Seahawks could now break NFL free agency: 9 potential new targets following Russell Wilson trade
Why would Seattle rebuild and add premium free agents at the same time? Because 2023 is not too soon to shock the league again and the cap space is unreal
How could it be possible that the Seattle Seahawks could both be rebuilding and making a splash in the first wave of free agency at the same time next week? Teams without a quarterback are always somewhere in the process of a rebuild, and Seattle is no sans a legit starter after sending Russell Wilson to the Broncos on Tuesday.
But Pete Carroll and John Schneider can only part with one franchise cornerstone at a time. Wilson is one such cornerstone, while another is this regime’s penchant for acquiring premium young talent whenever the opportunities to do so arise. None of these potential signings will help the Seahawks make the playoffs next season, and that’s not why Pete and John will be in talks with their agents in a week.
They’re being considered because a) Seattle has a lot of cap space and gained many millions more in savings for 2023 following the Wilson trade and b) some of the top free agents are barely older than some of the top 2022 draft prospects.
It makes no difference if you acquire a good player at 22 or 25, so long as he is good. The Rams signed Andrew Whitworth in 2017 when he was 36, and he helped L.A. win the Super Bowl five years later.
Pete and John have steered clear of the first wave of free agency since initially pushing hard to rebuild the roster with names like Zach Miller, Robert Gallery, and Sidney Rice over a decade ago. But they also just traded a future Hall of Fame quarterback who may or may not still be in his prime, so let’s agree that the regime is open to “trying new things” this year.
OvertheCap.com projects the Seahawks to have $26.8 in “effective cap space” for 2022, eighth-most in the league, but that is before a probable trade or release of linebacker Bobby Wagner. UPDATE: THE SEAHAWKS RELEASED BOBBY WAGNER
If the Seahawks do release Wagner, that would change their effective cap space by $16.6 million and give Seattle the third-most cap space in the NFL this year and the most cap space in the NFL in 2023! Earlier on Tuesday I wrote that drafting a quarterback in the top-10 would be NFL malpractice by the Seahawks, and the same can be said if the franchise completely avoids the first wave of free agents. At least make an effort!
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As recently as this morning I would have said that Seattle won’t get involved with the first wave of free agents, as that has not been the case in so many years and also because the Seahawks were not “one or two players” away from competing for the Super Bowl. Or even the NFC Championship. Not that close.
Now the goals are different and the landscape has changed. Seattle can add a premium free agent without him having to bear the weight of being “the difference” for the franchise. That wasn’t going to happen, but the Seahawks can still add one or two difference-makers next week. Or at least try to.
The Seahawks are now players for these nine players.
CB J.C. Jackson, 26
CB Carlton Davis, 25
Jackson, Davis, and D.J. Reed are all the same age, but Reed has some experience with the team—so he is likely their top priority. However, the need for cornerbacks will not stop with Reed and Tre Brown—and if Seattle doesn’t re-sign Reed or add a player like Jackson or Davis, then the defense has at least one major hole on defense that they’re going to need to address with a high draft pick anyway.
Avoid using a high draft pick on a cornerback over the next two years by taking advantage of the rare golden opportunity to sign a top-ranked 25-or-younger cornerback in free agency. These chances don’t come around often and may not be back again next year: the Seahawks actually have more buying power than the vast majority of NFL teams for the first time in many, many years and corners like Jackson almost never hit the market.
J.C. Jackson was arguably the best cornerback in the NFL last season and it should be of no concern to any party that the Seahawks won’t be competitive in 2022. Believing that you can only sign or draft players that are supposed to help you win every game next season is child strategy.
Sign Jackson in 2022, load up a boatload of his base salary for 2023 when Seattle’s cap room will be off the charts, and give the cornerback a full season to integrate himself into Pete Carroll and Clint Hurtt’s defense before taking the NFL by surprise next year.
Why would Jackson sign with the Seahawks? For the same reason that 99-percent of first and second wave free agents choose a team: the money.
Carlton Davis is one notch below Jackson, but also one year younger and far less proven. Seattle’s goal for 2022 should be to resemble the team that they were in 2011: young, talented, inexperienced, but always improving. Brandon Browner and Richard Sherman joined the Seahawks in 2011, and by 2012, the defense had gelled enough to come together to nearly make a shocking Super Bowl run.
If Seattle re-signs Reed and adds a corner like Davis, then the Seahawks will have two 25-year-old cornerbacks of regard and a 26-year-old safety in Jamal Adams to build a secondary around that finds its own identity.
READ MORE: WHY SEAHAWKS MUST NOT DRAFT QB IN 2022!
