Henry Melton is exactly the type of opportunity this team looks for.
His market is stalling because of a previous ACL injury. A year ago he would’ve been a prize free agent.
Now? He’s having to wait for visits.
When healthy he’s among the best three techniques in the league.
He had 13 sacks in 2011-12 after switching from running back in college. At the Texas pro-day in 2009 he ran a 4.64 (at 269lbs), jumped 34.5 inches in the vertical and managed a 10.1 in the broad jump.
He’s not just a pass rusher either, he can play the run too.
The Seahawks need to keep adding depth to their defensive line. It’s fair to imagine they’ll make at least one more acquisition before the draft.
Aside from Melton, Oakland defensive tackle Vance Walker is also making a visit (EDIT — he signed a 3-year deal with the Chiefs before he even got on the plane).
If Melton is willing to gamble on himself, he could be the next great project for this team.
The sales pitch is obvious.
“Come and be the next Michael Bennett”
Like Bennett he’d turn 28 during his initial season in Seattle. This time next year, there’s no reason why he can’t command a similar contract if he proves he’s fully recovered from knee surgery.
It’d be a perfect fit, for team and player.
Seattle can line up Melton alongside Tony McDaniel, with Avril and Bennett on the edge.
They wouldn’t need a Red Bryant on that line. It’s plenty strong enough to act as a four man front on early downs.
So if it’s such an obvious fit, what are the stumbling blocks?
Firstly, the Seahawks need to check on his knee. The main purpose of the visit was probably to do a medical. If there’s any concern there, they’ll run a mile. This isn’t like Bennett and his torn rotator cuff.
There are some character red flags too.
Melton was arrested and charged with ‘intoxicated driving’ as a junior in college. He was arrested again in 2013 for assault and public intoxication.
If he does indeed agree terms with the Seahawks, I have two thoughts:
1) Moving on from Miller
If the Seahawks choose to cut Zach Miller and sign Finley, we’ll see a different offense in 2014.
Miller has been used predominantly as a blocker. His role as a receiver has been fiercely limited in Seattle, mostly due to injuries on the offensive line (2011 & 2013) or the fact they’re breaking in a rookie quarterback (2012).
We never saw the kind of production he flashed in Oakland.
But at the same time, he’s also a marginal athlete by modern NFL standards.
He can’t run.
We saw that in week 13 against the Saints, when a wide open Miller bumbled his way into the red zone on a broken coverage.
That should’ve been a touchdown.
If they’re swapping blocking ability for a bigger playmaker, that’s a fairly significant move for a team that wants to run the ball first and foremost. Especially considering they’ll be breaking in a new right tackle following Breno Giacomini’s departure to New York.
Finley’s a downfield runner, a seam-buster who finds mismatches and makes plays.
He aint no blocker.
Anthony McCoy and Luke Willson are also more receiver than blocker.
Using three tight ends like Finley, McCoy and Willson would suggest the Seahawks are planning to make the position more of a focal point in the passing game.
But it also takes away some of the protection benefit you get from a guy like Miller.
You’d have to compensate for that somehow, especially when you’re breaking in a new tackle.
2) Turning Finley into a receiver
Could they sign him to act as a big receiver?
By that I don’t mean lining up outside, running down the sideline and trying to win the red line.
I mean lining up in the slot, ala Jimmy Graham.
New Orleans don’t ask Graham to block much — because he can’t.
He’s a terrible blocker.
Instead he runs routes from the inside and finds mismatches with his unique size and speed.
There’s nothing really stopping the Seahawks bringing in Finely on a deal worth around $2.5m and essentially using him as a slot receiver.
You can limit his snaps. You use McCoy and Willson as your tight ends (or even Miller if he’s kept).
It’s not a crazy idea. It’d take away some of the burden of losing Golden Tate and it’d give the Seahawks the big target over the middle they currently lack.
Even if Rice re-signs, I’d expect receiver to be an early draft target. He’s coming off an ACL injury and has been dogged by injuries throughout his career. It’d surely only be a short term, value move.
This receiver class is too good not to tap into in round one or two. Adding Rice would take some pressure off a rookie to have an instant impact, given how notoriously difficult the position is for a year-one player.
Walter Thurmond is visiting the 49ers after making a trip to Jacksonville.
The Seahawks have re-signed quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, while Chris Clemons has now completed his deal with the Jaguars.
