There’s a lot of chatter from fans wanting the Seahawks to pursue Calais Campbell in free agency to improve their interior pass rush.
On first blush, it seems like a lot of wishful thinking — John Schneider usually goes younger and cheaper on veteran defensive linemen — but there are increasing signs the Hawks could indeed make a play for the 30-year-old Arizona tackle.
Campbell — a long-armed giant at 6 feet 8 — led all prospective free-agent tackles/3-4 ends in quarterback pressures in 2016. He finished with eight sacks, seven tackles for loss, two forced fumbles, three recoveries and six deflected passes. It was the same kind of steady performance he has put up for the past eight years with the Cardinals.
This probably will be his last big contract, and the Cardinals reportedly won’t offer him the same kind of deal as the five-year, $55 million agreement he signed in 2012. Since he will be 31 in September, he might not get that kind of offer from anyone. Then again, 14 teams have at least $40 million in projected cap space, and it takes only one.
The Hawks figure to have around $22 million in cap cash for extensions and non-minimum free agents, but they also have to be mindful of a couple of things: (1) 2018 cap space and (2) what they are paying top ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril.
They just extended Bennett for three years and $29.5 million, and Avril is entering the third year of a four-year, $28.5 million deal. When those players came to Seattle in 2013, the Hawks got them for under $12 million combined that year.
That is the kind of bargain shopping John Schneider has done with defensive linemen. In 2011, he signed 26-year-old Alan Branch for $4 million over two years. In 2013, Schneider stunned the NFL by adding both the 26-year-old Avril ($13 million over two years) and 27-year-old Bennett (one year and $4.8 million); he also tacked on 28-year-old Tony McDaniel for the veteran minimum. In 2015, Schneider brought in 28-year-old Ahtyba Rubin for $2.5 million.
All but Branch were given more lucrative new deals after proving themselves with the Seahawks.
So, to go big for an over-30 lineman would constitute a major break from Schneider’s philosophy.
The only veteran additions Schneider has broken the bank for have been young receivers and a Pro Bowl tight end: 24-year-old Sidney Rice got a deal worth $8 million a year in 2011, 24-year-old Percy Harvin got $11 million a year after being acquired in a trade in 2013 and 28-year-old Jimmy Graham came via trade on a deal paying him $10 million a year.
Schneider also paid tight end Zach Miller almost $7 million a year in 2011, quarterback Matt Flynn over $6 million in 2012 and cornerback Cary Williams $6 million in 2015. And that’s it for Schneider’s free-agency splurges. All but Williams were under 30.
With the Seahawks likely to pay around $9 million a year on extensions to Graham and Kam Chancellor and perhaps $7 million a year to Justin Britt and $3 million to Steven Hauschka, they might have around $15 million for any other free agents. Would they want to spend most of it on a 30-year-old defensive lineman?
Schneider has been known to splurge when he has the means — Rice in 2011, Harvin in 2013, Graham in 2015. He certainly has the cash for another odd-year splash, and some fans are hoping he might jump into that pool again.