Here's a position-by-position look at how the Seattle Seahawks stack up on defense and special teams under the salary cap:
Total cap charge: $17.2 million
NFL average: $12.8 million
Percentage of team cap space: 14.7
Biggest cap hit: Cliff Avril at $9.25 million
Biggest bargain: Greg Scruggs at $582,000
Note: The Seahawks did the right thing by re-signing Michael Bennett, easily their best player on the defensive line last season. But they also had to release Chris Clemons and Red Bryant for salary-cap reasons. They tried to sign Jared Allen, but he got a bigger offer from the Chicago Bears. Look for Seattle to draft a defensive end, possibly in the first two picks if one they want falls to them. But the coaches are high on two young players who could step up. Scruggs missed last season because of knee surgery after a strong rookie year in 2012. Like Bennett, Scruggs also can play inside. And the Seahawks have high hopes for 2013 rookie Benson Mayowa, who they see as a pass-rush specialist. Bruce Irvin is listed as DE in the roster management system, but his $2.5 million should count among the linebackers.
Total cap charge: $9.5 million
NFL average: $9 million
Percentage of team cap space: 8.1
Biggest cap hit: Brandon Mebane at $5.7 million
Biggest bargain: Tony McDaniel at $2.1 million
Note: Seattle lost Clinton McDonald, who had a breakout season in 2013, to free agency when he signed with Tampa Bay. But Mebane is a rock inside and McDaniel is a quality run stopper. Jordan Hill was a bit of a disappointment as a rookie last year, but the man who may surprise people is Jesse Williams, the 2013 rookie who spent the season on injured reserve.
Total cap charge: $6.5 million
NFL average: $15.5 million
Percentage of team cap space: 5.6
Biggest cap hit: Heath Farwell at $1.7 million
Biggest bargain: Malcolm Smith at $656,000
Note: When your back-up middle linebacker is the highest-paid player in the unit on a Super Bowl winning team, you are getting bargain-basement prices on some darn good players. The Super-Bowl MVP (Smith) is working for pennies, comparatively speaking. As I said above, Irvin should count in this group, but it still would leave the Seahawks far below the league average. Bobby Wagner (who counts only $1.2 million against the cap) is one of the best middle linebackers in the league. K.J. Wright (at $1.6 million) performs at a consistently high level and can play outside or inside.
Total cap charge: $3.9 million
NFL average: $12.1 million
Percentage of team cap space: 3.4
Biggest cap hit: Richard Sherman at $1.5 million
Biggest bargain: Byron Maxwell at $673,000
Note: Another area where the Seahawks get off cheap, but that will change soon. Sherman, the NFL's best cornerback, is in the final year of his deal. It will take over $10 million a year to keep him. Maxwell proved his worth last season when he got the chance to start, and he also is a free agent after 2014. The Seahawks lost Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond to free agency but still have a quality nickel back in Jeremy Lane. And Seattle is high on 2013 rookie Tharold Simon, who spent last year on injured reserve. But drafting a big cornerback is a good possibility.
Total cap charge: $13.6 million
NFL average: $8.3 million
Percentage of team cap space: 11.7
Biggest cap hit: Strong safety Kam Chancellor at $5.8 million
Biggest bargain: DeShawn Shead at $570,000
Note: The Seahawks already spend way over the league average here with two of the best safeties in the NFL in Chancellor and free safety Earl Thomas, generally regarded as the best safety in football, but Seattle is about to spend even more. Thomas is in the final year of a contract that counts $5.5 million against the salary cap now. He is likely to become the first $10 million safety soon. The Seahawks are in the process of extending his contact and hope to have a new deal worked out before the start of the 2014 season. Seattle re-signed Jeron Johnson, who missed most of last season with hamstring injuries. Shead, who played well at the end of last season, can also play cornerback.
Total cap charge: $1.7 million for Steven Hauschka
NFL average: $1.9 million
Percentage of team cap space: 1.5
Note: Great decision by the Seahawks to re-sign Hauschka, who was one of the league's best kickers last year. Hauschka got a three-year deal worth $9.1 million, but it's back-loaded and comes with $3.3 million in guaranteed money.
Total cap charge: $1.4 million for Jon Ryan
NFL average: $1.7 million
Percentage of team cap space: 1.2 percent
Note: Ryan is one of only three players still on the team (along with Mebane and center Max Unger) from the pre-Pete Carroll era. Returning punts against Ryan was almost non-existent in 2013. He isn't the longest punter in the league, but he has great hang time and gets a big boost from his coverage team, especially Lane, possibly the best gunner in the NFL.
Total cap charge: $1.3 million
NFL average: $709,000
Percentage of team cap space: 1.1
Biggest cap hit: Clint Gresham at $887,000
Biggest bargain: Jorgen Hus at $420,000
Note: The cap number here is misleading because one of these guys won't be on the team when the season starts. Gresham is one of the best deep snappers in the league, but he's expensive. The Seahawks signed Hus to compete with Gresham for the job. Hus is Canadian and good friends with Ryan.