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Martavis Bryant is really good

Friday, March 21st, 2014

Martavis Bryant is better than a lot of people realise

On Wednesday I put Martavis Bryant in the first round of my latest mock draft.

I genuinely believe he could go that early. Certainly within the top 40 picks.

And he’s very much an option for the Seahawks at #32.

Earlier in the week I sat down and watched three Clemson games again — Syracuse, Maryland and Georgia Tech.

I want to highlight some plays to back up why he could be an early pick in May:

1:42 — Bryant eats up the cushion and gets the defensive back to turn his hips. He sells the route perfectly, giving the impression he’s running downfield. He’s looking straight on, his body is positioned to run beyond the corner. Instead he cuts inside, creating ample separation before making a difficult low grab. A better throw there (and it’s a shocker by Tajh Boyd) and you’re looking at major YAC.

1:48 — It’s a blown coverage, and that’s why he scores the touchdown. But I’m going to highlight scoring plays here too.

2:09 — This is what we want to see. He exploits another bad job in coverage, with the corner passing him off too easily. The safety’s coming over the top and Bryant can hear the footsteps. Even so he maintains concentration, completes the catch and absorbs a big hit. That’s one of the toughest things to do. Ask Vernon Davis.

0:16 — The Seahawks want to own the red line. This is a great example. Bryant is in complete control of this route. He knows where he wants to go, he knows he’s getting a back shoulder throw. The corner’s playing to his tune. The back shoulder is the toughest pass to defend as a DB. But you still have to set up, and Bryant does that here. It’s a really crisp route. He deliberately drives to the outside, making it seem like he’s running deep down the sideline. The corner is so concerned about getting beat, it’s relatively easy to adjust and catch the ball on the turn. Great technique.

0:27 — He doesn’t put the guy on his backside, but Bryant’s block here in the run game helped Clemson get a first down.

0:57 — Just a really smart corner route. Finds a soft zone between two defenders, dissects the pair and he’s wide open for the target. This is again about perfecting your craft. He’s not doing anything spectacular here, just his job. Clemson coach their receivers very well and you can see that with Bryant on this play. He knows what he needs to do to make a play. But that also takes work and time on the practise field.

1:09 — This is a terrible throw by Boyd and should’ve been picked. Bryant turns into the defender and manages to smack the ball out of the hands of the corner. This is a big time play, helping his team avoid a turnover. See the replay. Nobody can doubt his commitment and effort.

1:56 — Downfield shot. Doesn’t high point the football but still makes a difficult grab between two defenders for a big 41 yard gain. Seattle loves to take shots like this on play action. Look at the route again. Little stop and go at the top, then he flies downfield. The pass is actually badly under-thrown. Bryant beats the corner and if this is thrown deeper towards the end zone, it’s a touchdown.

0:10 — Again Bryant is let down by his quarterback. He’s got the guy beat on the right sideline. Boyd guides him out of bounds with a wayward pass. If this is thrown out in front of the receiver and into the end zone with a straighter trajectory, it’s a touchdown. Bryant flat out beats the guy and creates separation.

0:33 — Tight coverage downfield, but Bryant makes a difficult catch for a big 47 yard gain. I’m being a bit nitpicky here, but I reckon a softer, higher throw into the end zone and Bryant wins the foot race for a touchdown. It’s a very basic go route on this occasion, nothing special here. But he can make plays like this with his size and speed. And once again, it’s the type of shot Seattle loves to make. They want to go after single coverage.

1:05 — Beats the corner, gets separation and runs away from the defense for a big touchdown. The coverage is terrible — the safety doesn’t sense the danger and come across to help the cornerback. But look how Bryant capitalises for a 76 yard score. One little sniff of a chance and he’s racing into the end zone. And let’s be right — it’s bad safety play. But he completely dominates the corner with a little shimmy. If you look at the replay Clemson uses Sammy Watkins as a decoy in the backfield to draw the safety’s attention. He doesn’t bite, it’s just lousy coverage. But the Seahawks can use a similar play design with Percy Harvin in the backfield and Bryant flying downfield.

2:41 — Classic Seahawks-style shot. Running back comes up to block, Boyd throws down the right sideline trying to win versus single coverage. Bryant competes for the ball in the air and makes a really tough catch for a huge gain. How does he catch this ball? He’s fighting off a blatant hold, he’s got arms all over him. That is special.

I get the feeling Seattle’s been looking for a receiver like this. Not necessarily a pure big man. But a big man with wheels who can compete for the ball and make chunk plays.

Sidney Rice is not a traditional big receiver, but he competes like crazy and makes difficult grabs. He also had enough speed to win downfield (see: game-winner vs New England).

Bryant is like a taller version of Rice with Ricardo Lockette’s athleticism. He runs a 4.42 at nearly 6-4 and 211lbs. He’s competitive (as noted with the hit in the Syracuse game and the way he wins those 50/50 throws downfield in single coverage), but he’s a shade off Rice’s intense energy.

It’s no biggie, though.

There’s plenty of examples where he gets involved in the running game. And that’s what we need to see.

I like the example vs Ohio State below. Fast forward to 0:09:

Boyd takes it in for a score on a keeper. Even when he’s home and hosed, Bryant sprints to get involved and cuts across Ryan Shazier to get in his face and just make absolutely sure.

On the next play in that video, he makes a key block on the left hand sideline.

And while we’re getting into the Ohio State game, look at the fade for a touchdown at 1:34.

Do you need to see any more to believe in this guy?

I found this Tweet interesting today:

Don’t be shocked at all if he goes as high as #18. There’s a TON of potential here.

Bob McGinn quoted an unnamed scout referring to him as a “knucklehead”. Do your homework on him. See how he checks out.

Bryant’s definitely shy during interviews. He’s not a good talker like former teammates Sammy Watkins or Nuke Hopkins. His on-field personality is pretty much what you want to see, however. There’s a spark there.

He does have some drops on tape — it’s not all great. But overall there’s a lot to like here.

