Future Seahawks’ spending tied to NFL talks

June 2nd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

With the Seahawks still needing to add players before the season begins, the financial future of the league is worth keeping an eye on.

NFL.com has published an article highlighting the implications of coronavirus.

Under the terms of the CBA, the salary cap is tied to league growth. With the NFL facing a loss of revenue just like every other sport, there’s an issue to address:

Currently, the league and NFLPA are studying how the revenue could be affected and what the sure-fire losses will look like. That’s one reason why there have been barely any contract extensions and few free agents have been signed after the initial free agency period.

The goal is to make sure the salary cap goes up or at worst stays flat. But what if that’s not possible?

The language used in an article published on the NFL’s own website is encouraging. While other sports face crippling financial issues, the extent of the NFL’s problem seems to be whether or not the salary cap merely stays the same in 2021.

There’s a lot of positive talk about the league starting on time. They’ve already published a full schedule for the 2020 season. Mike Florio — who was outspoken in his opposition to free agency and the draft continuing as normal, posted a piece a month ago claiming the season would take place.

He even suggested the following:

As to the stadiums, it’s also believed that they will be open to fans, with a strong preference for open stadiums from Week One.

Revenue will be lost if the league has to be played behind closed doors or with a restricted attendance. Nobody knows for sure where we’ll be in September. Yet there appears to at least be optimism that some fans can attend games.

If there is a loss of revenue however, the NFL seems to have a plan in place:

Among the possibilities for how to smooth the cap out given expected losses is borrowing from future TV deals. New deals usually create a spike in the cap due to influx of cash, but in this case could be used to create a smooth incline and make up for losses incurred during the 2020 season. The league and the NFLPA could also agree to curtail or eliminate performance-based pay for a few years.

But some have proposed looking at the present, instead of the future, for relief. And this will require cooperation between the NFL and NFLPA.

The players’ union would have to agree to give back some money this year, thus taking on some pain in the short term to offset more in the long term. With roster bonuses, workout bonuses, option bonuses and signing bonuses already paid in the spring, the trim would likely come from the players’ base salaries, which are paid in weekly installments during the season. It’s unclear at this point, with negotiations not even underway, how big of a cut the league would request and what kind of structure the players would accept for the giveback.

The timeline for a plan to be firmed up is training camp. Whether the league borrows from the future or gives some back from the present, there’s a realistic prospect the cap will — at the very least — stay where it is for 2021.

That’s a good thing for the Seahawks if they want to make any further additions this year. They’re down to about $5-6 million in true cap space and will need to borrow from the future to make the kind of sizeable improvement to the D-line most people accept is still required.

According to Overthecap, the Seahawks are in the second tier of ‘cap health’ for 2021. They have a lot of money available in the future and they might need to use it.

Unfortunately, you’re not likely to see much action until a resolution is reached.

Jason La Canfora notes the following:

No one I spoke to expects things to change in terms of spending habits until there is more clarity about what the 2020 season will actually look like. Wallets have largely been abandoned indefinitely in NFL front offices. Sure, things might still work out well for Dak Prescott and Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson – but they are extremes as generational QB talents with significant leverage. They are not the rule, and for guards like Brendan Scherff or Joe Thuney, who were sitting on $16M tenders, they were smart to sign that bad boy a while back.

Assuming they hold out hope of signing reasonable contracts, the likes of Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen are unlikely to be signed until the league really knows where it’s at.

On Clowney, La Canfora had this interesting nugget about his recently reported ‘mega offer’ from the Browns (that he rejected):

The word throughout the agent community is that the reportedly “super lucrative” deal he turned down from the Cleveland Browns would have been worth $12M at its base. That’s a far cry from the over $20M a year Clowney initially wanted on a long-term deal. It’s also well below the $16.8M franchise tag that fellow edge defender Matthew Judon just signed with the Ravens last week. It’s not even close, actually.

If his best offer really was $12m a year, that’s pretty incredible. It also justifies Clowney’s stance on not signing with anyone. It would make him the 20th best paid defensive lineman (and that’s not including the outside linebacker types). He’d be on a par with Justin Houston. It’s five million a year less than Olivier Vernon.

You could argue the injuries limit his value. Which is understandable for every team other than the Seahawks. They presumably gave him a medical when the trade was completed a year ago. They also had access to his medical information throughout the season.

With all of this knowledge, they still referred to him (several times) as a high priority.

If they didn’t offer more than $12m a year, considering the amount they’ve paid for other players this off-season, that would be extremely surprising. It would be nice to know definitively what their best offer was. Because how they’ve handled dealing with the pass rush dilemma this off-season is one of the more confusing situations of the Carroll/Schneider era.

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What else can the Seahawks actually do?

May 31st, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks need more from L.J. Collier in 2020

A lot of people are still holding out hope the Seahawks can make another pass rush signing before training camp. But how likely is it?

The answer is — not very likely.

With Carlos Hyde’s $2.75m cap hit now on the books, Spotrac has Seattle at $13,810,312 in cap space. Over the cap projects $13,985,255.

Most of it is already accounted for in terms of the rookie class, injured reserve and other bits and pieces. That takes up about $8m.

Realistically the Seahawks have between $5-6m to spend. They still have to replace Al Woods. It would be staggering if they went into next season with only Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Bryan Mone and Demarcus Christmas at defensive tackle. A signing will be made and it might take up most of the remaining cap room.

For those hoping they still have the flexibility to sign Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen — they don’t. There’s only one semi-realistic scenario where I can see it (and I’ll come back to that later).

They’ve used nearly $60m on additions and retentions this year. They’ll go beyond $60m when they sign a defensive tackle.

The Seahawks have chipped away and chipped away. Now, their roster is pretty much set. This is what we have to judge their off-season by.

It’s often suggested that the Seahawks can cut players to create extra room. This is technically true — but it’s highly questionable whether it’s likely.

Take K.J. Wright for example. Had the Seahawks decided to part ways at the start of the off-season, they would’ve saved $7.5m in cap space. Due to the terms in his contract, they would now only save $6.5m.

