Seahawks miss out on Julius Thomas to Jaguars

March 9th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Earlier today Jason Cole reported the Seahawks were still in the chase for Julius Thomas. The Jaguars were in pole position, but supposedly feared a late push from Seattle. It’s unclear how this situation played out — did the Jaguars just keep offering more? We noted yesterday how the Jags had the upper hand financially.

Mike Klis says it’s a contract worth around $9m APY. That’s pretty much the going rate for a top pass-catching tight end. Rob Gronkowski earns $9m APY, while Jimmy Graham is getting $10m APY. Greg Olsen recently extended his contract in Carolina for $7.5m APY.

Note the way Ian Rapoport refers to Seattle’s challenge as a “hard push”. It appears the Seahawks wanted Thomas pretty badly. That’s understandable. You get your dynamic big target right off the bat and it sets you up for the rest of the off-season. You can play the rest of the market, looking for possible value at corner (they’ve already re-signed Will Blackmon) and on the defensive line. You use the draft to prioritize receiver and a James Carpenter replacement (that’s where the value is).

Now they’ll probably have to turn their attentions to Jordan Cameron and hope his market doesn’t sky rocket with Thomas off the board. He’s a riskier move with his lingering concussion issues. We also discussed him in more detail yesterday. You would imagine Seattle would want to do a deal with minimal guarantees. Make it short term. It’ll only take one longer, fairly substantial deal to make life difficult.

Once Thomas and Cameron are off the market, you’re feeding off scraps. Virgil Green is a mostly untested backup with only 206 career yards in four years. He struggled to usurp even Jacob Tamme for playing time in Denver. $9m APY for a guy with 24 touchdowns in two seasons might be better value than paying a total unknown quantity $3-4m APY.

Jermaine Gresham is not worth whatever Oakland or anyone else is prepared to pay. He’s struggled through a mediocre career so far, with little determination from Cincinnati to keep him around. Lance Kendricks is another average player.

None of these possible additions are more attractive than another year of Luke Willson as the starter. Willson, with all the physical tools you would want for the position, has inconsistent hands (to put it mildly) and struggles to impose himself on a defense. He’s a speed-TE rather than a mismatch. The Seahawks wanted to get the ultimate chess-piece for their offense — size, speed, hands — an X-factor. Instead the Jaguars beat them to the punch.

So it comes down to Cameron and how his market shapes up. If you miss out on both players, you just have to move on. What else can you do? You look for the bargains. Earlier today we discovered the Seahawks are showing some interest in Jabaal Sheard. We know they’re interested in Tramon and Cary Williams. These are all holes that can be filled in. But it’ll still leave Seattle’s greatest need unaddressed.

The draft is rich at receiver and incredibly mediocre at tight end. They can still find a couple of impact receivers within the first four rounds. Whether they can find an instant impact, ready-made mismatch with redzone qualities is another thing. Perhaps we shouldn’t rule out the trade market? In 2013 they made surprising moves for Percy Harvin, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. The next few days could be interesting.

 

Seahawks reportedly showing interest in Jabaal Sheard

March 9th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

It’s no surprise the Seahawks are reportedly showing interest in Jabaal Sheard. He’s very good. Underrated, in fact.

A favorite going into the 2011 draft, Sheard was a great fit for Seattle’s scheme. You won’t find a better hands fighter at defensive end. He was relentless off the edge, knowing how to convert speed-to-power and often winning with sheer effort.

That’s not to say he isn’t a terrific athlete. He ran a 4.68 at the 2011 combine at 264lbs with a superb 1.59 split. He has enough length at 6-3 and 33.5 inch arms.

I mocked Sheard to Seattle several times. He was a player we talked about a lot that year in the late first round range, along with Jimmy Smith and Colin Kaepernick. John Schneider admitted a couple of years later it came down to James Carpenter, Sheard and Andy Dalton with the #25 pick. Seattle chose Carpenter for his track record as a run blocker, helping Mark Ingram win a Heisman along the way.

I expected Sheard to get a big contract offer in free agency. The Jaguars quietly had a very productive pass rush last year, but they could use more. I’d rather overpay for a 25-year-old Sheard than some of the other options out there. So far there’s not been much talk about his market.

With Jerry Hughes signing a 5-year, $42.5M contract to stay in Buffalo, the domino’s will start to fall at defensive end/outside linebacker. There’s still every chance he gets big money. If not, he’s being wildly underrated.

The Seahawks will welcome the competition named by Rand Getlin in his Tweet above. The Patriots are tight against the cap and struggling to keep Darrelle Revis. The Bengals are notoriously tight. The Buccs, on the other hand, would make some sense. They have $34m in free cap space and want to revamp their pass rush. They’re a contender to go from worst-to-first in a wide open NFC South.

If the Seahawks miss out on Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron, however, they too will have some extra money to play with.

The downside is, this isn’t a top priority. They have two of the best edge rushers in the game, both earning a large salary. It’s unlikely you’d see Sheard, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on the field at the same time outside of obvious passing situations. There will be veteran edge options available at a good price in the second wave of free agency. A much more serious issue for the Seahawks is the interior rush.

It’d also be more money sunk into the defense, which is already carrying several big contracts. There’s quite a discrepancy between the amount invested in defense versus the offense. It’s not a huge issue, but it’s out there. Seattle has almost nothing invested in the receiver or tight end position in comparison.

Still, this is what Seattle tends to do. Let the market come to them. If you can get Sheard at a good price, why wouldn’t you consider it? Acquiring talent is the order of the day, however it comes.

There might even be an opportunity to do a cost-effective one or two-year deal, much like the original Bennett and Avril contracts. Sheard had just two sacks in 2014 as an ill-fitting outside linebacker in the 3-4. He had 15.5 sacks in his first two years playing defensive end in the 4-3. A year in Seattle could allow Sheard to max out his talent as a 26-year-old free agent next year.

It’ll be a real coup if the Seahawks can pull this off. Forget Brian Orakpo and Trent Cole. The best edge rusher on the market is Jabaal Sheard.

 

Why the Seahawks could target Jordan Cameron

March 8th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Jordan Cameron — who couldn’t look any more like a USC athlete if he tried

Two reports on Sunday suggested tight end Julius Thomas is close to agreeing terms with the Jaguars. Jason Cole says a deal is “just about done”, while Adam Caplan states the Jaguars are “planning” on adding Thomas to the roster. There’s no firm confirmation like the Ndamukong Suh-to-Miami reports, but it seems to be heading in that direction. Although Rob Rang appears to be countering some of the reports.

The Seahawks showed interest in Thomas during the season and according to Yahoo’s Charles Robinson were considered Jacksonville’s biggest competition for the player. So why is he seemingly choosing the Jags?

As you can see, Robinson Tweeted on Saturday that the Jags would miss out on the top three free agents on their target list. Suh is signing with the Dolphins, Randall Cobb is staying in Green Bay and DeMarco Murray will probably end up back in Dallas. They have to spend money in accordance with the new CBA. They have $68m in free cap space (the most in the NFL) and there are restrictions on minimum cash spend.

Someone was going to get a bucket-load of money from the Jaguars.

The best thing for Seattle’s pursuit of Thomas was for the Jaguars to lure Cobb and maybe another high profile free agent to Jacksonville. Instead it created a situation where the Jaguars were looking to pay big money — probably overpay — for one of the remaining big names.

If Thomas signs for the Jaguars people will scoff at the price tag. But remember this — if it wasn’t Thomas getting overpaid it was somebody else. They had to spend per the rules. Jacksonville isn’t a popular destination. Could you imagine having to dip through the second tier of free agents having to offer mega bucks just to get a meeting? That was a distinct possibility for the Jags. If they give Thomas a ridiculous contract, at least they’re paying for one of the top players on the market. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than offering Jermaine Gresham $8m a year (for example).

In a straight battle between the Seahawks and Jaguars, Thomas would have to weigh up salary versus playing for a contender. Let’s suggest the Seahawks were willing to pay $7-8m APY on a four year deal. If the contract he eventually signs is for $9-10m APY (in line with Gronkowski and Graham), you have a tough decision to make. When Robinson tweeted Sunday morning that the Jags “can pay more” — it was telling. You have to wonder if Jacksonville made sure they got this deal done with an even sweeter improved offer at some point today — taking Seattle out of the equation.

