Today I went back and had a look at what was being said in the build up to free agency by Pete Carroll and John Schneider. On reflection, it’s even more surprising that they haven’t done more to upgrade the pass rush — and it’s also pretty clear that the entire off-season has been impacted by the Jadeveon Clowney stalemate…
There were so many clear references to fixing the pass rush being a priority. Which is understandable — you don’t need me to reel off the stats again.
Yet there aren’t any minced words on Clowney either. They wanted him. I suspect they had a great deal of confidence in their position. They likely knew they had the best offer and expected, after a period of reflection, that he would simply take it. I think his agent Bud Cook probably also felt that would happen.
Clowney didn’t take it. He still hasn’t taken whatever their best offer is. He remains a free agent. And both parties are in limbo.
It could’ve been so different. Imagine if Clowney signs in that first week on a deal that was cheaper than anyone expected pre-free agency. Instead of trying to wait him out you’re likely negotiating to see if you can bring in Everson Griffen as a book-end. Suddenly players like Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa look like reasonable complimentary pieces rather than a solution.
Yet there’s little point blaming Clowney as we’ve been over dozens of times. It’s his right to say no to a deal he doesn’t like and if he wishes, risk losing millions to do it on his terms. He’s already made his fortune. Equally the Seahawks can’t really be blamed for refusing to be the only team willing to meet his demands.
The argument against their approach is their unwillingness to move on and make a significant alternative signing (or signings). They’ve embraced the stalemate. Again though, that’s perhaps understandable because Clowney is by far the most dynamic option available on the market. He was at the start of free agency too.
But by not moving on they’ve put all their eggs in one Jadeveon Clowney shaped basket. They run the risk of a bad pass rush being even worse next season if he doesn’t eventually agree to terms.
Thus, here we are. It won’t be a massively successful off-season for the defense even if Clowney returns. It’ll be what they had in 2019 but with a first rounder replacing Mychal Kendricks, better depth at defensive end (albeit in the form of journeymen and rookies) and, depending on the outcome of Quinton Dunbar’s legal situation, one new cornerback (who missed 14 games in 2018 and 2019).
Without Clowney — it’s ugly.
But how bad is it truly?
I went through each team and made a note of any key defensive linemen or pass rushers, recent notable additions or high draft picks on each roster.
They have a star in Chandler Jones but their depth and support is otherwise unremarkable. They’ve also not added any significant young pass rushers, unless you want to classify Isaiah Simmons. Jones is a game-wrecker though and a player who has to be game-planned for every week. Jonathan Phillips was a significant addition for the interior.
The Falcons spent money on Dante Fowler this off-season to go with their previous investment in retaining Grady Jarrett. They also used a second round pick on Marlon Davidson and traded for former first-round bust Charles Harris.
The Baltimore defense is set up to be creative and create pressure from different areas. Even so, they can boast a future Hall of Fame player in Calais Campbell and they used the franchise tag on Matt Judon. They also signed Derrick Wolfe and used a second round pick on Justin Madubuike.
The Bills used a top-10 pick on Ed Oliver a year ago, signed Miles Addison in free agency and drafted A.J. Epenesa in round two. They also retain Jerry Hughes and invested in two other former Panthers in Star Loutlelei and Vernon Butler.
The Panthers have pumped resources into their D-line — using first round picks on Derrick Brown and Brian Burns, a second round pick on Yetur Gross-Matos and they still have Kawann Short.
The Bears have one of the best pass rushing units in the league with Khalil Mack, Akiem Hicks and now Robert Quinn.
The Bengals have drafted younger linemen over the years but their D-line is still anchored by the ever-reliable Geno Atkins and Carlos Dunlap.
The Browns have spent money on Sheldon Richardson and added Olivier Vernon but their pass rush star is clearly former #1 overall pick Myles Garrett.
The Cowboys gave Demarcus Lawrence a huge contract and have now added Gerald McCoy to the interior. They’ve also added Dontari Poe and drafted Neville Gallimore. They’re taking on Aldon Smith as a reclamation project in 2020.
The Broncos have Von Miller and former top-five pick Bradley Chubb. They also added Jurrell Casey from the Titans this off-season.
