Veteran D-linemen are the next priority

Logo -- Free agencyWith Frank Clark safely tagged, the Seahawks are back to even on their defensive front — two stars under contract. Now they need to find a third.

Keeping Clark was No. 1 on our offseason to-do list for Pete Carroll and John Schneider. No. 2: Get Clark and Jarran Reed some help.

The draft is stacked along the defensive line, but rookies cannot be counted on — Seattle’s last few drafts are proof of that. So the Hawks have to find a couple of veterans: a pass rusher to play opposite Clark and a run stopper to play next to Reed (maybe rotating with Poona Ford).

Schneider typically has been good at finding cheap veteran defensive tackles — Tony McDaniel and Ahtyba Rubin being the best examples. Shamar Stephen was not a great pickup last year, though, so Schneider needs to do better there this time. He should have some affordable options — e.g., Sylvester Williams, Angelo Blackson, Bennie Logan, Johnathan Hankins.

More important, though, is the pass rusher. And Schneider needs to be willing to pay for one — somewhere in the $8 million to $10 million range.

The top rushers have all been tagged: Dee Ford (Kansas City), DeMarcus Lawrence (Dallas) and Jadeveon Clowney (Houston). And the Hawks are not going to be able to afford UFA rushers such as Trey Flowers, Za’Darius Smith, Preston Smith, Ezekiel Ansah and Dante Fowler — who are expected to be paid $12 million or more.

But several others are about to come available before the league year begins Wednesday. In precursors to expected releases, Kansas City reportedly is trying to trade Justin Houston and Miami is dangling Robert Quinn. The Eagles also reportedly have been shopping Michael Bennett, just a year after Seattle traded him to Philadelphia (Bennett said he wants a pay raise). Others who could be released in the next few days include Minnesota’s Everson Griffen, Green Bay’s Nick Perry and Houston’s Whitney Mercilus. New York’s Olivier Vernon was traded Friday to Cleveland.

Carroll obviously is not going to be interested in bringing back Bennett, but he and Schneider would be smart to check into any of the other cap cuts. Griffen and Perry both played for Carroll at USC.

The ideal scenario might involve the Hawks adding one of those released players on a one-year deal for something like $8 million. That would add a veteran presence in 2019, giving raw young rushers Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin time to prove themselves in their second seasons.

Another option would be to snag an impact defensive tackle — Jacksonville might cut Malik Jackson and Tampa Bay might part with longtime star Gerald McCoy.

If the Hawks cannot add a good veteran pass rusher, they will be stuck relying on 2018 rookies Green and Martin and a 2019 draft pick. And there would be no promise of an improved pass rush if they did that.

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