Heaps: How Seahawks can improve the roster if they don’t get Julio Jones

Jun 4, 2021, 12:21 PM

Seahawks Jurrell Casy...

DT Jurrell Casey could help boost the Seahawks' defensive line depth. (Getty)


In case you haven’t heard, Atlanta Falcons star receiver Julio Jones is on the trade block and the Seahawks have reached out about possibly adding him to their offense.

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ESPN’s Dianna Russini reported that Seattle and Atlanta had preliminary discussions and that star Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson reached out to Jones regarding the possibility of those two becoming teammates.

Whether the Seahawks pull the trigger on a deal that the Falcons will sign off on remains to be seen, but there are other players available both via trade and in free agency who former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps believes can help Seattle bolster its roster for a Super Bowl run. He shared those names on Thursday’s edition of 710 ESPN Seattle’s Jake and Stacy.

Trade target for the secondary

If the Seahawks don’t go after a pass catcher on offense in a trade, Heaps thinks they could go after maybe the top defensive back on the trade market. That would be New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, who is entering the final year of his current contract. Gilmore was the NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019.

Related: Should Seahawks make a run at Patriots CB Stephon Gilmore?

“Gilmore at the cornerback position would be more valuable to this defense than any other position,” Heaps said. “I do believe Stephon Gilmore would be a great addition and would be a great upgrade, but I do also think he would demand a lot more capital.”

The Falcons are reportedly seeking a first-round pick for Jones, but many analysts see that as unlikely due to Jones’ injury history and large contract. Heaps thinks the Patriots would be looking for at least a first-round pick for Gilmore and he doesn’t see New England accepting anything less.

“I just really can’t see that happening and I have a hard time seeing Stephon Gilmore actually in fact get traded from the New England Patriots,” Heaps said.

It’s also worth noting that the Seahawks don’t have a first-round pick in 2022 due to last offseason’s trade for star safety Jamal Adams.

Free agent D-line targets

So shifting away from the trade market, there are still many notable names available in free agency that Heaps thinks could help the Seahawks in 2021. Three players that stand out to him all play on the defensive line.

“How about Justin Houston out of Indianapolis?” Heaps said. “I know (the Seahawks signed) Aldon Smith, but we don’t know what’s going on with Aldon Smith and his legal situation.”

Shortly after Smith signed with the Seahawks in April, a warrant was issued for his arrest in Louisiana for second-degree battery. Smith surrendered to authorities a few days later and was released on bond, and it’s unclear whether that will impact his ability to play for the Seahawks in 2021. Smith has a lengthy legal history and was out of the league from 2016 until his return in 2020 due to numerous suspensions.

Houston, meanwhile, has been reliable throughout his 10-year career and has 97.5 career sacks to his name as an edge rusher. He has 19 combined sacks over the last two seasons. Houston is a four-time Pro Bowler.

“Why not go with the sure thing in Justin Houston?” Heaps said. “A guy who’s 32 years old but has been consistent, has performed at a high level and has been a guy who’s still been able to get to the quarterback even at this age.”

Heaps also believes that the Seahawks could target veteran defensive tackles to improve the interior of the defensive line.

The first player Heaps said is a former Seahawk: Sheldon Richardson.

“Yes, the same Sheldon Richardson that you traded for and gave up (a second-round pick in 2017),” Heaps said.. “He is currently on the market. He’s 30 years old, had a really productive year last year, he can get interior pressure.”

Richardson, a one-time Pro Bowler, has 31 sacks in eight NFL seasons and had 4.5 last year for the Cleveland Browns.

As for the other defensive tackle on Heaps’ list?

“Some people have talked about (Bengals defensive tackle) Geno Atkins, but a name that would be better than Atkins at this point would be Jurrell Casey,” Heaps said. “He came off a torn bicep this last year and missed the majority of the year, but prior to that he has been a consistent player, a consistent pass rusher in the interior of defenses.”

Casey, a five-time Pro Bowler only played in three games for the Denver Broncos in 2020, but before that, he’d played in 14 or more games every year since entering the NFL in 2011. The free-agent tackle has 51 career sacks.

Listen to the second hour of Thursday’s Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

Follow Brandon Gustafson on Twitter.

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Heaps: How Seahawks can improve the roster if they don’t get Julio Jones