For the third year in a row the Seattle Seahawks’ average age has trended downward, from ranking 13th in 2017 to having the fourth-youngest roster in the NFL after cutdowns. Despite adding Duane Brown since then, the team has also parted ways with veterans Jimmy Graham, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, Doug Baldwin, Michael Wilhoite, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Jon Ryan.
The Seahawks are now carrying 10 rookies on the 53-man roster, including nine of their 11 draft picks (the other two are on PUP) and one undrafted free agent rookie. This natural youth movement hasn’t excluded the team from adding veterans though, including Mike Iupati, Al Woods, Ezekiel Ansah, Jadeveon Clowney, and re-signing D.J. Fluker, Mychal Kendricks, & K.J. Wright.
With a number of these veterans set to hit free agency in 2020, it means that Seattle’s youth movement is likely to benbutton again, which will only be a good thing if some of their under-25 players who have yet to produce at a high level start to produce at a high level. Otherwise, the Seahawks may see an integral piece of their team walk away and leave a void that they’ll find difficult to fill immediately — It’s a concern that people had for years over the Legion of Boom and eventually we did see those worries come to fruition.
Perhaps the same could happen to the front-seven in six months, but it’s not all bad news. Because if the Seahawks do lose 75% of their starting defensive line, a key linebacker, their two starting options at right tackle, and a few other key starters, at least they’ll be likely to increase their 2021 draft capital.
By a lot.
This offseason, Seattle and the New England Patriots were the only two franchises to be projected to receive the maximum of four compensatory picks based on their free agent losses in March. The Seahawks are expected to receive a third round comp for Earl Thomas, a fourth rounder for Justin Coleman, a sixth rounder for Shamar Stephen, and a seventh for Mike Davis.
Consider that again, as Seattle is expected to receive compensatory picks for Stephen and Davis. Not exactly premier free agents, so use that for a little context.
The Patriots will receive two third rounders because they lost Trey Flowers at an AAV of $18 million (only Nick Foles was listed as higher in the compensatory process) and Trent Brown at $16.25 million. The last player to qualify in the third round range was former Seattle defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, perhaps netting that pick for the Minnesota Vikings after he signed for an AAV of $11.9 per year.
The Seahawks should have three free agents who easily clear $12 million per year and at least one other player who can challenge that. It’s really just a matter of which players Seattle allows to hit free agency, as well as how spendy they are adding free agents from other teams. We know that Seattle doesn’t get involved in the first wave of free agency though, so it’s unlikely that if they lost these players that they’d try to replace them with similar veteran options. At least, not expensive ones.
Consider that they replaced their defensive ends with Clowney and Ansah ... and neither player would factor into their compensatory formula based on the team expressing patience, confidence, and a willingness for them to be wrong. As of now, Clowney and Ansah are apparently healthy and looking to improve their financial situations in 2020 and the Seahawks are not going to be in a position to give the franchise tag to either.
Maybe that’s not a bad thing. Here are the free agent cases to quickly consider:
Jadeveon Clowney, EDGE (BUT SURE HE CAN PLAY INSIDE TOO)
There’s a good chance that as long as all the veteran quarterbacks retire or get extended that Clowney will be the highest-paid free agent of 2020. The team agreed not to tag Clowney so unless they’re the ones giving him the premium contract, or he has a massively disappointing season, he’s likely to receive something in the neighborhood of $20-$22 million per year. Foles was the highest-paid FA in 2019 to switch teams at $22 million per year.
Jarran Reed, DT
Reed represents to me the most-likely player on the roster to be extended or receive the franchise tag. He’s just 26 years old, racked 10.5 sacks last season, and at a position where it’s quite rare to high double-digits in that category. His six-game suspension doesn’t help his case but it could make him more willing to play 2020 on the tag to skyrocket his value for one big contract.
Remember, most of NFL players won’t ever see a second contract and those who do, it’s their only contract besides the rookie deal. If Reed has 10 explosive games (and a nice playoff run???) then the suspension will be way behind him and maybe he’s less willing to do the franchise tag. Well, either way, the team could potentially let him go and receive another third round compensatory pick.
We saw Richardson’s figure. Reed is in a better position than Richardson was when he entered free agency again. A high-end 4-3 defensive tackle can make $14-17 million per year and I don’t think Reed will struggle to top $13.
Ziggy Ansah, DE
He’ll be 31 next season and he’s had a history with injuries and inconsistencies. Would a team be willing to sign him to a multi-year contract worth over $12 million per season? I’ll try to find other examples like this.