Of the remaining free agents available, here are three to keep an eye on:
Charles Brown (T) — former New Orleans blocker, played for Pete Carroll at USC. Could’ve been a Seahawks pick in 2010 had Eric Berry lasted until #6. He’s a possible depth pick at tackle.
O’Brien Schofield (DE) — after his deal with the Giants was vetoed, could he return to Seattle at a discount price?
Jared Allen (DE) — a truly bizarre free agency for Allen so far. But if he’s willing to play for a ring, Seattle still makes so much sense.
The biggest rivalry in football right now is Seattle vs San Francisco.
Yeah, there’s a lot of angst between the teams. There’s some great storylines at play.
But you know what makes it really fascinating?
These are the two best teams in the NFL.
They are built almost identically. Strength, speed, depth. Run the ball. Big plays. Great defense. Investing in young talent. Solid, inspired coaching.
And most of all they have zero dependence on one single aspect of the game. They’ll beat you with offense, defense or even special teams.
It didn’t matter who Seattle played from the AFC in the Super Bowl. The result would’ve been the same.
And I imagine the 49ers would’ve served up a similar beating too.
The AFC is a finesse league, driven by ageing pocket passers like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady.
The NFC is fast becoming a brutal kill or be killed endurance test. All thanks to Seattle and San Francisco.
But on top of that they have supreme balance.
The Broncos’ answer to getting destroyed in the Super Bowl is to sign more big names in free agency.
Some people will argue the additions of Aqib Talib, T.J. Ward and Demarcus Ware look pretty good.
And yet here’s the likely reality — had all three been playing for Denver in the Super Bowl, the score would’ve still been 43-8.
If these teams want to compete with the NFC’s best, they need to look into what they do well.
Denver should be investing in youth, searching for greater balance and getting tougher up front.
Not throwing money at a 28-year-old cornerback who’s constantly banged up, a safety Cleveland were happy to replace with Donte Whitner and a soon-to-be 32-year-old pass rusher who just looks way past his best (and also picks up little nagging injuries).
Heck, they’d have been better off saving money and going after some of Seattle’s free agents — Clinton McDonald, Walter Thurmond, Red Bryant.
Get some toughness in there.
The Seahawks and 49ers have nothing to fear in the AFC because the ‘power’ teams like Denver are not adapting.
They’re simply throwing good money at big names, when really they should be looking at the real reasons they were embarrassed in the Super Bowl.
They’re too reliant on a passing offense and they aren’t tough enough.
It certainly wasn’t because of a lack of expensive, ageing stars.
One to monitor
If the Seahawks go searching for defensive line depth in the draft, Oregon’s Taylor Hart is one to keep an eye on.
Taylor Hart/DL/Oregon shines at pro-day. As fast as 4.78s in forty at 284lbs. Wrap up later on.
He’s 6-6 and +280lbs. His arms are a shade under 33 inches long.
Physically he’s pretty Seahawky. And he has the potential to get back up to 290lbs and retain most of that 4.7 speed.
Five players who would make sense at #32
Just my take in reaction to the first three days of free agency.
This is based on who should be available. Although I’m bending the rules with #1 — I just wanted to get him on the list.
#1 Odell Beckham Jr (WR, LSU)
He has similar traits to Golden Tate. Plays above his size, very competitive in the air and high points the football superbly. He’s a solid return man and a very good athlete. He screams ‘Seahawks’, even if they might be looking for a bigger receiver ideally.
#2 Joel Bitonio (T/G, Nevada)
Comparable athlete to the top tackles in this class (Robinson, Matthews, Lewan). Looks like a Logan Mankins clone. Capable of playing guard or tackle at the next level. Insanely underrated.
#3 Martavis Bryant (WR, Clemson)
The Seahawks are prepared to roll the dice on unique athleticism. Bryant has the complete package of size, speed and the athletic qualities they love. He’s a big play waiting to happen. He’s a 4.4 runner at 6-4, 211lbs.
#4 Morgan Moses (T, Virginia)
Big, long tackle with 6-6 height and 35 3/8 inch arms. Just a really solid football player and someone they might be willing to invest in to replace Breno Giacomini.
#5 Brandon Coleman (WR, Rutgers)
Some people love it when I highlight Coleman, others hate it. At the end of the day, he’s running a 4.5 at 6-6 and 225lbs. At the combine he looked in fantastic shape. There just aren’t many people on Earth like Brandon Coleman.
