Month: August 2020 (Page 2 of 2)

New podcast: Discussing the Seahawks’ pass-rush dilemma

Yesterday we piloted a new podcast on YouTube with myself and Robbie Williams discussing the Seahawks’ pass rush situation. Check it out below.

Let us know whether you want more of these in the future. Apologies for the lighting at my end — it was late at night and I didn’t anticipate it being as bad as that.

The reaction so far has been positive and if that continues we’ll look to make this a regular thing.

The Seahawks car-crash pass-rush plan continues

Overnight it emerged that the Dallas Cowboys have signed Everson Griffen on a contract worth $6m.

It’s just the latest example of Seattle’s indefensible approach to ‘fixing the pass rush’ — their self-confessed priority for the off-season.

The news emerged on the same day that Pete Carroll revealed Darrell Taylor could be weeks away from making any kind of impression. He’s still recovering from an injury that kept him out of the Senior Bowl and combine.

Carroll also said that Alton Robinson came to training camp overweight.

So let’s review Seattle’s pass rush situation right now. You’ve essentially got Benson Mayowa, a backup level player, as your primary rusher on early downs. He will be complimented, currently, by Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier. Bruce Irvin is your SAM who reduces down on passing downs. And they have Branden Jackson.

It’s difficult to imagine Taylor having any impact this year given his health and the fact he might miss training camp, while Robinson is already on the back foot too.

This is a mess — a mess that seemingly wasn’t worthy of a question during Pete Carroll’s press conference yesterday.

Only a week ago Michael Silver touted the possibility of Griffen or Clay Matthews signing in Seattle. Most of his report talked about Jadeveon Clowney though — and we discussed a few days ago how it felt like a final attempt to try and cajole Clowney into a return.

The fact is the Seahawks have been waiting for Clowney for months. They could kind of afford to do it as long as the likes of Griffen remained available. Yet now they’ve lost their security blanket. Clay Matthews, aged 34, is not like Griffen. He’s more of a specialist rusher rather than someone you trot out on first down.

By waiting and waiting for Clowney, they’ve now lost Griffen. Or, for some reason, they simply weren’t willing to pay him the $6m Dallas are — which would be strange given how much they’re paying the likes of Irvin, Jacob Hollister and Cedric Ogbuehi.

Training camp started this week and you could argue even that was a deadline too late. You can’t wait for Clowney forever. Eventually they had to make a call and move on. It would’ve been painful, especially, with Clowney likely still on the market. You can’t risk a player like Griffen signing somewhere else though.

They simply couldn’t afford to go into this season with such a weak looking pass rush. For all the people desperately trying to argue that Jamal Adams and Quinton Dunbar might create a spike in coverage sacks, let’s get real. You need to be able to rush four against five in the NFL, create mistakes and force pressure on the quarterback. The Seahawks are essentially going to be relying on Mayowa and Green for that.

It will undermine their investment at linebacker and safety if that ends up being the case.

If they weren’t getting Clowney they had to get Griffen. Now, they’ve seemingly been caught out because they waited too long:

Again, the Seahawks came into the off-season with a self-confessed priority of fixing the pass rush:

They equally made re-signing Jadeveon Clowney a priority:

They did their work at the combine, checked their sources and seemingly came up with a plan to retain Clowney, by offering him less than he expected but perhaps more than anyone else was offering.

Rather than take his time and take the best deal on the table, Clowney refused to play to the tune of any team. He feels he has a certain value and wasn’t going to play for anything less.

Seattle weren’t wrong for focusing on Clowney — clearly the most dynamic, field-tilting defensive lineman on the market — but by putting all their eggs in one basket, they watched other teams add the likes of Dante Fowler, Robert Quinn and Calais Campbell. None received outrageous contracts and all, clearly, could’ve combined to create a reasonable pass rush. As we saw with the two Smith’s in Green Bay a year ago — you don’t need to sign the biggest of the big names to create a pass rush.

With Clowney holding out the Seahawks essentially held out with him. If you’re going to go all-in on a player, you better seal the deal. Otherwise you’ll be caught short — which is exactly what is happening now.

