainder of this regular season--against their salary cap by waiving him.
That’s how up against it Seattle is with their cap limit, after making go-for-it moves since September such as trading for Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson and Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. Last week, after Richard Sherman went on injured reserve with his ruptured Achilles, the team signed veteran cornerback Byron Maxwell.
They didn’t get those guys for free. Moore comes at a cost of $164,117 for the final seven weeks of this season. The savings from Freeney to Moore is believed to be $236,824, not counting whatever bonuses Moore may have for making the active roster.
That’s how up against the cap the Seahawks are. It’s almost like the 1990s Eddie DeBartolo 49ers, without the credit card-like circumvention.
Plus, Seattle’s defensive-line and salary-cap situations changed in the four weeks since Seattle signed Freeney.
Dion Jordan has since come off the non-football-injury list following knee surgeries. Jordan, 10 years younger than Freeney, played 19 snaps Monday night to Freeney’s 17. That was one week after Freeney played 41 snaps to Jordan’s 33 at Arizona, Jordan’s Seahawks debut and first NFL game in three years.
Jordan is costing Seattle $379,212 this season, a proration of the minimum salary of $615,000 for a player the league has credited two accrued seasons.
Whenever any team can get younger and cheaper for what they feel is comparable production, they will. Especially ones tight against the salary cap.
So Seattle did.
The Seahawks also thought they were shedding Jeremy Lane’s $2.12 million guaranteed salary for this season when they traded the benched defensive back to Houston for left tackle Duane Brown before the trade deadline Oct. 31. When Lane failed his physical with the Texans and Houston sent him back to Seattle the next day, Lane’s $2.12 million came back onto the Seahawks’ cap for 2017, where it remains.
Thing is, there’s more to Freeney than the three sacks he had in his first two Seahawks games before he got none in his last two. Seahawks players, veterans through rookies--didn’t like Freeney. They loved him.
“We weighed EVERYTHING,” Carroll said. “There’s no question that you miss stuff, because he is such a tremendous guy. But we just had to do something, and this is what it came to.
Richardson, a five-year veteran defensive tackle, said Freeney taught him new ways to watch film of opponents and games.
“I learned a lot. I learned A LOT,” Richardson said. “What he taught me, I’ll definitely keep with me.”
Frank Clark, a fellow defensive end of Freeney’s, was becoming something of a protege of the veteran in his their short time together.
“He did a helluva job while he was here,” Clark said, saying he learned about leadership and living, “on and off the field.”
“I learned a lot,” Clark said, grinning. “His knowledge of the game, you know, me being a younger player, if I wasn’t going to gain something from him in his time being here (something was wrong). It was a blessing in disguise. I look at opportunities like this... we had a lot of talks. He taught me a lot of things, on and off the field. He showed me a lot of things. A credit to him. I thank him for it.”
“Man, it’s the nature of the game. It’s football. It’s the NFL, man. ... Unfortunately, he got waived. Got to move on.”