By the way, don’t get our hopes up Charley…
Charley Casserly says he's not convinced Aaron Donald won't be available for #Seahawks with 32nd pick.
At least not since I started writing about the Seahawks.
When’s the last time multiple players departed this franchise, and it just felt weird?
Think about it. Golden Tate is going to be catching passes from Matthew Stafford.
Not Russell Wilson.
He’s going to be playing in the NFC North. He’s going to be waving at Green Bay defensive backs. He’s going to be making improbable catches as a team mate of Calvin Johnson.
Breno Giacomini is going to be the right tackle of the New York Jets, playing for Rex Ryan.
Chris Clemons — Seattle’s best pass rusher during the Pete Carroll era — is probably going to be finishing his career in Jacksonville.
Like I said, weird.
And Red Bryant isn’t going to be wearing a Seahawks jersey any more…
It all kind of doesn’t feel right.
It feels dirty. Unclean.
These are our guys.
Clemons symbolised everything this front office achieved in the early days. They found a player with an edge, who fit their scheme and became a star when nobody else really wanted him.
Big Red was the leader in the dressing room. The father figure. The inspiration.
Tate was an early draft pick who epitomised this teams ability to get under an opponents skin. To really piss off the opposition and their fans.
Giacomini just loved to smack people around. And he did it well.
A significant chunk of Seattle’s soul just left the building.
I’ve skimmed through some of the reaction on Twitter. It’s a mix of extremes.
On the one hand, some people are upset key players are moving on. They want to know why they didn’t make more of a push to re-sign Tate. They wonder how this team will be able to replace two or three key starters.
Others have unwavering faith in the front office and their ability to make replacements. Piece of cake. No worries.
The truth is probably somewhere in the middle.
Losing important players isn’t the end of the world. It happens to all of the good teams.
But replacing them isn’t easy, either.
Unlike the 49ers, they don’t have a treasure trove of draft picks. They’ve only got two picks during the first two days of the draft.
They also have to make better use of their early picks.
In fact the Seahawks have to make this years first round pick at #32 their best since 2010.
James Carpenter (2011) hasn’t worked out as planned. His position on the roster is probably only secure because of the lack of depth on the offensive line right now. He’s played inconsistent football, he’s been injured and he’s struggled to nail down a starting spot.
Bruce Irvin (2012) was drafted to be the ‘ideal LEO’ and yet after one year he was moved to linebacker where he had an unspectacular first season. He’s 27 this year.
Last year the Harvin trade provided a minimal regular season impact while Christine Michael, a second round pick, barely saw the field. He might have the most breakout potential according to Carroll, but how realistic is that while Marshawn Lynch remains the bell cow?
If they keep hitting on late round picks, great. This is a deep draft. They might find a starter or two later on.
But how likely is it that they keep doing that consistently?
The Seahawks need to start hitting with these early picks. Whoever they take at #32 — in a deep, talented draft — needs to have an impact.
Here are the biggest needs right now, as we close out day two of free agency:
– Wide receiver
– Offensive line (tackle & guard)
– Defensive line
I suspect they’ll continue to hunt for defensive linemen in free agency. The re-signing of Tony McDaniel retains some consistency there. That’s a big bonus.
I’ve soured a little on Jared Allen following his near threat of ‘pay me or I’ll retire’. He’s a good player, but I don’t think you need to be held to ransom like that.
If Allen wants to play for a contender and win, do it and take what’s on offer. If you want to retire, do that. It’s pretty simple.
Jason Hatcher had his visit in Seattle but appears set to move on to other teams. He could be expensive for a rotational cog.
In the end the best thing might be to bring in some lesser known depth and roll with Benson Mayowa, Greg Scruggs, Mike Brooks and co.
It’s a stretch to think you can replace a veteran like Clemons on the cheap, but the options in free agency aren’t exactly of the Avril and Bennett variety this year.
It’s a poor draft for pass rushers. I’m willing to think the top two picks (#32 & #64) are being saved for a receiver and a tackle.
That’s the strength of this draft class anyway.
And the relative lack of urgency in trying to keep Tate and Giacomini could be a sign of Seattle knowing exactly who they want from a group of 3-4 players at each pick.
Losing Giacomini creates a debate we need to have going forward. What do you do at right tackle? Do you draft a player early to fill that role, knowing you’ve failed once to draft a right tackle in round one (Carpenter)?
Or do you trust an Alvin Bailey or Michael Bowie to earn that spot?
