Nineteen players had double-digit sacks last season.
Five players finished half a sack shy.
Two of them play for the Seahawks, and two of the other three are free agents.
All four are EDGEs.
The 5th player with 9-1/2 sacks last year was rookie EDGE Aidan Hutchinson who was the 2nd overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.
Despite the fact that Seattle currently has three EDGEs who played meaningful snaps for the team last year (Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor, and Boye Mafe), two EDGEs who spent last season on IR (Alton Robinson and Tyreke Smith), and another EDGE who they signed to a Futures contract (Chris Garrett) . . .
. . . most folks seem to think Seattle needs more EDGEs.
Since I’m one of those folks, let’s attach names and ages to the non-Aidan Hutchinson EDGEs who had 9-1/2 sacks in 2022:
- Darrell Taylor, age 26 (born 3/24/1997)
- Uchenna Nwosu, age 26 (born 12/28/1996)
- Yannick Ngakoue, age 28 (born 3/31/1995)
- Justin Houston, age 34 (born 1/21/1989)
Now, let’s look at how many defensive snaps those 4 EDGEs played last year, and how many of them were pass-rush snaps:
(stats courtesy of PFF)
- Taylor: 403 defensive snaps, 291 pass-rush
- Nwosu: 952 and 448
- Ngakoue: 733 and 434
- Houston: 423 and 306
The simple takeaway here is that Uchenna Nwosu and Yannick Ngakoue as the starters with Darrell Taylor and Justin Houston as the backups would be a heck of a rotation for the Seahawks this season. Pencil our EDGEs in for 38 sacks this season!
Things are almost never that simple though.
All offseason, 12s have been clamoring for an extension for Uchenna Nwosu while simultaneously suggesting that Darrell Taylor is perhaps on the hot seat in 2023.
That’s not a criticism, nor do I disagree.
Looking at the numbers though, Taylor had the same number of sacks as Nwosu last year on 157 fewer pass-rush snaps. Thus, if pass rush is the primary focus for our EDGE rushers, Darrell Taylor would seem to be a keeper.
On the flip side . . .
Taylor lost his starting role after Week 3, never regained it, and ended the year with only 51 more defensive snaps than a rookie (Boye Mafe, 452), and only 67 more defensive snaps than a grizzled vet (Bruce Irvin, 436).
EDGEs are expected to be good at more than just pass rushing, and Darrell Taylor struggled with that last season.
To understand how much Taylor struggled, let’s look at the PFF rankings for him, Uchenna Nwosu, and Boye Mafe.
Note: Per PFF, 200 of Boye Mafe’s defensive snaps were pass-rush snaps last season.
Out of a little over 200 EDGEs that PFF graded during the 2022 season, this is where Nwosu, Taylor, and Mafe ranked, with Taylor’s rankings in bold:
- Pass Rush: Taylor 31st, Nwosu 38th, Mafe 165th
- Run Defense: Nwosu 26th, Mafe 43rd, Taylor 187th
- Coverage: Nwosu 67th, Mafe 68th, Taylor 155th
- Tackling: Mafe 49th, Nwosu 129th, Taylor 151st
- Overall: Nwosu 44th, Mafe 85th, Taylor 132nd
The simple takeaways from these numbers are:
- Taylor and Nwosu were pretty damn good at rushing the passer; Mafe not so much (but he was a rookie and has plenty of time to improve).
- Mafe kicked Taylor’s butt in the other 4 categories.
- Nwosu and Taylor both stunk at tackling last year; Mafe was fairly decent.
- Seattle’s EDGE group has significant room for improvement in 2023 (and beyond).
For context, let’s look at how Taylor (SEA) and Nwosu (LAC) did in 2021:
- Pass Rush: Nwosu 56th, Taylor 96th
- Run Defense: Nwosu 134th, Taylor 180th
- Coverage: Taylor 34th, Nwosu 80th
- Tackling: Nwosu 140th, Taylor 196th
- Overall: Nwosu 78th, Taylor 135th
- Both players were pretty terrible at tackling in 2021 as well as last year.