UPDATEJason La Canfora is suggesting he’ll sign a deal worth $10m APY. That’s a sign of the Jags being forced to do what it takes to get their man. The Seahawks can’t stretch that far.

If (when?) it’s revealed Thomas is a Jaguar, the Seahawks will have to look elsewhere. Having released Zach Miller, tight end is an even bigger hole than it was a few days ago. They need a seam-busting target who can move the chains and produce in the red zone. They don’t have a genuine touchdown maker at receiver or tight end. The attraction with Thomas, apart from his 4.64 speed at 250lbs, big hands and huge vertical, was the production — 24 touchdowns in 27 starts for Denver.

The draft will not provide many answers at tight end, even if it’s loaded at receiver. Maxx Williams will make a solid pro for somebody — but it seems unlikely to be the Seahawks. They’ve consistently gone after unique, difference making qualities early in the draft. Williams’ character, occasional flare and safe hands need to be applauded. Yet a 6-4, 249lbs tight end with 4.78 speed just doesn’t feel like a Seahawks move in round one (or the early second round if they trade back).

I’m not convinced Max Walford ticks the right boxes either — 4.79 speed at 6-4, 251lbs with a poor 30.5 vertical. Devin Funchess is the nearest thing in terms of size — but he’s a 4.70 runner at 232lbs. So he’s 20lbs lighter than your ideal move-TE and still significantly slower.

Missing out on Thomas could be seen as a blow. Although not everyone’s favorite target — he offered a genuine mismatch at the second level. There isn’t a tight end like that in this draft. Pairing Thomas with a highly selected receiver (rounds 1-3) could’ve given the offense a real shot in the arm.

So what now? They could turn to Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron to fill the void.

Like Thomas he won’t turn 27 until the summer (he’s in his prime). He actually bettered most of Thomas’ combine numbers — 4.53 forty, 1.53-split, 37.5 inch vertical. He also has the big hands (just under 10 inches) and similar size (6-5, 254lbs).

Ian Rapoport reported in October that the Seahawks asked about a trade for Cameron involving Percy Harvin. His profile on Rotoworld even claims Seattle made this move first — and when it was rejected they asked Denver about Thomas.

In 2013 he exploded onto the scene as one of the new brand of modern-TE’s with 917 yards and seven touchdowns. That’s in an offense led by Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell, by the way. Big things were expected of Cameron moving forward and the idea he’d even hit free agency seemed fanciful. Then the concussion problems set in. He missed six games in 2014. He’s had three concussions in the last two years in total. It’s an alarming number that will seriously put his career at risk.

This problem isn’t likely to go away — in fact it might get much worse. That’s probably why we haven’t heard anything about his free agency market this weekend, despite all the buzz surrounding Julius Thomas.

This could play into the Seahawks’ hands.

Cameron fits the physical prototype they probably want to add to the offense. His price tag could be significantly hit by the health concerns. Signing him to a shorter-term deal with minimal guarantees would make sense — kind of like a prove-it deal. That type of contract could also be attractive for the player. He gets a chance to prove he can stay healthy playing for a contender — and he’s young enough to max-out his market in a year or two’s time.

This is where the Seahawks have had success in free agency under Carroll/Schneider. The big splashes (Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin, Matt Flynn) didn’t justify the price tag. When they’ve looked for shorter term value (Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril) they’ve excelled.

Some would argue it’s simply a more attractive proposition to Thomas. You’re not making any long-term commitments and Thomas had injury concerns too. You won’t lose the 2016 third-round compensatory pick you’re likely to receive when Byron Maxwell eventually signs in Philadelphia for mega-money. You can also look at other options in free agency.

Can the Seahawks afford to be a little more pro-active in the pass-rush market if they sign Cameron instead? Perhaps. They’ll certainly have the money to make an attractive offer to a player such as Tramon Williams in Green Bay. They can consider re-signing James Carpenter if they wish. They’ll also have a little more freedom to sign Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and J.R. Sweezy to longer term deals.

It might put more pressure on drafting a receiver early as a security blanket against Cameron’s concussion problems.

I’m going to do a piece on this after the initial wave of free agency. I’ve spent some time watching Breshad Perriman this weekend and earlier in the week I watched some more Jaelen Strong. I won’t give away any big details of my changing opinion on both, but it’s mostly positive on Perriman and slightly negative on Strong. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the top three receivers off the board by pick #15 — and then a long wait for the next to be taken. Kansas City and a couple of other teams could change that thinking, but the Seahawks might get a shot at the #4 receiver in the draft (whoever it may be). Stranger things have happened. More on this in the week.

Cameron isn’t Thomas because the concussion issues are a separating factor. At the right price he’s still an option the Seahawks could consider and it would fill a big hole. Seattle needs a dynamic bigger pass-catcher for the offense.

If you’re still unconvinced the Seahawks want this type of player badly — look at their pursuit a year ago of Jermichael Finley, the moves for Thomas, Jordan and Coby Fleener during the season and today’s re-signing of Anthony McCoy on a one-year contract. The Seahawks appear determined to find an X-factor at tight end or at least a dynamic big target.

You also have to wonder if they’ll look at the trade market if Cameron isn’t seen as a viable option. Do they make another call to Tampa Bay to ask about Vincent Jackson? It’s something to consider.

Other free agency notes

Mike Garafolo is backing up a report by Jayson Braddock that Byron Maxwell is signing for the Eagles in a deal worth $50m over five years and $25m guaranteed. It’s no wonder the Seahawks balked at that price.

Adam Schefter is reporting Frank Gore will also sign with the Eagles. It’s the end of an era for the 49ers, who are said to be interested in Baltimore receiver Torry Smith. Getlin believes the Arizona Cardinals are trying to clear cap space to trade for Adrian Peterson.

UPDATE

 

Free agency updates: Ndamukong Suh to Miami for $114m

March 8th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

The key tweet there regarding the Seahawks (apart from Anthony McCoy re-signing) is the suggestion from Jason Cole that Julius Thomas is close to agreeing terms with the Jaguars. That would be a blow for the interested Seahawks. It could push them towards Jordan Cameron as option B, as long as they’re comfortable signing a player with a history of concussions.

If they miss out on the top two tight ends this could increase the pressure to draft a receiver as a priority at #31.

 

Seahawks and NFL free agency predictions

March 7th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Could Tramon Williams replace Byron Maxwell in Seattle?

Seahawks predictions

Julius Thomas (TE)
The Seahawks cut Zach Miller yesterday and they’re unlikely to find a replacement in a weak draft class for the tight end position. They need a mismatch at the second level. Thomas is a 4.63 runner with a 35.5 inch vertical and 10 1/4 inch hands. He had 24 touchdowns in 19 games for Denver. He’s special. He’s #3 to Gronk and Jimmy Graham. They earn $9m and $10m a year respectively — Thomas is worth $8m of anyone’s money. Seattle didn’t need a blocking tight end when Miller got injured last year. They used a lot of 11-personnel with an extra offensive lineman and started Luke Willson at tight end. The identity of the team didn’t change. When Thomas splits out wide he takes a linebacker or a safety out of the box (helps the run game). If he draws the top cornerback that creates a match-up for one of the receivers. Thomas is just the kind of weapon Seattle is crying out for — and it’s probably why they tried to trade for him during the season. Jordan Cameron is the possible consolation prize.

Tramon Williams (CB)
John Schneider played a big part in Williams’ success story in Green Bay and he’s set to hit the open market on Tuesday. He’s 31 so won’t command the big bucks — but he’s a plug-in-and-play corner with length who can play press-man and zone. He might cost you $5m for a year or two. That’s just the way it is. The Seahawks need a starting cornerback who can act as a stopgap until the next young prospect comes off the LOB production line. Schneider’s familiarity with Williams, the scheme fit and the opportunity to play in Seattle’s much vaunted defense makes this a fit for all concerned. He’s a better option compared to the other Williams (Cary) who recently met with the Seahawks. The alternatives in free agency are unremarkable. This is one of the few opportunities to get a legitimate starting corner and a known quantity. It also takes away the desperate hope that one of the top cornerbacks falls your way in the draft (increasingly unlikely).

