Well, here we are Twelves. We are exactly one week through NFL free agency, and thus far, the Seattle Seahawks have signed defensive tackle Jarran Reed and old friend, defensive end Bruce Irvin, and a hand full of journeyman offensive linemen.. and that’s it. Rather surprisingly, still sitting out there waiting for a gig is star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
It’s surprising that he has not found a suitable deal thus far, as many thought he would be the hottest pass rusher on the market. However, the truth of the matter is that, due to the coronavirus pandemic, teams can not have their doctors look at the core injury that he has been recovering from, and teams have shied away from his expensive asking price, including the Seattle Seahawks.
Reportedly, Seattle has made him an offer, but he has obviously not bitten, and thus we have a frustrating stalemate. While this stalemate has lingered, we as Seahawk fans have watched a number of other high end pass rushers sign contracts with other teams. This has caused a bit of a panic with some fans and bloggers who follow the team.
I’m here to say relax, folks. The Seahawks have a plan. They will fix the pass rush. It’s just that we haven’t seen it yet, and the league wide consensus seems to be that Clowney will likely return to Seattle on a short term deal so that he can re-enter the market in another year or two for a bigger deal more to his liking.
I’m also going to say that if Clowney doesn’t return to Seattle, the pass rush will likely still improve from last year. For one thing, it practically can not get any worse, and for another, Pete Carroll will not going into the 2020 season without adding significantly to the front four.
Here is what I think might happen.
Adding familiar faces
I think it could become hugely important for Seattle to land multiple pass rushers who intimately know Pete Carroll’s defense. With this current virus pandemic expected to last weeks, if not months, it legitimately threatens the NFL’s off-season training programs, and the chances of any Spring mini-camps after the draft.
There are still some sexy names sitting out there that Seattle could pursue. They could add Ndamukong Suh to pair with Jarran Reed to potentially create an intimidating inside rush. They could trade for a top edge rusher in Yannick Ngakoue or Matt Judon, who are both sitting on franchise tags. They could definitely make a splash move or two like this, but none of these players are familiar with Carroll’s system, and with without mini-camps likely being available, they would be forced to learn on the fly come actually training camp in august.
Thus, it might be wiser for Seattle to show restraint and look at veterans on the market that know the system and even some that have natural chemistry with players already on the roster. Currently sitting out there in free agency are Clowney, Everson Griffin, Clay Matthews, Michael Bennett, and Benson Mayowa. Each of these pass rushers are familiar with Pete Carroll’s defense either by playing for him in Seattle or in college at USC.
Laugh all you want to about the return of Michael Bennett and Benson Mayowa to as legitimate fixes to Seattle’s ailing pass rush, but both players were more productive than Clowney in the sacks column last year. So was Griffin and Matthews (Griffin was significantly so).
For sake of argument, let’s assume that Clowney leaves, and Seattle signs just the two former Hawk pass rushers in Bennett and Mayowa. Recently added Bruce Irvin collected 8.5 sacks in 2019, while Mayowa had 7, and Bennett had 6.5. Irvin and Mayowa likely would rotate as the primary leo ends, and Bennett works with Rasheem Green and LJ Collier at the five tech (Green was the team leader in sacks last year with 4). Between Irvin, Mayowa, Bennett, and Green, that’s 26 sacks right there. Seattle had 28 for the entire season in 2019.
Then when you factor in the likelihood of a full season from defensive tackle Jarran Reed, more contributions from rush linebacker Shaquem Griffin, and further steps forward from Collier and potentially defensive tackle Poona Ford, plus blitzing contributions from linebackers and defensive backs, it quickly becomes realistic to project Seattle pass rush improving significantly. This doesn’t even include who Seattle might look to add in the draft this Spring.
Personally, I think that if they lose Clowney, they probably bring in Everson Griffin on potentially a two year deal, and then one of Bennett or Mayowa. Landing Griffin would be a huge boost, in my opinion. In all honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if Seattle eventually add Clowney and Griffin, and we are all breathing big sighs of relief, but this piece is looking at all angles, including losing Clowney.
A further case for bringing back Michael Bennett
This idea isn’t just me pontificating bringing back another aging veteran who was a personal favorite of mine. This is about bringing back a player that still showed the ability to rush the passer in 2019, and one that knows this defense exceptionally well.
Adding Bennett would also mean bringing back a player that knows Jarran Reed, Bruce Irvin, and linebackers Bobby Wagner and KJ Wright really well. Part of making a pass rush functional is chemistry, and I would argue that lack of chemistry had as much to do with Seattle’s pass rush dysfunctions in 2019 as anything. Ziggy Ansah couldn’t get healthy enough for training camp, Jarran Reed was suspended for the first six games, and Clowney was a late addition who had to pick up the defense on the fly. Bennett knows this defense and key players in the front seven. That’s a benefit.
I also think that his veteran presence would likely help Rasheem Green and LJ Collier out immensely. Both players comped to Bennett coming out of college. Why not take the opportunity for both to actually learn for Bennett? Seems prudent to me.
Finally, Bennett has expressed a strong interest in returning to Seattle to finish his career out. Who knows if Seattle has interest, but from where I look this, I say this is a situation to monitor.
Relax Seahawk fans. I think one way or another, Seattle will fix this pass rush this year, and frankly, there is bigger things to worry about.
Take care of yourselves during this pandemic. Don’t stress, get rest, stay distant from others in public, eat plenty of fruits and veggies, workout in safe places, wash your hands, clean your surfaces, and go Hawks.
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