Archive for March, 2013

I think I might have found our late round read option backup

Tuesday, March 19th, 2013

BJ Daniels has a lot more talent than your typical NFL underdog

Last night I was watching game compilations on some of this draft’s top corners, more out of curiosity than of any kind of Seahawks relevance.  I started up a game compilation of Xavier Rhodes- a probable top 20 pick- against the University of Southern Florida.  I was only about 3 plays in though before the opposing quarterback caught my attention and started to steal the show. A quarterback by the name of BJ Daniels.

Right away, I noticed that this is a bulky quarterback, built for running. He was a strictly read option quarterback that sold play action very well and had maybe the best on-field mobility in this draft, not just really fast, but shifty and instinctive. He also displayed a pretty big arm with good throwing mechanics and above average footwork.

Since I had no idea who he was, I assumed he wasn’t in this draft. But as it turns out, he is.  And nobody is talking about him.

Now, there are reasons- great reasons- why he’s not expected to be drafted.

First, he’s short. He’s listed at 6’1″ some places, 6’0″ at others, and even 5’11” in a few spots. I can believe it, since he has that squatty kind of “muscle hamster” type build that Russell Wilson has and for which Doug Martin got his nickname. However tall he is, he’s a ripped 218 pounds, and other than an ankle injury that cost him a couple games at the end of his final season, he’s been injury free despite his run heavy style.

As a four year starter, his career completion rate is just 57.3%. That’s disappointingly low, and low completion percentage is one of the more potent negative indicators for a quarterback prospect. Consider this though- and this might blow your mind- Russell Wilson’s career completion rate in 3 years at NC State? 57.8%. When Wilson went to a real offense at Wisconsin, his completion rate skyrocketed to 72.8%. His completion rate with the Seahawks was 64.1%.

What little I can find of Daniels, he looks accurate. Could his completion rate be down thanks to a weak supporting cast, similar to Wilson at NC State?

Daniels has a decent career YPA of 7.4 but just a tepid 52-39 TD-INT ratio. That ratio looks quite a bit better though when you factor his 25 career rushing touchdowns.

I’m not saying that Daniels is a surefire star, but I like him a lot. If nothing else he impressed me in limited looks and I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a projected undrafted quarterback with a more impressive highlight reel than this one. His style strikes me as a bit of a blend between Russell Wilson and Cam Newton, though obviously with less mental talent than Wilson and less physical talent than Newton. USF fans speak very highly of Daniels not only as a quarterback, but as a leader and hard worker and I can’t help but wonder if good coaching and a great supporting cast might show him to be a hidden gem in this draft.

In a draft class that expects to be fairly desolate for read option quarterbacks, especially in the later rounds, Daniels stands out as an option for teams that are willing to overlook his lack of height.  One prospect from last year that Daniels reminds me a little of is GJ Kinne, and it’s worth noting that Seattle invited GJ Kinne for a workout last July. Both have similar height and squatty muscular builds, and both were fearless rushers with similar throwing ability.

In case you’re wondering whatever happened to Kinne, he signed a contract with Chip Kelly’s Eagles a couple weeks ago.

Teams passed on Kinne, and will probably pass on Daniels, because both are “too short.”  The Seahawks have the open-mindedness to consider undersized quarterbacks, and whether it’s with one of our four 7th round picks or with a call in free agency, I think Daniels could be a player to keep an eye on.

The ultimate late round competition at weakside linebacker:  Jayson Dimanche

Hat tip to Scott formerly of 17power for this next one.

The 2013 fireworks display from the small school ranks continues.  Dimanche is not considered a draftable linebacker by most draft sites.  And yet his game (as a 3-4 outside linebacker) looks an awful lot like Jarvis Jones.  Dimanche measured at 6’0.5″ 231 pounds at his pro day, and ran a 4.53 forty with a 38″ vertical.  I always deduct some for pro-day forty times, but even with that deduction, Dimanche is one of the fastest linebackers in this draft.

Further, he shows explosive speed on tape and has incredible pass rush instincts.  I don’t think it would be a stretch at all to see him competing on our roster at the WILL spot, especially if Dan Quinn wants to be more aggressive with his linebackers.  And while we already have Bruce Irvin, I could see Dimanche fitting in nicely in a Raheem Brock type role on 3rd downs, which could come in handy if Irvin graduates to LEO status in the next couple seasons.

Every draft has great players that nobody talks about.  Sometimes they are in plain sight (Bruce Irvin and Russell Wilson last year, Ryan Swope and John Simon this year).  It’s easy to see how someone like Dimanche is anonymous, but I would think that after what Russell Wilson did last season, overlooking a star quarterback with a similar skillset out of the Big East would be improbable.  And yet, it’s happening again, this time to BJ Daniels.  Will Seattle capitalize on the league’s small-mindedness again in 2013?  Here’s hoping.  Grabbing an anonymous stud like Dimanche is something I’ll root for as well.

Keeping the band together and the perfect storm

Monday, March 18th, 2013

After a flurry of activity last week, Seahawks fans can be forgiven for wondering why things have gone quiet all of a sudden. They’ve come to expect excitement. And it’s been at least a few days since something exciting happened…

John Schneider spoke to John Clayton on Saturday with a few interesting nuggets. Above you’ll find the first hour of today’s newly titled ‘Brock Huard Show’ where they replay the interview with Schneider. I found this quote particularly interesting:

“There’s a plan in place here, and there’s several different phases to free agency, so we’ll see how that goes… But in the meantime, we’d really like to just kind of focus on our own guys, our younger players that we’ve drafted.”

It’s time to extend some contracts — and it’s not too difficult to work out who will benefit here.

Kam Chancellor is a free agent in 2014 and he’s set to earn just $1.3m this year. I suspect they’ll feel like he’s done more than enough as a former 5th round pick to warrant an extension. One of the key philosophies within this organisation appears to be a desire to look after players who prove their worth. Although Chancellor didn’t quite live up to his 2011 performance last year, he’s still part of arguably the best secondary in the NFL. I’m guessing they’ll want to keep the band together. Anyone second guessing any decision to extend Chancellor’s contract should click here.

Golden Tate is also a free agent in 2014 with a deal worth $880K. It’s a paltry figure for a player who should remain a key figure within Seattle’s offense (even despite the addition of Percy Harvin). Tate has developed a chemistry with Russell Wilson and the pair appear to be good friends. It’d make sense to tie him down to an extension to make life easier for the young star quarterback. He needs familiarity and playmaking quality. He needs guys who can make something out of nothing. Tate showed last year he can do all of these things. The juking touchdown’s against Chicago, Minnesota and Carolina, the long bomb against the Jets, ‘that’ play against the Packers. Seattle needs to keep this guy around.

They could also look into a possible extension for Earl Thomas, despite his contract expiring in 2015. He’s due $3.5m this year and $5.175m in 2014. A new deal wouldn’t necessarily inflate those figures greatly, but would add years to his contract and ensure he gets paid handsomely over the long term. Thomas has grown into a defensive leader and ended last year as possibly the leading safety in the NFL. He’s staying in Seattle beyond 2014, that isn’t in question. They won’t let him get away. The only question is when they start to talk about a new deal.

The Seahawks have structured the Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett contracts in a way that’ll make it easier to re-sign existing players on the roster. Avril’s deal is actually only worth $13m with incentives according to Brian McIntyre and his cap hit in 2013 is just $3.75m. Which is pretty astonishing. Michael Bennett’s cap hit in 2013 will be $4.8m. As a duo, they’re taking up slightly more room than Matt Flynn ($7.25m).

It basically means the Seahawks have $6.43m in cap space (per Clayton) available this year. The only reason they’d choose not to spend it is to push cap into 2014 to aid contract negotiations. So getting stuff done now really just saves time and rewards 2-3 players that really deserve their money.

The only stumbling block could be the mega-deal signed by Dashon Goldson in Tampa Bay worth $41.5m. He’ll earn $9m against the cap in 2013 and 2014, with earning potential of around $8m in 2015 and 2016. That’s probably the starting point for any new contract for Thomas, perhaps pushing this particular re-sign into next year. An expensive receiver market (Greg Jennings, Percy Harvin, Mike Wallace) could also make for tricky talks with Tate — even if he’s a less established player.

Perhaps one of the reasons we haven’t seen any movement on Alan Branch (or any other defensive tackle or linebacker for that matter) is because they’re waiting to see where they’re at when negotiations for players like Chancellor, Tate and maybe Thomas are concluded. This appears to be an off-season based around priorities and opportunism. The #1 priority would’ve been to improve the pass rush. Job done. Priority #2 would’ve been to get an impact player with the #25 pick. Again — job done (just a month earlier than anyone imagined). Now the third priority might be keeping the core of this team together for the long haul.

It’s a priority that might drift on for a few years yet. As guys like Richard Sherman, K.J. Wright and eventually Russell Wilson become eligible for new deals, that will likely engulf any available spending money. We might not see the kind of calculated moves we saw this year for Avril and Bennett — and we’re very unlikely to see the big splash moves for guys like Sidney Rice and Zach Miller.

In fact you could probably make a case for 2013 being Seattle’s best chance to challenge for a Super Bowl. It’s not such a ridiculous suggestion — they’re in the perfect storm right now. They’ve added key free agents, they can still accommodate expensive veterans like Rice, they can make a big trade for Percy Harvin and they have a group of young Pro-Bowl/All-Pro starters earning a pittance (Wilson, Sherman etc). Soon those players won’t be earning a pittance any more and it’ll start to suffocate the cap. Players like Rice will move on with replacements needing to be found in the draft at a cheap price.