Dwight Freeney (DE)
The Seahawks have reportedly shown interest in Trent Cole. They’ll be hunting for value just like last year when they spoke to Henry Melton and Jared Allen. This year they at least considered a move for Darnell Dockett. They’re not going to pay big sums for a rotational cog. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril got the cash to play edge rush in Seattle. Very few teams pay three edge rushers big money. The Seahawks also have Bruce Irvin as a hybrid linebacker/pass rusher. Cole and others like Brian Orakpo will likely get decent starter money elsewhere. This probably needs to be someone who understands he’ll be a role-player and will take a salary in line with that standing. Freeney is well suited to a support role aged 35 and would replace some of the experience lost if Kevin Williams retires. Apparently they’re also showing interest in Adrian Clayborn. Who’s willing to come in and compete at a cheaper price for a Championship? That’s the question. If it isn’t Freeney, I expect another experienced DE to come in at a modest cost.

Can they afford these moves? When I asked cap expert Davis Hsu about a realistic approach to free agency, he told me they could make a couple of moves at around $6-7m APY. If Thomas receives $8m APY and Williams $5m on a one year deal, it works out at as a $6.5m average for the pair. So it could be possible. It shouldn’t be hard to fit a modest salary for Freeney onto the books (essentially replacing O’Brien Schofield).

They could also make other savings. One of the reasons I’m touting Stanford’s Henry Anderson as a possible second round target is he’s a very similar size-match to Tony McDaniel. Cutting McDaniel saves another $3m. Anderson’s run defense, size (6-6, 300lbs) and athleticism is a good fit for the defense and he would be able to start quickly.

This plan would allow the Seahawks to target wide receiver and offensive guard within the first three rounds. At #31 they could take Jake Fisher, Cameron Erving, Ereck Flowers or La’el Collins and covert them to guard (whoever is available). They could select from a vast array of receivers in that spot. Alternatively, the depth at receiver is strong enough to wait until rounds 3-4 and Ty Sambrailo is a Seahawks guard in the making in the middle rounds.

NFL predictions (I chose 15 players)

Ndamukong Suh (DT) to Miami
How can you bet against this? The Dolphins are cleaning house today to create cap room. Owner Stephen Ross is determined to make a splash. The tax-benefits of South Florida vs California make too much sense for a player determined to be the highest paid non-quarterback. This feels like it’s going to happen.

Devin McCourty (S) to Philadelphia
The Pats are currently $4m OVER the salary cap. They had to cut Vince Wilford just to have any chance at keeping their better free agents. It might come down to McCourty or Darrelle Revis — and Revis has to win that battle. The Eagles swoop in to get a long needed upgrade at safety.

Randall Cobb (WR) to Oakland
There’s talk he could get offers worth $12m APY. He has a Super Bowl ring so he can afford to think about his wallet. If the Raiders miss out on Suh and Thomas, they’ll need to spend big on someone. Cobb and possibly Kevin White or Amari Cooper would be a nice pair of targets for Derek Carr.

Greg Hardy (DE) to Cincinnati
The Bengals are always willing to give a player a second (or third) chance. Hardy is damaged goods with a reputation some will run a mile from. Someone is going to employ him, though, and the Bengals need to bolster a tepid pass rush.

Jerry Hughes (DE) stays in Buffalo
The Bills want to maintain a dominating defense and after David Harris signed a contract to stay in New York, Rex Ryan should do what it takes to keep Hughes in town.

Byron Maxwell (CB) to Philadelphia
It seems inevitable. Philly just wiped out several big names to create masses of cap room. While the likes of Atlanta will probably show interest, the Eagles are in the driving seat for a lot of free agents. They will be aggressive, before trading possibly their entire draft to get at Marcus Mariota.

Jabaal Sheard (DE) to Jacksonville
He’s an ideal LEO fit. Let’s say the Eagles trade up to #2 to make sure they get Mariota. The Jags can take Leonard Williams with the #3 pick and still get a quality edge rusher in Sheard. The Jags have to pay somebody, it might as well be Sheard.

Stephen Paea (DT) stays in Chicago
They have the money to keep him and he’s a terrific run blocker. Re-signing Paea allows them to target an outside rusher with the #7 pick instead of needing to target Danny Shelton.

Rodney Hudson (C) to Oakland
Hudson was a Seahawks Draft Blog favorite building up to the 2011 draft. He was fantastic at Florida State and he’s been terrific for the Chiefs too. He’ll get a big contract somewhere. The Raiders have been linked and it makes sense.

Pernell McPhee (DE/OLB) to Indianapolis
He played for Chuck Pagano in Baltimore so obviously he’s a scheme fit. The Colts have a ton of cap room and will spend it somewhere. They need to upgrade their defense badly.

Brian Orakpo (DE) to Atlanta
The Falcons are likely to add an edge rusher at #8 but they need more than one. Orakpo was reportedly a target for Atlanta a year ago before he received the franchise tag.

DeMarco Murray (RB) stays in Dallas
I just have a feeling Jerry Jones is going to work this one out. It took him a long time to establish this teams identity with the run game. Murray tests the market and re-signs with the Cowboys.

Jordan Cameron (TE) to Jacksonville
They need more weapons for Blake Bortles. Even with the concussion issues — a rancid class of tight ends and the diminishing market at the position could lead to a big contract for Cameron.

Torrey Smith (WR) to Cleveland
They have to do something at the position. This move would also weaken a division rival. Smith would be a decent acquisition for a team in Cleveland’s sorry state but they might have to overpay.

Darrelle Revis (CB) stays in New England
I just can’t see Revis bouncing back to the Jets after collecting a ring with a hated division rival. He’s become a rent-a-cornerback and needs some consistency. The Pats probably can’t afford McCourty and Revis — so you stick with the better player.

 

Marshawn Lynch will return, Julius Thomas to join him?

March 6th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Finally, we have an answer on the Marshawn Lynch saga.

For several weeks during the regular season, it felt like his time in Seattle was coming to an end. Several reports claimed the Seahawks had simply had enough. That was probably an accurate portrayal of the teams position in October.

This is how Chris Mortensen put it:

“The organization has grown tired of his ways, including pulling a no-show at the White House Super Bowl ceremony, his training camp holdout and his possible contribution to locker-room distractions.”

Lynch’s reaction was a not-so-gentle reminder that he’s pretty important. He recorded a career-high 17 total touchdowns in 2014 and a near 4.7 YPC average (second best in his career). He ran all over the Giants and Raiders, helped set up the big win in San Francisco and capped the regular season with Beast Quake II.

Credit the Seahawks for softening their position, albeit at some cost (a $31m, three-year contract), although his 2015 cap hit remains at $8.5m). Many teams wouldn’t tolerate Lynch’s act. There are times when some of us wonder whether the Seahawks should. He has to accept Russell Wilson is going to be the highest paid player on the team in a few weeks. He has to understand Wilson will be the focal point of the offense for the long term.

There can be no more talk of conspiracies. No more unrest. No more hold-outs. One of Seattle’s motto’s is “all-in”. That’s the way it has to be — including with the coaches.

Let’s not downplay Lynch’s importance to the Seahawks, however. They have a star-studded defense but only two genuine stars on offense — Lynch and Wilson. Taking away either player would leave a massive void. It might be easy for other teams to plug in a replacement running back — but Lynch is no ordinary player. This is no ordinary pass-based offense. This is a team built to run and run well. ‘Beast Mode’ is so much a part of the make-up. Replacing him is going to be one of the biggest challenges of the Carroll/Schneider era.

It’s not just on the field either. Letting him walk off into the sunset could’ve caused a mutiny. Look at the reaction of the other players on Twitter to today’s news. Read the quotes when the speculation emerged on a possible Lynch departure.

Whatever possible unrest Lynch dishes out to the ‘suits’ (as he would call them, although he probably has other words in fairness) — not paying him to play in 2015 could’ve created chaos within that locker room. He’s immensely popular.

Now everyone can move on — hopefully — with some degree of harmony. They don’t need to draft an instant replacement in the first two days of the draft. They don’t have to call DeMarco Murray’s agent tomorrow. They can start to add weapons to the offense, not replace weapons.

And that brings us to this:

We’ve talked about this possibility a lot and there’s been a lot of speculation in the media.

