How the rest of the league stacks up (pass rush)

May 18th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Today I went back and had a look at what was being said in the build up to free agency by Pete Carroll and John Schneider. On reflection, it’s even more surprising that they haven’t done more to upgrade the pass rush — and it’s also pretty clear that the entire off-season has been impacted by the Jadeveon Clowney stalemate…

There were so many clear references to fixing the pass rush being a priority. Which is understandable — you don’t need me to reel off the stats again.

Yet there aren’t any minced words on Clowney either. They wanted him. I suspect they had a great deal of confidence in their position. They likely knew they had the best offer and expected, after a period of reflection, that he would simply take it. I think his agent Bud Cook probably also felt that would happen.

Clowney didn’t take it. He still hasn’t taken whatever their best offer is. He remains a free agent. And both parties are in limbo.

It could’ve been so different. Imagine if Clowney signs in that first week on a deal that was cheaper than anyone expected pre-free agency. Instead of trying to wait him out you’re likely negotiating to see if you can bring in Everson Griffen as a book-end. Suddenly players like Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa look like reasonable complimentary pieces rather than a solution.

Yet there’s little point blaming Clowney as we’ve been over dozens of times. It’s his right to say no to a deal he doesn’t like and if he wishes, risk losing millions to do it on his terms. He’s already made his fortune. Equally the Seahawks can’t really be blamed for refusing to be the only team willing to meet his demands.

The argument against their approach is their unwillingness to move on and make a significant alternative signing (or signings). They’ve embraced the stalemate. Again though, that’s perhaps understandable because Clowney is by far the most dynamic option available on the market. He was at the start of free agency too.

But by not moving on they’ve put all their eggs in one Jadeveon Clowney shaped basket. They run the risk of a bad pass rush being even worse next season if he doesn’t eventually agree to terms.

Thus, here we are. It won’t be a massively successful off-season for the defense even if Clowney returns. It’ll be what they had in 2019 but with a first rounder replacing Mychal Kendricks, better depth at defensive end (albeit in the form of journeymen and rookies) and, depending on the outcome of Quinton Dunbar’s legal situation, one new cornerback (who missed 14 games in 2018 and 2019).

Without Clowney — it’s ugly.

But how bad is it truly?

I went through each team and made a note of any key defensive linemen or pass rushers, recent notable additions or high draft picks on each roster.

They have a star in Chandler Jones but their depth and support is otherwise unremarkable. They’ve also not added any significant young pass rushers, unless you want to classify Isaiah Simmons. Jones is a game-wrecker though and a player who has to be game-planned for every week. Jonathan Phillips was a significant addition for the interior.

The Falcons spent money on Dante Fowler this off-season to go with their previous investment in retaining Grady Jarrett. They also used a second round pick on Marlon Davidson and traded for former first-round bust Charles Harris.

The Baltimore defense is set up to be creative and create pressure from different areas. Even so, they can boast a future Hall of Fame player in Calais Campbell and they used the franchise tag on Matt Judon. They also signed Derrick Wolfe and used a second round pick on Justin Madubuike.

The Bills used a top-10 pick on Ed Oliver a year ago, signed Miles Addison in free agency and drafted A.J. Epenesa in round two. They also retain Jerry Hughes and invested in two other former Panthers in Star Loutlelei and Vernon Butler.

The Panthers have pumped resources into their D-line — using first round picks on Derrick Brown and Brian Burns, a second round pick on Yetur Gross-Matos and they still have Kawann Short.

The Bears have one of the best pass rushing units in the league with Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and now Robert Quinn.

The Bengals have drafted younger linemen over the years but their D-line is still anchored by the ever-reliable Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.

The Browns have spent money on Sheldon Richardson and added Olivier Vernon but their pass rush star is clearly former #1 overall pick Myles Garrett.

The Cowboys gave Demarcus Lawrence a huge contract and have now added Gerald McCoy to the interior. They’ve also added Dontari Poe and drafted Neville Gallimore. They’re taking on Aldon Smith as a reclamation project in 2020.

The Broncos have Von Miller and former top-five pick Bradley Chubb. They also added Jurrell Casey from the Titans this off-season.

They spent big money on Trey Flowers — who was more scheme fit than spectacular starter. They don’t have a lot else and drafted Julian Okwara in round three this year.

Green Bay
The Packers have made major moves to improve up front. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith were signed in free agency a year ago — then they used the #12 pick on Rashan Gary. They also retain Kenny Clark at defensive tackle.

The Texans have long relied on JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. They drafted Ross Blacklock in the second round this year.

The Colts used the #13 pick on DeForest Buckner but otherwise have a collection of young unproven players and Justin Houston.

They’ve used first round picks on Josh Allen, Taven Bryan and K’Lavon Chaisson in recent years. They also, for now at least, still have Yannick Ngakoue.

Kansas City
Chris Jones and Frank Clark were vital pieces in the Super Bowl success.

LA Chargers
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram provide a dynamic duo. They used a first round pick on Jerry Tillery a year ago and signed Linval Joseph to anchor the interior in free agency.

LA Rams
The Rams have lost most of the support class but will always threaten with the NFL’s best defensive player (Aaron Donald). Getting Michael Brockers back was a plus but they don’t have a dynamic EDGE. Leonard Floyd hasn’t shown enough as a pass rusher in the NFL.

Las Vegas
They used the #4 pick on Clelin Ferrell a year ago and found some production from Maxx Crosby. Maurice Hurst has been worth taking a chance on.

The Dolphins spent high picks on Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis and signed Shaq Lawson to be their ‘Trey Flowers’. They also paid big money for Kyle Van Noy.

The Vikings have Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr but the group just looked better when they also had Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. They’re a bit light.

New England
They’ve added a bunch of their types to make up for losing the likes of Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy. This year they drafted Josh Uche. Last year it was Chase Winovich. They spent money on Lawrence Guy in free agency and spent day two picks on Derek Rivers and Anfernee Jennings. They have a lot of talent in the secondary.

New Orleans
Cam Jordan, Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport are all first round investments.

New York Giants
Strangely they’ve gone all quiet and more or less ignored the EDGE positions this off-season. They spent a first round pick on Dexter Lawrence last year and traded a third for Leonard Williams. They’ve used the new fangled tag to try and retain Markus Golden.

New York Jets
They have the 2019 #3 overall pick Quinnen Williams… and not a lot else. They drafted Jabari Zuniga in the third round.

This off-season the Eagles added Javon Hargrave to Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett.

They have a good group consisting of TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt.

Jarran Reed is the best D-liner on the roster. They drafted Darrell Taylor to go with a collection of underachieving younger players and journeymen.