The 2013 Seahawks might be the most talented they’ll ever be. That doesn’t mean it’s championship or bust this year. Far from it. But they may never have such a balanced, youthful and loaded roster like this again. It’ll be almost impossible to maintain from a financial point of view. There will be future off-seasons where the needs extend beyond simply finding a big body to play defensive tackle and a WILL replacement for Leroy Hill. This is a unique year for this franchise.

In other news…

– The Seahawks were awarded two 7th round compensatory picks today. The addition of Matt Flynn and Jason Jones cancelled out the moves that saw John Carlson move to Minnesota and David Hawthorne head to New Orleans. Seattle gets the picks for losing Charlie Whitehurst and Atari Bigby. It means they have ten picks in the 2013 draft — 2, 3, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7, 7, 7, 7.

– It’s a big week for Star Lotulelei. He’s expected to participate in Utah’s pro-day on Wednesday and we should find out more about the heart condition that kept him out of the combine.

– I’d recommend reading this X’s & O’s piece from a Minnesota Vikings fan courtesy of Field Gulls on how Seattle can get the most out of Percy Harvin.

– You will notice there’s a new image at the top of the sidebar these days. Seahawks Draft Blog is now pleased to be an associate of the NFL’s official online store. I’ve never asked for any donations from you guys, but the blog does come with monthly running costs that come out of my own pocket every time. So all I ask is if you’ve enjoyed five years of this website and are planning on buying a new Percy Harvin jersey — do it through the link on this site and help me out along the way.

– Some people have asked about San Jose State tight end Ryan Otten. Here’s his tape vs BYU, Colorado State and Utah State:

Picking up the pieces: Defense

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

Sylvester Williams- should he last- would be a major contender for the #56 pick

(Be sure to check out Rob’s article on Gavin Escobar earlier today where he compares the San Diego State playmaker to Anthony McCoy.)

For months we’ve studied this roster, listened for clues, and scoured the press wires for rumors.  We looked into contract situations and tried to determine where Seattle might want to get younger or more cost effective.  We worked hard, and I would like to think we were on the right track.  The performances at the NFL Scouting Combine helped finally bring the picture into focus.  We felt that Datone Jones was probably the favorite in round one, with a receiver (perhaps Ryan Swope) being a likely target in round two, with an outside pass rusher perhaps being a target in round three (Corey Lemonier, Brandon Jenkins, Cornelius Washington, etc).  I would have felt very comfortable with that trio of projections.

Seattle had money to spend, but most of it was rollover cash and the team has myriad priority free agents just over the horizon.  John Schneider said that he might “dabble” in free agency.

Instead, he posted at least arguably the most electric opening to free agency in the league this year.  Had Percy Harvin been a free agent, Seattle would have signed, in my opinion, three of the top five free agents available, with Harvin topping the list. It was a masterful showing that completely shattered the previous draft model we had developed.  I doubt there has ever been a more exciting opening to free agency for Seahawks fans than the one that just passed.  So much for the “stand pat” theory.

There isn’t much money left to spend, but I have to believe Alan Branch will return.  Seattle needs depth for both Red Bryant and Brandon Mebane as well as a defined rush defense oriented 3-tech.  If you were Branch, and the money was close, would you prefer to return to Superbowl favorite or play for a rebuilding team such as Jacksonville that probably doesn’t have him in their long term plans?  If Branch does leave, there are options in the draft.  And if Seattle does retain Branch, adding a well rounded 3-tech or a pure interior pass rusher project still makes plenty of sense in the long term.

I think Steven Hauschka will probably be back.  That plus the money for draft picks essentially uses up what money the team has left.  After that, it will just be a matter of signing extensions for next year’s players, and figuring out where that money will come from.

Seattle could probably skip the 2013 draft and still win a Superbowl next season.  They are set just about everywhere with an average or better starter.  This means that the 2013 draft will shift focus to three new areas:  drafting for value, drafting for specific roles, and drafting for potential future needs.  Here’s how I think the 2013 draft priorities will look after free agency adjusted the team’s big board:

Defensive Tackle

I am a huge fan of the Michael Bennett addition.  Letting him leave in the first place was among the bigger mistakes of the Tim Ruskell administration.  Having watched him last season, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that he took off in production when being moved away from the 3-tech and more towards a Justin Tuck type role.  Bennett has enough explosive upper body power to bully tackles and tight ends for cheap sacks, and he’s fast enough to run around an off-balance blocker.  If he’s moved inside, he’ll draw a lot of double teams and he won’t capitalize on that power move so much.  He also graded very highly by Pro Football Focus as a run stuffer, so it would hardly surprise me if he essentially steals Red Bryant’s starting 5-tech job by next year (along with the money that Red Bryant would be making).  I think he can manage as a 3-tech but at just 274 pounds I think he’s probably only a situational player there.   And given his obvious value at strong side end, I think it’s wise to get him reps there as often as possible.

This means that Seattle probably shouldn’t consider the 3-tech issue fixed just yet, especially since Alan Branch and Clinton McDonald are still free agents- and Jaye Howard is far from a shoe-in on the next 53 man roster.  I personally view Bennett as being half a 3-tech, and we have several 3-tech spots to fill.   We still need to add interior pass rush specialist depth and at least one- preferably two- run stopping specialists.  We need to always at least have the option of lining up an extra big body with Brandon Mebane to protect Bobby Wagner in obvious rush situations, since Wagner will often struggle with free blockers.  It would also be nice if those run stuffers had at least some pass rush ability.

I think Seattle will try to retain Branch and then add one more “Alan Branch type” and one more “Jason Jones type” in this draft.  If Sylvester Williams reaches the #56 pick, he could be strongly considered since he is a terrific all around defensive tackle- similar to Alan Branch with more pass rush ability.  Bennie Logan is a solid option as a “Alan Branch” type as well, though I view him as more of a mid-round prospect that will be an average NFL player.  I think he moves well for his size and defends the run well, but he isn’t a sensational athlete and didn’t dominate at LSU.  Abry Jones is an under the radar option from Georgia’s loaded defense who fits this mold too.  He might be had in the 7th round.  Jordan Hill is a mid-rounder that may not be great against the run but controls gaps very well.

It appears Clinton McDonald might not be back, and if they replace him it will probably be with a pass rusher type who possesses 4.8 forty type speed (since McDonald and the departed Jones both ran the forty in that area).  Obviously, if Datone Jones reaches our pick, he would be a terrific addition, but that seems extremely unlikely at this point.  Kawann Short isn’t that fast, but he could make sense too, though he’s also highly unlikely to reach us.  There are some intriguing projects in the mid rounds, but most of them did not play defensive tackle in college.  Lavar Edwards, Malliciah Goodman, and Joe Kruger all possess size and speed similar to Jason Jones, but unfortunately all of them played defensive end in college.  John Simon was a end/tackle hybrid in college and might be an option as well.

(Note from Rob – Clinton McDonald was tendered by the Seahawks. This means he’ll be part of the roster in 2013 unless another team signs him to an offer sheet. If that happens, the Seahawks get a 7th round pick as compensation.)

Lavar Edwards’ combine numbers read a lot like Datone Jones with longer arms.  Edwards:  6’4″, 277 pounds, 35.5″ arms, 4.80 in the forty, 1.64 ten yard split.  Jones: 6’4″, 283 pounds, 33″ arms, 4.80 in the forty, 1.63 ten yard split.  Jones is a deserving 1st round pick.  Edwards played very few interior snaps, but showed excellent explosion off the snap and good power.  He’s not going to blow you away with his tape, but he has the tools to be a high upside pass rush 3-tech.  Goodman is a similar story, with measurables that compare to Greg Scruggs.  Joe Kruger- brother of Paul Kruger- played mostly as a 3-4 defensive end and excelled with a more physical style of play.  I think his conversion to the 3-tech would be more streamlined than Edwards or Goodman.  Kruger is 6’6″, 269, ran a 4.83 in the forty, and has the core strength to play inside.  He also has a lot of potential to add weight on his frame if needed.  There’s also John Simon, who I’ve talked about before.  I think Simon will be a star for some lucky team as he plays much bigger than his size.  Armonty Bryant might be a possibility if Seattle thinks he can handle a hybrid role.  He has the quickness and core strength for it.  I expect most if not all of these options be available in the middle rounds of the draft.

Defensive End

Cliff Avril was given Leroy Hill’s number, which means he can play either defensive end or linebacker.  If Seattle views Avril primarily as a LEO, that means they are already carrying one more defensive end than they did last year, so adding another seems doubtful.  If they view Avril as a linebacker that can sub at LEO, then it’s conceivable that they might draft a LEO if there is a value they just can’t say no to.  Perhaps an athletic pass rusher like Corey Lemonier, Margus Hunt, Devin Taylor, or Cornelius Washington.  Ty Powell, Trevardo Williams, and Jamie Collins could be potential considerations, but I personally view all three of them as linebackers.

Quite frankly, I think this years’ defensive end class is stunningly weak.  The only defensive end I even like as a value pick is Corey Lemonier if he reaches the 2nd or 3rd round.  I think that John Schneider would probably agree with me, and I think the spending spree at defensive end shows it.  This was a much stronger free agent defensive end class than draft class, and I think John Schneider was absolutely right for getting the Seahawks in the mix there.

I wouldn’t completely rule out a defensive end addition, but I think it’s very unlikely.  It would have to be a “too good to turn down” value such as Corey Lemonier or Margus Hunt in the mid rounds.

