Seahawks UFA profile: Will Brandon Mebane be back for a 10th season?
Nine years is practically an eternity in professional football, where a player’s health, effectiveness and employment are often fleeting.
It’s why NFL might as well mean Not For Long, and why it’s remarkable that defensive tackle Brandon Mebane has spent almost a decade in Seattle.
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A third-round pick in 2007, Mebane is the longest-tenured Seahawk and one of only two players who predate coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider in Seattle. He’s been with the Seahawks through a pair of head-coaching changes as well as the hiring of a new regime that not only spared him from a massive roster overhaul but gave him a second contract.
Now that he’s played out that five-year, $25 million deal, Mebane is no sure thing to return to Seattle for a 10th season. In fact, looking at the particulars of his situation as we’ve done with each of the other six Seahawks starters who are set to become unrestricted free agents, there’s a good chance that he won’t.
Why he might be back: Start with the fact that he’s been a very good player for a very long time. As a nose tackle whose primary job is to stop the run, Mebane has made a living out of doing the dirty work that doesn’t often show up in the stat sheet – taking on double teams and clogging up rushing lanes for others to make plays.
Before he went down in 2014 with a torn hamstring, Carroll said Mebane was having one of his best seasons. He returned from surgery this past season, played in all but one game and, along with fellow defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin, helped anchor the run defense that finished No. 1 in the NFL.
And Mebane, like most players entering free agency, has said that his preference would be to stay put. Seattle, after all, is the only NFL home he’s known.
But it’s not that simple.
Why he might not be back: Because his view of what he’s worth and that of the Seahawks may not align. It didn’t last offseason, when the team wanted Mebane to take a pay-cut that would have reduced his $5.5 million salary for the final year of his contract. Mebane had just turned 30, he was coming off a season-ending injury that required surgery and his salary was significant considering what the market had been like for nose tackles who play primarily on early downs and don’t provide much in the way of pass-rush.
Mebane won that stare-down, but he’s now a year older and the Seahawks have a new set of financial challenges with six other starters who are unsigned for next season and Russell Wilson’s contract now beginning to take up a significant portion of their salary cap.
It’s by no means out of the question for Mebane to return, but the question would be how much less he’s willing to take compared to what he made on his previous deal. The Seahawks won’t pay him $5 million a season. They may not even be willing to pay him $3 million.
And if there is ever a year to be looking for a younger, cheaper alternative at defensive tackle, this is it. As noted in our look at the Seahawks’ situation with Rubin, who is also an unrestricted free agent, draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said there could be as many as 12 defensive tackles who have first-round talent.
Prediction: Losing Mebane and Rubin would mean having to replace two starters at a position where Seattle doesn’t have a proven in-house replacement. The Seahawks would presumably want to avoid that. If it’s one or the other, the guess here is that Seattle would make Rubin the bigger priority. He’s younger – although only by a year and a half – and Carroll said Rubin was as effective last season as any three-technique defensive tackle he’s had in Seattle. Mebane could be back if he’s willing to take a short-term deal worth around $2.5 million a year. But he might be able to get more than that elsewhere.