Any day now, NFL teams will begin the Purge — the annual pre-league-year dump of overpaid and/or underperforming players.
The Seahawks haven’t been a part of the Purge since 2014, when they cut Red Bryant, Sidney Rice and Chris Clemons. But they will be part of this one, expected to at least release Jeremy Lane and Cliff Avril.
And then John Schneider will play the comp game, bargain shopping among other street free agents.
Last year, Schneider knew he wasn’t going to lose many good free agents (Stephen Hauschka was the only one), so it was a good year to shop the unrestricted market. Schneider ended up adding six UFAs: Luke Joeckel, Eddie Lacy, Oday Aboushi, Bradley McDougald, Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin.
This year, Seattle has as many as eight UFAs who might qualify in the comp formula, so his history says he won’t be as aggressive in the UFA market. Schneider probably is planning to lose five of his comp UFAs, which means he will want to sign no more than one (to get the max four comp picks in 2019). Thus the expected interest in castoffs, who do not count in the comp formula.
Among the possible cuts Schneider and his staff could target: tight ends Julius Thomas, Dwayne Allen, Coby Fleener, Eric Ebron and Dion Sims; receivers Tavon Austin, Jeremy Maclin and Markus Wheaton; guards Josh Sitton and Mike Iupati; pass rushers Robert Quinn and Justin Houston.
The tight ends: The Seahawks were interested in Thomas in 2015, but he signed a big deal with Jacksonville (and then was traded to Miami) and Seattle acquired Jimmy Graham. Assuming Thomas is cheap at this point, the 29-year-old could be a good addition to Brian Schottenheimer’s multiple-tight-end offense, ironically replacing Graham. Allen, Fleener, Ebron and Sims also could be options if they are let go and other teams aren’t willing to overpay them again.
The receivers: Austin rode the pine with the Rams last year, a $42 million bust. He played for Schottenheimer in St. Louis in 2013-14, so he could attract Seattle’s interest. Maclin, 29, could bring an affordable veteran presence to replace Paul Richardson, or Wheaton could replace Richardson’s speed.
The guards: The Bears have to decide on an $8 million option for the 31-year-old Sitton by March 9. If they don’t pay it, he would become a UFA. Iupati, who missed 15 games in 2017, could be a cap cut by Arizona.
The pass rushers: Quinn had 8.5 sacks last season after moving to linebacker in the Rams’ new 3-4, but there are questions about whether he will return as the Rams get ready to break the bank for defensive player of the year Aaron Donald. If the 27-year-old Quinn is let go, he might have a fairly robust market. But, if he doesn’t, Seattle might be appealing to him. If Kansas City dumps Houston, the 29-year-old probably would be swept up quickly by a big-spending club, but Schneider surely would check into him, too.
If Schneider mostly works the street FA market and the Seahawks lose their top four UFAs, the 2019 draft stock could end up looking like this: 1, 3, 3, 3, 4, 4, 5, 5, 6, 7.