Linebacker

As I hinted at in my “USC backup crew” article, I don’t think Seattle views linebacker as a pressing need, and since then they’ve added a potential part time linebacker with 4.51 speed in Cliff Avril.  Given the quality that Mike Morgan and Malcolm Smith showed in limited looks the last two seasons, I think we are likely to see them starring in a Moffitt/Sweezy type platoon at weakside linebacker in 2013.  Avril will likely replace KJ Wright at SAM in some situations and might also see some action at WILL when he’s not lining up as a defensive end.  Given that Avril played on the strong side at Detroit and has linebacker experience in college, I could see him being a really nice piece on our defense from the SAM spot, acting a bit like a 5th lineman.  I’m actually a little geeked about the pre-draft status at linebacker right now.  We have weapons in the linebacker crew.  A complete array of them.

That doesn’t mean we couldn’t try to add another.  I’m pretty sure Seattle will at least try.  Unfortunately, this is a below average linebacker group across the board and it’s particularly unimpressive if you are searching for linebackers that run legit 4.4 and 4.5 type times like Pete Carroll does.  Of all the linebackers Pete Carroll has acquired so far, only run stuffing SAM KJ Wright did not run a forty in the 4.4 or 4.5 range.  That speed matters when your primary Superbowl threat also plays in your division and is built around a running quarterback who clocked in at 4.53 in the forty.

Zaviar Gooden makes sense, but does Seattle like him enough to spend a third or fourth round pick on him?  That’s a big investment for “competition” with Mike Morgan, Malcolm Smith, and Allen Bradford.  Maybe AJ Klein later on?  He’s a bit on the slow side for Pete, but he’s a good football player and can close in a hurry.  Maybe Cornelius Washington, even though he was more of a defensive end at Georgia?  Jamie Collins is getting some 1st round hype as a 3-4 outside linebacker.  Ty Powell has a lot of burst and thump to his game, but like AJ Klein his speed might be fringe for Carroll.  Trevardo Williams is probably fast enough.  Most people think he’s a defensive end, but I see him as a linebacker due to his non-aggressive style of play.

I wouldn’t be stunned by a selection of Khaseem Greene or Alec Ogletree, but after running in the low 4.7s, I have to think that’s not going to be fast enough and the investment for either might be too big given the other needs the team has.  We’ll see.

Cornerback

It seems extremely likely that Seattle will draft another corner.  Seattle drafted a corner in 2010, they drafted two corners in 2011, and they drafted a corner in 2012.  It’s been a bit of a tradition to take one every year, not to mention the results of those picks have caught the attention of the NFL.

The Seahawks also appear to be parting ways with Marcus Trufant, so there could be a roster spot to fill.  Then there is the rumor about Seattle showing strong interest in Robert Alford, who may not even reach Seattle’s pick in round two.

Pete Carroll has never drafted a corner earlier than the 4th round.  Is it possible that he might set a new high water mark for that position this year?  It’s been estimated that as many as twenty corners could be drafted in the top 100 picks.  It’s a very deep defensive back class- loaded with prospects that ran in the 4.4s and 4.5s.  Seattle could probably wait til the late rounds again, but there is the risk that a deep class might be picked dry by then.  Seattle’s interest in second round prospect Robert Alford certainly raises questions, as does Walter Thurmond and RFA Brandon Browner’s statuses after next season.

One thing to remember is that Seattle is not exclusively looking for corners over six foot tall.  Walter Thurmond is 5’11”.  The rumored Alford is 5’10”.  Jeremy Lane is exactly six foot.  Being over six feet tall helps, but isn’t a requirement.  Speed isn’t a major requirement, although I think Seattle will probably prefer players with a well rounded game that can elevate to the football and press well at the line.

A few of my favorites are Iowa’s Micah Hyde, Georgia’s Sanders Commings and LSU’s Tharold Simon.  Hyde is a well rounded corner that has so-so measurables but excellent tape.  Commings was a consistent difference maker on a great defense, and moves extremely well for someone standing 6 foot tall and weighing a Browner-esque 216 pounds.  Simon is a great cover corner despite being 6’2″ and over 200 pounds.

Seattle will almost certainly draft a corner, and that selection might happen anywhere in the draft.  My guess is that we’ll see them take one in the round 4-7 range just as they did in years prior, but spending a pick earlier would not shock me.

Safety

With Chris Maragos still a free agent, I suspect Seattle will take a long look at a fairly potent free safety group this year.  Maragos wouldn’t be expensive to retain, so he might be back after the draft concludes if Seattle doesn’t find an option they like.

I think safety will probably be a late priority.  Two safeties I like:  Earl Wolff and Jakar Hamilton.  While Shamarko Thomas is drawing a lot of attention for his athleticism, Wolff wasn’t far behind in his combine performances.  Wolff had a hit and miss tenure during his wolfpack career, but his speed and style are reminiscent of a rookie Earl Thomas.  Wolff will probably be a 3rd or 4th round pick, but he could be a player to watch if he slips during the draft.

A more likely late round option is Jakar Hamilton.  Once a talented safety for Georgia, he suffered an injury and lost his starting job to two excellent safeties, Shawn Williams and Baccari Rambo.  Hamilton faced the prospect of graduating without getting to play, so he transferred and played last season for South Carolina State.  Hamilton faced a steep academic hill to climb when he joined South Carolina State and had to take 19 credit hours during the Spring semester and another 18 credit hours over the Summer.  His defensive coordinator called it “probably the biggest hill to climb of anybody [he’d] seen come into [SC State’s] program.”  Hamilton isn’t just a determined player, he’s also a gifted one.  He stands 6’1″, weighs 200, but runs in the 4.4s.  He’s very strong in run defense but has the speed to play corner or free safety.  Not only could he back up Earl Thomas, he might even be able to free up Kam Chancellor at strong safety to play other positions for a few snaps here and there.

Like corner, it’s really hard to guess who Seattle will draft.  It just seems very likely that they will take one, somewhere.  They might even take two, if they feel that they want more competition for Winston Guy and Jeron Johnson in the big nickle packages.

Fitting it all together

Here is a rough guess of what John Schneider’s draft pockets might look like on defense right now:

Defensive Tackle: Rounds 2-4; might add an additional DT in the 4-7 range.

Defensive End: Unlikely to be drafted, unless value presents itself.

Linebacker: Rounds 4-7, waiting for UDFA a possibility.

Cornerback: Probably rounds 4-7, but earlier rounds shouldn’t be ruled out given the expected early rush on the position.

Safety: Rounds 4-7.

In summation, Seattle is looking for depth on defense almost exclusively, with the only starter type player being a run stuffing 3-tech that can also rush the quarterback some.  Someone like Sylvester Williams or Bennie Logan.

Gavin Escobar might be a little too much like Anthony McCoy

Sunday, March 17th, 2013

I was a big fan of Anthony McCoy going into the 2010 draft. He never put up big numbers at USC, but the potential was clear to see. Without the character red flags and better production, he had first or second round talent. Of course, those are two pretty big issues. And that’s why he dropped to the sixth round.

Pete Carroll has taken only a handful of players he coached in college. He’s been quite selective overall (see: Lawrence Jackson, Lofa Tatupu) and its testament to McCoy’s potential despite the red flags that he was given a shot. None of the off-field concerns have re-emerged in Seattle so far. With Kellen Winslow failing to make the roster and Cameron Morrah landing on injured reserve, he ended up as the teams #2 tight end last year. And he did pretty well. He certainly managed to limit the drops — an issue that lingered the previous season. He scored three touchdowns for a team that didn’t pass all that much in 2012, with 291 yards.

In some ways you could say that was the next stage of a slow development process. He’s still only 25 and won’t turn 26 until December 28th. With Russell Wilson blossoming into a leading quarterback by the end of the year, any pass-catcher playing for this team is likely to benefit in the future. The addition of Percy Harvin could limit the amount of 2TE sets they use (it stands to reason they’ll want to put Harvin, Sidney Rice and Golden Tate on the field more often than not) but it’s unlikely to be banished to the back of the playbook. McCoy, if he continues as the #2 tight end, could still play a role for this team.

Before the Harvin trade most people expected the Seahawks to explore the possibility of getting a ‘move’ tight end to act as a Joker in certain packages. This would obviously be a big, mobile target who can run a lot of receiver routes but allow the Seahawks to use a lot of big sets up front. They could still look for that guy and you could easily argue they need another tall receiver who can exploit single coverage and high point the football. They tried out Terrell Owens, Braylon Edwards and Kellen Winslow for a reason. I’m not sure they completely abandon that quest for height now that they’ve brought in an explosive guy like Harvin. Targeting a late round guy like Rutgers’ Mark Harrison makes sense.

Yet anyone they do bring in is probably going to need to offer something different. Just like Harvin, I suppose. When I watch Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State) I fear he might just be a little too similar to what they already have in McCoy.

Escobar is 6-6 while McCoy is 6-5. Both players ran in the 4.8’s pre-draft. There’s a weight difference of about 5lbs. And while either player is capable of making those difficult, eye catching grabs in traffic — they’re also capable of the occasional miss.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Escobar as a prospect. I expected him to run faster at the combine (I also expected McCoy to run faster than he did). And there are things he does a little better than McCoy. In his combine work out (see below) he looked a bit more fluid and mobile. I remember the play against St. Louis where McCoy was wide open, Wilson hits him downfield and he kind of awkwardly rumbled forward before being brought down. I think Escobar would’ve been a little sharper in that situation, turning up field and perhaps making more of the opportunity. He seems to keep his balance well for a big guy and he just looks smooth out there. I’d give Escobar the edge as a catcher too — he has soft hands and that’s a pretty handsome looking gauntlet drill in the video below:

I’m sure I read somewhere that John Schneider and his staff look at the roster and have a grading system for each player. Then they look at what’s available and try to see where the biggest possible upgrades can be made in free agency or a draft. When they look at the #2 tight end position, I’m sure they’ll feel it’s an area they can improve. McCoy isn’t Jimmy Graham after all. And I’m not sure you’d feel totally satisfied if he had to take over from Miller either temporarily or full time. But I’m not sure the areas where Escobar has the edge (balance, slightly better athlete, softer hands) will be enough to say, “we need to draft this guy in round two”. I doubt he’ll be available for the Seahawks beyond that range.