San Francisco
Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford. Depth and talent.

Tampa Bay
Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, JPP and Shaquil Barrett make up Tampa Bay’s underrated D-line.

They’ve used high picks on Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons but overpaid Vic Beasley this off-season.

They’re trying to emulate the Niners with Ryan Kerrigan, Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.

At the moment it’s hard to argue against the Seahawks being in the bottom five in terms of talent on paper. Their depth isn’t as bad as some other teams. Yet they clearly lack the star power to compliment the players they do have.

They need an interior rusher of quality and a top defensive end. Add those two players and it elevates the entire defense. That’s been a problem for a while though — especially the interior rusher.

The big problem is Seattle’s defensive scheme relies on a four-man rush to get home. Otherwise the secondary is exposed and that was an issue last season (eg Matt Schaub throwing for 460 yards for Atlanta). Is the current defensive line capable of creating enough pressure to rush with four? Even if you add Clowney — is there enough pure talent to make this defense tick?

When they had Bennett, Avril, Clemons, Irvin, Clark et al back in the day it wasn’t a problem. Looking at the current collection of players — it’ll be an issue without some late moves between now and the 2020 season starting.

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Seattle’s off-season creates more questions than answers

May 15th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

DeAndre Baker & Quinton Dunbar have been accused of armed robbery

This was always going to be a vital period for the Seahawks.

Having endured two off-seasons of re-setting — for the first time they had money to spend and draft picks to use.

This was a golden opportunity to propel the team back into serious Super Bowl contention. Yet as of May 15th, the off-season has simply created a host of question marks and confusion.

Everything starts with the struggling 2019 defense.

We’ve gone over this so many times already so I apologise for once again repeating the same stats today. Yet it’s the best way to illustrate just how bad Seattle’s defense was last year and why it needed major work:

— The Seahawks finished with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23)

— Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall

— The Seahawks produced a sack or quarterback hit on just 14.4% of opponents’ pass plays — worst in the NFL

— They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96)

— Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%)

— Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest

— They had 52 TFL’s — fourth fewest

— They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL

— Their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%)

— They gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall

— They had 131 missed tackles during the regular season — fourth most.

It was difficult to make a case that the defensive issues had been addressed even before the news broke yesterday that an arrest warrant had been issued for Quinton Dunbar. It’s likely he’ll never play a down for the Seahawks. The fifth round pick they spent on him will be a waste and the only saving grace is they can cut him without taking on any dead money. They’ll save $3.4m.

People were banking on Dunbar making a difference. PFF ranking him as the #2 cornerback in the NFL last season raised expectations — even if it was creating false hope (Dunbar has actually missed 14 games due to injury in the last two years and was far from a sure thing).

With the likelihood that he won’t be part of the 2020 Seahawks after all, here’s a quick review on what’s actually changed in terms of Seattle’s starting defense:

Players Out
Jadeveon Clowney
Al Woods
Quinton Jefferson
Ziggy Ansah
Mychal Kendricks

Players In
Bruce Irvin
Benson Mayowa
Jordyn Brooks
Darrell Taylor

The secondary, without Dunbar, is identical to a year ago with no new additions of significance. They spent a first round pick to replace Mychal Kendricks (and presumably K.J. Wright for the long term). They’ve so far failed to bring back Jadeveon Clowney — instead adding Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and trading up for Darrell Taylor. They’re yet to replace Al Woods.

It’s impossible to look at this collection of ins and outs and make any kind of argument that the Seahawks are better.

How are they going to improve in terms of pass rush, pressure rate and run defense?

Irvin and Mayowa are complimentary pieces. As noted last week, they were well supported in Carolina and Oakland last season:

Irvin played on a line in Carolina that had multiple, high-quality contributors. Mario Addison and Brian Burns delivered 17 sacks between them. Vernon Butler, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe also combined for 15 more sacks rushing the interior.

In Oakland, Mayowa’s production fit in alongside Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell and Maurice Hurst collectively providing 18 sacks.

The Seahawks also need to find a way to replace Clowney’s impact — which was significant despite his modest sack numbers. His pass rush win percentage (25%) was fifth highest in the NFL and only 1% lower than Myles Garrett in 2019 — despite facing constant double teams. He also had 30 pressures — twice as many as Mayowa in Oakland.

This has been a strange off-season overall. It’s difficult to work out how they’re going to improve the concerning defensive numbers short of simply hoping some of the underachievers on the roster (such as Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier) elevate their performance to an unexpected new level.

Either that or they need to make some late moves. Namely Clowney. Those suggesting Logan Ryan and Dre Kirkpatrick as alternatives to Dunbar should acknowledge Seattle’s strict preferences on arm length (and neither player has the coveted +32 inch arms).

If you’re willing to be honest, the defensive line doesn’t look good enough. The biggest investment on the defense so far is a linebacker. The secondary, minus Dunbar, will be untouched.

Despite all this, they’ve spent $50m in free agency on retaining players or signing new ones. How can there be so many questions about potential improvement with such a high level of investment?

Is it not right to question why so little has been done to upgrade a defense that badly needed help? To ask why the roster is loaded with 18 offensive linemen yet so far, even Al Woods hasn’t been replaced at defensive tackle? To critique the decision to spend $11.796m on David Moore, Branden Jackson, Joey Hunt, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jacob Hollister — while enduring a painful stalemate with Clowney (yet being unwilling to simply move on and sign someone else — for example Everson Griffen).

There are so many more questions too.

Is it wise to invest $12.8m of cap space in Greg Olsen (35) and Bruce Irvin (33 this year)? Why are they paying Jacob Hollister $3.259m as a restricted free agent having already committed $6.9m to Olsen and then drafting two tight ends?

Is it a good use of funds to be spending nearly $25m of 2020 cap space on two linebackers — while also using your first round pick on the position?

Why is Irvin’s 2020 salary 32% more than the deal he signed in Carolina a year ago? What did Cedric Ogbuehi show in his 155 total snaps for the Jaguars last season to warrant a pay increase from $895,000 to $2.237m?

Do they have sufficient depth at running back, considering the offense virtually collapsed at the end of the 2019 season when Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny were injured? Given Penny is expected to start on the PUP list and Carson has a track record of injuries, can they place any faith in Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer to carry the load? And is Marshawn Lynch a realistic fallback again as anything more than a late-season energiser?

Of course there’s still time for further moves. The Seahawks didn’t acquire Clowney until right before the start of the season a year ago. Yet you can’t bank on trades of that caliber being available every year. Most teams, by now, have done their business. They keep their options open on players as they seek value. They don’t need to make major, significant additions after the draft though.

