As the start of a new NFL League year on March 18 at 4 pm New York Time edges near, fans are beginning to get worked up regarding the potential for their teams to improve through free agency. The Seattle Seahawks are no exception, and with big name players like Jadeveon Clowney set to be on the market, hopes are high for teams with the money to add impact players. That includes the Hawks, who fans have argued have both cap space and draft capital to make big changes this offseason.
In fact, the plan among many fans seems to be to pay whatever it takes to bring Jack Conklin in at right tackle and then make sure that one of the top edge players, whether that’s Yannick Ngakoue or Clowney are added as well. To illustrate this, let’s take a look at an exchange between commenters on this idea.
You aren’t likely to recognize the blue background or any of the usernames, largely because this is an exchange that happened on Big Blue View, the New York Giants SB Nation site. The exchange sounds eerily similar to several which have taken place here on Field Gulls, and on other message boards for teams across the league. Just as Seattle fans want Ngakoue and Conklin to fill the holes soon to be created by the departures of Quinton Jefferson and Germain Ifedi, so do fans of the Giants.
Know who else wants Ngakoue (and Chris Jones and Brandon Scherff)? Colts fans over at Stampede Blue.
Notably, they want to pay Scherff top dollar in free agency to relegate Mark Glowinski to a backup role, for those who are convinced that Glow is playing a thousand times better now that he’s no longer coached by Tom Cable. Those, obviously, aren’t the only places where names that have come up here at Field Gulls have been discussed. Revenge of the Birds took the temperature of fans on the suggestions of PFF regarding pursuing Scherff and Bryan Bulaga, two players that commenters here have suggested the Hawks should sign. Conklin and Bulaga are names that have also been thrown out at Battle Red Blog, the Houston Texans SB Nation site.
And on and on one can go. In short, there are a very limited number of the top tier free agents, and fans of the majority of teams across the NFL would love to see their team sign those players. However, as we all know, the bidding in free agency gets crazy, and John Schneider and Pete Carroll have typically stayed away from pricier signings in March. When they’ve addressed the offensive line, they’ve typically brought in lower cost guys like Mike Iupati, Bradley Sowell, J’Marcus Webb, Oday Aboushi, Robert Gallery and D.J. Fluker. When they’ve brought in guys during training camp, like J.R. Sweezy in his 2018 return or the three weeks of Jahri Evans in 2016, it was for barely above league minimum.
They have, of course, dipped their toe into the market for more expensive pass rushers, bringing in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in 2013, but even those were modest deals at that time. Ngakoue, on the other hand, is looking to collect a bag just like Frank Clark did. And just like DeMarcus Lawrence did. And just like Khalil Mack and Aaron Donald did. And he has the production to sell that story.
How much will Ngakoue command as a free agent?— John P. Gilbert (@JohnPGilbertNFL) February 13, 2020
Sacks through first four years in NFL:
Khalil Mack: 40.5
Aaron Donald: 39
Chandler Jones: 36.0
Frank Clark: 35.0
All were among the highest paid defenders in the NFL at signing.
Talks start at $21M (he'll be tagged).
To make it simple, things boil down to the fact that Ngakoue likely gets tagged, as do Chris Jones and very possibly Arik Armstead. When working through the machinations of which edge rushers may actually reach free agency, the list quickly whittles itself down to Jadeveon Clowney, who can’t be tagged, and second tier rushers like Dante Fowler and Vic Beasley. In short, Clowney won’t be cheap, and I’m certain he and his agent know that it’s entirely possible he’s the lone marquee name that will reach the market in March. That could easily push his salary commands past $25M, while also driving Fowley and Beasley well past the point of comfort for fans.
So, for those fans with a long wish list for the team in free agency, it may be time to buckle up because even with the Hawks having lots of cap space, it likely won’t be going to the top tier guys. Schneider and Carroll will pick and choose through their free agency targets, and in the end they’ll end up signing guys whose names many fans won’t recognize and let them show what they can do for the team. As for the tens of millions in available cap space the team has for 2020? Well, don’t be surprised if more of that goes to extending guys like Chris Carson and Shaquill Griffin while bringing back Mike Iupati and potentially tendering the team’s four restricted free agents in Branden Jackson, Joey Hunt, David Moore and Jacob Hollister.