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If I were John and Pete (Part Six)

Free agency! Who stays, who goes, and who does Seattle pursue?

John Schneider and Pete Carroll (2015) The Seattle Times

According to Spotrac’s super-duper 2021 NFL Free Agents tracker, there are currently 793 players who are either already free agents (ex. J.J. Watt) or will become free agents in four weeks’ time.

That’s an average of almost 25 per team. And with half the teams in the league currently over the cap, the number of free agents will increase as teams start shedding salaries.

Update: As of 2/16, only 12 teams are over the cap. The Texans got on “the right side of the line” by releasing J.J. Watt. Other teams have made similar moves. And more are clearly coming.

If I were a betting pseudonym, I would put the over/under at 900 players when the new league year starts.

Whatever the number ends up being, it should be interesting!


Teams can begin signing free agents on March 17th at 4PM EST / 1PM PST.


Setting the stage for Seattle

In previous installments of this series, Seattle traded both Russell Wilson (Part Three) and DK Metcalf (Part Four).

However, as free agency approaches, both players are still on the team.

It may seem cold, callous, and/or unethical, but the front office will definitely leverage their presence when “selling” free agents on signing here.

In Part Five of this series, the front office freed up roughly $40M in cap space by extending the contracts of 12 current players. However, only 6 of those 12 extensions would take place before free agency opens, thus only $25M of that $40M is available on March 17th.

Separate from this series, Seattle had about $5M in cap space. $5M + $25M = $30M. With $30M in cap space, Seattle can add some key pieces, but . . .

  • Historically, this regime does not dip heavily into the “first wave” of free agency; and
  • When they do, it is seldom for a player (or players) that 12s expect

Seattle’s “needs” this offseason

Reviewing dozens of articles and newsfeed reports, the media consensus appears to be that Seattle’s biggest needs are on the lines (EDGE, OT, IOL, IDL) followed by WR, CB, RB, TE, and LB; more or less in that order.

. . . basically everything except QB - and kickers

If I were John and Pete, I might point out that we have L.J. Collier (R1, #29, 2019) and Darrell Taylor (R2, #48, 2020) penciled in as the starters at EDGE and that the Left Guard and Center spots are far more urgent. I wouldn’t argue too hard though as depth is certainly needed on both lines.

Separate from the need for fresh bodies on the lines, what would concern me the most, if I were John and Pete, is that HALF of the starters from Week 1 are free agents. The situation is a little less dire if the playoff lineup is used as it drops the number of starters we need to retain or replace from 11 to “only” 8.

NOTE: By season’s end, Carlos Dunlap had taken Benson Mayowa’s starting spot, Jordyn Brooks had replaced Bruce Irvin, and D.J. Reed was at LCB instead of Quinton Dunbar.


Seattle’s “in-house” free agents

Seattle’s 35 free agents can be sorted into three tiers: Starters, Key Reserves, and Depth.

STARTERS

  • Offense: RB Chris Carson, LG Mike Iupati, C Ethan Pocic, TE Greg Olsen (retired), and WR David Moore
  • Defense: DT Poona Ford, EDGE Benson Mayowa, LB Bruce Irvin, LB K.J. Wright, CB Shaquill Griffin, and CB Quinton Dunbar.

KEY RESERVES

  • Offense: RB Carlos Hyde, TE Jacob Hollister, RT Cedric Ogbuehi (started when Brandon Shell was out), LG Jordan Simmons (started when Mike Iupati was out), and FB/ST Nick Bellore
  • Defense: CB/ST Neiko Thorpe (one of Seattle’s team captains), DT Bryan Mone, LB Shaquem Griffin, and CB Ryan Neal

DEPTH

  • Offense: QB Geno Smith, TE Luke Willson, WR Phillip Dorsett, OL Chance Warmack (released), OL Chad Wheeler (released), RB Patrick Carr, TE Stephen Sullivan (signed with Carolina), and RB Bo Scarbrough
  • Defense: EDGE Branden Jackson (season-long IR), S Damarious Randall, IDL Damontre Moore, IDL Jonathan Bullard, S Delano Hill, CB Linden Stephens, LG Kyle Fuller, and CB Jayson Stanley

NOTE: Six of Seattle’s 35 free agents are “Exclusive Rights Free Agents” which means they can only negotiate with the Seahawks. This means that fan-favorite Ryan Neal should be back next season, along with Bryan Mone, Jayson Stanley, Kyle Fuller, Linden Stephens, and Patrick Carr.


