This is the only thing that makes sense to me right now, and all the tea leaves are screaming it out to me as deafeningly loud as Bruce Dickinson’s howl at intro of Iron Maiden’s epic Number Of The Beast opus. I am now certain of it. Let’s explore these tea leaves.
Seattle’s stalemate with Jadeveon Clowney has given us? .. more perplexing inactivity
Mike Garafolo of the NFL Network made news earlier in the week on local airways by mentioning that the chances of Seattle signing Clowney have become slim to none. He added that they have been competitive in negotiations but are now looking at other options.
My reading of this is that something likely happened with the team and the player that have made negotiations impractical. This seems clear to me and both sides are likely moving on.
What has been quite confusing to me is why Seattle hasn’t moved on to bring in Everson Griffen, who is the only other premiere pass rusher on the market, and is a player that has openly stated his desire to play for Pete Carroll. Why the inactivity?
Money should not be the issue with Griffen. At age 33, he should be able to be signed well under what it cost Seattle to retain Jarran Reed. Seattle sign him today if they wanted to and make no mistake about it, Griffen would be a huge boost to their pass rush.
Beyond Griffen, the free agent market gets more bare, but there are a few other vets Seattle could probably sign at any point now and have chosen not to. Michael Bennett is another familiar name that has stated a desire to return to Seattle. Jabaal Sheard and Mike Daniels are another couple name veterans with pass rush abilities. Seattle could sign any one of these guys together at a cheap cost and they would certainly improve the roster.
Why this inactivity then?
The Rams trade Brandin Cooks to the Texans and this could signal a flurry of trades
The Los Angeles Rams are in a pinch. They have a terrible salary cap situation. They are also hoping to sign cornerback Jalen Ramsey long term, who they acquired mid season last year in exchange for high draft capital. They also can’t fill out their roster with the draft capital that they have, so trading expensive wide receiver Brandin Cooks to Houston for a second round pick made a lot of since, especially considering that this draft class is considered historically deep at receiver.
For the Texans, this move can be criticized as they have other expensive receivers already on the roster, but if they are in a “win now” mode, it does make some immediate sense. They weirdly traded their all world receiver DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals for a mere second round pick. Reportedly, one reason why was that Hopkins wanted to renegotiate his existing contract and the Texans weren’t going to have that, so they shipped him off.
Note these two things. One is a team that is in a bad salary cap situation that has an abundance of talent at receiver, and the other is a team that supposedly had a weird contract stalemate with a star player and was willing to move on regardless of that player’s perceived talent.
As we inch more towards the draft, I think we could see more trades that reflect these type of dynamics and from what I’m seeing, Seattle is probably in discussions with a team that is either in salary cap hell or is dealing with some sort of disgruntled veteran. The teams with the worst cap space that aren’t a division rival include the Patriots, Falcons, Chiefs, Saints, Steelers, Bengals, and Raiders. The team that gives Jadeveon Clowney what he is asking for could easily join that short list.
One team that clearly appears to be dealing with a disgruntled veteran who wants out is Jacksonville with franchised pass rusher Yannick Ngakoue. This is the obvious one to watch moving forward.
Seattle has signed an abundance of veteran offensive linemen.. why?
These moves are a bit curious for me. The Brandon Shell signing made sense in that he was a clear replacement for Germaine Ifedi at right tackle. BJ Finney made sense because he could either compete for the left guard spot, or replace Justin Britt at center if the team cuts Britt to save about $8 million off the cap. Finney has played and started at both positions in the league, pretty respectfully according to Pro Football Focus.
But Seattle also added tackle Cedric Ogbuehi and guard Chance Warmack who are both young former first round picks, and are now seemingly overloaded on the offensive line. This is doubly perplexing when you consider that this draft class is also loaded at offensive tackle and guard. You would think Seattle would want to tap into that talent pool, so why sign so many journeymen veterans?
When we look at this situation now, with an unresolved stalemate with Clowney, with no Griffen signing, and with Justin Britt carrying a lot of salary on what is now a shrunken cap space situation after all these signings, I think Finney could have likely been signed to replace Britt.
I also think Warmack was brought in to add to guard competition as a hedge to the draft. The same for Ogbuehi at tackle. If Seattle gives up significant draft capital for a pass rushing difference maker, it might not be in a great position to land an impact rookie offensive lineman. Seattle wants to cover their bases before the draft.
