It was revealed yesterday that Bruce Irvin’s 2020 cap hit is about $5.9m. Media members had estimated a $4m hit. A year ago he signed a $4m contract in Carolina with $1.5m guaranteed. Seattle has given him a 32.2% pay increase.
It leaves the Seahawks slightly more cap-restricted than originally thought. They now have $16.1m remaining. A significant portion of that has to be saved for the rookies, injured reserve and other costs. So they realistically have less than $10m left with a lot still to do.
Seattle entered the off-season with a healthy amount of available cap room and a nice collection of draft picks.
Have they used their resources wisely?
So far they’ve spent about $53.37m on new signings or retaining existing players for 2020:
Jarran Reed $9.35m
Greg Olsen $6.9m
Bruce Irvin $5.9m
B.J. Finney $3.5m
Brandon Shell $3.475m
Quinton Dunbar $3.421m
Jacob Hollister $3.259m
Benson Mayowa $3.018m
Mike Iupati $2.5m
Cedric Obuehi $2.237m
Joey Hunt $2.1m
Branden Jackson $2.1m
David Moore $2.1m
Neiko Thorpe $887,500
Luke Willson $887,500
Phillip Dorsett $887,500
Chance Warmack $887,500
In order to have these players on the books they’ve parted with Justin Britt and D.J. Fluker, replacing them with B.J. Finney and Damien Lewis.
Al Woods signed with the Jaguars and so far hasn’t been replaced. Jadeveon Clowney remains unsigned and could still potentially return. If not, he will also be a subtraction from the 2019 defensive line. Quinton Jefferson signed with the Bills too.
There are interesting ways to look at the list above. For example, they’re spending $11.796m on David Moore, Branden Jackson, Joey Hunt, Cedric Ogbuehi and Jacob Hollister. There are positive arguments to be made about the depth you’re getting for nearly $12m. You can also counter that it’s a lot of money for backups and role players at a time when the Seahawks needed an injection of real quality (thus Russell Wilson’s comments about superstars at the Pro Bowl).
The Seahawks came into the off-season needing to make significant improvements to the defense. People might be sick of me repeating these statistics — but it’s the only way to prove just how badly they needed to make changes:
— The Seahawks finished with 28 sacks, second fewest in the league behind only Miami (23)
— Their sack percentage was 4.5% — third worst overall
— The Seahawks produced a sack or quarterback hit on just 14.4% of opponents’ pass plays — worst in the NFL
— They had only 126 pressures, sixth fewest in the league behind Detroit (125), Oakland (117), Houston (117), Atlanta (115) and Miami (96)
— Seattle’s pressure percentage was the fourth worst in the league (19.3%) behind Detroit (18.9%), Houston (18.1%) and Miami (16.7%)
— Seattle hit the quarterback 68 times — fourth fewest
— They had 52 TFL’s — fourth fewest
— They gave up 55 explosive running plays on defense, seventh most in the NFL
— Their explosive run play percentage (14%) was the third worst overall behind only Carolina (16%) and Cleveland (15%)
— They gave up 4.9 YPC — fourth most overall
— They had 131 missed tackles during the regular season — fourth most.
The pass rush in particular was a major crisis point last year.
So far the fix looks like this — Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin for $9m this season, to replace Jadeveon Clowney, Quinton Jefferson and Ziggy Ansah. They also spent two draft picks on Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson, plus retained Jarran Reed for a cap hit of $9.35m this season. They still need, eventually, to replace Al Woods.
Seattle’s two premier pass rushers at the moment will be Mayowa (29) and Irvin (33) with Taylor in particular contributing too. The Seahawks seem to be pinning their hopes on the production Mayowa and Irvin produced last season (15.5 sacks). Yet a threatening pass rush also needs to be able to produce regular pressure — not just collect isolated sacks.
After all — if Irvin and Mayowa combine for 15.5 sacks in 2019, that’ll only be one per game.
Irvin played on a line in Carolina that had multiple, high-quality contributors. Mario Addison and Brian Burns delivered 17 sacks between them. Vernon Butler, Gerald McCoy and Dontari Poe also combined for 15 more sacks rushing the interior.
In Oakland, Mayowa’s production fit in alongside Maxx Crosby, Clelin Ferrell and Maurice Hurst collectively providing 18 sacks.