Keeping our own

This is going to sound harsh, but if I were John and Pete, there is not a single player on the “in-house” list that I would consider a “high priority.”

Do I want several of them back? Absolutely.

Am I going to “break the bank” for any of them? No way.

As one commenter (Worsted Yarn) said in the comments of this article: Age, health, inconsistency, cost clears the board. Left with ... Pocic.

Personally, I would let Pocic walk too.

There are, however a handful of players on the “in-house” list that I would sit down and have a heart-to-heart with before free agency starts.

KJ WRIGHT

Admittedly, 90% of this is sentimental. He is the longest-tenured Seahawks player and a 2-year extension would let him finish a 12-year career in the Pacific Northwest.

An argument could be made that K.J. doesn’t have a role on the team in 2021, but an argument could also be made that he was the defense’s MVP in 2020. If I were John and Pete, I would offer him a 2-year, $12M contract.

If he turns me down, I thank him for his years of service and move on.

SHAQUILL GRIFFIN

A year ago, I might have considered “tagging” Shaquill to keep him in Seattle. I would ask him what he’s expecting, but if it’s more than $8M APY, I have to pass.

Shaquem leaves town with him.

CHRIS CARSON

Carson has been a key contributor, but durability is a concern. The bigger issue, however, is the 3-year, $30M contract PFF is predicting. If I were John and Pete, that’s roughly double what I am willing to pay.

BENSON MAYOYA

Yes, he’s a role-player at this point in his career, but Seattle’s defense needs depth and he provides that. A 2-year, $6.5M contract might make sense for both sides.

BRUCE IRVIN

Irvin took home $4.625M for 2 games of action in 2020. I would like to see him finish his career with two full seasons at Lumen Field. To me, 2 years, $7M seems reasonable.

POONA FORD

Honestly, given that he was a UDFA who not only earned a spot on the team his rookie year but also started 30 games the last 2 seasons (31 overall), I am 100% okay with the idea of placing a second-round tender on Mr. Ford. He gets a well-earned raise; we get a 2nd round pick if he leaves.

However, I want to sign him to a longer contract. 3 years, $12M with a $3M signing bonus seems like a logical place to land.

NOTE: I went back and forth on including Quinton Dunbar because I think Seattle makes him an offer if Griffin leaves. If I were John and Pete, I would look to bring someone in from outside the organization instead.

My message to the rest of Seattle’s in-house free agents would be simple: Please test free agency and give us a chance to match your best offer.

Maybe they do, maybe they don’t.

I’m okay either way.


Free agents targets from other teams

Keeping in mind the free agency approach that the current regime has historically taken, it seems reasonable to assume that anyone on a “Top 50 Free Agents” list is unlikely to end up in Seattle - unless they are already here.

This means that 12s aren’t going to see the Seahawks pursue:

  • Any of the top WRs (Chris Godwin, Allen Robinson II, Kenny Golladay, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Will Fuller V, Corey Davis); or
  • A monster EDGE (Shaquil Barrett, Bud Dupree, Matthew Judon, Yannick Ngakoue); or
  • A tier-one offensive lineman (Trent Williams, Brandon Scherff, Corey Linsley, Taylor Moton, Joe Thuney); or
  • A Pro Bowl corner over the age of 30 (Richard Sherman, Patrick Peterson).

That is probably okay though.

As a 12, I wouldn’t mind seeing Richard Sherman retire as a Seahawk, but it’s not happening - not at his age and with an expected cost north of 2/$20M.


Setting Seattle’s new OC up for success

In Part Two of this series, I wrote:

Having just poached two coaches from the Rams, does Seattle target L.A.’s free agents as well? Would signing TE Gerald Everett and/or WR Josh Reynolds make sense? How about C Austin Blythe, EDGE Leonard Floyd, or CB Darious Williams?

EDGE Leonard Floyd would certainly be a nice addition, but PFF projects that it will take $40M over 3 years to land him and that rules Seattle out.

However, if I were John and Pete, and Shane Waldron asked me to sign TE Gerald Everett, WR Josh Reynolds, and C Austin Blythe . . .

“Welcome to the Pacific Northwest, Messrs. Everett, Reynolds, and Blythe.

