Which Seahawks defensive linemen can GO, and which one must STAY
Seattle has to change up their defensive line, but they can't get too overzealous with it either
I always say to never count on free agency. It’s the most overrated piece of the puzzle. As compared to the draft, and surprisingly trades, free agency does little to help and often a lot that hurts.
There are always exceptions.
The Seahawks defensive linemen were lead in snaps last season by Rasheem Green, who appeared in 66.8-percent of the plays. Next was Poona Ford at 63.3-percent, then Al Woods at 48.9-percent and Darrell Taylor at 42.9-percent. Free agent signee Kerry Hyder played in 40-percent of the snaps and had 1.5 sacks on the year.
But Seattle’s lack of sacks in 2021 had to do with a lot more than just quality of play by the defensive line. New defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt and head coach Pete Carroll have both made it clear that they intend to be more aggressive next season, dropping linebackers and defensive ends into coverage less often.
Green and Woods are both free agents, as are Bryan Mone and Robert Nkemdiche. The Seahawks are facing a $10 million cap hit for Ford, which is sort of a shocking amount for a nose tackle who doesn’t have extraordinary pass rushing skills; Ford will make more money next season than Kenny Clark, however Clark will make $24 million the following year.
As John Gilbert noted on the Seaside Joe podcast, the Seahawks may want to offer Ford an extension that lowers his cap hit and gives the team some option to spread out what they would owe him this year. Seattle has some leverage here if they don’t think that Poona Ford can do better than this offer on the open market. What would a team sign Ford to on the open market this year?
Carlos Dunlap ($6.5m), Benson Mayowa ($3.7m), and Kerry Hyder ($3.7m) are all reasonably cheap enough to keep around, at least until training camp. On the other hand, the Seahawks could save somewhere between $7-$11 million by releasing two of them, and that’s quite a lot of cap space to open up for the 2022 season. Would Seattle be considerably worse off without Dunlap and Mayowa? Mayowa and Hyder?
Releasing all three would open up $14 million in cap space, but they also still need players on the roster who can play their positions. There’s not a lot of recently drafted defensive line talent coming through the pipeline. L.J. Collier hasn’t earned the right to get more playing time, by all accounts. Alton Robinson didn’t impress quite like many people had hoped. We also don’t know if Green will return or if the Seahawks want him to.
This is an opportunity for the Seahawks to rebuild the entire defensive line, but rebuilding the defensive line also carries a risk: hoping that the pass rush doesn’t get even worse because it’s a new group of players who must be integrated into Pete Carroll’s whole world and not every player is suited to come to a new team and be “good to go” in his first season.
That might even be a rare and underrated quality for certain players. We saw it pay off for the Rams last season certainly.
Ultimately, it doesn’t mean that Seattle can’t retool or rebuild the defensive line—they can’t continue like they’ve been going—only that it wouldn’t be easy to expect the team to just keep Ford and Taylor, sign/draft a half-dozen new players and then think “I’m sure the new six guys will fit right in and gel immediately, no problem.”
There’s a reason guys often come back to their original teams after they get cut from the team they signed their first free agent contract with. There’s a reason to think that Frank Clark’s Seattle days might not be over; the Chiefs will save $12.7 million by releasing Clark this year and he has just 10.5 sacks over the last two seasons.
There has not been much talk that I’ve seen about whether or not the Seahawks should re-sign Rasheem Green, but I think that would be a better move than losing Green and keeping players like Mayowa and Hyder. A 2022 cap hit for Green would likely come in lower than Dunlap’s 2022 cap hit and Green has yet to turn 25; keeping Dunlap, who had 1.5 sacks on the season going into Week 15, over Green could be perceived as trusting name over present day and future value.
Rasheem Green for $6.5 million or Carlos Dunlap for $6.5 million?
Rasheem Green for $6.5 million or Hyder/Mayowa for $7.4 million?
Green didn’t make a ton of noise, but which Seattle defensive players did last season? He had 15 QB hits and 6.5 sacks, with four batted passes. One of the big selling points at the time of the draft was that Green was coming into the league at such a young age, just wait and see what he could develop into. This implies that his first couple of seasons in the league would practically be a wash, so is it a waste to let him walk away before he turns 25?
The Seahawks could re-sign Green, cut Hyder, Mayowa, and Collier, and extend Ford. They still have Taylor and Robinson and a probability to draft at least one defensive lineman of note this year in what is considered a deep class at the position.
Notable free agents: Jarran Reed, Larry Ogunjobi, Calais Campbell, Solomon Thomas (Classic Pete pick), Quinton Jefferson, Sebastian Joseph-Day… actually it’s a long list and I haven’t even stopped browsing the defensive tackles yet.
The Seahawks won’t be that involved with outside free agency and I still don’t blame them for it.
SEASIDE JOE IS A FREE NEWSLETTER
GET IN WHILE THE GETTIN’S GOOD—DAILY SEAHAWKS CONTENT