How a Lockett Extension Could Help Improve the Pass Rush

I have a creative idea for how Seattle can increase cap space without leveraging the future, while simultaneously improving the pass rush. This is all theoretical, of course. Let’s get into it. 

After suffering a compound fracture in late 2016, the Seahawks made a big bet in August of 2018 by extending Tyler Lockett to a year three deal. Lockett’s 2017 season was subpar, catching 45 passes for 555 yards and two touchdowns. It was later reported that the receiver was playing at 75-80% the entire season. Regardless, Seattle’s brass felt confident enough in his medical profile to agree to a three-year extension with the young receiver. Thus, he signed a 3-year deal worth up to $37.8M. In the year since that extension, Lockett’s production has quickly turned the contract into one of the best value deals in the NFL.

If you’re a Seahawks fan — and you probably are since you’re reading this blog — I don’t need to convince you that Lockett is one of the NFL’s most underrated receivers. Regardless, here’s some measures emphasizing just how good he is… 

  • 2018 Season
    • Had a 0% drop rate, per PFF (tied for 1st)
    • Led the NFL in yards per target at 13.8
    • RW posted a perfect 158.3 passer rating when targeting Lockett
    • Ranked #1 in DVOA (the best wide receiver DVOA since 1986)
    • Ranked #1 in DYAR (highest since AB in 2015)
    • Highest ranked EPA of all receivers on first down
  • 2019 Season
    • Before his week 10 injury, he was on pace for 128-105-1,364-11 (16th, 3rd, 3rd, and 1st in the NFL).

Now let’s get into Lockett’s contract

  • $8.5M base salary for 2020 
    • $531,250 per game
    • Already paid for six games ($3,187,500) + roster bonus ($187,500)
    • $5,312,500 remaining base salary + roster bonus ($312,500)
  • $2.25M base salary (already paid, can’t modify this)
  • 2020 Cap Hit: $12.25M

Since he’s already been paid for six games, we have to prorate the base salary hit and roster bonuses over 10 remaining games. The prorated signing bonus of $2.25M is untouchable from a cap perspective. So if you had the remaining base salary of $5.312M + the roster bonuses of $312,500, you get a remaining cap hit of $5,625,000. Lockett has six years of experience in the NFL, so the minimum salary for a player of his experience is ~$850,000. Prorate that for 10 remaining games and you have $531,250.

So here’s my proposal: extend Lockett (his deal ends in 2021 so you need to extend him anyways), drop his 2020 base salary and compensate him with a signing bonus to provide the up-front cash flow, and use the savings to pursue an addition to the pass rush. I’m not going to draw out a potential deal and/or extension offer because the concept remains the same: Seattle can extend Lockett, reduce his remaining 2020 cap hit, provide him the security of a new deal with more upfront money, and use the savings to make a trade. 

Per the official NFL wire, the Seahawks have $1.3M in cap space. Depending on the size of the signing bonus and assuming they dropped his salary to the minimum salary, Seattle could up as much as $3-5M. Cut Jacob Hollister (who is on a semi-expensive RFA tender) to give you a little more wiggle room and you’re golden. 

My suggested pass-rushing addition? Aldon Smith. Here’s my reasoning.

  1. The Cowboys are bad.
  2. Dallas has communicated they’re willing to offload players to benefit the future. 
  3. He appears to be an incredibly reformed individual, having repented for his past mistakes and grown as a person.
  4. Through six weeks he has 4 sacks, 3 TFLs, 2 passes defended, and a 17.50% pressure rate. These are very good numbers!
  5. Aldon Smith is cheap. 
  6. The Seahawks pass rush is historically bad. 

So what do you say? I understand this is nowhere near an ideal situation — but the Seahawks currently find themselves in a very difficult position on defense. The lack of a pass rush could very easily be the driving factor behind a premature playoff exit. With how Russell and the offense are playing, no one wants that.

Extend Lockett. Save cap space. Make Lockett happy. Trade for Aldon Smith. Improve the pass rush affordably and efficiently. 

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