I think he’ll be at his best working on the second level where the height and reach becomes an advantage. He’ll be a good checkdown option and could develop into a reliable third down target. I do think Escobar has a shot to be an effective receiver who can find little soft zones and make key grabs. He should also be effective in the red zone at that size. Throw the ball up to him on a fade and there’s a good chance he’ll bring it down.

But if the Seahawks are going to draft a tight end early, they probably need to do more than offer a slight upgrade over Anthony McCoy. Both Tyler Eifert and Zach Ertz ran receiver routes in college, they’ve both shown a similar ability to make grabs at the second level but they’ve also shown they can stretch the field a little bit more. Eifert is a better athlete, Ertz was Stanford’s leading receiver. Despite concerns over Ertz’s 4.7 at the combine, watching him run deep against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl told me all I need to know. I’m not convinced either player makes it to #56, but they’re probably going to have to if the Seahawks draft for this position in the second round.

Free agency has tailed off across the league this weekend despite a number of key names remaining available. Perhaps everyone is taking stock? The league meetings in Arizona are probably having an impact. It could kick start again this week but it’ll be interesting to see what (if any) moves Seattle go for. They only had two starters hitting free agency this year — Alan Branch and Leroy Hill. The defensive tackle and linebacker positions both remain unfilled. Amid the excitement of last week’s triple signing of Harvin, Avril and Bennett, we all talked about how open the draft would be for this team. Yet if those holes remain unfilled by late April —  it’s still hard to look beyond a defensive tackle and a linebacker with those two ‘day two’ picks.

It’ll be very interesting to see whether Branch in particular re-signs with the Seahawks. The noises so far (we’ve talked to his agent etc) don’t sound promising. It could be leverage. Or it could be an indication that they truly believe they can fill that hole in the draft. If they don’t go with Branch then a defensive tackle has to be the favourite at #56.

Below you’ll find Escobar’s tape against Boise State from 2012. The video at the top of the article shows two games versus Washington State and Michigan from 2011.

Denard Robinson – day two pick for Seattle?

Saturday, March 16th, 2013

I found it interesting this week that Tony Pauline suggested former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson was likely to be a day two pick:

Continue to hear a buzz being built around receiver Denard Robinson, especially after his performance today.  Though he just participated in drills (WR/RS/RB) scouts were impressed with his consistency and the fact he dropped no passes.  Looks like Robinson has secured a spot for himself in the draft’s second day.

He looked awkward at the Senior Bowl working as a receiver and taking returns. There was talk of a potential switch to cornerback instead. Robinson looked like a great athlete without a home.

And while there was all this talk of position changes I couldn’t help but wonder why nobody was considering him as a running back? After all, he’s 5-10 and 199lbs. He ran a 4.43 at the combine. In comparison, Chris Johnson came in at 5-11 and 186lbs at the combine in 2008. Robinson basically played as a glorified running back in college, throwing occasionally bust mostly excelling in the read option breaking off big gains.

4495. That’s how many yards he ran for in his time at Michigan at 6.2 yards a pop. He scored 42 rushing touchdowns too. Take away his rusty first season and he averaged well over eight yards per carry with +1200 yards a season.

He wouldn’t be the first quarterback from the Big 10 to switch to the backfield — Michael Robinson made a similar move. Yet this latest Robinson has the kind of speed and vision to act as a playmaker rather than a full back. It’d be a completely unconventional second or third round pick, but imagine this guy in the backfield, especially on read option plays? When you actually think about it, he could be one of the most dynamic prospective running backs in the class.

Forget asking him to try and cover elite receivers at corner or learn a full route tree — hand him the ball. Get him involved in screens and bubble’s. Put him in a position to make impact plays for chunk yardage. At Michigan he was a prospective Heisman candidate and explosive playmaker. The only thing that let him down really was the passing side of the game. Well, at running back you’re pretty much taking away that negative.

Part of me thinks this would be such a Seahawky move. It’d be labelled a titanic bust at the time and raise a few titters from the media. And a year later it could be considered a master-stroke. Draft the guy in round two or three, put him in there to spell Lynch and let him hit a few home runs. You could argue that’s why they traded for Percy Harvin, but I don’t expect he’ll be taking too many snaps in the backfield. How do you gameplan against an offense that has Wilson, Lynch and Robinson in the backfield, Harvin in the slot and Rice split out wide? Robinson could act as the third running back initially, taking over the snaps given up by Leon Washington. He could spell Harvin with some returns. But eventually you’re looking at him potentially becoming a dynamic option in the backfield.

In 2010 Carolina drafted Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards in round three (after trading away the rights to their 2011 second rounder). They believed he had the skill and playmaking quality to transform into a receiver at the next level. It’s never really worked out, but if a team is willing to draft Edwards in that range — someone is going to give Denard Robinson a shot too. Whether it’s Seattle or not.

As the last week has shown, the Seahawks love to keep you guessing. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he was a day two or three selection. Neither would it surprise me if he ended up becoming a truly dynamic change of pace back at the next level.

So what do you think?

Updated mock draft – 15th March

Friday, March 15th, 2013

The Seahawks did exactly what they set out to do — improve the pass rush. Pete Carroll made it clear as soon as the 2012 season ended. That was the #1 priority. And while most of us assumed they’d find a solution in the draft, who would’ve guessed they’d find what they were looking for in free agency?

Here we are, days into the new league year, and there are high-profile players seemingly sat at home waiting to make even their first visit. The market is shot. And it’s worked to Seattle’s advantage. Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were expected to get mega deals, but the offers never came in. So they signed modest contracts with a contender to enhance their earning potential in the future. It’s win-win.

Avril fills the prospective hole left by Chris Clemons while he recovers from an ACL. Bennett almost certainly replaces Jason Jones as a hybrid pass rusher. He’s like Jason Jones+ — he can play the nickel three technique position but he can pretty much line up anywhere. If the Seahawks have a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, why not switch to an orthodox four man front with Bennett and Avril playing the edge? I suspect we’ll see him all over the line. He’s more versatile than Jason Jones but essentially, he fills that void.

Imagine if Clemons makes a recovery and what kind of options will be open to Seattle then? Avril, Bennett, Clemons and Bruce Irvin. Scary.

Danny Kelly at Field Gulls has a great piece on how Dan Quinn might look to use all the weapons at his disposal. This could be a much more attack-minded defensive line going forward. Not so much because there’s going to be any great ideological changes — but with an explosive offense capable of building big leads, Quinn and Carroll will have more opportunities to attack.

The two key need areas remaining are defensive tackle and linebacker. I do think we’ll see further moves in free agency to address at least one of these needs (Alan Branch?). Releasing Ben Obomanu today brought some cap relief, so there’s room for a modest addition at least. I think we’ll see further moves on the way too. What it all means is the Seahawks can pretty much do whatever they want at #56 and I wanted to emphasise that in this week’s mock. I haven’t gone for a prospect who will fill one of the two key needs. I haven’t gone for a player I think they’ll definitely be monitoring. It’s a pick that kind of emphasises that anything could happen now. The roster is good enough to justify any move.

I went for Tennessee’s versatile lineman Dallas Thomas. He’s a player I’m very fond of — athletic, strong and he gave Jadeveon Clowney a run for his money in October (he’s one of the very few who did last season). He’s capable of playing guard or tackle. He has the kind of height Seattle has looked for on the offensive line (6-5) and he has good size (around 310lbs). At #56 I wondered who might be the pure best player available at a position we might not really consider. I came up with five names — Thomas, Tyler Wilson, Robert Woods, Markus Wheaton and Marcus Lattimore.

I’ve debated with several people on here the teams likely satisfaction with the depth and quality of their offensive line. So what better way to express that anything can happen than to pick a guard/tackle in this mock? Thomas is certainly good enough to warrant the choice. Is it likely? Maybe not. But the Seahawks can feel comfortable doing it if they wish.

I wouldn’t rule out any of the other names either. John Schneider worked on a Green Bay front office that drafted Brian Brohm in the late second round despite having Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers on the roster. If Carroll feels drafting Woods or Wheaton to spell Percy Harvin on kick off’s is the best move, so be it. And if they want to bank Marcus Lattimore for a redshirt year knowing what he’s capable of when healthy, why not?

I’m at the stage now where any player at any position really is on the table. Seattle has the quality and depth to do whatever they want. So sit back and enjoy.

There are several trades in the first round again this week. We know we’ll see moves and given the way free agency has played out, I felt obliged to include some deals again. I will go back to a conventional mock next week. Unless people prefer seeing trades?

Buffalo trades from #8 to #2 with Jacksonville (estimated compensation — 2nd + 2014 second rounder)
The Bills just cut Ryan Fitzpatrick and Tarvaris Jackson is the next man up. Buddy Nix said it during the regular season — it’s time to go and get that quarterback. This front office has taken a first round prospect they’ve had come in for a visit for the last three years. It was revealed this week that Geno Smith will take a trip to Buffalo. The Jags are content to move down in this scenario.

San Diego trades from #11 to #6 with Cleveland (estimated compensation — 2nd round pick)
The Browns don’t have a second round pick so this makes some sense. The Chargers move up to get Eric Fisher. They have to come out of this draft with a left tackle.

