D-line drama over, contract focus turns to star-stacked secondary

The Seahawks’ defensive line soap opera, which had dragged on for a year and a half (from Frank Clark to Ziggy Ansah to Jadeveon Clowney), finally ended when Clowney signed with Tennessee the other day.

Short of another trade, the Seahawks are going with the pedestrian pass-rush crew they assembled without Clowney. And we move on with fingers crossed and eyes closed.

We can only hope there is not as much drama – or failure — around extensions for Seattle’s now star-studded secondary next offseason.

First, let’s close the book on Clowney.

As it turns out, John Schneider gauged Clowney’s market better than Clowney did – and the star defensive end ended up having to take less than Seattle offered him back in April.

Clowney’s deal with the Titans reportedly will pay him up to $15 million, and the Hawks originally offered a deal worth up to $16 million. Seattle apparently offered $2 million more base, $15 million vs. Tennessee’s $13 million, but Clowney chose to wait it out and Seattle’s offer reportedly shrank to $12 million as the team added Mike Iupati, Benson Mayowa, Carlos Hyde and Jamal Adams (total of about $11.5 million).

“It was a long, long offseason in terms of trying to figure out how that was gonna work out,” Pete Carroll said. “And we were involved throughout. But yet, we moved on, for the most part, well early in the offseason so that we (could) do the rest of the team. Fortunately, we were able to do that and got some good players.”

As for the pass rush, since Clowney didn’t want to take the $15 million, the Seahawks added two second-tier vets (Mayowa and Bruce Irvin) and two rookies (Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson) for around $11 million.

The Seahawks eschewed a number of other veteran pass rushers – Robert Quinn, Dante Fowler, Everson Griffen, Yannick Ngakoue – and we now have to hope Schneider’s failure to land a decorated player there does not cost the Hawks like it did in 2019, when he failed to replace Clark.  

Carroll is counting on a new star-studded secondary — Adams, Quandre Diggs, Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar – to help the pass rush (Adams had 6.5 sacks for the Jets in 2019). And Seattle will have to consider which of those guys, beyond the obvious Adams, to pay next year.

Adams came at a big cost in July – two first-rounders and a third (plus Bradley McDougald, of course) – but the Hawks will get some financial credit that can help extend him. Their first- and third-round slots this year count $3 million against the cap, so a similar deduction in 2021 will help pay Adams.

The star safety is scheduled to earn almost $10 million in 2021, but the Hawks can lower the cap hit by as much as $6 million with a four-year, $60 million extension that pays something like a $15 million signing bonus.

They also could afford $14 million for Griffin and $11 million for Diggs, but they might not want to pay either that much – and those guys probably will aim for more.

As teams do their usual contract extensions on the eve of the season, Griffin and Chris Carson have to be watching with interest. The Hawks don’t seem inclined to sign either right now, although Griffin certainly has earned a new deal.

Buffalo signed star corner Tre’Davious White to a four-year, $70 million contract. Griffin isn’t quite the player White is, but you can bet he will aim to get as close to $17.5 million a year as he can.  

“The contract will play itself out, and hopefully I’m still here, and we’ll see how it goes,” he told The Seattle Times recently. “The main thing is that the coaches, the organization, they know I love it here. I feel like that’s very noticeable. I would love to be here as long as I can, if not forever.”

Meanwhile, Carson is playing for a new deal this year, too. Cincinnati just gave Joe Mixon $12 million a year, but that seems too high for Carson, who despite a couple of 1,000-yard seasons is an injury risk with a history of fumbling.

At this point, Carson merits something more like the $6.6 million per year Cleveland just gave Kareem Hunt. But, if Carson stays healthy and hits 1,200 yards again – without the same fumbling issues that plagued him early in 2019 – he potentially could run his price over $8 million. The Hawks likely wouldn’t pay it (nor should they), but some team might.

Russell Wilson has been watching quarterbacks get paid this offseason, too. He knew it would not take long for him to be dethroned as the highest-paid player in the NFL, and Patrick Mahomes usurped him in July when he got a deal worth $45 million a year — $10 million more than Wilson averages — and DeShaun Watson just received $39 million a year.

Wilson’s deal, signed just last year, averages $35 million through 2023. He could be good for one more big contract at that point (age 34), which could average $60 million a year, so he obviously is rooting for his fellow quarterbacks to keep breaking the bank.

All teams with big QB contracts are probably going to feel it a little bit next year. The 2021 salary cap could drop as low as $175 million, based on lost revenue in 2020. (It is at $198.2 million this year.)

If it does drop, the Hawks would have around $25 million in cap space (so maybe $18 million for free agents). Eight starters will be UFAs in 2021, though Griffin and Carson are likely the only two who might get consideration for new deals. If Dunbar starts, plays well and keeps his nose clean, perhaps the team would consider re-signing him, too. But paying four defensive backs in one offseason would be a huge stretch.

Greg Olsen (who has a fun new podcast) is expected to retire and the team likely won’t be interested in paying much to fellow aging vets K.J. Wright, Irvin, Mayowa and Mike Iupati. Seattle will need to tender RFA Poona Ford (probably at first-round level) and might be interested in re-signing Carlos Hyde if Carson does not return. Otherwise, the Hawks will be expecting young players to ascend (Jordyn Brooks for Wright, Darrell Taylor for Mayowa, etc.).

Of course, Duane Brown also might retire – which would return $11 million in cap space but leave a big hole at left tackle (unless Jamarco Jones unexpectedly could handle it).

Other than defensive line, the position of concern for Seattle right now is center. The Seahawks are going with Ethan Pocic, but they seem like they might be hoping to sign Justin Britt after Week 1, when his salary would then not be guaranteed for the season. Green Bay worked out Britt, too, and if he signs with the Packers this week, his 2020 salary would be guaranteed.

If the Hawks could bring back a healthy Britt, the line would look a lot better. As it is, you know it will struggle in the opener in Atlanta, whose D-line features Tak McKinley, Grady Jarrett and Fowler.


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