Brock and Salk: How the Seahawks should attack free agency
NFL free agency officially kicks off next week, as on Monday, teams are allowed to start negotiating contracts with players, and Wednesday, players can officially sign with any team. For the Seahawks, this has the potential to be a huge free agency, as the team has the capability of winning now, but needs a few pieces to get over the hump, mostly on the defensive line.
The Seahawks fielded one of the worst pass rush units in all of football, which contributed mightily towards Seattle having one of the worst defenses in the NFL. Making matters even more difficult going into 2020 is that Seattle has five defensive linemen who are unrestricted free agents. The two biggest names are Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed, and they’re joined by Quinton Jefferson, Ziggy Ansah and Al Woods.
On offense, the pieces are seemingly in place, though the team will have to address the offensive line in some form as 2019 starting left guard Mike Iupati and right tackle Germain Ifedi are also free agents. Joining them is capable backup George Fant, who has also been used as a blocking tight end/sixth linemen.
What should the Seahawks’ action plan be? That was the opening topic on the latest edition of the Brock and Salk Podcast, and Mike Salk thinks Seattle needs to be more aggressive in free agency than in years past.
“They’re ready. They have their depth, they had all the draft picks last year, I think they did a good job acquiring the depth that you need (so) you’re not sacrificing that, they’ve got (eight) draft picks in this year’s draft … so you don’t have to worry about giving away a pick or two in order to bring in a big-name player,” he said. “You’ve got youth, you’ve got all the young players you like, your quarterback is in his prime and getting another year older. It’s time. Go big or go home … Start spending.”
Since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over in 2010 as head coach and general manager, respectively, they’ve made some big moves in the offseason, but they’ve mostly been through trades. This year could be very different.
“You can say that (they should spend big because), unlike years past, you have a (bigger) budget,” Brock Huard said. “You have an enormous advantage to take this turn. You’ve got your pieces signed, you’ve got your key superstars internally in place and you have ($40 to $60 million depending on veteran contract cuts) to spend.”
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson said earlier this offseason that the team needs to add superstars to its roster, something that Schneider echoed at the NFL Scouting Combine.
That could mean that for the first time since the 2012-2013 offseason that the team spends big on the defesive line. That offseason, the Seahawks signed Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril to help with a struggling pass rush and the next season, Seattle won the Super Bowl.
“I think for the first time in some time, you’d better be very, very active,” Huard said. “Your quarterback said as much, right? Your quarterback said as much when the season ended, ‘we need superstars.'”
So what exactly should the Seahawks do next week? For starters, there’s keeping Clowney, who is arguably the top non-quarterback in free agency if projected franchise tags are correct. He could demand a salary over $20 million per year as he’s the top pass rusher on the open market.
“I don’t like the idea of letting Clowney go and getting Ngakoue,” Salk said. “That doesn’t make sense to me.”
But Seattle could turn its biggest weakness into a strength by keeping Clowney and trading for Ngakoue.
“If you really want to go for it and want to address the single-biggest need on this team, then you make sure you get Clowney done and you make this trade for Ngakoue and now you’ve got two bookends,” Huard said, adding that the team has the cap room and capability to make that happen.
Salk said he wouldn’t be opposed to that, but he also wouldn’t mind if the Seahawks had one of those two plus two other “very good players.” Additional pass rushers on the market that aren’t quite as well regarded as Clowney and Ngakoue include Robert Quinn from Dallas, Dante Fowler from the Rams and Shaq Lawson from Buffalo among others.
Something that is often said with regards to free agency is that is happens in waves. Typically, the first wave of players signed are the better, more recognizable names like Clowney. The second wave would be solid contributors and potential starters, but not the “splash signings,” while the third wave is typically players with concerns over age or injury or something along those lines.
The Seahawks, Salk said, have been too comfortable waiting in free agency and signing third-wave players who haven’t panned out, such as running back Eddie Lacy, offensive lineman Luke Joeckel and, most recently, Ansah. That can’t be the case this year, Salk said.
“I think you’re going to be one first-waver, I think you’ve got to get a few good, targeted second-wavers that want to be here like a Bennett, like an Avril who were second-wave guys (in 2013).”
The Seahawks, Huard said, need to keep Wilson involved in their plans.
“I’m going to make sure, if I’m Pete or John, that I’m talking to Russ through this,” Huard said. “I think Russ is in a different phase of his career, too … I’d also make sure your quarterback feels like ‘hey man, this isn’t just scrap heap, this guy can be a superstar in our building and if our quarterback wants him, we’ll make our QB happy.'”
When Monday rolls around, Salk expects to hear the Seahawks are involved with at least one big name early on.
“I really want that to be the case,” he said. “If it ends up being two, I’m not going to complain, by the way. If it ends up that they end up with a Clowney and Ngakoue, am I going to be mad? I’m not going to be mad … but there’s some risk.”
Unlike in past offseasons, Salk won’t be patient.
“I won’t wait long,” he said. “I’m not going to be sitting here until the third wave of free agency going, ‘it’s fine'”
You can listen to the Brock and Salk Podcast at this link or in the player below.