They spent big money on Trey Flowers — who was more scheme fit than spectacular starter. They don’t have a lot else and drafted Julian Okwara in round three this year.
The Packers have made major moves to improve up front. Preston Smith and Za’Darius Smith were signed in free agency a year ago — then they used the #12 pick on Rashan Gary. They also retain Kenny Clark at defensive tackle.
The Texans have long relied on JJ Watt and Whitney Mercilus. They drafted Ross Blacklock in the second round this year.
The Colts used the #13 pick on DeForest Buckner but otherwise have a collection of young unproven players and Justin Houston.
They’ve used first round picks on Josh Allen, Taven Bryan and K’Lavon Chaisson in recent years. They also, for now at least, still have Yannick Ngakoue.
Chris Jones and Frank Clark were vital pieces in the Super Bowl success.
Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram provide a dynamic duo. They used a first round pick on Jerry Tillery a year ago and signed Linval Joseph to anchor the interior in free agency.
The Rams have lost most of the support class but will always threaten with the NFL’s best defensive player (Aaron Donald). Getting Michael Brockers back was a plus but they don’t have a dynamic EDGE. Leonard Floyd hasn’t shown enough as a pass rusher in the NFL.
They used the #4 pick on Clelin Ferrell a year ago and found some production from Maxx Crosby. Maurice Hurst has been worth taking a chance on.
The Dolphins spent high picks on Christian Wilkins and Raekwon Davis and signed Shaq Lawson to be their ‘Trey Flowers’. They also paid big money for Kyle Van Noy.
The Vikings have Danielle Hunter and Anthony Barr but the group just looked better when they also had Linval Joseph and Everson Griffen. They’re a bit light.
They’ve added a bunch of their types to make up for losing the likes of Trey Flowers and Kyle Van Noy. This year they drafted Josh Uche. Last year it was Chase Winovich. They spent money on Lawrence Guy in free agency and spent day two picks on Derek Rivers and Anfernee Jennings. They have a lot of talent in the secondary.
Cam Jordan, Sheldon Rankins and Marcus Davenport are all first round investments.
New York Giants
Strangely they’ve gone all quiet and more or less ignored the EDGE positions this off-season. They spent a first round pick on Dexter Lawrence last year and traded a third for Leonard Williams. They’ve used the new fangled tag to try and retain Markus Golden.
New York Jets
They have the 2019 #3 overall pick Quinnen Williams… and not a lot else. They drafted Jabari Zuniga in the third round.
This off-season the Eagles added Javon Hargrave to Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham and Derek Barnett.
They have a good group consisting of TJ Watt, Cam Heyward, Bud Dupree and Stephon Tuitt.
Jarran Reed is the best D-liner on the roster. They drafted Darrell Taylor to go with a collection of underachieving younger players and journeymen.
Nick Bosa, Arik Armstead, Javon Kinlaw, Solomon Thomas and Dee Ford. Depth and talent.
Vita Vea, Ndamukong Suh, JPP and Shaquil Barrett make up Tampa Bay’s underrated D-line.
They’ve used high picks on Harold Landry and Jeffery Simmons but overpaid Vic Beasley this off-season.
They’re trying to emulate the Niners with Ryan Kerrigan, Chase Young, Montez Sweat, Jonathan Allen and Da’Ron Payne.
At the moment it’s hard to argue against the Seahawks being in the bottom five in terms of talent on paper. Their depth isn’t as bad as some other teams. Yet they clearly lack the star power to compliment the players they do have.
They need an interior rusher of quality and a top defensive end. Add those two players and it elevates the entire defense. That’s been a problem for a while though — especially the interior rusher.
The big problem is Seattle’s defensive scheme relies on a four-man rush to get home. Otherwise the secondary is exposed and that was an issue last season (eg Matt Schaub throwing for 460 yards for Atlanta). Is the current defensive line capable of creating enough pressure to rush with four? Even if you add Clowney — is there enough pure talent to make this defense tick?
When they had Bennett, Avril, Clemons, Irvin, Clark et al back in the day it wasn’t a problem. Looking at the current collection of players — it’ll be an issue without some late moves between now and the 2020 season starting.
You can now support Seahawks Draft Blog via Patreon by clicking the tab below.