Will the Seahawks target any Pro Bowlers in free agency?
Three Seahawks players and their coaches are in Orlando for the annual Pro Bowl game this week, and with a big offseason ahead, are there any players down there that could be playing with Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and Shaquill Griffin when the 2020 season kicks off?
As it currently stands, there are nine Pro Bowlers who have a good chance of hitting the open market this offseason.
Are any fits for the Seahawks in 2020?
Of the nine, one has no shot of suiting up for the Seahawks next season. That would be New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Seattle may need a new backup for Wilson as Geno Smith is a free agent, but Brees, 41, is a future first-ballot hall of famer and holds many NFL records. If he does return for another season, there’s almost no way that he doesn’t play for the Saints in 2020.
It would be maybe the most accomplished quarterback room of all time, but there’s no way Brees ever puts on another uniform than a Saints jersey.
Three Pro Bowl free agent players that would be awfully fun to see play for Seattle but almost certainly won’t be signed or targeted are New England Patriots special teams ace and captain Matthew Slater, Tennessee Titans star running back Derrick Henry and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper.
Slater, 34, would make sense for Seattle as any team can use someone as good as he is on special teams, but he said he wants to suit up for the Patriots, the only team he has played for.
If Slater, an eight-time Pro Bowler, did happen to truly test the free agent waters, Seattle should jump at the opportunity, but consider it extremely unlikely he plays for a team that’s not the Patriots.
In the case of Henry, he would be an absolute fit for how head coach Pete Carroll wants to play on offense, which is with a powerful running game to set up play action for Wilson and an explosive passing attack, but there are multiple reasons he won’t end up in Seattle.
Chris Carson will return for his fourth season after posting two straight 1,000-yard rushing campaigns. So too will Rashaad Penny, a 2018 first-round pick who has shown flashes of excellence in his two NFL seasons. Travis Homer, a 2019 sixth-round pick, will also return after seeing more playing time in the final few weeks of the year.
Simply put, the Seahawks aren’t really in the market for a starting running back, even though they lost both Carson and Penny to season-ending injuries late in the year. Carson fractured his hip in Week 16 but doesn’t need surgery while Penny tore his ACL and will likely fight to get back for the season opener.
Henry, 26, will also command a decent salary, as he led the NFL with 1,540 yards ands 16 touchdowns rushing in 15 games. He also carried the Titans to the AFC Championship after compiling nearly 200 rushing yards in each of Tennessee’s two playoff wins.
I’d expect the Titans to do everything they can to keep Henry, as he has shown his brilliance and they have one of the best run blocking offensive lines in football. Henry was the key to them making the playoffs and making a deep run, and I’d think he’ll be back in Tennessee for 2020 and beyond.
The Seahawks likely are looking for a reliable third passing option for Russell Wilson to target after Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, but Cooper will likely stay with the Cowboys.
Cooper has been at his best since joining Dallas, including a career year in 2019 where he had 1,189 yards and eight touchdowns. Pairing Cooper with Lockett and Metcalf would give Seattle the best three-man receiving group in the NFL, but Dallas invested heavily in their trade to get him, and after they re-sign quarterback Dak Prescott you’d have to think Cooper is the next priority.
There is another Pro Bowler receiving target that would make more since to add for Seattle.
The rest who could fit
Unlike Brees, Slater, Henry and Cooper, you could make a case for the Seahawks signing these other five players if they hit the open market.
Starting on offense, there’s Atlanta Falcons tight end Austin Hooper, 25, Minnesota Vikings fullback C.J. Ham, 26, and Washington Redskins offensive guard Brandon Scherff, 28.
Hooper would make sense as presumed starter Will Dissly hasn’t shown he can stay healthy for a full season despite showing top-five tight end potential when he did play. Additionally, Luke Willson is an unrestricted free agent while Jacob Hollister is a bit undersized as far a tight ends go and is a restricted free agent.