We’ve talked a lot about Joel Bitonio recently. He can play tackle. He excelled as a blind side blocker for Nevada.
Yet physically and on tape you can’t help but make the comparison to Logan Mankins. If he has the potential to be a ten year starter at guard and play at a similar level to Mankins, wouldn’t he be wasted at right tackle?
Who’s the last great right tackle the NFL has celebrated? I’m sure you can name at least 4-5 left guards.
If you did draft Bitonio (or someone else) to play tackle — what happens at guard? Do you simply continue the rotation from last year? Do you challenge a Bowie or Bailey to earn the left guard spot?
It’s a great draft for receivers, but what are the options going to be at #32 and #64?
We know Sammy Watkins and Mike Evans will be long gone. I’d expect Odell Beckham Junior, Brandin Cooks, Marqise Lee and Kelvin Benjamin to also be off the board.
Are you willing to gamble on a Martavis Bryant or Brandon Coleman in round one?
And yet at #64 there’s at least some chance those players will be gone. Others — such as Allen Robinson, Jordan Matthews, Paul Richardson, Davante Adams and Jarvis Landry — will either be off the board or don’t really fit Seattle’s penchant for big plays and winning the red line.
The more I think about it, the more I think Bryant could be a legitimate option for Seattle. Tall, fast with all the physical tools. He’s a better fit for the Seahawks than the Clemson offense. But the character concerns and attitude are a worry.
Would he make it to #64? Doubtful. Unless the red flags are a major turn off — which begs the question — would you even want him in that situation?
He at least shows some evidence of making the most of his athletic talent. The more Donte Moncrief I watch, the more frustrated I get.
They need to replace depth in multiple areas so it wouldn’t be a big shock to see them move down once or even twice from #64.
If that happens, they’ll have to make it work better than their last move from round two back into round three.
In 2011 they essentially passed up the chance to draft Randall Cobb and Justin Houston to move down and grab the now retired John Moffitt.
The biggest concern for me is the offense. The defense still has the L.O.B. — it has Bennett and Avril, the linebackers and the opportunity for further additions in free agency.
On offense there’s increased pressure on Percy Harvin to stay healthy (that would exist anyway with a team-high $13.4m cap hit in 2014), the offensive line is going to get younger and will be tested, while there’s also the possibility of swapping out Zach Miller for Jermichael Finley.
Lynch is a year older.
It’s nothing a good draft can’t solve. But they probably need to hit on those early picks in a way they haven’t done since 2010.
Reports earlier in the day suggested Denver were Allen’s only suitors.
Demarcus Ware’s sudden availability, and his visit with the Broncos, has potentially changed the landscape.
If Ware signs with Denver (it seems likely) they aren’t going to pursue Allen.
Not after making a big splash for T.J. Ward and Aqib Talib.
Perhaps he suddenly finds himself without a suitor? This is where Seattle excels. They can offer a contending franchise and a locker room atmosphere players rave about.
What they can’t offer is millions of dollars. If Allen is prepared to accept he isn’t going to get mega-money, the Seahawks could benefit — just as they did with Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett a year ago.
But it’ll likely see the end of Chris Clemons and his $9m cap hit if it happens.
The Seahawks are also looking at Jason Hatcher — an ideal fit for this defense at 6-6 and 299lbs.
He had his best year as a pro in 2013, recording 11 sacks.
This little conversation between Hatcher and Michael Bennett on Twitter yesterday is pretty amusing…
Hatcher is visiting with the ‘Hawks. At the right price, that would be a terrific addition.
But you wonder if it could come at the expense of Tony McDaniel. Both players are a similar size. Can you really afford to pay both? Possibly, as long as you’re willing to cut Clemons and maybe get Allen on a cap-friendly deal similar to Bennett’s last year (around $4.5-5.5m).
A defensive line rotation of Bennett, Avril, Allen, McDaniel, Hatcher, Mebane, Hill — and possibly Mayowa and Williams — would be pretty intense.
A cautionary note however — Hatcher has five other scheduled visits and Allen is being linked with the Bears too.
Jermichael Finley visiting with Seattle
This was possibly the most interesting story involving the Seahawks yesterday.
First things first, Finley is a beast.
Yes — he’s had some drop issues.
But there’s a reason he threatened to break out as the next big-time tight end a couple of years ago.
Whether he’d recapture that form in the PNW remains to be seen. First and foremost he has to be cleared to play after undergoing serious neck surgery. Seattle’s team doctor Stan Herring chairs the NFL’s head, neck and spine committee.