There’s often no smoke without fire. Why would it be a decoy if this information is being tactically leaked? It’s not like you can sneak up on other free agents unnoticed. If it’s about the draft, how does this possibly help? I think it’s fair to say the talk of Thomas-to-Seattle is either flat out wrong or completely valid (more likely).

That doesn’t mean they’ll get him of course. There are teams out there (Oakland, Jacksonville) who have to spend big in free agency. Part of the new CBA involves a minimum-spend cash threshold. The Raiders and Jags have no choice but to spend money in free agency. Thomas would be a good fit for both teams.

But look at it this way — unless either is willing to offer ridiculous money (for example — $12m APY) — who are you going to join? The perennial loser breaking in a young, largely unproven quarterback? Or the Super Bowl contending machine planning a third consecutive trip to the big game? If the money is similar, you could even call it a no-brainer.

Adding to the likelihood of a Thomas move is this news:

Miller doesn’t just leave a big hole at the position, he creates an extra $2m in cap space. The Seahawks also waived Jesse Williams and Garrett Scott. Essentially they extended Lynch’s contract, cut Miller, Williams and Scott and gained a decent chunk of cap space today.

And tight end just became a huge need.

For me Thomas is borderline underrated. Fans and the media love to point to Peyton Manning as the reason he was successful in Denver. They also like to highlight how banged up he was last season.

The debate often moves on to reported bad-mouthing by anonymous Broncos players in the uniquely team-friendly Denver media. You know, after it was revealed he wasn’t coming back…

The biggest concern is the injury history. He played very little football during the first two years of his rookie contract. Last year he played in 13 games. Nagging injuries limited his yardage production but he still put up 12 touchdowns. It doesn’t matter what offense you play in — 24 touchdowns in two seasons isn’t easy. He nearly had a touchdown-per-game in 2014 at less than 100% health.

There just aren’t many players like this available. Every team wants the big move-TE. The modern-day mismatch at the second level. The guy who demands attention snap-to-snap. It’s what Seattle has always lacked since drafting Russell Wilson — a target who draws coverage and makes plays even when he’s covered.

Thomas is a 4.64 runner at 250lbs. He ran a 1.62 split at his combine and had a 35.5 inch vertical. He has 33 inch arms and 10 1/4 inch hands. If he was part of this draft class we’d all be touting him as a potential late first rounder or early second rounder. That’s how much the game has changed since 2011.

Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham were both drafted in 2010. They are responsible for this shift towards the phenomenal big athlete at tight end. Thomas is #3 behind those two players. That’s how good he is. And that’s the type of player you’d be acquiring.

A salary worth around $8m APY has been touted. It’s worth noting Gronkowski is earning $9m APY and Graham $10m APY. So really, that’s a fair salary. You get what you pay for.

The injury history means there’s a risk involved. The Seahawks have shown they’re willing to take that gamble. They gave Sidney Rice a $41m contract despite a catalogue of injuries. They awarded Percy Harvin a $67 million contract with $25.5 million guaranteed after spending a first round pick on the often-injured enigma. They recently drafted Paul Richardson, Justin Britt and Christine Michael with second round picks — all three tore ACL’s in college.

When you consider they’re not scared away by injury history, you’re basically left with a dynamic X-factor with unique size/speed and mass production.

The Seahawks reportedly tried to trade for Thomas during the season and that is also understandable. They need a big target to act as a safety net, third down converter, red zone receiver, mismatch at the second level and seam-buster. They need someone who will prevent teams from selling out to attack the offensive line, knowing if they shut down Lynch and pressure Wilson they have a chance to stop Seattle’s offense. The first half against Green Bay in the NFC Championship game probably doesn’t happen with Julius Thomas on the field.

Do they need a blocking tight end? To be honest, no. They coped without Miller for most of last season despite breaking in rookie right tackle Justin Britt. They used an extra offensive lineman to compensate with Luke Willson starting at tight end. The same applies moving forward.

He’s also a good age. Unlike the Andre Johnson’s or Brandon Marshall’s (traded to the Jets today) — Thomas doesn’t turn 27 until late June. He’s hitting his peak. It would’ve cost between $7-8m for a 31-year-old Marshall. it might cost $6-8m for a 34-year-old Johnson. Thomas being in the same salary ballpark if anything makes this even more attractive.

The move also sets up the draft. You can replace James Carpenter at any point. Round one? Jake Fisher or Cameron Erving, if not Ereck Flowers or La’el Collins. Beyond? Ty Sambrailo, Terry Poole. You can afford to use rounds 2-4 to add a receiver or two. You could even go all-in on supporting Wilson with a receiver at #31 to really make a statement of intent for the offense.

The tight end class on the other hand is thoroughly mediocre. It won’t be a shock if Seattle intends to ignore it completely. If they can’t sign Thomas — don’t be surprised if they make a move for Cleveland’s Jordan Cameron.

And let’s be right here — it’s the offense that needs the most attention. The defense, minus Byron Maxwell, is virtually intact. The same defense that ranked #1 in yardage and scoring for the second consecutive season last year. They’ll probably add a veteran corner at some point and probably some defensive line depth too. There are players in this draft that can help the defense without costing major bucks. It’s the offense that needs the big splash if it’s going to happen.

Imagine the defense of 2013 and 2014, supported by an all-firing offense?

The words ‘Win Forever’ spring to mind.

 

Scenario: What if there’s a first round rush on cornerbacks?

March 5th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

On top of the interest in Cary Williams, Bob McGinn is reporting that the Seahawks are interested in Green Bay’s Tramon Williams (set to hit the open market on Tuesday).

We’ve discussed the possibility of a veteran stopgap solution at cornerback, with Byron Maxwell set to depart on a projected $10m APY contract. This would allow the Seahawks to continue drafting developmental cornerbacks in the later rounds. It’s what they’ve always done under Carroll and Schneider.

It could also be a review of the situation. Receivers are more popular than ever in the draft, but so are cornerbacks. Are the two linked? Possibly. In the same way that pass rushers and pass blockers are equally vital to a team — it’s getting that way with wide outs and corners. A lot was made of five receivers being drafted in the first frame last year — five cornerbacks also left the board in round one. Four were drafted on day one in 2013. That’s nine in the last two years.

It’s not really surprising given the cost of a good veteran cornerback, receiver, pass rusher or offensive tackle. Teams are hunting for talent and value at the key positions.

There’s every chance we could see four or five cornerbacks go early again this year. If you don’t take one in the first round you could miss out. Trae Waynes and Jalen Collins are near locks for round one. Byron Jones is in the conversation following his explosive combine performance. Marcus Peters is talented enough and he’s saying all the right things this off-season (take note, DGB). Kevin Johnson is being touted as a first round pick by many different pundits (including Mel Kiper in his updated mock today).

If there’s a first round rush, it’s going to be difficult for the Seahawks to get at the second wave without reaching. We could see the next group going in rounds 2-3 — and that might be a bit rich to take an Eric Rowe or an Alex Carter. So for Seattle — and several other teams — it might be a case of ‘needs must’. Go hit the veteran market.

As you can see, the Seahawks aren’t the only suitor for Cary Williams. They might end up forking out $5m to bring in a 31-year-old. I guess this is what happens when the LOB production line finally has an off-year and you get a few serious injuries. For some teams the draft will provide a solution. Even perhaps Kansas City — who everyone assumes will go receiver in the first round. They’re actually in a good position at #18 to get a cornerback (another need) and take a receiver on day two.

You might say it’s unrealistic not to have someone like Jaelen Strong going to the Chiefs. I watched a couple of new Arizona State games this week. Yes, he had a tremendous combine. No, that combine performance doesn’t translate on the field. He really struggles to separate. The Chiefs can reach for him at #18 or they can fill another hole and use rounds 2-3 for the wide out. The options on day two are going to be phenomenal and it just makes sense to wait.

The Seahawks might kick off something of a rush if they do decide to take a receiver at #31. It won’t be totally unbelievable if every wide out not named Kevin White, Amari Cooper or Devante Parker is available. In 2012 the first pass rusher taken was Bruce Irvin at #15. Seattle launched a run that year and chose ‘their guy’. They could have some nice options in the late first this year. It’s the kind of scenario I think we need to at least consider. There are a lot more teams in front of Seattle with offensive line needs. And the cornerbacks going early could also have an impact on who’s available.