In short, Seattle might be looking to get cheaper on the offensive line to strengthen its defensive line. Britt could easily be gone, and there’s a slim outside chance that they could cut DJ Fluker, as well. Is it ideal? Nope, but it does explain these moves.
Instead for looking for premium edge rushing talent, Seattle could look to boost pass rush at defensive tackle.
There has been a lot of talk about Seattle trying to pull out a trade for Yannick Ngakoue, or alternatively, another franchised edge rusher in Baltimore’s Matt Judon. The latter suggestion, I think has maybe more realistic merit.
Personally, if I had to bet who would be more likely a Seattle Seahawk this season, I would be more willing to lay money on Judon being the guy, and the biggest reason for it is that is, because of his age, the draft capital Seattle would have to surrender would likely be a lot cheaper, and I’m not convinced that Ngakoue is a better player and more deserving of a big contract from Seattle than Clowney. If you are going to trade a first round pick and pay Ngakoue, why not save the pick and just pay Clowney? A third rounder for Judon on a short term deal? I could see that move.
One thing I notice, though, when looking at a number of teams that are in tough salary spots (Kansas City, Pittsburgh, New England, Cincinnati, Atlanta), these teams each carry an expensive veteran defensive tackle type on the roster in varying degrees. The most notable here is KC with franchised star Chris Jones, and a commitment they have made to retaining other players, and a superstar quarterback who they will have to pony up for soon enough.
Another situation where watching out for is the New York Giants with their franchised defensive tackle/end Leonard Williams. Similar to what Seattle did last season trading for Clowney, the Giants shipped their third round pick to the Jets to acquire Williams and their general manager Dave Gettleman put himself in a corner stating that they wanted to sign him long term. So far negotiations have gone nowhere, and the Giants have a fairly deep rotation at the position anyways.
Could Gettleman be enticed to trading Williams for a third round pick to save face on looking like he gave up too much for a half of a season rental player?
If so, Seattle has already shown the willingness in the past to send a third round pick away for a one year rental on a proven pass rusher, an while Williams is not a big sack number guy, like Clowney, he does create a lot of pressure, and beats a lot of double teams. With him paired with Jarran Reed inside, theoretically, that could be a pretty formidable pairing. At the very least, they could open up things for more marginal edge rushers to have success, if Seattle puts that kind of emphasis on their interior pass rush. It’s an interesting notion to consider.
This all leads back to Kansas City’s situation with Chris Jones.
A Chris Jones trade to Seattle might be more likely than you think.
Now I am not goign to suggest that this is the move that will happen here in a little bit, and I will be the first to admit that a Chris Jones to Seattle scenario has a kind of Hollywood story-line ridiculousness to it. Would the team that traded for Seattle’s star pass rusher in Frank Clark last year be willing to turn around and deal their own home grown star pass rusher to Seattle the following year?
Then factor that acquiring Jones would surely cost a first round pick, and change just to get him onto your club. Seattle might likely have to give up a first and a second round pick, and if that is enough to get the deal done, Seattle will have essentially trade Frank Clark for Chris Jones when all the other compensation is tallied between both clubs. It’s a bit of a goofy premise, but it also does make sense.
When I look at it that why and ask myself if I would be willing to trade Clark for Jones, the answer that I come up with is always “heck yeah,” and I was always a big Frank Clark guy. For me, I would love the opportunity to have Seattle bring this guy in and sign him long term. He’s a rare breed of player that has the size to play and dominate inside and has the athleticism to play outside at end, as well.
This deal wouldn’t be cheap, either. Jones fully wants to be paid top dollar. Expect $21 million to be his asking price. So, could Seattle afford this? The short answer is, yes, if they wanted to.
They have about $12 million in available cap space, but by cutting Justin Britt they would save over $8 million (this makes the BJ Finney deal make more sense). Seattle could make a couple other moves by releasing linebacker KJ Wright and Bradley McDougald, and that would free up another $10 million plus. It’s worth noting that Seattle has some depth behind both of those defenders with players that the drafted last year, and I would trade both players for Jones in a heartbeat.
Seattle can also move money around in the form of signing bonus to more easily fit Jones under the cap in 2020 and pay him more down the road with the contracts of Britt, Wright and McDougald are fulfilled and off the books, if they want to hang onto any number of those players. There are definitely ways to make this work.