To me this move suggests the Seahawks are intent on reducing the cost of the tight end position.
At a time when they’re struggling to keep players like Golden Tate and Breno Giacomini, they’re taking $11m and $7m cap hits on Zach Miller over the last two seasons.
Veteran tight ends like John Carlson are signing deals for $2.3m. The market for a tight end approaching 30 is around $2-3m.
Their interest in Finley could be a powerplay to reduce Miller’s salary. Or they might just want more athleticism at the position. Yes — the Seahawks are a run first team. But they also have an offense that relies on big plays.
Finley for $2.5m in 2014 and an extra $2.5m in free cap space might be more appealing than retaining Miller. Such is the harsh nature of the business.
And this is the type of difficult move Seattle has to consider.
Golden Tate visiting the Lions, Breno Giacomini the Jets
In an ideal world the Seahawks retain both players.
There’s nothing ideal about free agency.
If Detroit offers Tate a deal worth $6-7M — the Seahawks probably can’t match that. They made their bed by paying Percy Harvin a year ago. Now they have to sleep in it.
Giacomini likewise was unlikely to get a deal comparable to his $4m salary in 2013. If the Jets are willing to pay that — Seattle almost certainly won’t be able to match it.
But there’s a clear plan in place here. Load up on veteran, quality pass rushers and defensive linemen in free agency. Use the draft to replace guys like Tate and Giacomini.
This is a strong draft at receiver and offensive tackle. It’s much weaker on the defensive line.
As things stand it’d be a surprise if Seattle’s first two picks in the draft weren’t for an offensive lineman and a receiver.
Did I mention these two guys named Joel Bitonio and Brandon Coleman?
It’s a pretty stunning set of events involving the Raiders.
A team with more cap space than anyone else in the NFL is going to watch Jared Veldheer and Lamarr Houston walk away and sign with other teams, and yet they’ve added an injury-prone guard to their roster for $42.5m.
It’s no big surprise Clinton McDonald was snapped up quickly for $12m over four years.
The Seahawks were unlikely to pay $3m a year — and he did enough in 2013 (5.5 sacks) to warrant attention.
It’s easy to forget he was cut by Seattle and re-signed before hitting his best form.
Walter Thurmond will visit with the Jags. He might be a player they just can’t afford to keep with so much business to be done elsewhere.
There’s still no word on any of Seattle’s other free agents.
A sign of a lack of interest by Seattle?
Possible impediment to Jared Allen to Broncos? Allen may want too much money, per league source. And he currently has no other suitors.
Yet nobody can complain if he ends up getting a deal worth $7m a year. The Seahawks can’t overpay for the sake of it.
Trying to replace Michael Bennett with a rookie would’ve been impossible. Replacing Tate? This is a terrific class of receivers in the draft.
Whether they want to go after a bigger receiver (Pete Carroll’s apparent preference) or a Tate clone — both are available this year.
It will be a sad day if/when he moves on, however. He’s come on leaps and bounds the last two years. He gets under the skin of NFC West rivals (particularly St. Louis) and has a knack for making big plays.
He’s not an every-week contributor, but when he has an impact it’s usually game-winning. That’s tough to replace.
If Tate leaves, they better hope Percy Harvin can stay healthy. Not only is he capable of making similar plays — but they also made quite a statement paying Harvin a year ago, while possibly letting one of their own walk away.
And while one player potentially departs Seattle…
With Jermichael Finley visiting Seahawks, note that Seattle team doc Stan Herring chairs NFL's head, neck and spine committee
He had a big impact last year. An underrated impact.
Providing they can get the deal done at a decent price, this would key a key signing.
Again, I’ll stress what a good draft this is for receivers. It’s not quite as good a draft for defensive linemen. So keeping Bennett and McDaniel would theoretically allow the Seahawks to go OL and WR with their first two picks.
Some early thoughts on how the day one moves impact the draft…
– The Raiders allowing Jared Veldheer to walk, while spending big on a guard, could be a hint that they intend to draft a left tackle at #5 — building a new offensive line. One of Jake Matthews or Greg Robinson will almost certainly be available.
– Tampa Bay going defensive line early fills their biggest need. If they sign Anthony Collins, it fills their other big need (left tackle). The Buccs are putting themselves in position to potentially go after one of the top receivers at #7.