The Seahawks have a lot still to get done.

It’s also possible they’ve simply experienced a spate of bad luck. The Clowney situation was unpredictable and possibly had an impact on everything else they’ve done this off-season. Signing him back in the first 3-4 days of free agency could’ve changed the entire complexion of what they were able to do. The Dunbar incident is even more unexpected.

Even so — when you’re a team that aspires to compete for Super Bowls, playing in the toughest division in football with two rivals who’ve been in the Super Bowl in the last two seasons, you’re going to have your off-season analysed and critiqued. Any serious debate about the Seahawks has to ask the difficult questions about whether enough has been achieved so far for Seattle to take any kind of step forward in 2020.

Some brief thoughts on the Russell Wilson trade stuff

Yesterday Mike Florio brought up the prospect of the Seahawks trading Wilson in the not too distant future. It follows a conversation with Chris Simms earlier in the week where Simms noted the Seahawks and Browns talked about a possible Wilson trade involving the #1 pick in 2018.

The reaction from Seattle’s media has been staunchly defensive but I think there are two serious points to make:

1. The Seahawks almost certainly did consider trading Wilson

2. There will be an interesting situation in 2022

It’s easy to forget that a year ago, Adam Schefter spent considerable time — unprovoked — discussing the possibility of Wilson being traded prior to the 2019 draft. Jack Del Rio also mentioned that he’d heard, within the league, talk of a possible trade.

See for yourself:

It’s very easy to revise history since Wilson signed his new deal. In the build up to that agreement, there was talk of wanting $40m a year, playing on multiple franchise tags or insisting on a percentage of the cap as a salary. The Seahawks had already endured one highly fractious negotiation with Wilson’s agent Mark Rodgers in 2015. I don’t think people truly grasp how concerned they probably were about a second bout with Rodgers. It’s very, very believable that they feared the worst and wondered whether they would have to consider the unthinkable, rather than risk a Kirk Cousins-esque slow-dance to divorce.

Such a situation would’ve been a huge distraction. A black cloud hanging over the franchise. It would’ve also been very likely that Seattle would’ve eventually lost Wilson without proper compensation.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise at all that they had even a brief conversation about trading Wilson to a team owning the #1 overall pick in a 2018 draft loaded with quarterback talent. Any sensible team would have that conversation — even if it’s just to cover all bases. It’s also very real that they had similar conversations a year ago. In the end no trade was necessary because an agreement was reached. Seahawks fans should be happy that the team is mature enough to consider all eventualities.

It’s to Wilson’s credit that he didn’t force Seattle’s hand or insist on being a trailblazer for NFL contracts. He accepted what he was due — to be the highest paid player in the league for a while. All’s well that ends well.

Yet had he insisted on changing the NFL’s contract structure forever — there’s every chance he would’ve been playing somewhere else.

As for the future — Wilson is contracted for four more seasons. It seems unlikely, due to coronavirus, that the NFL economy is going to outgrow his salary in that timeframe. There’s even talk of the cap coming down in 2021. Therefore it’s unlikely there’ll be any issues until after the 2022 season.

By then, the negotiations will begin again over an extension. And once again, we’ll need to see how Wilson plays it. He’ll only be 33 when they start talking. He will feel, at that stage, like he has at least one last enormous contract in him.

Given the way negotiations have gone in the past, it’d be naive to assume the two parties will skip along to 2023 and then just merrily sign an extension.

What if the Seahawks are unable to seriously challenge for a Super Bowl between now and 2022? Wilson publicly called for the team to add superstars this off-season. He hasn’t done that before. If they can’t properly compete for a Championship and sufficiently build around him over the next three seasons, he might have a decision to make.

We’ve also just seen the biggest name quarterback in NFL history switch teams. Will it be that surprising if Tom Brady moving to Tampa Bay raised a few eyebrows among long-standing quarterbacks? And what happens if Brady wins a ring (or two) to end his career in a new city?

The no-trade clause is also a red-herring. If by 2023 Wilson wants to move on — and if another team offers him the salary and the opportunity he desires — he will waive it. It’s window dressing on the contract and merely security for both parties until the next negotiation begins.

Look — the Seahawks and Wilson are good for each other and that could easily remain the case for the rest of his career. Florio’s report was also a little bit mischievous at a time when there’s very little news to discuss (well, until DeAndre Baker and Quinton Dunbar stepped in).

Don’t just write it off as complete trash though. Even if, for the next few years at least, there’s nothing to worry about.

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Were the Seahawks right to trade Frank Clark?

May 14th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks entered the 2019 off-season facing a huge dilemma.

One way or another they had to sort out Russell Wilson’s future. Three other players were also approaching the final year of their contracts — Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed and, thanks to the franchise tag, Frank Clark.

The intention was clearly to try and keep all four. When asked about Clark at the combine, both Pete Carroll and John Schneider said they expected him in Seattle. Carroll in particular said multiple times, quite firmly, that Clark would be with the team in 2019.

It felt like they were keen to get him signed to a deal worth about $18m per year — the amount of the tag. The game-changer was Demarcus Lawrence’s contract in Dallas. A stalemate was abruptly ended when the Cowboys agreed to pay him $21m a year. Suddenly a player with production but not the quality of Khalil Mack or Aaron Donald was earning elite money. Now Clark could realistically ask for the same.

Nobody can really complain about the Seahawks deciding they were better off seeing what else was out there. $21m is a lot of money. Only four defensive linemen are paid more — Donald, Mack, Lawrence and now DeForest Buckner. Seattle had to make a call on whether Clark’s 32 sacks in three seasons, including 13 in 2018, warranted a placing among the leagues elite. Clearly they decided it wasn’t enough.

They made a trade for a late first round pick and a second round pick. Those players ended up being, ultimately, L.J. Collier and Damien Lewis.

The thought process and logic was perfectly plausible — especially when Wilson and Wagner signed their contracts. Had they signed Clark to the deal he received in Kansas City, here are the cumulative cap hits for all three players per year for the following four seasons:

2019 — $48.5m
2020 — $65.05m
2021 — $74.95m
2022 — $83.65m

On paper, that’s hard to accept. Yet there are some other things to consider.

For starters, Clark’s cap hit in 2020 is $19.3m. The Seahawks are spending $19.1m of their cap space on K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin and Jacob Hollister. You could argue they’d be better off with Clark — especially with the depth they’ve got at tight end and having just spent a first round pick on a linebacker.

