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Finding Free Agents: Assessing possible DL signings for the Seahawks

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Every offseason, the Seahawks replenish their depth along the defensive line. A couple high-upside players headline their potential options this year.

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New York Jets v Tennessee Titans Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images

Throughout the Pete Carroll and John Schneider era, regardless of where the Seahawks’ pressing needs have been in a given offseason, they’ve continuously added to the defensive line. It’s perhaps the group they’ve kept the freshest year-in and year-out, and that trend should continue in the coming months.

Seattle can feel great about the core they have inside, with Poona Ford and Jarran Reed set to form a partnership for years to come. Beyond that duo, it’s unclear. Shamar Stephen will be hitting free agency again, while Nazair Jones was a non-factor as a sophomore and could be heading for a position switch like Quinton Jefferson just went through.

Though the Seahawks biggest focus will surely be at EDGE, the interior of the defensive line will be given its share of attention too.

Rakeem Nunez-Roches

The 2018 season was a turbulent one for Nunez-Roches, following up a 2017 which saw him start a career-high 11 games. A restricted free agent last offseason, Nunez-Roches re-signed with the Chiefs in late April, only to be released less than two weeks later. Claimed off waivers by the Colts, Nunez-Roches spent all of preseason in Indianapolis before again being waived. In October, Nunez-Roches landed on the Buccaneers, but would go on to appear in just three games.

Though his career stalled in an unfortunate manner last season, Nunez-Roches is an intriguing player, and still just 25. He checks the athletic boxes Seattle wants their defensive linemen to check, and possesses a quick first step and fine functional strength. Though the Seahawks may choose to depend on their outside-in linemen—Jefferson and Jones namely—to provide the depth as penetrative players, Nunez-Roches could prove to be a worthwhile addition.

Approximate deal: There would be no risk (in terms of guaranteed money) attached to Nunez-Roches’ addition, and he would be coming into training camp to compete for a roster spot. In 2018, Dominique Easley signed a one-year deal with the Rams worth $1.85M. Both players have high-upside with little production; a one-year contract for $1.5M, only guaranteed if Nunez-Roches makes the 53, could work.

Bennie Logan

Just a few days before Tom Johnson and Stephen signed with Seattle last offseason, Logan came into town to visit with the team. The former Eagle and Chief ended up with the Titans in 2018, appearing in 15 games in his least productive season yet. (Though it’s worth noting, Logan regularly graded out as one of Tennessee’s best defenders per Pro Football Focus. He just didn’t play often—22 percent of the Titans’ defensive snaps over the course of the year.)

While Nunez-Roches would very much be a flier on a player who has flashed penetrative ability, Logan would be a like-for-like replacement for Stephen; a strong, stout 1-tech who is disciplined against the run and does what is asked of him within the defense. We know the Seahawks were previously interested in Logan, and there is once again a void at his position.

Approximate deal: Stephen’s one-year deal with Seattle last offseason was for $2.1M, with $1M guaranteed at signing. Logan’s deal with Tennessee was for $4M, with $2M guaranteed upon signing. After playing less than a quarter of his team’s snaps in 2018, Logan could land with the Seahawks on a contract similar to the one Stephen signed last spring.

David Irving

Irving represents the most complicated—and talented—potential signing on this list. At times, Irving flashed the ability to outright dominate from the interior, including an eight game 2017 which saw him rack up seven sacks, nine tackles for loss and six pass breakups. At other times, it looked as though the 25-year-old was about to fall out of the league completely.

Irving was dismissed from Iowa State following an arrest in 2014. In his productive 2017 season, he missed four games on either side of a dominant eight games stretch through suspension and then injury. Irving was once again suspended to begin the 2018 season, and only ended up playing two games as he again battled injuries. Further complicating Irving’s situation is a report from Mike Fisher, who claims Irving has missed several drug tests over the past couple months.

However, for all of Irving’s baggage, he remains a truly game-changing talent, and Carroll certainly isn’t one to shy away from a player with Irving’s type of off-field concerns. If the structure and support system Seattle’s locker room has provided to other players in the past could help to get Irving’s career back on track, they would be getting a Pro-Bowl caliber player at a bargain. And there’s great reason to believe Carroll and the Seahawks would be interest: Irving is a 6-foot-7, 273-pound force who tested in the 91st percentile.

Approximate deal: All of the concerns surrounding Irving make a deal for him difficult to project, and the team that winds up signing him could wait until his (reportedly) latest issue is resolved. Irving appears to be a prime candidate for a one-year deal. A contract around $4M—with incentives to take it up to $6M-$8M—would be worth the risk.

Johnathan Hankins

Hankins’ foray into free agency in 2017 remains one of the more puzzling free agent situations in recent memory. Fresh off a highly productive season at the heart of the second ranked Giants run defense—which followed a seven-sack season—Hankins hit the market, expected to be one of the more sought after players, and then... crickets. A month into free agency, Hankins finally agreed to a three-year, $27M deal with the Colts. A year later, with Indianapolis switching schemes, Hankins was cut.

Starting 14 games for the Raiders in 2018, Hankins was a fine starter for a terrible defense. Now, set to enter his age-27 season and again on the market, Hankins may seek another long-term deal. However, if the market is again dry, he could be a higher upside replacement for Stephen than Logan would be. Hankins’ seven-sack sophomore campaign was an anomaly in terms of pass rush productivity, but he remains a solid NFL starter, and a player who could ease some of the pressure off Ford in his second year.

Approximate deal: As with the previous three, I would expect Seattle to pursue a one- or two-year deal with Hankins. Though they presumably wouldn’t be able to get him for as cheap as Logan, Hankins could still be had for a palatable rate. A deal close to what Logan received from the Titans in 2018—one-year, $4M—would be workable, with Ford and Reed still on rookie deals.

The breakout season Reed enjoyed in 2018 eases some of the pressure off the Seahawks to find a big-time contributor at defensive line in free agency. As is their standard procedure, Seattle will likely go out and sign a bargain priced veteran or two to shore up the group. However, if the situation is right, they could add a dynamic force like Irving into the mix, too.