– Pittsburgh almost certainly won’t draft a safety in round one after keeping Troy Polamalu on a new deal and today adding Mike Mitchell.
– Dallas’ critical condition on the defensive line continues to grow. Surely they won’t go in any other direction in round one after being forced to cut Demarcus Ware?
Another player visiting with Seattle…
Along with Jermichael Finley and Taylor Price, DT Jason Hatcher is also expected to visit Seahawks this week.
It’s easy to forget just how crucial Michael Bennett was last year.
He’s not underrated, far from it. He’s interesting enough and high profile enough to never fly under the radar.
But he’s not Richard Sherman or Earl Thomas. Or Marshawn Lynch. Or Russell Wilson.
And if you’re not one of those four, there’s a perception Seattle can get by without.
It’s a terrible perception, because they couldn’t get by without Michael Bennett.
Not everyone on this roster is irreplaceable. In fact they’ll probably get the chance to prove that when Golden Tate, Clinton McDonald, Tony McDaniel, Steven Hauschka and Breno Giacomini hit the open market tomorrow.
Ideally you’d keep all five. But this isn’t an ideal world.
Bennett was a completely different kettle of fish.
They’ve been looking for this type of player for some time. Someone who can knit the pass rush together and make it truly effective.
Chris Clemons couldn’t do it on his own. For three years he tried.
Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett provided the help he needed. And with Clemons struggling to reach his very best aged 32 and coming off an ACL injury, the two new recruits helped take the defense to another level.
Bennett was pivotal to that.
With Clemons rushing the edge, the Seahawks were too one dimensional. It was only pressure from one side. Bruce Irvin provided some balance in 2012, but it wasn’t consistent. And there was nobody crashing the interior.
There aren’t many Michael Bennett’s in the NFL. Someone who can genuinely line up in the middle and not concede leverage against the run, yet can also play defensive end and round the edge with speed or power.
Suddenly they were attacking teams from all angles. It became very difficult to react to certain looks. Quarterbacks couldn’t just shift protection to the side Clemons was monitoring.
In the second half of the season and in particular the playoffs, Bennett and Avril combined repeatedly to attack one side with great success.
Seattle’s pass rush was legit for the first time in a long time.
How important was that? It meant the world. Finally the Seahawks could make the most of an uber-talented secondary. You can’t coverage-sack your way to domination. You need guys up front who flat out get after it.
Losing Bennett was comparable, in my opinion, to losing Richard Sherman at cornerback. Not necessarily devastating, but man what a gaping hole to fill.
There wasn’t anyone similar available in free agency. Guys like Jared Allen and Henry Melton just aren’t the same type of rusher.
The draft? No chance. This isn’t the year to try and replace your best pass rusher with a rookie. Not unless you own a top-five pick.
This was an absolutely vital signing.
Let’s put it this way. They might be able to replace Tate, Giacomini, McDonald, McDaniel and Hauschka and still make it back to the Super Bowl next year. There’d be a drop off, but c’est la vie.
I’m not sure they had any chance at replacing Bennett and the impact he’s had.
Yet again John Schneider pulls it off. He let a player take a check on his value and still got the deal done, despite heavy interest elsewhere (especially Chicago).
That’s some outstanding negotiating on behalf of Schneider and the Seahawks front office.
It also goes to show how much Bennett enjoyed his year back in Seattle.
Clearly, he wanted to remain part of this team.
So what does it mean for the rest of free agency?
They might be able to structure the deal to limit the cap hit in year one (eg $4-5m cap hit).
Other big contracts will come off the books over the next couple of years, so it makes a degree of sense. With the overall cap also set to keep rising by about $10m a year until 2016, they might be able to maintain enough room to re-sign their other free agents.
I still expect Tate back with the team. He’ll get some interest elsewhere, but I suspect they’ll find a way to keep him — even if it does mean spending a little more than they originally intended.
We’ll have to wait and see what the market is for Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel. Both players, along with Breno Giacomini, are more likely to re-sign with the Seahawks the longer they remain unsigned.
I bet they’d love to retain Chris Clemons and keep their three-pronged pass rush together. Creating $7.5m in extra cap space will also be tempting.
At least with Bennett signed up they can feel better about cutting and attempting to re-sign Clemons to a cheaper deal. They could also look at a player like Jared Allen, depending on what interest he’s getting.
Would you be willing to swap Clemons for Allen on a $5-6m deal? It’d be a $1.5-2.5m total saving.