The $74.95m hit is incredibly steep in 2021. However, the Seahawks are currently slated to have about $63m in available cap space at the end of this season. They could tolerate Clark’s cap hit of $25.8m. It’d also be their final year without an ‘out’ in the contract. The Chiefs can’t cut or trade Clark until 2022 due to the dead-money on the deal. Having between $30-40m to spend wouldn’t have prevented Seattle from filling out the depth on their roster. They would’ve also had two full draft classes by then (2020 & 2021).

By 2022 the Seahawks would have a lot of freedom and flexibility. If a 29-year-old Clark was no longer providing a high level of performance they could cut or trade him and save $13.4m. They could also cut or trade Wagner and save a further $17m. If they needed money, they could find it.

The other thing to consider are the extensions the Seahawks might want to do that’ll eat into future cap space. Chris Carson and Shaquill Griffin are the two big names who are out of contract at the end of the 2020 season. Neither player has shown they warrant a big extension at this stage.

Clearly this was a choice by Seattle not to go beyond their limit for Clark — which, as noted, was seemingly set at the franchise tag limit of $18m.

But how did that unwillingness to stretch to another $3m per year impact the roster reset overall?

This is the big question and one that warrants some consideration moving forward.

When the Seahawks refreshed their roster in 2018 it was an attempt to establish a new core and identify the players they would build around moving forward. The 2018 team were competitive and often exciting if somewhat flawed. They still recorded impressive home wins against Kansas City, Green Bay and Minnesota. They gave the Rams two almighty battles. They finished 10-6 but it could’ve easily been more. Two disappointing road losses to start the year put them behind the eight-ball and they shouldn’t have lost on the road in San Francisco. 11-13 wins was possible and would’ve felt more authentic than perhaps even last season.

They had their big beasts — Wilson, Wagner, Carson, Duane Brown, Tyler Lockett and two defensive linemen (Clark and Reed) who delivered 23.5 sacks. The path to future success was clear. Build around that group. It was going to be tricky in 2019 because they only had four draft picks and limited cap space.

That in part was probably another inspiration for trading Clark — to get another pick and free up some cash. Yet by dealing him the Seahawks were doing the opposite of building at the exact time they needed to be adding not subtracting.

The 2019 draft class was rich in defensive linemen. It felt like an ideal opportunity, even with only four picks, to add to what they had. That too probably gave the Seahawks false hope that they could deal Clark and handle the loss. As it happens — the rush on the position caught them out when both Rashan Gary and Brian Burns went quickly. They traded out of range for their secondary targets and seemingly settled on L.J. Collier to avoid missing out on the defensive linemen altogether.

That could end up being the defining moment of the reset, unfortunately. That’s the negative way of looking at it anyway. Since that trade, the Seahawks went from relying on Frank Clark for a pass rush to having nobody who could deliver a pass rush. The Jadeveon Clowney trade bailed them out before the 2019 season — but they were unwilling, so far, to commit to bringing him back too.

If he doesn’t return, he’ll have cost a third round pick for one season.

Instead of building and growing the unit, the Seahawks smashed a big hole into their pass rush. They’ve since been scrambling to find solutions. Ansah, Clowney — now trading up for Darrell Taylor and signing Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin. They’re trying to find answers instead of building. In 2019, the lack of pass rush was crippling. There’s a danger the same issue will prevent them from succeeding in 2020 too.

Removing Clark created a big problem — one that they’ve struggled to solve.

Again — the logic behind the trade was perfectly understandable at the time. In hindsight, especially if they don’t return to a Super Bowl in the next couple of years, we’ll wonder if their unwillingness to go from $18m to $21m a year was costly. Especially if their future answers to the problem have a similar lack of success as Ansah and Collier in 2019.

Sometimes you just have to pay the going rate for a good player.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing though. Nobody makes a decision to get it wrong. If a decision is logical — and Seattle trading Clark was — then you have to temper any criticism. You can also, however, discuss that decision and question whether it was the right move after all. As of today, it’s hard to argue the Seahawks are in a better position for dealing Clark.

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Why Marvin Wilson has early round potential

May 13th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Florida State defensive tackle Marvin Wilson has a lot of athletic upside. He just needs to be more consistent.

Part of his problem might be the team he plays for. Florida State have been bad for a while. Really bad at times. It’s hard to show anything but the occasional flash in that environment. There are some technical flaws though that prevent him really becoming a dominant force.

For starters he’s tall (6-5). When you’re playing exclusively inside at that size you’ve got to master leverage. Too often he plays upright and his pad level means he cedes leverage. He doesn’t control double teams in the way Raekwon Davis did at Alabama. He can get jolted backwards and the very least you expect from a player with this build is to be stout at the POA.

His gap discipline isn’t always great either. That can be blamed on scheme and coaching. You have to commit to it. At Alabama they do (as they do in Seattle). Other teams are happy to play free and fancy — to attack and try to find gaps rather than handling your business. Still, this isn’t something you can assume will be better at the next level.

These are some of the reasons why he possibly didn’t declare for the 2020 draft. I’m not sure what feedback he received from the draft committee but if he’d been given a first round grade — and with FSU going through another raft of changes — you’d think he would’ve turned pro. Especially in a weak year for defensive linemen. He didn’t declare and will return to college in 2020.

So with all that noted, what makes him interesting?

There are great flashes. Despite missing the final month of last season he still managed 8.5 TFL’s and five sacks at defensive tackle. His 2019 pass rush win percentage was 16.8%. Only Javon Kinlaw and Jordan Elliott scored higher marks. He also broke up four passes, forced a fumble and added a couple of hurries too.

There’s no questioning his athleticism. At SPARQ he ran a 5.17 at 332lbs. He also added a 4.56 short shuttle which is superb for his size (Malik McDowell ran a 4.53 at 295lbs). Wilson was the #4 overall recruit in the country and was coveted by all the top teams (especially Ohio State, LSU and Oklahoma — but also Alabama, Florida and Georgia). It would’ve been interesting to see what he could’ve achieved with one of the big SEC teams or Ohio State given FSU’s collapse. He’s from Texas, so there was no local connection to the Seminoles.

He’s now listed at about 311lbs so he could be even quicker and more athletic. Watching him on tape it wouldn’t be a surprise if he sneaked under 5.00 for his forty. He’s so quick and when he times his get-off he explodes into the backfield. He’s not just a straight-line runner either. He can shake off blockers and he’s incredibly agile with quick feet for his size.

Wilson isn’t a slouch when it comes to power either. You see evidence of heavy hands and an impressive jolt when he connects. He can create room to work with initial contact and once he separates from a blocker he has the quickness and agility to work into the backfield.

I’ve not seen any problems with his motor which was something I looked for given the way Florida State’s last couple of seasons went. He’s smart enough to jump and tip a pass if his initial rush stalls.