Dallas trades from #18 to #14 with Carolina (estimated compensation — 3rd round pick)
Jerry Jones always seems to go after the guy he wants. He might see Jonathan Cooper as the answer to his problems at center. Cooper is good enough to make the switch. Trade up for a center? Again, Cooper is good enough.

Atlanta trades from #30 to #26 with Green Bay (estimated compensation — 4th round pick)
The Falcons, seeing Bjoern Werner fall, make a small move up the board to add a pass rusher that can start immediately.

San Francisco trades from #31 to #24 with Indianapolis (estimated compensation — 4th + 5th round pick)
The 49ers can afford to make a move like this, they have enough picks. They go after Datone Jones here. Indy is happy to move down and target Travis Frederick to play center or guard.

Tampa Bay trades from #43 to #29 with New England (estimated compensation — 3rd + 3rd round pick in 2014)
We saw discount moves at the end of round one in last years draft and we could see the same here. The Pats love a trade down and Tampa Bay moves up to guarantee they get a cornerback. They moved up to get Doug Martin last year and that worked out pretty well.

Arizona trades from #41 to #32 with Baltimore (estimated compensation — 3rd + 3rd round pick in 2014)
The Cardinals move back into the first round to draft a quarterback.

Note — picks involved in a trade can be identified by ** after the player’s name.

There are no trades in round two. This thing is convoluted enough as it is. And in this projection, the Seahawks re-sign Alan Branch.

First round

#1 Luke Joeckel (T, Texas A&M)
They can pretty much do whatever they want here, but Joeckel probably makes the most sense.
#2 Geno Smith (QB, West Virginia) **
Jumping above Oakland and fending off interest from Cleveland, the Bills make sure they get their guy.
#3 Dion Jordan (DE, Oregon)
The Raiders have to start building a core of talent, they have nothing right now. This is a long, painful rebuild.
#4 Sharrif Floyd (DT, Florida)
He’d make a nice fit in Philly’s new 3-4 scheme as a five-technique.
#5 Dee Milliner (CB, Alabama)
The complete cornerback prospect and a fine addition for Detroit if he goes here.
#6 Eric Fisher (T, Central Michigan) **
I don’t think the Chargers will mess around hoping one of Fisher or Lane Johnson falls to #11.
#7 Lane Johnson (T, Oklahoma)
They decide a tackle is best value here.
#8 Matt Barkley (QB, USC) **
Gus Bradley spent the last three years with Pete Carroll. So he’ll know Barkley’s worth.
#9 Chance Warmack (G, Alabama)
Rex Ryan’s future beyond 2013 is unclear, so go back to running the ball. A solid pick with no long term issues if there’s a coaching change.
#10 Ziggy Ansah (DE, BYU)
Someone’s going to fall in love with his upside.
#11 Sheldon Richardson (DT, Missouri) **
Ray Horton had Darnell Dockett in Arizona. Meet the second coming.
#12 Tavon Austin (WR, West Virginia)
In a draft like this, Austin going in the top-12 wouldn’t shock me at all.
#13 Star Lotulelei (DT, Utah)
Corner is a big need, but Lotulelei could be too good to pass here.
#14 Jonathan Cooper (G/C, North Carolina) **
Jerry Jones seems to really go after guys he likes. He might consider moving up for Cooper, who could play center for Dallas.
#15 Jarvis Jones (OLB, Georgia)
Some teams will still be cautious, but if Jones’ back injury really isn’t as serious as feared — he should be a top-15 pick.
#16 Kenny Vaccaro (S, Texas)
A good fit for player and team.
#17 Kevin Minter (LB, LSU)
He looks like a Steeler or a Raven in the making.
#18 Cordarrelle Patterson (WR, Tennessee) **
The Panthers could use some cheap points on offense. This perhaps takes some of the pressure off Cam Newton.
#19 Barkevious Mingo (DE, LSU)
The Giants appear to be starting again on defense. That could mean going after an athletic pass rusher.
#20 D.J. Fluker (T, Alabama)
They’d probably like to keep building their offensive line. Fluker could play guard or tackle.
#21 Alec Ogletree (LB, Georgia)
Someone will take a shot on this guy in round one I think.
#22 Eddie Lacy (RB, Alabama)
Steven Jackson is off to Atlanta, so they’ll need another big, physical runner to win in the NFC West.
#23 DeAndre Hopkins (WR, Minnesota)
He just seems like the kind of receiver Minnesota will go for. Consistent, reliable, driven. A nice partner for Greg Jennings.
#24 Datone Jones (DT, UCLA) **
The 49ers surely don’t think Glenn Dorsey is the answer? They have enough picks to move up and do this.
#25 Manti Te’o (LB, Notre Dame)
Rick Spielman has already hit on two other Notre Dame players. Will he try and make it a hat-trick?
#26 Bjoern Werner (DE, Florida State) **
The Falcons move up to get an impact pass rusher.
#27 Tyler Eifert (TE, Notre Dame)
This is probably a need-meets-value type pick.
#28 Blidi Wreh-Wilson (CB, Connecticut)
This secondary needs more than just Dominic Rodgers-Cromartie.
#29 Desmond Trufant (CB, Washington) **
The Buccs move up into the late first for the second year in a row.
#30 Justin Hunter (WR, Tennessee) **
They move down and grab a pass-catcher. This is a need considering they’ve lost both Greg Jennings and Donald Driver.
#31 Travis Frederick (G, Wisconsin) **
Maybe Indy’s biggest need?
#32 E.J. Manuel (QB, Florida State) **
I think this would be ill-advised, but he’s done a lot to help his stock this off-season.

Second round

#33 Jacksonville – Corey Lemonier (DE, Auburn)
#34 San Francisco – Jonathan Cyprien (S, Florida International)
#35 Philadelphia – Xavier Rhodes (CB, Florida State)
#36 Detroit – Tank Carradine (DE, Florida State)
#37 Cincinnati – Matt Elam (S, Florida)
#38 Baltimore – Arthur Brown (LB, Kansas State)
#39 New York Jets – Zach Ertz (TE, Stanford)
#40 Tennessee – Johnthan Banks (CB, Mississippi State)
#41 Jacksonville – Jesse Williams (DT, Alabama)
#42 Miami – Larry Warford (G, Kentucky)
#43 New England – Khaseem Greene (LB, Rutgers)
#44 Carolina – Sylvester Williams (DT, North Carolina)
#45 Cleveland – Ryan Nassib (QB, Syracuse)
#46 St. Louis – Ryan Swope (WR, Texas A&M)
#47 Dallas – Kawann Short (DT, Purdue)
#48 Pittsburgh – Johnathan Hankins (DT, Ohio State)
#49 New York Giants – John Jenkins (DT, Georgia)
#50 Chicago – Keenan Allen (WR, California)
#51 Washington – D.J. Swearinger (S, South Carolina)
#52 Minnesota – Jamie Collins (LB, Southern Miss)
#53 Cincinnati – Jonathan Franklin (RB, UCLA)
#54 Miami – Jamar Taylor (CB, Boise State)
#55 Green Bay – Giovanni Bernard (RB, North Carolina)
#56 Seattle – Dallas Thomas (G, Tennessee)
#57 Houston – Robert Woods (WR, USC)
#58 Denver – Damontre Moore (DE, Texas A&M)
#59 New England – Menelik Watson (T, Florida State)
#60 Atlanta – Justin Pugh (G, Syracuse)
#61 San Francisco – Gavin Escobar (TE, San Diego State)
#62 Baltimore – Phillip Thomas (S, Fresno State)

Seahawks sign Michael Bennett to one-year deal

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Ladies and gentleman… here is your upgraded version of Jason Jones. This new model is healthier and recorded nine sacks last season.

Percy Harvin. Cliff Avril. Michael Bennett. With a draft to come. The Seahawks are playing free agency like a boss. They’re letting the market come to them then beating the crap out of it.

Cliff Avril doesn’t get the mega money he’s looking for, so he signs a two-year ‘prove it’ deal in Seattle. Why? Because he knows this team will give him the opportunity to do just that. Prove it.

Michael Bennett doesn’t get the mega money he’s looking for, so he signs a one-year ‘prove it’ deal in Seattle. Why? Because he knows this team will give him the opportunity to do just that. Prove it.

This isn’t the kind of reckless ‘dream team’ spending that created a mess in Philadelphia. This is cold, calculated domination. If these deals don’t work, they move on. The length of contract in both cases means neither player will have any impact on the teams ability to re-sign Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas or anyone else in the future.

This isn’t blowing $7m on inside linebackers (Miami), multi-millions on Paul Kruger and Desmond Bryant (Cleveland), over-paying for Ricky Jean-Francois, Donald Thomas and Eric Walden (Indianapolis), or giving Mike Wallace $30m guaranteed (Miami again). This is patience and execution. This is opportunism. Playing the market, not being played by the market.

And it helps when you can attract these kind of deals because you already possess a young, vibrant roster.

There will be naysayers who claim you don’t win anything in March. That is true. But again, this isn’t a reckless splurge chasing a dream. Other teams ploughed into free agency and as a collective washed away over $200m in one day. The Seahawks instead traded for Harvin and solved their greatest need (pass rush) with two of the best available free agents at a knock down price. And what an incentive for Avril and Bennett to make the most of their time in the Pacific North West.

Seattle might not win the Super Bowl next season. But they’re positioning themselves for one hell of a run.

So far they’ve added one of the best playmakers in the league, replaced Chris Clemons (ACL) with a top-tier free agent and now upgraded the nickel three-technique position swapping Jason Jones for Michael Bennett. I’m half expecting a trade for Darrelle Revis tomorrow for a stick of gum and some old socks.