It could also lessen the need to pursue veteran receivers in the open market. Ultimately it’s a good draft for receivers and a bad draft for tight ends. Why fight it?

Andre Johnson is on the brink of being cut by Houston but he’s 34 this year and won’t be cheap. He’d need to be replaced in a year or two. The Bears are reportedly trying to trade Brandon Marshall for a mid-round pick. Good luck with that. If he’s cut perhaps he would be an option — but for all his talent and competitive nature, he’s also a possible distraction (when hasn’t he been?). The Seahawks don’t need another distraction. Dwayne Bowe is going to be released by Kansas City — but he’s also 31 this year and hasn’t done anything for four years.

Everything points towards the draft. The Seahawks need a receiver who can grow with Russell Wilson as he becomes a $100m quarterback. Ideally you get a couple in this deep class, whether it’s #31 and later on or two in the middle rounds (eg Tre McBride & Darren Waller).

Again, it’s a good draft for receivers and a bad one for tight ends. Which problem are you going to solve in free agency and which in the draft?

My projection is they go after Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron to try and add a dynamic tight end. They sign a veteran pass rusher (interior or edge). Matt Barrows is reporting the Seahawks have interest in Trent Cole. Based on the news regarding Cary/Tramon Williams, they also look to add a veteran stopgap starter at corner.

If any of this is correct, it opens up the draft to go WR and OL early (in whichever order) filling two other key needs. And as we’ve discussed, that’s where the value might be at #31 and #63.

 

Seahawks seven round mock draft

March 4th, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

NC State’s Rob Crisp did an excellent job blocking Vic Beasley

The Seahawks are set to pick once in each round and according to OverTheCap.com they can expect four compensatory picks (one in the fourth round, two in the fifth round, one in the sixth round).

On top of this, I have the Seahawks trading out of the first round to acquire an extra fourth rounder. They subsequently use that pick to trade back into the third round.

Confused? You will be.

Free agency obviously plays a big part. I have the Seahawks signing one of Julius Thomas or Jordan Cameron plus an experienced defensive lineman at a modest price (either a one-year deal for a proven veteran or a prove-it style contract). That leaves the following key needs: Cornerback, Receiver, Guard.

I firmly believe Thomas will be a priority target to provide a much needed second level mismatch.

The Seahawks could cut some of their veteran players (eg Tony McDaniel) for extra cap relief. I’ve taken that into account too. I’m also using ESPN’s Scouts Inc to note where prospects are being projected in each round. I chose them because they’re one of the few outlets grading every prospect in the draft. They updated those grades this week.

Pick #31 — trade down
The Seahawks move back into the early second round
It’ll be harder this year without a Teddy Bridgewater sitting on the board, plus the value in rounds 2-4 is much greater than the late first. However, the 5th year contract option will remain attractive. Here are some recent examples of late first round trades:

— In 2014 Minnesota traded a fourth round pick to Seattle to move from #40 to #32 for Teddy Bridgewater
— In 2013 Minnesota traded third, fourth and seventh round picks to New England to move from #52 to #30 for Cordarelle Patterson
— In 2012 Tampa Bay traded into the 31st spot to take Doug Martin by swapping fourth round picks with Denver.
— In 2011 New Orleans traded a future first rounder and the #56 pick to New England to draft Mark Ingram at #29
— In 2010 Detroit swapped fourth rounders with Minnesota and gave away a 7th rounder to move from #34 to #30 for Jahvid Best
— In 2008 the Jets traded a fourth rounder to jump from #36 to #30 with Green Bay to select Dustin Keller

In the last seven drafts, only 2009’s edition hasn’t seen a trade involving the last four picks in the first round (#29-32). If you want to move out of the first, there’s usually a team willing to work out a deal. Here’s the interesting bit — 50% of the trades above involved moving up for a running back. Doug Martin, Mark Ingram and Jahvid Best aren’t exactly glowing references for a similar deal this year but it is a strong class of running backs.

What if Melvin Gordon or Todd Gurley are still on the board at #31? What if they’re both gone and the #3 running back is generating a lot of interest in the early second round? New Orleans pick twelfth in the second round and are likely to lose Mark Ingram in free agency. Would they be willing to move into the late first for the sake of a fourth rounder? What about San Diego (16th pick in round two) or Atlanta (10th pick in round two)? The Vikings have traded back into the first round in the last two drafts. Could they make it a hat-trick to replace Adrian Peterson?

In this projection the Seahawks do find a trade partner to move down 8-10 spots and acquire an extra fourth rounder (a similar deal to last year, where they moved down eight spots for a fourth).

Second round pick (having traded down from #31)
Marcus Peters (CB, Washington)
It’s hard to judge Peters’ stock. If we see a rush on cornerbacks in the first round he could be swallowed up. We might see two spells where the CB’s go — one each in the first two days of the draft. After that? Not much else. It’s a mediocre class overall. Peters lost some momentum with his combine performance (which wasn’t bad, but wasn’t as good as some of the other big names) but gained some momentum with a humble and honest press conference. He’s fronting up and taking responsibility for what happened at Washington. If he’s taking the same stance in team meetings it’ll ease some of the character concerns. But I suspect some GM’s/HC’s will remain wary of his ability to accept coaching and therefore he could be available in the first half of round two. Why does he fit for Seattle? His wingspan will make up for sub-32 inch arms (31.5 inches) but everything else about his game screams Seahawks. We previously mocked him at #31 for that reason. He plays with a swagger, he’s a press-man corner with a nose for the ball. He can start quickly. And the Seahawks have enough leaders in the secondary to feel confident he’ll know his place.

Second round pick (original selection, #63)
Henry Anderson (DT, Stanford)
Originally projected in the third or fourth round range, Anderson has real momentum after a superb Senior Bowl and a productive combine. He was pretty much unblockable in Mobile and really stood out in the drills. In Indianapolis he was one of the big winners — running a 5.03 with a 1.63 split and excelling in the three-cone and short shuttle. He’s long (6-6, 33.5 inch arms) and big (294lbs). He could be a cheaper alternative to Tony McDaniel, working the three-technique inside. One other thing working in his favor? He’s an excellent run defender. On tape he just doesn’t allow running backs any yards after contact. We know the Seahawks are willing to go a round early if necessary. Scouts Inc projects him at #83 overall, so he could be there in the late second. He probably won’t be there in the third.

Third round pick (SEA trades back into R3)
Tre McBride (WR, Williams & Mary)
I’m a big fan of McBride’s. He’s an alpha male on the field (an underrated aspect for a receiver) but appears mature and humble off it. He competes for the ball in the air with terrific technique and control. Has the short-area burst to win in zone but also enough size to deal with press. He has some kick-return ability and could have an immediate impact there. Excelled at the combine with a 4.41 at 6-0 and 210lbs. His 1.51 ten yard split is elite. Jumped a 38-inch vertical and a 10’2″ broad. He’s an explosive receiver who impressed against the big schools he faced. So will he last into the late third round? I don’t know. I could put him in round two I like him that much. But we also thought Martavis Bryant would go really early after his combine, likewise Donte Moncrief. They both lasted. And McBride is a small school prospect. The Seahawks might have to manipulate this one. This is the pick they acquired after moving down from #31. The Seahawks give up a sixth rounder (acquired in the Percy Harvin trade) to move from the early fourth round back into the third to make sure they get McBride. In the 2014 draft Jacksonville made a similar move to draft Brandon Linder.

Third round pick (original selection, #95)
Ty Sambrailo (G, Colorado State)
I’m not a fan of Sambrailo at tackle. He just doesn’t seem like a natural fit — his footwork is too busy, he doesn’t do a good enough job getting his hands on the edge rusher. When a D-end beats him off the snap he’s pretty much out of it, there’s no counter or recovery (something Jake Fisher is great at by the way). If you move him inside his lack of arm length (33 inches) is less of a problem, his active feet will be better working to the second level or pulling and he can play square without needing to kick-slide and position against the arc. It seems like an ideal fit. Will he last until the late third? Scouts Inc has him graded at #90 overall. I could actually see them drafting him in the late second because he’s that much of a fit. He has the mobility to work in the ZBS, he’s also a good size replacement for James Carpenter.