The one thing he isn’t is explosive. That shows up especially when he has to plant the anchor sometimes. He’s also not going to explode out of the traps and leave blockers standing. He’s going to need to beat opponents, not blow by them. He only jumped a 25 inch vertical at SPARQ. So while he’s quick for his size — he’s not tremendously explosive.

Wilson is appearing on a lot of early watch-lists and he’s immensely talent with enormous potential. Yet the dearth of obvious ‘second tier’ candidates behind the Trevor Lawrence, Penei Sewell, JaMarr Chase and Micah Parsons group has led to some projecting he could go top-10. It’s a bit rich to make that projection now. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility but he has things to work on. At this stage he’s a potential top-50 pick if he can have a good season. A terrific 2020, with his testing potential, could launch him into the first round.

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Assessing the off-season for the other NFC West teams

May 11th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Javon Kinlaw was selected by San Francisco with the #13 pick

San Francisco 49ers

The Niners had an inspired and carefully thought out plan for the draft that deserves tremendous credit and praise.

Clearly they acknowledged it was going to be very difficult to keep both Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner. So rather than simply let Armstead walk in free agency in return for a possible comp pick, they moved Buckner for the #13 pick in the draft. This, in turn, allowed them to replace Buckner with another top-15 selection in Javon Kinlaw.

The alternative was to let Armstead walk and try to replace him with limited resources and one draft pick before round five. Trading Buckner probably was a tough pill to swallow but it was clearly the best way to secure their NFL-leading D-line for the foreseeable future. Armstead, Kinlaw and Nick Bosa are all signed to long term deals, instead of just Buckner and Bosa — with no obvious way to replace Armstead.

Trading up for Brandon Aiyuk was also another smart move. He was always underrated in the media and a legitimate first round prospect. He’s an ideal fit for Kyle Shanahan’s offense with the YAC talent and breathtaking acceleration to be a leading light for the Niners passing and return game.

The trade for Trent Williams was similarly masterful. It took the Seahawks an age to sufficiently replace Russell Okung — going through Bradley Sowell, George Fant and Rees Odhiambo before eventually spending a second and third round pick on Duane Brown. The Niners made their move for Williams (for a mere third and fifth rounder) before the announcement that Joe Staley was retiring was even made.

They’ve legitimately acquired three impact players for 2020. Their day three picks — Colt McKivitz, Charlie Woerner and Jauaun Jennings all have a shot to last too. This was a terrific draft and off-season for the Niners, securing their status as the team to beat in the NFC.

LA Rams

The Rams are in a weird position at the moment. They’re going through a bit of a roster reset at the same time as adding major talent at a huge price. Trading for Jalen Ramsey while paying Jared Goff and Aaron Donald huge sums was bold but has thinned out their depth. They seemed to be ‘all-in’ and now they’re ‘sort of all-in’.

They still have the talent to cause teams major problems. In Donald they have the defining defensive player of this generation and a true game-wrecker. Ramsey is arguably the most talented defensive back in the NFL. Sean McVay’s offense is still incredibly difficult to stop as Seattle witnessed in LA last season.

They have lost players though and had to patch-up other areas. With no first round pick they’ve been pretty much forced to bring back Andrew Whitworth. Corey Littleton, Dante Fowler, Nickell Robey-Coleman and Greg Zuerlein have departed. They accepted their fate with Todd Gurley. They didn’t have the money to bring in reinforcements on the open market. They did catch a break with Michael Brockers returning, having initially agreed terms with Baltimore.

They were also incredibly fortunate to coax a second round pick out of Houston for Brandin Cooks.

The draft was an attempt of sorts to try and fill some holes. The Rams were practically unstoppable in 2018 when Gurley provided a dual-threat in the backfield. Cam Akers was an inspired pick and he’s very capable of filling that void. They will hope that Van Jefferson’s consistency and sharp technique will make up for the Cooks whiff. There are question marks about his health too though. Likewise, there are major concerns about Terrell Lewis’ ability to stay healthy. They will hope he can replace Dante Fowler but having laboured through his final year at Alabama, it’s no given.

The Rams remain good enough to beat any team on their day — yet they’re far from the complete roster that saw them make the Super Bowl. Any kind of bad luck with injuries will test their weak depth. They’ll likely need another off-season (or two) to get back to their peak powers. They’re still an incredibly difficult opponent and they’ve scored 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28 points in their last five games against Seattle.

Arizona Cardinals

The Cardinals pulled off a heist at the start of free agency, trading for DeAndre Hopkins, to launch their attempt to become a serious contender in the NFC West. Kyler Murray has already shown he has the potential to be a special talent. Giving him Hopkins to go with Larry Fitzgerald makes for a serious headache for the rest of the division — especially if some of their younger receivers can take a step forward.

They also added an impact player in the top-10 with Isaiah Simmons. How they use him will be important. They can’t afford to waste a few years working out his fit like they’ve done with Haason Reddick. He has the potential, however, to be the ultimate modern-day defender and a huge boost for a team that’ll need to spy Russell Wilson and provide a coverage solution for George Kittle.

I wasn’t a Josh Jones fan but getting him in round three is great value. Leki Fotu and Rashard Lawrence will sure-up the interior D-line and they already have an elite pass rusher in Chandler Jones. Eno Benjamin is a great compliment to Kenyan Drake.

The Cardinals are still missing a few pieces. The O-line has question marks. Players like Christian Kirk and Andy Isabella have flattered to deceive and they need a speed element on offense. The defense maybe lacks some teeth to go with the obvious talent of Jones, Simmons, Patrick Peterson and Budda Baker.

Even so — this is a team a year removed from picking first overall and they’re very much heading in the right direction. They might not be the finished article yet but they’ll be a difficult opponent every week. They improved this off-season.

Final thoughts

With the Cardinals growing, the Niners enhancing their status at the top of the conference and the Rams proving a particularly difficult challenge for the Seahawks — this is a murderers row of opponents for Seattle in 2020.

On the positive side, they have the best player in the division (Russell Wilson). They’ve also found a way to play the Niners close, which is a good thing given how much they struggle against McVay and the Rams.

Since Seattle’s last Super Bowl appearance, the Rams and Niners have both competed for a title and the Cardinals have been in the NFC Championship game. The Seahawks have become stuck in a rut — being good enough to finish second in the West and make the playoffs — but not good enough to go much further.

It’s going to be difficult to end that run in 2020. Certainly not impossible — but difficult.

