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How might the Seahawks use their available cap space?

NFL: SEP 12 Seahawks at Colts Photo by Jeffrey Brown/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Seahawks currently have $10,712,198 in cap space. That is the 10th-most in the NFL. The Steelers are #9 with $10,714,508; a difference of $2,310. Pittsburgh doesn’t actually have anything to do with this article; I just thought that was interesting and I sort of needed another sentence so I could call this a paragraph.

Joking aside, I mention Seattle’s cap space because many of the 12s, myself included, have some suggestions for how the team might consider using that cap space. For example:

  • An outside corner so that we’re not starting Tre Flowers any longer than necessary
  • A better center than Kyle Fuller with more availability than Ethan Pocic
  • Geno Atkins
  • Josh Gordon - now that he has finally been reinstated by the league (!!)

What is Seattle’s current regime known for though?

The correct answer is lots and lots and lots of things (insert your own list here).

However, the answer I was looking for is zagging when everyone thinks they should zig.

It is under that premise that I offer the following suggestion:

Keep an eye on Detroit.

That is all.

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.

.

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Alright, that’s not really the end of the article. I just like messing with my fellow 12s sometimes and telling y’all to keep an eye on an 0-2 team (that should be an 0-3 team after playing Baltimore on Sunday) is somewhat amusing.

Especially since I’m from Michigan and actually “like” the Lions.

Seriously though ...

Keep an eye on Detroit.

And not because they’ve put LB Jamie Collins on the trade block.

No, no, no ....

Keep an eye on what happens when Left Tackle Taylor Decker is eligible (and ready) to return from injured reserve.

Indianapolis Colts v Detroit Lions Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images

First things first

Before I dive into who Taylor Decker is, why he might be available, and what the long-term plan would be if Seattle were to acquire him, let me make one thing very clear ...

I believe that Duane Brown will start either 20 or 21 games for Seattle this year - atleft tackle. I am not suggesting otherwise.

That said, Duane Brown is a free agent after the season and it certainly seems far from certain that the Seahawks will re-sign him.

If JS/PC opt to move on from Brown then they need a succession plan and, I’m sorry, but I don’t think the Seahawks really want to go from Duane Brown in 2021 to Stone Forsythe in 2022 - not if they have another a better option.

Brown and Decker, head-to-head

It’s been said that left tackle is the second-most important position in football. Since I am suggesting that Seattle might want to consider transitioning from Brown to Decker after this season, let’s compare the two players:

  • Age: Brown would be 37 next season; Decker will be 29. (Fun Fact: Their birthdays are a week apart - 8/23 for Decker; 8/30 for Brown.)
  • 2020 Snap Count: 1,048 offensive snaps apiece. Yes, exactly the same number.
  • 2020 Pressures: 34 for Brown; 29 for Decker.
  • 2020 Sacks Allowed: 2 each.
  • 2020 QB Hits: 5 for Brown; 8 for Decker.
  • 2020 QB Hurries: 27 for Brown; 19 for Decker.

And, for those that like PFF:

  • 2020 Overall: Taylor Decker #11, Duane Brown #6 (of 130+)
  • 2020 Pass-Block: Decker #8, Brown #12
  • 2020 Run-Block: Decker #32, Brown #15 (tied)

I don’t know about the rest of y’all, but Brown in 2021 to Decker in 2022 seems like a pretty good succession plan to me.

Assuming, of course, that Seattle is planning to move on from Duane Brown.

So ... Who is Taylor Decker and why might he be available?

For those that don’t know his background, Decker was the starting Left Tackle for the Ohio State Buckeyes when they beat the Oregon Ducks 42-20 to claim the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship in 2015. The Detroit Lions selected him with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, exercised his 5th-year option, and then signed him to an extension last September.

Decker started all 16 games his rookie season but missed half of his second season due to an offseason shoulder injury (and surgery). From 2018-2020, he appeared in (and started) 47 of 48 possible games.

You’ve already seen his numbers from last season, so let’s look at WHY he might be available ...

Two words. Penei Sewell.

Despite the presence of Taylor Decker, his fresh extension, and his solid play in 2020, the Lions selected the “generational talent” from the University of Oregon with the 7th pick in this year’s draft (and, honestly, they’d have been crazy not to).

Naturally - and I say that with as much sarcasm as possible, the Lions decided to play Sewell at Right Tackle.

Surprising exactly no one (other than Detroit’s coaching staff, of course), that didn’t work so well. During the preseason, PFF graded 176 offensive tackles and Penei Sewell finished ahead of only 7 of them (#169 overall).

Note: If you have a PFF subscription, go check out who was ranked behind him. There’s one name that will definitely stand out to my fellow 12s.

Three days before the regular season opener, the Lions caught a break ... so to speak. During a pass rush drill in practice, Taylor Decker injured his finger. On September 11th, the Lions put him on IR. This allowed them to move Penei Sewell back to his natural position on the left side of the line and ...

Through the first 2 weeks of the season, PFF has Sewell graded at #13 overall. Not too bad for a rookie, right? Pretty damn impressive even.