You might suggest it’s only a million dollars’ difference. Yet surely if you were going to part with Wright this off-season, you’d do it when it was most financially beneficial? Wright’s sizeable $10m cap hit wasn’t hidden in the shadows.

Furthermore, it’d be quite the thing to do to a player who has given so much to the Seahawks. Cutting him now would severely limit his ability to latch on somewhere else. It’d likely go down poorly with key players on the roster, such as Bobby Wagner. It’s just not the type of thing this franchise does.

If they were going to move on from Wright, it would’ve happened (at the latest) the day after the draft when they cut Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker.

They are prepared to retain Wright and are destined to use $25m of their 2020 cap space on two linebackers, to go along with the first round pick they used on Jordyn Brooks.

The Seahawks can trim their roster in other ways to free up room. Again though, it doesn’t seem very likely.

If Clowney or Griffen were signed, the obvious thing to do would be to cut Branden Jackson and save $2.1m. Yet it’s only $2.1m. It’s not a significant enough amount to make a move realistic.

People have touted the idea of parting with several of the players they’ve already retained — such as Jacob Hollister, David Moore, Joey Hunt and Luke Willson.

They’re not going to cut Hunt and lose a valued backup center. The more likely cut would be Ethan Pocic, saving $1m. Hunt has been somewhat reliable, they trust him and Pocic has not shown anything in three years.

Clearly the Seahawks value Hollister, otherwise they wouldn’t have given him the second round tender and secured his services for an eye watering $3.259m. They could’ve given him the original round tender, which was cheaper, and still retained the ability to match any offer he received. They didn’t — they basically hung a ‘hands off’ sign around his neck.

Rather than see him as a likely sacrifice this summer, I think it’s more likely that they simply value what he offers. He’s a different kind of target to the other tight ends on the roster. Whether he has upside or not — there was some chemistry with Russell Wilson in 2019 and he made some significant plays. Enough, it seems, to want to give him a second year in the offense.

At the very least he seems destined to be with the team in camp. If the other TE’s charge ahead and he struggles in the competition, all bets are off. But at this stage he’s much more likely to be a featured aspect of the offense than trade or cut fodder.

Someone like David Moore would be more expendable if they re-sign Josh Gordon. However, the overall saving wouldn’t be much even if Gordon agrees to a veteran minimum deal. Luke Willson’s contract is only $887,500.

I don’t think it’s likely any of these players will be shifted to create room.

There’s only really one scenario where they can fit in a Clowney or Griffen.

Firstly, it would mean cutting Branden Jackson and using his $2.1m salary on a defensive tackle. Is someone like Snacks Harrison or Brandon Mebane willing to play for as little as $2.1m? That’s questionable.

It would leave about $5-6m to spend on a pass rusher. Either Clowney or Griffen would then need to be willing to play for that sum of money or they’d have to be willing to sign a multi-year deal with a low year-one cap hit.

That’s basically the only realistic scenario — short of hacking away at the depth they’ve invested so much in this off-season.

On Clowney — it’s possible you can get him on a three or four year agreement with a cap hit as low as $6m in year one. Frank Clark’s cap hit last year was $6.5m after all, despite his massive new contract in Kansas City. It’d mean the Seahawks committing big money to Clowney down the line though — which we already know they’re unwilling to do.

For Griffen — he turns 33 in December. A long term contract seems unlikely unless it’s heavily weighted in favour of the team. It’s unclear what his market is. He might be willing to play for as little as $5m, depending on what other interest he’s receiving.

This could’ve been a very different off-season. I still believe that the Seahawks thought they’d be able to find some common ground with Clowney earlier in the process and get a deal done. My guess is once he determined he was being undervalued and set up the stalemate that remains in place, they were somewhat caught off-guard.

I don’t think they really had a Plan B of any great substance. I don’t think they invested much time in negotiating with the Robert Quinn’s and Dante Fowler’s. I think Jarran Reed and Clowney were the early priorities, plus some O-line reinforcements, and then you let the rest of free agency come to you.

Instead they were left waiting for Clowney. Which they did. They waited. But with no end in sight they’ve been forced to fill their remaining holes, chipping away.

Some will blame Clowney. Some will blame the team for not simply moving on earlier and signing other players. Either way, there simply isn’t the money available to add another pass rusher barring a dramatic turn of events.

If that’s the case, they’re relying on Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Jarran Reed and two rookies to try and turn one of the NFL’s worst pass rush units into a non-liability.

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This is your chance to help Kenny Easley

May 29th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Earlier this week I received an email from regular contributor in the comments section Bobby K. He asked me if the community on this website could offer some assistance and I was very happy to oblige. I’ll let him explain in his own words what he needs from us. I hope you’ll all get involved. Bob and Kenny deserve our support.

If you want a bit of background information, check out the video above.

*****************************************

A message to the community from Bobby K,

I was approached by former Seahawks safety Kenny Easley last August about helping him write his autobiography. Though I feel unqualified from a journalistic perspective, it was an opportunity I could not decline.

I would like to ask Seahawks fans, you, for your help. The people who comment here are knowledgeable and I respect you all greatly. I am only one person and I believe our manuscript has a lot of great information. However, I’m here to ask you, the fans, what you would be most interested in reading in his autobiography? Maybe I have already covered it but I can’t help but think I could possibly be unintentionally missing something that may be of interest.

For those of you who remember those teams Easley played on, what are some questions you would like to see answered in the book?

If you are too young to remember that decade but care about Seahawks history, what are some things you would like to learn about?

These questions do not have to be only about the Seahawks years (1981-1987). They can be about growing up in Virginia, going to school at UCLA, his post-Seahawks career, Ring of Honor, Hall of Fame, etc.

I am going to read every comment and take notes on what can be added and relay this information to the original Enforcer. Your voice will be heard.

