Irvin or Okung? That is probably the question

Bruce Irvin intercepts a pass vs. Oakland (Getty)Do the Seahawks prefer Russell Okung or Bruce Irvin? Because — barring Marshawn Lynch retiring in 2016 — that is probably the choice they are going to have to make. By May 3.

The San Diego Chargers reportedly picked up the fifth-year option on linebacker Melvin Ingram on Tuesday, which raised the question of whether the Seahawks will do the same with Irvin by the May 3 deadline.

The smart money says no — unless the Hawks have decided they don’t want to re-sign Okung.

For first-round picks drafted outside the top 10, the fifth-year option is worth the average of the No. 3 through 25 salaries at the position in question. For Ingram, the No. 18 pick in the 2012 draft, and Irvin, No. 15 in that draft, the 2016 option reportedly will be worth $7.75 million.

A year ago, the Seahawks declined to pick up the fifth-year option on James Carpenter. It was an easy decision. They didn’t want to be on the hook for $7.44 million in 2015 for an injury-prone lineman. They preferred to let him play out his contract and to pull a comp pick for him in 2016. As it turned out, he got much less from the Jets — $4.75 million a year — and figures to net the Hawks a fifth-round pick next year.

The comp pick is just one reason the Hawks most likely will not pick up the option on Irvin.

Unless Lynch retires next year, giving Seattle an extra $6.5 million in cap space, the Hawks are unlikely to have enough to pay both Irvin and Okung.

Assuming Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner get the expected extensions, the Hawks figure to have about $20 million in 2016 cap space (based on a $150 million cap) for eight free agents (their own or others). They are likely to re-sign Jon Ryan at about $2 million a year. They will need around $3 million for a veteran defensive tackle — Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Ahtyba Rubin are all scheduled to be free agents. J.R. Sweezy probably would cost $3 million in 2016 on a four-year, $16 million extension.

That would leave, at best, $12 million for five free agents. Irvin would cost $7.75 million, and Okung would count around that, too, if the Hawks re-signed him. So, clearly, they cannot keep both at those prices and still address other roster issues.

It seems like the Hawks might be leaning toward Okung over Irvin. John Schneider recently mentioned Okung as a core player, and Pete Carroll deflected a question about Irvin’s option, saying, “We are well aware that it is coming up, and that is something we will deal with when the time comes.” Carroll was similarly evasive about Carpenter last year before the deadline.

The Hawks could pick up the option on Irvin, giving them until the start of the 2016 league year to decide whether they really want to keep him (the salary becomes fully guaranteed at that point). But then, if they decided they didn’t want to pay him, they would have to release him. And the potential comp pick would be null.

Basically, the Hawks need to decide in the next four weeks whether Irvin is more valuable than Okung — if they haven’t already decided.

Okung has played just 74 percent of Seattle’s games over the past three years and has committed far too many penalties when he has played, but Irvin has proven to be Seattle’s biggest chucklehead and least disciplined player.

He has been involved in several fracases, including one with new teammate Jimmy Graham and one at the end of Super Bowl XLIX. He jumps offsides all of the time, and he cost the Seahawks the game in San Diego last season with his late hit out of bounds on Philip Rivers. Oh yeah, and he makes bad jokes about violating the NFL drug program, which he is in.

The Hawks have invested three years into converting Irvin from a one-trick pass rusher into a linebacker, but is he worth $7.75 million to them? Doubtful.

The Hawks already have seven defenders scheduled to count at least $6 million against the 2016 cap. Wagner likely will make it eight.

Would the Hawks really pay Irvin, too? Doubtful.


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