The New Orleans Saints just extended Cam Jordan, 30, to a three-year, $52 million extension.
A year ago, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were willing to assume the final three years of a $62 million deal signed by a 29-year-old Jason Pierre-Paul. That worked out well for them in 2018.
Calais Campbell signed a four-year, $60 million deal in 2017, when he was 31.
Brandon Graham, Carlos Dunlap, Everson Griffen, and Melvin Ingram are also all 30+ and making over $13 million per season. Hypothetically, if Ansah played in 14+ games, put up 10 sacks, I don’t think it would be hard in the war of free agency to see a team give him a deal in the three-year, $45 million range. Then again, a better comp might be Jerry Hughes, who is on a two-year deal at about $10 million per season.
A great season should get the Seahawks back into the third round compensatory conversation should Ansah leave. But even a healthy season should be enough to get Ansah involved in the formula.
Germain Ifedi, RT
George Fant, RT
Seattle’s gonna have to make some decisions at right tackle this year and next. They declined Ifedi’s fifth-year option, but at 44 starts, only two offensive linemen in his draft class have been more available than him. The fact of the matter is that regardless of how you feel about Ifedi and his first round expectations (by virtually all accounts, Ifedi has outplayed his draft position, but OK), teams will pay him well for his starts at right tackle.
I don’t recall Miami Dolphins fans always being happy with Ja’Wuan James, but he just signed a four-year, $51 million deal in free agency, netting the Dolphins a third round compensatory pick. (And careful netting those Dolphins.)
If that’s the case for Ifedi, then what could it mean for Fant?
Remember that at offensive line, teams are willing to take bigger swings on reserve players. Chris Hubbard was in a Fant-like position with the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns gave him a five-year, $36 million deal to be their starter at right tackle. That would be a $7.3 million average — Miami is expected to receive a fifth rounder for losing Cameron Wake at $7.6 million AAV.
(These years are not 1:1 comparisons, I know. 2020 won’t be the same as 2019 for dollar figures PLUS there’s a CBA that needs to be negotiated and finalized. But I’m doing some fair laying out of the situation and I’ll let you decide what the result could be.)
I honestly think two of the 10 highest-paid right tackles in the NFL in 2020 could be on Seattle’s roster in 2019 and that’s considered to be one of their weakest positions.
Offensive line desperation!
Mychal Kendricks, LB
A versatile linebacker who doesn’t turn 29 until the end of this month, Kendricks could have his legal troubles fully behind him if he gets a lenient sentence ... whenever that is. Our own John Gilbert doesn’t expect Kendricks to miss any game time in 2019 with his insider trading conviction and that means he’ll get a good opportunity to hype his value.
Kendricks will be in a position where he and his agent (and his lawyers) would like to coup as much cash as possible. I think a good season here will be great for his football future because teams may feel even more comfortable that given the nature of his crime, Kendricks is not a threat to anyone but himself and that he’ll be walking a fine line for the rest of his life.
C.J. Prosise, RB
Now onto the next class of players who could factor into a comp pick situation. If Mike Davis did it, maybe a healthy Prosise could net $3-4 million per season.
Nick Vannett, TE
He started nine games a year ago and you never know what he’ll be asked to do this season given the injuries around him at the position. Vannett is not a great tight end, but players of his caliber at that position can warrant deals in the $4-7 million range in free agency.
Tyler Kroft missed most of 2018 and still signed a three-year, $18 million deal with the Buffalo Bills.
Mike Iupati, OG
There are only a few guards left in the NFL who are older than the 32-year-old Mike Iupati. I don’t imagine him signing a multi-year deal of major significance at this point. He may just be chasing a ring at this point. That being said, James Carpenter just signed a four-year, $21 million deal with the Atlanta Falcons.
It’s outside-possible, but not very probable.
Akeem King, CB/S
If he gets starter snaps, King enters free agency as a Seahawks defensive back. That’s usually led to some nice paydays, though King hasn’t proven anything at this point and he’s turning 27 next month.
Other free agents: Al Woods, Quinton Jefferson, Neiko Thorpe, Geno Smith, Joey Hunt
So what do the Seahawks end up with? We have no idea. They just appear to be in a position to either spend or receive a lot in 2020, which could lead to a lot more in 2021. No compensatory pick is guaranteed in September, and that’s not going to be the focus of Pete Carroll and John Schneider in September. They’re thinking about this Super Bowl, not the next one.
But that doesn’t mean they weren’t thinking about this a lot during their offseason moves. They appear ready.