If you have a great question, your answer may not appear in the book. I don’t want you to think I didn’t ask. He doesn’t remember every detail. For example, I wanted to write about the Monday Night Football game vs. Bo Jackson and the Raiders from 1987. People remember that as the Bo Jackson running over Brian Bozworth game. However, as much as I would like to write about it – we just can’t.

Anyway, thank you for your consideration, thanks to Rob for the forum, and I would like to give an early thank you to all of you who comment below.

Sincerely,

Bob Kaupang (BobbyK)

 

Thoughts on four 2021 draft prospects

May 28th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Andre Cisco — not the biggest or fastest but very instinctive

Our early look at the 2021 draft was curtailed somewhat because there were more important things to talk about regarding the Seahawks. Today I wanted to run through some thoughts on five players I’ve watched recently.

Xavier Thomas (DE, Clemson)

It’s pretty clear he’s a unique athlete on tape. His quickness and acceleration is top drawer and you see little flashes where he really wows you with his athleticism. That said, there are also some concerns.

At SPARQ he ran a 4.58 forty, a 4.30 short shuttle and he jumped a 33 inch vertical. He was the #4 overall recruit in High School and in terms of pure potential — he’s every bit the five star prospect. The issue is that while he has the testing numbers he doesn’t have a frame to fit any obvious position.

He’s 6-2 and 265lbs. He’s too stocky to drop down to linebacker where his speed and quickness could make a real difference. He’s not long and lean enough to be a LEO but he’s undersized for a five-technique or inside/out rusher. He also has some stiffness trying to bend-and-straighten off the edge and he doesn’t have the length to keep his frame clean when he has to engage.

He had two sacks in 12 games in 2019 and only eight TFL’s. He has the big recruiting chops and the high-end athleticism to get a mention in scouting circles — but he has a long way to go to prove he can be an Adrian Clayborn type. It’s also worth noting how freakishly special Clayborn’s short shuttle was (4.13 at 281lbs). Players like him are rare. Thomas has to aspire to be that type of player but it’s hard to get that excited about him based on what we’ve seen so far. This will be a big season for him.

Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)

Watching Bateman last year was a thing of beauty. In several big games he racked up targets and completions. It just felt like he caught everything. He especially showed well in the bigger games against Penn State, Iowa and Purdue — all wins.

All-22 tape is available online so you can really get a feel for what he does well. You have to say he’s not particularly sudden in his release and he perhaps lacks the speed to challenge the top-10. He was only a three-star recruit and didn’t do any SPARQ testing. He doesn’t create the kind of easy separation teams want to see.

Nevertheless, there’s still so much to like. He creates subtle late separation, appears to be fairly sound in his route-running and he has a second gear which is just quick enough to threaten downfield. He doesn’t fight the ball, he gains position well against defensive backs and can win the contested grabs. He makes the highlight-reel catches and was just so consistent when Minnesota needed a play in 2019.

If he plays well again in 2020, his ability to jump up boards will depend on his testing. If nothing else he’s a reliable playmaker with enough sparkle to be more than just a chain-mover.

Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

There’s a lot of buzz about Lance especially after last season where he recorded 42 total touchdowns and zero interceptions. You can’t argue with the numbers and he’s a very creative player who fits the modern style of the NFL. He’s mobile, can throw from difficult angles and he can take off and scramble for a first down or a touchdown. He’s a lot of fun to watch.

In terms of arm strength and physicality it all seems good enough. He’s listed at about 6-3 and 224lbs so there are no issues there. It’s unlikely, given the level of competition, that anything remarkable would happen in 2020 to hammer his stock. We’ll need to see of course if all levels of college football restart in 2020.

There are some things to watch for though. Firstly, his offense rarely requires him to do any more than one read. You don’t see any evidence of him going through progressions or facing any real challenges. Often he had a ton of time in the pocket allowing for receivers to uncover. The craziest thing though was watching his touchdowns and seeing how often his tight end or receiver was wide open for an easy throw. It’s as if they played against 10 players on defense for a season.

Lance won’t get it that easy at the next level and teams will need to judge whether he can cope with a much more pressurised situation at the next level. Even so, Carson Wentz couldn’t stay healthy at North Dakota State and he landed at #2 overall. Lance has stayed healthy and productive and he fits what a lot of teams are looking for now.

Chuba Hubbard (RB, Oklahoma State)

I’ll keep this one short and sweet. I like Hubbard as a college running back. He’s fun to watch. But he doesn’t look remotely like a NFL running back.

He’s 6-1 and 207lbs and it’s like watching a receiver running the football. It’s quite pleasant watching him in the ultra-spread system at Oklahoma State, exploiting running lanes and breaking off massive runs every week. His highlight reel is basically just one long untouched sprint after another.

At the next level though, those lanes aren’t going to be there. He’s going to need to go between the tackles, handle the physical nature of the pro’s and he’s not just going to run in a straight line downfield for 60 yards every week. At best he looks like a complimentary piece but even then — it’s hard to imagine him working out in pass-pro on third downs and he only had 23 receptions last season.

Sometimes great college players simply aren’t destined to make great pro’s. That, unfortunately, seems to be Hubbard’s likely outcome unless he can develop his frame and retain his burst and quickness.

Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)

Watching Cisco was the first nice surprise of the off-season. I don’t think he looks particularly dynamic as an athlete and he’ll have some limitations in that regard to ground his stock in a fairly modest range. That said, he’s a playmaker with a knack for turnovers and he’s capable of packing a punch despite a modest frame.

He only ran a 4.61 at SPARQ but he performed better in the vertical (35 inches) and short shuttle (4.25). He’s only 6-0 and 199lbs and he’s not the kind of rangy free safety that’ll have teams salivating.

Yet he has 12 interceptions in his first two years at Syracuse and that can’t be overlooked. Some players just have a nose for the football. He’s also forced a couple of intelligent fumbles — including chasing down a ball-carrier and punching it out from behind. He’s instinctive, reads the play well and breaks on the ball with sharpness.

