On Monday, the opening of the legal tampering period of free agency, the NFC West saw a flurry of activity with different teams displaying different strategies based on where those teams currently sit.
The San Francisco 49ers made splashy headlines by agreeing to a monster deal with run-stopping linebacker Kwon Alexander, formerly of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and with cap space still to burn are reportedly still on the hunt for more talent to bring to the bay area.
In contrast, the Los Angeles Rams and Seattle Seahawks have seemed to take a back seat, letting the market play out and letting their own players go elsewhere. For the Seahawks that meant watching Mike Davis agree to leave for the Chicago Bears, Justin Coleman committed to reunite with Matt Patricia on the Detroit Lions and Shamar Stephen came to terms on a deal that will put him back in purple for the Minnesota Vikings. All three of those departures from the Hawks roster could net the team comp picks, depending on how the team decides to approach the rest of free agency.
It was just a year ago that the Hawks watched multiple free agents leave and sign with other teams, including Jimmy Graham heading to the Green Bay Packers, Paul Richardson going to the Washington Redskins, Sheldon Richardson signing with Minnesota and Luke Willson signing with Detroit in order to be closer to home. However, in spite of all those players leaving the Seahawks received zero comp picks in the 2019 draft because of the net signings portion of the allocation formula. Thus, many fans have complained that the role players the Hawks signed last offseason has cost the team the ability to acquire young players on rookie contracts in the draft this year. That makes it extremely important to watch how the rest of free agency plays out, and to see whether the Seattle front office is perhaps looking to build an arsenal of comp picks next season.
It is not entirely unreasonable to imagine that the Hawks could allow these players to leave and not replace them in free agency in hopes of receiving the maximum of four comp picks in 2020. If, after the dust settles on free agency, the Hawks feel they are likely to receive multiple comp picks next year, the team could then go about burnishing its 2019 draft arsenal through trading away the picks it holds for next season. It would not take a whole lot of maneuvering around, including adding a few picks by trading back from 1.21 into the top of the second round, and then using a couple of 2020 picks to acquire 2019 picks. Then all of a sudden the Hawks could be looking at having a full quiver of picks in the upcoming draft, rather than just the four the team currently holds.
Regardless of how the situation plays out for the Hawks, as it stands right now the highest comp pick that the NFC West teams are presently in position to receive belongs to the Rams. It was expected by most observers that Lamarcus Joyner would leave the Rams this offseason, and his departure became all but guaranteed over the weekend when the team signed Eric Weddle. Late Monday fans learned of Joyner’s destination when word came down that he had agreed to a four-year, $42M contract with the Oakland Raiders.
That is on top of the Rams having the potential to earn two of the top comp picks available through the likely departures of Rodger Saffold and Ndamukong Suh, and represents a return to form for the safety market compared to the 2018 offseason. However, the return of the safety market could set the Seahawks up for a nice potential return, with Earl Thomas still rumored to be looking at a potentially lucrative deal with any of a number of teams, including the 49ers, the Dallas Cowboys or the Houston Texans.
In short, stay tuned, as the frenzy rolls on for the remainder of this week and the news continues to flood in.