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An interview with Brian Baldinger

May 10th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Today I had an opportunity to speak to Brian Baldinger about the Seahawks, the draft, Jadeveon Clowney and the NFC West. Unfortunately, only four minutes of the interview recorded properly — basically all of the stuff discussing Jordyn Brooks.

I’ll try and review what else we talked about here. Baldy compared Darrell Taylor to Cameron Wake and noted that he’d heard a different team were very interested in Taylor, so he’d done a lot of work on him pre-draft. He said he’d talked to Clowney earlier in the year and due to a lack of a proper off-season in 2019 — he could be even better this year with a full camp (if possible due to Coronavirus). He noted he liked B.J. Finney having watched him at Kansas State. We also talked about Baldy’s Breakdowns — one of the best things about the NFL on Twitter.

Apologies to you all that I’m unable to provide you all 12 minutes of the conversation we had. Here’s the bit that did record on Brooks…

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Have the Seahawks used their cap space wisely?

May 9th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Bruce Irvin had 8.5 sacks for the Panthers in 2019

It was revealed yesterday that Bruce Irvin’s 2020 cap hit is about $5.9m. Media members had estimated a $4m hit. A year ago he signed a $4m contract in Carolina with $1.5m guaranteed. Seattle has given him a 32.2% pay increase.

It leaves the Seahawks slightly more cap-restricted than originally thought. They now have $16.1m remaining. A significant portion of that has to be saved for the rookies, injured reserve and other costs. So they realistically have less than $10m left with a lot still to do.

Seattle entered the off-season with a healthy amount of available cap room and a nice collection of draft picks.

Have they used their resources wisely?

So far they’ve spent about $53.37m on new signings or retaining existing players for 2020:

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

In order to have these players on the books they’ve parted with Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker, replacing them with B.J. Finney and Damien Lewis.

Al Woods signed with the Jaguars and so far hasn’t been replaced. Jadeveon Clowney remains unsigned and could still potentially return. If not, he will also be a subtraction from the 2019 defensive line. Quinton Jefferson signed with the Bills too.

There are interesting ways to look at the list above. For example, they’re spending $11.796m on David Moore, Branden Jackson, Joey Hunt, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jacob Hollister. There are positive arguments to be made about the depth you’re getting for nearly $12m. You can also counter that it’s a lot of money for backups and role players at a time when the Seahawks needed an injection of real quality (thus Russell Wilson’s comments about superstars at the Pro Bowl).

The Seahawks came into the off-season needing to make significant improvements to the defense. People might be sick of me repeating these statistics — but it’s the only way to prove just how badly they needed to make changes:

— The Seahawks finished with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23)

— Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall

— The Seahawks produced a sack or quarterback hit on just 14.4% of opponents’ pass plays — worst in the NFL

— They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96)

— Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%)

— Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest

— They had 52 TFL’s — fourth fewest

— They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL

— Their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%)

— They gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall

— They had 131 missed tackles during the regular season — fourth most.

The pass rush in particular was a major crisis point last year.

So far the fix looks like this — Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin for $9m this season, to replace Jadeveon Clowney, Quinton Jefferson and Ziggy Ansah. They also spent two draft picks on Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson, plus retained Jarran Reed for a cap hit of $9.35m this season. They still need, eventually, to replace Al Woods.

Seattle’s two premier pass rushers at the moment will be Mayowa (29) and Irvin (33) with Taylor in particular contributing too. The Seahawks seem to be pinning their hopes on the production Mayowa and Irvin produced last season (15.5 sacks). Yet a threatening pass rush also needs to be able to produce regular pressure — not just collect isolated sacks.

After all — if Irvin and Mayowa combine for 15.5 sacks in 2019, that’ll only be one per game.

Irvin played on a line in Carolina that had multiple, high-quality contributors. Mario Addison and Brian Burns delivered 17 sacks between them. Vernon Butler, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe also combined for 15 more sacks rushing the interior.

In Oakland, Mayowa’s production fit in alongside Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell and Maurice Hurst collectively providing 18 sacks.

You can make a strong case for both players being nice rotational cogs. It’s a lot harder to make a case for them being the players you rely on. And if you don’t have enough contributors elsewhere — 15.5 sacks won’t be enough.

Sacks aren’t indicators of a consistent rush too and this is why we look at stats like pass rush win percentage and pressures to tell a more complete story. A lot is made of Clowney’s sack production (3) in 2019 — but he was among the league leaders in pass rush win percentage:

Robert Quinn — 33%
T.J. Watt — 28%
DeMarcus Lawrence — 27%
Myles Garrett — 26%
Jadeveon Clowney — 25%
Joey Bosa — 25%
Shaquil Barrett — 25%
Dante Fowler — 23%
Za’Darius Smith — 23%
Preston Smith — 23%

The Seahawks, who already struggled to rush the passer, will need to make up that production with their existing collection of players if they’re unable to bring back Clowney.

In terms of pressures, Irvin and Mayowa played fewer snaps than Clowney as rotational role players. However, Irvin had 23 pressures in 2019 to go with his 8.5 sacks. Mayowa had only 15 pressures.

In comparison, Clowney had 30 pressures. Everson Griffen, who is regularly suggested as an alternative, had 35.

Again — sacks are just one piece of the puzzle. You actually need to be challenging opposing quarterbacks down-to-down.

Given they’ve spent $53.37m on veteran players so far, you can at least make an argument that they’d have been better off ensuring they added Clowney and Griffen before trading up for Darrell Taylor. That arguably would’ve been a more formidable combination, similar to the Bennett/Avril/Clark trio of yesteryear. It might not have been possible, of course. There’s a reason why Clowney remains unsigned after all. Yet had they committed serious resources to that plan — who would’ve complained had it failed?

The point is — if the pass rush struggles badly again in 2020, people will understandably question whether Mayowa and Irvin were the right additions to try and solve this glaring weakness. If Clowney and Griffen didn’t work out — the execution might be criticised but certainly not the planning.

However — had you invested in Clowney and Griffen it’s unlikely you would’ve been able to pad out the depth on the roster. There is some benefit to that and the Seahawks didn’t have a high number of players signed for 2020 going into the off-season.

You will likely answer whether they’ve spent correctly or not depending on your view of the need to acquire depth vs the need to add the stars Wilson called for.

If Clowney does come back eventually to go with Mayowa, Irvin and Taylor — that would be an understandable blueprint. A lot rests on them being able to bring him back though. At the very least, they have to turn to Griffen.

It’s also interesting that while the question marks remain on the defensive line, the Seahawks are spending so much on the linebacker position. Bobby Wagner’s cap hit in 2020 is $14.75m. K.J. Wright’s cap hit is $10m. They are both in the top five highest paid players on the team. On top of this, you can now include the first round investment (salary and resource) in Jordyn Brooks.

