In our 2020 iteration of Finding Free Agents, we’ll attempt to answer three questions for each player: Why would the Seahawks be interested? What would their contract look like? What is the likelihood they reach free agency? Throughout the series, we’ll be focused on specific positions of need in Seattle: Wide receiver, offensive line, defensive tackle and EDGE.
After a bright start to his career, it was a difficult contract year for Saints defensive tackle David Onyemata. He began the season suspended for substance abuse, then went on to post the second-lowest pressure rate of his career despite being a regular starter for the first time. Onyemata’s struggles coincided with New Orleans developing a defensive line rotation that was two-deep at most spots, meaning Onyemata heads towards free agency looking expendable.
Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Despite a down season from Onyemata, he is an intriguing, talented 3-tech. Between 2017 and ‘18, the former Manitoba Bison standout totaled 46 pressures, 6.5 sacks, 25 quarterback hits and eight tackles for loss as a rotational player against the run and pass. Though he entered the league a raw physical talent, Onyemata has developed into a disciplined run defender and a pass rusher who can win with technique in addition to power and explosiveness.
Poona Ford figures to be the Seahawks’ 1-tech moving forward, and Al Woods should be retained to provide depth at both 1- and 3-tech. Seattle is likely to get priced out of Jarran Reed’s services and will need to replace him at 3-tech. Onyemata can be that replacement at a much friendlier cost than what Reed should be expected to get.
What would Onyemata’s contract look like?
Working in any team’s favor when negotiating with Onyemata: Sacks get defensive tackles paid and, though Onyemata has been a disruptive player, he hasn’t posted a ton of sacks. It’s difficult to project what Onyemata will get on the open market, but a per year average between $4.5 and $6.5 million would be a fair price. (It may need to be on the high end of that range to effectively price the Saints out of retaining him.)
For the Seahawks, a four-year deal worth $26 million, with $10 million fully guaranteed, would solidify the 3-tech spot for the foreseeable future, with a player whose most productive seasons may still be ahead of him.
Will Onyemata reach free agency?
Though news of Drew Brees’ 2020 return was surely welcome for New Orleans, it further tightens the cap space the Saints have. With Brees, Vonn Bell and Onyemata all headed towards free agency in March, New Orleans has just under $10 million in space to work with. The Saints will likely create up to $20 million in space by releasing multiple players, such as Janoris Jenkins, but difficult decisions will have to be made. Bell is crucial to New Orleans’ secondary, while Onyemata is, at best, the team’s fourth best defensive lineman. Not only should Onyemata be expected to reach free agency, but it’s likely he’ll find a new NFL home in March.