And some teams will want a bigger receiver. That’s just the way it is. Odell Beckham Jr and Brandin Cooks are very good football players. But they’re sub-6-0.

If you want size, you can get size in this draft. It doesn’t stop with Mike Evans and Kelvin Benjamin.

Some people think guys like Bryant and Donte Moncrief will last until rounds two or three. The more I study, they could easily be part of a mass exodus of receivers leaving the board on day one.

Seattle will be lucky to have Bryant as an option at #32. The more you watch of him, the more there is to like.

Sometimes it just takes a little longer to realise these things.

Q&A with Kenny

I conducted a Q&A session with Kenneth Arthur at Field Gulls. You’ll find a link in the Tweet above.

Check it out.

Latest Jared Allen news

Jay Glazer and Jared Allen are tight. This info is legit.

It seems the main motivation behind Allen’s return home for a good think is the other offers on the table.

Here’s my best guess:

– Seattle is offering less money than he wanted, perhaps substantially so. But they’ve also given a hard sell and he knows it’ll be a chance to play for a great team with an unmatched home-field advantage.

– Two teams not as close to contending are offering more money than Seattle. So in the end he has to decide whether to take the hit on the salary to play for a better club, go where the value is or simply do something else with his life.

Report: Jared Allen joining the Seahawks (or maybe not…)

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

For a few moments, this looked like a done deal…

But then came the following…

For me it looks like the Seahawks are making a big push — just not financially.

If the numbers were right, this would probably be done by now. Instead, the Seahawks aren’t budging.

They’re not going to be offering a salary in the $9-10m range — the sum it’s believed Allen is looking for.

Their offer could be half that.

This could easily be the sticking point and why Allen is going away to have another think.

He could go through the rigours of training camp and a long season — all for a price he believes is too low — for the chance to fight for an elusive Championship ring.

Or he can walk away. Retire. Move on from football.

Not because he wants to — simply on a point of principal.

It says something for Seattle that he’s even considering this. I’m not sure there are many teams that could say — “We’re not going to pay you anything near what you want, but sign for us anyway” — and actually have a shot.

Although ending the visit and heading home could be one last powerplay to try and get the price up a little higher.

It’d be a major boost for the Seahawks if he does accept their offer. Currently they’re a veteran down having cut Chris Clemons. They need an established right end — and it’d allow Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett to attack the left side of the line as they did emphatically in the playoffs.

Options are running out in free agency if they want to add a veteran. Although a pass rush led by Avril and Bennett, supported by players like Benson Mayowa, would still cause problems.

Yet having come this far, it’d be a disappointment not to close the deal.

The agonising wait for news on first Henry Melton and now Jared Allen continues.

Seahawks fans will be hoping for a positive conclusion.

*** Update ***

Dan Pompei believes Allen could be looking for a contract worth $6m per year.

Meanwhile former San Diego guard Stephen Schilling has signed today, adding some much needed depth to the offensive line.

Updated mock draft: 19th March

Wednesday, March 19th, 2014

I’m feeling pretty confident the Seahawks are looking at receiver and the offensive line at #32 and #64.

Why wouldn’t they?

They’ve cut Sidney Rice and allowed Golden Tate to sign with Detroit.

And although they’ve apparently shown moderate interest in re-signing Rice (and they’ll meet with Kenny Britt) — these are only short term options.

You’re not re-signing Rice on a multi-year deal, fresh from a serious knee injury after his back-catalogue of issues.

The fact is they’ve lost two starting receivers this off-season — and Doug Baldwin is an unrestricted free agent next year too.

The offensive line needs depth. For all we know they’re very optimistic about Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey as potential starters, while James Carpenter remains on the roster.

They’ve lost Breno Giacomini and Paul McQuistan is talking to the Browns.

It seems fair to suggest they’ll spend at least one early pick on a player who can potentially start at left guard or right tackle.

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When I listened to Golden Tate’s interview with Bob and Groz yesterday, a thought crossed my mind. It’s like they already know how they’re going to replace him.

The derisory offer made to Tate — and that’s clearly how he felt about it — was almost a “thanks, but no thanks”.

The Seahawks always seem very focused on what they want to get out of a draft.

They wanted a tackle and a safety in 2010 — at one point in the process it looked like it could be Eric Berry and Trent Williams. They ended up with Russell Okung and Earl Thomas.

In 2011 they were desperate to improve the run game and the offensive line, so they grab a great college run blocker in James Carpenter.

In 2012 it was all about adding speed in the front seven and Pete Carroll knew all about his “ideal LEO” Bruce Irvin.

Call it a hunch, but maybe Carroll has spotted his “ideal receiver” in this terrific class? Or maybe they just see so much talent they’re willing to let Tate walk knowing they’ll be able to replace him at a much cheaper price?

If they’d re-signed Tate they were probably looking at a minimum pay out of $5m a year for the next 4-5 years.

If they take a receiver at #32 or #64, they’ll be paying a fraction of the cost over the same time frame.

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

I wonder if we’re going to see a crazy rush on receivers in round one.

Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s a great year for the position. And the assumption is you’ll be able to wait until rounds two, three or four to get a great pick.

I’m not sure about that.

I think there’s a very good chance several teams will have eight or nine receivers with first round grades, and they’ll want to come away with one as early as possible.

Martavis Bryant could easily go in round one. The more I watch of him — the more I can see a team thinking, “We can work with this.”

He’s electric. Positively brilliant at times. And I get the issues — I’m not ignoring them — but the upside is incredible. It’s first round upside.

Donte Moncrief can be a frustrating watch. Greg Cosell this week compared him to a Demaryius Thomas or Josh Gordon style receiver. I kind of see that. He can develop into that. He’s a 6-2, 220lbs receiver who nearly jumped a 40 inch vertical and runs a 4.40.

I think back to Thomas and Gordon coming into the league and they were pretty frustrating to watch too, particularly Thomas.

Don’t be shocked if there’s a few teams out there with a first round grade on Moncrief.

