Seahawks training camp: How Seattle’s 7 top free-agent signings look
As the Seahawks have started practice, a lot of the focus, naturally, has been on Seattle’s two trade acquisitions: All-Pro safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
But the Seahawks were busy this offseason, signing expected starters as well as key depth pieces during free agency.
What have the Seahawks’ free-agent additions looked like so far, and what are their expected roles for 2020? Former Seahawks quarterback Jake Heaps went through Seattle’s seven biggest free-agent signings with John Clayton on Two-A-Days, airing each weekday at 11 a.m. on 710 ESPN Seattle during Seahawks training camp.
Veteran tight end Greg Olsen was the first addition of the Seahawks’ offseason after spending the last nine years with the Carolina Panthers.
Heaps has seen Olsen, 35, a lot this offseason – Heaps is Seahawks star Russell Wilson’s personal quarterback coach and Olsen spent time with the duo and other pass catchers this offseason. Heaps has been singing Olsen’s praises for most of the offseason, and that hasn’t changed with practices starting.
“Greg came in, he’s in great shape. Talking with him, he said this is the best he’s felt in a long time through this offseason in the way that he was able to prepare because he didn’t have to go to (organized team activities) this year,” Heaps said. “And he has shown that he can be a really reliable, savvy tight end with great hands for Russell Wilson.”
The Seahawks have one of the best tight end rooms in the NFL with Olsen and Will Dissly leading the way along with Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson and 2020 draft picks Colby Parkinson and Stephen Sullivan. When the Seahawks go with a three-receiver set with just one tight end, Heaps said the veteran likely gets the majority of those snaps.
“I think there is going to be a rotation between Greg and Dissly and I do believe the favorite is going to be with Greg Olsen,” he said. “I think you have a guy that came in, you’re paying him $7 million for a reason, he came here for a reason and that wasn’t to sit on the sidelines and be a veteran mentor. He wanted to be a difference maker, he wanted to be a part of the team that he thought would give him a chance to go to the Super Bowl.”
The Seahawks addressed multiple needs when bringing back their 2012 first-round pick Bruce Irvin, 32, as he can play linebacker and rush the quarterback on the line, and he brings other traits that don’t show up in the box score.
“I think he’s brought great energy. He’s a guy that brings incredible speed and explosion, especially to that SAM linebacker position, but then he will be able, in nickel situations, to play on the edge,” Heaps said. “One of the things I thought was great in Bruce Irvin is not only his ability to play on the field, but one of the things you could definitely say with the defense in 2019 is they just lacked an edge, they lacked presence out there on the field and Bruce Irvin, as we know, is not afraid to mix it up.”
Irvin, who had 8.5 sacks last season for the Panthers, has already made an impact on his teammates, Heaps said.
“He’s fiery, he’s energetic, you can see his teammates reacting when he makes a play out there on the field and he’s doing the same when others are making plays,” he said. “I think he just elevates the guys around him as well as bringing up the overall team speed that was lacking tremendously last year.”
Irvin isn’t the only member of the 2013 Super Bowl champion Seahawks team to return to Seattle, as defensive end Benson Mayowa is back after a seven-sack season in 2019 for the Raiders. Heaps said the combination of Irvin and Mayowa, 29, adds something the Seahawks were lacking with the front of their defense last year.
“He’s been fast, he’s been explosive and I think he’s been a factor not just in pass-rushing situations but also in the run game,” Heaps said. “So you talk about Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, the one thing you will have are two guys on the edge that can run sideline to sideline. We’ll see what they’re both like at the point of attack in the run game, but ultimately, the Seahawks didn’t have that last year.”
Note: For more on Mayowa from Heaps, visit the embedded link at the beginning of the story.
An early standout on the offensive side of the ball in Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll’s eyes is his new right tackle, Brandon Shell, who previously played with the New York Jets. Carroll described Shell, 28, as maybe his favorite offseason addition.
“Brandon Shell is a massive human being out there and (former Seahawks starting right tackle) Germain Ifedi was a massive human being, but I think that you can see the difference in terms of the technique, the ability to understand what his strengths and weaknesses are, and I think he’s done an excellent job,” Heaps said. ” … And to me, you talk about that offensive line and the biggest X-factor for that offensive line being an improved group is Brandon Shell. If Brandon Shell can prove to not only be a very run blocker – which I think we already know he is – but he can prove to be an upgrade in pass protection, that would be a big-time boost for this group.”
Another expected starter on the offensive line is B.J. Finney, who played both guard and center for the Steelers. Finney, 28, is competing with Ethan Pocic and Kyle Fuller for the starting center spot after the releases of Justin Britt and Joey Hunt.
“I would assume that B.J. Finney is going to win the (starting center) job,” Heaps said. “That’s an expensive backup (two years, $8 million) when you talk about how the Seahawks like to spend money and spread that money out.”
Heaps said if somehow Finney doesn’t take the starting job at center, he could turn around and compete at guard, though he doesn’t expect that will happen.
“He’s smart, he’s savvy, he’s very sure of himself and I think that with his experience and what I’ve watched on tape, he’s got the making of being a solid NFL starter in this league where as Ethan Pocic I think there’s high upside, but you just have not been able to see that come together for this young man out on the field,” Heaps said.
Cedric Ogbuehi, an offensive tackle who was a first-round pick in 2015, is expected to be a backup and potentially see time in George Fant’s old role of a bigger tight end/sixth offensive lineman. Despite his first-round pick status, Ogbuehi, 28, has struggled as a pro.
“They’re definitely going to check (playing him as an extra blocker like George Fant was) out, they’re going to look at it,” Heaps said. “Cedric Ogbuehi is a player that as I was watching his one-on-one drills he’s extremely physically gifted, you can see why he’s a former first-round pick, but you can also see why he hasn’t been successful in this league thus far.”
Heaps said the Seahawks’ coaching staff feels optimistic about what they can get out of Ogbuehi, especially as a “swing tackle.”
“I think he’s one of those guys that the coaching staff is really pinpointing in terms of really trying to develop and move along so they can have a solid option at that position if need be,” he said. “And I would be surprised if with the tight end group that you have and how well they are in run-blocking situations that they are going to use Ogbuehi as much in the jumbo package as they did with George Fant last year, but obviously if there’s injuries that occur, Ogbuehi can do it and he has done it when he was with the Jacksonville Jaguars last year.”
One free-agent addition that Heaps knows especially well is wide receiver Phillip Dorsett, who Heaps played college ball with at Miami. Dorsett, 27, is a former first-round pick of the Colts who most recently played with the Patriots.
“When you talk about Phil, you want to see him finish a few more difficult plays,” Heaps said. “There’s been times where he’s needed to make a contested catch and just has not yet. But overall in terms of the playbook, in terms of his speed, how he’s looking (with) his hands, overall he’s done a really good job and I think he’s going to be a guy that makes some big plays, especially down the field.”
Listen to Clayton and Heaps discuss the Seahawks in Wednesday’s Two-a-Days hour at this link or in the player below.
- Tune in to 710 ESPN Seattle weekdays at 10am for John Clayton's show.
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