Russell Okung moves on
With Cordy Glenn getting the franchise tag and reports of an aggressive move by the Raiders to keep Donald Penn, Okung will be the most attractive free agent tackle on the market.
The Seahawks are in a tough spot. Unless they view Okung as the top priority — they can’t offer him a big deal without risking losing the majority of their other remaining free agents. They have to let this one play out and hope he receives a lukewarm market (which is possible due to his shoulder issue and history of injuries).
If a team offers a deal similar to Jake Long’s four-year, $36m contract with the Rams — he’s likely gone.
The Detroit Lions have $33m in free cap space and need a left tackle. Add another $11m if Calvin Johnson retires. Switching to an offense that isn’t quite as physical up front and is tailored to the passing game could suit Okung and keep him healthy.
Prediction: Okung signs a deal with the Lions
Bruce Irvin gets paid
Malik Jackson could be set to earn a deal worth $13m a year. You better believe Irvin’s going to get some serious offers when free agency begins.
There aren’t many super-athletic edge rushers in the draft. With teams trying to copycat Von Miller — Irvin at least has the athletic capacity to be that type of player.
Expect a ton of suitors. San Francisco needs an athletic pass rusher and they have $55m in free cap room. The Giants are rebuilding their defense and have $58m in cap space. Tampa Bay are likely to focus on their defense and have $49m to spend. Chicago and Vic Fangio need an edge rusher and have $46m to play with.
Then there’s the obvious fits — Jacksonville and Atlanta — because of familiarity with the Head Coaches. Irvin’s preference might be returning home to Atlanta.
Fourteen teams in the NFL have +$30m in cap space to spend. Very few are strong defensively. Irvin is going to be wined and dined and can take his pick.
Prediction: If it isn’t Atlanta, the Giants, 49ers, Bears and Buccs could sign Irvin
Jeremy Lane will be Seattle’s priority
Seattle’s famous ‘Legion of Boom’ was a bit of shambles to start 2015. Kam Chancellor’s holdout and Cary Williams’ introduction made for a few struggles in key games — snatching away Seattle’s prime identity in the process.
It became evident that Seattle’s technique at cornerback and safety isn’t easy to pick up in a matter of months. The Seahawks have trained their guys over time with only Brandon Browner and Earl Thomas starting immediately. Chancellor sat out a year, Richard Sherman started in 2011 only due to injuries, Byron Maxwell and Lane had to wait.
There is a stable of young defensive backs in the clubhouse — but losing Lane would put a lot of pressure on one or two to step up in 2016 and possibly start. Keeping Lane maintains a level of consistency — something they haven’t had over the last few years with Browner, Maxwell, Williams, DeShawn Shead and Lane all starting across from Sherman.
The structure of the deal could be interesting. Lane only turns 26 in July. Maxwell signed his enormous contract in Philadelphia aged 27. The Seahawks could make a convincing case to sign Lane to a one-year deal with a promise not to franchise him — allowing him to start for a full year and enter free agency in 12 months with a lot of momentum.
That would also buy more time for the Seahawks to train and establish an heir apparent.
It won’t be cheap to get such a deal sorted — and if a team is willing to offer $8m APY over 3-4 years it could be game over. Good corners get paid in the NFL and even $8m a year would be considerably less than Maxwell’s $10.5m average.
Prediction: If it’s not a multi-year deal, the Seahawks sign Lane to a one-year contract worth $6m-7.5m in 2016 — a similar amount to Cary Williams.
Jermaine Kearse switches teams
The one thing that really works for Kearse is the way he performed in primetime games. The casual observer won’t watch every Seahawks game — but coaches, scouts, GM’s and owners will have noticed the guy who always seemed to make a crucial play on the big stage.
Any team that has a #1 star receiver will view Kearse as an ideal #2. Tough, reliable, a capable run-blocker and unlikely to complain about how many targets he’s getting.
He’s not going to get paid a huge salary — but he’ll likely get offers that are a little too rich for the Seahawks.
Prediction: The Falcons sign him to provide a no-drama sidekick for Julio Jones after cutting Roddy White this week.
UPDATE: Kearse is gone…
Seahawks WR Jermaine Kearse reiterated Thursday that he does not plan to return to Seattle and is looking forward to finding a new home.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 3, 2016
J.R. Sweezy moves on
A year ago it seemed likely the Seahawks would make keeping Sweezy a priority. Pete Carroll regularly sang his praises during the 2014 season. He’s young, one of their homegrown stars and the poster-child for Tom Cable’s O-line revolution in Seattle.
A Twitter rumour recently suggested there was friction between Cable and the Seahawks front office. There’s no way of verifying that — but it’d be understandable.
Cable is regularly asked to create a productive O-line on the cheap. Having had a relative success story in Sweezy (a 7th round D-line convert) — to then lose him in free agency must be galling. If they’re asking him to rebuild the line again because Okung is also moving on — his reputation is constantly being scrutinised.
Offensive lines are built on consistency, familiarity and cohesion. Cable’s almost never had that because of all the changes up front. His ability to improve the performance in 2015 from wretched to passable is perhaps his greatest achievement to date.
