John Schneider and Pete Carroll were not kidding when they declared they were going to get better on the defensive line this offseason.
They surprised everyone by breaking out of their frugal free agency routine when they gave Dre Jones the biggest deal they have ever given an outside free agent: $17 million per year over three years. It was a stunningly aggressive start to what has been a surprising free agency period in several ways.
Jarran Reed unexpectedly returned. The Hawks got a good veteran center for much cheaper than expected. Linebackers went fast, but the Hawks added Devin Bush — and Bobby Wagner remained unsigned through this publish, giving Quandre Diggs and many fans hope that he might yet return. The Hawks also added a good starting safety at a bargain, creating all kinds of questions and possibilities at that position.
How aggressive has Seattle been this year? From 2012 to 2022, the Hawks had signed 26 outside free agents to deals averaging at least $2.5 million. The aggregate APY for all of those players was $4.8 million.
This year, Schneider has signed three guys for at least two years and $2.5 million APY – Jones got $51 million over three years, Reed $9 million over two years and Julian Love $12 million over two years. That divides out to $10.3 million APY.
Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett were hanging out at VMAC this week and joked that the Seahawks “are finally paying defensive linemen.” Avril and Bennett were famously bargains for Seattle in 2013, getting deals worth an aggregate average of $6 million per year. Even when they were re-signed a year or two later, it was just for $7 million each.
Avril said Jones and Reed both seem to fit what the Hawks are now doing up front better than Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson and Poona Ford did.
“Maybe they just didn’t fit the mold of what (the team) wanted to do, right?” Avril told Seattle Sports 710. “Because if you remember last year, initially going into the 3-4 scheme, the guys up front weren’t necessarily playing that well because the technique that they asked them to do was a lot different. It was stand and catch (blocks) a little bit, and those guys weren’t used to that.
“I think going after some guys that … have played in a system like that but also can attack when you get in a 4-3 front and passing downs and different things like that (is important). So I’m assuming that’s more so what they’re going after — two guys that are versatile in both (schemes).
“(Reed) ended up playing in a 3-4 scheme in Green Bay,” Avril said, “so he understands kind of what’s needed from that perspective — and also still being able to attack and get after the quarterback.”
We know the defensive line has improved, but what about the rest of the roster? Let’s take a look at where each position stands after the first week of free agency.
MOVES: Re-signed Geno Smith for three years and $75 million and Drew Lock for one year and $4 million.
STATUS REPORT: The Hawks are going status quo in the QB room, pending the draft. It worked well enough in 2022, with Smith earning Comeback Player of the Year after completing 69.8% for 4,282 yards, 30 TDs and 11 interceptions. Smith, 32, thinks he will get even better in 2023, which is a good attitude to have after he put together just two clutch comebacks (both vs. the Rams) and had a rough final five games – eight TDs and six INTs on just 63% completions. It will help to have an improved interior line that does not get overpowered on every play.
NEXT STEPS: The next QB question is whether the Hawks will draft a QB at No. 5. It seems unlikely, if only because the top three passers are expected to be picked in the first four draft slots. But if Florida’s Anthony Richardson is there, there will be a huge clamor from a segment of fans and maybe Schneider will consider taking the big gamble – especially knowing they have the 20th pick as well. (We don’t think the Hawks will take a QB.)
MOVES: Lost Rashaad Penny (Philadelphia, one year, $1.35 million) and Travis Homer (Chicago, two years, $4.5 million).
STATUS REPORT: Fans are surprisingly up in arms about this position, some complaining that the Hawks could have paid Penny the $1.35 million he got from the Eagles. In fact, the Hawks reportedly did want to bring him back and he simply preferred a fresh start. It’s just as well: He had played in just 36% of the games over the past three years.
NEXT STEPS: The Hawks need a third running back behind Ken Walker III and DeeJay Dallas. They likely will add a cheap veteran and/or draft a back on Day 3.
STATUS REPORT: The Hawks certainly could use a good No. 3 receiver (Dee Eskridge has proven unreliable). But it is not the extreme need some make it out to be. Seattle’s No. 3 receivers have been under 10% of total team receptions in each of the past five years, and that has not stopped them from remaining a good scoring offense (they were ninth in 2022 even though Marquise Goodwin caught just 23 passes). Seattle instead has gotten production out of its top tight end. In six of the last seven years, the top tight end has outproduced the No. 3 receiver; Noah Fant caught 50 balls in 2022.
NEXT STEPS: There are plenty of veterans out there. One of the more intriguing is Isaiah McKenzie, who was a good No. 3 guy for Buffalo in 2022, catching 43 passes. The Bills let him go, and the Hawks should be interested. … A lot of mock drafts have had the Hawks picking a receiver at 20 – usually Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba.
STATUS REPORT: Will Dissly is recovering from a knee injury, but Carroll said he is “doing really well and making progress” after avoiding surgery. … Fant is set to play on his fifth-year option, but it is possible the team tries to extend him later this year.
NEXT STEPS: The future of this position is in limbo beyond 2023, with Fant and Colby Parkinson both scheduled to be free agents and Dissly no sure thing to make it to 2024 as an ongoing injury risk with a cap hit of $10 million. The draft is one of the best in a long time at this position, and the Hawks probably should take advantage of that.
MOVES: Re-signed Phil Haynes for one year and $4 million; added center Evan Brown from Detroit for $2.25 million in 2023; cut Gabe Jackson to save $6.5 million.
STATUS REPORT: Schneider said Brown, who played both guard and center in Detroit, was the center they wanted — and they got him for much less than some projected (Spotrac thought he would get $11 million a year). … Haynes returns as the incumbent at right guard, with Jackson let go to save money. Haynes likely will face competition. … The tackle spots are in good hands with second-year stalwarts Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, with Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan serviceable backups.