In this weeks mock I’ve got eight receivers in round one.

I think the rush will continue into round two, involving players like Davante Adams, Brandon Coleman, Allen Robinson, Jarvis Landry, Paul Richardson and Jordan Matthews.

By round three, you might be looking at scraps.

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I think it’s a pretty fluid situation in terms of whether Seattle goes receiver or O-line in round one.

If eight wide outs are off the board by #32, it maybe forces your hand. If a few of the top group are still available — I could see them showing interest in a Beckham Jr, Moncrief or Bryant.

I still believe they’ll have a strong interest in Brandon Coleman, but may chance him being available at #64 if they go OL early. I also think they’ll love the competitive streak in Jarvis Landry — if not his performance at the combine.

One way or another though, unless things change dramatically, I’m preparing for a WR/OL or OL/WR combo with the first two picks.

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First round mock draft

#1 Blake Bortles (QB, UCF)
He’s elusive for a 4.93 runner. He extends plays. Bortles is a very creative quarterback. Houston’s offense is set up for a big rebound year.
#2 Greg Robinson (T, Auburn)
Hang your hat on this guy. I’m not sure why St. Louis is so desperate to trade this pick with Robinson available.
#3 Jadeveon Clowney (DE, South Carolina)
The Jaguars have filled out their defense with veteran leaders (Bryant, Clemons). This is the perfect environment for Clowney to enter the league.
#4 Khalil Mack (OLB, Buffalo)
They’ve appointed a defensive minded Head Coach and with it looking increasingly unlikely they go QB here, Mack could be a nice bookend for Barkevious Mingo.
#5 Sammy Watkins (WR, Clemson)
The best receiver prospect to enter the league since A.J. Green and Julio Jones. You can build around a talent like this. Get a quarterback later.
#6 Jake Matthews (T, Texas A&M)
The Falcons should just sit tight and see what falls to #6. This looks like a great match. They need to protect Matt Ryan.
#7 Mike Evans (WR, Texas A&M)
Tampa Bay is a strong candidate to move up for another pass rusher. If they stay put, they might consider adding another talented receiver.
#8 Marqise Lee (WR, USC)
Lee’s just a quality receiver, an insane competitor and he’s going to go early. The Vikings need to keep adding weapons on offense.
#9 Taylor Lewan (T, Michigan)
Some believe he’s a bit of a phony tough guy. Others really like him. It’s worth a shot here.
#10 Justin Gilbert (CB, Oklahoma State)
He’s had a fantastic off-season — and yet he was nearly benched by Oklahoma State during the season. He has all the tools to be a lockdown corner.
#11 Johnny Manziel (QB, Texas A&M)
Ken Whisenhunt doesn’t appear to have any faith in Jake Locker. Manziel is going to find a home somewhere in the top-20.
#12 Aaron Donald (DT, Pittsburgh)
He should be a top-10 player in this draft. He ticks every box. The Giants can feel very fortunate if he’s still here at #12.
#13 Ryan Shazier (LB, Ohio State)
Speed and physicality is king in the NFC West. Shazier is an insane athlete — the type you need at linebacker in this division.
#14 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (S, Alabama)
Chicago’s defense was a shambles at times last season. They’ve added Lamarr Houston up front, now they need to improve that secondary.
#15 Kelvin Benjamin (WR, Florida State)
The Steelers don’t have a big man on the outside who can be a threat in the red zone. Benjamin’s potential is through the roof.
#16 Anthony Barr (DE, UCLA)
The Cowboys need to keep adding to the defensive line. After bringing in Henry Melton, now they need an edge rusher.
#17 Ra’Shede Hageman (DE, Minnesota)
After losing Arthur Jones in free agency, the Ravens could use an athletic replacement up front. Hageman fits the bill as a possible five technique.
#18 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
Incredible athlete, massive hands, return man, playmaker. Beckham Jr is the real deal and deserves to go in the top-20.
#19 Zack Martin (G, Notre Dame)
An absolutely superb tackle in college, but expected to move to guard in the NFL. Could play left guard next to Brandon Albert.
#20 Brandin Cooks (WR, Oregon State)
Receiver isn’t a huge need for the Cards, but he’d add another dimension to the offense as an explosive playmaker. Keep Ted Ginn on returns.
#21 Eric Ebron (TE, North Carolina)
Perhaps not quite ‘can’t miss’ enough to go in the top-15. He’d excel in Green Bay with Aaron Rodgers. Very athletic but not out of this world.
#22 Darqueze Dennard (CB, Michigan State)
A physical corner who plays with an edge. Good blitzer. Philly wants tough football players on defense.
#23 Donte Moncrief (WR, Ole Miss)
They can’t rely on their current group of receivers. They need a big #1 type who can make plays and grow into Andy Reid’s offense.
#24 Bradley Roby (CB, Ohio State)
Cornerback is a big need for this team. Roby needs to do a better job staying focused on the field. From an athletic point of view he jumps off the screen.
#25 Stephon Tuitt (DE, Notre Dame)
There just aren’t many players over 300lbs who can run a 4.8. Strong as an ox. Some teams will love his play.
#26 Kyle Fuller (CB, Virginia Tech)
Two picks on defense and no QB? Perhaps. It’s entirely possible they wait until round two and keep building that D.
#27 C.J. Mosley (LB, Alabama)
This is all about value. If he checks out medically, Mosley is a plug in and play defender who can have a quick impact. New Orleans wants to get tougher.
#28 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
I’m not sure how Carolina has allowed a situation to occur where they’re suddenly desperate at receiver and the offensive line.
#29 Louis Nix (DT, Notre Dame)
He’s a big bodied guy who’s tough to shift. He isn’t a fantastic athlete, and that’s why he might last until round two.
#30 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The 49ers have plenty of possession style receivers. Why not add a home run hitter? You’ve got the quarterback to make it work.
#31 Chris Borland (LB, Wisconsin)
Denver needs a tone setter. A leader. A guy who flies around. This would be a smart move. You want this guy on your team.
#32 Joel Bitonio (T, Nevada)
Underrated, incredibly athletic tackle or guard. Versatile. Outstanding character. He’s a Logan Mankins clone. Can either replace Breno Giacomini or play left guard.

