Since the end of the season almost all the talk has been about Geno Smith’s future and what the Seahawks should do with the #5 pick.
It’s time to talk about free agency.
The Seahawks have been frugal spenders in the Schneider/Carroll era. They tried to accelerate their initial build in 2011 by signing Sidney Rice, Zach Miller and Robert Gallery. They’ve dabbled with big free agency moves since then (T.J. Lang for example) but haven’t made a splash. They’ve not been afraid to make big trades, though.
It says a lot that Uchenna Nwosu’s two-year, $19m contract is the most expensive per-year that they’ve given an outside free agent.
Is it time to return to 2011 and make some big moves?
You’ll hear people insist the Seahawks ‘won’t’ spend in free agency ‘because it’s not what they do’ without actually considering whether it is something they should do.
The evidence shows the best teams in the league make good moves in the market.
Cincinnati completely revamped their defense with the key additions of Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader in 2021, helping pave the way for a Super Bowl run.
The Eagles intelligently added Haason Reddick ahead of the 2022 season, before making further moves for Kyzir White and James Bradberry. Trades for A.J. Brown and Darius Slay also injected quality into the team.
The Chiefs made a splash for their offensive line, signing Joe Thuney to a massive contract in 2021. They also signed Justin Reid and aggressively traded for Frank Clark and Orlando Brown.
The 49ers made smart moves acquiring Trent Williams and Charvarius Ward — and their trade for Christian McCaffrey now looks inspired.
The Seahawks almost certainly aren’t going to be able to just draft their way to glory. Seattle’s Super Bowl winning team, after all, relied a lot on free agent signings Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril — while Rice and Miller were also part of that team and there were also big contributions from veterans that were acquired (Marshawn Lynch, Chris Clemons and, in the Super Bowl at least, Percy Harvin).
I appreciate there isn’t much money to spend ($19m in effective cap space) and a lot of what is available is going to be spent on keeping certain players — most notably Geno Smith and/or Drew Lock and Ryan Neal. They’ll get $6.5m more when they cut Gabe Jackson. I would also cut Quinton Jefferson (saving $4.5m) and Bryan Mone (saving $2.6m).
I would call time on Jamal Adams’ career in Seattle — making him a post-June 1st cut and saving $11m for 2023. Time for a fresh start for team and player. They shouldn’t be committing $36m in 2023 to Quandre Diggs and Adams.
I’d also lean into the $98m in effective cap space Seattle currently has stashed for 2024. Any deal with Geno Smith is likely to be backloaded with a small 2023 cap hit. I’d like to do the same to add some key free agents. This team needs an injection of talent. The Seahawks need to go and get their answer to Thuney, Reddick, Hendrickson or D.J. Reader.
The veteran market is bloated and it’s the place where good players get great salaries and average players get good salaries. That’s why you’ve got to box clever and make bold, direct moves for a small pool of players. You’ve got to be prepared to spend a little bit more than you’re comfortable with to get quality.
Over the years the Seahawks have gone for depth over quality. They’ll sign a lot of players on modest contracts. It hasn’t worked. It’s how you end up with Benson Mayowa as your DE1, an anaemic pass rush and an offensive line that up until 2022 was pretty awful.
This isn’t a free agent class with tons of great options but some exist.
These are the names I would target…
Lavonte David (LB, Tampa Bay)
A lot of people are going to look at his age (he turned 33 in January) and dismiss this. Don’t. David remains one of the absolute top linebackers in the NFL and would be a huge get for anyone who can lure him away from the Buccaneers.
At the moment Tampa Bay has the worst cap situation in the league. They are $58m over the cap. They will receive $24m in relief with Tom Brady retiring. Otherwise, they’re going to need to go down the same route as New Orleans and restructure a bunch of contracts. They are a veteran group without the scope to blow things up and rebuild.
One of the things they’ll need to do is sign a quarterback. This is the one other destination where you can imagine Geno Smith making sense. Head Coach Todd Bowles worked with Smith in New York and this week, they interviewed Dave Canales for their offensive coordinator job. Thomas Brown from the Rams is also another strong candidate and he comes from the same scheme in LA.
What I’m getting at is something has to give. A saving will need to be made somewhere. Despite David claiming he wants to finish his career in Tampa Bay (as you’d expect) it might not be financially viable.
The Seahawks should be primed and ready with a two-year deal that is good enough to persuade David to come to Seattle instead.
There isn’t a more violent, aggressive and dynamic linebacker in the league. Even at this stage in his career, David is flying to the ball like he’s in his 20’s. He’s constantly in attack mode and he continues to help set a tone on defense. His PFF grade of 85.1 ranked third among linebackers in 2022. If you’re wondering about his legs — his coverage grade of 88.0 ranked second only to Tremaine Edmunds (90.0).
He could lead the second level of the defense if Jordyn Brooks misses time as he recovers from an ACL. Otherwise, pairing Brooks with David would give the Seahawks a good-looking duo at a position that requires an injection of talent.
