Heaps: 5 edge defenders the Seahawks should target this offseason

Feb 4, 2022, 5:07 PM

Seahawks Cameron Jordan...

Cameron Jordan of the New Orleans Saints reacts after making a sack in the fourth quarter of the game against the Carolina Panthers. (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

(Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

After finishing the 2021 season tied for 22nd in sacks, it’s clear that the Seahawks need a boost when it comes to edge rushers in 2022.

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So who should we keep an eye on this offseason?

Former NFL quarterback Jake Heaps gave five names he thinks could be in play for the Seahawks this offseason, with two set to hit the free agent market while three may be either cut or, more likely, traded due to cap restraints.

Here’s what Heaps had to say about his five picks during Jake and Stacy on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Free Agents

“In free agency, going into free agency, just Day 1 knowing who’s going to be available, the two guys that intrigue me the most are Chandler Jones and Emmanuel Ogbah,” Heaps said. “Now, Von Miller is not on that list because I just have a hard time believing Von Miller is not going to go back with the Rams. If he was available, Von Miller is clearly going to be on this list, OK?”

So, let’s dive into the two who are on his current list.

Chandler Jones

Seahawks fans know Jones well and for good reason.

The 10-year NFL veteran has 107.5 career sacks, with 16.5 of those coming against the Russell Wilson and Seahawks in just 11 games.

Jones has starred for NFC West rival Arizona since 2016, but the 31-year-old edge rusher is set to hit the open market after a 10.5-sack season in 2021.

“Chandler Jones has been a dominant blue-chip edge player for a long time, and he’s still playing at that level,” Heaps said. “He brings incredible length and size, and I believe he would be a huge upgrade for your pass rush.”

Emmanuel Ogbah

Ogbah may not be as well known as Jones, but he’s quietly been a very good edge rusher the last few years.

The 28-year-old Ogbah entered the league in 2016 with the Cleveland Browns, but he’s been with the Miami Dolphins the last two seasons. Those have also been his most productive.

Overall, Ogbah has 36 sacks and 85 QB hits in 83 games, but totaled 18 sacks and 45 QB hits between 2020 and 2021.

“Emanuel Ogbah is someone that is a younger player who has grown and developed his game over time on the edge and had an excellent season, all around season, for the Miami Dolphins as a pass rusher and as an edge defender in the run game, so I really like Emmanuel Ogbah as well,” Heaps said.

Trades/cap casualties

The next three names Heaps mentioned are all under contract for at least one more year, but he thinks their current teams may be willing to part ways with these players through trade or through a release. (Note, all salary numbers are via Spotrac).

Danielle Hunter

Danielle Hunter, 27, had six sacks in 2021 but he played in just seven games. Before that, though, Hunter was one of the game’s best edge rushers, tallying 54.5 sacks over his first four NFL seasons.

“Danielle Hunter from the Minnesota Vikings when healthy, when on the field, he is one of the most dynamic edge players in all the football,” Heaps said.

Hunter is signed through 2023, but, the Vikings would save $22 million if cut or traded after June 1st while eating roughly $7.5 million in dead cap as a result.

Za’Darius Smith

Za’Darius Smith, 29, was a rare instance of the Green Bay Packers spending big in free agency when he signed a four-year, $66 million deal ahead of the 2019 season, but it’s worked out well for both sides.

Smith only played in one regular season game in 2021 due to injury (he returned for the playoffs), but he tallied 26 sacks in his first two seasons with the Packers.

Smith is signed through 2022, but if he’s cut or released after June 1, he saves the Packers just over $15 million while they’d eat roughly $12 million in dead cap.

“Za’Darius Smith, I love the combination of what he brings to the table as a run defender, as a pass rusher, and also from a leadership and nastiness standpoint,” Heaps said. “I love me some Za’Darius Smith. Now he came off of a tough injury this past season, but I don’t believe that’s an indicator of what’s in front of him. I believe it was a one-year situation and he’s going to come back and he’s going to be the type of player that he was the last two seasons prior to that for the for the Green Bay Packers, which is a Pro Bowl and All-Pro-level talent.”

Cameron Jordan

Only Rickey Jackson has more sacks in a Saints uniform than Cameron Jordan, but the 11-year veteran only needs eight sacks to tie him.

But might Jordan wind up in another uniform in 2022?

The Saints are in a tough spot with their salary cap, which Heaps referred to as “cap hell,” and the franchise will likely look very different as head coach Sean Payton stepped down from his role recently.

Moving on from Jordan would require the Saints to eat nearly $27 million spread out over the next three years (he’s signed through 2024), but doing so would save the team $35 million over the next three seasons, including $15 million in 2022.

Jordan turns 33 this July, but he’s been one of the game’s best edge rushers for years. He has 107 career sacks and he’s not slowing down, as evidenced by him recording 12.5 in 2021 to go along with 22 QB hits.

“Cam Jordan is getting older, but still producing at an incredibly high rate,” Heaps said. “He is a Saint for life, and that’s the type of leadership and role that he’s had with New Orleans. But New Orleans isn’t looking competitive and their future doesn’t look bright. And I could very easily see Cam Jordan wanting to get out.”

Jordan, Heaps noted, thinks very highly of Wilson and tried to recruit the quarterback to New Orleans via trade last offseason.

“So maybe there is a way and a path for Cam Jordan to be traded to the Seattle Seahawks after June 1, when his cap hit becomes significantly less for the New Orleans Saints,” Heaps said.

Trading Jordan before June 1 would save the Saints just $1.7 million in 2022 compared to $15 million after that date.

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

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Heaps: 5 edge defenders the Seahawks should target this offseason