The more I think about it, the more I think Seattle could be willing to make this kind of bold move. Jones was a player that they had interest in during the 2016 draft as they had brought him into the team facilities for a workout meeting. His versatility to play both end and tackle would clearly appeal to Pete Carroll. They could line him up at 5 tech on run downs in certain situations with Jarran Reed and Poona Ford also on the field, or they can just have him play the 3 technique tackle spot with Reed returning to the nose tackle position he played during his first two years in the league. With Reed and Jones inside, who do guards and centers double team? This could be a massive problem for even the best interior offensive linemen.
As an old school football traditionalist, this appeals to me greatly. Call me an old fuddy pants, but I just think that in a 4-3 defense, it all starts inside at defensive tackle more than any other position. If you are dominant there, it makes everyone else’s job a lot easier, and with Jones, I can actually see be more willing to pay him the type of money Clowney wants than pay Clowney that cheddar.
For as disruptive of a player as Clowney can be, he has never been able to develop his pass rush, and he has constantly battled through injury. A smart general manager would look at those two aspects, and be hesitant to pay him top dollar. At the same time, a smart general manager might look at Jones and see the steady production, the youth, and lack of injuries, and just be comfortable paying premium for a top performer like that.
The bigger question might be would Kansas City be willing to trade Jones. That is not something that I can definitively answer, but I will say that they already have a star player on their defensive line that they paid a heavy price for in Frank Clark. They also have to pay their star quarterback a record deal soon enough. They also have additional pass rushing options on the roster behind Jones, and the 27th pick of the first round might net them a decent young player to develop at a cheap cost.
They might see it a lot like Seattle did last year with Clark. They love the player and would like to keep him but they need to get more young talent on the roster for the long term and they can’t pay everyone. From these perspectives, I think that they could be compelled to move Jones for the right cost.
It’s also possible that Seattle doesn’t want to make a big splash like this
It’s of course very possible that Seattle sees a defensive tackle that they could pick early to develop along with Reed, but I have my doubts this is the path that they want to take presently. If they had more talent already on the defensive, I would be more convinced of it.
Defensive linemen, more often than not, take time to develop, especially the ones that don’t go top ten. Clark took time to develop, and so did Reed. LJ Collier struggled mightily last year as a rookie. Bruce Irvin flashed as a rookie, but then got moved to linebacker, and was replaced by veteran free agent Cliff Avril as the top edge rusher.
The draft is never a sure thing, and the window for Seattle to collect championships with Russell Wilson at quarterback might start to shrink sooner than we are anticipating. This is probably why Russ made a plea a few months ago for Seattle to bring in more stars to the team, and so far, general manager John Schneider has yet to really do that.
You might call 35 year old tight end Greg Olsen a star, but for how much longer, and can we call Bruce Irvin a star? Cornerback Quinton Dunbar might be a star in the making, but that is not certain. Defensive end Benson Mayowa might become a free agent steel and a serviceable edger rusher, but do we think he can be a star?
Retaining defensive tackle Jarran Reed was a nice start to free agency. He’s a really good player that I think is undervalued by a lot of fans, but is he a star? Maybe he can be.
Would drafting Alabama defensive tackle Raekwon Davis with their first pick guarantee that he becomes a star in this league within the next few years? I dunno.
Chris Jones is a star, and a young one at that, but if Seattle doesn’t want to shell out that kind of draft capital and pay the big bucks long term for him, they could certainly split the difference and trade for a Matt Judon, or possibly Leonard Williams with less draft capital, but they would paying a lot of salary for a player that perhaps isn’t really a star, either.
In the short term, maybe they would be willing to do that if that meant keeping the first three picks they have in this draft. They could trade for Williams for the short term, and look to draft Davis or another defensive tackle to develop behind him. If Williams blows up, and is worth the top dollar, they can make that decision after the season, and maybe move on from Reed because they have a young drafted player in the wings.
It’s really hard to get into the mind of John Schneider on this one, but it is interesting that they have not brought in any big name at this point to replace Clowney, and even with the additions of Irvin and Mayowa, they remain razor thin with their depth on the defensive line.
Something has to give and give soon. Don’t you think?
It’s going to be interesting to see what comes out of this one within a few weeks.
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