Michael Bennett’s contract extension (worth $31.5m) is interesting for two reasons.
Firstly, it suggests the Seahawks are still extremely committed to their current core. Despite a somewhat difficult 2016 season (that has, admittedly, still resulted in a playoff berth) there doesn’t appear to be any rush to make changes and freshen things up.
Secondly, Bennett’s deal helps establish a market for his peers. Arizona’s Calais Campbell is only a year younger and has a similar reputation. This could easily be used as a starting point for his talks with the Cardinals.
The only other thing to consider with Campbell is his current salary. In 2016 his cap hit is $15.25m. It was $14.75m in 2015 and $11.25m in 2014. So while Bennett is gradually increasing his salary, Campbell is in a different position. Will he accept a pay cut to stay in Arizona aged 31? Or will he want to test the market?
The Seahawks stand to have at least some interest in Campbell if he becomes a free agent. He’s terrorised their offense for years and he has the kind of height and size they like in the interior.
— Sam HawkBadger (@hwkbgr) December 30, 2016
This graph shows how dominant he’s been again in 2016 — and why he’s the type of player the Seahawks currently lack on the D-line:
Only 2 FA interior D have averaged more than 1 pressure per game this season: Short (1.2) and Campbell (1.5). Campbell jumps off page here pic.twitter.com/H9ro2Cxt9N
— Ben B (@guga31bb) December 30, 2016
Adding an interior disruptor to the defense is likely to be one of the priorities in the off-season. The three we’ve talked about — Campbell, Kawann Short and Dontari Poe, stand out on that list.
They will be expensive.
We won’t know the extent of Bennett’s cap hit in 2017 until the signing bonus is revealed. They should, theoretically, have room to make a free agent addition on the O-line and D-line if they want to.
let me say this again- SEA should have $20M+ for outside FA in 2017 even after extending Britt, Kam, Moses, Jimmy if they structure it right
— DAVIS HSU (@DavisHsuSeattle) December 30, 2016
It depends how aggressive they want to be — and how much they want to look at other positions (eg running back). It’s also a reasonable draft class for defensive linemen.
On the topic of running backs, Dave Wyman offered an interesting slant on the running game struggles this year during his ESPN 710 show yesterday:
“I think more of it (the criticism) is 50/50 (between the running backs and O-line), if not even more for the running backs because, look, it doesn’t take that long to get… I mean if you have a guy that hits a spot at the right time, blocking someone can really be just getting in someone’s way or inhibiting them just a little bit. So it’s not always about crushing a guy off the line, it’s just about shielding him off. So I think some running backs have a much better sense of that than people think. This is just my prediction but I bet you if you listen to (Tom) Cable, that if you sat in those meetings… that there would be lots of talk about running backs not hitting the hole if you went back and looked at all the film this year. That that’s been more of the problem.”
There’s a desire to pin all of the problems on the offensive line and that’s somewhat justifiable considering the first half of the Arizona game. Yet it also feels like the Seahawks have not trusted their running backs to be a focal point. Whether that’s injuries, form, inexperience or something else. They’ve not committed to the run, as we discussed yesterday, and it might be much more to do with the running backs than people think.
For example — the Seahawks have arguably tried to put the offensive performance in the hands of their stars. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Let those guys carry the offense. And yet because the O-line has been so suspect in pass protection, we’ve seen lurches between explosive production and hopelessness.
If they had a reliable running back on the roster, a star of equal importance to the three names above, they might’ve gone in a different direction. How often did they simply resort to ‘lean on Marshawn’ in the past? It was frequently a catalyst for the offense — and the O-line — finding some form.
It’s unfortunate that 2017 might end a run of viable veteran options being available via trade. In 2015 the Bills made a deal for LeSean McCoy, swapping him for linebacker Kiko Alonso. What a bargain that was. Earlier this year the Titans acquired DeMarco Murray from Philadelphia for a swap of fourth round picks. Again, what a bargain.
Both of these trades, and Seattle’s move for Marshawn Lynch in 2010, show the value of acquiring high talent (and proven production) at the running back position. There aren’t many great backs in the league.
It’s really difficult to identify a potential trade target for 2017. Someone capable of providing impact talent so the team isn’t having to rely on the draft or their injured incumbents providing a definitive solution.
Cincinnati’s Jeremy Hill might be available — but his production has completely dropped off after an impressive rookie season. This article details his rise and fall.
Mark Ingram has occasionally found himself in the doghouse in New Orleans — remember his disappearing act after a fumble against the Seahawks? What type of compensation would be required though, considering there’s little reason for the Saints to let him go on the cheap?
LeVeon Bell is set to be a free agent — but surely Pittsburgh will at the very least give him the franchise tag?
Adrian Peterson will need to decrease his $18m salary for 2017 to stay in Minnesota. He could provide an X-factor for one year on say a $6m deal if released.
Vikings rule out RB Adrian Peterson for Week 17. There's a good chance his appearance against the Colts was his last as a Viking.
— ProFootballTalk (@ProFootballTalk) December 30, 2016
Over the cap suggested recently that Carolina could part ways with Jonathan Stewart. Pete Carroll has often expressed his admiration for Stewart going back to his PAC-10 days. However, with an estimated $62.7m to spend in 2017 — what motivation is there for the Panthers to part ways with a productive stalwart with an $8.25m salary?
LeGarrette Blount is 31 next year but coming off a great season in New England. His deal in 2016 is only worth $1m unbelievably. He might be an option on a one or two year deal without breaking the bank.
The draft could also provide a solution — but it’s quite a maddening draft class. Players that are decent but not overly exciting. Players with question marks (how good is D’Onta Foreman?) and two guys at the top of the class who just look spectacular (Fournette & Cook).
This probably isn’t about mere depth at running back. This team arguably requires someone capable of being a genuine X-factor. And assuming the Seahawks O-line won’t suddenly turn into the Cowboys front five over the summer — probably someone capable of creating something out of very little occasionally. Which, believe it or not, is possible beyond Marshawn Lynch.