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Seahawks trade targets: 10 players who could help struggling pass rush

Washington DE Ryan Kerrigan may be on the Seahawks' radar as a trade candidate. (Getty)

Another week, another display of the Seahawks’ pass rush not being good enough.

Moore’s 10 Takeaways: Will reinforcements revive Seahawks’ defense?

After accumulating only 28 sacks in 2019 – tied for second-fewest in the NFL – the Seahawks have just nine sacks through six games in 2020, which is on pace for 24 in a full 16-game season.

After struggling to get pressure on opposing quarterbacks in the first five games of the season, the pass rush hit a new low in Arizona in Week 7. While Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray passed 48 times, Seattle recorded just one pressure and didn’t record a single sack or QB hit. That was the worst pass rush by any team this year, per Next Gen Stats.

The Seahawks have already lost Bruce Irvin for the year with an ACL tear. Rookie defensive end Darrell Taylor, the team’s second-round pick, hasn’t played or even officially practiced as he is recovering from leg surgery. Safety Jamal Adams is tied with starting defensive end Benson Mayowa for the team lead in sacks, and Adams hasn’t played since Week 3 due to a groin injury.

Clearly, this current group isn’t getting it done and a major issue from last season hasn’t improved. In fact, it appears to have gotten worse.

Luckily for the Seahawks, the 2020 NFL trade deadline is Tuesday, Nov. 3, so there’s an opportunity to get some help on the defensive line.

Before we take a look at some potential names, it’s worth looking at the amount of draft picks the Seahawks have the next two drafts that could be used in trades.

Upcoming picks

The 2021 draft, as of now, won’t be a plentiful one for Seattle.

The Seahawks traded their first- and third-round picks in the next draft to the New York Jets for Adams, and also traded a sixth-round pick to get back into the 2020 draft to take tight end/wide receiver-turned defensive end Stephen Sullivan late in the seventh round. That leaves the Seahawks with five picks next April: one in the second, one in the fourth, one in the fifth and two in the seventh. Seattle could also get compensatory picks, but that appears unlikely for this draft.

Seattle is better off for the 2022 draft, as Seattle has all of its original picks aside from its first-rounder, which also went to the Jets for Adams. Seattle also got the Jets’ 2022 fourth-round pick, leaving them with a pick in every round but the first plus two picks in the fourth.

Most trades involve draft capital, especially as teams shipping good players off are typically looking to the future, so it’s worth seeing where Seattle stands in the next two drafts, especially since the Seahawks have only five picks currently for 2021.

Now, let’s look at some players.

Notable names

Pass rushers are a premium in the NFL, so getting good ones in trades is often difficult. I’m not going to speculate on what it would take to get any of these players to Seattle, but these players are all players who are well known, are on struggling teams who could use a boost in the future, and fill an obvious need for the Seahawks.

(Note: All contract totals are from Spotrac and all stats are from Pro Football Reference.)

Ryan Kerrigan, Washington Football Team

Kerrigan was a first-round pick by DC in 2011 and has been a solid player since, accumulating 94 career sacks. He’s also off to a good start this year with four sacks.

So why would Washington consider trading him? Well, he’s older at 32, he’s on the last year of his contract, and DC has used first-round picks on defensive ends in the last two drafts, adding Montez Sweat in 2019 and Chase Young this season. As a result, Kerrigan is more of a role player and isn’t needed like he used to be.

WFT may choose to hold on to Kerrigan to either try and re-sign him, or because the team is in the worst division, the NFC East, and is in second place at 2-5 behind the 2-4-1 Philadelphia Eagles.

Still, Kerrigan is accomplished and playing good ball. The Seahawks could use a guy like that.

Carlos Dunlap, Cincinnati Bengals

Dunlap, 31, has one sack this year and has played fewer and fewer snaps as the weeks have gone on. He’s also been vocal about wanting out of Cincinnati, which has a young, rebuilding team.

Dunlap has 82.5 career sacks, including nine last season. The issue with the veteran defensive end is his contract, as he is signed through 2021 and has a base salary of $10.5 million next year (the deal is worth up to $13.5 million).

The Seahawks can make that work for next year, but it may be tricky to get Dunlap on board this season with the Seahawks having just over $3 million available in cap space, per OverTheCap.

J.J. Watt, Houston Texans

If the Seahawks don’t think they can afford Dunlap, that’s especially the case for the 31-year-old Watt, a three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year.

Watt, who aligns both inside and outside on the Texans’ defensive line, has three sacks and five tackles for loss. For his career this season. He has 99 career sacks, with 16 in 2018, but missed time last year and had four sacks in eight games. He also only played in eight total games between 2016 and 2017.

When healthy, though, Watt has been one of the best defensive linemen of his era, dominating quarterbacks, running backs and the like. But with that status comes a hefty payday.

Watt’s deal is up after next season – he’s due to make over $17 million in 2021 and is making $15.5 million this year. Seattle would need to do some serious maneuvering if it somehow got the 1-6 Texans to agree to a deal. The Texans may be willing to trade established guys like Watt, though, as they are struggling, will have a new head coach and general manager next season and don’t have a first-round pick in the upcoming draft. That could lead to massive overhaul in Houston.