NEXT STEPS: The Hawks have no interior backups, so they still should add one before the draft. Everyone wants them to draft Minnesota center John Michael Schmitz – and they reportedly “are enamored with him.” The Hawks should pull a center and guard out of that selection meeting. … Assuming the Hawks draft Schmitz or another center, Brown still might end up starting due to his experience. At worst, he offers great versatility. The Hawks also are going to be guardless in 2024, as Damien Lewis and Haynes will be free agents. So Brown gives them another option inside next year as well.
MOVES: Signed Dre Jones for $17 million a year, the biggest APY they have ever given to a free agent; signed Jarran Reed for two years and up to $10.8 million; cut Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson, saving $13.5 million.
STATUS REPORT: Jones is the great two-way D-lineman Carroll wanted – the guy who can stuff the run and collapse the pass pocket. Schneider said they tried to get Jones included in the Russell Wilson trade last year but Denver did not want to let him go. … The Seahawks also tried to sign Arizona’s Zach Allen, who ended up replacing Jones in Denver. … Harris reportedly did not want to take a pay cut, so the Hawks reluctantly let him go after not being able to trade him. It’s a similar story to that of Reed, who left in 2021 when the Hawks asked him to do a simple restructure, he said no, was denied an extension and then asked to be let go. Schneider said he could have gotten more money elsewhere this year but chose to come back to Seattle. Reed said, “This is home for me.” … Al Woods, who turns 36 on March 25, and Myles Adams are the only other D-linemen right now, so this position needs more attention.
NEXT STEPS: Schneider said they still are talking to other free agents. “We knew we really wanted to address our defensive line, and we’re still trying to do that,” he said. Among the options: A’Shawn Robinson (great run defender) and Matt Ioannidis. Maybe Harris is still an option on a cheap return. … The Hawks have long been expected to draft a D-lineman, but it would be a surprise if that ended up being Jalen Carter, who bombed on his Pro Day the day before settling his legal issues in Georgia. It’s a deep draft at edge rusher, and there are a few 3-4 end types Seattle could target. … Seattle definitely needs a nose tackle; Michigan’s Mazi Smith could be that guy in the second round.
MOVES: Added Devin Bush; lost Cody Barton to Philadelphia on a one-year deal worth $3 million.
STATUS REPORT: Schneider said the Hawks focused on other positions (read: DL and center) first, and the linebacker market then moved faster than expected. So the Hawks ended up with Bush, a former No. 10 overall pick by Pittsburgh who will try to get his career back on track in a prove-it year in Seattle. …. Wagner is still on the market, and Diggs keeps publicly recruiting him back. Because a lot of off-ball linebackers took cheaper deals fairly fast, Wagner is still waiting to find a team that will pay him around $10 million. At this point, though, his market is probably around $7 million. The Hawks are reportedly still “keenly interested,” so will his price come down to their budget?
NEXT STEPS: The Hawks definitely need another veteran linebacker. “It is an area of concern for us,” Schneider said. The free agents are dwindling. Other than Wagner, the best ILBs left appear to be Denzel Perryman (Raiders), Anthony Walker (Browns) and Rashaan Evans (Falcons). … The Hawks need to use a second-round pick on Iowa’s Jack Campbell, the perfect 3-4 inside thumper. … We would shop the one-dimensional Darrell Taylor as well, either for another player or maybe a second-round pick.
MOVES: Signed Julian Love for $12 million over two years; tendered RFA Ryan Neal as ROFR; retained ERFA Michael Jackson.
STATUS REPORT: Love, the Giants’ captain and defensive play caller, was a great value addition. He is insurance against Jamal Adams not returning from his quadriceps injury, but Love also might end up starting alongside both Adams and Diggs, with Adams playing weakside LB. … Love’s signing explains why Neal did not get the second-round tender of $4.3 million, instead receiving the $2.63 million right-to-match tender. Even if Adams does not return or gets hurt again, the Hawks are very experienced at safety now. … Jackson is back and should engage in a big battle with Tre Brown at LCB. Jackson and Tariq Woolen each got over $700,000 from the league’s performance pool for outperforming expectations in 2022.
NEXT STEPS: Many speculate that Adams could be a June 1 cut, which would bring back $8.4 million. But he more likely would just be a restructure, which could save $6.6 million. The Hawks surely want to give him another chance to stay healthy and prove worth the massive deal they gave him in 2021. … Diggs also could restructure his deal to free up $6.2 million. … Love’s arrival on a two-year deal also keeps Seattle set for 2024, with no extra pressure to draft a safety now.
MOVES: Re-signed Pro Bowl kicker Jason Myers for $21.1 million over four years; re-signed Nick Bellore for $6 million over two years; lost Homer.
STATUS REPORT: The Hawks have been a top-five special-teams unit for the last three years, so it makes sense to keep the key players. Homer was one of their top guys as well, but he went to Chicago on a two-year, $4 million deal.
NEXT STEPS: The Hawks still need a long snapper. Tyler Ott, who missed 2023 with an injury, wants to come back, but would he take the minimum?
One thought on “Hawks full of (good) surprises in first week of free agency”
Signing Lock sent a pretty clear signal that the Hawks don’t expect to draft Levis. They aren’t going to put the #5 draft pick in a situation where he isn’t even going to get practice reps.
Richardson is another story because the team can use his running skills to put him to use right away. Even so, taking Richardson at #5 depends on how PCJS sees his long-term development as a passer.