Is there any chance Seattle trades up in the draft?

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014

However unlikely it may be, Mike Evans would look great in Seattle

It’s not something we’ve really considered thus far. And with good reason.

This is an excellent draft class, bolstered by 98 underclassmen.

There’s depth at the positions Seattle will probably target (offensive line, receiver).

With some of the old guard moving on, we’re getting an insight into the future.

Re-load. Re-tool. Almost re-build certain units within the team.

You keep your key players, as we saw with Michael Bennett. We’ll see it with Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson too.

But you make sacrifices elsewhere.

Giving up multiple picks to get one player doesn’t make sense.

It’s the kind of move Atlanta pulled in 2011 to get Julio Jones. They were chasing a ring.

Seattle’s already reached the top of the mountain.

Now it’s all about staying there.

So before we even get into this piece I’ll admit — trading up is very unlikely.

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The Seahawks need as many picks as possible because this year is just the start.

Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, Golden Tate, Breno Giacomini…

Even more will walk next year.

And they’ll need to be replaced.

The Seahawks will always be somewhat active in free agency, looking for bargains.

But predominantly they’ll lean on the draft.

A year after making a bold trade for Percy Harvin for multiple picks, a similar move this year seems unlikely.

But we’ll have the debate anyway.

Let’s look at the scenario where this could have some benefit to Seattle, however unlikely.

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

There are three reasons I think you consider moving up in any draft:

1 — an opportunity arises to secure one of the top prospects in the draft

2 — you have an opportunity to address a major need (eg moving up for a quarterback)

3 — you leapfrog another team to secure a player you couldn’t leave the draft without

I don’t believe the Seahawks need to consider #2 and #3.

Really, for me, it comes down to scenario #1.

Will there be an opportunity to get one of the top players in the draft, at a price you can justify?

There could be more opportunities to trade up this year than ever before. Asking prices should come down because picks in this draft are like gold dust. It’s such a good class.

There are teams within the top-15 who might be willing to take a drop of 10-15 spots simply to acquire another second rounder. Two really good players for the price of one.

For the Seahawks to move up, they’d have to hope there’s a team prepared to accept what constitutes a ‘bargain’ deal for extra stock.

I think the maximum amount they’d be willing to invest is the #32 and #64 pick in 2014. To make a substantial move they’d probably have to throw in some 2015 stock too, maybe as much as a second or third rounder.

I’m not convinced they’d be interested in spending two first rounders — but they might not need to.

Within the top-15 there’s one potential trade partner who might be open to a big move down the board.

Minnesota at #8.

The Vikings need a quarterback but Rick Spielman is already talking up his interest in moving down.

Spielman: “I really, really think we’re going to do a lot of movement in the draft.”

Here’s why I think Minnesota would at least consider a substantial move down the board:

– New offensive coordinator Norv Turner likes a certain type of quarterback — a big pocket passer with a decent arm. Bortles is really the only one of the big three who fits the bill, and everyone expects him to go first overall to Houston. Minnesota might target Derek Carr, Zach Mettenberger or even Logan Thomas later on. Matt Cassel’s return after originally cancelling his own contract suggests he feels he’ll get a chance to start in 2014. So they might not be thinking quarterback in the top ten, increasing the chances they’re at least willing consider a trade.

– If the Vikings aren’t taking a quarterback at #8, who are they going to take? They have a top-five pick at left tackle, a first round receiver, a first round three technique, a first round corner. All drafted in the last two years. They might see value in quantity over quality.

– After Minnesota and Tennessee, there really aren’t any teams in the first round you’d say are obvious landing spots for quarterbacks apart from Cleveland. And if Houston and Oakland address their need in the top-five, they might feel pretty comfortable dropping down substantially to target ‘their guy’.

– Spielman is a dealer. Aside from his trade with Seattle for Percy Harvin last year, he also moved back into the first round to get Cordarrelle Patterson. In 2012 he managed to dupe the Browns into swapping picks so that they could secure Trent Richardson. He makes trades.

Would they be interested in a deal that gives them the #32 and #64 picks to go along with their own #40 pick?

Debatable.

If you throw in a 2015 second or third rounder for good measure will it sweeten the deal? It really comes down to their willingness to trade and the other possible offers on the table.

They already have Seattle’s third round pick this year because of the Harvin deal. If our example here comes off, in the first two days of the draft they’d have the following picks in 2014: #32, #40, #64, #72 and #96.

They’d get five players in the top-100.

It’d be a good deal for the Seahawks in terms of perceived value to move up. Yet in a great draft full of talent, it’d give the Vikings a real chance to get better very quickly — while still addressing that quarterback need.

Again, I’m not saying a deal is likely. I’m just throwing out a scenario that might have some value for both teams.

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If the trade was completed, the Seahawks could then target a player like Mike Evans at #8.

In this scenario you’re relying on finding offensive line depth from round four onwards. This is perhaps another reason why such a deal appears fanciful. Being able to go OL-WR or WR-OL in the first two rounds make so much sense.

Getting Evans would be a major boost to the offense. But do you really want to wait until round four at the earliest to add some much needed depth to the O-line?

You could argue Seattle appears comfortable allowing Tom Cable to go digging for diamonds. There’s every chance Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey take on bigger roles in 2014 — so hunting for depth in the later rounds wouldn’t be a disaster if you’re talking about finding backups.

But it just might be that they see a greater urgency to bolster this unit having lost an established starter (Giacomini) and some depth (McQuistan — although technically he could return).

Evans would be a perfect fit in Seattle’s offense. He’s competitive, he wins at the red line and he’s spent the last two years working with a scrambling quarterback.

