By Danny O’Neil
The market came to them a year ago.
That’s the only way to explain how the Seahawks walked into free agency with some short-term spending room last March and ran out with two of the top four pass rushers.
The Seahawks almost pulled off a similar deal this year. Almost. But when Jared Allen agreed to join the Bears, the Seahawks waded out of the first wave of free agency without a single addition to show for it.
Jared Allen and the Bears agreed to a four-year deal that is reportedly worth as much as $32 million and includes $15.5 million guaranteed. (AP)
That’s an observation, not a criticism, and it’s important to recognize the difference in assessing how Allen’s decision is significant to the Seahawks.
Seattle didn’t need to add Allen, but that doesn’t mean the Seahawks couldn’t have used him. That was especially true after Seattle released starters Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and lost backup nose tackle Clinton McDonald to Tampa Bay.
That leaves some openings in Seattle’s defensive-line rotation at everything from interior run stuffers to outside pass rushers. The Seahawks have some young candidates, one of which is Benson Mayowa, who was promising enough as an undrafted rookie last season for Seattle to keep him on the 53-man roster throughout the year even though he appeared in only two games. Greg Scruggs was emerging as a rookie in 2012 before missing last year because of a knee injury, and Jesse Williams could be a force in the middle if he’s ever able to play on that chronically sore knee.
Every one of those players has a chance to blossom. All they will get opportunities. None are a proven commodity at this point.
The Seahawks believe they can replace the defensive linemen who’ve left the roster. They just don’t know who will. That’s why Seattle was looking at veterans on the free-agent market, scheduling visits with defensive tackles Jason Hatcher and Vance Walker.
It was the courtship of Allen that was most enticing, though. He has posted 10 or more sacks in seven successive season and when he visited Seattle twice in the span of a seven days, it looked like the Seahawks were on the brink of pulling off a pass-rushing coup for the second consecutive year in free agency.
The free-agent market was more frigid than expected last year with a flat salary cap, and after Paul Kruger went to Cleveland, the Seahawks were able to sign first Cliff Avril and then Michael Bennett. It was a double play no one saw coming as Seattle parlayed the two years of salary-cap room and a great home-field advantage into a pair of top-shelf pass rushers.
The free-agent market was more lucrative this year whether it was Michael Johnson heading to Tampa Bay, DeMarcus Ware landing in Denver or Julius Peppers going to Green Bay.
Seattle wound up priced out of the pass-rush market because while the Seahawks could have signed Allen this offseason, that doesn’t mean they should have. Not at the price Chicago paid, and certainly not when you consider the players like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman that the Seahawks must still sign to extensions.
Understanding the rationale the Seahawks used in free agency doesn’t change the reality, however. They have three different spots to fill in their defensive line rotation, and with Allen headed to Chicago and the first wave of free agency finished, Seattle must find its answers elsewhere.