Fourth round pick (original selection)
Alex Carter (CB, Stanford)
He’s getting pumped up after a superb combine, but for me he’s a classic early day three cornerback. The tape is hit and miss. You watch one game and he’s tight in coverage, does a good job re-routing receivers and has the size to compete with physical wide outs. Yet he didn’t force turnovers at Stanford and had trouble playing the ball, his recovery speed is suspect and he’s more of a project in need technical refinement. Like Richard Sherman, he had trouble at times working against the double-move. He has the size (6-0, 196lbs) and length (32 1/8 inch arms) to live in Seattle’s secondary. He had an excellent 40 inch vertical at the combine. The tools are there. He just needs help. A team like Atlanta or Jacksonville might take him pretty early to try and mimic the Seahawks — but Dan Quinn and Gus Bradley are fully aware Seattle didn’t reach on guys like this. If he’s still there in the fourth he’d be a nice depth pick at corner. Scouts Inc has him as the #117 overall project — essentially the mid-to-late fourth round.

Fourth round pick (compensatory selection)
Darren Waller (WR, Georgia Tech)
He’s a Vincent Jackson clone when you look at his size, length, speed and hand size. Right across the board he’s almost identical to V-Jax. He’s one of two players who didn’t drop a single catchable pass in 2014. Not many 6-6, 238lbs receivers can run a 4.46, jump 37 inches vertically and manage a 10’5″ broad jump. He has a fantastic catching radius with 33 1/4 inch arms. He is a project though. He didn’t run many refined routes at Georgia Tech in the triple option — he was usually used as a decoy or deep route specialist. He’d find little holes in a defense cheating up against the run. He wasn’t asked to do a lot of conventional receiver work. He’s very polite and softly spoken — can he play with an edge? He needs time, but it took Vincent Jackson four years to have a major impact in the league. Waller might never live up to his physical numbers, but you bring him in and see if there’s something to work with and develop. If he works out, you’re getting the kind of big target Seattle has lacked in the Pete Carroll era. They’ve taken receivers in this range before trying to find the bigger guy. Scouts Inc has Waller at #192 — so this could be a ‘take him a round earlier’ type situation.

Fifth round pick (original selection)
Zach Hodges (DE, Harvard)
What a back story. He’s overcome so much to get not only to Harvard, but now the brink of the NFL. He lost his mother in high school, his father as a toddler and his grandfather (father figure) as a teenager. This is a guy you can root for — and therefore the type of guy Seattle loves to take a chance on. He was explosive at the level of college football he played at. He had a 1.61 ten yard split at the combine which is intriguing. He’s 250lbs and 6-2 1/2. He’s not the tallest but he’s long with incredible 34 1/4 inch arms. You know he’s going to give it his best shot. If he fails it won’t be for the lack of trying. He has a good spin move and he’s shown he can loop inside to attack the middle. He will need to improve his hand placement at the next level. There’s no real evidence he can translate speed-to-power well enough to have an immediate impact. The first year could be a tough one — but what do you expect from a late fifth rounder? He’s #179 on Scouts Inc’s list — so basically the kind of range Seattle picks in the fifth.

Fifth round pick (compensatory selection)
Kurtis Drummond (S, Michigan State)
He’s not the fastest (4.65) but he was the leader of the MSU secondary and is extremely mature and passionate about the game. He’s a field general. There’s nothing particularly flashy about his game but he’ll get out there and do a job. The Seahawks need reliable depth in the secondary and that’s what Drummond provides. He did manage a superb 39.5 inch vertical. He’s 6-0 and 208lbs. Just a really solid player within a bad group of safety’s. You don’t draft him expecting him to start for years but he does have range. Scouts Inc ranks him as a seventh rounder.

Fifth round pick (compensatory selection)
Laurence Gibson (T, Virginia Tech)
They’ve shown a tendency to take a punt on tall, long, athletic offensive linemen in this kind of range. Gibson only started one season for the Hokies with mixed results but look at the measurables — 6-6, 305lbs, 35 1/8 inch arms, 5.04 forty, 33.5 inch vertical, 9’5″ broad jump and a 4.56 short shuttle. He’s not Garrett Scott but that’s an impressive combine performance. Scott’s rare heart condition could put his career in jeopardy — it remains to be seen whether he’ll return. If you’re drafting Sambrailo to play guard, you need depth at tackle. Gibson would be a camp project to see if he can make it at the next level as a backup in the short term. He’s rated as an UDFA by Scouts Inc.

Sixth round pick (compensatory selection)
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT, Southern Miss)
RNR missed the entire 2013 season with a knee injury but bounced back in 2014 to lead Southern Miss in TFL’s (14). He found a way to impact games. He’s 6-2 and 307lbs with a shade under 33 inch arms. He ran a 5.02 and posted a nice 34 inch vertical. He could sneak into the later rounds as a priority UDFA. At the combine he moved well during drills. You bring him in as a project with a shot to work into the rotation — possibly as early as this year. He plays with an edge. Scouts Inc suggests he’ll go in the seventh round.

Seventh round pick (original selection)
Rob Crisp (T, NC State)
Injuries impacted his college career but he has a ton of potential. He’s long — 6-7, 301lbs and has 34.5 inch arms. He ran a 5.26 and posted a 32.5 inch vertical (same as T.J. Clemmings). Crisp’s short shuttle was in the top-eight for offensive linemen at the combine. Nobody handled Vic Beasley better than this guy in 2014. I’m fascinated by what he can achieve with pro-coaching and a clean bill of health. I wouldn’t even rule out a starting role one day. He’s graded as a priority UDFA.

Overall draft class

Marcus Peters (CB)
Ty Sambrailo (G)
Henry Anderson (DT)
Tre McBride (WR)
Alex Carter (CB)
Darren Waller (WR)
Zach Hodges (DE)
Kurtis Drummond (S)
Laurence Gibson (T)
Rakeem Nunez-Roches (DT)
Rob Crisp (T)

Some of the other players I considered

Steven Nelson (CB, Oregon State)
A really competitive cornerback who plays his ass off. Smaller and lacks length — would be a nickel corner in Seattle. He probably goes a bit too early for the Seahawks to consider (rounds 2-3).

Davis Tull (DE, Tenn-Chatt)
He’s going to convert to the SAM linebacker spot at the next level. Brilliant athlete and a ‘Mr. Football’ type. Again, probably goes a bit too early.

Terry Poole (T, San Diego State)
Ideal guard body and should convert inside. Really liked the way he moved at the combine. Could easily be an alternative to one of the OL prospects listed above.

Josh Shaw (S, USC)
More athletic than Drummond and might be more appealing for that reason. Off-field flags could push him into the UDFA range and perhaps he lands in Seattle as a free agent?

Nick Marshall (QB, Auburn)
If the Seahawks go corner early they might not take one in the round four range. If so, Nick Marshall is a late round option to convert from QB to CB.

Jake Fisher (T, Oregon)
The worst case scenario with Fisher is you end up with a Kyle Long-lite. He doesn’t play with Long’s intensity but he’s a similar athlete. He’s nearly identical to Joel Bitonio. If you stick at #31 he could be an option.

Cameron Erving (C/G, Florida State)
A player who can slot into any interior O-line position. Converted defensive line prospect (like J.R. Sweezy). Could be available after a trade back into round two. Bags of potential.

Nelson Agholor (WR, USC)
Seattle doesn’t care about size if you play with grit, safe hands and compete for the ball. If they bring in a top free agent TE they might go for another leaner wide out at #31 or in round two. Agholor is incredibly athletic, reliable and he’s a great kick returner.

Karlos Williams (RB, Florida State)
I watched two games on Monday and like this guy. 6-0 and 230lbs — decent vision and patience with 4.48 speed. Off-field red flags are a major turn-off. Could last into free agency as a consequence.

Damian Swann (CB, Georgia)
He’s such a playmaker and with the right coaching could be a fine cornerback. He doesn’t have the length to play outside for Seattle — but I’d love to see this coaching staff try to get the best out of this classic ball-hawk. Can he play nickel?

Final thoughts

I didn’t take a running back. If they extend Marshawn Lynch’s contract and keep Robert Turbin and Christine Michael it’s a bit of a redundant pick — even if it’s a class you’d like to dip into. I suspect they’ll add an athletic linebacker for depth either in the later rounds or UDFA — but it won’t be someone from the combine. They might look at return specialists — I haven’t really studied the options there. I’ve picked relatively familiar names or at least players we’ve spent time discussing. We all know the Seahawks will probably draft a couple of unknowns (eg Eric Pinkins, Jimmy Staten). I don’t see any reason to draft a quarterback to develop within this class.