There aren’t many teams in the league spending $25m on two linebackers. And that money, along with the price to acquire Brooks, will be seriously questioned if the defensive line isn’t good enough to keep the linebackers clean to play free and fast.

I also think, in defense of the Seahawks, that this has been a harder off-season than they perhaps anticipated.

I suspect they knew or believed they had the best offer on the table for Clowney at the start of free agency. They probably presumed, not unfairly, that after a few days of exploring his market he would return for their best offer. That’s what happened when Michael Bennett tested free agency in 2014.

Instead Clowney didn’t return. He opted to wait. The Seahawks have had to react to this, probably without a plan for this scenario. Who could’ve really predicted this long stalemate?

Because they clearly want him back, they’re compromised too. With Clowney still available they’ve always had to keep some money free just in case. They don’t want to fully move on because he’s without doubt the player who can provide the most impact on the open market.

The addition of Mayowa was a base-covering move. A cheap signing they can talk up. Some depth, just in case. Someone who can exist with or without Clowney. Someone who allows them to claim they’ve ‘moved on’ but in reality, they haven’t.

The situation with Clowney has probably had a major impact on everything, even if they’re not willing to admit it. The questions that will be asked now are — was it worth doing what it takes to avoid this happening (basically just ‘get it done’)? And can they bring him back later this summer to at least bring a positive conclusion to this exercise?

Either way — the unpredictable nature of this saga at least needs to be considered when judging whether they used their cap space wisely.

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Pat Freiermuth has definite early round potential

May 8th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

If the college football season goes ahead as planned in 2020, we’re going to spend a lot of time talking about receivers and tight ends. That’s where there appears to be an early round strength in the 2021 draft class. For the second year in a row the pass-catches are going to dominate the headlines.

We’ve already talked about Florida’s Kyle Pitts and Purdue’s Rondale Moore. Today we’ll look at Penn State’s Pat Freiermuth.

Comparisons are never 100% but Freiermuth has some Gronk tendencies and a legit chance to be a high pick in 2021. Purely in terms of the way he runs routes, uses his size and can beat you in the short and long range — it’s very Gronk-esque.

He has a fantastic ability to create separation on routes working from the slot. He’ll shake off covering cornerbacks or linebackers with a shimmy at the top of the stem and wrong-foot defenders to create wide open throwing lanes. That’s not easy to do at 260lbs and he’s going to be a nightmare matchup at the next level.

When you can put your big tight end in the slot and have him win in the same way a smaller receiver can — that’s a dangerous proposition.

Freiermuth finds the soft spot in zone superbly. He’s very difficult to cover running the seam. He works to get open very well. He’s really difficult to cover on a simple Y-stick route where he heads straight to the sideline. You create the free release in design and once he’s in position he can just wall off any defender, he can contort his body to make any catch, he tracks it superbly and extends his hands and you just can’t get around him.

He also knows how to help his quarterback. There’s a game against Minnesota where he ran a Y-stick to the sideline but lost early position (they run it so much defenders will read it). He just broke off the linebacker to find the space in behind and present his QB with an open target for a big gain.

He creates easy separation when split out wide running a slant. His short-area quickness is so impressive it’ll be a surprise if he doesn’t run a blazing three-cone to secure a high grade. If you don’t disrupt his route early and give him a free release he will beat you time and time again. He and Pitts are very similar in that regard.

If you watch a lot of the tape it’s noticeable how often he’s open. Sometimes that’s good scheming but he’s also really savvy. He doesn’t stop moving, he settles down well. He’s a natural tight end weapon.

Freiermuth finishes his runs. He absolutely hammered a Memphis defender in the Cotton Bowl. Just ran over him going for the end zone, Beast Mode style…

He also finished a run against Michigan State with defenders draped all over him to fight his way into the end zone. He’s clearly tough and physical and enjoys mixing it up.

He has good hands. As a redshirt freshman he had a great one-handed touchdown against Ohio State. He gains position and he’s so big it’s really hard to get around him to play the ball. He plucks the ball out of the air and can high-point. He presents his hands to the football. So often Penn State have him settle down at the sticks, box-out and present a safe target.

Penn State used him as a H-back or slot receiver a lot so there’s not a ton of evidence of him in-line blocking. There’s little concern here though. Just looking at his frame and his attitude. He’s so dynamic as a pass-catcher you can work on any of the blocking duties he needs to master. On WR-screens he reaches out and connects with his target in space which is difficult to do. Against Minnesota last season he delivered the key block from the H-back position to spring a 45-yard running touchdown. There aren’t going to be any concerns about his blocking. If you can do this in space, you’re going to be just fine…

He ran a 4.44 short shuttle at SPARQ which is about where he needs to be. The key will be a three-cone that is quicker than a 7.10. For some reason, despite the clear data, not enough people focus on the agility testing at tight end. It’s a major indicator of NFL potential and early round draft potential.

Freiermuth has a classic TE frame and while he isn’t quite the same athlete as Kyle Pitts he does have the agility and the subtle tricks and technique to create separation and he’s more equipped to block as a sixth man at the line. He can make the easy conversions you need on third down, the big plays at the second level, he can bust seams and he’ll be a major red zone threat.

Both players have definite first round potential.

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Penn State’s Jayson Oweh is one to watch

May 7th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

While delving into the 2021 draft class, a couple of things have become clear:

1. Early in the process, this appears to be a top-heavy class with a handful of ‘elite’ prospects who are seemingly already destined to go in the top-five.

2. The depth, at the moment, is slightly concerning — and we’re seeing a lot of players who won’t be first round picks appear on early watch-lists.

This is particularly interesting this year. While the NFL is pretty confident they’ll be able to host a full 2020 season, there’s at least a little bit more concern for college football. There’s been some positive noises recently — such as Notre Dame saying they believe there will be a full season. But there’s obviously a big difference between paid professionals and student athletes competing during a global pandemic.

I do wonder if contenders in the NFL who are expected to be picking later in each round will consider using some of their 2021 draft stock for veteran trades — either just before or during the NFL season. If it’s a lot harder to scout this class — and if it continues to look like a top-heavy class — that might be a consideration.

It’s something to at least consider when we get towards August and September.

If there is a fully functioning college football season, Penn State’s Jayson Oweh is one player to keep an eye on.

He’s slated to replace Yetur Gross-Matos in 2021 having previously operated as a rotational pass rusher. Even so, he had five sacks last season and is well sized at 6-5 and 255lbs. He also forced a couple of fumbles and had five TFL’s.