Cisco will need to work in a tandem and if you put him alongside someone who’s perhaps just a little bit quicker in covering ground, he could make an ideal partner. There aren’t many safeties who look this instinctive this early in their careers. He might not be a high pick but he has the potential to make the team who takes him look very intelligent.

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How Seattle’s future cap space should’ve provided flexibility

May 26th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Dante Fowler essentially signed a two-year agreement in Atlanta

There’s sometimes a misunderstanding between average salary and cap hit. I noticed this in the reaction to my alternative off-season article posted a few days ago.

In the piece I projected Jadeveon Clowney’s cap hit as $11.1m, despite him demanding much more. In the case of this projection I used Demarcus Lawrence’s contract structure. Lawrence’s cap hit in 2019 was $11.1m despite the fact he agreed a $22m a year contract with the Cowboys.

Most teams limit the year-one damage to try and quickly get to a sweet-spot that I’m going to call the red and blue zone.

The red zone is the point in a contract where a cap hit is less than the dead money you’d inherit if you cut or traded a player. Thus, it will cost you money to part ways.

The blue zone is where the dead hit is lower than the cap hit, to the point where you can get out of the contract and actually save money.

The red and blue zones always follow each other and actually determine the true length of a contract. What might look like a four-year deal might actually only be one, two or three years — if there’s an out for the team quickly.

For example, Frank Clark signed a massive extension with the Chiefs a year ago worth an average salary of $20.8m. His cap hit in 2019 however was just $6.5m.

As Clark’s cap hit grows, the Chiefs reach the point where they can realistically move on from him if they wish:

2019
Cap hit: $6.5m
Dead money: $44m

2020
Cap hit: $19.3m
Dead money: $56.3m

2021
Cap hit: $25.8m
Dead money: $37.8m

2022
Cap hit: $26.3m
Dead money: $12.9m

2023
Cap hit: $27.8m
Dead money: $6.4m

As you can see from the contract structure, the Chiefs are really only tied to Clark until the end of the 2021 season. They can then cut him and create over $13m in cap space if they desire. What was announced as a five-year contract is really only a three or four-year deal.

People often say the Chiefs can afford a massive contract like this because Mahomes is on a rookie contract. Breaking down a deal like this exposes the reality. The meat of Clark’s contract — when he reaches the red zone and can’t be cut — will coincide with Mahomes signing his own record-breaking extension.

The Chiefs are trying to surround Mahomes with talent on both sides of the ball. The result was a Super Bowl Championship last season and they’ll likely be favourites to win it again in 2020.

It’s still surprising that the Seahawks haven’t been as pro-active to try and put themselves in greater contention. Russell Wilson, after his call for superstars, must look at his AFC counterpart with envy.

As of today Seattle has barely any long term commitments beyond Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. Even Tyler Lockett’s contract ends after 2021 and he’s reasonably paid at $10.25m a year. The Seahawks only have five players with a cap hit of $5m or more in 2021:

Russell Wilson — $32m
Bobby Wagner — $17.2m
Jarran Reed — $13.5m
Duane Brown — $13m
Tyler Lockett — $11.5m

Furthermore, Reed has no dead money tied to his deal next year. They can cut him and save $13.5m if they wish. Brown’s dead hit is only $2m. So even with their highest paid players, they have flexibility.

There’s a lot of speculation that the cap will reduce next year due to the economic impact of coronavirus. Even so, the Seahawks have an estimated $63.9m available at the moment — seventh most in the league. In 2022 they’re estimated to have $189.8m available.

These numbers will reduce if they sign Shaquill Griffin and Chris Carson to new contracts. Arguably neither warrants an extension before the season. Griffin has three career interceptions and two came in one game against Mitchell Trubisky. Carson has had injury and fumbling issues.

Regardless, they easily could’ve structured and carried some long term outside-free agent contracts into their database to create a smaller 2020 hit while surviving some ‘red zone’ moments in 2021 or 2022 — before having the freedom to get out of certain contracts if needs be.

Let’s look at some examples. Remember, they spent nearly $60m in free agency this year.

Jack Conklin signed with the Browns for $14m a year. Yet his cap hit in 2020 is just $8m. That’s only $2m more than the cap hit of Bruce Irvin and it’s $2m cheaper than K.J. Wright’s cap hit. He reaches his red zone next year when his cap hit is $13m and the dead money is $22m. Yet by 2022 the Browns can realistically get out of the contract because his cap hit is $15m and the dead money is $9m. This is basically a two-season commitment at a fairly modest price.

If the Seahawks had wanted to commit to Conklin, who is only 25, they could’ve easily carried him for the next two years and had more than enough remaining to invest in their defensive line.

Dante Fowler signed in Atlanta for $15m a year which sounds hefty. Yet his 2020 cap hit is just $6.6m — or $600,000 more than Bruce Irvin’s. Next year he takes up a much bigger $18.6m. However, his red zone isn’t really that bad. The Falcons did a good job structuring this contract and limiting the damage. They can save $3m by cutting him in a year. At the end of the 2021 season they can cut him and create $15m in cap space. Or they can extend his contract.

This is basically a two-year commitment to Fowler. Again, the Seahawks could’ve easily taken on a $6.6m cap hit this year and handled the $18.6m hit in 2021. He had 11.5 sacks last season, 35 pressures and 19 hurries — among the league leaders in all three categories.

Robert Quinn had the same number of sacks and pressures. Like Fowler, he’s basically operating under a two-year arrangement in Chicago. A few people were surprised by his $14m a year salary with the Bears. Yet his cap hit in 2020 is just $6.1m. He reaches his red zone next year — when his cap hit ($14.7m) is far smaller than the dead money ($23.9m). After that? They can cut him and save $7m.

As noted, when I talked about Clowney I used Demarcus Lawrence’s contract as a framework. Dallas gave Lawrence a deal worth $21m a year.

Plenty of people have expressed concern about Clowney following his decision not to sign with any team during free agency. Very few of these concerns were raised prior to the market opening of course — when media members rushed to project he would earn as much, if not more, than Lawrence and Clark.