 

Wingspan and will the Seahawks go cornerback in round two?

March 3rd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Richard Sherman, showing off his wingspan

Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s Seahawks haven’t drafted a cornerback with sub-32 inch arms. They love height and length at the position. Yet the 2015 class isn’t filled with long, tall cornerbacks. We listed some of the fits in this piece. You’re limiting yourself to basically Jalen Collins, Alex Carter, Byron Jones and Adrian Amos (a safety who might be able to play corner).

There were, however, a couple of interesting prospects with 31.5 inch arms. How important is half an inch? Are you going to strike a player off your draft board because of half an inch?

This is where wingspan comes in to play. According to Zach Whitman, an authority on SPARQ and measurables, the Seahawks have generally drafted cornerbacks with at least a 77.5 or 78-inch wingspan. So if they have 31.5 inch arms but have a long wingspan, they could still be in contention.

(Wingspan is the length between the tip of your middle finger on one outstretched arm to the other)

Clare Farnsworth did a piece on how wingspan translates to length and how it makes the Legion of Boom even taller when you include wingspan and height to create an overall reach:

“Browner checks in at 6 feet 8, fingertip of extended arm to fingertip of extended arm. Sherman is at 6-5½, Chancellor at 6-4½ and even Thomas “gains” 4½ inches to 6-2½.”

It’s not easy to find wingspan details for cornerbacks. A quick Google search revealed Jalen Collins has a 78 inch wingspan, but he already passes the 32-inch arms test. What about the two intriguing players with 31.5 inch arms?

Eric Rowe was given 32.5 inch arms at the Senior Bowl but they were measured slightly shorter at the combine (31.5 inches). Apparently these things change depending on who’s doing the test. Either way, scanning the internet revealed Rowe to have a 77.5-inch wingspan. So I guess we can include him as a contender. All of Rowe’s other characteristics were a fit (4.45 speed, 39 inch vertical, 10-5 broad jump, excellent three-cone and short shuttle). He isn’t an overly physical player but neither is Byron Maxwell. You don’t see great recovery speed on tape and he’s more of a toolsy developmental project who can be coached into a scheme.

Marcus Peters has 31.5 inch arms but plays like a Seahawks corner (physical, ball hawk, confident bordering on arrogant — in a good way). You can imagine him playing for the LOB. I couldn’t find a wingspan total for Peters, but this Tweet is intriguing if accurate. That would put him a notch below Brandon Browner in terms of overall length (if true). That would also surely put him in contention to be drafted by Seattle. Peters’ overall workout ticks all the right boxes for Seattle — 4.53 forty (faster than Sherman’s), 37.5 inch vertical, 10-1 broad jump, decent three-cone and short shuttle. I thought he handled his press conference very well at the combine — taking responsibility for his actions. He’s allowed to perform at the Washington pro-day — a significant development.

We’ve talked about the possibility of a veteran stopgap solution at corner or even just drafting ‘your guys’ in rounds 4-5 and opening up the competition. What about the possibility Seattle drafts a corner in round two or three to come in as an instant starter?

They could trade down from #31 to the #40 range, accumulate another pick or two in the process (just like last year) and take a cornerback in the first half of round two. They would have plenty of picks to attack the loaded depth at receiver in rounds 3-4. They could potentially use the #63 pick on a starter at guard to replace James Carpenter (eg Ty Sambrailo).

Jalen Collins and Byron Jones will likely be off the board — but Rowe and Peters could be available. In Rowe’s case he could stick into rounds 3-4, but we know the Seahawks are willing to go a round early to get their guys. Peters could still go in the first given the high demand for talented cornerbacks, but the early second round is a reasonable projection.

Taking either on day two wouldn’t prevent you returning to the position later in the draft to take a prospect like Alex Carter.

I still believe the Seahawks are likely to pursue one of the two dynamic tight ends in free agency (Julius Thomas and Jordan Cameron). I think there’s a chance they’ll find a way to add some depth to the defensive line. This will leave them needing, as a priority — WR, CB, G. They could spend multiple picks filling these holes.

I could be wrong on that projection, but this is a good draft for receivers and there are plenty of athletic offensive linemen you can pick and develop. it’s not a deep class at corner. And if they don’t (somehow) find a starter to replace Byron Maxwell in free agency, they might be inclined to go early on the position in the draft (day two).

One final point — and I think it’s an important one. We can talk about height, length, speed or whatever. I don’t believe the Seahawks are a slave to ideals. Starting a 5-10 quarterback isn’t an ideal and yet the Seahawks have done it because Wilson is a difference maker for many other reasons. The offensive line is full of different shapes and sizes — from the massive (James Carpenter), to the long (Russell Okung), to the athletic (J.R. Sweezy) to the big-with-short-arms (Justin Britt). The receivers are generally smaller across the board but all play with ‘grit’.

Of all the positions, cornerback probably provides the strictest set of ideals. They know what they like and what they can develop. Pete Carroll is a secondary coach at heart. But that doesn’t mean they won’t bend the rules for a corner who isn’t over six foot and only has 31.5 inch arms — IF they are a good fit for other reasons.

 

Possible free agent targets for the Seahawks

March 2nd, 2015 | Written by Rob Staton

Can the Seahawks afford to land Julius Thomas?

The Seahawks are expected to have around $25m in cap space this year. It’s middle of the pack. In comparison the Colts have $45m to play with, Jacksonville $65m and the Raiders $55m. They’ll be able to spend the big bucks. The advantage Seattle has? They’re in the midst of a legitimate Championship window. Some players will value that over a little more cash in the hand.

The remaining cap space will be slightly impacted by Marshawn Lynch’s pay rise (assuming he agrees to it). They can save over $5m by cutting Zach Miller and Tony McDaniel. If they wanted to be even more ruthless, they can save $5.5m by cutting Brandon Mebane (a possible candidate for a pay cut).

They need to save room for Russell Wilson’s new deal (although the cap hit in 2015 won’t be too extreme) plus, potentially, a new contract for Bobby Wagner and/or J.R. Sweezy.

When you look at the numbers, a move for Ndamukong Suh is a pipe dream. Not impossible, but almost certainly too restrictive. He could easily be the best paid defensive player in the league in eight days time. He’d have to be willing to accept a sensational pay cut or a stunningly creative deal to end up in Seattle.

Suh wasn’t given the franchise tag by Detroit (no surprises there). Dez Bryant, Demaryius Thomas, Justin Houston, Stephen Gostkowski and Jason Pierre-Paul were tagged today. Miami gave tight end Charles Clay the transition tag — meaning he can negotiate with other teams and the Dolphins can choose to match the contract or let him walk (Cleveland did this with Alex Mack a year ago). If nobody offers him a contract — and if he doesn’t sign a new deal in Miami — he’ll earn $7.071m in 2015.

So who’s in play for the Seahawks in the open market?

I reached out to cap expert Davis Hsu to gauge what kind of free agents the Seahawks could realistically acquire:

Hsu suggests $6-7m APY as a projection for a medium-to-high type free agent acquisition. As he notes, with further cuts you could stretch higher. For example, if you go after one of the two high profile tight ends you’re unlikely to keep Zach Miller, creating another +$2m. Likewise if you wanted to try and improve the interior defensive line with a big name, cutting Tony McDaniel adds $3m to the stash.

This article on NFL.com lists the top 101 NFL free agents. Here are perhaps some of the more realistic options:

The dynamic tight end
Available: Julius Thomas (Denver), Jordan Cameron (Cleveland)

Ask any NFL fan about this pair a year ago and the response would’ve been extremely positive. Thomas had a breakout season in 2013 as a dominating force at tight end — piling up touchdowns. Cameron put up 917 yards and scored seven times despite playing with Brandon Weeden and Jason Campbell at quarterback.

The mere thought that either player would test the market in 2015 was unrealistic. What a difference a year makes. Both players had injury plagued 2014 seasons. Thomas still recorded 12 more touchdowns but halved his yardage total. Cameron spent a large portion of the year out with a concussion.