PFF ranked Seattle’s defensive line as the worst in the NFL for a reason. It’s very hard to win a Championship with the worst D-line and pass rush in the league.

So what next?

Clowney could easily see this latest development as a leverage boost. The Seahawks have lost their primary alternative. He might dig-in even more now. And the Seahawks simply don’t have the money to make an attractive offer to him without aggressively restructuring deals for Russell Wilson and Tyler Lockett.

They could sign Clay Matthews but again — he’s a complimentary rusher in the twighlight of his career. You already have that in Irvin. The Seahawks need someone who can get after the quarterback on early downs and be the #1 defensive end. They also need options given the chances of Taylor landing on the PUP are increasing.

The big trade for Adams and the recent good news regarding Quinton Dunbar has given people cause for optimism and a welcome distraction from the reality of this off-season. Simply put, the Seahawks have failed their biggest test of 2020 and have now put themselves in a real bind with just weeks to go until the start of the season.

The only way to change that is to somehow get Clowney back in the building. They have to get it done.

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Jadeveon Clowney & the Seahawks — come together, right now

Time is running out — but the clock hasn’t struck midnight yet

On Thursday we discussed a report from Michael Silver discussing Seattle’s approach to the D-line, which still needs to be addressed before the season begins.

Rather than re-post the tweets I’m going to paraphrase what was said:

Jadeveon Clowney… Jadeveon Clowney… ‘appear’ to have moved on… wants too much… Jadeveon Clowney… could sign someone else! … Everson Griffen and Clay Matthews! … could happen soon! … Jadeveon Clowney… $15m offer from the Seahawks… Clowney… Clowney… Clowney wants more money than anyone’s offering…

Of course this is my attempt to add a tinge of humour to the subject but it’s actually a fairly realistic portrayal. A report that the Seahawks were close to signing Griffen or Matthews was sandwiched between two slices of Clowney.

You might argue this is simply Silver addressing a topic that has dominated Seattle’s off-season (at least up until the Jamal Adams trade). Maybe so. Yet let’s have a serious look at this situation.

It seems pretty clear that at the start of free agency, he was their top priority (along with generally improving the pass rush):

I’ve discussed before what I think happened but I’ll quickly recap. I think the Seahawks looked at the options in free agency and determined that Clowney was the most impactful defensive lineman available.

Pete Carroll has long admired ‘field tilters’. He likes to add X-factor players — blue chip, five-star, high draft pick talent. From the trades he’s completed to the reclamation projects he’s taken on. Carroll loves upside. Clowney is arguably the biggest upside player he’s ever acquired — a former elite recruit, a world-class athlete and the former #1 overall pick.

He’s also a potential game-winner. Last season two players were capable of winning a game with their individual talent for the Seahawks. Russell Wilson — as happened numerous times — and Jadeveon Clowney. His impact against San Francisco in the game of the year and in the playoff victory in Philadelphia was devastating. He’s a match-winner on defense.

When Carroll said Clowney was the priority — he meant it. And I believe the Seahawks worked tirelessly at the combine, talking with the rest of the teams, the agents and any other source they use, to come up with a clear plan to re-sign him.

I think they knew his market wasn’t going to be what he expected. So they offered him a generous deal to return, possibly the most attractive deal, but ultimately one below Clowney’s personal expectations.

I also think they believed the connection they’d had with Clowney in 2019 would be a difference maker.

So I think they felt that while the offer was below what the player wanted — after a few days he would assess the situation and possibly come to the conclusion that the best place to be was Seattle.

I don’t think they anticipated Clowney holding out, drawing a line in the sand and refusing to sign anywhere for months on a point of principal. I don’t think anyone anticipated that. Probably not even Clowney’s agent Bus Cook, who has an excellent relationship with the Seahawks.

As I’ve written before — I don’t think you can really blame either party for a deal not happening. Seattle possibly made the best offer to him and to go any further would’ve been bidding against themselves. Equally it’s up to Clowney — who’s already made over $50m in his career — to refuse any offer he doesn’t think is acceptable.