LT Joseph Noteboom, 27
G/C James Daniels, 24
Though neither player will immediately inspire the same type of confidence as J.C. Jackson, that’s also sort of true of most of free agency—the most overrated time of the year. Believe it or not, I’ve done the math and Noteboom is maybe at worst the third-best left tackle who will be on the market.
The good news for whoever signs him is that he could wind up as the best value signing of the year. Few free agents have a case to be signed as starters despite not being starters, and yet Noteboom has the potential to be a franchise’s long-term answer at left tackle; that’s not something we often see found in free agency.
There’s little reason left to re-sign Duane Brown and Noteboom is nearly 10 years younger than the lineman he would be replacing. In four seasons with the Rams, Noteboom has proven to be two things: a potential starter at left tackle and only a backup at guard. He lost his job (twice) to David Edwards at left guard and then filled in with respect for Andrew Whitworth on several occasions.
I estimate roughly a $10 million salary for Noteboom over three years. If the Seahawks end up paying him a little bit more than that—with an endorsement from Shane Waldron, a former coach of his in L.A.—then it’s worth the risk on a position that is rarely filled by free agents who are also under 28.
To find a potential upgrade to Ethan Pocic who is also two years younger, former Chicago Bears’ second round pick James Daniels is set to hit the market at 24. He may not have the skills to play center full-time—it’s somewhere in the resume—but at either position of that or guard, he would be worthy of a longer look for a team that needs help all over and usually somewhere along the offensive line.
DT D.J. Jones, 27
DL Bilal Nichols, 25
The Seahawks are paying Poona Ford $10 million next season. Do they still see him as part of the future, knowing that they likely won’t be competing for the playoffs during his final contract year in 2022? Seattle could now extend Ford for that reason, or end up releasing him if he doesn’t renegotiate.
There was a lot of hype on Nichols going into last season and then he finished with a career-high 51 tackles, as well as nine QB hits and three sacks from the nose tackle position. There doesn’t seem to be an immense amount of buzz on him right now, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of GMs looking to figure out how to fit the 25-year-old into their budget and offensive line.
Two years older but also fairly raw and with more room to develop is D.J. Jones. Perhaps like another former San Francisco D.J. (this is where everyone else makes a Tanner joke), Jones might take flight with Seattle. He played in all 17 games for the 49ers last season and had a career-high 10 tackles for a loss.
The Seahawks know the advantages and disadvantages of moving chess pieces within the NFC West. Now they can afford D.J. Jones, if they want to test his market and reunite him with Kerry Hyder. (If Hyder sticks around.)
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WR JuJu Smith-Schuster, 25
WR D.J. Chark, 25
WR Christian Kirk, 25
If you are not yet believing me that free agency is overrated, these are legitimately the most accomplished and interesting under-29 receivers hitting the market this month. Chris Godwin got tagged. Allen Robinson is nearly 30. OBJ is nearly 30 and coming off of ACL surgery. I don’t particularly know much about Russell Gage’s chances of improving on his ceiling with the Falcons. I expect Michael Gallup to remain in Dallas. Amari Cooper is not the long-term answer.
But if the Seahawks want to take a chance on a young free agent wideout to potentially complement or replace Tyler Lockett, as well as pairing with DK Metcalf, then these three are now on the table for Schneider and Carroll. It would behoove Seattle to do as much for their offense this year—without adding a quarterback—so that they have the best environment possible for a rookie QB in 2023.
This is not a strong endorsement by me for any of these three names, these are simply the best three names I can see on next week’s market.
Kirk caught 77 passes for 982 yards with the Cardinals last season. He could be a reliable safety valve for a bridge quarterback next season alongside Metcalf, Noah Fant, Dee Eskridge, and another tight end.
Chark had 73 catches for 1,008 yards in 2019, then 53 catches for 706 yards in 2020. He played in only four games last season and the Jaguars had the worst passing offense in the NFL in any case, so it wouldn’t have mattered. Think of signing Chark sort of like the Panthers signing Robby Anderson in 2020: best case scenario, he’s pretty good! Worst case scenario, you’ve moved on in one-to-two years.
It’s hard to believe that Smith-Schuster has not turned 26 yet, as he is entering his sixth season. He had 97 catches for 831 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020, but like Chark played in only five games and had zilch at quarterback in 2021. Giving Smith-Schuster a two-year, incentive-laden deal could really help both parties and similar contracts have often paid off for Seattle in the past, like Michael Bennett or Quandre Diggs.
Agree or Disagree? Which names do you like the most? Which make you go, “WHAT ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT, ARTHUR?!!” Say it in the comments:
I am so pumped for this offseason. The team was badly stagnating. Would love to see Mariota, Kirk, JC Jackson and Von Miller or Chandler Jones.
I will just say you have shown something of what Seattle can do. I guess Pete Carroll is not afraid to rebuild. Good work Ken. Victoria Chris