Unfortunately this is life in football. The Seahawks have chosen to prioritise the defense and their quarterback. Sweezy is a good age and doesn’t have much competition at guard on the open market. He likely commands an offer that is too expensive for Seattle to match. If he’s only getting offers in the $3.5m-4m range — he could easily return.
Prediction: A handful of teams show interest and he ends up in Oakland, San Francisco or Tennessee — unless the value keeps him in Seattle.
Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin remain — maybe
If the only move the Seahawks make is to prioritise and ultimately keep Jeremy Lane — they’ll have plenty of cap room to keep both Mebane and Rubin.
The question is — can they find a better option?
A year ago they swapped Tony McDaniel for Rubin and it seemed like a questionable decision. Carroll later praised Rubin as the best three technique the Seahawks have had during his tenure.
It wasn’t an obvious upgrade at the time. Rubin mustered minimal interest as a free agent and was a bit of a surprise signing. It might not be obvious right now but the Seahawks might be able to find alternatives again to save a bit of cap space.
That said, it’s unlikely both depart. They performed very well in 2015, preventing any 100-yard rushers during the regular season.
They likely place a limited value on what is essentially two base run-stuffing DT’s. If Mebane or Rubin get offers beyond the limit, Seattle probably just moves on.
They didn’t go anywhere near Terrance Knighton before he signed a one-year, $4.45m contract in Washington a year ago. Their limit might be $3.5m-4m for this position moving forward. Maybe less.
Consider this as well — the draft is loaded with run stuffing defensive tackles. The Seahawks might be able to find a replacement in the middle rounds for either player. Alternatively, the extreme depth at DT could weaken the free agent market considerably. That could impact the demands of both Rubin and Mebane — and other potential free agents too.
The Seahawks can go hunting for the best deal — without any real pressure.
Prediction: Rubin signs, we’ll see on Mebane.
Any outside free agents?
If Lane, Rubin, Mebane (or another DT) re-sign, the total outlay could be approximately $13-14m. Based on the brilliant Davis Hsu’s calculations, that would leave around $3-5m to spend on any extras.
They could look to add some D-line depth — especially if there’s a cold market due to the strong draft class. They’re unlikely to be able to afford Mario Williams or any other big name.
They could also look to sign a veteran offensive lineman.
Again, it’s unlikely to be a big name. Not even a backloaded deal starting at around $4m is going to tempt Alex Mack, Alex Boone or Kelechi Osemele.
Mack could sign with the Rams (he went to Cal, they have the cap room to offer him $10m APY).
Minnesota is likely to cut one of Phil Loadholt or Matt Kalil. Loadholt is the favourite to go and could be had at a minimal cost after he missed the entire 2015 season. He’s familiar with Darrell Bevell, specialises in run blocking and has the size plus tackle experience the Seahawks love at left guard.
It also wouldn’t impact Seattle’s compensatory picks in 2017 with Loadholt having been cut. Some of Loadholt’s perceived issues versus speed won’t be a problem if he plays guard.
It’s also a nice hedge. If the top offensive tackles are off the board by #26 (including Germain Ifedi for example) — they can look to start Loadholt at right tackle and draft a left guard possibly in round two (with a DE like Emmanuel Ogbah becoming an alternative pick at #26). It gives them flexibility.
If the contract is low enough it could leave enough room to add a veteran backup quarterback at a minimal cost and some second or third tier FA’s to add depth.
Prediction: Phil Loadholt signs a 1-2 year deal, a veteran quarterback is also added (possibly Tarvaris Jackson after a long wait).
How would this set up the Seahawks in the draft?
The #1 priority would be to fill the hole left by Okung at tackle. The draft is stacked with defensive players so they can wait until rounds 2-3 to address that need. They won’t get a starting tackle after the first day.
Germain Ifedi, Shon Coleman, Jason Spriggs or Le’Raven Clark at #26.
In round two they would need to add to the defense with an impact player. We projected Travis Feeney this week to replace Bruce Irvin and it’s an ideal fit if he checks out medically. Alternatively they could add the best available defensive lineman, linebacker or ‘deathbacker’ (aka the role played by Deone Bucannon and Mark Barron).
The Seahawks have three picks in rounds 3-4 and could target a running back partner for Thomas Rawls (Notre Dame’s C.J. Prosise makes sense) an interior lineman (competition at center — possibly Connor McGovern, Joe Dahl, Christian Westerman, Graham Glasgow) and a defensive lineman..
Receiver, cornerback and special teams (punter) to be addressed on day three.
Prediction: R1 — Germain Ifedi (T), R2 — Travis Feeney (LB), R3 — Joe Dahl (C) R3 — C.J. Prosise (RB), R4 — Best available defensive lineman (DT), R5 — Marquez North (WR), R6 — Deandre Elliott (CB), R7 — Nick O’Toole (P)
Tony Pauline’s draft rankings were used to determine who was/wasn’t available in the mid/later rounds. Concentrate on the positions/rounds more than the players.
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