That experience with Johnny Manziel puts him in a unique category. He already knows what to expect — and his instinct to work back to the quarterback would be a major asset playing with Russell Wilson.

Athletically there’s a lot to like too. He’s tall (6-4), long (35 1/8 inch arms), fast (4.53) and he can jump (37 inch vertical). He had 1394 receiving yards in 2013 alone with 12 touchdowns.

He’s legitimately among the best players in a great draft. A Vincent Jackson-style receiver. Who wouldn’t want a 20-year-old version of Jackson on their roster?

And don’t you just know Pete Carroll watched this game and salivated over what he could do in his offense…

Is a trade for Evans likely?

Heck no.

I don’t think it will happen. I doubt Carroll and John Schneider even consider it.

But if there’s one scenario where it’s even 2% possible, this might be it.

I just wouldn’t get your hopes up though.

Henry Melton set to join Dallas

Meanwhile one player who definitely won’t be joining the Seahawks is defensive tackle Henry Melton.

It had to be a multi-year contract. The Cowboys don’t have enough cap room to sign a short-term ‘prove it’ deal.

And they likely threw a ton of back-loaded money at Melton to ensure they actually have a defensive line in 2014.

It’ll be interesting to see what Jared Allen decides to do now…

Seahawks unlikely to sign Melton, interested in Britt

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The opportunity to sign Henry Melton was just that.

An opportunity.

The Seahawks haven’t gone after free agents since 2011 — during the early stages of a major rebuild.

Now it’s just about seeing what’s out there.

I’ll understand if there’s a tinge of disappointment at this latest development (if we can call it that). At one point a report suggested both parties were “deep” in negotiations.

So what’s changed?

Melton’s coming off an ACL injury and there’s a few character concerns that need to be checked out.

On a one or two year ‘prove it’ deal, Melton would’ve made a lot of sense.

But if the Cowboys and Vikings are talking long term — and if that’s what Melton prefers — what are you going to do?

Dallas only really has the option to offer a multi-year deal. They have virtually no cap room in 2014. They have to back-load contracts and mortgage the future on the present.

You could say it’s an astonishingly reckless way to run a franchise.

Yet that’s no real concern of Henry Melton or his agent.

The Seahawks aren’t going to go chasing these players.

They’ll just wait for the next opportunity.

It’ll be the same with Jared Allen. It’s highly unlikely they open the cheque book for him either. He’s going to have to compromise if he wants to play for this particular challenger.

Personally I’d choose Allen over Melton anyway. Less injury risk, less character risk. In a perceived weaker season he still had 11.5 sacks. He plays a ton of snaps.

Soak it in. This is what it feels like to follow a Championship team with a switched-on front office.

***Update***

Clarence Hill reports Melton is actually looking to sign a short term contract to prove his health in 2014.

That’s interesting.

Hill also suggests such a deal might be too costly for the Cowboys.

This is no surprise when you consider what we talked about above. Dallas has to back-load deals because of their lack of cap space. Signing a one-year contract with Melton won’t work unless he’s willing to play for about three million bucks — max.

Seahawks interested in Kenny Britt?

Adam Schefter seems to think so…

Here’s another opportunity.

Britt had so many chances in Tennessee and wasted every single one.

His career’s dangling by a thread. Which means he’s cheap.

Which means the Seahawks will show interest until the moment he stops being cheap.

Meanwhile Ian Rapoport believes Seattle also showed some interest in new Oakland receiver James Jones:

Marcus Smith tape

Even if the defensive options early in the draft aren’t great — the middle rounds could provide some relief.

Marcus Smith at Louisville is one to monitor. Dan Quinn was at his pro-day today.

See for yourself:

Jared Allen visits Seattle, Hauschka re-signs

Monday, March 17th, 2014

The man who originally wouldn’t take any visits is finally doing the rounds.

Jared Allen visited Seattle on Sunday and according to further reports will head to Dallas on Tuesday.

This is where the market confuses me a little.

How has a soon to be 32-year-old Demarcus Ware managed to obtain a $30m contract over three years?

How has Julius Peppers signed a similar deal with notorious tight-wads Green Bay?

And yet Allen remains unsigned. Untouched, almost.

Is he demanding too much money? Some reports have suggested he’ll retire if he doesn’t get what he feels he’s owed — around $12m per season.

Presumably that stance is now softening given he’s visiting two teams who won’t be spending anything like that amount on a pass rusher.

Which makes you wonder, if he was hoping to drive a hard bargain with a diva-like approach at the start of free agency — it clearly hasn’t worked.

His market is cold — or at best lukewarm — while other, supposedly similar players have been paid handsomely.

He’s still a very good defensive end and for all the talk of decline — he played a ton of snaps in 2013 and has avoided thoroughly mediocre play/effort (Peppers) and nagging and persistent injuries (Ware).

He had 11.5 sacks on a bad team last season. He has 45.5 in the last three years.

The Seahawks have room for another pass rusher or two. They’ve talked to Henry Melton and now Allen.

They have an estimated $16-17m in cap space following Zach Miller’s restructure.

In a fantasy world both Melton and Allen would take short term, cost-effective contracts and Seattle would field a terrifying pass rush next season.

But is it fantasy?

Maybe not.

As Hsu points out — Dallas really has no scope to get anything done.

You need to keep around $3-4m free in the cap for injured players and draft picks. So they’re not working with a lot of room here.

They’d have to sign either player to a longer term, back-loaded deal. But they’ve already back-loaded contracts to the max (see: Tony Romo) just to create room in 2014 (they were well over the cap going into the new league year).

Jerry Jones is on like his fourth credit card and he’s taking out a short term loan to fix his car (aka a decimated defensive line).

He might be able to appeal to Melton’s Texas roots, but even then it’s a hard sell.

But long term security is what players look for. Even if the Cowboys are putting themselves in a serious hole in the process.

The Seahawks are clearly thinking much more short term. They probably want to rent both players for a couple of years while avoiding any dead-money nightmares in 2015 or beyond.