Cross off another need on your list. By my count that leaves two — starting defensive tackle and WILL. Will Alan Branch now re-sign? It makes a lot of sense. Take a WILL in the draft? Again, it makes a lot of sense.

This confirms Seattle’s trust in the role Jones played in last year and almost certainly suggests they’ll continue to use size at defensive tackle for the base defense. While a multitude of teams fret over finding a quarterback, or a cornerback, or a pass rusher, or all three… Seattle’s biggest need is merely one giant space eater.

And what about that pick at #56? They can pretty much do whatever they want now. Offense. Defense. Kicker.

Win Forever? They just might.

Michael Bennett’s nine sacks from 2012: Clip 1, Clip 2, Clip 3, Clip 4, Clip 5, Clip 6, Clip 7, Clip 8, Clip 9.

Meanwhile in other news today…

Tyrann Mathieu still worries me

He appeared on NFL AM this morning and conducted a slightly bizarre interview. It all started well enough and to be fair he took a bit of a grilling and opened up about his drug use. Yet there were some really worrying quotes that slipped out near the end.

He admitted he needed to get away from Louisiana after the incident that led to the end of his college career, and he travelled to stay with Patrick Peterson’s family in Florida. Yet when asked about the possibility of being drafted by New Orleans, this was his response: “They’d have to come up with a pretty good plan to keep me out of harms way.”

Excuse me?

He was then questioned about his four reps of the bench press at the combine (why even do it?) and he admitted it hadn’t been his focus going into the event. His focus had been “staying clean”. When pressed on this, he admitted he was still battling to keep away from drugs. That it was a “struggle” to stay away from marijuana. I find it pretty alarming that he’s still having issues there, to the point it seems to have impacted his combine preparation.

Near the end of the interview he said he’d been smoking weed from the age of 12-13 and was introduced to it by a family member. It just seems like this has been a part of his life for such a long time now, he’s really struggling to leave it behind. It’s ingrained into him. Almost like a compulsive smoker who struggles to quit because it’s become second nature.

You want to hear that he’s taken the wake-up call after his departure from LSU and kicked the drugs for good. You don’t want to hear he’s still battling those demons. A team isn’t going to want to babysit him through this struggle. He was a fun player to watch in college and I sincerely hope he can get his life and career back on track. But I can’t draft the guy on this evidence. If he can’t even be trusted to go back to Louisiana — his words — then I think you let somebody else deal with this. It’s a shame, but it is what it is.

Keenan Allen – what’s going on?

He didn’t work out at the combine. He was expected to work out at his pro-day today. But he didn’t. He didn’t do a single drill or work out.

This is starting to get worrying and it’s why I’ve had him as low as the late second round in previous mock drafts. You’re talking about a receiver who’s underdeveloped because the passing game in California was so inept. He basically spent a career running short digs and curls, constantly coming back to the quarterback. It’s hard to project how fast he is but I’m sceptical — he looks like a 4.5 guy to me which is unremarkable. And despite being billed as a big receiver, he’s one inch taller than DeAndre Hopkins with smaller hands and a smaller wingspan.

And now he’s a serious injury concern because this knee injury is just lingering and lingering. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he drops like a stone. It’ll take a pretty big leap of faith to see him go as early as some are projecting.

Harvin and Avril reflect Seattle’s unique perspective on value

Thursday, March 14th, 2013

Percy Harvin is the epitome of a John Schneider wide receiver

It’s funny how memory works.  One of the impressions I had from Seattle’s meeting against Minnesota last year was how unstoppable Harvin seemed.  Earlier today, I looked at Harvin’s game log to see how he did.  He had 10 yards receiving on six targets.  He added 24 yards on 4 rushes.  Was I smoking crack?  Why did I think Harvin was carving us up?

After reviewing that game a bit more, I realized how many close calls our defense had against Harvin.  Passes that just missed, passes caught that were just barely contained, and rushes that might have gone big if not for an ankle tackle here and there.  He may not have had a great game statistically before leaving with injury, but Seattle didn’t have the speed to cover him.  If he had been paired with a better quarterback and if he had played the whole game, I suspect he would have been a nightmare for our defense.  Harvin was on pace for 1334 receiving yards on 120 receptions before that fateful game at Century Link.  There was talk around midseason that he could end up an MVP candidate.

Pete Carroll once called Harvin “arguably the best football player in America” in reference to Harvin as a recruit from Landstown High School in Virginia.  The competition for Harvin as recruit came down to just USC and Florida.  Carroll made a big push, but ultimately lost Harvin to Florida, probably because Harvin wanted to stay on the east coast.  I don’t think Carroll ever forgot about Harvin.  If there is one thing you can count on- it’s that Pete Carroll doesn’t forget the one that got away.  Marshawn Lynch, Richard Sherman, and Bruce Irvin can testify to this.  Now Percy Harvin can as well.

But just as importantly, I think Harvin had a special place in John Schneider’s heart as well.  In Green Bay- where Schneider served as Thompson’s right hand man for many years- they had tremendous success in the draft with receivers.  They followed a system that targeted fast receivers with quick feet and yards after catch ability.

In Seattle, that trend continued, with the team targeting quick receivers like Golden Tate and Kris Durham, as well as acquiring Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Ricardo Lockette and Phil Bates, all of whom ran in the 4.4’s or better.  The slowest receiver Schneider has acquired from the draft process is Lavasier Tuinei, and even he ran a 4.53.  The two biggest successes of that group are Tate and Baldwin.  Tate is famous for his ability after the catch, and Baldwin is no slouch himself.  A very common comparison for Tate is a poor man’s Percy Harvin.

After a pair of sneaky strong 2012 seasons from Golden Tate and Sidney Rice, it made sense that Seattle would target an upgrade in the slot over Doug Baldwin, who finally showed the same struggle to remain healthy that made him an otherwise undeserving undrafted free agent in 2011.  Harvin led the NFL in yards after catch per reception last season, and has the kind of rare quickness out of the slot that you will only find a few other places in the league.   Not only did Harvin’s profile perfectly fit Seattle’s preferences, but his ability as a slot weapon, kick returner, and wrinkle in the rushing attack fit perfectly into Seattle’s 2013 offseason needs.

Harvin also brings an added element:  he changes the way defenses have to game plan our offense.  Consider this video where Vikings offensive coordinator Bill Musgrave talks about the impact Harvin has on defensive formations:

Harvin’s speed and threat after the catch will not only limit the number of looks defenses can show pre-snap, but it will also force defenses to cover him in the slot with safeties and corners.  If you have a corner on him, that probably means using a nickle defense package.  Nickle packages tend to fare worse against the run, which is pretty nice considering that Seattle led the NFL in rushing percentage last season.  If you cover Harvin with a safety and are not using a nickle package, that means you only have one safety deep, which invites big plays on the deep ball.  If memory serves, Russell Wilson was the 4th highest quarterback in the NFL last season in deep ball throw rate.

It’s very unlikely that Harvin would post 120 catches for 1334 yards in our offense next year.  However, even if he posts Sidney Rice or Golden Tate type production, Harvin could bring a lot of hidden value to the rest of the offense based on his ability to change the way defenses play.

Regarding the trade itself, I don’t think it was a bad trade by any means, but I do think Seattle overpaid.  It was widely assumed just one month ago that Minnesota had no leverage and would be fortunate to get a 2nd or 3rd round pick.  One anonymous NFL GM even went so far to say that he’d be “shocked” if Minnesota even managed a 3rd.  I think Harvin’s $11 million a year contract is reasonable, but it is still a lot of money to invest at receiver in an offense that spreads the football.  And as Kenneth Arthur recently noted, Seattle owns the NFL’s most expensive offense, despite having a star quarterback making about 1/40th what he deserves.

Even the 7th round pick Seattle surrendered shouldn’t be taken lightly in this loaded draft class.  It’s very possible that the draft picks alone could have turned into two or three good players, and then you have the money aspect which would cover two more good players as well.  So for the price of one Harvin, Seattle gave up four or five contributors- and there is a chance one or two of them could be the next Richard Sherman or Bobby Wagner.  That’s a lot to give up.

Of course, Seattle’s roster is so stocked right now that many draft picks are going to waste anyway, but I don’t think that should be used as an excuse.  You always need more young talent to come in to replace the previous young talent that will inevitably lost to free agency in the coming years.

That said, I also thought Zach Miller was an overpay, and I couldn’t be any happier to have Zach Miller on my team.  I think everyone agrees that Joe Flacco is overpaid, but Baltimore is far better off with an overpaid Joe Flacco than without him.  Being an overpay does not make the Harvin transaction a burden by any means.  Quite the opposite, I think Seattle just got their version of Wes Welker.  The Patriots got Welker for a 2nd and a 7th, and a lot less money, but had they paid a Percy Harvin type price, they obviously wouldn’t have regretted it.  Not that I expect Harvin to post Welker type numbers, but I do think our offense will have a comparable leap forward.

Another trade comparison is Julio Jones.  The Jones trade cost far more in picks (two firsts, a second, and two fourths), but Harvin cost $7 million more a year in salary.  Even at the steep cost of the Jones trade, most people agree that the deal has been justified by Jones’ performances.  I don’t think Harvin is the kind of pure receiving threat that Jones is, but in terms of total contribution (receiving, rushing, special teams, the way he changes defenses) I think it could be argued that he’s at least in the ballpark for total value.

