STACY ROST

Seahawks free agent profiles: 2 D-linemen who could boost Seattle’s pass rush

Mar 8, 2022, 9:22 AM | Updated: Mar 20, 2022, 2:12 pm
Seahawks Chandler Jones...
Chandler Jones of the Arizona Cardinals reacts against the Tennessee Titans. (Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
(Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

Every weekday at 1 p.m. on Jake and Stacy, we are putting Seahawks free agency under a microscope, taking a look at pending free agents, potential signings from outside the organization, the rules surrounding restricted and exclusive rights free agents, and the Seahawks’ salary cap space.

It’s all to get you ready for NFL free agency, which kicks off March 16. The series continues with a look at two potential fits on the defensive line from outside the organization:

DE Chandler Jones

What you need to know: Even as an older player, the 32-year-old Jones has been productive with Arizona. He racked up 10.5 sacks and 26 quarterback in 2021, and while that was the fewest number of sacks for Jones in a full season since his rookie year (he had six sacks through eight starts in 2014 and one sack through five total games in 2020) it’s a total that would’ve led all Seahawks defenders. Carlos Dunlap had a team-high 8.5 sacks and Rasheem Green led the team with 15 quarterback hits.

Spotrac projects Jones’ newest deal to come in at 3 years, $43.7 million, or about $14.5 million per year. It would make him one of Seattle’s highest-paid defenders, but it’s also one of the league’s more expensive positions, and a top-tier talent that checks in a few years younger (like Harold Landry) will also check in at a few million more annually – that’s if Tennessee doesn’t use the franchise tag on their young pass rusher.

As for Jones, his future in Arizona feels a little murkier. Consider this NFL Scouting Combine nugget from ESPN Cardinals reporter Josh Weinfuss:

Jake’s scouting report: “If you were looking at a way to bolster your defense and make it more attack-minded, then adding to your edge rush is incredibly important. And Chandler Jones can dramatically change your pass rush. He’s long, he’s lanky, he’s a veteran who knows how to get to the quarterback in a number of ways, he can beat you with the speed rush and bend around the edge, he can bull rush. He’s a technician. This is a good all-around football player. This is also a guy who has a clear expertise, which is getting to the quarterback, and he’s been one of the best in all of football. Two seasons ago he had a torn ACL that kept him out for the year, but for the majority of his career he’s been a double-digit sack guy. He had 10.5 sacks last year. You know the last time Seattle had an edge defender who got 10 or more sacks? In 2018 with Frank Clark and Jarran Reed. It’s the last time any defensive lineman has gotten close. That has to change. And if you want to elevate the play of everyone else around you, you’ve got to have guys who can do that every single game, down in and down out.

“He’s a no-brainer in terms of what you’d want. The one downside is, yes, his age… and whether he can help you in the run game. Jones isn’t a major plus defender in the run, but he’s not a liability. Any down, he could totally blow up a run for you. I think that’s the one knock on his game, but I also think it’s something you could live with here in Seattle given the other areas where you desperately need help.”

DL Akiem Hicks

What you need to know: The Seahawks might already feel they have the right guys on the edge, with young Darrell Taylor and veteran Carlos Dunlap. The former had a promising “rookie” season while the latter saw a boost in production at the end of the season. In that case, improving the pass rush might mean addressing other roles on the defensive line. Enter: Akiem Hicks.

Like Jones, Hicks is an older player (he’ll be 33 in November) and he’s missed a notable chunk (19 games) of his last three seasons due to injury. He’s excelled against the run, which is a tenant of a Pete Carroll defense. It’s worth noting Seattle’s head coach told reporters at the combine that can’t be the only area where they perform well, but even then, Pro Football Focus awarded Hicks a 71.9 pass rush grade. Hicks’ deal as an interior lineman would certainly be more affordable for Seattle.

Jake’s scouting report: “This is someone who took a roundabout journey to the NFL, but also a roundabout way to NFL stardom. He became one of the game’s best interior pass rushers with that group that included Khalil Mack and (the rest of that Chicago Bears defense under) Vic Fangio. The reason he’s a great profile for the Seahawks is because some of those names he was having his best years with are two guys who are on the defensive staff here in Seattle: Clint Hurtt and Sean Desai.

“He’s 32 years old and has over the last three years been on a downturn in production. Why? In two of those three seasons he was playing with injuries… he’s been up and down in terms of his overall production, but still had 21 quarterback hits in 2020. So, this is a guy who, even though his sack numbers have gone down a bit, he’s a good all-around player. Compared to what they’ve had here in Seattle, Hicks would be a massive upgrade at 3-technique… he’d bring that swagger, that attitude, and help solidify that defensive front.”

Heaps feels that while the injuries to Hicks in recent years seem like a red flag, it also makes a potential deal more affordable for a team like Seattle. He added there’s a legitimate question about whether Seattle would be paying for past performance, rather than recent results, the familiarity between Hicks and Hurtt could be a benefit.

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Seahawks free agent profiles: 2 D-linemen who could boost Seattle’s pass rush