- Both players improved in Run Defense last year (#7 for Taylor, +108 for Nwosu), as well as Pass Rush (+18 for Nwosu, +65 for Taylor), and Overall (+3 for Taylor, +34 for Nwosu).
- Taylor fell off a cliff in coverage (minus-121 from 2021 to 2022) while Nwosu took a step forward (+13).
Houston & Ngakoue
Now, let’s take a look at where Justin Houston and Yannick Ngakoue ranked in 2022:
- Pass Rush: Houston 27th, Ngakoue 128th
- Run Defense: Houston 63rd, Ngakoue 180th
- Coverage: Houston 59th, Ngakoue 131st
- Tackling: Ngakoue 147th, Houston 170th
- Overall: Houston 30th, Ngakoue 163rd
The simple takeaways here are:
- Both Yannick Ngakoue and Justin Houston struggled with tackling last year.
- Houston’s numbers in the other 4 categories make him an interesting option, despite his age, should Seattle decide to add another EDGE before (or after) the draft; Ngakoue, not so much.
- The numbers indicate that swapping Houston for Taylor would be a HUGE improvement.
Note: In fairness, there’s no need to “swap” Houston for Taylor until/unless a roster spot is needed as Taylor’s base salary in 2023 is a mere $1,532,434.
Two more options
Now let’s add two more EDGEs into the mix . . .
Warning: Any 12s who are squeamish should probably look away on the second one.
- Age: 30 when season starts (born 6/14/1993)
- PFF Rankings last year: 90th in Pass Rush, 119th in Run Defense, 12th in Coverage, 163rd in Tackling, 91st Overall
Frank Clark has been named to the Pro Bowl three times since leaving Seattle.
He’s played in three Super Bowls.
He has two rings.
Over his first four years in the league, all with the Seahawks, Clark had 35 sacks in 62 regular season games, plus three more sacks in five playoff games.
Since leaving Seattle, Clark has recorded 23.5 sacks in 58 regular season games, plus 10-1/2 sacks in 12 playoff games.
Rightly or wrongly, Clark has developed something of a reputation as a player who steps it up in the postseason but disappears for stretches before then.
Last year, 591 of Clark’s 884 defensive snaps came as a pass rusher, and he recorded 7-1/2 sacks (5 in the regular season + 2-1/2 in the playoffs). For that production, the Kansas City Chiefs took a cap hit of $13,286,111 in 2022 and, because they released him after the season, an additional cap hit in 2023 of $7,675,000.
Second Warning: Squeamish 12s should look away.
- Age: 30 (born 2/14/1993)
- PFF Rankings last year: 50th in Pass Rush, 22nd in Run Defense, 86th in Coverage, 16th in Tackling, and 34th Overall.
Some 12s will have zero interest in Clowney.
On some levels, I’m one of them as I still have vivid memories of my excitement when we acquired him in 2019 and my vast disappointment in how poorly he played during his only season in Seattle (with the exception of one monster game).
Note: It’s funny how the mind works because other than his tackling grade (32.4), his PFF grades during his lone season in Seattle were higher than in any season since then and his overall grade that year was the 2nd-highest of his career.
Adding to the apprehension surrounding a Clowney reunion, is the fact that the 2022 version of Jadeveon Clowney missed 5 games, played less than 500 defensive snaps (494), had 305 pass-rush snaps, and only recorded 2 sacks, while costing the Cleveland Browns a total of roughly $11M.
$11M for a part-time player with lackluster stats, despite playing with Myles-freaking-Garrett? Ouch!
To be fair, Clowney’s 2022 cap hit was only $3,467,647.
However, his release is costing the Browns $2.765M this season, and, because they designated Clowney as a post-June 1st cut, he’s costing them $4.8M in 2024.
That said, Clowney was arguably a bargain compared to Ngakoue, who cost the Indianapolis Colts $13M in 2022 (and the Las Vegas Raiders had an $8M dead money charge for him on top of that).
