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What ‘running it back’ in 2022 would look like for the Seahawks

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NFL Combine Photo by Michael Hickey/Getty Images

As Pete Carroll tells it, the Seattle Seahawks would like to bring back (aka re-sign) basically every meaningful contributor from the 2021 team that is scheduled to be a free agent, including (but probably not limited to) :

  1. FS Quandre Diggs
  2. RCB D.J. Reed
  3. LCB Sidney Jones IV
  4. LT Duane Brown
  5. OC Ethan Pocic
  6. RT Brandon Shell
  7. TE Gerald Everett
  8. RB Rashaad Penny

At first glance (slash listen), I assumed that Pete’s comments at the NFL Combine were just “Pete being Pete” and saying nice things about “his guys” while ignoring the cold, harsh realities of the NFL offseason. But then I remembered hearing (and reading) the phrase “run it back” a whole lot right after the Seahawks 2021 season ended and, naturally, that got me curious.

What could the 12s expect if Seattle re-signed all 8 of their “core” free agents - i.e,, Quandre Diggs, D.J. Reed, Sidney Jones, Duane Brown, Ethan Pocic, Brandon Shell, Gerald Everett, and Rashaad Penny?

More specifically, how would retaining those 8 players affect the team’s salary cap situation and what would the on-field product ultimately look like?

Let’s start with the latter.


Better than expected?

It may come as a surprise, but Seattle’s offense finished the 2021 season ranked 7th in DVOA. Five of the 6 teams that finished ahead of them made the playoffs with the Los Angeles Chargers being the only exception.

To help put the offense’s 7th-place DVOA into perspective:

  • The team was running a new offensive scheme under a new Offensive Coordinator and the offense was maddeningly inconsistent to start the season;
  • Russell Wilson missed a month of action after injuring his finger and struggled mightily his first few games back; and
  • The Seahawks’ offense didn’t truly “find its groove” until Week 13.

Imagine the same offensive core returning for Year 2 in Shane Waldron’s system with a fully-healthy Russell Wilson and a team-wide determination to hit the ground running (both literally and figuratively) in Week 1. That sounds pretty good, right?

__________

On the other side of the ball, imagine the defense breaking their recent trend of poor starts to their seasons (2020 + 2021 being the worst offenders) and instead starting the 2022 season the way they were playing over the final 1/3rd of the 2021 season.

Yes, the Seahawks have a new Defensive Coordinator and, yes, they’ve basically said that they’re changing from a 4-3 defense to a 3-4 defense. In theory, those changes will cause a disruption. However, Clint Hurtt, the new DC, has been with the team for years, the scheme change is something that Seattle has been working toward for a while now, and maintaining some continuity (among the defensive starters) would help minimize the impact.

Obviously, the defensive line remains a work-in-progress and the linebacker corps will get a bit “iffy” (really quickly) if Bobby Wagner isn’t involved. The secondary though ... IF Diggs, Reed, and Jones are all re-signed, the secondary could be pretty special. Maybe not Legion of Boom 2.0, but “among the league’s best” would probably not be hyperbole.

Consider:

Once the coaching staff took my advice and put him in his natural position on the right side (starting in Week 4), D.J. Reed allowed only 25 completions on 52 targets (48.1%) for 282 yards. As Seattle’s Right Cornerback, Reed didn’t give up any touchdowns, had 2 interceptions, broke up 6 passes, and had a passer rating against of 48.7.

After a very rough start to his season, Sidney Jones settled into his role with the Seahawks and put up some solid numbers. Per 710 ESPN, over the final 6 games of the 2021 season, Jones was the 4th-best cornerback in the league with opposing quarterbacks completing less than 60% of their pass attempts and posting a passer rating of 71.2 when targeting him.

And then there’s Tre Brown. While his rookie season was cut short after only 162 coverage snaps across parts of 5 games, Brown’s overall numbers were actually the best on the team. Opposing QBs were 8 of 17 (47.1%) for 75 yards with 0 touchdowns against him. That works out to a passer rating of 59.7.

Fun Fact: Among cornerbacks with at least 100 coverage snaps in 2021, Tre Brown finished 6th in passer rating allowed, behind only A.J. Green (21.4), Rasul Douglas (43.7), A.J. Terrell (47.5), J.C. Jackson (47.8), and .... Ahkello Witherspoon (48.0).