It left Seattle in a quandary. If they moved onto other targets there was no chance of getting Clowney back — their self-confessed priority. So all they could do was wait and hope, while adding cheaper depth players (Benson Mayowa) who wouldn’t prevent them from signing Clowney if he decided to return after all.

Unfortunately time passed and Clowney never wavered. He stuck to his guns. They had to start spending money — on Carlos Hyde and Geno Smith for example. The available cash to spend on Clowney reduced.

However — the door was never shut.

Every time Carroll was asked about the situation he’d always say they were ready to ‘jump right back in’ if the opportunity arose.

It doesn’t do either party any good to be in this situation now. Clowney is without a gig for 2020 and the Seahawks have a massive Clowney-shaped hole on their defensive line.

I think the Seahawks have always hoped that there would be a positive conclusion eventually. They’ve always saved some money. It’s increasingly lowered as time has gone on — but they haven’t signed a defensive tackle, a defensive end or a new receiver yet despite all seemingly being on the shopping list.

They currently have a decent chunk of cap space remaining. They could’ve sign Everson Griffen or Clay Matthews weeks ago. We all know why Clowney hasn’t signed anywhere yet. He believes he is worth a certain dollar amount for his services and no team has matched that amount. That isn’t the case for Griffen or Matthews who have remained available throughout the off-season with seemingly little interest.

Their markets seem to be limited due to age (both well into their 30’s) and in Griffen’s case, some possible concerns about his mental health given what happened in Minnesota.

It was even reported a few months ago that Griffen’s market was being impacted by the Clowney stalemate. It was unclear why — yet the report stated that to be the case. It’s felt for a while that he was always the primary alternative to Clowney in Seattle. Why hasn’t he signed? Because the Seahawks have never really moved on from their self-confessed priority. They’ve always left a light on for him.

It’s possible, as we discussed on Thursday, that they’re nearing the end of this long pursuit. Eventually they will have to move on, as much as they probably don’t want to. They can’t go into the season with Benson Mayowa as the primary defensive end/pass rusher. They just can’t. It will need to be Griffen or Matthews if Clowney, finally, isn’t coming.

Silver’s report felt like a final call. A last chance, offered through the media. Clowney’s response was seemingly to insinuate to Josina Anderson that he felt he had ‘more leverage’ given the number of opt-outs recently — but that’s frankly nonsense. Nobody is ponying up a $17-20m contract at this stage of the year. Especially with a huge unknown regarding the economic future of the NFL. He has almost no leverage now and the only options are to miss the season, retire or take the best offer.

Maybe he realises that soon? If so, there’s still a chance the Seahawks work this out. If they’d truly moved on they would’ve signed Griffen or Matthews by now. There are no restrictions there. Only that they know once that happens, Clowney is definitely not coming back. Griffen and Matthews would presumably happily march into a contending team in the NFC, based on their seemingly weak markets, to play for coach Pete in one final hurrah.

This is basically the crux of the matter — the Seahawks haven’t moved on from Clowney, they’re still exhausting their pursuit of him by waiting this long, and they won’t have moved on until the moment another player is signed.

Silver’s tweets focused more on Clowney with a side salad of who they might sign in return. I suspect they’re having to play this out through the media because direct negotiations could actually be quite fractious. I think this has probably been quite a frustrating, annoying and upsetting situation for Seattle. I think they felt they had a connection to the player as well as a fair offer — and they’re left wondering how it’s come to this. I think his re-signing would’ve set up the entire off-season. I think they’ve felt somewhat in limbo as a consequence and probably like other teams (eg Tennessee) wonder what on earth his end game actually is.

His lack of a return likely also inspired the Jamal Adams trade. The Seahawks defense struggled badly last year. With the greatest respect to Jordyn Brooks (who might not start) — there’s no way they could seriously go into the 2020 season with ambitions of improvement without making a significant addition. That’s probably why the Adams trade became a reality weeks before the season rather than days into free agency. They knew they had to do something. They’ve waited ages for Clowney. They couldn’t subtract him from the 2019 group and improve. Adams was a top talent who happened to be available. They got him — to at least add one impact player.