He’s perceived to be an injury risk. Yet a deal similar to Lawrence’s would’ve only committed the Seahawks to two or three seasons, when they clearly have the cap space to carry the player who was their best performer on the D-line in 2019.

If they wanted to limit the year-one cap hit they could’ve paid Clowney as little as $11.1m this season, followed by two red zone seasons where he’d take up $22m and carry $53.9m (2021) and $32m (2022) in dead money. After that they’d have an out by the end of the 2022 season, when they could save $14m by cutting him.

Alternatively they could’ve accelerated the hit to essentially make it a glorified two-year contract. They could’ve committed $22m to Clowney in 2020 and 2021 and had that same out by the end of the second season.

$22m might seem like a lot to commit and given the cold nature of his market, it might’ve been possible to compromise and get him to accept $20m or even $18m. However, with so much money to spend this year — it also would’ve been easily manageable within the cap and it would’ve guaranteed the best defensive lineman stayed in Seattle, with a further $40m still to spend elsewhere (and the freedom to create more if they were willing to cut players early like K.J. Wright).

Or they could’ve just targeted Quinn and/or Fowler. There were alternatives, although as noted in previous articles — I think the Seahawks were committed to Clowney and were caught off guard when he didn’t accept their best offer. If they were so focused on Clowney and Jarran Reed early in free agency, it’s possible they never even seriously talked to or considered players like Conklin, Fowler, Quinn or Calais Campbell (who was traded to Baltimore).

The purpose of articles like this is to highlight the relative advantage the Seahawks had in terms of resources this off-season and allow you to make your mind up whether they correctly used them. They don’t have another opportunity to invest $60m in the roster this year. Any further moves they make will have to take into account they basically have about $5m left to spend. In order to create further room they’ll have to be aggressive and ruthless — hacking away at the depth they seemingly strived for a few weeks ago or forcing out respected veterans and giving them very little opportunity to latch on elsewhere.

It’s certainly possible they might be one defensive tackle signing away from essentially being done — with the hopes of a defensive resurgence falling at the feet of players like Benson Mayowa. Again, it’ll be up to you to determine whether they’ve made the most of their resources this off-season.

I will continue to try and shed light on this. It’s important for fans to see the full picture, not just the one that paints the team in the best picture.

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An alternative look at what Seattle’s off-season could’ve been

May 23rd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Calais Campbell was traded to the Ravens for a fifth round pick

What could’ve been? If I’m going to ask questions and critique Seattle’s off-season, it’s only fair I lay out an alternative.

I’m going to start from the position of no additions. Let’s include the Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker money and run with the amount they’ve spent so far on re-signing and adding players — just over $58m.

Trade for Calais Campbell

The Seahawks have talked about adding a Campbell type for years yet when he was actually available, albeit at age 33, he ended up going to Baltimore for a pittance (a single fifth round pick).

It’s possible Jacksonville worked with Campbell to move him to the team of his choice. If that’s the case, it might’ve been a non-starter. It’s equally possible he had little interest joining a NFC West rival to the Cardinals after nine successful seasons in Arizona.

(Edit — Campbell has already revealed the Jaguars did not move him to the team of his choice and there were multiple interested parties)

Yet with two fourth round picks, the Seahawks had the capital to outbid Baltimore. Campbell’s cap hit in 2020 is only $10m this year and $15m next year. Or to put it another way, he costs about the same as Benson Mayowa, Jacob Hollister and Cedric Ogbuehi combined.

Pairing Campbell with Jarran Reed would’ve created a formidable interior presence. He had 33 pressures last season on a bad Jacksonville team to go with 6.5 sacks, 10 hurries and 16 quarterback knockdowns.

The Seahawks have badly needed a player like this for years.

His addition would’ve solved a huge need before the new league year had even started. And if you think his age is a problem — just remember they’re paying Greg Olsen, who turned 35 this year, $7m.

Just get it done with Jadeveon Clowney

It’s easy to forget but in the build-up to free agency all the talk was about Seattle being unable to afford Clowney’s inevitable +$22m a year contract. Everyone in the media was saying it was increasingly unlikely he’d be back in Seattle because he was going to get paid by another team.

Had you said to a lot of fans you could get him for $20m a year — they would’ve accepted that without hesitation.

It’s pretty clear that Clowney overestimated his market and that’s played a big part in the stalemate that has followed. The fact nobody stepped up to sign him has also led people to start questioning why. Is he an injury worry? Is he going to mail it in? Is he even that good?

A quick reminder — this is a player who played through a sports hernia weeks before he reached the open market. His pass rush win percentage (25%) was fifth best in the league in 2019 and only 1% less than Myles Garrett’s. It was equal to Joey Bosa’s.

He had twice as many pressures as Benson Mayowa.

He also did all of this with virtually no help in 2019. Clowney was a one-man show on Seattle’s D-line. He faced double teams more often than any other defensive lineman in the league.

Pete Carroll emphasised on multiple occasions how vital it was the Seahawks re-sign Clowney:

If you think $30m sounds like a lot for Clowney and Campbell, remember they’re using $25m of their cap space on Wagner and Wright despite using a first round pick on a linebacker.

Find the compromise — even if that’s $20m or $21m. If you also bring back Jarran Reed for his $9.35m cap hit, you’ve got three defensive linemen to build around. Yes it’s expensive — but you can structure the year-one cap hit for Clowney to work into your budget. DeMarcus Lawrence’s cap hit last season was $11.1m after signing his big extension. The Cowboys have an ‘out’ as early as 2022.

Even those who are fearful of paying Clowney a big salary have to acknowledge being committed to only two expensive seasons is hardly a massive issue.

By adding Clowney, Campbell and Reed you’d be making a major commitment to fix your D-line. That was the key to the whole off-season.

Even if you took on a full $20m cap hit for Clowney in 2020 then added Campbell and Reed — you’d still have $20m of the near $60m to spend with a clear ability to add more.