Even getting just one deal done would be a positive. Heck — if they have to go into 2014 with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett as their only two established pass rushers, it’ll be better than most teams.

Yet if they can add one more weapon to the defense, they’ll be able to concentrate fully on the offensive line and wide receiver in the first two rounds of the draft.

Hauschka stays in Seattle

The deal makes Hauschka the eleventh best paid kicker in the league according to Spotrac, which sounds like a pretty good deal for Seattle.

This was a crucial re-sign after such a productive 2013 season.

Sidney Rice sighting

The Seahawks could have some competition for Sidney Rice, who they have interest in re-signing…

And oh yeah… the draft…

Dan Quinn was reportedly at the Louisville pro-day today, possibly to take a closer look at pass rusher Marcus Smith.

The reviews on Teddy Bridgewater however were not kind…

I’ve long had the opinion that Bridgewater is a pretty accomplished college quarterback whose ceiling at the next level will be a more polished Andy Dalton.

But for me, that’s his top potential. And I wouldn’t invest a top ten pick on that skill set.

Tony Pauline believes he’ll end up with Oakland, but doesn’t specify whether that’s with the #5 pick…

Also noted in that Pauline piece — Brent Urban is wearing a walking boot and might have a stress fracture in his foot.

He had injury issues in college (ACL) and hasn’t worked out since the Senior Bowl. He didn’t participate in today’s Virginia pro-day.

This could lead to a fall on draft day. A smart team will take advantage.

Joel Bitonio update

If I was putting money on a potential Seahawks pick at #32, Joel Bitonio would be one of the names I seriously consider.

We’ve talked about him a lot already, and we’ll talk about him some more this week.

He had his pro-day last Wednesday and according to Gil Brandt, he was tried out at tackle, guard and centre.

Brandt reckons he’ll go in the 40-50 range. I think Seattle will be lucky if he’s there at the end of round one.

Thurmond signs for the Giants, Melton in Dallas

Sunday, March 16th, 2014

Walter Thurmond has agreed a one-year deal with the New York Giants, per Adam Schefter.

The Seahawks stayed in contact with Thurmond but never made a big push to keep him.

Jason La Canfora says he’ll earn $3.5m in 2014.

He flourished with extra playing time last season, but he’s also suffered a catalogue of injuries and a late suspension at the end of the year could’ve been costly.

Pete Carroll preaches putting the team first. That suspension won’t have been easily forgotten.

And if there’s one position the Seahawks can re-stock, it’s cornerback.

Meanwhile Henry Melton has now left Seattle and is taking a visit with the Cowboys, according to Ian Rapoport.

Reports last night suggested the Seahawks were negotiating hard with his agents. And yet he’s still taking the trip to Dallas.

***Update***

This appears to be the latest…

Zach Miller agrees new deal with Seahawks

Saturday, March 15th, 2014

In some ways this was inevitable, but Miller didn’t have to take a pay reduction.

The Seahawks paid him handsomely in 2011 at a time when they were a much less attractive free agent destination.

His cap hit of $11m led the team last season — and the scheduled $7m in 2014 was simply too high.

The market for veteran tight ends is working around the $2-3m mark. Cutting him would’ve saved $5m against the cap.

Essentially he’s agreed to take a pay cut.

This was a test of how badly he wanted to remain a Seahawk. It’s his best fit schematically. I’m not sure there would’ve been a rabid market for his services.

And yet the Seahawks also knew they’d find it very difficult to replace him — so he also had some leverage.

Losing Breno Giacomini hasn’t received anywhere near as much attention as Golden Tate’s departure.

There’s a good reason why New York is paying him $4.5m a year. He’s a fine right tackle. Name me a better one in the NFL off the top of your head.

The Seahawks weren’t in a position to pay him that kind of money. It doesn’t mean they didn’t want to keep him.

Now they’re faced with either starting Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey at tackle, or drafting a rookie replacement.

It’s not a disastrous situation, but you’re going to have a degree of uncertainty there — even with Bowie (he started a few games in Giacomini’s absence last year).

Miller’s blocking off the edge — and he’s as good a blocking tight end as you’ll find in the league — is crucial.

They couldn’t lose that aspect of his game. Not while they’re breaking in an inexperienced right tackle in 2014.

And yet they also couldn’t justify paying $7m for that service.

Miller could easily have demanded his release. But he also knew he wouldn’t be walking into a great situation as a free agent.

In the end this suits everyone except Miller’s wallet — and the Seahawks won’t have to adjust their scheme too much to compensate for having to replace Miller with a player like Anthony McCoy.

So what does this mean for Jermichael Finley?

I still believe there’s a fair chance he winds up in Seattle.

The Seahawks needed to act with Miller because he was due a roster bonus of $1m on March 21st.

They had to make a decision either way — cut him or restructure.

The interest in Finley could’ve been used as a bargaining tool. It’s pretty cold hearted (to Miller and Finley), yet a common occurrence at this time of year.

I suspect the Seahawks weren’t playing games, it’s more a case of timing.

Finley is still waiting for official clearance on his neck injury. Seattle, Green Bay or anyone else can’t do anything until they get the green light there.

There’s a chance they might have to wait another week or two — and by that time they would’ve needed to make a decision on Miller anyway.

So while it looks today like maybe some bargaining games were being played — I think it’s just a coincidence.

What might be more likely is something we discussed earlier in the week.

Do the Seahawks see Finley as more of an over-sized slot receiver?

He’s not a blocker. He was never going to be a like-for-like replacement for Miller.

He’s a guy who moves well at the second level, makes plays down the seam and creates a mismatch against linebackers.

New Orleans don’t ask Jimmy Graham to block, they ask him to run routes.

Finley could line up in the slot and provide a much needed big target for Russell Wilson. And let’s not forget here — the Seahawks are down two receivers (Sidney Rice and Golden Tate).

Theoretically they could re-sign Rice, add Finley and they’d have the same number of wide outs as last year.