Getting Clowney after all, at the eleventh hour, could even constitute something of a late rally in what has otherwise been a flop of an off-season.

Sadly they’re going to have to admit defeat soon and make a move. Which will be painful because when they do move on — the chances are he’ll still be out there as a free agent. They’ll always be walking past that shop window, looking at the pair of Clowney heels for sale that they can no longer afford.

Carroll will want someone as impactful as Clowney leading the charge up front — with Bobby Wagner at the second level and Adams at the third. That would be a trio with the potential to lead a rebound year defensively. With greater depth at DE and another addition at defensive tackle — this could be a contending season after all.

They won’t get that same impact with Griffen or Matthews. Both produced complimentary numbers to elite talents last year and it’s unclear whether they’d be as successful as ‘the guy’ — especially in the twilight of their careers. It’d still be better than having Mayowa as ‘the guy’ — but it’s a way off having Clowney.

Let’s put it this way — nobody in Santa Clara wants to see Clowney wearing a blue helmet in 2020.

We’ll see if there’s some light at the end of the tunnel soon. It’s in Seattle’s and Clowney’s best interests to get this done. A structured two-year deal limiting the cap hit this season and using some of the space they have next year could be a compromise. They could even make the second season an option-year if Clowney prefers to enter free agency again quickly.

They’ve waited this long for him but time is running out. He has to hear that message now and he should consider accepting the situation, rejoining the Seahawks and going for a Championship and future riches.


Quinton Dunbar has been released from the commissioners exempt list. This is good news because it means he can immediately take part in training camp. That’s vital for a player transitioning to a new defense.

Of course there’s still a very realistic chance he will receive a suspension. We’ll have to wait and see on that. At least for now, he can get to work.

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Some thoughts on Quinton Dunbar & Marcell Dareus

Quinton Dunbar was traded to the Seahawks earlier this year

It was revealed today that Quinton Dunbar is not going to be charged by the police for an alleged incident that took place in May:

Giants cornerback Deandre Baker is being charged with four counts of robbery with a firearm, while Seahawks cornerback Quinton Dunbar is not facing criminal charges in connection with the same incident.

Baker and Dunbar were both accused of robbery in May in their home state of Florida. Today the Broward State Attorney’s office announced that Baker is facing charges that could result in a sentence of 10 years to life in prison. Dunbar, however, was not charged, with the prosecutor citing insufficient evidence.

This is good news to the extent that Dunbar won’t go to jail and could, theoretically, play a full season for the Seahawks this year.

However, there are some other things to consider.

The NFL has its own investigations team and its not unusual for a player to receive a suspension even if they aren’t charged.

For example, a year ago Jarran Reed was handed a six-game suspension for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. The suspension stemmed from an incident in 2017 when Reed faced a domestic-violence charge where a woman alleged that he’d assaulted her. He was never charged or arrested in the incident but still received a lengthy suspension.

It’s possible the NFL could pass a similar (or more serious) judgement on Dunbar depending on the outcome of their own investigation.

Currently the NFL are saying they are “monitoring all developments in the matter, which remains under review.”

It’s also worth noting that these things don’t usually get sorted quickly. Reed’s suspension for the 2019 season came nearly two-and-a-half years after the original accusation. Dunbar is already on the exempt list and we’ll see if he is removed shortly while the investigation continues. That would be the best outcome for Seattle because it would allow him to take part in training camp.

However, they could also keep him on the exempt list indefinitely and continue their investigation. If that continues into the season and then he receives a suspension, he could miss a sizeable portion of the schedule.

After all — a year ago Antonio Brown missed most of the year because teams knew as soon as he was signed he would go on the exempt list. It prevented anyone from making a move and kept him out of the league.

The NFL can essentially do as it sees fit.

So while todays news is encouraging for anyone hoping to see Dunbar playing cornerback for the Seahawks in 2020 — there’s still a lot to sort out.

Meanwhile, Adam Caplan is linking the Seahawks to Marcell Dareus — calling him a ‘name to watch’ for Seattle.

Having often been linked with Snacks Harrison (and nothing materialising), Dareus would be an obvious second option.

