In the aftermath of the Jimmy Graham trade the Seahawks were still being linked to key free agents. The Jabaal Sheard talk quickly went quiet as he signed with the Patriots. Terrance Knighton and Andre Johnson were both suggested targets, while Stefen Wisniewski is visiting with the team today along with Shelley Smith.
We’ll come back to specific players in a moment but first lets get into the harsh reality of the situation. Seattle barely has any free cap room. They can probably do a minor deal or two for a cheap veteran but there’s unlikely to be another splash without an existing player being sacrificed.
As Chris Cluff points out, they have about $15m in cap space. Approximately $5 million is needed for the rookie class, practice squad players and IR cover. More importantly, they need to save around $8-10m for the year-one pay increases of Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy when they agree new contracts.
There are ways to create extra room. Cutting Jermaine Kearse saves a couple of million. Releasing Tony McDaniel frees up $3m and Brandon Mebane provides $5m in relief. There’s every chance Mebane will be asked to take a pay cut. You can also convert Jimmy Graham’s roster bonus into a signing bonus — spreading the cost and saving $3.3m.
None of these situations are ideal. Kearse isn’t a dominating receiver but is it really worth losing him? If you release McDaniel and Mebane you’re only going to need to replace them. Moving Graham’s bonus creates 2015 cap space but takes away money in 2016 and beyond.
You could back-load a contract of course, limiting the initial damage. This, ultimately, is how other teams get into trouble.
Talk of Andre Johnson joining Graham in Seattle appeared fanciful and simply unrealistic. Sheard’s contract in New England is very much ‘prove-it’ in terms of salary but it’s not the type of move the Seahawks are really in a position to make.
If they’re going to do anything, it’s probably going to be cheap and short term. I suspect it’ll come on the defensive line, although John Schneider says they’ll scour the cut-market for a possible Max Unger replacement at center.
A year ago they were hunting for value and didn’t stray from that mentality. They spoke to Henry Melton and Jared Allen and came close to signing both. They were prepared, ultimately, to miss out in order to avoid spending above their means. It’s no different in 2015.
It’s not a deep class for D-liners. You’ve got a really top-heavy situation where a lot of edge rushers and interior tackles are going to go off the board early. It’ll be rich pickings in the top 15-20. After that you’re going to see a real decrease in quality.
There will be some gems to be had — Henry Anderson is a stout, surprisingly athletic and long interior presence. Anthony Chickillo played out of position at Miami and could develop into a nice edge rush project. What Markus Golden lacks in length and raw speed he makes up for with a relentless approach. Zach Hodges has the length and burst to play the LEO. Grady Jarrett at Clemson is a good player rushing inside, which Derick Lott and Rakeem Nunez-Roches have some upside. Owa Odighizuwa will make somebody happy in round two if you believe he can stay healthy. I don’t believe he will last until #63.
You wouldn’t necessarily want to thrust any of these players into a starting role — or at least give them a lot of snaps. They’re all raw in their own different ways. There are significantly more plug-in-and-play offensive linemen in this class. If you want to add a proven commodity to fill a need, you’re probably looking at the D-line.
Terrance Knighton is heading to DC and will be signing for Washington. The Seahawks were linked with him briefly. If they were serious about bringing him in I think it almost had to be a straight swap — you cut Mebane and give his salary to Knighton. It’s a move I think they’d only consider if there were genuine concerns about the health of Mebane’s hamstring injury. That’s perhaps something we have to monitor.
DT Terrance Knighton just told me "I am going to sign a 1-yr deal with Washington for $4M."
— Josina Anderson (@JosinaAnderson) March 12, 2015
Randy Starks still remains a great fit. He’s been released by Miami so won’t cost Seattle a compensatory pick. He’s an ideal interior rusher for the scheme and would provide much needed depth and competition for Jordan Hill. He does everything well with the pass rush skills to boot. His 2014 cap hit was $4m so it’s not beyond the realms of possibility you could work out a nice contract here. Knighton getting $4m suggests the market has gone a bit flat at defensive tackle.
Remember, Pete Carroll spoke glowingly about Starks before the 2012 game between Seattle and Miami. There’s no indication yet on where he might end up, but don’t be surprised if he emerges as a target for the Seahawks. If you want him badly enough — convert Graham’s bonus and add the $3.3m in cap space.
Vince Wilfork remains a free agent but he isn’t the same player these days. If he’s taking a really cheap deal to continue, you’d expect him to re-emerge in New England.
Would they re-sign Red Bryant again? I think it’s unlikely. They’ve moved on.
Karl Klug could be one to monitor in terms of depth. He’s received very little interest so far and remains without a club. He could be had on a cheap one-year contract.
In terms of possible edge rushers — they don’t have the cash to go after Brian Orakpo (visiting the Titans) or Greg Hardy (linked with multiple teams). Michael Johnson is likely to sign with either the Vikings or the Bengals. Akeem Ayers is joining the Rams. Dwight Freeney remains intriguing. He’s likely to be cheap, he still has a bit left in the tank and would probably welcome a rotational support role.
There’s no reason to be overly concerned with the edge rush depth. The Seahawks still sport one of the best pass rush duo’s in the league (Bennett & Avril) and will find additional help somewhere — even if it comes in the draft. Cassius Marsh will also return from injury. They need to replace O’Brien Schofield, who signed for the Falcons today. Whether it’s Freeney or a rookie, they’ll find someone.
Can they sign Stefen Wisniewski? I’m not overly convinced. This could be a feeling out move — we’d like to have you but only at a certain cost. ‘Go and see what your market is and if you want to play here give us a call’. I’m a little suspicious about his departure from Oakland. He was essentially drafted by the Raiders because his family name is well regarded within the organisation (his uncle famously played for the Raiders). Despite a bucket load of free cap space they’re letting him walk to go and get an $8m replacement in Rodney Hudson. I’ve not studied his play but you can’t help but wonder why Oakland are letting him go.
This is a draft loaded with offensive linemen. You can work to develop a center like Ali Marpet or B.J. Finney while letting them compete with Patrick Lewis and possibly another veteran. Ty Sambrailo would be a plug-in-and-play left guard. There’s a host of athletic tackles that will be available in the later rounds worthy of being converted to interior linemen. We’ve spent a lot of time discussing the likes of Rob Crisp for example.
It’s also worth a mention that Seattle still has to add a backup quarterback (Tarvaris Jackson?) to the roster, unless they plan to roll with B.J. Daniels. If they keep Jackson, that’s going to further eat into the available cap space.
It’s going to be hard for the Seahawks to make any further moves of any substance or interest. They brought in Shelley Smith today — Rotoworld’s #22 ranked available guard. That’s kind of the market they’re working in now.
There are big holes to fill — all of which can be answered with eight picks in rounds 2-5. Guard, center, defensive line, cornerback and receiver should all get some attention. This is a good enough draft class in that range to find real value and genuine role players.