O’Neil: Seahawks in same spot as 2013, but it’s not as easy this time
The Seahawks are coming off a loss in the divisional round of the playoffs.
Just like seven years ago.
They need – urgently – to add to their pass rush.
Just like seven years ago.
The difference is that this time, the free-agent market is not going to provide an upgrade. In fact, the Seahawks will consider themselves very fortunate if they’re able preserve the pass rushers they have.
That is evident after the first 24 hours of the negotiating window that precedes free agency. Pass rush is expensive. In the Seahawks’ case, prohibitively so.
In a market where anyone who has even sniffed 5 sacks in a season is going for $10 million per year, the Seahawks can be considered fortunate to retain Jarran Reed, who agreed to come back on a two-year deal worth a reported $23 million. Now Seattle will wait, fingers crossed, that Jadeveon Clowney isn’t lured by all the loot that other teams are throwing around and that Quinton Jefferson doesn’t end up with an offer he can’t refuse.
Shaq Lawson got $10 million per year from the Miami Dolphins. He’s never had more than 6.5 sacks in any season. Emmanuel Ogbah has played for two teams in his four NFL seasons, totaled 18 sacks and he just landed a two-year deal for $15 million.
That’s pretty much the same size contract that Cliff Avril got from the Seahawks in 2013. Except Avril had six years of experience at that point and totaled 20.5 sacks in the previous two seasons before he signed with Seattle.
Now, that’s not a perfect comparison. After all, Avril signed that deal seven years ago and salary levels at all positions have risen since then, especially at defensive end. In fact, you can use the franchise tag traces the increase. It is calculated by determining the average annual compensation of the top five players at that position. In 2013, the franchise-tag value for defensive ends was $11.175 million. This year, it is $17.788 million, which constitutes an increase of 59 percent.
That two-year deal that Avril signed in 2013 would equate to $23.9 million in today’s NFL dollars. That’s what it took to land a guy who was about to turn 27 and who had totaled 8 or more sacks in three successive seasons before coming to Seattle.
You don’t have to imagine what that kind of production would currently command. We can look at the market.
Robert Quinn is turning 30, essentially three years older than Avril was at the time of his deal. Quinn has played for three teams over the past three seasons and has totaled 26.5 sacks over those three years, and he will be signing a five-year deal with the Chicago Bears that totals $70 million with $30 million of that guaranteed. Yikes.
Not only that, but Seattle was also able to add Michael Bennett, who was coming off a 9-sack season with the Buccaneers.
It was a perfect storm in many ways for the Seahawks. Not only did they have their quarterback locked into a rookie contract for two more seasons, but they went into a free-agent market that wasn’t particularly lucrative for the free-agent pass rushers.
Now, the Seahawks quarterback is – deservedly – among the highest-paid in the league and the free-agent market might be too expensive for Seattle even to preserve what it has on its pass rush let alone to improve it.