He’s clearly a very accomplished athlete and the first thing that stands out is his ability to burst off the edge, round the arc and get to the quarterback. That’s what you want to see when a player is listed at his size. Has he got a speed rush? Oweh answers that question positively and that’s a good starting point.

He had a particularly good performance against Michigan State in 2019. He had five pressures on just 19 pass rush snaps per PFF and collected two sacks.

What he’ll need to prove as a starter is an ability to win in different ways and contain his side of the field. He’s not too bad at stunting inside and bulldozing his way through a crowd to reach the QB. That at least hints at some strength. What we don’t have enough evidence of so far is an ability to convert speed-to-power and win by connecting and forcing the tackle backwards. We also need to see more evidence of hand-use and can he engage at the POA with a straight arm, keeping his frame free to read and react against the run.

These are all basic things that’ll become clear very quickly if/when the new season begins.

So what kind of potential does he have?

Reportedly he’s been clocked running a 4.33 at Penn State. This is clearly a highly wind-assisted time if it’s even true at all. At SPARQ he ran a 4.63 which is perfectly fine and acceptable for a man his size. If he can get that into the 4.5’s with a 1.5 10-yard split then certainly that would be ideal. He doesn’t have to run a ridiculous 4.3 to boost his stock at the combine.

His body fat has also been measured at 4.9%. He’s been jumping in the 35-36 inch range in the vertical and reportedly he can manage a 10-7 broad. He can bench 380lbs and clean 365lbs.

Most importantly though he can supposedly run a 4.46 short shuttle. That’s about in the range he needs to be. It’s not a spectacular time (Alton Robinson ran a 4.32) but if he combines it with explosive testing and a fast forty and split — then it’s where he needs to be physically.

You always need a college season to really get to grips with a class. Players emerge. Nobody was predicting Joe Burrow, Kyler Murray or Cam Newton to be Heisman winners and #1 overall picks a year out. Generally you can get a sense though what are going to be the strong positions.

This year you’ve got the star names — Trevor Lawrence, Penei Sewell, Ja’Marr Chase and Micah Parsons. You’ve got another rich looking receiver class and some tight ends with exciting potential. So far I can’t get excited about the D-line options. It’s an area where players like Oweh will have an opportunity to emerge and earn a lot of money. I’m not sure why, suddenly, college football is having a D-line lull. We’re only a year removed from a draft known for it’s defensive line depth.

For that reason the Seahawks probably made a good call moving up for Darrell Taylor. He has as much potential as anyone this year or next to turn into a quality, dynamic EDGE. His main issues were injuries and inconsistency. He’s been given the #58 jersey today. Not sure whether he chose that or the team — but the thinking and the aim is clear. Von Miller wears #58.

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Jadeveon Clowney speaks — 10 takeaways

May 6th, 2020 | Written by Rob Staton

Jadeveon Clowney has broken his silence on his elongated free agency period and the news is — nothing is any closer to being resolved.

In a piece with Mark Berman of Fox 26 in Houston, he revealed what we more or less already knew — the stalemate is set to continue for some time.

Here are 10 takeaways from this…

1. This isn’t going to be resolved any time soon. This is the latest attempt by Clowney to try and drum up some interest. He wouldn’t be doing this if he was close to making a decision.

2. He speaks glowingly of Seattle, the staff and the players — from Russell Wilson all the way to Branden Jackson. It’s pretty clear that both parties are very interested in getting something done. The problem is that while the Seahawks offer is probably the highest — it’s still not the kind of deal Clowney is interested in.

3. The medical/coronavirus side of things is still a red herring. Clowney can bring it up and say it’s a reason for his colder-than-expected market if he wants. The reality is, plenty of other players with injuries in their careers have been able to have medicals and pass or fail them. Most free agents agree big contracts before they even take visits, especially the ones earning the kind of money Clowney wants.

4. It’s very unlikely that, randomly, some team will offer Clowney the kind of contract he’s hoping for. It’s very likely he’s seen everyone’s best offer by this point. Any interested teams are all going to be acting the same way. They’re going to be looking for value. That’s the stage we’re at now. Free agency, the meaty end of it, is over. The draft is complete. He has virtually no real leverage.

5. Presumably there’s a lot of frustration in Seattle with this situation. The Seahawks need Clowney. They’ve probably offered him more than anyone else. They might’ve even tried to find some middle ground and raised their offer. But Clowney is dug in. Once you’ve waited this long, you might as well keep going. And the Seahawks, in such a clear way that it’d be arguing against the obvious to suggest otherwise, are willing to wait too. Otherwise they’d be out there signing a defensive tackle, Everson Griffen, Geno Smith and others. They aren’t for the pure and simple reason that they’re keeping their cap space available for Clowney. There’s no other explanation.

6. A lot of people are going to say, ‘just move on’. The thing is, there’s nobody available like Clowney. Nobody capable of practically beating the 49ers on his own like he did. Nobody who can impact Seattle’s 2020 season in the way he can. There’s a reason they aren’t just ‘moving on’. They’d probably like to. No team wants to be stuck in a stalemate like this. But why would you make your team worse than it can be through sheer impatience?

7. With the way he speaks about Seattle — and the way the Seahawks have talked about him — I get the sense the team is still pretty confident this will eventually get resolved. They just might have to wait until the week before training camp starts.

8. I don’t know how far apart the team and Clowney are in terms of negotiations. And I know we’ve heard from so many people this off-season questioning how he will play and compete once he receives a new deal. That said, the Seahawks have barely any long term commitments contractually. It’s Russell Wilson and that’s about it. Signing Clowney and him underwhelming is forgivable. Missing out, having waited this long, would be much more of an issue. Sometimes you’ve just got to go and land the player you want.

9. Equally, they’re basically bidding against themselves at this point. If you’re offering the most, you might not see any reason to go any further. A market is what it is. It’s just become an exhausting, repetitive and frustrating saga.

10. People will criticise Clowney for dragging this out and risking losing money. Those people will also fail, again, to appreciate this is a person who has earned over $50m in his football career. To him, getting respect in terms of salary is probably more important than anything. He’s seen other players who are not as good as he is receive big long-term extensions. He’s in a position, due to his wealth, where he can afford to risk losing a few million to get that respect. That’s his prerogative. He doesn’t have to do what anyone wants just because it makes life easier.

It’s still more likely than not he’ll end up back in Seattle, in my opinion. Their willingness to wait for him and protect their cap, the positivity from both sides and the fact no new teams have ponied up a better offer keeps the Seahawks in pole position.

Unfortunately, for those hoping for a swift resolution, you might have to wait another two months.

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