The offers:

  • Everett: 3/$15M ($5M APY)
  • Reynolds: 3/$12.75M ($4.25M APY)
  • Blythe: 3/$20M ($6.67M APY)

At most. And each of those is with “Shane Waldron wants them” factored in.


Potential targets, grouped by areas of need

Defensive Line

Haason Reddick (EDGE, Arizona)

After 3 subpar years at linebacker, Reddick moved to EDGE in 2020 and WoW! Reddick recorded 12.5 sacks and was a veritable one-man wrecking crew against the Giants last December. Unfortunately, that one game probably pushed him out of Seattle’s reach.

However, if I were John and Pete, this might be the one free agent that I am willing to go outside my comfort zone for. My offer is 3 years, $24M, but I’m willing to add $1M in incentives each season so it maxes out at 3/$27M. APY: $8M to $9M

Romeo Okwara (EDGE, Detroit)

He’s a 2016 UDFA with an uneven career who is on people’s radar because he had 10 sacks and forced 3 fumbles in 2020. He also had a solid year in 2018. I would offer him a 4-year, $25M contract. APY: $6.25M

NOTE: I was going to list Jadeveon Clowney first and make a joke about Round 2 of “The Clowney Watch”. Sadly, there isn’t a sarcasm font for writers to use in the articles.

Offensive Line

Matt Feiler (RT/LG, Pittsburgh)

Mr. Feiler has been rated by PFF as “above average” at both Right Tackle and Left Guard for his entire career. If I were John and Pete, I would be very interested in signing the 28yo free agent to take Mike Iupati’s spot at Left Guard. A 3-year, $18M or 4-year, $24M deal should get it done. APY: $6M

David Andrews (C, New England)

The fact that he’s 7 years younger than Alex Mack and is likely to cost the same amount on a per year basis (est. $6M APY) makes Andrews a good fallback if Seattle doesn’t land Austin Blythe (Rams). I would offer Mr. Andrews a 4-year contract.

Cam Robinson (OT, Jacksonville)

Robinson is a former 2nd-round pick (2017, #34 overall), but he’s a reclamation project at this point. Still, he should cost less than Cedric Ogbuehi ($2,237,500 in 2020) and provide a much higher ceiling as a backup tackle. I would offer him a 3-year, $6M contract with incentives that could bump it to $8M. APY: $2M; max $2.67M

Pass Catchers

Danny Amendola seems to be defying time. Seriously!

The sure-handed receiver is 35, but he averaged a career-high 13.1 yards per reception in 2020. Amendola has never had more than 689 receiving yards in a season, but he’s topped 600 in seven of his 13 seasons, including 3 of the last 4 (he had 575 in 2018).

It probably takes a 2-year, $10M offer to land him, but if I were John and Pete, I would make it happen. APY: $5M

Jared Cook (TE, New Orleans)

Cook will be 34 when the 2021 season starts so he’s not a long-term option for Seattle. But he’s a big-bodied pass catcher whose career average is 13.2 yards per catch. He scored a career-high 9 TDs in 2019 and another 7 in 2020. PFF says it will take $5M on a 1-year deal to land him, but I think 2/$9M + some incentives would be a win-win. APY: $4.5M

Cornerback

San Francisco has EIGHT cornerbacks that are free agents this year. If I were John and Pete, I might “kick the tires” on 3 of them:

  • Looking strictly at cost versus value, Emmanuel Moseley stands out to me. He’s a 2018 UDFA out of Tennessee who played 48.1% of the 9ers defensive snaps in 2020 with 9 PDs and 1 INT. Moseley wouldn’t be a “big” signing; but if I can get him for 3/$7M, he might be a valuable one. APY: $2.33M (2018 scouting report)

  • Jason Verrett would be a risky signing as he has missed 33 games the past 3 seasons (31 due to injury + 2 healthy scratches). Still, his talent and athleticism are undeniable and 2020 was a solid year for him. The contract structure would be critical in order to “protect” Seattle, but an offer of 2/$10M or 3/$15M may get him here. APY: $5M

  • Ahkello Witherspoon is another interesting option but I would much rather have Moseley or Verrett if I’m poaching a corner from the 9ers.

