Moore: If Seahawks are to get a top pass rusher, they need to cut Britt
The Seahawks are said to have only about $18 million of cap space to work with, and you know what that means. They can still make enough room to make major moves, such as re-signing Jadeveon Clowney or trading for Yannick Ngakoue and giving him a new contract.
They can spread out the money, deferring a lot of it to future years, and create more room under the cap by restructuring contracts with current players or cutting them.
Justin Britt has been mentioned most prominently as a potential cap casualty.
Britt, as you’ll recall, tore his ACL in the eighth game of the season at Atlanta. He’s expected to be ready to go by training camp, but will he be the starting center when the season is scheduled to start in September? Heck, will he even be a member of the Seahawks by the end of this weekend?
Based on recent moves by the Seahawks, I’d guess the answer is no.
This week they “tendered” Joey Hunt, which means they want Britt’s replacement back. It doesn’t mean he will be the starter though, even if Britt is cut.
That’s because they signed free-agent lineman B.J. Finney, a guy who played guard and center for the Steelers. When we talked to Ray Fittipaldo, Steelers beat writer from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, this week on Bob, Dave and Moore, he said Finney is a better guard than center.
Which means he might be ticketed to replace last year’s starting left guard Mike Iupati, an unrestricted free agent. If that’s the case, it increases Britt’s chances to return, but they’ve already got guards on the roster to take over for Iupati in Jamarco Jones and Phil Haynes.
I’m guessing Finney was brought in to compete at center with Hunt and possibly Ethan Pocic, a disappointing former second-round draft choice to this point. Finney was signed to a two-year, $8 million contract and will make less than half of Britt’s salary in 2020.
Hunt is another low-cost option. Most thought he was decent as Britt’s replacement, but even those in the pro-Joey Hunt camp wonder about him being a solid long-term replacement.
A look at the rushing and sack totals don’t suggest a huge difference between how the Seahawks’ offense functioned with and without Britt. In the first eight games with him, Russell Wilson was sacked 19 times while the Seahawks averaged 129 rushing yards a game.
With Hunt at center in the last eight games, Wilson was sacked 29 times while the Seahawks averaged 145 rushing yards a game.
So, yeah, there’s a big difference in pass protection, but actually a better production in the running game. Is the difference in sacks enough to justify Britt’s salary when you could save $8.75 million against the cap by releasing him? And factor in that Finney might be an upgrade over Hunt.
The Seahawks are going to need more salary-cap room to keep Clowney or get another premier pass-rusher. That’s more important than keeping Justin Britt.