The defensive tackle market in 2017 had one premier player — Brandon Williams — and then a lot of names who were notable for one reason or another but found out that most teams are willing to go the cheap route at that position. One player who did not expect to be left behind because of the “cheap route” is Johnathan Hankins, who was the second-best tackle on the market after Williams but now faces the harsh reality that he’s viewed as being a significant step behind the Baltimore Ravens’ elite run-stuffer.
Hankins, who has spent the first four seasons of his career with the New York Giants, a team that paid defensive tackle Damon Harrison $46.25 million over five years in 2016, is now the best available player on the market and may be weighing a gamble between taking a one-year deal to try and strike it rich in 2018 or a long-term contract that could ultimately have him leaving money on the table. Should the Seattle Seahawks be trying to take advantage of his precarious situation?
I think the obvious answer is yes, they should be. And they have probably discussed it. Though Hankins has not proven to be at the level of Harrison or Williams (five years, $52.25 million) and he surely benefited from playing alongside three excellent defensive linemen last season with the Giants, there is a lot to like. He only just turned 25 on New Year’s Day and Pete Carroll, John Schneider always have shown an affinity for good players who become available in their mid-twenties. Hankins, 6’3, 320 lbs, a second round pick out of Ohio State in 2013, is definitely a good player.
He recorded 43 tackles with three sacks last season as New York’s free agent moves paid off to lead them to the number two run defense (by YPC) after only the Seahawks. Two seasons earlier, Hankins had seven sacks from the defensive tackle position, though the Giants were dead last in yards per carry allowed.
At the 2013 NFL Combine, Hankins measured in with 33” arms and had a 26” vertical, an 8’8” broad jump, and did the three-cone in 7.59 seconds. Consider that Jarran Reed had a 7.77 in the three cone and an 8’8” broad jump in 2016. Reed’s vertical was higher and his 40-yard dash a little faster, but he also weighed about 13 pounds less than Hankins. The athletic profile is there, but also the pass rushing ability from the inside that Seattle desires.
Finally, there’s the obvious need at defensive tackle that the Seahawks have. Tony McDaniel remains a free agent and that slot has yet to be filled. I don’t know that this would be the best draft class with which to fill that need, and Hankins would be an obvious choice over any DT in 2017 outside of the top two or three. Seattle may target someone like Alabama’s Dalvin Tomlinson, and that would be fine, but if they did make one last splash by adding Hankins, it means they can focus harder on offensive line, cornerback, safety, and wide receiver in the draft. Do they have the cap space though?
Per OvertheCap.com, the Seahawks have about $10.5 million left under the cap before having to sign their rookies, which may account for $4-$5 million. What would Hankins cost? Well, Dontari Poe and Bennie Logan signed one-year deals, totaling $8 million each. Meanwhile, Nick Fairley signed a four-year, $28 million deal, meaning an average of $7 million a season. Fairley got more money upfront, but Poe and Logan could make more over the next four seasons en total, though they’re taking a gamble that they won’t get injured or play poorly.
A one-year deal for Hankins may slightly top Poe and Logan, I’d say one year, $8.5 million. A three-year deal may come in at the $24 million range. That’s still out of Seattle’s capabilities though, right? Well, one way they could save $2.1 million is by releasing Jermaine Kearse with a June 1 designation. At that point, the ability to fit Hankins in is just a matter of a little contract movement, some clever language, taking part of another player’s salary and converting it to a bonus ... there are ways. It’s possible without too much complications.
In the past, the Seahawks have added Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Ahtyba Rubin, Tony McDaniel, Clinton McDonald, Alan Branch, Jason Jones in similar situations; defensive linemen who felt the market wasn’t giving them what they wanted, so Seattle said “give us a year or two, we’ll make you look great.” Hankins looked great with the Giants last year but 2017 wasn’t the market for him. There’s a good chance that he will return to New York, but if he doesn’t, maybe this is a perfect time for the Seahawks to get a solid young defensive tackle to solve their need at the position for next season.
These value opportunities don’t come around often, but Seattle seems to take advantage of them all the time.