STACY ROST

Rost: 3 Seahawks who should be re-signed, and 3 who might be on the way out

Jan 5, 2022, 12:39 AM
Seahawks Quandre Diggs D.J. Reed...
Quandre Diggs and D.J. Reed celebrate a Seahawks defensive stop against the Washington Football Team. (Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)
(Photo by Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images)

The Seahawks’ big contract decisions won’t be limited to pending free agents when they hit the offseason this year.

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Whether it’s a possibility of a big payday, blockbuster trade or salary cap casualty, here are three Seahawks who should be re-signed, and three more who might be on the way out.

Three Seahawks who should be re-signed

Quandre Diggs, free safety

Seattle’s top free agent will, unsurprisingly, be the hardest to re-sign. Quandre Diggs was already coming off a career-high five interceptions when he entered training camp in 2021, but Seattle opted to let him play out the remainder of his contract rather than sign him to an extension. It might cost them a couple million in a new contract; Diggs is once again leading the team with five interceptions, has 13 in two-and-a-half seasons, and just made his second straight Pro Bowl with Seattle. Diggs has also allowed the lowest passer rating (56.9) of any Seahawks defender this year.

What would it cost to keep him? It’ll be tough for him to argue for a Jamal Adams-type deal (and equally tough for Seattle to work in two top-paid safeties), but a contract with a salary around $13.5 to $14.5 million would put him safely in the top 10 safety deals, and a deal exceeding $14 million would put him in the top five. It would be a lot to pay two safeties, but consider that Diggs accounts for almost half of Seattle’s interceptions.

D.J. Reed, cornerback

Speaking of interceptions, it wasn’t until this past Sunday that a Seattle cornerback had recorded a pick, so it’s a good thing Reed made up ground by making two of them. Reed has been Seattle’s most consistent performer at corner and, particularly this year, was the only stable half of that rotating duo. Seattle will need to build the group up this offseason even if they bring back Reed because four other corners are hitting free agency.

Rashaad Penny, running back

The former first-round pick has rushed for at least 130 yards in three of his last four starts and scored five touchdowns over that span. That makes him one of the most productive running backs in the league since Week 14. Better late than never, right?

Well, kind of. That Penny has been so stellar in the final few games of his rookie contract after spending most of his career on and off the injury report makes him an intriguing possible re-signing. The lack of production throughout most of his tenure should make a new deal far more affordable than it would’ve been otherwise. On the flipside, that same lack of production also casts doubt that his recent hot streak can last.

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Ultimately, Seattle needs to muster as much depth at running back as possible. Regular starter Chris Carson rushed for back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2018 and 2019, but he’s missed most of this season with a neck injury and that position group has tended to be snake-bitten. And it’s hard not to once again buy into those flashes of stellar play from Penny. He rushed for 170 yards against the Lions, and while Detroit has a poor run defense, that’s still more rushing yards than any Seahawks running back has gained in a single game since Thomas Rawls rushed for 161 yards in 2016. That’s not just bad defense; that’s a genuinely impressive feat.

Three Seahawks who might be on the way out

Russell Wilson, quarterback

Why not start with the biggest conversation this offseason: Is Russell Wilson going to be in Seattle in 2022?

A population of Seahawks fans are undoubtedly tired of hearing speculation about Wilson’s future. And that’s understandable. After all, the Seahawks’ star quarterback is under contract through 2023 and has a no-trade clause. Plus, Wilson told reporters back in June that he never asked for a trade, and Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll said as recently as Monday that the conversations he’s having with Wilson behind closed doors are “not in line with the rumors” (the rumors, presumably, being that Wilson wants to be traded out of Seattle). If you’re looking for reasons that Wilson isn’t going anywhere, they’re right there in front of you.

But dig a bit deeper, and the situation becomes less clear cut. Wilson said he doesn’t want a trade – but how can fans then reconcile that with his agent releasing a list of teams he’d be willing to be traded to last offseason? Then there’s the inevitable picking and parsing of words from all parties, an activity that finds fans and reporters alike working to understand the truth behind vague language while trying to avoid finding meaning where there is none. One example: Wilson has said he hopes he can stay in Seattle, but also holds veto power over a trade, which means the decision on any potential trade would ultimately be up to him. You can read that as someone who wants to stay with his team throwing out a benign phrase, end of story. Or you can read that as someone who is indeed hopeful he can remain in Seattle but is also willing to move on if he feels the marriage is hindering his path to another Super Bowl.

Complicating matters further is Wilson’s play on the field. Wilson has broken numerous franchise records, helped bring Seattle its first Super Bowl trophy, and has been one of the league’s top passers for several years. But in a year where his future is in doubt, Wilson has also been playing some of his worst football (a stretch that extends into the second half of the 2020 season). It wasn’t helped by a midseason finger injury that kept him sidelined for a month and was clearly a hindrance in his return. Wilson’s best performance of the season so far came just a few days ago in a four-touchdown game. But that was against a porous Detroit defense, which adds even more intrigue around Wilson’s upcoming outing against a comparatively better Arizona defense in Sunday’s season finale.

It can be exhausting to try to read between the lines as a fan wracked with nerves about the future of this team; it can be equally exhausting to hear rumors swirl about a story you don’t believe. Either way, the city’s biggest sports star will find himself in headlines in and outside of Seattle until there’s a definitive answer about his future with the Seahawks.

Bobby Wagner, middle linebacker

If there’s any player who rivals the importance of Russell Wilson to this franchise, it’s Bobby Wagner. It’s why, even when facing criticism this season, it’s hard to fathom including him on this list. Wagner holds the franchise record for career tackles and this season has 170 tackles, one sack, and an interception. He was one of two players in the league – two! – to be voted to a Pro Bowl and named First-Team All-Pro in five consecutive seasons from 2016-2020 (the other being Aaron Donald).

This team is better with Bobby Wagner on it. But this same team is facing an uncertain future when it comes to their franchise quarterback, and if they move on and enter a rebuild, are there other veteran contracts at risk of being eliminated?

The structure of Wagner’s deal makes him a potential candidate. Wagner had a $17.1 million cap hit this year with $20 million in dead cap (which is salary cap space that Seattle would have needed to account for if Wagner was cut). More simply, keeping Wagner on the roster used up less cap space than cutting him (and they get an All-Pro linebacker – two birds, one stone, right?). But that dead cap drops to just $3.7 million in 2022. Meanwhile, Wagner’s cap hit rises to $20.3 million. That difference is money saved, meaning cutting Wagner would free up over $16 million in cap space.

Duane Brown, left tackle

Brown has been Seattle’s highest-rated offensive lineman since he was acquired via trade in 2017. But will a contract dispute from last offseason linger into the new year?

The Seahawks didn’t offer the 36-year-old Brown an extension before the season, which makes it feel doubtful that they’ll pursue one this offseason as Brown enters his age 37 season as an unrestricted free agent. That said, it’s not immediately clear who Seattle plans to play at left tackle. Rookie Stone Forsythe spent most of the year in a backup role. Undrafted rookie free agent Jake Curhan has played well in relief of Brandon Shell, but Seattle might turn to him as depth at right tackle if Shell moves on in free agency. And keep in mind, Seattle has three of its five starting offensive lineman hitting free agency this March: Brown, Shell, and center Ethan Pocic.

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