Other options, outside the Bay Area, include:

  • Houston’s Gareon Conley has the 2nd-best rate of “forced incompletions” since 2017. I don’t know how long PFF has been tracking that stat, but it sounds impressive. A 2-year, $5M deal probably brings Conley to Seattle. APY: $2.5M

  • Denver’s A.J. Bouye is considered a reclamation project today, but he was pretty darn good a couple years back. In 2017, he had 18 PDs and was named to the Pro Bowl; the year before he had 16 PDs. PFF says it will take an APY of $5M to land him. If so, that’s “too rich” for me; but if he’d sign a 3-year, $10M contract with some incentives, we can talk. APY: $3.33M

  • Green Bay’s Kevin King is another reclamation project, but arguably has more upside than A.J. Bouye, including his being 4 years younger. King is a local player (UW) who was the first pick in the 2nd round of the 2017 draft. The same 3-year, $10M contract that I would offer to Bouye should work for King, except that King is more likely to accept it (PFF projects him at $3.5M per year). APY: $3.33M

Backfield (RB/FB)

  • Mike Davis (RB, Carolina) Aside from my soft spot for former Seahawks, the thing that makes Mr. Davis appealing is the 59 receptions he had last season. He wouldn’t be my RB1 but his running style suits my RB2 and his hands make him a weapon the new OC could utilize. 2 years, $8M might not get it done, but that’s what I would offer him. APY: $4M

  • Todd Gurley (RB, Atlanta). Landing Gurley would likely take a contract in the 2/$10M to 3/$18M range - which isn’t terrible considering that he’s an All-Pro who had 2,093 scrimmage yards in 2017 and another 1,831 scrimmage yards in 2018, He is a few years removed from that, of course, but there’s no question about his talent. Reuniting him with Shane Waldron in Seattle could be F-U-N. Assuming, of course, that Mr. Waldron wants him. APY: $5M to $6M

  • Rex Burkhead (RB, New England). This could be an “under the radar” signing for Seattle. Burkhead is probably no better than RB3, maybe RB4, but PFF thinks he’ll sign for close to the veteran minimum ($1.5M) and he’s a legitimate threat out of the backfield as a route runner. APY: $1.5M

  • Kyle Juszczyk (FB, San Francisco). A fullback like Juszczyk would be incredibly tempting for a Pete Carroll offense, but Juszczyk made more than 5x what FB Nick Bellore did in 2021 so the price would be hard to justify. APY: $5M to $7M

Other free agents to consider

  • Denzel Perryman (LB, LAC). Perryman is an old-school “run-thumping” linebacker who would bring some ferocity to the Seahawks defense. He isn’t an option if K.J. Wright returns for an 11th season, but if I were John and Pete and could add Perryman for an APY of $6M or so, I would be interested.

  • Robert Griffin III (QB, Baltimore). Seattle isn’t going to sign a QB as anything but a backup until after Wilson is traded, but doesn’t mean that the Seahawks don’t NEED a quarterback; Geno Smith is a free agent after all. RG3 earned $2.5M in 2020 but I’m offering him a 3-year, $6.5M contract. APY: $2.17M

  • Jameis Winston (QB, New Orleans) . Winston is expected to sign a 1-year, $7M contract that is fully guaranteed. I’m not paying my backup QB $7M so Winston doesn’t get signed while RW3 is in town. But when I trade him, Winston might become a viable option.

  • Cam Newton (QB, New England). Everything about Winston applies to Newton, with one exception. PFF thinks he’ll get a 1 year, $5M contract so it’s at least conceivable that Seattle could bring him in with Wilson still on the roster.

WORTH NOTING: Both Winston (2015) and Newton (2011) were the #1 overall pick the year they were drafted. RG3 was #2 overall in 2012.


Series Update

This series was originally planned as a 3-part’er. That changed when Mookie and I realized how long the 2nd and 3rd parts would end up being.

Since then, I have been working under the premise that it would be a 6 or 7-part series and that this installment would cover both free agency and the draft. Free agency alone took 3,000 words.

Thus, the series expands again. For the final time.

  • Part Seven will look at the NFL Draft. And, in what I expect will be a welcome change of pace for most readers, it will look at the draft from the perspective of the picks Seattle currently has, not the picks that Seattle could get from trading two of its biggest stars.

  • Part Eight will look at the decisions I am making (as John and Pete), the rationale / philosophy behind them, and why I think they would give the Seahawks the best chance of winning multiple Lombardi trophies over the next five seasons.

  • Part Nine will wrap everything up and, hopefully, put a little bow on top of it.

On a personal note, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and can’t help but think about how George Lucas’s original idea for a 3-part film series expanded into a 9-part movie franchise (aka the Skywalker saga).