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John Schneider’s free agents on full display in easy win over Lions

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Detroit Lions Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

In March, the Seattle Seahawks opted to part ways with Jimmy Graham after three seasons, making no effort to re-sign the best receiving tight end in franchise history. Pete Carroll was clearly intent on refocusing the offense’s efforts of building an all-world running game and Graham “the blocker” could never be a part of that. Instead, Carroll and general manager John Schneider gave a three-year contract to Ed Dickson, a tight end who has averaged 217 yards and one touchdown over the last six seasons with the Baltimore Ravens and Carolina Panthers.

The contract figures and yearly salary were practically nothing by NFL standards:

Dickson’s cap hit in 2018 is just $1.8 million, and while that rises to $4.5 million in 2019, the Seahawks could part ways with just $2.5 million in dead money remaining over the final two years of the deal. There is no plan to part ways with Dickson though and the three-year commitment, unusual for Schneider and outside free agents, means that Seattle really believed that Dickson would be a long-term solution for them at tight end, or at least a very good mentor and partner for fourth round pick Will Dissly.

Though he spent the first six weeks on the non-football injury list, Dickson debuted on Sunday vs the Detroit Lions and immediately displayed why the Seahawks wanted him for at least three years. Dickson has now joined a group of players added in the offseason who look to become more evidence in support of the idea that Schneider and Carroll are two of the smartest personnel people in football.

Dickson caught two passes for 54 yards and a touchdown, and while it’s too soon for me to say anything about his blocking on the day, it would be surprising if he were anything less than good given that’s been his entire reputation over an eight-year career. He wasn’t the only offseason move looking good on Sunday in Detroit.

Defensive tackle Shamar Stephen, who signed a one-year, $2.1 million contract, had his second sack of the season. The Seahawks also signed Tom Johnson, then lost him after releasing him in Week 2 when they hoped to get him back, but Stephen, Jarran Reed (a trade-up acquisition in 2016 that Schneider doesn’t get enough credit for), and 2018 signing Poona Ford have made that loss much more palatable; Seattle held the Lions to 37 rushing yards in the 28-14 win.

Schneider also fortified the guard positions by signing D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy to one-year deals worth under $2 million each. The combined base salary for their starting guards is $1.6 million. The left tackle position is of course manned by Duane Brown, a midseason acquisition in 2017 who is now signed through 2021. Schneider likely wants to find a way to keep Fluker around for that long as well.

The other free agents that Schneider signed for multiple years were Barkevious Mingo and Jaron Brown. Mingo was quiet in Sunday’s victory (still had a fumble recovery) but has had a solid season and really helped in the absence of K.J. Wright leading into Week 8. Mingo is under contract in 2019 for $4.4 million if they want to keep him, with just $1.1 million in dead money if they don’t. Brown’s cap hit is just $1.75 million this season and he’s under contract for $3.7 million in 2019 if they keep him and under $1 million in dead money if they don’t; Brown has taken a backseat to the rapid rise of David Moore — a 2017 seventh round pick by Schneider — but he’s still scored twice and is a fine option as your number five wide receiver.

Bradley McDougald, Dion Jordan, Justin Coleman, Mike Davis, and Quinton Jefferson were all 2017 acquisitions, but only around or re-upped in 2018 because of that. McDougald is one of the NFL’s best bargains, playing as one of the best safeties in the league for a cost of $13.5 million over three seasons; Jordan’s health issues are apparent but he makes just $1.9 million and he had four tackles, one QB hit, and one TFL on Sunday; Coleman had an interception against Detroit and is making $2.9 million; you can criticize the selection of Rashaad Penny in the first round for not being at least the backup, but Davis has been one of the better RB2s in the league and given Seattle little reason to use Penny, which of course can be said about 2017 seventh rounder Chris Carson; and Jefferson is not likely ever going to be a star defensive end but he’s been a decent starting defensive end at a cost of $630,000.

The Seahawks have proven to be one of the best teams in the NFC through eight weeks. Given that they lost so many expensive stars in the offseason and replaced many of them with cheaper options — whether that be in the draft or through the second and third wave of free agency — that also likely makes them the best bargain team in the NFL.

We don’t talk enough about that. If things continue like this and Carroll or Schneider don’t win an award for it, they never will.