Bottom line: Sewell is much better at left tackle than he is at right tackle.

So ...

I’ll repeat my earlier suggestion ...

Keep an eye on what happens when left tackle Taylor Decker is eligible (and ready) to return from Injured Reserve.

Detroit has options

As I see it, Detroit has 3 options once Decker is ready to return from IR:

Option 1: They could play Decker at right tackle where Matt Nelson has struggled the first 2 weeks.

Option 2: They could move Sewell to RT and play Decker at LT.

Or ...

Option 3: They could quietly (or not so quietly) make Taylor Decker available via trade.

Honestly, Option 1 makes a lot of sense ... except for 2 things: (1) Detroit is rebuilding; and (2) Decker hasn’t played RT since his sophomore year of college. Why risk potentially decreasing Decker’s trade value in a “lost” season?

Option 2 is what I think Detroit will do - at least initially.

Option 3 is what they should do.

Would Seattle be interested in Decker?

To revisit what I wrote earlier, I believe that Duane Brown will be the starting left tackle for every one of Seattle’s games this year.

But ...

How do the Seahawks look at right tackle right now?

Answer: Brandon Shell has been ruled out for Sunday’s game in Minnesota and his primary backup, Cedric Ogbuehi, is on IR.

Obviously, Decker wouldn’t help Seattle this weekend.

He would, however, make a real nice bookend opposite Duane Brown as the Seahawks make a push for the Super Bowl this year ...

So ...

To answer my own question ...

YES! I do think Seattle would be interested in Taylor Decker.

At what cost?

This is what it all comes down to, of course.

Decker would provide a solid succession plan at left tackle in 2022 (and beyond), and he could provide an upgrade at right tackle (and “insurance” at left tackle) until then.

The question is “cost” - which comes in two forms. Well, technically it comes in more than two forms but, for today, we’re only looking at:

  1. The salary cap implications
  2. Draft compensation

For the cap implications, I’m going to separate 2021 from future seasons - for reasons which either are or will (should) become clear.

For the draft compensation, well ... we’ll get to that.

2021 Cap implications

  • Taylor Decker: $1M base salary (fully guaranteed) - $3.9M dead money (which would be Detroit’s responsibility)
  • Brandon Shell: $3.075M base salary + $425,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($2M dead money)
  • Cedric Ogbuehi: $1.1M base salary + $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses ($700,000 in dead money; split between 2021 and 2022’s void year)
  • Jamarco Jones: $850,000 base salary ($61,251 in dead money)

Ignore Shell and Ogbuehi; they’re included mostly for reference. As vested veterans, the only way Seattle “saves” money is by trading them and I am not suggesting that Seattle should (or would) trade them.

Jamarco Jones, on the other hand ...

  • With only 3 accrued seasons, Jones could be released at any time and Seattle would save every penny remaining on his contract
  • The cost to “upgrade” from Jones to Decker is basically $150,000 (this year)

Note: If interested, Duane Brown’s contract information can be found HERE.

Decker’s future cap implications

  • 2022: $14.75M base salary ($7.65M guaranteed) + $250,000 workout bonus; $15M total
  • 2023: $13.7M base salary ($2.5M guaranteed) + $250,000 workout bonus; $13.95M total
  • 2024: $12.95M base salary + $500,000 roster bonus + $250,000 workout bonus; $13.7M total

To me, there’s nothing not to like there. Three years for a total of $42.65M probably isn’t any more expensive than Duane Brown would be if Seattle extended or re-signed him for 3 more seasons.

Of course, there is another side to the cap implications ... Detroit’s side.

Dead money

Decker currently has $18M in dead money on his contract.

The Lions are on the hook for $3.9M of that in 2021 regardless of what they do.

If Detroit trades Decker before the deadline then the remaining $14.1M hits their cap in 2022. Trading him after the season and designating the trade as a post-June 1st transaction could spread that $14.1M hit over the 2022 and 2023 seasons.

Given that Detroit is willing to eat a little over $9.3M by trading Jamie Collins, I don’t expect the dead money on Decker’s contract to be an issue.

Draft / trade compensation

So ...

What would take to wrest Taylor Decker away from the Detroit Lions?

Frankly, I have no idea. And, worse, I think I’d just make myself look foolish if I tried to hazard a guess.

Here is what I do know though:

  • Decker was a first round pick 5 years ago
  • He played well enough to have his 5th-year option exercised
  • Detroit gave him a healthy extension prior to the 2020 season - his $14.9M APY currently ranks 10th overall for LTs (per OTC)
  • He is one of the better left tackles in the league

Add all of that up, adjust accordingly for the dead money the Lions would have to swallow and ...

Your guess is as good as mine. (Probably better.)

Bottom line

Detroit is on the verge of having the left tackle equivalent of a Quarterback controversy and my sense is that it may result in Taylor Decker being shipped out of Motown.

Acquiring him would probably not be cheap.

Taylor Decker may, however, be worth keeping an eye on - especially given the current regime’s penchant for zagging.