I don’t think this trade proved anything about Seattle’s priorities.  They could have acquired players like Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace, or Wes Welker for far less total cost.  The fact that they paid this much with some excellent cheaper alternatives just shows you how highly they value Harvin.  They clearly view Harvin as a 24 year old, MVP type difference maker for their offense.  I don’t think this was a case of buying high because of a need.  I think it was a case of buying high because they felt that Harvin specifically was a “must get” player.

Of course, all the worries about Harvin’s migraines and character risks shouldn’t be brushed aside (although to be fair, Harvin busts his ass on the field and is exactly the kind of “character risk” that would fit in around here).  We’ll see how that works out with time.  If nothing else, Seattle’s emphatic trade for Harvin crystallizes the idea that Seattle highly values speedy, yards after catch receivers.

John Schneider loves black sheep free agents

John Schneider’s modus operandi in free agency has always been “wait and see.”  In 2011, he made a shocking acquisition of Sidney Rice on day four of free agency.  Rice, a one time 1300 yard receiver, drew essentially no interest in the open market.  Seattle saw an opportunity for a potential #1 receiver on a reasonable deal, and pounced.  A few days later, more than a week into free agency, Seattle made an even bigger surprise signing with Zach Miller, who had far less interest than expected on the open market.  The deal for Miller wasn’t the potential bargain that Rice was, but Seattle was hunting for talent for their two tight end sets and Miller fits our multi-dimensional offense about as well as you could ask for.

In 2012, Seattle seemed disinterested in quarterback Matt Flynn, that was until his market didn’t materialize as many expected.  Teams avoided Flynn, unconvinced by his lack of track record and late round tools.  It probably didn’t help that everyone just assumed he’d get “Kolb money”, this during a time when Kevin Kolb was considered a cautionary tale.  Flynn ended up with almost zero market, and Seattle’s view changed.  They ended up swooping in to nab him at 3 years, $19 million, a move that probably would have looked brilliant if not for the thunderous emergence of Russell Wilson.

Of course, this tactic extends beyond big money darlings in free agency.  Black sheep come in all shapes and sizes.  Guys like Brandon Browner, Chris Clemons, Marshawn Lynch, Leon Washington, Raheem Brock, Brandon Stokely, Anthony Hargrove, Kellen Winslow, Terrell Owens, and Braylon Edwards.  Some of those acquisitions were strikeouts and some were home runs, but all were low cost gambles that on the whole provided the team with a great return on investment.

This year’s black sheep acquisition is Cliff Avril.  Widely believed to be the top pass rusher available, Avril did not generate the market that was expected.  Perhaps citing a lack of run defense, or the theory that Ndamukong Suh acted as Avril’s benefactor, teams seemed wary to hand Avril top pass rusher years and money.  With Clemons being paid nearly $18 million for his age 32 and 33 seasons, coming fresh off an ACL, and with Irvin appearing to be far away from being a true 3-down LEO, adding another pass rusher at end made all kinds of sense for Seattle at the right price.  It’s no surprise then that Seattle was the first team to invite John Abraham for a visit after his release from the Falcons.

When it was announced that Seattle had signed Avril, I was surprised.  When I saw the details, I was stunned.  Fifteen million dollars over two years?  Seriously?  What a great buy low move and as early as day two of free agency no less.

Avril’s game is a bit of a mix between Chris Clemons and Bruce Irvin.  Avril’s size, speed, and physique is extremely similar to Clemons.  And like Clemons, Avril can manage against the run without having to sell out for it.  Where he’s like Irvin is how he’s very much an edge rusher that isn’t the same on inside moves.  Avril thrives on attacking the edge and swatting at quarterbacks as he passes by.  This is where I think the Suh concern is very real, because most of Avril’s production occurs because quarterbacks are afraid to step into the pocket.  And without a 1st round pick, or any real answer in free agency, Seattle will find it very challenging to create interior pressure next season.  Of course, Seattle is not done with the offseason, and there are a few rays of hope in the 2013 draft to complete Seattle’s pass rush ((cough) John Simon (cough) (cough)).

For many teams, I don’t know if Avril made sense even at 2/15, but for Seattle’s LEO role he’s a great fit.  I would have happily seen the Seahawks sign him for 5/50 last offseason before he was franchised.  Our defense is built to minimize his issues against the run, and while we probably won’t generate the interior pressure he’s depended on, he didn’t exactly have a secondary quite like ours behind him in Detroit, either.

Of course, this acquisition raises questions about Chris Clemons’ future.  Will Seattle pay almost $18 million over the next two seasons for a 32 year old player fresh off an ACL when cheaper, safer, and frankly, better alternatives are available?  Clemons has been one of the most valuable defensive ends in the NFL, but I doubt he’d bring as much value in 2013 on a bad knee as a healthy John Abraham or Osi Umenyiora would.  Is a healthy 26 year old Cliff Avril worth less than a 32 year old Clemons fresh off an ACL?  With Avril acting as needed insurance, we might see a restructure attempt heading Clemons’ way.

Obviously, nobody expected Seattle to blow the doors off in the first two days of free agency.  But in retrospect, their actions seem almost predictable for how well they fit the established mold.  While the amount is shocking, the fact that Seattle went for Percy Harvin is hardly surprising.  While it was highly unexpected that Avril would find his market so lacking, it is not surprising that it was the Seahawks who took advantage of it.  So far, this has been nothing if not a very John Schneider type offseason.  The Seahawks do not handle free agency like most teams do, and it’s part of the reason they’ve risen so quickly as an NFL superpower.

Seahawks sign Cliff Avril

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013

Hands up who thought the Seahawks wouldn’t do all that much in free agency?

Days after making a blockbuster trade for Percy Harvin, Pete Carroll and John Schneider have gone out and landed one of the premier free agents on the market. Detroit’s Cliff Avril was being linked with moves to Cleveland and Indianapolis early in the process, two 3-4 teams hunting for pass rushers who can work in space. Avril’s best fit was likely in the 4-3 and he’s en route to Seattle to pen a two year deal (according to ESPN).

Here’s what you need to know — he’s hitting his prime age (turns 27 in April) with 29 sacks and nine forced fumbles in the last three seasons. He’s 6-3 and 260lbs, so he’s in that LEO range. He ran a 4.51 at the combine in 2008 with a 1.52 split. That kind of speed will appeal to this front office. He’s a former third round pick coming out of Purdue.

Yes, he’s benefited a lot from the presence of Ndamukong Suh. This will be a big test to see if he can replicate those numbers without a dominating interior rusher. Yet the Lions thought enough of him to franchise him last year and offer a deal worth $10m per season over three years. He rejected those terms. It’s not clear yet how much he will earn in Seattle.

It’ll be interesting to see how much he’s earning, given Harvin’s new contract. The Seahawks suddenly look like a team chasing a title, sensing a window. They could’ve probably made a cheaper and more modest addition with John Abraham, Dwight Freeney and Osi Umenyiora all on the market. They would’ve all been stop-gaps, however. This stands to be a longer term move.

My initial thought is what does this mean for Chris Clemons? He’s taking up $8.1m in 2013 and might not even be able to make it onto the field. Avril has some similarities to Clemons, he’s kind of a younger version. Can they afford to carry both players plus Bruce Irvin? Perhaps a more relevant question is if they’re all healthy during the season, can they be creative to get all three involved? Could they use more orthodox 4-3 looks, with Avril and Clemons rushing the edge? I suspect if they can afford to keep all three players, they will do. This is a team that appears to be leaving nothing to chance.

It’s probably a nod to the importance of Clemons in Carroll’s three years with the team. They’ve relied almost exclusively on him to create pressure in base defense. Losing him was a bigger blow than maybe we initially considered. Today’s news suggests they almost felt obliged to be aggressive here. They couldn’t afford to go into the season without a proven starting edge rusher.

Carroll consistently mentioned the pass rush needed improving. This hopefully takes care of one aspect — replacing Clemons’ production if he can’t go. It won’t solve the issue alone, however. Seattle still needs to either replace the departed Jason Jones (who ironically has signed for Detroit today) or add a pure-three technique who can start and collapse the pocket.

The signing of Avril also probably ends the concept of Bruce Irvin as the ‘ideal LEO’. Avril’s only signing for two years, but Irvin is already in his mid-20’s. He appears destined to remain a specialist. And that’s fine. He’s at is best with his ears pinned back rushing the passer, not over thinking the play call and selling out to defend the run.

In terms of how this impacts the draft, it could open the door for a weakside linebacker to be drafted early (Khaseem Greene? Arthur Brown?). Perhaps a defensive tackle like John Jenkins or Brandon Williams, or a smaller (!!!) guy like Kawann Short or Sly Williams? Maybe they go offense again? I wouldn’t completely rule out the tight end position, particularly if one of the top three (Ertz, Eifert, Escobar) falls to #56.

Once again Carroll and Schneider keep everyone guessing. In an off-season where nobody really expected Seattle to be big spenders, they’ve been ferocious. In an off-season of surprises, who knows what the next move will be?

In other big free agency news today, Wes Welker made a stunning $12m move to Denver. Tom Brady is writing a letter to ask for his Ugg’s back as we speak. In response, the Patriots quickly snatched up Danny Amendola as a replacement on a $31m deal. He’s requested Ugg’s bearing his initials. And yeah, the Patriots were willing to pay Amendola more than Welker. Jake Long appears to be choosing between the Rams and Dolphins. Louis Delmas is also meeting with St. Louis, while it was revealed they’re paying Jared Cook an astonishing $16m guaranteed. San Francisco added Glenn Dorsey.

Wednesday is usually mock draft day. We’ll do it tomorrow instead. Today is Cliff Avril Wednesday.

Free agency live thread (and how it impacts the draft)

Tuesday, March 12th, 2013

Percy Harvin is officially a Seahawk

Free agency as it happens, with reaction to how each (major) signing impacts the draft.