Jacob Martin, Houston Texans

Sticking with the Texans, here’s a familiar face: Jacob Martin, the Seahawks’ sixth-round pick in 2018.

Martin, a 24-year-old defensive end/outside linebacker, went to Houston ahead of the 2019 season along with Barkevious Mingo and a third-round pick for defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who ultimately went to Tennessee for 2020 instead of re-signing with the Seahawks.

As a rookie, Martin had three sacks for Seattle in 2018. He had a career high in 2019 with 3.5 and has two already this year.

Martin is on the last year of his rookie deal and will make less than $1 million next year. Seattle knows him well and while he’s not a big or established name, he’s an extra body who has as many sacks as Seattle’s top two pass rushers while being a reserve player in Houston.

Grady Jarrett, Atlanta Falcons

This one is also hard due to money, but it’d be great for any team to land the 27-year-old defensive tackle.

Jarrett has 2.5 sacks this year as well as 12 QB hits. He’s durable and can get pressure as an interior defensive lineman.

The issue is his deal, as he’s signed through 2022 with an out after 2021 with cap hits over $20 million each of those seasons with high base salaries.

The Seahawks are paying defensive tackle Jarran Reed roughly $13 million and he is signed through 2021, but he could be a cap casualty for the upcoming offseason to get a guy like Jarrett on board.

The Falcons are 1-6 and have to pick a direction for the franchise to go in. They fired their head coach and general manager but have a lot of veterans who are in win-now mode, mainly on offense. If the Falcons want to accumulate draft picks and clear cap space, maybe a fire sale starts ahead of the deadline.

Takkarist McKinley, Atlanta Falcons

Sticking with the Falcons, we’ll go with a player who’s very different from Jarrett in Takkarist McKinley.

McKinley, who has missed a lot of time in his four-year career, has one sack this year in four games and isn’t playing much. He had seven sacks in 2018.

McKinley is on the last year of his rookie deal and as a former first-round pick, he will always carry that pedigree with him even if he hasn’t succeeded much to date. This could be a buy-low opportunity for the Seahawks or any other interested team to acquire a defensive end with plenty of potential.

Everson Griffen, Dallas Cowboys

Editor’s note: The Dallas Cowboys agreed to trade Everson Griffen to the Detroit Lions shortly after this story was published, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

The Seahawks were tied to Griffen in rumors all offseason before he signed with the Dallas Cowboys, so why not include him as a trade target?

Griffen, 32, has 2.5 sacks and three tackles for loss in seven games for the injury-plagued Cowboys, who are 2-5. He had eight sacks in 15 games for the Minnesota Vikings last season.

The veteran defensive end has played roughly 50% of snaps for Dallas and may welcome a higher workload. Plus, he would be moved to a contender and be reunited with his college coach at USC in Pete Carroll.

A lot of trade deadline acquisitions across sports are seen as one-year rentals, and Griffen would be just that, as he signed a one-year deal with the Cowboys this offseason. It also seems he’s as likely as anybody on this list to be traded before Tuesday’s deadline, as the NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Monday that Dallas has “made it known” Griffen is available.

Lesser-known pass rushers

There are also three defensive ends who are young, affordable, on struggling teams and could make an immediate impact with Seattle as a rotational piece for the rest of 2020.

Uchenna Nwosu, Los Angeles Chargers

Nwosu, 23, has 3.5 sacks and eight QB hits in his third NFL season for the Chargers, so his contract expires after 2021, when he will make under $2 million.

A 2018 second-round pick from USC, Nwosu been all over the map in terms of playing time this season, sometimes playing about 50% of snaps and sometimes around 90%.

The Chargers are 2-4 and have more established pass rushers like Joey Bosa and Melvin Ingram, so someone like Nwosu may be expendable for the right price.

Dawuane Smoot, Jacksonville Jaguars

Smoot, 25, has 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss in 2020, but he also has eight QB hits on a defense – and more specifically a defensive line – that is struggling mightily this year.

A third-round pick in 2017, Smoot is on the last year of his deal. He barely played in 2017 or 2018 but had six sacks and six tackles for loss last season. He also already has more QB hits this season than his seven in 2019.

The Jaguars are one of the league’s worst teams at 1-6 and may wind up with the No. 1 pick. They’re in full rebuild mode, so why not add draft picks by shipping off a player in the last year of his contract?

Romeo Okwara, Detroit Lions

If the name Okwara sounds familiar, it’s likely that you heard Romeo’s brother Julian mentioned as a potential draft pick for the Seahawks in the last draft. Instead, Julian joined his brother in Detroit as a third-round pick.

Romeo Okwara, 25, was not drafted out of college but has had a solid NFL career nonetheless. This season he has four sacks, five tackles for loss and 10 QB hits. He had 7.5 sacks as a starter in 2018 but didn’t play much as an undrafted rookie in 2016, nor did he see much time in 2017 or 2019, either. He entered the league with the Giants but signed with the Lions ahead of 2018.

Okwara is on the last year of his deal, which is worth up to roughly $4.1 million in 2020, and also has a club option for 2021.

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