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Will the Seahawks bring back Branden Jackson?

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NFL: Seattle Seahawks at Pittsburgh Steelers Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

There is no question that Jadeveon Clowney is the big name free agent everyone is talking about when it comes to the defensive line of the Seattle Seahawks, but there are several other members of the the group slated to hit free agency in March. Jarran Reed, Quinton Jefferson, Ziggy Ansah and Al Woods are all scheduled to see their contracts expire and explore the riches of free agency in a matter of weeks.

In contrast, the list of defensive linemen the Seahawks currently have under contract for 2020 is rather short:

  • Rasheem Green,
  • L.J. Collier,
  • Poona Ford,
  • Bryan Mone and
  • Demarcus Christmas.

While Green outperformed expectations in 2019 and Ford and Mone have flashed at time, that’s a pretty barren cupboard for the team heading into next season, meaning the Restricted Free Agency decision of Branden Jackson could be very interesting.

So far we’ve taken a look at how the team will handle the situation regarding David Moore, what they will do with Joey Hunt and whether or not Jacob Hollister will be a part-of-one-season wonder, or whether he’ll back back again in 2020.

To rehash for those who have forgotten how Restricted Free Agency in the NFL works, when it comes to RFAs, teams need to decide whether or not to extend a RFA tender. If they decide not to extend a tender, then the player becomes an Unrestricted Free Agent (to head off the question, non-tendered RFAs who become UFAs do not count towards comp pick calculations).

If the team decides to extend a tender offer to a RFA, there are three different levels of tender offer that can be extended: First Round tender, Second Round tender or Original Round tender. Each tender comes with a salary determined by formula and specified by the league. While the exact tender amounts for RFAs for the 2020 season have yet to be announced, OverTheCap.com has historically been very close on the tender amounts, and their current projections are as follows:

  • First Round tender: $4.667M
  • Second Round tender: $3.278M
  • Original Round tender: $2.144M

The way the tenders work is that they are an offer for a one-year contract at the specified amount. If another team wishes to sign an RFA to a contract once free agency starts in March, they are required to give up a draft pick corresponding to the round of tender placed on the player. So, for example, if a player is given a second round tender and another team signs the player to an offer sheet, the new team must then send its second round pick to the player’s prior team. Now, in the middle of all of that, the player’s former team has the right of first refusal and can opt to match the contract given to the player in lieu of accepting the draft pick.

Also, because someone asked in the comments to the article on Moore, the tenders are non-guaranteed. The players can be waived or traded without any financial ramifications for the team, with the lone exception being for injury. Injured players may not be released under the CBA, meaning that if a player on an RFA tender gets hurt, they go to injured reserve where they get paid, making the RFA tender effectively guaranteed for injury, but it’s not a guarantee that is included in the language of the contract.

In the case of an Original Round tender, the draft pick the new team would be required to give up is the same as the draft pick originally used to select the player when they came out of college. Now, in Jackson’s case, just like Hollister, he originally entered the league as an undrafted free agent. That means that if an Original Round tender is used and another team signs him to an offer sheet, no draft pick compensation would need to be sent. The Hawks, however, would still retain the right of first refusal and be given the opportunity to match whatever contract Jackson signs with another team.

The reason the decision on Jackson might come down to the wire is because the RFA tenders are not due until free agency officially starts, which this year is at 4 pm New York Time on Wednesday, March 18. That means the Hawks will have the next seven weeks and one day to negotiate with the members of the defensive line they’d like to retain, such as Reed, Clowney, Jefferson and Woods, and then the team doesn’t have to make a decision on which level to tender Jefferson until they know whether they will be in the market for the services of Clowney and the others.

As unrestricted free agents, Clowney, Reed, Jefferson and Woods will be able to negotiate with other teams starting Monday, March 16, meaning the Hawks should have a good understanding of whether retaining any of those names will be a realistic possibility. If the team is able to come to terms with one or more of those soon-to-be free agents, whether in the coming weeks or during the legal tampering period of March 16 - March 18, then Jackson becomes less of a priority. In that case, I’d expect an original round tender to be used.

On the flip side, if the Seahawks front office is eating lunch on March 18 with the knowledge that Reed, Clowney and Jefferson have already agreed to terms with other teams and that none of those three will be playing in Seattle in 2020, all of a sudden the need to keep someone who played over 400 defensive snaps and recorded a couple of quarterback sacks becomes more urgent. That could see the second round tender come into play.

So, while fans will be eagerly watching to see what happens with the Seattle defensive line between now and the start of free agency, Branden Jackson and his agent may be watching even closer.

Poll

How should the Seahawks handle Restricted Free Agent Branden Jackson?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    First Round tender - $4.667M
    (16 votes)
  • 22%
    Second Round tender - $3.278M
    (201 votes)
  • 43%
    Original Round tender - $2.144M
    (387 votes)
  • 32%
    Non-tender (becomes UFA)
    (296 votes)
900 votes total Vote Now