For some reason, some fans and analysts (and even fanalysts) are befuddled about the way the Seahawks have approached this offseason.
After Carlos Hyde was signed to a deal reportedly worth up to $4 million, the complaining really kicked in: Why have they squandered their cap space and not added any stars?
Seattle has spent $52 million on 14 veterans this offseason. None of them are standouts. None of them are the marquee pass rusher they really need. And none of them are signed for more than two years.
But, it’s no surprise. If you have watched the Seahawks for the past five years, you know this is how John Schneider does business now. He is very conservative and gets aggressive (via trades) only out of desperation.
This offseason, a bunch of fans wanted the Hawks to sign right tackle Jack Conklin to help Russell Wilson. They were never going to do that (nor should they have, at $14 million). They also were never going to pay a pass rusher $20 million. It sounds like $15 million was their cap for Clowney — and that was $5 million more than they had ever paid a defensive lineman until they re-upped Jarran Reed this year for $23 million over two years (that was market price for Reed, who hopefully will play like it’s 2018 again).
Schneider almost never spends big in free agency. The most he has ever spent on an outside free agent has been $8.25 million per year (Sidney Rice in 2011). If you want to count Percy Harvin, who got a new contract as part of a trade in 2013, then the highest number is $11.2 million. But, since 2013, Schneider has paid only one outside free agent at least $6 million — Cary Williams in 2015 — and Williams was a bust, cut during the season.
Did those moves make Schneider gun shy? Maybe.
Schneider likes to reward proven Seahawks, which is why Wilson is the NFL’s top-paid QB and why the GM decided to trump the ridiculous deal the Jets gave C.J. Mosley to keep defensive leader Bobby Wagner at $18 million a year. For some reason, though, Schneider won’t pay that to a top pass rusher.
He seems to be stuck in 2013, when he somehow managed to steal Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett for a combined $11 million or so. He lowballed Frank Clark in 2019 and tried to keep Clowney at a discount, too.
Schneider took a good trade for Clark (eventually getting L.J. Collier, Damien Lewis and Alton Robinson) but failed to replace the star pass rusher. After that whiff, Schneider should have known he needed to pay Clowney or another top pass rusher, but he put his money elsewhere (Greg Olsen, Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa) and traded up to draft Darrell Taylor.
For what he paid Olsen or Irvin, Schneider easily could have signed Robert Quinn ($14 million APY, $6.1 million cap hit in 2020) or Dante Fowler ($15 million APY, $6.7 million cap hit). But, as we pointed out, he has never paid that to an outside player.
Schneider used to be aggressive at times, but he has gotten very conservative in recent years. His rare aggression has come out of desperation: Trading for Sheldon Richardson after Malik McDowell’s accident, acquiring Duane Brown after the Hawks could not replace injured George Fant, getting Clowney when it was obvious L.J. Collier and Ziggy Ansah were not going to be healthy, trading up for Taylor because Seattle still did not have top pass rusher.
For the most part, Schneider counts on his draft picks and short-term additions to prove worthy of longer contracts. But how has that worked? Only two draftees since 2013 — Justin Britt and Tyler Lockett — have gotten long-term extensions. That’s just two guys from five extension-eligible draft classes. That’s pretty terrible.
Schneider simply has not drafted well since 2013, and it shows in the lack of extensions — only Wilson and Wagner signed beyond 2021.
That makes it look like there is no long-term plan, as we wrote in April. The draft brought three projected starters — for now or next year. But this team is still basically patched together through 2021, with maybe seven guys we can project as starters in 2022 right now.
Shaquill Griffin is the only guy who merits an extension this year. Chris Carson, Jacob Hollister and Quinton Dunbar (if robbery charges are indeed bogus) could be playing for new deals in 2021, too. Candidates for extensions in 2021 include Lockett, Reed, Quandre Diggs, Will Dissly, Michael Dickson, Rasheem Green and Tre Flowers.
Is Schneider waiting for 2021 to possibly give out a few more extensions? Or will he continue to eschew paying guys who deserve it and add cheap rookies and veterans, making desperate trades when those conservative moves don’t work out?