Waiting for the Seattle Seahawks to do anything in the initial phases of free agency over the past decade has become a bit of a fun self depreciating joke for fans on Twitter. To make light of the frustration of seeing big name players get gobbled up off the market signing elsewhere, the witty sorts on Seahawks Twitter offer up memes expressing their f’d up emotional states. It’s a bonding experience.
With the exception of 2011, when they were still roster building, the Seahawks MO in free agency has mostly been to wait it out, and not get caught up in big splashy signings. In 2013, when they made the splashy signings of the legendary pass rushing duo of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, they waited out the first initial week of signings to see who they could lure in on short term bargains, and the rest was history.
After paying Russell Wilson, however, even these sort of maneuverings became more scarce. The players that they would lure in would generally range from former first round busts who they would try to see if there was any potential left in them (there wasn’t), or older players who could serve as decent role players such as defensive tackle Al Woods. Whichever category a player would fall into, the general consensus with fans would usually comprise of a big fat disappointing “meh.”
Last offseason, however, something shifted in the front office. Days after trading away Wilson, Seattle made a surprise initial signing of promising young edge rusher Uchenna Nwosu who was coming off a rookie contract and career year for the LA Chargers. That signing felt fun on many levels, and smart.
Nwosu was seen as an emerging veteran talent, and a good fit for their new system which would feature more 3-4 in their base defense. This was the type of signing I had been begging for years for this front office to make, and they made a serous financial investment in him, too, which to me, signaled more aggressiveness to build properly with free agency as a tool. Better yet, it paid off as Nwosu proved to be their best pass rusher in 2022.
Enter former Denver Bronco defensive tackle Dre’Mont Jones in 2023. This is the free agent signing that I dreamed for Seattle to make, but was bracing for a reality that he would go elsewhere. Like Nwuso last year, Jones is coming off his rookie contract, and a career year. He’s an ascending talent at a position that is very hard to fill in the NFL, and that is a true pass rushing defensive tackle. At 3 years and $51 million dollars, Seattle is making an investment in him, too.
What I think this means moving forward is a few things. I think with Nwuso and Jones, Seattle’s front office is shifting focus towards investing in promising younger veterans much like they did with Avril and Bennett a decade ago. I don’t think it’s any small coincidence that these two players positionally can be compared to Avril and Bennett, as well.
Pete Carroll loves to coach a defense that has explosive guys up front who can disrupt the gaps, and harass the quarterback. I think, in Clint Hurtt’s first season as a Seahawk defensive coordinator, the Seahawks got away from that for the first time under Coach Carroll, and they now want to get back to that.
I don’t think it matters if this means more 4-3 again, or staying with 3-4, or doing the 46 bear front stuff again. With this investment in Dre’Mont Jones, I think we are going to see Seattle be more aggressive up front again, and that is exciting.
Jones is not a big hulking two gab defensive lineman. At 6-3 and 281 pounds, his game is attacking the gaps, and his best attribute to a defense is as an interior pass rusher. In short, he’s a classic pass rushing three technique who can also play the four and five technique spots, as well, a la Michael Bennett.
I think what this means for the Seahawks is very little passive two gapping stuff up front, for the most part. It would be a waste of valuable dollars to ask Jones to be that sort of player. In all likelihood, I think Seattle is probably heading back to the bear front stuff again which they ran mostly out of in 2020 and 2021 (aka 46 defense, aka stick front, aka 5-2-4, aka 3-3-5).
It is a growing trend in the league with defenses nowadays, and it takes me back to some stuff that Coach Carroll said during his last few presses conference of the season. When asked about how to best get his pass rush going again, Carroll said the key was the inside rush, and on another occasion when asked about his defense moving forward, it said that it wasn’t going to be someone else’s scheme, but rather they are going to make it their own scheme.
That last part stood out to me most. Much was made last year about Carroll embracing Vic Fangio’s unique 3-4 defense last year with the hiring of Hurtt and defensive assistant Sean Desai, who are both Fangio disciples. We don’t need to rehash the disaster that followed because we all know how bad this defense instantly became against the run, but during the four game win streak they went on in October and November, Carroll had them switch back to the bear front they had been running in previous seasons. The improvements were immediate, but they weirdly went away from it after their second game against the Cardinals.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a big surprise that Desai is no longer in Seattle. I think Carroll is dumping the Fangio thingy and is getting back to what he knows better. Dre’Mont Jones, to me signals that. Without getting super weighted down in football jargon, I think Jones is a return to the Michael Bennett role in Carroll’s defense. A guy who can play multiple roles in multiple fronts, and a guy who is going to make his hay attacking from inside.
Moving forward, I would love to see Seattle add one more bright young talent inside to play right along with him. I would be stoked if it was former UW Husky Greg Gaines to play the nose tackle spot beside Jones, and essentially become the Brandon Mebane to Jones’s Mike Bennett.
I also want to see them add a linebacker, and a center. It would be fun if it was Bobby Wagner coming back, but I just need a proven productive middle linebacker to fill the void of Cody Barton leaving and Jordyn Brooks coming off his knee injury. I prefer a quality veteran center playing in front of Geno Smith.
If Seattle can make these three additions to go along with Jones, then it really opens up the draft for them next Spring. They could go a few different ways with pick five. They could go quarterback, defensive line, offensive line, or trade back.
If an early run of quarterbacks happen, Alabama edge rusher Will Anderson at five is a reasonable projection for Pete Carroll, and it is probably his dream. A pass rush that includes Anderson, Nwuso, Jones, Gaines, Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe, and Quinton Jefferson sounds like a lot of fun to be had in Seattle. I would love that fun.
This, I think, would be Pete Carroll’s dream scenario, as well. I’m excited to see how it all plays out.