Still don’t want Clowney? That’s fine. Dante Fowler’s 2020 cap hit is $6.6m in Atlanta. It’s $18.6m in 2021. He’s easily cuttable in 2022. Robert Quinn’s 2020 cap hit is $6.1m in Chicago and $14.7m in 2021. He’s easily cuttable in 2022.

The Seahawks had multiple cost-effective options and the available cap space to do a lot more than they did to improve their pass rush.

Fill out the roster

The Seahawks have been in this position before — having about $20-30m to spend and needing to fill out their roster. The fact is they could easily fit in Phillip Dorsett, Chance Warmack and Geno Smith. That’s less than $3m for the trio.

You could trade for Quinton Dunbar at a cost of $3.4m. You’d still have about $24m to play with if you limit Clowney’s year-one hit to $11.1m.

Let’s say they sign B.J. Finney and Brandon Shell. They cost $7m combined. You have $17m left and you’ve now brought in the offensive linemen John Schneider prioritised at the start of free agency.

With the remaining money you could sign Greg Olsen or Bruce Irvin. You could sign Benson Mayowa and Jacob Hollister.

You choose how they spend $17m…

Greg Olsen $6.9m
Bruce Irvin $5.9m
Carlos Hyde $4m
Jacob Hollister $3.259m
Benson Mayowa $3.018m
Mike Iupati $2.5m
Cedric Obuehi $2.237m
Joey Hunt $2.1m
Branden Jackson $2.1m
David Moore $2.1m
Neiko Thorpe $887,500
Luke Willson $887,500

You could even see if Everson Griffen is willing to bookend Clowney. Either way, by spending big on Clowney and Campbell you clearly haven’t limited your ability to add depth or fill talent at other positions.

Greater flexibility in the draft

In this scenario the Seahawks have bolstered their defense with Campbell, Clowney, Reed and Dunbar. That takes some of the pressure off needing to go defense early and often.

If they still wanted to spend their first two picks on Jordyn Brooks and Darrell Taylor, it wouldn’t be an issue at all. Keep building that defense. How optimistic would you feel about the defense taking a step forward in 2020 if the front seven was as follows:

DL — Clowney, Reed, Campbell, Taylor
LB — Wagner, Brooks, Wright/Barton/Irvin

Plus if you’re determined to draft Brooks or another linebacker in round one — cut K.J. Wright early in the process and add another $7.5m to the available cap. That’s even more money that could go towards Olsen, Irvin or Hyde or the various depth players Seattle claimed.

They wouldn’t be obliged to draft for defense, however. If they wanted to add to the skill positions in a strong range for receivers and running backs or invest in someone like Isaiah Wilson at offensive tackle, that would’ve been a stronger alternative after spending money on the defense.

By addressing the defense on the open market, you’re keeping so many more options open. That in itself can create more cap room. If you draft an offensive tackle with your first pick, you don’t need Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi. If you take a running back early, you don’t need Carlos Hyde.

What is strange is they used their first round pick on a position where they were already investing $25m on two players — but didn’t create any room as a consequence.

Reality vs alternative

You decide which is better. The numbers listed are 2020 cap hits.

What actually happened…

Jarran Reed $9.35m
Greg Olsen $6.9m
Bruce Irvin $5.9m
Carlos Hyde $4m
B.J. Finney $3.5m
Brandon Shell $3.475m
Quinton Dunbar $3.421m
Jacob Hollister $3.259m
Benson Mayowa $3.018m
Mike Iupati $2.5m
Cedric Obuehi $2.237m
Joey Hunt $2.1m
Branden Jackson $2.1m
David Moore $2.1m
Geno Smith $887,500
Neiko Thorpe $887,500
Luke Willson $887,500
Phillip Dorsett $887,500
Chance Warmack $887,500

Total spent: $58.25m

What I’ve proposed in this article…

Jadeveon Clowney $11.1m
Calais Campbell $10m
Jarran Reed $9.35m
Greg Olsen $6.9m
B.J. Finney $3.5m
Brandon Shell $3.475m
Quinton Dunbar $3.421m
Benson Mayowa $3.018m
Cedric Obuehi $2.237m
Joey Hunt $2.1m
Geno Smith $887,500
Phillip Dorsett $887,500
Chance Warmack $887,500

Total spent: $57.7m

In my proposal, you haven’t signed the following players:

Bruce Irvin $5.9m
Carlos Hyde $4m
Jacob Hollister $3.259m
Mike Iupati $2.5m
Branden Jackson $2.1m
David Moore $2.1m
Neiko Thorpe $887,500
Luke Willson $887,500

You’d have the draft to fill some of your remaining needs too.

Some of the unsigned players could still be brought in by creating $7.5m in cap space by cutting K.J. Wright. They also have some cap space still available in 2020 but not much. So it’s not improbable they could keep several of the names above.

They could’ve also negotiated harder with some of these players to drive down their cost. Bruce Irvin’s salary, as mentioned a few times now, is 32% higher than it was in Carolina last year and it’s not obvious why.

Even if you swap Clowney for Fowler or Quinn — or even if you combine two of those players or throw Everson Griffen into the mix — Seattle could’ve easily done more to fix its pass rush, setting up the rest of free agency and the draft. Instead, they’ve spent nearly $60m and it’s not clear how much they’ve improved — if at all. They still have serious holes to fill at defensive tackle and they can’t rely on rookies, Mayowa, Irvin, Green and Collier to provide a consistent pass rush.

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Seahawks sign Carlos Hyde, create more questions

May 22nd, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Carlos Hyde is a better option than Devonta Freeman.

They’re similarly aged. Hyde had a 1,070 yard season in Houston last year at 4.4 YPC — scoring six touchdowns. In comparison, Freeman had 656 yards at 3.6 YPC and scored only two touchdowns.

He was also cut at the cost of a $6m dead cap hit so the Falcons could roll the dice on Todd Gurley instead.

If you’re going to spend money on a veteran running back, Hyde feels like the superior option. Yet as we know — Seattle went after Freeman first. All’s well that ends well I suppose.