Alternatively they could use the $7.5m to re-sign the teams other free agents first, then re-assessing the situation afterwards with Clemons or anyone else.
They may even introduce Benson Mayowa into a more active role. There’s a reason why they red-shirted and protected him throughout last season, while other promising young players were cut and ultimately lost.
If the Seahawks can go into the draft having re-signed Bennett, Tate and Giacomini — they can feel very happy about their situation.
Essentially, the player they’re drafting at #32 won’t be replacing a key starter. It’ll give them an opportunity to add a Joel Bitonio to play left guard, or another receiver to add to their current group. Or, if the board is kind, yet another pass rusher.
Whatever happens, today is a good day for this team — and the first step towards making 2014 another Championship season.
It looks like Michael Bennett wasn’t the only player to re-sign with the Seahawks today…
TE Anthony McCoy has agreed to terms to stay in Seattle with the #Seahawks, per a league source.
The Tweet above appeared last night, just after the ‘legal tampering’ phase of free agency began.
24 hours later, Drew Rosenhaus appears to be right.
It is going to be a lot different this year.
(By the way, do you know who Michael Bennett’s agent is? His name rhymes with ‘Brew Chosen House’.)
Today Everson Griffen re-signed with the Minnesota Vikings on a $42.5m contract with $20m guaranteed.
That’s for the guy who recorded 5.5 sacks last year, by the way.
In four years he has just 17.5 sacks.
Now he’s getting paid $8m a year.
I think we can kiss goodbye to any hopes Michael Bennett is re-joining the Seahawks for $8m a year.
He’s a better pass rusher. He has better production. He’s just better.
The rising cap is having the desired impact. If the Griffen deal is any indication, teams are willing to spend a little more on ‘middle class’ talent. And while we’ll still see a few one year ‘prove it’ deals in the second stage of free agency, I suspect the big names will be snapped up very quickly.
Age plays a part of course. Griffen doesn’t turn 27 until December 22nd. The Vikings clearly believe he has development potential under their new coaching staff. They’re likely to go after Michael Johnson too, with Jared Allen moving on to pastures new.
If the Seahawks want Bennett, they’re probably going to have to fork out big money. And the money just isn’t there to make a long standing, expensive commitment.
He won’t be easy to replace if he does move on.
Especially not this off-season.
They might have to get creative. It might be a case of adjusting what they can do up front.
They have enough funds to look at Allen — but even he might generate a bigger market than first anticipated.
This is a crucial next few days for Seattle. It’s not just Bennett. Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald were crucial players on the defensive line. Golden Tate will get some interest, while even Steven Hauschka and O’Brien Schofield carry value.
Walter Thurmond was an underrated figure in Seattle’s secondary too. Breno Giacomini, for me, is as good as any right tackle in the league.
Losing Bennett might increase the chances of those players being kept — but don’t make any assumptions here. If the market is red hot on Tuesday, you can bet your life teams will go after a piece of Seattle’s pie.
The value of guys like McDaniel and McDonald could go beyond what is realistic for the Seahawks. At the end of the day, you’re not going to give either a big contract just because Bennett’s moving on.
If spending is increasing dramatically in the open market, Seattle’s stars could easily see their value sky rocket. Hey — they were part of a relentless, dominating defense.
If you lose those two players plus Bennett and Red Bryant — that’s a heck of a lot of change up front. Cliff Avril and Chris Clemons are only contracted through 2014 too, so there’s really no long term consistency on the defensive line outside of Brandon Mebane (who has a deal until 2015).
Seattle’s secondary gets a lot of publicity — and rightly so.
But you need a pass rush and you need to play the run well. It all starts there. The Seahawks defense took the next step last season because they had superior pass rush options compared to 2012.
Fortunately Seattle has a front office known for pulling a few strings and making things happen. Nobody expected the Percy Harvin/Bennett/Avril moves a year ago. They’re playing with less money and more holes this year, but you know they’ll have a plan of some kind.
They’ll need one. Because this is going to be a great challenge.
By the way, I wonder if this is any indication as to where Bennett ends up? Coincidence?
Tomorrow on @NFL_AM catch the debut of a new weekly segment with Martellus & Michael Bennett. Airs around 8:35 AM ET
Look how similar those numbers are. An almost identical vertical, bench press and short shuttle. Bitonio actually grades higher in the broad jump and forty. He also has slightly longer arms.