A contract worth $22m over two years could get it done. I’d be willing to go higher if needed. Whether David would have interest moving to the other end of the country remains to be seen. You just know what you’re getting with him.
Sell him a dream. Let’s see those recruiting skills put to work, Pete. This isn’t a great draft at linebacker so getting proven quality in free agency would be a huge get. There isn’t anyone like David out there, who can provide quality and leadership.
Trade for DaRon Payne (DT, Washington)
Seattle’s biggest weakness is up front in the trenches on defense. Rather than hope a rookie can come in and solve this problem — it’s time to be aggressive.
I can’t imagine any situation where the Commanders let Payne just walk off into free agency. Even if they only get a third round pick in return, it makes sense to franchise tag him and seek a trade. People talk about a future compensatory pick but you only get those if you don’t make a comparable move yourself in free agency. Making a trade for Payne, rather than gambling on getting a comp pick, makes 100% sense.
With 11.5 sacks in 2022 and an 11.8% pass-rush win-rate since 2021 — Payne would provide the impact Seattle needs. He can create much-needed disruption. If you do a deal for him early in the off-season, you’ve addressed one of the biggest areas of need before you’ve even got to the draft. Then, if you wanted to add Jalen Carter or another defensive tackle, you add to what you’ve already got. You’re not just relying on rookies.
It won’t be cheap to sign Payne but who cares? If he costs $20m-a-year, that’s only $2m more than you’re paying Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs in 2023. Signing people like Quinton Jefferson for $5m isn’t getting it done. Adding someone with the proven ability to get sacks from the interior would be a huge help for the defense.
I’d seriously consider giving up a day-two pick for Payne if/when he’s tagged. He doesn’t turn 26 until the Summer. He’d probably cost as much as Javon Hargrave who’s just turned 30. If the Commanders want a first rounder, that’s a bit too rich for me. If they’re realistic about what they’re going to get in return — adding Payne would be a big plus.
Going into next season with Payne, Al Woods and Shelby Harris plus an impressive rookie rotating in would give you the platform for a better year in the trenches.
Garrett Bradbury (C, Minnesota)
Sometimes you just need a change of scenery. Look at Ethan Pocic. He received the third highest grade for a center in 2022 (79.0) according to PFF.
Bradbury hasn’t been a disaster for the Vikings, he just hasn’t justified the #18 pick in the 2019 draft. He’s been alright. Frankly, I’d settle for ‘alright’ at center in Seattle. His 67.5 grade in 2022 was good enough for 11th at his position. In comparison, Austin Blythe received a 51.9 grade.
I don’t think this is a center draft that will provide obvious solutions for the Seahawks. John Michael Schmitz is becoming a bit overrated. I have him graded in round three pre-combine and will explain why in more detail when I publish an updated horizontal board tomorrow. I don’t think it’s an exciting centre class. The one player I would say was worthy of a top-40 pick — Georgia’s Sedrick Van Pran — opted not to turn pro.
I would happily take a chance on Bradbury who has the ideal physical profile for Seattle’s scheme. He’s a squatty 6-3 and 306lbs with great athleticism. He ran a 4.92 at his combine and added a 4.53 short shuttle. His body control and low center of gravity work well in leverage battles.
He’s familiar with Seattle’s scheme having worked for Kevin O’Connell in 2022. The terminology, therefore, will be similar. Bradbury had the best pass-pro grade of his career playing for O’Connell.
He turns 28 in June so he’s at a good age. PFF suggests he could earn a three-year deal worth $6m a season. I would pay that to see if he can upgrade from Blythe and produce a base-line consistency that is ‘decent’ at the position. They paid Blythe $4m in 2022 so it’s not a massive difference. If Bradbury produces his 2022 form for the next three years, it’ll be a good investment.
With these three additions, you would have the flexibility to take a quarterback at #5 if you wanted to (and I believe this is a much stronger possibility than most people in the media think). You could also keep adding to the defense. You wouldn’t need to spend a pick on a center and could focus on adding a right guard (there will be viable options in the middle rounds). More than anything, I’d argue you could focus on BPA with a lot of your picks. That’s one of the reasons why the 2022 class was such a roaring success.
I think the Bradbury signing is very realistic. I am less confident about David — who might simply take any old deal to stay with the only team he knows. It’s hard to be confident about adding Payne. Every fanbase in the country seems to want him. Micah Parsons is actively pushing for him to sign for Dallas. If he’s tagged, you’d have to be the team that outbids the others. It’s complicated.
There’s not much point writing an article, though, where you talk about free agency and don’t aim high. The goal should be to claim impact players. Your Reddick or Hargrave. Your Hendrickson or Reader. Your Thuney.
Trying to nickel and dime free agency hasn’t worked for the Seahawks over the last few years. There are always risks dabbling in the market but at what point do you just have to try something different? Especially when your defense was exposed as badly as it was in 2022.
These three signings alone won’t send you to the top. It’s about combining good drafting with good veteran additions. Both will be required.
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