Just another Seattle Seahawks day.
Russell Wilson restructured his contract for this year to clear salary-cap room for Seattle to acquire three-time Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. That was in a trade from the Houston Texans for cornerback Jeremy Lane and two draft choices.
A league source with knowledge of the deal told The News Tribune Tuesday morning Wilson has agreed to turn $6.26 million of base salary into a bonus prorated over the final three years of the four-year, $87.6 million extension he signed before the 2015 season.
Wilson then shows up for his weekly Tuesday visit at Seattle Children’s hospital in a Halloween costume — as Pete Carroll. Complete with headset, a wavy, silver-fox wig, khakis, white sneakers and “really cool” and “awesomes” all around.
Then Lane apparently became a Seahawk again.
The NFL’s official transactions for Tuesday listed the original deal known since Monday as done: Brown to the Seahawks, Lane, a fifth-round draft choice in 2018 and a second-round pick in 2019 to Houston.
Then, Lane failed his trade physical with the Texans, a league source confirmed Tuesday night to The News Tribune. The Houston Chronicle first reported the fail Tuesday, about three hours after the league’s trading-without-waivers deadline.
So in the amended trade, the Seahawks will now send a 2018 third-round pick to Houston as well as a 2019 second-rounder while getting Brown and a 2018 fifth-round pick.
As of Tuesday night, the Seahawks had not announced any deal. That apparently is because they now needed to release someone from the 53-man roster to fit Brown, and now Lane, on it.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider foreshadowed something like this could happen on Monday when news broke of the trade.
“We haven’t even exchanged papers yet. … There are several other things that have to happen here yet,” Schneider said Monday afternoon.
Schneider mentioned Tuesday how good a relationship he has formed in recent years with Texans GM Rick Smith. Schneider said it began with him seeking Smith’s advice in the summer of 2015 during Kam Chancellor’s contract holdout. Smith, in turn, sought Schneider’s advice when Brown began holding out from the Texans this past summer.
Then in August, after the Seahawks lost starting left tackle George Fant to a season-ending knee injury, Schneider and Smith began discussing the possibility of trading Brown to Seattle.
That relationship not only netted the Seahawks the three-time Pro Bowl left tackle they desperately needed, it apparently kept the deal together even after Lane failed his physical. Lane had missed two games with a groin strain, returned last weekend to play against Houston, then “banged” his thigh.
When he reportedly failed his physical, the Texans could have walked away from the deal. Instead, Smith took Schneider’s offer of an upgraded draft choice. Schneider likely had this in his back pocket, a contingency ready in the event the banged-up Lane indeed failed that physical.
Lane would come back onto Seattle’s roster, and its salary cap, at a charge of $2,117,647. That’s his prorated amount for the final nine games of this regular season. His salary for 2017 is guaranteed, so it doesn’t benefit the Seahawks to cut him.
Seattle was believed to have about $2.6 million in available cap space after acquiring Brown, shedding Lane and Wilson restructuring his contract to free $4.1 million. With Lane back on their books, the Seahawks are going to need to do more money moving or releasing of a player with a non-guaranteed contract. No team can responsibly operate during a regular season with less than $500,000 of cap space, not to still sign new players or sign guys from the practice squad in the event of inevitable injuries or other needs.
Another sticky aspect: The Seahawks may have at practice Wednesday a player their GM and coach have already privately talked to and thanked for his service, before sending him off to Houston.
It’s a good thing Wilson created that $4.1 million of salary-cap space for the Seahawks to add Brown. If he had created even $3.6 million, Brown wouldn’t have fit under the cap once Lane came back.
Wilson has the most renegotiable contract on the Seahawks. He was earning $12.6 million guaranteed in base salary this season. He had been scheduled to earn $6.67 million over the remainder of this regular season: his base pay divided by 17, the number of pay weeks in the season, times the number of games remaining (nine). Now he gets that $6 million-plus upfront in the cash bonus.
The Seahawks did that to spread his $6.26 million across the next three years, instead of it all counting in 2017 in base-salary form. NFL salary-cap rules prohibit proration of base salaries but allow it for bonuses, across the life of the contract up to a maximum of five years.
Schneider did this with top wide receiver Doug Baldwin in early September, hours before they acquired Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson in a trade with the New York Jets.
These cap-proration moves are essentially kicking the cap can down the road. The cost comes due later rather than now. It’s an example of a more win-now approach than Schneider and the Seahawks have had before this. That was when their core players were still in their mid-20s and still in rookie contracts that were much more cap-friendly.
These Seahawks (5-2) realize the NFC is wide open to win right now. Green Bay is without injured quarterback Aaron Rodgers, likely for the entire season because of a broken collarbone. The only team in the conference with fewer losses, Philadelphia (7-1), is heading to Seattle for a game to begin December.
Now Wilson, Baldwin, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and others in that home-grown core are at or nearing 30 and in their bigger-bucks second contracts. That makes their cap numbers bigger and the cap space tighter to add expensive veterans. These Seahawks have more immediate, critical holes than their previous, Super Bowl teams. The offensive line Brown is helping is the team’s weakest position group. Richardson arrived after Seattle lost their top rookie draft choice from the defensive line, Malik McDowell, to a serious ATV accident this summer.
Wilson’s move does not mean the Seahawks aren’t also getting an extension done with the 32-year-old Brown.
Schneider’s comment Monday when confirming the trade was pending of “We want him to finish his career here,” suggested a team-friendly extension beyond 2018. That would be back-loaded with later cap charges and front-loaded with bonus cash for this year and next.
If an extension for Brown were to be through, say, 2020, it would not necessarily be a new, three-year contract the Seahawks and Brown intend to fully honor past his 35th birthday. It would be three more years beyond this one solely for cap purposes, to prorate any up-front, cap-friendly bonuses over those three years and would involve hefty base salaries in the additional years that the team doesn’t truly expect to pay.
Under the contract the Seahawks inherited from Houston, Brown is owed $4,976,470 for the final nine games of this regular season, from the $9.4 million salary he had for 2017. That deal has one season and a non-guaranteed $9.75 million remaining on it for 2018 — and is the reason he held out for the Texans’ first six games until reporting last week and making his season debut on Sunday against the Seahawks.
Heck, Brown’s salary is just below the $8 million Seattle is paying left guard Luke Joeckel for this season, after he failed at left tackle with Jacksonville last year. Joeckel is now out at least another month following knee surgery. No wonder Brown wants more comparable pay, given the market for — and dearth of — quality offensive linemen around the league.
Wilson’s restructuring puts more cash in his sizable wallet now.
Assuredly, he was not only happy but giddy to do it, to get a 2012 All-Pro left tackle protecting him on what’s been such a problematic offensive line.