Mankins was drafted with the #32 pick by the Super Bowl Champions with the intention of converting to left guard in the NFL.
Could Bitonio also be drafted by the reigning Champions with the intention of switching to left guard?
Mankins is a great finisher, capable of getting a defender off balance — driving open a running lane and completing the block. He was also an excellent pass-protector during his peak years.
You see so many similar traits with Bitonio.
He’s a slightly better athlete. And while he has the core strength, leg drive and technique you want to see — he’s also adept at pulling out of position and getting to the second level. He’s also a finisher who plays with a real edge.
Mankins has been one of the toughest players on the Pats roster over the last few years.
Bitonio is cut from the same cloth. He never backs down. He looks for people to punish.
He’s a coaches dream.
Every time you put on the tape, you can’t help but come away impressed with this guy.
Why is nobody talking about him?
Right now I’d be willing to give him a top-20 grade. I can’t think of 20 players in this draft I’d want ahead of Joel Bitonio.
Regular visitors to this blog know I’ve argued again and again about the obsession NFL fans have with offensive linemen.
‘Games are won in the trenches’ is the cliché. Games are actually won in many different ways. And several of the recent Super Bowl Champions (Seattle included) have not won because of an elite, dominating offensive line.
In fact I’ve been anti Seattle taking a guard in round one. I think there’s better value elsewhere and the likes of David Yankey are so overrated, he’ll probably still be around late into day two of the draft.
Forget all that.
Draft this guy.
If he’s there at #32, I’d run to the podium.
Bitonio has the potential to be great. And for whatever reason he continues to fly under the radar while other, weaker players get so much publicity.
I believe he can play tackle. Sure. But I want to kick him inside to guard. I want to see if he really is going to be the next Mankins.
He’s great in pass protection at left tackle. He can kick slide, mirror and defend against speed. He can deliver a nice solid punch to the chest of a D-end and win with power. There’s no reason why those skills can’t be translated to guard.
But it’s his work in the run game that has me most excited. He knows how to turn a defensive lineman to take him out of the play and free up running lanes. He’ll drive a guy backwards and dump him on his ass. He’ll pull around to the right and deliver a key block to turn a decent gain into a good gain.
I’ll say it again. He’s being hugely underrated.
Judge for yourself, here’s the Fresno State tape. I made some notes underneath.
1:35 — quick to recognise the blitz and pick it up. He’s got his eyes on the edge rusher who sits, he spots the interior blitzer and stops him getting to the quarterback. Excellent awareness, speed and power to execute. Not many college tackles can do this.
1:51 — drives his defender off the spot to the right hand side, dumps him on his backside and creates a running lane. Good defense in the secondary to react to the situation and limit the damage.
3:47 — gets to the second level, drives forward.
4:17 — finishes the block. Drives his guy downfield and keeps fighting, doesn’t back down. Edgy.
4:26 — kick slide, gives the edge rusher no chance to beat him. Quick feet at all times. Body position is ideal and always in control. Good hand use once engaging in the block. Can’t be beaten by power at this level.
4:39 — drives his man off the spot. Watch the replay. This is why he can play guard. Power at the point of attack, drives his man sideways and finishes the block by dumping the defender on his back side.
5:06 — great pull and then finishes the block for extra yardage.
5:28 — perfect kick slide on third down. Allows time in the pocket and the quarterback converts on third and six with a developing route down the seam.
5:39 — blocks and dominates his guy at the line of scrimmage while two other defensive linemen penetrate up the middle. Nice example of the difference in quality on that Nevada line.
6:20 — his guy (#31) doesn’t rush, so he goes and finds someone else to hit (#27). The pressure from the right side gets to the quarterback, but you can’t help but notice Bitonio’s determination to get involved and find someone to hammer.
6:57 — drives his man to the right and opens up a big hole on the left side for a strong run for a first down. Watch the replay to see just how much he moves the defender off his spot.
8:10 — great initial punch to win the block. Ends the contest with his first move. The protection is good enough to complete a touchdown pass.
8:59 — quick feet, good mirror on the pass rush.
There are very few players I’d draft ahead of Bitonio if he’s on the board at #32.
Move him to left guard and make him the backup left tackle if Russell Okung gets another injury. I think you’d finally tie up that position for the long term, with a player good enough to warrant the long term investment.
Whether he ends up being the next Logan Mankins or not — I’ll guess we’ll find out in time. He has a good shot.
Either way, I suspect he’s going to be a quality player at the next level.
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