Hooper, who is an unrestricted free agent, had 787 yards and six touchdowns in 13 games. He was injured in Week 10, and after that he failed to record a touchdown. Before that, he was among the best tight ends in the league in terms of receiving numbers, and still finished the season well overall. There are reports that the Falcons could use the franchise tag on Hooper, however.
#Falcons plan to Franchise Tag Tight End Austin Hooper at projected $11.076M for 2020.
Expect multiple cuts to free up cap space. Namely, last offseasons FA signings & Devonta Freeman.#Chargers Plan to Franchise Tag Hunter Henry.
That'll take 2 25 Yr Old TEs off FA Market.
— Chad Forbes (@NFLDraftBites) January 22, 2020
As we’ve seen with the San Francisco 49ers, the fullback is making a comeback.
The Seahawks had a fullback on the roster the last few seasons in Tre Madden and this year with Nick Bellore, but neither were used extensively on offense and mostly made their marks on special teams.
The 49ers use fullback Kyle Juszcyk in a number of ways and he’d be at the Pro Bowl, but San Francisco is playing in the Super Bowl next Sunday. Replacing him is Ham, who played a large role in Dalvin Cook’s breakout year for the Vikings.
Ham, a restricted free agent, has also showed an ability to make an impact in the passing game. That was evident on his 36-yard catch and run against the Seahawks in Week 13.
If Ham doesn’t return to the Vikings, It would make sense for Seattle to take a look at him, especially given Carroll’s love of running the football.
Scherff ended the season on injured reserve and it doesn’t appear he is in Orlando for the week. Regardless, Scherff is one of the best guards in football and would be a big boost to the Seahawks or any team that he joins.
D.J. Fluker has one more year on his contract and is likely back at right guard, but left guard is more of a question mark. Jamarco Jones has showed promise and Phil Haynes stepped in and did a solid job in the playoff loss to the Green Bay Packers, but does the team trust either of those two going forward?
Scherff could be a franchise tag candidate as well, so he may not hit the open market. If he does, he will be a hot commodity.
On defense, it’s no question the Seahawks needs to do a better job of getting after the quarterback. That might be even more true next year as four of Seattle’s pass rushers are unrestricted free agents.
The big two are Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed. Clowney could demand one of the highest salaries for a defensive player in NFL history, while Reed will likely look for a deal well over $10 million annually, even though his play in 2019 wasn’t nearly the same caliber it was in 2018, when he had 10.5 sacks.
The other two are Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson. Jefferson had 3.5 sacks in the regular season and will have surgery soon to repair a broken foot he suffered in the playoffs. Jackson had two sacks on the year.
With those four all potentially on other rosters next year, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end/outside linebacker Shaquill Barrett and Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen.
Griffen, 32, can void the remaining three years of his deal since he had more than six sacks in 2019 (he had eight), per ESPN, though it’s reported he wants to stay with Minnesota, the only team he has played for.
He is a veteran, having been in the league since 2010. He’s been a starter for the last six seasons and has been durable, playing in 15 or more games every year but his rookie season and in 2018. If he plays, you can count on him to get close to 10 sacks each year.
What makes Griffen more interesting for Seattle is he played collegiately at USC from 2007 to 2009. His college head coach during those three seasons? Pete Carroll.
Shaquill Barrett is an interesting candidate as 2019 was really his only year of major success. Granted, he had 19.5 sacks, so he seems to be in his prime.
He compiled 14 sacks in the previous three seasons while playing with the Denver Broncos, but clearly came alive in 2019, when he was playing on a one-year “prove it” deal.
Barrett bet on himself and won, but will teams be willing to offer him a big deal with such a limited track record?
With the potential loss of Clowney, Reed, Jefferson and Jackson, the Seahawks will need people to get after the quarterback next season. They were one of the worst teams in the league in sacks in 2019, and that played a big role in quarterbacks picking apart Seattle’s secondary.
As they do with seemingly everybody, expect Carroll and general manager John Schneider to check in on Barrett.