The first week of the NFL’s 2019 free agency period is in the books, with the overwhelming majority of players on the hunt for big paydays having already inked a new contract. For the Seattle Seahawks that means Earl Thomas is now a member of the Baltimore Ravens, Justin Coleman is set to suit up for the Detroit Lions and Jason Myers will be kicking field goals for the Hawks.
However, one position that the Hawks have yet to address entering the second week of free agency is depth at the edge rusher position. The unquestioned leader of the group for Seattle as it currently stands is Frank Clark, who led the team with 13.0 sacks in 2018, and is set to play 2019 under the franchise tag if he and the team cannot reach a long term deal prior to the league’s July 15 deadline.
However, there are plenty of options that the team could find attractive on the market, and it’s not a stretch to imagine the team could add pass rush through a veteran signing during this second wave of free agency. Two of the names that remain near the top of the available edge rusher list include Justin Houston and Ziggy Ansah. Houston, of course, was cut by the Kansas City Chiefs in recent weeks as a cap casualty after having failed to live up to the monster contract he signed in 2015.
Ansah, meanwhile, remains a potential target, and it is no surprise that his finding of a new home could take some time following a 2018 campaign in which he was on the field for just seven games and started only twice. Reports indicate that Ansah is slowly working his way through visits and evaluations with the teams interested in his services, however, and he has already met with both the Buffalo Bills and the New Orleans Saints.
Even many of the second tier edge rushers behind Ansah have already signed new contracts, such as Dante Fowler and Cameron Wake, and that has left teams looking at a list of available names that will mostly include players who are past their primes or never quite developed as hoped. The Seattle front office has not been shy about bringing in hired guns on defense before, having signed older players like Dwight Freeney and Antoine Winfield to one year contracts, and this certainly remains a possibility.
Specifically, there remains a former player on the market who probably ranks near the top of the list of the most reviled, most disliked players in the entire NFL who has extensive ties to the Seahawks and might be available for a song in free agency following a very poor performance in 2018.
That is former Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews.
It was ten years ago this spring that the Packers drafted Matthews out of USC with the 26th overall pick in the first round. At USC Matthews was obviously coached by current Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll, but the connections go far beyond just Carroll. During all five of the years that he was at USC, the linebackers coach for the Trojans was none other than Ken Norton Jr., the current defensive coordinator for Seattle.
So, Matthews not only has experience playing for Norton and Carroll, he has shown he can thrive in the environment they create. That’s not even the end of the connections though. While Matthews is intimately familiar with Carroll, Norton and their coaching methods, as noted he was drafted by the Packers in 2009.
In 2009 Ted Thompson was the GM for Green Bay, but the position of Director of Football Operations was none other than John Schneider, the current GM for the Hawks. Thus, it’s not just the coaching staff that has a connection to Matthews, he was drafted by a team where John Schneider was largely responsible for the team’s scouting operations and played a heavy role in the decision making of the front office. We don’t even need to dig into the idea that Matthews father, Clay Matthews Jr., played for Marty Schottenheimer for nine seasons with the Cleveland Browns in the 1980s.
The simple fact is the connections between Matthews and the Seahawks are extremely deep and run back decades, and I won’t be at all surprised if the Hawks kick the tires on a player with whom the front office and coaching staff are intimately familiar.