Andy Levitre (G, Buffalo) to Tennessee
This signing, and the aggressive nature of the Titans’ approach, suggests they won’t draft for the interior offensive line with the #10 pick. Having been linked with Jonathan Cooper (good fit for their zone blocking scheme), the addition of Levitre should allow Tennessee to look elsewhere. And I suspect one of their biggest priorities will be to add one of the best interior pass rushers, such as Missouri’s Sheldon Richardson. UPDATE — The deal is worth an incredible $46.8M over six years with $13M due in 2013 alone.

Mike Wallace (WR, Pittsburgh) to Miami
The Dolphins know they need to surround Ryan Tannehill with talent. They re-signed Brian Hartline and will now add downfield speedster Mike Wallace. The contract is speculated to be hefty, so they’ll need an instant return. They could still add another target with the #12 pick (such as Cordarrelle Patterson) but what seems more likely is they’ll bolster their ranks with a second or third round prospect. Ryan Swope would be perfect, due to his familiarity with the playbook and quarterback. Miami has two second round picks due to the Vontae Davis trade with Indianapolis.

Paul Kruger (DE, Baltimore) to Cleveland
Wonder how this one will go down in Baltimore? Kruger switches teams within the AFC North for a reported $41m contract. The Browns have added a pass-rush partner for Jabaal Sheard and should be able to get their 3-4 defense rolling with Ray Horton on board. They have two quality outside linebackers now. I think they could still target a 3-4 end with pass rush ability, just as Horton used Calais Campbell and Darnell Dockett. Ziggy Ansah remains an option, but Richardson could be the second coming of Dockett.

Louis Vasquez (G, San Diego) to Denver
Another player moving within the same division, Vasquez jumps ship after only a middling attempt by the Chargers to keep him. This will ensure Peyton Manning stays well protected and the Broncos have a blossoming, young offensive line that should also set the stall for a productive run game. This shouldn’t impact the Broncos draft plans too much. They need to upgrade that secondary.

Ryan Fitzpatrick (QB) is cut by Buffalo
They really wanted rid, huh? This saves only $450k but it goes to show that teams will take on any kind of saving to just move on from a non-starter. The Bills need a quarterback. And this adds weight to the suggestion they’ll trade up for ‘their guy’ in the draft (as noted in last week’s mock). Despite all the negative press around Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and co, teams will identify guys they like. And in some cases they’ll be aggressive to get them.

Martellus Bennett (TE, New York) to Chicago
The Bears were an option to go tight end at #20, but this gives them some security. Their main priority is to rebuild a rancid offensive line. Gabe Carimi was a bust waiting to happen in round one and the Bears tried to add Phil Loadholt before he re-signed in Minnesota. Jake Long is headed to St. Louis for his first visit, not Chicago. Does he get out of the Rams complex without a deal? If they go into the draft without a left tackle then moving up to get at the trio of Joeckel, Fisher and Johnson seems a strong possibility. UPDATE — apparently they’re speaking to Jermon Bushrod (T, New Orleans).

Delanie Walker (TE, San Francisco) to Tennessee
Replacement for Jared Cook? I for one will be pleased to see Walker out of the NFC West. He always seemed to perform well against the Seahawks. Whether that same success translates to the AFC South, I’m not sure. The Niners found a niche role for him. They are a very creative offense. Tennessee’s is not.

Seattle’s deal for Percy Harvin is now complete!!!

Round-up
In terms of other news so far, Kansas City defensive lineman Glenn Dorsey is visiting with the 49ers. The Buccaneers are being strongly linked with a trade for Darrelle Revis. Nnamdi Asomugha and Antoine Winfield were cut today. The Packers are considered the clubhouse leaders to sign Steven Jackson. If you missed it earlier, Leon Washington was released by the Seahawks.

Pete Carroll speaks
He just did a spot on Sirius FM with Pat Kirwan, pulling out of a free agency meeting to conduct the interview. He described the deal for Percy Harvin as trading up in the draft to get the best receiver. He denied speculation that Sidney Rice could be cut, insisting that wasn’t an option. Carroll left the door open for Leon Washington to return to Seattle on reduced terms. He also insisted they will continue to compete during free agency and will be open to further deals.

And for those wondering…

Dannell Ellerbe (LB, Baltimore) to Miami
Wow — maybe the first big shock of the day? Baltimore is really feeling the effect of signing Joe Flacco to a mega-deal. First they lose Paul Kruger to a division rival, now Dannel Ellerbe heads to Miami for $35m. While the media wax lyrical about Anquan Boldin’s playoff performance, Ellerbe was just as much of a factor on defense. This loss will be felt. Whether he can continue to perform at a high level remains to be seen. The consolation for Baltimore is they’ll be stocked with compensatory picks in 2014. In terms of this years draft — after losing Kruger, Ellerbe and watching Ray Lewis retire, it surely makes linebacker a huge need at #32?

Jared Cook (TE, Tennessee) to St. Louis
The Rams make a big splash. It’ll be interesting to see the terms of the deal. Jeff Fisher knows the player from his time with the Titans. Cook is more potential than production so far, but it’s another weapon for Sam Bradford. They almost had to do something after Seattle’s move for Harvin and San Francisco’s move for Boldin. You need to keep up in this division. Considering the likely size of Cook’s contract, they better hope he delivers on all that promise. This allows the Rams to concentrate on receivers, offensive linemen and defensive backs in the draft. They could also target an outside linebacker. Some names to consider: Tavon Austin, Alec Ogletree, Lane Johnson, Chance Warmack and Jonathan Cooper.

Jermon Bushrod (T, New Orleans) to Chicago
Chicago had to act. They had to improve that line. At least now they have someone who can play tackle. Bushrod joins on a five-year deal. They won’t have to contemplate trading into the top ten. They have a bit more flexibility in the draft. It’s tough needing a franchise left tackle when you’re not drafting in the top ten. The Bears have signed a tight end and a tackle today. In the draft, that could help them improve at guard (Cooper?) or linebacker (Te’o? Minter?). UPDATE — Bushrod’s deal is worth $35.965M with nearly $18m guaranteed. I’m not a fan at that price tag.

Percy Harvin contract news starting to filter through

So that’s $14.5m fully guaranteed in 2013 alone, with $25m guaranteed in total. In comparison, Miami is paying Mike Wallace $30m in guarantees with $13-14m per year. The Seahawks are taking a significant cash hit in year one, but it’ll be interesting to see how much of that is bonus and how much is cap. Front loading with a signing bonus will probably make it easier to re-sign others in the future. If it takes up a lot of cap room, it hampers the teams ability to roll cap into 2014 without serious cuts. And it would also hurt their chances of any moderate free agency moves.

Sammie Lee Hill (DT, Detroit) to Tennessee
The Titans are reportedly close to adding another free agent in the form of a defensive tackle. Some had asked whether the Seahawks would show interest here, but it’s hard to know how good Lee Hill actually is. He didn’t feature all that much behind Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley. Tennessee addressed two big needs with a guard and a tackle. I still think Sheldon Richardson is a good fit at #10.

Philip Wheeler (LB, Oakland) to Miami
The Dolphins keep on rolling. First Mike Wallace, then Dannell Ellerbe and now Philip Wheeler. Jeff Ireland is going to town. I’m not sure if it’s such a great plan — how many teams fall flat on their faces after going crazy in free agency? Wheeler spent one year in Oakland after starting his pro-career in Indianapolis. The Dolphins still need a pass rusher and improvements to the secondary on defense. You can’t help but wonder what they’ll do next?

Isaac Sopoaga (DT, San Francisco) to Philadelphia
The Eagles, who are switching to a 3-4, needed a nose tackle. This fills a big need on a contract worth $12m with $5m guaranteed. What’s more, Philly is also bringing in fellow Niner Ricky Jean-Francois for a visit. San Francisco will have something like 14 draft picks next month, but they have a lot of needs on defense. They’ll need to hit on a few players at this rate. They already lost Delanie Walker today to Tennesse. They could lose Dashon Goldson. Defensive line, cornerback and safety are big needs for the Niners. Shame.

Darrius Heyward-Bey & Michael Huff are cut by Oakland
This isn’t a big surprise. The Raiders are basically looking at a multi-year rebuild. They didn’t have a pick in the first two days of the draft last year, despite introducing a new front office and coaching staff. This year, they don’t have a second rounder as part of the Carson Palmer trade. They have nothing — and I mean nothing — to build around. I sincerely hope the guys in charge get the time they need, but somehow I doubt it. The Raiders are a mess.

Desmond Bryant (DT, Oakland) to Cleveland
A lot of Seahawks fans wanted Desmond Bryant. I was less enthused. He seemed like one of those ‘nearer 30 than 20′ types who gets pumped up a lot but is probably already in his peak. He was a good enough run stopper but not a great pass rusher. And he (probably) just got paid by Cleveland within hours of free agency opening. The Seahawks, in my view, are better off re-signing Alan Branch to a modest deal. Keep the band together, man. Then use the #56 on a pass rusher. Whether that’s a three technique, a Jason Jones replacement or a LEO. In terms of impact on the draft, this increases the chances Oakland takes a Sharrif Floyd, Sheldon Richardson or Star Lotulelei at #3. They currently have no starting defensive tackles. It also possible weakens the chances of Cleveland adding to their front seven at #6. However, Ray Horton enjoyed the benefits of Darnell Dockett in Arizona. I wonder if he sees Richardson as a similar type of player? UPDATE — It’s a 5-year, $34m deal for Bryant in Cleveland, including $15m in guarantees. No way the Seahawks were paying that.