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John Schneider shows he deals better with other GMs than with players’ agents

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NFL Combine - Day 2

John Schneider has done it again.

Specifically, the Seattle Seahawks general manager has made some paced, savvy signings, a very good trade, overpaid a couple lower guys, and let too many good players slip away.

It’s only a week and a half into a very convoluted 2020 free agency, but Schneider is continuing to reinforce his tendencies as Chief of Seahawk Monies.

It’s an interesting trend, one that can’t really be to blame for Seattle not returning to a Super Bowl in and of itself, but certainly does result in glaring inconsistencies on the Seahawks roster year over year.

What’s clear is that John Schneider absolutely wheels and deals around the league, both in frequency and in the incredible return he gets from other general managers.

What’s also clear is that he’s much less good at signing, retaining, or valuing some, if not many, free agents. I don’t actually know if this has anything to do with how he negotiates with agents, but it’s more frequent than one might care to admit.

We’ll take it back to last year to start. A couple examples to kick things off.

First, their biggest acquisition of the month decade year was Jadeveon Clowney, acquired through trade. It’s a little hard to evaluate anything Bill O’Brien does with journalistic integrity, but suffice to say it was a very good deal. For the Seahawks. It did not suffice anything for the Houston Texans, who are, in fact, insufficient.

Which was fortunate, because their biggest blunder was what had been their biggest signing until Clowney. Ezekiel Ansah, who had been an elite pass rusher, was signed for $9 million. Now, he did not hit all of his incentives, but was guaranteed $6 million and according to overthecap.com finished closer to nine than to six. (Editor’s note: Ansah finished the 2019 season with a cap hit of $8,531,250 for the Seahawks. - JPG)

We contrast these two, because the signing of Ziggy Ansah took place on May 8th. May 8! We’re in March right now, and even Germain Ifedi has found a team. What this symbolizes is that every team in the NFL took a look at Ansah, and for various reasons, said, “thanks but no thanks”. Schneider looked at the same person (or perhaps footage from 2014) and said, “here’s nine million American dollars”.

Patience, is not always rewarded. Not always in the GM’s office, and not really ever if you’re trying to hit the quarterback.

Back to this year. Here’s the list again:

Arrivals

  • iOL B.J. Finney (two years, $8 million)
  • EDGE Bruce Irvin
  • OT Brandon Shell (two years, $11 million)
  • OT Cedric Ogbuehi (one year, $2.3 million)
  • OG Chance Warmack
  • WR Phillip Dorsett
  • CB Quinton Dunbar via trade
  • TE Greg Olsen

Departures

  • LT George Fant - New York Jets (3 years, $30 million)
  • DL Quinton Jefferson (2 years, $13.5 million)
  • DT Al Woods (1 year, $2.75 million)
  • Prior to the snap, false start, OT Germain Ifedi
  • Probably soon to be announced Tedric Thompson, I’m assuming for a 3rd round pick from the Houston Texans any day now.

Ogbuehi and Warmack are probably overpaid, especially Ogbuehi. As is potentially Greg Olsen. If Justin Britt stays and Germain Ifedi is still good than at least one of the other OL is also overpaid, as you’re not going to play both at that point. Letting Fant go at that price is good, Jefferson you could debate, and Al Woods for $250k more than you paid him last year is very dumb.

The other moves are fine, but they’re nothing special.

Which is exactly what Schneider does. For some reason, it’s almost like the Seattle approach to free agency is the same as it is in the draft, which is to trade back (wait) and get more guys in the later rounds (second wave) than true stars. It’s also apparent that instead of overpaying one superstar by a couple million - i.e. any of the top ten pass rushers they didn’t sign - the Seahawks opt for overpaying a few middling guys by a few hundred thousand to a million each.

Meanwhile, Schneider threw an elite foreign punter a fifth round pick for a guy in Quinton Dunbar that has made thousands of casual fans go tell their girl that the Seahawks just got the second best corner in the NFL for free. Which just goes to show how much people still care about Pro Football Focus rankings than anything else.

But it is a really good deal. As was the Clowney trade. And the fifth for Quandre Diggs. Frank Clark won a Super Bowl but they got like an entire side of the field in picks for him. In fact the only trade that has caused significant damage to the Seahawks was the Jimmy Graham trade. Not because he got ripped off, but because it turns out that a really reliable center is more important to a running offense than a wide receiver lying about being a tight end. By and large, John Schneider has pilfered the rest of the league when it comes to acquiring talent in a head-to-head matchup.

There’s another category that falls back in the Schneider vs. Agent category.

Missed opportunities

Last we spoke of free agency, I specifically said not to grade Seattle thus far on what they hadn’t done. This is now the time to do it, because it speaks of Schneider’s tendencies yet again.

The Seahawks missed out on some notable positions last week, and several for deals that feel extremely attainable - especially if Jadeveon Clowney is going to end up being $6-8 million less than we all believed last month.

Here’s a short rundown, numbers included when possible.

Gerald McCoy

Linval Joseph.

Jack Conklin was also signed by the Cleveland Browns, at three years $30 million guaranteed and max of $14 million per year over the three years.

Even worse, Bryan Bulaga.

I’d like to also list not getting PJ Walker as bad, because they had specifically scouted him in an XFL game, and he’s a phenomenally better fit behind Russell Wilson than Geno Smith.

Nickell Robey-Coleman at $1.3 million is also head-scratching. He’s another defensive back, which is not the Hawks’ greatest need, but has room to improve. Quinton Dunbar is nice, but I don’t think it is as seamless as now putting Tre Flowers in the slot, since Flowers is a better tackler than anything else. It’s hard to imagine a true starting nickel for a year at a million and a half to finish preparing Ugo Amadi for the role would have been unwanted. It’s another one of those cases where the price is so good, you simply have to wonder if he didn’t want to come to Seattle or if John Schneider didn’t know his market.

Yes, there’s a philosophy that Schneider and his team hold to dearly. But one has to wonder if it’s part of the philosophy because Schneider’s not all that great at maximizing free agent signings. There, we’ve said it. It’s exhausting to have the entirety of the offseason go the same way - wait, wait, wait, wait, who’s that guy? We paid how much for a seventh lineman? We drafted another what?

To make things interesting, Schneider finds himself in a very enviable position of being the favorite to land Clowney. In addition, pass rushers Everson Griffen and Yannick Ngakoue are both available, one by a signing and one by a trade. Seattle could grab two edge rushers, and finish this insane March very much on top.