You can make a strong case for both players being nice rotational cogs. It’s a lot harder to make a case for them being the players you rely on. And if you don’t have enough contributors elsewhere — 15.5 sacks won’t be enough.
Sacks aren’t indicators of a consistent rush too and this is why we look at stats like pass rush win percentage and pressures to tell a more complete story. A lot is made of Clowney’s sack production (3) in 2019 — but he was among the league leaders in pass rush win percentage:
Robert Quinn — 33%
T.J. Watt — 28%
DeMarcus Lawrence — 27%
Myles Garrett — 26%
Jadeveon Clowney — 25%
Joey Bosa — 25%
Shaquil Barrett — 25%
Dante Fowler — 23%
Za’Darius Smith — 23%
Preston Smith — 23%
The Seahawks, who already struggled to rush the passer, will need to make up that production with their existing collection of players if they’re unable to bring back Clowney.
In terms of pressures, Irvin and Mayowa played fewer snaps than Clowney as rotational role players. However, Irvin had 23 pressures in 2019 to go with his 8.5 sacks. Mayowa had only 15 pressures.
In comparison, Clowney had 30 pressures. Everson Griffen, who is regularly suggested as an alternative, had 35.
Again — sacks are just one piece of the puzzle. You actually need to be challenging opposing quarterbacks down-to-down.
Given they’ve spent $53.37m on veteran players so far, you can at least make an argument that they’d have been better off ensuring they added Clowney and Griffen before trading up for Darrell Taylor. That arguably would’ve been a more formidable combination, similar to the Bennett/Avril/Clark trio of yesteryear. It might not have been possible, of course. There’s a reason why Clowney remains unsigned after all. Yet had they committed serious resources to that plan — who would’ve complained had it failed?
The point is — if the pass rush struggles badly again in 2020, people will understandably question whether Mayowa and Irvin were the right additions to try and solve this glaring weakness. If Clowney and Griffen didn’t work out — the execution might be criticised but certainly not the planning.
However — had you invested in Clowney and Griffen it’s unlikely you would’ve been able to pad out the depth on the roster. There is some benefit to that and the Seahawks didn’t have a high number of players signed for 2020 going into the off-season.
You will likely answer whether they’ve spent correctly or not depending on your view of the need to acquire depth vs the need to add the stars Wilson called for.
If Clowney does come back eventually to go with Mayowa, Irvin and Taylor — that would be an understandable blueprint. A lot rests on them being able to bring him back though. At the very least, they have to turn to Griffen.
It’s also interesting that while the question marks remain on the defensive line, the Seahawks are spending so much on the linebacker position. Bobby Wagner’s cap hit in 2020 is $14.75m. K.J. Wright’s cap hit is $10m. They are both in the top five highest paid players on the team. On top of this, you can now include the first round investment (salary and resource) in Jordyn Brooks.
There aren’t many teams in the league spending $25m on two linebackers. And that money, along with the price to acquire Brooks, will be seriously questioned if the defensive line isn’t good enough to keep the linebackers clean to play free and fast.
I also think, in defense of the Seahawks, that this has been a harder off-season than they perhaps anticipated.
I suspect they knew or believed they had the best offer on the table for Clowney at the start of free agency. They probably presumed, not unfairly, that after a few days of exploring his market he would return for their best offer. That’s what happened when Michael Bennett tested free agency in 2014.
Instead Clowney didn’t return. He opted to wait. The Seahawks have had to react to this, probably without a plan for this scenario. Who could’ve really predicted this long stalemate?
Because they clearly want him back, they’re compromised too. With Clowney still available they’ve always had to keep some money free just in case. They don’t want to fully move on because he’s without doubt the player who can provide the most impact on the open market.
The addition of Mayowa was a base-covering move. A cheap signing they can talk up. Some depth, just in case. Someone who can exist with or without Clowney. Someone who allows them to claim they’ve ‘moved on’ but in reality, they haven’t.
The situation with Clowney has probably had a major impact on everything, even if they’re not willing to admit it. The questions that will be asked now are — was it worth doing what it takes to avoid this happening (basically just ‘get it done’)? And can they bring him back later this summer to at least bring a positive conclusion to this exercise?
Either way — the unpredictable nature of this saga at least needs to be considered when judging whether they used their cap space wisely.
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