On the other end of the spectrum, Justin Houston only cost the Baltimore Ravens $3.5M.
A seven-way comparison
To save us all from scrolling back and forth, here are the 2022 PFF ranks for all seven EDGEs we’ve looked at thus far:
- Pass Rush: Houston 27th, Taylor 31st, Nwosu 38th, Clowney 50th, Clark 90th, Ngakoue 128th, Mafe 165th
- Run Defense: Clowney 22nd, Nwosu 26th, Mafe 43rd, Houston 63rd, Clark 119th, Ngakoue 180th, Taylor 187th
- Coverage: Clark 12th, Houston 59th, Nwosu 67th, Mafe 68th, Clowney 86th, Ngakoue 131st, Taylor 155th
- Tackling: Clowney 16th, Mafe 49th, Nwosu 129th, Houston 147th, Taylor 151st, Clark 163rd, Ngakoue 170th
- Overall: Houston 30th, Clowney 34th, Nwosu 44th, Mafe 85th, Clark 91st, Taylor 132nd, Ngakoue 163rd
Based on the above, which EDGE (or two) would you sign to add to our current group of Nwosu, Taylor, Mafe, Robinson, Smith, and Garrett?
(Don’t answer that yet.)
Expanding the field further
Rather than answering the previous question, let’s take it up a notch . . .
According to OverTheCap, there have been 63 EDGEs available in free agency this year. As of Monday:
- Seventeen of them had re-signed with the team they played for in 2022.
- Eight switched teams.
- Sixty percent of them (38 out of 63) are/were still available.
Six of the 38 EDGEs that OTC lists as still available had an APY of $10M+ on their last contract, and 8 more had an APY between $3M and $9M.
Out of those 14 players:
- Only 3 are on “the right side” of 30: Yannick Ngakoue, Dawaune Smoot, and Al-Quadin Muhammad, all of whom are 28.
- Three of them are 30: Jadeveon Clowney, Frank Clark, and Bud Dupree.
- Other “notable” EDGEs in the group of 14 include Leonard Floyd (31), Markus Golden (32), Robert Quinn (33), and Melvin Ingram (34).
There are also some potentially interesting names on the EDGE market who made less than $3M APY on their most recent contract, including Kyle Van Noy (32) and a trio of former Seahawks: Rasheem Green (26), Kerry Hyder (32), and Bruce Irvin (36).
Out of the 38 available EDGEs, who would you add?
(Don’t answer that yet.)
What would it cost to sign another EDGE (or two)?
Contract-wise, this is where PFF expected the unsigned EDGEs (that they had ranked in the top-200) to land, salary-wise, when the 2023 free agency period started:
- Dawuane Smoot: 1 year, $1.5M, with $500k guaranteed ($1.5M APY)
- Carl Nassib: 1 year, $2M, with $1.25M guaranteed ($2M APY)
- Bud Dupree: 1 year, $2.25M, with $1.23M guaranteed ($2.25M APY)
- Shaq Lawson: 1 year, $2.25M, with $1.5M guaranteed ($2.25M APY)
- Carlos Dunlap: 1 year, $3M, fully guaranteed ($3M APY)
- Kyle Van Noy: 2 years, $6.5M, with $4M guaranteed ($3.25M APY)
- Justin Houston: 1 year, $4M, with $3.5M guaranteed ($4M APY)
- Melvin Ingram III: 1 year, $4M, with 3.5M guaranteed ($4M APY)
- Robert Quinn: 1 year, $5M, with $3M guaranteed ($5M APY)
- Rasheem Green: 2 years, $10M, with $6.25M guaranteed ($5M APY)
- Frank Clark: 1 year, $6.5M, with $5M guaranteed ($6.5M APY)
- Jadeveon Clowney: 1 year, $8M, with $7M guaranteed ($8M APY)
- Leonard Floyd: 2 years, $16M, with $10.25M guaranteed ($8M APY)
- Yannick Ngakoue: 2 years, $25M, with $20M guaranteed ($12.5M APY)
That’s a lot of players and a lot of numbers.