However — he’s going to cost up to $4m in 2020 which begs the question — why?

‘Why?’ is the word to define Seattle’s off-season. There are so many questions. This is merely the latest.

It’s the 22nd of May. Free agency is long gone by now. Very little is going on aside from the odd low-level move.

Hyde clearly didn’t have much of a market at all. Was there any competition for his signature? There’s been no talk, no reported interest. It’s now emerged he underwent surgery to repair a torn labrum in February.

So why is he receiving a contract worth more than the veteran minimum?

They’ve already signed Phillip Dorsett and Chance Warmack to the veteran minimum. Neiko Thorpe, Geno Smith and Luke Willson also returned for the same salary. Maybe they should’ve asked for a bit more?

If Hyde was taking the position of refusing to sign for anything less than a contract that can reach $4m — don’t you just move on?

I like Hyde. I’ve always liked him — dating back to when he was a second round pick in 2014. He’s a decent addition to a team that badly needed an extra running back.

Yet how vital is this signing that you’re unwilling to wait it out, or wait Freeman out, in the same way you’ve waited out Jadeveon Clowney or Everson Griffen or the defensive tackles?

Which other team was bumping the price up?

What leverage did Hyde have for a deal worth up to $4m? It’s as confusing as Bruce Irvin’s 32% salary increase, bumping Cedric Ogbuehi’s pay from $895,000 to $2.237m based on 155 snaps in Jacksonville, the decision to spend $3.259m on Jacob Hollister despite investing $7m in Greg Olsen and then drafting two tight ends and paying $25m for two linebackers — only to use your first round pick on the position.

If Hyde reaches the $4m peak, they’ll have spent $58.25m on these players this off-season:

Jarran Reed $9.35m
Greg Olsen $6.9m
Bruce Irvin $5.9m
Carlos Hyde $4m
B.J. Finney $3.5m
Brandon Shell $3.475m
Quinton Dunbar $3.421m
Jacob Hollister $3.259m
Benson Mayowa $3.018m
Mike Iupati $2.5m
Cedric Obuehi $2.237m
Joey Hunt $2.1m
Branden Jackson $2.1m
David Moore $2.1m
Geno Smith $887,500
Neiko Thorpe $887,500
Luke Willson $887,500
Phillip Dorsett $887,500
Chance Warmack $887,500

At the same time, they’ve shied away from investing properly in the pass rush. They haven’t even replaced Al Woods yet, despite loading up at various other positions.

The defensive line sticks out like a very sore thumb. The Seahawks came into the off-season with major problems up front and they’re now relying on Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and rookies to solve the problem — while losing their one effective linemen in the process.

They’ve frittered money and resources away. There are questions all over the roster — from the pass rush to the O-line to the secondary to the health of the running backs. They’re well stocked at linebacker and so they should be for the incredible price they’re paying at the position — but will those linebackers be able to perform if the D-line can’t keep them clean?

The sheer fact that in late May they still have so many areas to address is itself a point that needs to be raised. How many of the other contending teams are left needing to work overtime into the summer to fill this many holes? The Seahawks might’ve filled two needs this week (QB, RB) but they’re still lacking in other areas.

A year ago if it wasn’t for the generosity of the Houston Texans, they would’ve started the season with Ziggy Ansah, Barkevious Mingo, Cassius Marsh and Jacob Martin as their primary pass rushing threat. You’re not going to receive a beneficial trade offer every year to bail you out right before the season starts.

This was an off-season that started with Russell Wilson calling for superstars and Pete Carroll and John Schneider stressing the need to fix the pass rush.

It’s hard to see how that turned into the moves that followed.

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Yes, the Seahawks should re-sign Josh Gordon

May 21st, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Josh Gordon is working out in Seattle and it’s got people talking about a potential return to the Seahawks.

For most of the off-season Gordon has been posting on social media about rejoining the team. Even today, he posted a picture of a car decorated in a Seahawks logo. He wants to come back and the chances are the team want him back too.

And why not?

The Seahawks are currently carrying 18 offensive linemen on the roster in the name of competition. There’s room for another receiver.

David Moore and Jacob Hollister are accounting for $5.4m of your cap space. Is it beyond the realms of possibility that Gordon could be superior to both for the mere price of a veteran minimum contract?

And are you really losing all that much to find out?

If we assume the Seahawks carry five or six receivers in 2020, you’ve got two locks (Lockett & Metcalf) and three others who will be virtually unchallenged as things stand (Dorsett, Moore & Ursua). Freddie Swain wouldn’t really be competing to contribute. He needs to show he warrants stashing in the way Ursua was a year ago.

Throwing Gordon into the mix pushes the likes of Dorsett, Moore and Ursua in a way they need to be challenged.

If he was going to cost a few million, it’d be too risky. Especially given his career to date with numerous suspensions.

On a veteran minimum, non-guaranteed salary though? To add to your camp competition? To find out if he’s better than the others?

It’s a complete no-brainer.

The cost is virtually non-existent. The possibility of getting a healthy, incorporated Josh Gordon far outweighs any ‘risk’. What’s the worst case scenario? He shows out in camp and then doesn’t work out in the season — so you lose David Moore or John Ursua and $800,000? It’s hardly a crushing scenario.

The Seahawks very clearly managed Gordon’s role in 2019. They were giving him time to work into the offense — asking him to run basic routes that are a feature in any scheme. He still found a way to convert several crucial third downs (especially in the 49ers road game) and produced one of the catches of the season in Carolina.

Gordon will reportedly be applying for re-instatement soon and while this quite likely is his last opportunity to make it work in the NFL — there’s no reason not to make this move. The chances are, as soon as he’s available, the Seahawks will bring him back.

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Seahawks’ strange off-season now includes veteran RB’s

May 20th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

According to Adam Caplan and then Mike Silver, the Seahawks have been negotiating with two free agent running backs — Devonta Freeman and Carlos Hyde.

Silver has reported Seattle’s offer to Freeman is worth up to $4m.

