The offseason for the Seattle Seahawks is quickly approaching the midway point. The 2019 season came to a close in a divisional round loss to the Green Bay Packers, while the 2020 NFL season, assuming it happens, is set to start on September 13 for the majority of teams. The heart of free agency has come and gone with the team addressing multiple holes on the offensive line, while adding a pair of pass rushing role players on the defensive side in Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin. However, what the team has not done, in spite of the continued cries from fans, is hand out a blank check to a top tier pass rusher.
The Jadeveon Clowney watch has been ongoing since the team gained the right to sign him to a contract extension after once the final whistle blew in the Week 17 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Yet, in spite of the desire of fans to see the team pay Clowney whatever is necessary to ensure he returns to the team in the future, Clowney remains unsigned while the Seahawks remain in the market for pass rush. One other name that has been tossed out has been former Minnesota Vikings DE Everson Griffen, who opted out of his contract with the Vikes after reaching necessary performance thresholds during the 2019 season.
Griffen has been a producting pass rusher during his career, logging 13.5 sacks, 37 quarterback hits and 54 pressures over the last two seasons. One concern with Griffen could be his age, as teaming Griffen and Irvin puts two players on the defensive line who will turn 33 later this season. That, in and of itself, is not bad, but life in the trenches in in the NFL is not kind to anyone, and certainly not to those who fall at the older end of the age ranges. Over the past five years there have been 416 defensive ends across the NFL who have played in at least twelve games in a season, but only 84 of those player seasons have been recorded at age 30 or older. Further, of those 416 seasons, only 21 have come in the player’s age 33 season or older, so with both Irvin and Griffen set to see 2020 as their age 33 season, it could be rough for the team if both went down with injury.
Seeing players over 30 get bit by the injury bug over the course of the season is not something foreign to the Seahawks. In January the team was forced to start George Fant at left tackle and Jamarco Jones at left guard in the Wild Card win over the Philadelphia Eagles following injuries to Duane Brown and Mike Iupati, so it would make sense if the team were reluctant to rely on a rebuilt pass rush who will be 33 at the end of the year.
Obviously, the team likely hopes that recent draft picks Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson can carry some of the load when it comes to the pass rush. However, as was seen with 2019 first round pick L.J. Collier, there’s no guarantee that the newly drafted players will see a significant role during the season. That becomes especially true if the coronavirus pandemic results in an abbreviated preseason period, during which younger players do not have the time to learn their assignments and duties. Younger players are already set to face an uphill battle with training camp practices reduced even further under the new CBA, meaning fans may be even more disappointed with rookie production than in seasons past.
In any case, Mike Garofolo of the NFL Network provided a tiny nugget of insight into the Seahawks search for pass rush late in free agency on 950 KJR Thursday.
Thus, according to reports there’s been some level of communication between Griffen and the Seattle front office, while there has been no communication between Clowney and the Seahawks. That said, John Schneider also weighed in on Clowney during an interview with 710 ESPN on Thursday, stating that Clowney is under to rush to sign.
#Seahawks GM John Schneider on the DE position, drafting a few and where it stands with Jadeveon Clowney:— Jessamyn McIntyre (@JessamynMcIntyr) April 30, 2020
"We gave that a go several times. He was in a position where he didn't have to make a decision (right away)." @710ESPNSeattle
Before anyone rushes to the comments section to argue that Clowney needs to sign before all the money dries up, cap space is not an issue. According to the NFLPA public salary cap report, there is $462,534,753 in available cap space across the NFL just for 2020. And that $462.5M is without using any creative structuring to borrow cap from future seasons. Any capologist for any team across the league can structure a one year deal in such a way that the 2020 cap hit is minimal by pushing cap hit into future seasons.
With six credited seasons under his belt, Clowney’s minimum salary is $910,000 for 2020. So, depending on how creative a team wanted to get in structuring a deal, it’s entirely possible to give Clowney a contract that is effectively for one-year, at $15M or $20M, but which carries a cap hit of just $910,000. Basically, if anyone tells you the NFL has a hard cap and that cap space is drying up, simply laugh in their face. This is because while there is a hard cap in any single season, it’s very easy to structure a contract that borrows cap space from up to five or six years into the future, simply depending on how patient a player is willing to be to receive their money (Author’s note: There are outside solutions for players who see it as their money and they want it now).
Thus, while Schneider says Clowney has the luxury of not needing to rush to sign a deal, what does that say for his market? Are there teams poking around? He’s obviously been linked to the Tennessee Titans and the Cleveland Browns, but what about other teams. According to Tony Pauline, the New York Jets have been poking around and Clowney could be interested in playing in the Big Apple.
Have you heard if the Jets are talking to Logan Ryan or Jadaveon Clowney? Any chance they get one or both?
Logan Ryan seems to be in a holding pattern.
Those close to the situation tell me the Jets have been “fishing around” Clowney and if they are serious about acquiring him and put forth a good offer, then they have a legitimate shot. People in his camp tell me Clowney would love to play for a big market team such as the Jets.
That being the case, I’m told it’s expected to be a long process and nothing is imminent.
At the end of the day, what does it all mean? It means it’s the offseason, we’re all bored and the Seahawks seem likely to add another pass rusher at some point. However, exactly who they add and when they add them is anyone’s guess. While that may not be what fans who are tired of talking about Clowney and Griffen and free agent pass rushers want to hear, at least it’s something to talk about during the offseason.