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Dion Jordan could be far more than just depth

NFL: San Francisco 49ers at Miami Dolphins
Dion Jordan on the sideline for the Miami Dolphins last season.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

With the Seattle Seahawks suffering a number of injuries on the defensive line this season, including to several of their biggest names, the team has seen lapses at times in both run defense and creating pressure. As a result, the offseason addition of Dion Jordan may prove to be far more valuable both during the season and as the team moves into the offseason.

Through the first nine games of the season, the Seattle defensive line has seen a rash of injuries to both starters and backups, and the following chart shows the current status of the 13 defensive linemen who took snaps for the Seahawks during 2016.

Seattle Seahawks 2016 defensive line snap counts

Player 2016 Snaps Status
Player 2016 Snaps Status
Cliff Avril 832 Injured Reserve
Frank Clark 682 Active*
Michael Bennett 565 Active**
Ahtyba Rubin 601 Cut
Jarran Reed 477 Active***
Tony McDaniel 485 Not resigned
Cassius Marsh 388 Traded to NE
Damontre Moore 104 Not resigned
Sealver Siliga 93 Cut
Garrison Smith 61 Active
John Jenkins 33 Not resigned
Quentin Jefferson 20 Active****
Malliciah Goodman 13 Not resigned
*Injured thigh against Arizona. Severity unknown
**Battling Plantar Fascia
***Injured hamstring against Arizona. Severity unknown
****Broke hand in pracice in October. Playing.
Snap counts and current status of 2016 Seattle defensive linemen

Doing the math behind all those lost snaps, Seattle is currently missing more than 58% of the team’s snaps on the defensive line in 2016, and that isn’t taking Frank Clark or Jarran Reed into consideration. Both Clark and Reed were injured against the Arizona Cardinals, and it is unsure if either will miss substantial time moving forward because of those injuries.

This leads to Dion Jordan’s performance on Thursday. Jordan performed at a far higher level than many had imagined after such a long layoff. Quietly added to the roster back in April, more than two years after he had last played in an NFL game. In fact, the last time Jordan had played in an NFL game prior to Thursday night was five weeks prior to Malcolm Butler making a game changing interception at the end of Super Bowl 49. That’s how long it had been since he had played on an NFL field - two years, ten months and twelve days. In case any of you missed the game, here is Jordan destroying Arizona left tackle John Wetzel on his way to taking down Drew Stanton:

Jordan had been an afterthought for most Hawks fans until he burst onto the scene in Arizona. If he is able to continue to produce in his return to the field, he could easily fill multiple roles on the defensive line over the final seven games, perhaps most importantly allowing the team to rest Michael Bennett a bit more. Bennett, whose 32nd birthday is Monday, has played over 80% of defensive snaps in every single game this season, and while he has thus far maintained his productivity, being spelled some down the stretch might pay off once the postseason arrives.

This means, Jordan’s on-field contributions down the stretch could be huge, but he could have a huge impact off the field after the season as well.

While Jordan is slated to be a restricted free agent, if he continues playing as well as he did on Thursday night, he will easily warrant an RFA tender with the only question being at at what level the team will the tender him. For 2018 the original round tender will likely be in the $1.95M range, a second round tender is likely to carry a $2.95M price tag and those players who are tendered at the first round level should cost somewhere in the $4.25M range. (Author’s note: those tender amounts are estimates. The final amounts will not likely be announced until March.)

Jordan, as both a former number three overall pick in the draft and a fantastic comeback story, is likely to attract significant attention. In addition, the free agent market for defensive linemen has been hot, to say the least, the past couple of years. In 2017 there were 13 defensive linemen who signed multi-year contracts that carried an average annual value of $3M or more, with an additional three players signing one year deals at or above that amount. If the threshold is dropped just $90,000 down to $2.91M, the number increases to 15 players who signed multi-year deals at or above $2.91M in average annual value. Going back one more offseason to 2016, there were 15 defensive linemen signed to multi-year deals at $3M or more, and one more signed to a one-year deal for that amount.

Based on his play Thursday, combined with the market for free agent defensive linemen the past couple of years, it is not difficult to imagine that Jordan could easily command a minimum of a second round tender. This could create an extremely beneficial situation for the Seahawks.

The team is tight enough on cap space looking forward into 2018 that it probably would not be able to win any bidding wars for Jordan’s services. However, Jordan’s situation brings an interesting twist into play. While Jordan was drafted in the first round by the Miami Dolphins, he joined Seattle as an unrestricted free agent last spring meaning that an original round tender from the Hawks could potentially require another team to surrender a higher draft choice than a second round tender would require. I’m not certain where the CBA stands on this issue, but it will certainly be interesting to keep tabs on this as the offseason approaches. Regardless of what level of tender the team might use on Jordan, at the end of the day the simple fact of the matter is that he could potentially help the Seahawks rebuild their 2018 draft.

Both Jordan and nickel corner Justin Coleman are scheduled to be restricted free agents after this season, and either of them could easily be slapped with a second round tender and still be signed to an offer sheet by another team. When it comes to using a second round pick, teams could use a pick on a college lineman who may or may not actually be able to play in the NFL, or they could use it on someone like Jordan who would have a resume that includes production at the NFL level.

Thus, while Seattle does not currently hold a second round pick in the 2018 draft, don’t be surprised if the team ends up with another team’s second round pick as a result of losing one of its restricted free agents next spring. Here’s to hoping that Dion Jordan’s play over the remainder of the season makes such a decision a no brainer for another GM down the stretch.