He also had a fairly interesting review of where the Seahawks are at with the position:

It really speaks to how this is quite an underrated problem.

Just park your own opinions on the value of the running back position for a second and consider how reliant the Seahawks are on a productive running game.

The offense couldn’t function properly when Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny were injured at the end of the season. And while Russell Wilson mercifully rallied against San Francisco and Green Bay — the comeback attempts followed a whole bunch of struggle and strife as both opponents flooded coverage, won with a four man pass rush and ultimately made life harder for Wilson than it needed to be.

The overly simplistic reaction was the brainless ‘let Russ cook’ retort on social media. In reality, even the most prolific pass-centric offense has a reasonable semblance of balance to keep a defense honest. Kansas City, after all, just spent their top pick on a running back. Look how the Rams’ offense struggled as soon as Todd Gurley became less effective. The 49ers and Saints run the ball very well.

Even if the Seahawks aimed to throw 100% of the time — they would face the same kind of issues as experienced in the early stages of the Green Bay and San Francisco games if they trot out Travis Homer and Marshawn Lynch at running back.

The fact that Rashaad Penny is going to start the year on the PUP list puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Carson to stay healthy — something he hasn’t managed to do in his NFL or college career. It’s a nice thought to think Deejay Dallas might be able to fill a void — but he looks very much a Robert Turbin-esque compliment rather than someone who leads your running attack.

So here we are — with the Seahawks trying to negotiate a contract with two veterans. Hyde in fairness enjoyed a reasonable 1,070 yard season in Houston last year at 4.4 YPC — scoring six touchdowns. Freeman was far less successful. He had 656 yards at 3.6 YPC and only two touchdowns in 14 games.

He already looks well beyond his best — so much so that Atlanta preferred to roll the dice on Gurley and take a $6m dead cap hit for Freeman.

A couple of weeks ago I questioned whether Seattle had used the $53.37m they’ve spent on veterans this year wisely. Paying another $4m for Freeman would be another questionable decision — right up there with giving Bruce Irvin a 32% pay increase, bumping Cedric Ogbuehi’s pay from $895,000 to $2.237m, spending $3.259m on Jacob Hollister despite investing $7m in Greg Olsen then drafting two tight ends, using your first round pick on a position where you’re already committing $25m to two players or failing to invest serious resources into your biggest need (D-line) while collecting 18 offensive linemen.

More importantly though, $4m is a significant chunk of cash on a player who looks spent. Would he seriously contribute much at all — other than providing name recognition? If Carson got hurt, is Devonta Freeman going to come to the rescue?

And while many folks like to ridicule the idea of spending a high pick on a running back — it’s worth noting the four-year value teams are getting by tapping into a talented group in the 2020 draft class.

Clyde Edwards-Helaire’s cap hit this year will likely be around $1.9m. In the final year of his rookie deal his cap hit will be about $3.2m — less than the Seahawks are reportedly willing to commit to Freeman.

D’Andre Swift, the #35 pick, is projected to have a cap hit in 2020 of about $1.4m. In the fourth and final year of his contract, he will cost about $2.4m.

Jonathan Taylor, the #41 pick by Indianapolis, should have a $1.3m cap hit this year. He’ll likely never have a cap hit higher than $2.2m over the course of his rookie deal.

Cam Akers, the #52 pick by the Rams, will have a cap hit of $1m in 2020 and a year-four cap hit of about $1.8m.

J.K. Dobbins, the #55 pick by Baltimore, will have a cap hit this year between $900,000 and $1m. His first contract will likely never cost more than $1.6m.

A.J. Dillon the #62 pick by Green Bay is slated to earn slightly more than the $841,794 Andy Isabella received for the same draft placing a year ago.

It’s indisputable that it’s unwise to invest millions in running backs. The results speak for themselves. The Packers likely picked Dillon to avoid spending big on Aaron Jones. There are very few cases — such as Marshawn Lynch in his peak — where you can justify it.

Yet the extreme value presented with the players above — especially compared to the amount you have to spend for someone like Devonta Freeman — is telling. This was a seriously underrated collection of running backs.

The talent won’t be there ever year. When it is, however, there’s value to be had with the way the running back position is being downgraded on draft boards.

Had the Seahawks’ selected Edwards-Helaire, Swift or Taylor with their top pick — the internet would’ve exploded. Yet going into this season they would’ve had proper, cheap insurance against a Carson injury and a replacement solution when he becomes a free agent in 2021 (if he commands a big salary, which I doubt to be honest).

Not to mention, Edwards-Helaire and Taylor in particular are immensely talented. The two coaches and GM’s who drafted them certainly know a fair bit about picking for value and talent on offense. I thought both players were among the twenty best players in the 2020 draft.

The Seahawks instead picked defense with their first two picks. Which is understandable given their raging need to fix the defense. Yet their inability to properly address it in free agency — despite spending so much money — virtually forced them to avoid the skill position options in the draft. Remember — this wasn’t just a good group of running backs. It was an excellent receiver class too.

It felt obvious that the plan needed to be a defensive splash in free agency then tap into the strength of the draft early. The Colts played a blinder there — using their top pick in the veteran market to acquire a fantastic defensive linemen before using two picks in round two to get a receiver and a running back. Textbook.

Seattle went into the draft with a need at running back (thus the Deejay Dallas pick in round four) but an even greater need across the defense.

If Jordyn Brooks goes on to emulate K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner and enjoy 8-10 years at the heart of Seattle’s defense — it’ll be a moot point. If he spends most of his rookie season learning the ropes behind two players costing $25m in 2020 — while Seattle can’t make life easier for Wilson due to a bad situation at running back — that will only serve to highlight, again, what a confusing off-season this has been at a time the Seahawks really needed a focused and well-executed plan to take the next step.

If you missed yesterday’s new podcast, check it out here:

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Podcast: Dissecting the Seahawks’ off-season

May 19th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

This week I was invited onto the Pedestrian Podcast to discuss Seattle’s off-season. Check it out below and post your own thoughts in the comments section…

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