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.
It has been a turbulent career for Markus Golden, now five years in. As a sophomore for the Cardinals, Golden totaled 12.5 sacks and 46 pressures, appearing to form a forceful long-term duo with Chandler Jones. The next season, however, ended after a month, as Golden tore his ACL. In Golden’s return—also a contract year—it looked a lot like most seasons after a serious knee injury, as he played 11 games with just 2.5 sacks.
As a free agent, Golden reunited with his former defensive coordinator James Bettcher in New York and proceeded to get his career back on track, notching 10 sacks and a career-high 60 pressures for the Giants in 2019. Now, the soon-to-be 29-year-old will hit the open market again coming off an excellent season.
Why would the Seahawks be interested?
Along with Robert Quinn, Golden is one of the few mid-tier pass rushers available who would be able to come in as a free agent and give fairly safe production, health permitting. Throughout his career, Golden has rushed the quarterback effectively, even in the years without large sack numbers. In his unfortunately timed contract year of 2018, Golden still hit a pressure rate of 10.8—the lowest for him over the past four seasons. Against the run, Golden has proved to be dependable on the edge and has featured as a three-down defender regularly.
If Jadeveon Clowney gets priced out of Seattle, Golden would be a strong replacement. Both are power-based rushers who rarely threaten the corner. Both, however, also create pressure regularly and have single-handedly changed the math up front. Golden may not make sense as a partner for Clowney, but he would make sense as a cheaper replacement.
What would Golden’s contract look like?
Golden was left to sign a one-year, $3.75 million contract last spring and will surely look to flip an excellent contract year into longer-term security this time around. In 2019, Preston Smith landed a four-year deal with the Packers worth $52 million, with $16 million guaranteed. Though Smith didn’t deal with the injuries Golden did prior to hitting it big, he did have similarly inconsistent production. Smith is a good base from which to compare mid-tier pass rushers on the open market to. Golden may not hit Smith’s $13 million APY, but should come in above $10 million. A three-year deal worth $34.5 million, with the first year fully guaranteed, could land Golden—without risking long-term guaranteed money.
Will Golden reach free agency?
Per ESPN’s Josina Anderson, Golden will reach unrestricted free agency:
My understanding is #Giants LB Markus Golden has interest in returning to the #Giants, but will also endeavor to test free agency because of relative time to the start of the new league year, as of now, per source. Golden recorded 10 sacks last season for the #Giants.— ig: josinaanderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 5, 2020
Bettcher, Golden’s long time DC, was not retained in New York after Joe Judge took the head coaching job. So, while Golden may be open to returning to the Giants, he won’t have that exact familiarity pulling him back. Should the Seahawks lose Clowney, they would be well served turning to Golden.