And I still wouldn’t rule out another being added in the draft — given Doug Baldwin is a free agent next year and neither Rice or Percy Harvin has a glowing injury record.

Plus it’s a great class. You’d be daft not to tap into the group.

We’ll have to wait and see on this one, but I don’t think today’s news necessarily has an impact on whether Finley joins the Seahawks or not.

Meanwhile Josina Anderson is also reporting Henry Melton is still in Seattle. He’s still scheduled to meet with Dallas, although as you can see below — he won’t be heading there today.

The longer he stays in Seattle, clearly it’s more likely a deal gets done.

The Seahawks have enough cap room to make at least one reasonable splash on the defensive line.

Melton could be the guy.

Henry Melton visiting Seattle today

Friday, March 14th, 2014

Henry Melton is exactly the type of opportunity this team looks for.

His market is stalling because of a previous ACL injury. A year ago he would’ve been a prize free agent.

Now? He’s having to wait for visits.

When healthy he’s among the best three techniques in the league.

He had 13 sacks in 2011-12 after switching from running back in college. At the Texas pro-day in 2009 he ran a 4.64 (at 269lbs), jumped 34.5 inches in the vertical and managed a 10.1 in the broad jump.

He’s not just a pass rusher either, he can play the run too.

The Seahawks need to keep adding depth to their defensive line. It’s fair to imagine they’ll make at least one more acquisition before the draft.

Aside from Melton, Oakland defensive tackle Vance Walker is also making a visit (EDIT — he signed a 3-year deal with the Chiefs before he even got on the plane).

If Melton is willing to gamble on himself, he could be the next great project for this team.

The sales pitch is obvious.

Come and be the next Michael Bennett

Like Bennett he’d turn 28 during his initial season in Seattle. This time next year, there’s no reason why he can’t command a similar contract if he proves he’s fully recovered from knee surgery.

It’d be a perfect fit, for team and player.

Seattle can line up Melton alongside Tony McDaniel, with Avril and Bennett on the edge.

They wouldn’t need a Red Bryant on that line. It’s plenty strong enough to act as a four man front on early downs.

So if it’s such an obvious fit, what are the stumbling blocks?

Firstly, the Seahawks need to check on his knee. The main purpose of the visit was probably to do a medical. If there’s any concern there, they’ll run a mile. This isn’t like Bennett and his torn rotator cuff.

There are some character red flags too.

Melton was arrested and charged with ‘intoxicated driving’ as a junior in college. He was arrested again in 2013 for assault and public intoxication.

Yesterday reports suggested he could be sued in relation to that incident in December.

So there’s not just an injury risk. You have to do your homework here.

Melton is due to visit Dallas next having already spent time with the Vikings.

The Cowboys have around $13m in cap space while Minnesota is at $16m. Seattle has an estimated $14-15m remaining.

Dallas in particular have to do something. They’ve lost Jason Hatcher and cut Demarcus Ware. Their line is decimated right now.

They might be willing to pay Melton as a bona fide starter now. No prove it deal. That’s how desperate they could be.

If the Seahawks are willing to clear his knee, the Cowboys would be too. And he is a quality starter when healthy.

It’s also his home-state team. He played for the Longhorns in college.

A longer term deal with the panicking Cowboys makes just as much sense as a one-year prove it contract in Seattle.

It’ll be interesting to see how this plays out.

Having been pretty quiet so far, the Seahawks are due a signing or two.

They might have to play the slow game with Melton (as they are with Jermichael Finley) but it could pay dividends in the end.

***Update***

B.J. Raji has signed a one-year contract with the Packers worth $4m.

That pretty much sets the market for one-year ‘prove it’ deals at defensive tackle.

Jason Hatcher was paid big money in Washington to avoid needing to take a short term contract.

We’ll see if Melton gets lured away too.

If not, a $4m deal for one year in Seattle makes sense.

Thursday notes: The plan for Finley & top five for #32

Thursday, March 13th, 2014

Jermichael Finley appears set to join the Seahawks

Seattle getting creative in the passing game?

I’m fascinated by the interest in Jermichael Finley. He was straight on a plane to Seattle and reports are suggesting a deal is close.

If he does indeed agree terms with the Seahawks, I have two thoughts:

1) Moving on from Miller

If the Seahawks choose to cut Zach Miller and sign Finley, we’ll see a different offense in 2014.

Miller has been used predominantly as a blocker. His role as a receiver has been fiercely limited in Seattle, mostly due to injuries on the offensive line (2011 & 2013) or the fact they’re breaking in a rookie quarterback (2012).

We never saw the kind of production he flashed in Oakland.

But at the same time, he’s also a marginal athlete by modern NFL standards.

He can’t run.

We saw that in week 13 against the Saints, when a wide open Miller bumbled his way into the red zone on a broken coverage.

That should’ve been a touchdown.

If they’re swapping blocking ability for a bigger playmaker, that’s a fairly significant move for a team that wants to run the ball first and foremost. Especially considering they’ll be breaking in a new right tackle following Breno Giacomini’s departure to New York.

Finley’s a downfield runner, a seam-buster who finds mismatches and makes plays.

He aint no blocker.

Anthony McCoy and Luke Willson are also more receiver than blocker.

Using three tight ends like Finley, McCoy and Willson would suggest the Seahawks are planning to make the position more of a focal point in the passing game.

But it also takes away some of the protection benefit you get from a guy like Miller.

You’d have to compensate for that somehow, especially when you’re breaking in a new tackle.

2) Turning Finley into a receiver

Could they sign him to act as a big receiver?

By that I don’t mean lining up outside, running down the sideline and trying to win the red line.

I mean lining up in the slot, ala Jimmy Graham.

New Orleans don’t ask Graham to block much — because he can’t.

He’s a terrible blocker.

Instead he runs routes from the inside and finds mismatches with his unique size and speed.

There’s nothing really stopping the Seahawks bringing in Finely on a deal worth around $2.5m and essentially using him as a slot receiver.

