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Finding Free Agents: Adding depth at linebacker could bring a high-ceiling reclamation project

NFL: Arizona Cardinals at Seattle Seahawks Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Seahawks are in fairly good shape at linebacker. Bobby Wagner remains one of the finest at his position, and should be expected to return to an All-Pro level in 2020 with added talent around him. K.J. Wright was superb in 2019, furthering the belief that his elite instincts will age extremely well—though it’s worth noting he carries a $10 million cap hit in 2020. Cody Barton looked more comfortable as the season wore on, and his play speed is a much-needed shot in the arm to a group led by veterans Wagner and Wright. Ben Burr-Kirven, like Barton, provides the group with much needed youth and depth.

Shaquem Griffin, however, appears to be more in the pass rush plans than at linebacker moving forward, after making a difference in that role down the stretch last season. Mychal Kendricks, meanwhile, may not be in the plans at all. At the least, another depth option could be sought.

Neville Hewitt

A year ago, this writer suggested the Seattle would be well served pursuing Hewitt. Instead, he re-signed with the Jets for one-year and $1.5 million. Hewitt went onto have a strong 2019, with 75 tackles, three sacks, two interceptions, six tackles for loss and five pass breakups in 12 starts. Just 26, Hewitt should be in line for a longer deal this spring, and it may be out of the Seahawks’ price range. However, Hewitt would bring speed and three-level ability, should Seattle want to carry on with base looks consistently.

Malcolm Smith

If the Seahawks want to add a linebacker who will provide depth, play special teams and be a great veteran for Barton and Burr-Kirven, Smith makes sense. He will be cheap and won’t really push for snaps on defense—but the Seahawks shouldn’t need him to. Seattle may be better served pursuing a younger player or one who could contribute on defense, but Smith would likely be eager for a reunion.

Deone Bucannon

The former moneybacker in Arizona signed with the Buccaneers last spring, reuniting with Bruce Arians and Todd Bowles. After just five weeks, however, Bucannon was cut and claimed by the Giants (and another of his former coordinators, James Bettcher). Bucannon started just one game in New York, a far fall from grace from the defender who once consistently impacted the game at all three levels.

Still just 27, Bucannon could be a legitimately high upside signing for the Seahawks. If Seattle wants to replicate Kendricks’ role a year ago—as a pass rusher, in coverage and in the box—Bucannon would be well worth the dice roll. Not only could Bucannon provide depth, but the former Cougar could be a shrewd signing, if he is able to right his career.