Moving on to the back half of Seattle’s secondary ...

Quandre Diggs is arguably one of the best free safeties in the league and had a very respectable passer rating of 77.9 when targeted last season.

And, for all the grief he gets about his coverage skills, Jamal Adams (aka “the league’s highest-paid safety”) finished the year with a passer rating against of 69.9. For the record, that was the 2nd-best season total of his career (trailing only the 67.3 passer rating that he allowed in 2018).


Salary cap implications

This is, of course, a theoretical exercise. Aside from those actively involved in the contract negotiations, no one (including yours truly) really knows what the contracts for any of these 8 players will look like or what the actual cap hits for 2022 will be. However, the internet is full of useful resources (primarily PFF in this case) and even a broken clock is right twice a day, so who knows; maybe some of these numbers will end up being pretty close.

Quandre Diggs

Spotrac estimates that Diggs will sign a 3-year contract worth ~$36.5M. If we assume that Diggs gets a $12M signing bonus (prorated at $4M per season) and has a base salary of $1.5M in 2022, his cap hit this year would be $5.5M.

D.J. Reed

Over on Seahawk Maven, Corbin Smith is predicting that it will take a contract with an APY of $7M to $9M for the Seahawks to re-sign D.J. Reed. PFF thinks that Reed will get a 3-year, $24M deal. Personally, I think Reed will get at least one offer with an 8-figure average.

For the purposes of this article, we’ll assume Smith is right and go with the $9M per year figure on a 3-year deal. We’ll also assume that Reed gets a $9M signing bonus (prorated at $3M/year) and a $1.5M base salary. That would put his 2022 cap hit at $4.5M.

Sidney Jones IV

PFF is expecting Jones to sign a 1-year, $4.25M contract. Since it’s not a multi-year deal (in this scenario), all $4.25M goes on the 2022 cap.

Note: The Seahawks could sign Jones to a 1-year deal with a void year or two and lower the 2022 cap hit by ~$2M (if they were so-inclined).

Duane Brown

Pro Football Focus ranks Brown as the 32nd-best free agent and projects that he’ll sign a 2-year, $20M contract. With a $10M signing bonus (prorated at $5M/year) and a base salary of $1.5M, Brown’s 2022 cap hit would be $6.5M.

Brandon Shell

Seattle’s “other” tackle is PFF’s 118th-ranked free agent. They’re predicting a 3-year contract with an APY of $6.25M ($18.75M total) with $10.25M guaranteed. I would definitely not sign him for that but, for this exercise, we’re assuming the Seahawks do. With a base salary of $1.25M and a signing bonus of $6M (prorated at $2M/year), Shell would have a 2022 cap hit of $3.25M.

Ethan Pocic

Having read (and watched) John Morgan’s recent 4-part evaluation series on Seattle’s starting Center (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Conclusion), I am somewhat resigned to re-signing Ethan Pocic. Thus, PFF’s prediction of a 3-year, $12M contract barely fazes me. Assuming the Seahawks give Pocic a $3M signing bonus (prorated at $1M/year) and a $1.5M base salary, his 2022 cap hit would be $2.5M.

Gerald Everett

PFF is predicting that Everett will sign a 3-year contract with an APY of $7.5M. A $1.5M base salary and a $6M signing bonus (prorated at $2M/year) would give Everett a cap hit of $3.5M in 2022.

Rashaad Penny

PFF thinks Penny will sign a 1-year “prove-it” deal for $2.02M. I think they’re nuts and most of the other sites I’ve looked at agree. An APY of $3M on a multi-year deal seems more realistic, but $2.02M it is (for now).


Math time

Diggs ($5.5M) + Reed ($4.5M) + Jones ($4.25M) + Brown ($6.5) + Shell ($3.25M) + Pocic ($2.5M) + Everett ($3.5M) + Penny ($2.02M) equals ....

$32.02M.

Per OverTheCap, Seattle currently has $33,956,030 in cap space.

I think we can all do that math.


Bottom line

Theoretically, re-signing Diggs, Reed, Jones, Brown, Shell, Pocic, Everett, and Penny is possible - but it wouldn’t leave much room for the Seahawks to sign outside free agents (or their draft picks). At least not without some other roster and/or contract maneuvering.