He was once one of the best defensive tackles in the league and he’s only 30. However, his form tailed off in Jacksonville and it’s worth noting that he’s made $87,134,946 from his football career.

It doesn’t matter who you are — retaining motivation with that in the bank isn’t easy. Especially when you’re having to shift 330lbs around a football field.

If he’s invested in continuing his career and willing to play on a short-term, team-friendly deal — it’s an addition that would make sense. The Seahawks need someone at defensive tackle. Yet with a number of high-profile opt-outs at the position, he might not come as cheap as many would expect.

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Seahawks interested in Everson Griffen, Clay Matthews

On Monday I wrote that the time was coming for the Seahawks to make a call. Come to an agreement with Jadeveon Clowney or move on and sign one of the other available options. According to Michael Silver, such a decision is imminent:

There are several things to discuss following this report.

Firstly, the mention of Clowney. This reads like a Seahawks source explaining the frustration they’ve faced with the situation. Silver reveals the value of the 2020 salary they were offering then makes reference that ‘no team’ has been willing to meet whatever his demands are.

This is the Seahawks essentially saying, ‘we’ve tried’ and ‘what else can we do?’

I also think this is one last message being sent through the media. It’s a nudge to Clowney that time has pretty much run out. If he wants to play in Seattle — for whatever salary they can offer with their remaining cap space — he’s going to need to decide now. Not in September. Otherwise they will move on.

The thing is — it seems increasingly likely that Clowney will see this through to the end. That could mean not playing in 2020. Many players are opting out. A hiatus might actually be beneficial for Clowney. He takes a year, gets fully healthy and re-enters the market in 2021. He’ll need to be realistic about the offers he’ll eventually receive though especially with the cap likely lowering.

It’s unusual that it’s dragged on this far. What does Clowney honestly expect by now? The money isn’t there. Sticking to your guns is admirable but unless he’s willing to retire unless he gets what he wants — what’s the end game?

This feels like a final dig in the ribs by Seattle. And make no mistake — getting Clowney back would be far more beneficial than the two other names mentioned by Silver.

Everson Griffen had a really solid 2019 season with eight sacks and 35 pressures. However, he was mostly the foil for Danielle Hunter. The Seahawks won’t necessarily be able to rely on him to be ‘the guy’. Not as he approaches his 33rd birthday.

Clay Matthews had a similar stat line for the Rams with eight sacks and 28 pressures. He’s already 34 though and was very much a role player in LA — where Aaron Donald and Dante Fowler led the way.

Although many have talked themselves into believing Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin can provide the foundation of a reasonable pass rush, the fact is they are both backup/role players. If you were rotating them in behind a couple of studs, that would be fine. Relying on them? That’s just not good enough. Not for a team with Super Bowl ambitions.

With Darrell Taylor on the NFI list and perhaps still recovering from his injury last season, the Seahawks can’t bank on Mayowa, Irvin, Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier.

Even the return of Clowney wouldn’t be much of a tilt from last season. Sure — Mayowa is superior to Ziggy Ansah but that’s mostly a reflection on Ansah. Irvin always finds a way to chip in and will be a useful specialist rusher and SAM. When you’re trying to transform one of the worst D-lines in the league last year into something at least in the middle of the pack though — this isn’t really cutting it.

Take Clowney away — who was among the league leaders in pressure percentage and double teams in 2019 — and the situation becomes even more critical.

Removing Clowney and rotating Griffen/Matthews with Mayowa and Irvin could easily be a step back from a year ago, as incredible as that might sound. Without Griffen or Matthews, however, that will certainly be the case. So they have to do something. If Clowney won’t come, they’ve got to look at the other options and hope for the best.

That’s where they’re at. Hoping for the best. The defensive tackle depth is remarkably poor. They have to hope that their rag-tag bunch of DE’s can scrape some plays at key moments and do just enough. There’s also a chance that this unit, ultimately, will end up costing the Seahawks any chance of serious contention in 2020.

Earlier today I read this article from 2013. People forget how important the pass rush was to the Seahawks during the Super Bowl years. It’s long forgotten now — but we were all talking about Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril being the thing that pushed Seattle over the top. That the great D-line depth played a huge role in 2013.

