The NFL is now in a bit of a lull period between the bulk of free agency and the draft.
Consider that of the top 100 free agents as listed by NFL.com, all but 21 are signed. Stop us if you’ve heard this before, but at the top of the list is Jadeveon Clowney at No. 7. Others include Seahawk linebacker K.J. Wright (44) and former Seahawk cornerback Richard Sherman (51).
But any or all could go unsigned for a while. Teams at this point might be even more reluctant about doing anything to affect their potential 2022 compensatory picks (any signings made before the Monday after the NFL draft can impact a team’s comp picks).
The draft, meanwhile, isn’t until April 29. Though for the Seahawks, it might be more accurate to say it doesn’t start until April 30, when the second and third rounds are held.
So, with a little bit of a break in the action, here are 12 (could it be any other number?) thoughts on what the Seahawks have done so far.
Best free-agent signing: Carlos Dunlap.
When the Seahawks cut Dunlap on March 8 to get out of his $14.1 million cap hit for 2021, it was easy to assume he was gone. But then to not only get him back but also for a cap hit of just $2.9 million in 2021? Proves again it’s always worth waiting to see what the Seahawks have planned next before judging what they just did.
Most important addition: Gabe Jackson.
Jackson was acquired in a trade with the Raiders for a fifth-round pick. And at the moment, he stands as the only significant addition to the much-scrutinized offensive line, set to step in at one of the two guard spots. The view here is Seattle’s line was not as bad as generally viewed, especially early last year when everyone was healthy. But assuming Jackson plays left guard, the team’s shakiest spot on the line last season, he’ll be under a pretty big microscope to help the line get that much better in 2021.
Most curious thing that happened: Jarran Reed essentially opting out of Seahawks deal.
As we now know, the Seahawks wanted to turn about $8 million of Reed’s salary into bonus and spread it over a couple of void years. He would have made the same amount of money and still been a free agent after this season. But Reed apparently felt insulted and asked for a long-term deal. Seattle, wanting out of his $8.9 million cap hit for 2021, played hardball and cut him, and Reed is now playing in Kansas City on a deal that guarantees him only $5 million in 2021.
And while Seattle might miss Reed, it wouldn’t have been able to make some of the other signings it did without getting out of the deal (including getting Al Woods for a reported $3 million, the cap hit Seattle likely wanted for Reed).
Most improved position: Defensive line.
Speaking of which, compared to the questions and uncertainty hovering over it at this time a year ago, the line seems in much better shape now with proven ends in Dunlap and Kerry Hyder. And there seems to be more depth, even without considering Darrell Taylor, who remains the biggest wild card on the entire roster.
Player put on notice: Running back Rashaad Penny.
Seattle didn’t re-sign Chris Carson for two more years to have him sit behind Penny. Not that there won’t be plenty of ways for Penny to contribute in a rotation, and maybe on third downs. Penny’s career obviously has been hamstrung by injuries, maybe making it unfair to judge things too harshly. But entering Year 4 of his rookie deal, Penny has one shot left to prove worthy of having being taken in the first round.
Unsung hero: Matt Thomas.
Thomas’ official title is vice president of football administration. Unofficially, he is the team’s salary-cap expert. Thomas likes to stay behind the scenes — on the team’s website, there is no picture accompanying his profile, as there is with everyone else — so you are forgiven if you don’t know who he is. But Seattle’s ability this year to take what was not a whole lot of cap space (about $7 million before the release of Dunlap) and then reacquire Dunlap, re-sign Carson, sign Hyder and add Jackson, displayed some cap finesse worthy of recognition.
Two players Seahawks might be showing a lot of confidence in: Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton.
That Seattle has yet to re-sign K.J. Wright might show that the team is willing to go full time with its younger linebackers — Brooks at weakside and Barton on the strong side. If Wright doesn’t return, Brooks likely goes from playing about half the snaps, as he did last year, to basically all of them, while Barton gets a chance to play regularly.
Position I’m still wondering about: Receiver.
Seattle has yet to add anyone at receiver while losing David Moore and Phillip Dorsett, leaving in question who will be the No. 3 at the spot after Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf. But according to Jeremy Fowler of ESPN, Seattle has been looking. Fowler reported the Seahawks looked into Sammy Watkins and Willie Snead and have put out a “feeler’’ on free agent Marquise Goodwin, formerly of the 49ers. It’s also regarded as a really strong draft at receiver, and the Seahawks could wait to see what happens there. But expect Seattle to do something more at receiver in some way.
What will happen with K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman?
Initially, this category also included a thought on Quinton Dunbar’s future, making this three thoughts in one. But late Monday afternoon Dunbar agreed to a one-year deal with Detroit.
But we can still offer a thought on Dunbar, that his one-year stint might go down as one of the bigger might-have-beens in recent Seahawks history. Seattle was initially considered to have gotten something of a steal in getting Dunbar from Washington for just a fifth-round pick, though one reason his market wasn’t too hot is that he was set to be a free agent following the 2020 season and had made it clear he wanted a significant raise in a new contract, one reason Washington was willing to deal him.
Still, Dunbar seemed like a potentially great fit with the Seahawks due to his measureables and how he had played in 2019, considered a potential Pro Bowler before a late injury limited him to 11 games. But the robbery investigation and a nagging knee injury meant Seattle never really got to see the Dunbar of 2019, and now they’ll see him elsewhere in 2021.
Now, for Wright and Sherman:
Wright — As noted above, the Seahawks might well think it’s time to let the youngsters play at linebacker. That doesn’t mean Wright won’t be back, but it shouldn’t be a shock if he’s not. He had been reportedly talking to Dallas. The next week could be pivotal.
Sherman — If Dunbar had re-signed, the odds seemed pretty steep against Sherman returning. Now, those odds are better, though there are other veteran options and a strong draft at cornerback, as well. But if Seattle hasn’t added anyone after the draft and Sherman remains available, get back to us.
Thing I still can’t believe people made such a big deal out of: Russell Wilson saying, or not saying, ‘Go Hawks.’
Here’s the combined total of times Wilson didn’t say that at the end of a news conference — one. And that was for a news conference run by the NFL, not the Seahawks, to publicize his NFL Man of the Year Award. Wilson did say it at the end of both his Zoom news conferences following the Rams loss and again four days later when he talked to local media (yep, I went back and checked). True, the Man of the Year news conference was where Wilson made his comments about being frustrated over being hit so often. And yes, there was lots of fire to all the smoke around Wilson this offseason. But it all seemed to give renewed meaning to the term “the NFL’s silly season.’’