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What should the Seahawks do at defensive tackle?

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Arizona Cardinals v Seattle Seahawks Photo by Abbie Parr/Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks number one need at defensive tackle in 2019 is really about as simple as it could be: extend Jarran Reed.

The 26-year-old (was 25 for most of last season) recorded 10.5 sacks and at the moment it seems as though reports that Reed was the “steal” of the second round in 2016 have been justified. Known for his ability to stuff the run, Reed now has the third-most sacks by a Seahawks defensive tackle in a single season in history. Cortez Kennedy once had 14, John Randle once had 11, and now Reed is coming off of 10.5. We have seen similar seasons by players at a similar age:

Rocky Bernard had 8.5 sacks in his fourth year, when he was 26, and he never had that same pass rushing ability again. Joe Nash had seven sacks when he was a 24-year-old All-Pro in 1984, and then nine sacks the next season. He did have a long and significant career with Seattle, not retiring until after 1996, but 1984 was his only Pro Bowl season. Then there’s Sam Adams, who had seven sacks when he was 24. He was never again known for his pass rushing, but he did make three Pro Bowls after leaving the Seahawks.

What’s the future of Reed? The truth is that his 1.5 sacks in each of his first two seasons could give the Seattle front office pause before paying him what he would get on the open market if he were a free agent this year. If Reed was a free agent, I am very confident that a team would offer him $100 million. He’s 26, he’s coming off of a 10.5 sack, 24 QB hit season, he was always known as an elite run-stuffer. Reed is not Aaron Donald but Malik Jackson got $85 million and Kawann Short got $80 million. I think Reed could argue he’s more valuable than both and he’s got the benefit of the rising cap. The Seahawks may not want to spend $100 million or $17 million per season, but there are enough talent-hungry, lots of cap teams out there who would.

To me, that’s the reality of where Reed stands right now, but Seattle does have its own advantage: Reed isn’t a free agent and if he doesn’t sign now, his stock could go down. Way down. The wrong injury could kill it entirely. A 1.5 sack season to match 2016 and 2017 could cut his guarantees in half as compared to right now. I also imagine the Seahawks don’t want to leave it up to chance, because they might only have one franchise tag to use in 2020 (we won’t know for sure until the CBA is renegotiated) and they’re already potentially going to have Frank Clark and Russell Wilson to negotiate with.

Reed might be the easiest of those three to deal with and therefore, perhaps he’ll be the first to get extended. Then past that, there’s not much in the way of guarantees at the position.

Shamar Stephen played virtually the whole season next to Reed and didn’t do much to stand out. (I wrote about Stephen here.) He wasn’t a pass rusher and we know that the Seahawks were not good against the run as a defense. Re-signing Stephen doesn’t seem like a priority and I feel that if he returns, it won’t be a signing that happens until August.

Poona Ford became everyone’s favorite number at defensive tackle, including the coaches who utilized Ford more and more down the stretch. He seemed to respond well to that and he even finished with two QB hits in limited time, which is a lot compared to Stephen’s three QB hits as a full-time starter. It seems that Reed-Ford is the odds-on favorite to be Seattle’s top two defensive tackles next season.

Sticking around is Nazair Jones, at least for a little while longer. The coaches didn’t seem too fond of Jones this season. Perhaps it was more related to health. If not, maybe this has been a wake up call. Jones gives the Seahawks a second lottery ticket other than Ford, one they hope will pay off like Reed did, but both still have a lot to prove.

They have two restricted free agents, Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson, who have played defensive end but could play inside. I don’t know that either will be in Seattle’s plans for next season either way. Rasheem Green is definitely coming back and is another candidate to move inside. That may depend not just on how Green performs this offseason, but in how others do at the two up-for-spot grabs at defensive end and defensive tackle; Clark and Reed are the sure things, but they need two capable starters to step in and then at least two to three more really good backups. That’s when things are really going well for the Seattle defense.

How likely is it that the Seahawks address defensive tackle with their first pick in the draft?

In Carroll and Schneider’s nine drafts with the team, they have never taken a defensive tackle in the first round. The recent release of Malik McDowell is a reminder that he, at pick 35, is the highest drafted defensive tackle by this front office. Next is Reed at 49. Then Green, if you consider him to be a defensive tackle, at 79, followed by Jordan Hill at 87. Since Seattle does not have a second round pick yet — waiting to see what trades they make — it makes it even less likely that they’d target one before round three. And even then, it’s hard to say if they’d use one on a defensive tackle at all.

The Seahawks only have four picks right now. They’ve spent three picks on the position in the last two years (McDowell and Jones in 2017, Green in 2018, plus Reed in 2016, all in rounds two or three) but does that make it more likely or less likely that they’d do it again? The defensive line class is deep this year, but the Seahawks may prefer prioritizing edge over interior.

Interior free agents include Ndamukong Suh, Sheldon Richardson (doubt that), Timmy Jernigan at the top, and then a lot of other options. I don’t expect them to scrape off the top. They never do. They traded for Richardson — again signaling that this position has been really important to them recently — but rarely do they go hard on the free agent market.

Overall, Seattle has maybe the best defensive tackle they’ve had since Kennedy (I stress “maybe’ but it’s hard for me to see a denial that he’s not a maybe) but they also could still be sifting through the pile to find an adequate starter next to him, as well as some solid depth. They’ll be working on that extension for Reed, crossing their fingers for Ford and Jones, and I imagine they’ll bring in one or two “name” free agents, even if they’re on the cheaper end. Rookies will be brought in too, but perhaps not with any expectations. After all, Ford, an undrafted free agent, has already surpassed McDowell and Jones.

Poll

Is Jarran Reed worth $100 million?

This poll is closed

  • 4%
    Whatever he wants
    (22 votes)
  • 35%
    Something like that
    (182 votes)
  • 50%
    Definitely less
    (253 votes)
  • 9%
    This is crazy man. For playing a GAME? I’m mad!
    (49 votes)
506 votes total Vote Now