You can limit his snaps. You use McCoy and Willson as your tight ends (or even Miller if he’s kept).

It’s not a crazy idea. It’d take away some of the burden of losing Golden Tate and it’d give the Seahawks the big target over the middle they currently lack.

***UPDATE***

Earl Thomas extension forthcoming?

Why did the Seahawks cut Chris Clemons this week?

Why not part ways when they cut Red Bryant and Sidney Rice?

Was it just insurance in case they lost Michael Bennett to Chicago?

Or is there something else behind the timing of the move?

They didn’t bring in another defensive lineman after re-signing Tony McDaniel. They haven’t made any move yet that would require an extra $7.5m in space.

Maybe it’s time to focus on Earl Thomas’ inevitable new contract?

Along with keeping Bennett, that had to be the top priority this off-season.

It’s a foregone conclusion Thomas gets an extension at some point this year.

Perhaps we’re getting closer to the day where that’s announced?

Seahawks free agency status check

Jason Hatcher, who visited Seattle at the start of free agency, is signing with the Redskins according to Ian Rapoport.

There’s no way the Seahawks could match the $27.5m Washington are offering. That’s Michael Bennett money.

Rapoport is also hinting at a possible return to Seattle for Sidney Rice:

Even if Rice re-signs, I’d expect receiver to be an early draft target. He’s coming off an ACL injury and has been dogged by injuries throughout his career. It’d surely only be a short term, value move.

This receiver class is too good not to tap into in round one or two. Adding Rice would take some pressure off a rookie to have an instant impact, given how notoriously difficult the position is for a year-one player.

Walter Thurmond is visiting the 49ers after making a trip to Jacksonville.

The Seahawks have re-signed quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, while Chris Clemons has now completed his deal with the Jaguars.

Of the remaining free agents available, here are three to keep an eye on:

Charles Brown (T) — former New Orleans blocker, played for Pete Carroll at USC. Could’ve been a Seahawks pick in 2010 had Eric Berry lasted until #6. He’s a possible depth pick at tackle.

O’Brien Schofield (DE) — after his deal with the Giants was vetoed, could he return to Seattle at a discount price?

Jared Allen (DE) — a truly bizarre free agency for Allen so far. But if he’s willing to play for a ring, Seattle still makes so much sense.

Bronco blunders

The biggest rivalry in football right now is Seattle vs San Francisco.

Yeah, there’s a lot of angst between the teams. There’s some great storylines at play.

But you know what makes it really fascinating?

These are the two best teams in the NFL.

They are built almost identically. Strength, speed, depth. Run the ball. Big plays. Great defense. Investing in young talent. Solid, inspired coaching.

And most of all they have zero dependence on one single aspect of the game. They’ll beat you with offense, defense or even special teams.

It didn’t matter who Seattle played from the AFC in the Super Bowl. The result would’ve been the same.

And I imagine the 49ers would’ve served up a similar beating too.

The AFC is a finesse league, driven by ageing pocket passers like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.

The NFC is fast becoming a brutal kill or be killed endurance test. All thanks to Seattle and San Francisco.

But on top of that they have supreme balance.

The Broncos’ answer to getting destroyed in the Super Bowl is to sign more big names in free agency.

Some people will argue the additions of Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Demarcus Ware look pretty good.

And yet here’s the likely reality — had all three been playing for Denver in the Super Bowl, the score would’ve still been 43-8.

If these teams want to compete with the NFC’s best, they need to look into what they do well.

Denver should be investing in youth, searching for greater balance and getting tougher up front.

Not throwing money at a 28-year-old cornerback who’s constantly banged up, a safety Cleveland were happy to replace with Donte Whitner and a soon-to-be 32-year-old pass rusher who just looks way past his best (and also picks up little nagging injuries).

Heck, they’d have been better off saving money and going after some of Seattle’s free agents — Clinton McDonald, Walter Thurmond, Red Bryant.

Get some toughness in there.

The Seahawks and 49ers have nothing to fear in the AFC because the ‘power’ teams like Denver are not adapting.

They’re simply throwing good money at big names, when really they should be looking at the real reasons they were embarrassed in the Super Bowl.

They’re too reliant on a passing offense and they aren’t tough enough.

It certainly wasn’t because of a lack of expensive, ageing stars.

One to monitor

If the Seahawks go searching for defensive line depth in the draft, Oregon’s Taylor Hart is one to keep an eye on.

He’s 6-6 and +280lbs. His arms are a shade under 33 inches long.

Physically he’s pretty Seahawky. And he has the potential to get back up to 290lbs and retain most of that 4.7 speed.

Five players who would make sense at #32

Just my take in reaction to the first three days of free agency.

This is based on who should be available. Although I’m bending the rules with #1 — I just wanted to get him on the list.

#1 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
He has similar traits to Golden Tate. Plays above his size, very competitive in the air and high points the football superbly. He’s a solid return man and a very good athlete. He screams ‘Seahawks’, even if they might be looking for a bigger receiver ideally.

#2 Joel Bitonio (T/G, Nevada)
Comparable athlete to the top tackles in this class (Robinson, Matthews, Lewan). Looks like a Logan Mankins clone. Capable of playing guard or tackle at the next level. Insanely underrated.

#3 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The Seahawks are prepared to roll the dice on unique athleticism. Bryant has the complete package of size, speed and the athletic qualities they love. He’s a big play waiting to happen. He’s a 4.4 runner at 6-4, 211lbs.

#4 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Big, long tackle with 6-6 height and 35 3/8 inch arms. Just a really solid football player and someone they might be willing to invest in to replace Breno Giacomini.

#5 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Some people love it when I highlight Coleman, others hate it. At the end of the day, he’s running a 4.5 at 6-6 and 225lbs. At the combine he looked in fantastic shape. There just aren’t many people on Earth like Brandon Coleman.

By the way, don’t get our hopes up Charley…

As much as I’d love Casserly to be right, Aaron Donald should be a top-15 pick.