1. Free up cap space. General manager John Schneider is facing the most difficult offseason of his tenure with the Seahawks, and he needs to start by creating some cap room. The Seahawks have approximately $13.1 million in space, but they’ll need more. Seattle will likely cut Cliff Avril, whose NFL future is in question thanks to a neck injury. That will free up $7.1 million. Likewise, Jeremy Lane is probably not sticking around after nearly being traded for Duane Brown last year, and the Seahawks can clear $5 million more by moving on from their backup cornerback.
Schneider’s decision to re-sign Kam Chancellor before the 2017 season might prove to be costly. He couldn’t have known what might happen, but the three-year, $36 million deal Chancellor signed included a $6.8 million base salary that was guaranteed for injury this year. The star safety subsequently suffered a neck injury that could end his career; at the very least, Chancellor’s 2018 season is in major jeopardy. Seattle is locked into paying Chancellor that money for 2018 and will owe $5 million in dead money if it cuts Chancellor or the safety retires after the season.
Richardson delivered an excellent season as a run defender but didn’t deliver much as a pass-rusher, racking up one sack and seven quarterback knockdowns in 15 games. The Seahawks probably hoped for more interior pressure from Richardson as part of the trade, given that the 27-year-old racked up 16.5 sacks in three seasons with the Jets. Richardson might have contributed more than the numbers suggest, and it’s extremely difficult to isolate individual players within a pass rush, but the Seahawks actually posted a higher pressure rate with Richardson off the field (31.3 percent) than on it (25.5 percent).
Valuing Richardson heading into free agency, then, will be difficult. History tells us that Richardson is capable of getting after the quarterback, but defensive linemen who haven’t been significant pass-rush threats on the interior have generally been disappointed with their hauls. Look at interior linemen such as Dontari Poe and Bennie Logan, who had to settle for one-year deals last offseason. Brandon Williams came away with a five-year, $52.5 million contract, but the Ravens might even look at that deal as an overpay, given where the market went.
It was only a year ago that teams — including the Seahawks — wanted Richardson to take a pay cut from the $8.1 million salary he was due in 2017 as part of a trade. Have the circumstances changed so dramatically for the Seahawks to hand Richardson $10 million per year on a long-term extension? He is a valuable player, and the Seahawks should want to keep him around, but the price has to be right.