Cliff Avril: Clowney’s season was impressive, but Seahawks should spend elsewhere
The Seahawks’ season in 2012 ended in disappointing fashion when Seattle lost to the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round.
Part of the reason it was so disappointing was that despite how great the defense was that year, injuries and inconsistency caused the pass rush to be a non-factor in the loss.
Now, the 2019 season is thought of in a similar way. No, the 2019 Seahawks defense is nowhere near as good as the 2012 team’s was, but if the team had a competent pass rush throughout the year, the thought is they may have gone farther in the playoffs.
The offseason between 2012 and 2013 was a crucial one for the Seahawks and they made two of the most important moves in franchise history that year, signing defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency. The two came in and helped form one of the better pass rush units in football and the Seahawks won that season’s Super Bowl.
Now, the Seahawks need to retool the defensive line this offseason, and Avril, who joined 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny and Gallant, gave described how Seattle should go about doing that.
Should the Seahawks keep Clowney?
Defensive end Jadeveon Clowney had just 3 sacks in the regular season for Seattle, but he was sort of a one-man army on the line as he didn’t get much help and was continually double- or even triple-teamed.
Though the numbers weren’t great, Avril had high praise for the season Clowney had.
“It’s probably the most impressive 3-sack season I’ve ever seen,” Avril said. “For a guy to have three sacks and then when you turn on the film, you see how disruptive he is or can be. Most of the games, he can take over a game by himself.”
One of those games was Week 10 against the San Francisco 49ers, when Clowney had a sack, five quarterback hits, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He was named NFC Defensive Player of the Week for his play.
Clowney is a free agent and the Seahawks can’t use the franchise tag on him. He’ll likely be the best edge rusher to hit the open market and could demand one of the biggest defensive contracts in NFL history. Avril thinks history shows Clowney will sign elsewhere, even though the Seahawks have roughly $44 million in cap space and can restructure contracts or cut veterans to add increase available funds.
“I definitely think that’s somebody they should consider bringing back, but I also think he’s going to cost too much,” he said. “If you just look at what the Seattle Seahawks have done with (head coach Pete Carroll) and those guys – and no knock on them, that’s their philosophy – they never really spend top dollar for any D-lineman.”
When Seattle signed Avril and Bennett in 2012, they got them on more team-friendly deals. Avril thinks the Seahawks need to take a similar approach this offseason.
“Instead of paying him, they’ll probably try and bring two other guys back that they feel might be comparable to him,” Avril said.
But can the Seahawks win without paying top dollar on pass rushers? Avril thinks Seattle can by also keeping two key in-house defensive linemen.
“You keep some of these young players that you have, like a Jarran Reed who I definitely think they should sign back, a Quinton Jefferson who I think they should sign back and then you add hopefully one of these free agent pass rushers,” he said. “(Robert) Quinn is out there, there’s a few other ones who are out there, and you add them to the mix of and then you didn’t have to necessarily spend $22 (million) a year for one player when you could probably get three or four more players that can hopefully collectively be able to cause damage on quarterbacks.”
Two former Seahawks pass rushers from Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning team are free agents: Bennett and Bruce Irvin.
Could a reunion with one or both of them come to fruition? Avril thinks so.
“I do think if the opportunity presented itself to possibly finish in Seattle, I wouldn’t be surprised if he took that because we talk about this all the time,” Avril said of Bennett, who is Avril’s best friend. “It’s not just Michael Bennett, but it’s Earl (Thomas) and Kam (Chancellor), it’s all of us and we get together and we all talk about how fun it was to be together.”
Since being traded, Bennett has played for the Philadelphia Eagles, New England Patriots and the Dallas Cowboys. They apparently haven’t compared to Bennett’s time in Seattle.
“He’s been to a few different cities in three years and he realized and understands the difference in culture, the difference in the type of players who were in the locker room and different things like that and it doesn’t compare,” he said.
Irvin is in a similar situation, having played for the Oakland Raiders, Atlanta Falcons and Carolina Panthers over the last few seasons. He may have an even stronger tie to Seattle than Bennett.
“For one, he was drafted here, so I would not be surprised if they reached out to him and he decided to come back,” Avril said. “He’s joked around with me a few times over the years like ‘man, if I got the opportunity I’d be taking it.'”
Avril said one or both could return, but that he’s just speculating at this point.
“I’m not saying they will, I (just) wouldn’t be surprised (if they returned to Seattle),” he said. “I don’t want to make it sound like I have some inside scoop or anything like that.”
Avril also talked about the CBA and his time in Seattle. You can listen to his full conversation with Danny and Gallant at this link or in the player below.
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