Fortunately, a lot of those contracts are pretty easy to figure out.
- Carlos Dunlap: $1.5M signing bonus, $1.5M base salary, $3M cap hit in 2023.
- Robert Quinn: $3M signing bonus, $2M base salary, $5M cap hit in 2023.
Obviously there’s variations on a theme. For instance, Quinn’s signing bonus could be $1M, his base salary could be $2M (guaranteed), and he could have $2M in incentives that are Likely To Be Earned (LTBE).
That said, the players that I’m interested in making offers to are:
- Justin Houston
- Frank Clark
- Jadeveon Clowney
- Yannick Ngakoue
1. I used PFF’s estimates as a guide when coming up with these offers, but the longer these players sit on the market, the lower their contracts are likely to be. And, in one case, I think the estimate is way off.
2. I’m offering three of the four players two options: a 1-year deal, and a 2-year deal.
3. All of these offers include incentives that are either LTBE (Likely To Be Earned, which means the incentive would count against that year’s salary cap) or NLTBE (Not Likely To Be Earned, which means the incentive would count against the following year’s cap if the player achieved it).
Option 1: 1 year, $3.25M (max value $4.25M)
- $1M signing bonus
- $1.4M base salary (just over the veteran min.)
- $850k in per-game roster bonuses ($50k per game)
- $1M incentive for double-digit sacks (NLTBE since he had 9.5 last season)
Note: Houston’s initial 2023 cap hit would be would be $3.1M because he missed 3 games in 2022, and it would only cost Seattle $1M if he didn’t make the final roster.
Option 2: 2 years, $7.5M (max value $9.5M)
- 2023: $2M signing bonus, $1.25M base salary, $250k incentive for 5 sacks (LTBE), $1M incentive for 10 sacks (NLTBE) - - - 2023 cap hit = $2.5M (with $1M in dead money if released after the season).
- 2024: $1M prorated bonus, $1.5M roster bonus on 5th day of league year, $1.65M base salary, $850k in per-game roster bonuses ($50k per game), $1M incentive for 10 sacks (TBD whether its LTBE or NLTBE) - - - 2024 cap hit either $5M or $7M, depending on whether or not Houston gets double-digit sacks in 2023.
Option 1: 1-year, $5M (max value $6M)
- $1M signing bonus
- $1.8M base salary
- $1.7M in per-game roster bonuses ($100k per game)
- $500k incentive for 5 sacks (LTBE); $1M incentive for 10 sacks (NLTBE)
Note: Clark’s initial 2023 cap hit would be $4.8M because he missed 2 games in 2022.
Option 2: 2-years, $10.5M (max value $12.5M)
- 2023: $3M signing bonus, $1.5M base salary, $500k incentive for 5 sacks, $1M incentive for 10 sacks - - - 2023 cap hit = $3.5M (with $1.5M in dead money if released after the season)
- 2024: $1.5M prorated bonus, $2.5M roster bonus on 5th day of league year, $2.15M base salary, $850k in per-game roster bonuses ($50k per game),$1M incentive for 10 sacks (TBD whether its LBTE or NLBTE) - - - 2024 cap hit either $7M or $8M, depending on how many sacks Clark records in 2023.
Option 1: 1 year, $6M (max value $7.5M)
- $1M signing bonus
- $1.6M base salary
- $3.4M in per-game roster bonuses ($200k per game)
- $500k incentive for 5 sacks; $1M incentive for 10 sacks (both NLTBE based on 2022 performance)
Note: Clowney’s initial 2023 cap hit would be would be $4.625M because he missed 5 games in 2022 and it would only cost Seattle $1M if he didn’t make the final 53.
Option 2: 2 years, $13M (max value $16.5M)
- 2023: $3M signing bonus, $1.3M base salary, $1.7M in per-game roster bonuses ($100k per game), $500k incentive for 5 sacks; $1.5M incentive for 10 sacks - - - 2023 cap hit = $4.5M (with $1.5M in dead money if released after the season).
