The NFL salary cap rules are preventing the Seattle Seahawks from moving on from Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Lane despite their poor 2016 play.
Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Lane have something in common other than that they play for the Seattle Seahawks. They’re both veteran players who are paid well and coming off a bad season. The NFL has a name for that players like that: salary cap casualty.
Take a look around the league and you’ll notice guys like Kearse and Lane getting the axe over and over again. In Seattle though, things are incredibly quiet. Neither of those guys are going anywhere.
Before you ask, the Seahawks aren’t just “being nice” or anything like that. Neither are either of these players good enough to be immune to the axe. Both deserve to be shown the door, but the Seahawks will be brining both back for 2017 anyways.
The reason here is simple salary cap economics. Both Kearse and Lane would cost more against the cap if cut than they will if they are on the roster. Because of that, both will be given one more season to try and redeem themselves. If they cannot, they’ll be cut a year from now. (All cap figures below are from OverTheCap.)
Jeremy Lane is set to earn $4 million in 2017. The Seahawks will also be charged $1.25 million against the cap for the part of his signing bonus. That’s a $5.25 million cap number on the year.
If cut, Lane will cost 7.75 million against the salary cap. That’s because will have have to account for the rest of his signing bonus and all future guaranteed salary. So cutting Lane means he’ll cost the Seahawks $2.5 million more than if they kept him.
A year from now all that changes. Lane’s cap number expands to $7.25 million, and the dead money left on his contract drops to $2.5 million. Cutting Lane at that point saves the Seahawks $4.75 million in cap space.
Kearse is in a very similar situation though it is less severe. Cutting Kearse right now only saves the Seahawks $366,667 against the cap. Whomever replaces him would cost over $400,000, even if they are an undrafted rookie. That means there would be a net loss if Kearse is cut.
A year from now Kearse’s cap number balloons up to $6.8 million. Cutting him at that point would save the team $5 million in cap space. Given how easy it would be replace Kearse’s production, there is very little chance that Kearse plays in Seattle under that contract in 2018 unless he has a Pro Bowl season in 2017.