In terms of pure talent they’re arguably #3 and #4 behind Rob Gronkowski and Jimmy Graham. Very few tight ends have their ability to line up pretty much anywhere, create a size/speed mismatch and make consistent plays. Both players are dominant in the red zone — an area Seattle can dramatically improve. The Seahawks have never truly had a dynamic chess piece like this to draw coverage away from the run game.

Thomas turned down a contract worth $8m APY last year because the guarantees weren’t to his satisfaction. He’s likely to receive major interest in the open market. Can the Seahawks compete? And can they convince him to join another contender instead of a team breaking in a young quarterback (Oakland, Jacksonville)? Cameron is likely to be cheaper but carries a greater risk with the concussion problems.

Signing a prolific tight end will take some of the pressure off drafting a receiver early. There’s also a dearth of TE options in the draft. The best way to provide a significant boost to the passing game is probably to sign one of these two (and then hope they stay healthy).

Seattle reportedly tried to trade for both players during the 2014 season.

The young defensive linemen hitting their peak
Available: Greg Hardy (Carolina), Jabaal Sheard (Cleveland), Stephen Paea (Chicago), Karl Klug (Tennessee)

Hardy is going to play football again, although nobody really knows when and who for. He missed last season due to a domestic abuse case, but the charges were dismissed on February 9th. A cloud still hangs over the player and in light of the Ray Rice/Adrian Peterson situation last season — a brave team is going to go all-in on Hardy. Such is the need for quality pass rushers (Hardy recorded 26 sacks in 2012-13) he might get a nice offer somewhere. Or he might be left to prove he’s totally focused on football in the form of a one year contract.

Some fans will not welcome Hardy to their club. I’m not entirely comfortable with it. But if Richie Incognito can get back into the league, so will Hardy. Eventually.

Sheard was a Seahawks Draft Blog favorite going into the 2011 draft. He enjoyed a productive start in Cleveland but is/was an ill-fit in the 3-4 at outside linebacker. He’s a LEO. Pure and simple. He only turns 26 in May and started his career with 21 sacks in three years. John Schneider once stated the #25 pick in the 2011 draft came down to James Carpenter, Andy Dalton and Sheard.

The thing is — Sheard isn’t that far off the talent level of Hardy without any of the character concerns. Teams like Atlanta and Jacksonville would be wise to invest major stock in his ability to rush the edge. He’s likely to garner significant interest, pushing the price up. Aside from the bizarre 2013 free agency where Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett faced an ice-cold market, talented pass rushers have been paid a kings ransom. Even the average pass rushers are getting paid. Do the Seahawks really want to carry three expensive edge rushers on their roster?

Stephen Paea is another favorite from 2011. He entered the league as a powerful brick wall of a run blocker. Last year he added a pass rushing angle — recording six sacks (a career high). He’s a really dependable, consistent force who could excel in the right scheme. Any team missing out on Ndamukong Suh could make Paea their second option. He wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize.

He’s a better player than Clinton McDonald who received a contract worth $3m APY last year. He can expect to earn $4-5m APY on the open market, if not more. He could drift into Brandon Mebane territory ($5m APY). I suspect if the Seahawks are going to add to the defensive line it’ll be for an interior pass rusher. Paea is probably best suited for the Mebane role in Seattle’s scheme. He isn’t a three technique. If Mebane isn’t cut — and there’s no reason to think he will be — Paea might just be a bit of a luxury for this team.

I’ve always liked Klug and he could operate as a hybrid interior rusher in Seattle’s defense. He had seven sacks as a rookie for the Titans but never quite lived up to the early hype. A fresh start is required and he could offer a much cheaper (and potentially much more productive) alternative to some of the bigger name interior defensive linemen.

The veteran pass rusher
Available: Brian Orakpo (Washington), Henry Melton (Dallas), Dwight Freeney (San Diego), Darnell Dockett (Arizona)

Washington would like to keep Orakpo but at what price? Season-ending injuries in 2012 and 2014 have stalled a once promising career. He’s never topped 11 sacks in a season and he turns 29 in July. It’s tough to work out what kind of market he’ll receive.

At his age he really wants to cash in — but he has no momentum after suffering a torn pec in October. He was franchised a year ago at great expense. Now he’ll test the market. A one-year prove-it deal in Seattle isn’t out of the question if he wants to play for a great defense, regain some momentum and take on free agency next year. By that point he’ll be pushing 30, however. And for that reason he might seek less money for a longer term deal elsewhere.

The Seahawks wanted to sign Melton a year ago and at one stage a deal looked close. He eventually chose Dallas and put in a thoroughly mediocre season for the Cowboys. On a no-frills Dallas defense, he barely registered apart from the occasional play. It’s no surprise he was released and is again testing the market. He too is 29 this year and you have to wonder if his best football is in the past. He tore an ACL in 2013. Still, at the right price he could be an option. He fits the three technique.

Freeney is merely a situational pass rusher at 35-years-old and he only collected 3.5 sacks in 2014. He lacks the length Seattle likes at defensive end — but he is one of the modern greats in terms of production (111.5 career sacks). The Seahawks kicked the tires with other ageing pass rushers like John Abraham previously. Freeney needs a team where he can spell the starters and play a support role. In that sense he’d fit, but he wouldn’t be playing for much money. Has he still got enough juice to make it worthwhile?

Dockett is meeting with the 49ers today (having already been released by the Cardinals) and he might not leave. He’s also nearing his 34th birthday and coming off a torn ACL. He might be the most attractive option at the right price. For starters, he’s a fantastic interior rusher who competes like crazy. The type of warrior you need in the NFC West. He’s already stated his intention to win ‘comeback player of the year’ in 2015. The Seahawks will probably need to replace Kevin Williams and Dockett has the experience and talent to make it work. We’ll see if Seattle has any interest in competing with the Niners for his signature.

The veteran stopgap cornerback
Available: Perrish Cox (San Francisco), Walter Thurmond (New York Giants), Charles Tillman (Chicago)

Working out how the Seahawks will replace Byron Maxwell isn’t easy. Will they wait until the later rounds of the draft or be pro-active in the earlier rounds to identify a starter? Will they look for a veteran stopgap? In all cases the options aren’t great. And that’s why they might go the stopgap route.

Cox had a short spell in Seattle before joining the 49ers. 2014 was a career year for Cox — even though he played in 15 games for Denver back in 2010. Last year he took his play to another level and that could warrant a decent short-term contract with a team. He’s 28 years old and unlikely to get anything substantial or long term.

Thurmond possibly burnt bridges in Seattle. Remember, he was the player tasked with replacing the suspended Brandon Browner in 2013. With the team chasing a Super Bowl, he initially flourished. Then he got suspended himself. Byron Maxwell got an unlikely opportunity and never looked back. Thurmond paid for his mistake. Maxwell is now expected to be offered $10m APY on the open market. Thurmond will be scrambling around looking for a team. If the door remains open in Seattle, he has scheme familiarity. He also has a long list of injuries.

Tillman is long, competitive, passionate and an all-time great. The idea he’ll be playing for anyone other than Chicago is almost upsetting. And yet the same was said of Antoine Winfield in 2013 when he departed Minnesota to join the Seahawks. Sometimes the game just moves on. Tillman is 34 and missed most of last season with an injured triceps.

NOTE — I didn’t include a list of receivers. The draft is loaded with depth at the position — there really isn’t much need to consider making a big splash on a veteran receiver unless a player like Brandon Marshall is released by Chicago.

Elsewhere…

Mike Mayock has made a handful of changes to his ‘top-5’s’ list. La’el Collins is now the #1 ranked tackle, while Jaelen Strong is now the #4 receiver.

Gil Brandt says Eli Harold bolstered his stock at the Virginia pro-day: “Harold, who measured at 6-foot-3 and 247 pounds at the NFL Scouting Combine, performed a 34 1/2-inch vertical jump and did 24 strength lifts of 225 pounds at the pro day. He stood on his other numbers from the combine.”

Michael Phillips of the Richmond Times-Dispatch claims Washington is interested in Harold: “They sent three scouts to U.Va. on Monday for the school’s annual pro day, including Director of Player Personnel Scott Campbell, who has overseen the team’s drafting in past years.”

Todd McShay appeared on the Brock and Salk show on ESPN 710 today to discuss the possibility of the Seahawks drafting Todd Gurley.