- 2024: $1.5M prorated bonus, $3.5M roster bonus on 5th day of league year, $1.8M base salary, $1.7M in per-game roster bonuses ($100k per game), $1.5M incentive for 10 sacks (TBD whether its LBTE or NLBTE) - - - 2024 cap hit either $8.5M or $10M, depending on whether or not Clowney gets double-digit sacks in 2023.
Note: There is a heavy reliance on per-game roster bonuses in the offers to Clowney because he has missed at least 3 games each of the past 4 seasons, has missed a total of 19 games over that 4-year span, and has missed games in 8 of his 9 NFL seasons.
Given that Ngakoue wasn’t ranked in the top half of the league in any of PFF’s graded categories last season, a 1-year, vet-min contract almost seems like an overpay. Yet PFF thinks he’ll sign a multi-year contract with an 8-figure APY.
I’m not buying it, but I am giving him an offer (which he’ll probably find insulting and throw back in my face - c’est la vie).
Option 1 (of 1): 1 year, $3.5M (max value $7M)
- $1M signing bonus
- $1.65M base salary
- $850k in per-game roster bonuses ($50k per game)
- $700k incentives for finishing in the top-32 in any of PFF’s graded categories ($3.5M max); all five incentives are considered NLTBE for cap purposes
Note: I highly doubt an NFL team would ever base incentives on PFF grades, but I’m doing it here for illustrative purposes since he had a poor showing in all five of PFF’s graded categories last season.
Hopefully it lights a fire in him (since he can double his income by kicking ass).
Would any of these EDGEs accept any of these offers?
Maybe, maybe not.
In reality though, the offers aren’t too far from what PFF is projecting for each player, and the 2-year offers actually exceed PFF’s estimates if the incentives are achieved.
If none of them agree, so be it; I think Seattle will be fine with the EDGEs we have (even if we don’t take one in the draft), especially given the recent addition to the coaching staff (who happens to have some history with Jadeveon Clowney).
If more than one signs, even better as it makes it less likely we “reach” for an EDGE in the draft, and gives us the option of (maybe) trading one of our EDGEs at some point during the preseason.
Something is missing . . .
Before we jump to the polls, let’s address the elephant in the room . . .
The Seahawks lack the cap room to sign an EDGE, let alone 2 EDGEs, and especially not high(ish) end EDGEs like Houston, Clark, Clowney, and/or Ngakoue.
This is true.
What is also true is that Seattle’s front office can create enough cap room to sign more players if/when they decide to.
And they wouldn’t necessarily have to trade or release any current players to do it.
Per OTC, the Seahawks could free up $25,448,088 of cap space via “simple restructures” of existing contracts.
“Maximum” restructures would clear $51,448,092.
At the end of the day, John Schneider and Pete Carroll are probably going to be fairly conservative when it comes to restructuring player contracts, but . . .
“There’s always money in the banana stand.”
Join the conversation by scrolling down to the comments section at the bottom of the page!
Poll #1: Which remaining free agent EDGE would you like the Seahawks to sign (either before or after draft)?
Which remaining free agent EDGE would you like the Seahawks to sign (either before or after draft)?
This poll is closed
An inexpensive former-Seahawk (Bruce Irvin, Carlos Dunlap. Kerry Hyder, or Rasheem Green)
Someone else (Kyle Van Noy, Markus Golden, Melvin Ingram, etc.)
None of the above (Seattle doesn’t need any free agent EDGEs)
Poll #2: Should the Seahawks move on from Darrell Taylor?
Should the Seahawks move on from Darrell Taylor?
This poll is closed
Yes - we’ve seen enough; go ahead and release him now.
No - he’s still a valuable member of the team and is on a rookie contract.
Maybe - let’s bring him into camp, see how he does, and make a decision then.
Poll #3: How many EDGEs should the Seahawks select in the 2023 NFL Draft?
How many EDGEs should the Seahawks select in the 2023 NFL Draft?
This poll is closed
Three or more