The article provided this quote:

We all know Chris Clemons’ value to the Seahawks defense. This knowledge is based on watching countless hours of our beloved Seahawks through crushing defeats and glorious highs. My point being… more often than not the defense relies on how Chris Clemons performs.

Despite all the talent Seattle had in 2012 — the LOB, Wagner and Wright — the defense relied on Chris Clemons because he was the only one creating consistent pressure. The arrival of Bennett and Avril delivered a complete defense.

The Seahawks, currently, don’t even have a Clemons they can rely on.

Clowney could be that person and with better support in 2020 he could be even more effective. If he’s not returning — then they have to sign a Griffen or Matthews, roll the dice and hope they get two sixes.

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Why have the Seahawks brought back Branden Jackson?

Branden Jackson was re-signed by the Seahawks today

“I thought something was brewing when they cut Hunt and Jackson. Now I’m waiting for them to re-sign both for $1m each.”

This is a reply I made in the comments section this week.

I was joking, sort of.

Yet earlier today, this tweet surfaced:

Branden Jackson joined the Seahawks in 2017. He’s played three seasons in Seattle, featuring in 36 games.

He has 3.5 career sacks.

It was never obvious why the Seahawks tendered him for $2.1m in the first place. What exactly were they protecting? Now, some months later, they’ve cut him and re-signed him — probably saving about $1m in the process.

A week ago I wrote an article asking whether another move was on the cards following the Jackson and Hunt cuts. The answer, categorically, was no. Nothing happened. It won’t be a big surprise if Hunt follows suit and similarly re-joins for a discounted price.

At least with Hunt there’d be a reason for the move. Currently Seattle’s depth at center is B.J. Finney — a career backup signed this year after mixing between positions in Pittsburgh — and second round underachiever Ethan Pocic.

Hunt might have struggled at times as a starter but it’s a sad reality that he could easily end up winning a camp battle to start once more.

Jackson rejoining, though, is much more of a head-scratcher.

The lack of sacks are not the only problem. He had only seven pressures last season in 15 games. He had only four hurries. His PFF grade of 50.4 ranked 96th out of 109 defensive lineman in 2019. Only one other player had a worse pass rushing grade.

He simply hasn’t been able to impact games.

His run defense grade (59.6) wasn’t anything to write home about either.

Thankfully this new contract will probably have no guarantees and down the line the Seahawks could simply cut him again or replace him with another player. Yet it’s somewhat indicative of Seattle’s problem.

In an interview with John Clayton at the combine, Pete Carroll said improving the defensive line and pass rush was ‘definitely the focal point and it has to be‘.

How many people honestly thought, upon hearing those words and acknowledging the off-season priority, that we’d still be talking about Branden Jackson in August?

Every team needs depth but you also need to justify your retention. After three seasons there’s extreme clarity on whether he’s good enough.

I want to be fair to Jackson. His team mates speak very positively about him as a person. Clowney name-checked him during his ‘gym interview’ a few weeks ago. He seems to be well liked and a positive influence in the locker room. There’s something to be said for that — but you also need to produce results on the field. Jackson simply hasn’t delivered.

You could easily make the argument tendering him for $2.1m was a waste. If Hunt wasn’t retained either, that’s $4.2m you could’ve used on a player to actively improve your stated priority for the off-season.

There’s still time to rectify the issue. The season, if it starts on time, is well over a month away. Both Jadeveon Clowney and Everson Griffen remain available. We know Clowney isn’t going to budge on his demands — so in the next couple of weeks it’s time to make a call once and for all. Either come to an argreement for multiple years that can include a low first-year cap hit or move on and sign Everson Griffen. Inject some proven quality onto the line — and then get a defensive tackle too.

It’s not ideal to be addressing the biggest issue of the year this close to the start of the season. Griffen and a cheap interior lineman aren’t likely to transform a D-line recently described by PFF as the worst in the league either.

They need to do something though — otherwise all of the big investments at linebacker and safety will simply end up being undermined.

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