Ever since the Seattle Seahawks saw their 2019 season come to a close in a divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers, the biggest question among fans has been what would happen with Jadeveon Clowney going forward. Clowney, of course, is the impact defensive lineman and former number one overall pick who the Seahawks acquired in trade on the eve of the 2019 season, but whose future is uncertain due to not being under contract once free agency opens next Wednesday.
Whether the Hawks will make Clowney one of the highest paid defensive players in the NFL, or whether he’ll sign elsewhere once given the opportunity next spring remains to be seen. However, what is known is that heading into free agency the team is very thin on the defensive line.
As things stand right now the team has only seven defensive linemen under contract for the upcoming season. Those players are (with defensive snaps of experience in parentheses):
- L.J. Collier (152)
- Rasheem Green (747)
- Nazair Jones (416)
- Poona Ford (737)
- Pita Taumoepenu (21)
- DeMarcus Christmas (0)
- Shakir Soto (0)
The number of names on that list are certain to grow in the coming weeks through contract tenders, the draft and free agency, but as of right now I can state that if the Seahawks signed me I’d be the eighth best defensive lineman on the roster. Obviously, the first two names that are likely to be added are Bryan Mone and Branden Jackson. It would be a massive surprise if Mone is not given an Exclusive Rights Free Agent tender, while Jackson seems likely to get at least an Original Round Tender based on the team’s need for depth and experience on the defensive line.
Beyond those two tenders, the rest of the 2019 defensive line rotation that is set to hit free agency is:
- Quinton Jefferson
- Jarran Reed
- Ziggy Ansah
- Al Woods
- Dekoda Watson
Of those on the list, Clowney, Jefferson and Reed are certainly the higher priorities, with Woods and Ansah representing a lower tier of free agents who are over 30 and could come at a lower cost. With the Hawks having steered clear of high dollar free agents on the defensive line in the past, if either Reed or Clowney land an offer at the top of the market, the track record of the Seattle front office would seem to indicate that Reed and Clowney could depart. Just like the team let Sheldon Richardson depart after acquiring him via trade in 2017, my belief is that Clowney will receive a top of market offer that leads to him signing elsewhere. It’s been reported that the Hawks are unlikely to go beyond the $18M to $20M range for Clowney, while his market has been reported as in the $22M to $23M range.
So, if the Hawks are unlikely to break the bank for a defensive lineman who demonstrated just a single season of double digit sack numbers, and they might be unlikely to meet the market demands of Clowney, what will they do? If those two leave, they’d seem likely to retain Jefferson, based on his production each of the past two seasons. From there, adding in less expensive second and third tier free agents, while also adding to the pass rush through the draft seems a probable path for the team.