John Schneider has a pretty well-known MO when it comes to trying to keep the Seahawks’ roster competitive for Pete Carroll: The GM is conservative in free agency and the draft, saving his big splashes for blockbuster trades.
However, given the resources at his disposal this year and the dire need to reformat the defensive line and fortify the offensive line, will Schneider be more aggressive?
Russell Wilson already has challenged the GM to be assertive in free agency, adding a couple of “superstars” while paying Jadeveon Clowney. And Schneider needs to use his draft picks to acquire immediate impact players — whether via trade or by moving up in the draft.
Seattle is projected to have around $55 million to spend on free agents (that’s after accounting for rookie signing bonuses, practice squad and injury replacement money for 2020), so Schneider has no reason not to follow Wilson’s advice.
His No. 1 goal needs to be finding veteran outside pass rushers, a la Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in 2013. They will be more expensive this time, but this also is perhaps the first time since early in Wilson’s career that Schneider has had this kind of cap space to play with. Clowney is the only guy on the roster worth big money, and Seattle can afford him while splurging for much-needed outside help.
Of course, Seattle could have afforded Frank Clark last year, too. But Schneider didn’t think he was worth $20 million (the AFC champion Chiefs are certainly happy to have him though).
Will Schneider alter his thinking and be willing to pay Clowney? If he doesn’t, he will have to replace Clowney while adding another good veteran pass rusher. And he has to find a couple of defensive tackles and a starting right tackle (because Jarran Reed, Al Woods and Germain Ifedi are not expected back).
Here’s what Schneider should budget: $32 million for Clowney and another pass rusher, $5 million for an offer to George Fant, $3 million for a second-round tender to Jacob Hollister. That would still leave $15 million (or $20 million, if Fant got a better offer) for the defensive tackles, maybe an offensive weapon (Austin Hooper?) and a few cheap backups (QB, etc.).
It seems unlikely that Reed will be back. He wants well over $10 million a year, and Schneider almost surely will not pay that. Reed probably will have to accept a one-year deal somewhere else to rehabilitate his value for 2021 (players almost never sign one-year, prove-it deals with their original teams, so don’t expect that).
That would leave Seattle looking for a No. 1 defensive tackle. Some good ones might be available — Houston’s D.J. Reader, Pittsburgh’s Javon Hargrave, New York’s Leonard Williams, Baltimore’s Michael Pierce — but Schneider probably won’t want to pay $10 million or more for any of those guys. He will probably just stick to his middling rotational pickups (like Al Woods in 2019) and use the draft to replace Reed.
And that leads us to this question: Will Schneider consider using some high picks to move up for an impact rookie or add a veteran pass rusher?
Among his eight projected picks, Schneider is expected to have double selections in the second and fourth rounds. He could move up from 27 overall to as high as the 12-14 range, where he might have a shot at a top defensive lineman.
That’s very unlikely, of course, because Schneider enjoys amassing extra picks too much. Plus, this tackle class is one of the best in 20 years, according to draft analyst Rob Rang. So Schneider can sit tight and still probably get a replacement for Ifedi at the bottom of the first round.
But, if he’s aggressive, he might find another use for his first-round pick — a trade for star pass rusher Von Miller (if Denver is open to dealing the 30-year-old). Or maybe Schneider uses the 1 on a tackle and trades another pick for a pass rusher (Jacksonville’s Calais Campbell, Buffalo’s Jerry Hughes, Cincinnati’s Carlos Dunlap, et al).
Draft picks are not going to put the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Only some veteran “superstars” will do that. And Schneider is going to have to be very aggressive in getting some.
Russell Wilson and the rest of us are counting on it.