Clayton: How will Seahawks rebuild pass rush after Frank Clark trade?
Apr 23, 2019, 11:57 PM
The numbers apparently didn’t work for Seahawks general manager John Schneider, so star defensive end Frank Clark ends up being an ex-Seahawk.
Clark and his agent played things smart. As the price of pass-rushing defensive ends soared, Clark stayed patient. He could have held out last year but instead elected to be a good employee and teammate, then broke out with a 13-sack season.
After getting 35 sacks in his first four years, Clark wanted to be paid top dollar. Dallas Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence signed for $21 million a year, and Clark asked for the same. Schneider said on Monday that it was going to be very challenging to get new deals done with Clark, linebacker Bobby Wagner and defensive tackle Jarran Reed each after signing Russell Wilson for $35 million per year last week.
Schneider faced two problems. One was trying to hold onto a defensive end asking for a $21 million salary. The other was a lack of picks for this week’s NFL Draft. So when the Chiefs offered a first-round pick this year, a second-round pick next year and a swap of third-round picks for Clark, Schneider solved both problems by making Clark a Chief.
For the moment, however, the Seahawks are without much of a pass rush. The recently-returned Cassius Marsh now becomes the team’s top pass-rusher, and Seattle will need a big jump from Jacob Martin and Rasheem Green in their second year as pros. That won’t be enough, so the Seahawks will have to look to sign a veteran such as Nick Perry or an unrestricted free agent pass-rusher after the unrestricted period ends in the second week of May.
Perry, 29, is a likely candidate to come to Seattle. Though he was cut by Green Bay, the 2012 first-round pick had 32 sacks during his Packers career. And because he was released, the Seahawks wouldn’t lose a 2020 compensatory pick if they signed him.
The Seahawks will also have to find pass rush help in the draft.
Here’s what I see happening: The Seahawks will trade down from the 21st pick and try to pick up a third-round pick, a fourth-rounder and one or two low-round picks. They will stay at the 29th pick they acquired from Kansas City and take a wide receiver. A run of wide receivers starts at the bottom of the first round and continues at the top of the second.
I could see the Seahawks drafting Arizona State wide receiver N’Keal Harry at No. 29 (for more on Harry, check out Brock Huard’s draft profile of him). Arizona and San Francisco will probably be taking wide receivers in the first four picks in the second round, so trading down from there would not allow Seattle to get the receiver of its choice. The New England Patriots could also take Harry with the 32nd pick unless they trade up to get tight end Noah Fant.
If the Seahawks trade back I can see them taking Louisiana Tech defensive end Jaylon Ferguson, who had 17 sacks last year.
With the Clark trade, the Seahawks freed up $17 million of cap room. If they can talk Wagner into taking something in the $15-16 million range they can then concentrate on Reed. But talk about timing. Reed tweeted on Tuesday about his sadness of seeing his best friend get traded, and shortly after posted a picture of himself after getting sports hernia surgery. He’ll be out 4-6 weeks.
Last year the Seahawks tried to rebuild the Legion of Boom secondary and did pretty well. Now they will have to rebuild a defensive line that lost its three best pass rushers in a little over a year in Clark, Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
Even with the Clark trade, the Seahawks still go into the draft with just five picks, although there are the two first-rounders. They also have 12 picks next year, including two picks in each round except the first.
The pressure is on Schneider to be creative. It will be a challenge.