Three weeks into free agency, and roughly three weeks away from the NFL draft, there remains a position group no more scrutinized on the Seahawks than the defensive line.
Will Jadeveon Clowney finally heed Russell Wilson’s plea to “please come back bro!’’
Or will the Seahawks sign someone like Everson Griffen to take his place and maybe sign another free agent or two to help fill out the line?
As we wait for further moves, let’s assess what the Seahawks do have up front with this assessment of everyone who is currently under contract, has agreed to terms or has been given a qualifying offer.
DEFENSIVE END/EDGE RUSHERS
Bruce Irvin: Irvin, Seattle’s first choice in the famed 2012 draft, returns after five seasons away with the Seahawks hoping he can replicate, if not improve, the career-high 8½ sacks he had last season with the Panthers. Expect Irvin to return to the role he had during his first run with the Seahawks as a standup linebacker on early downs (he often lined up to the outside of Michael Bennett during that time, as on this memorable play in 2014) and then move up to the line and play essentially as an end on passing downs (as shown here). Irvin reportedly agreed to a one-year deal though exact details have yet to be released.
Benson Mayowa: Mayowa, who agreed to a one-year deal last week, returns to play primarily the LEO, or rush end spot, with the Seahawks hoping he can also replicate, if not improve on, the career-high seven sacks he had last season with the Raiders.
Rasheem Green: Green led Seattle with four sacks last season and can play either end spot, and with the ability — ala Bennett — to move inside to play tackle on passing downs.
L.J. Collier: A first-round choice a year ago, the Seahawks are hoping a full season of health (both coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider mentioned at the combine how costly they felt it was that Collier missed considerable time in training camp because of an ankle injury) will result in a huge leap in production in his sophomore NFL season. Collier most typically plays the five-technique end spot, and not the same LEO role as, say, Mayowa will.
Branden Jackson: Jackson, a backup at both end spots who played 40% of Seattle’s defensive snaps last season, was given a qualifying tender as a restricted free agent and is expected to fill the same role again in 2020.
Pita Taumoepenu: An easy player to forget about, but he was signed by Seattle to the practice squad last November once he was healthy from a hamstring injury that ended his time with Arizona, and then re-signed in January. He’s listed as a linebacker but projects as an Irvin-like player who could play strongside linebacker and rush end (he played both end positions and linebacker at Utah, where he had 21½ sacks). A sixth-round choice of the 49ers in 2017, he has played in six NFL games and the Seahawks are likely intrigued by his speed (he ran a 4.67 40 at the combine in 2017.) His NFL.com scouting profile began by calling him “a pass-rush specialist.’’ If you’re looking for a sleeper to watch during camp, this might be your guy.
Nazair Jones: Where to list Jones? End? Tackle? He’ll likely play some of both as he hopes to revive his career in the final season of his four-year rookie contract. Recall that the Seahawks planned to use Jones mostly as a five-technique end last year but then he played only one preseason game while battling a knee injury before he had surgery and was placed on injured reserve. The hope will be that the surgery and year off will solve what the team said at the time was “a chronic’’ issue and maybe allow Jones to return to the form he showed in 2017 when he had 284 snaps in 11 games with two sacks.
Shaquem Griffin: Officially a linebacker, Griffin got most of his 96 defensive snaps last season playing as an edge rusher, a role Carroll has since said the team would like to expand. Could he get 8-10-12 snaps a game as an edge rusher in 2020? That’s likely in Seattle’s thoughts as the team goes about filling out its defense this offseason.
Jarran Reed: Reed re-signed to a two-year deal worth up to $23 million, agreeing to terms on the day free agency opened, and will again be the starter at the three-technique tackle spot.
Poona Ford: It’s worth remembering Ford has a year remaining on his three-year rookie deal signed as an undrafted free agent. The Seahawks now can extend Ford at any time — UDFAs are eligible for extensions after their second year — and they might want to do that sooner rather than later. Pencil Ford in again as the starter at nose tackle.
Bryan Mone: An undrafted rookie free agent who made the initial 53-man roster last year, he was later waived and then brought back at the end of the year, and then given a qualifying tender as an exclusive rights free agent. Pencil him in as competing to be Ford’s backup.
Demarcus Christmas: A sixth-round choice out of Florida State in 2019, he was never on the active roster last year while battling a back issue. The team envisioned him playing the three-technique spot a year ago and it would make sense that would still be his role.
Shakir Soto: Soto, who played at Pitt and has been on the rosters of the Cowboys, Raiders and Broncos, was signed late last year to the practice squad as depth following the suspension of Al Woods. He was re-signed in January. Soto was one of the stars of the Alliance of American Football a year ago with four sacks in eight games, which earned him a training camp invite with Dallas. But he was waived in the cutdown to 53. The Seahawks listed Soto as a tackle when he signed but now list him as an end, so we’ll see what their plans are for him. He played both end and tackle in college but was used primarily at the two tackle spots by Dallas.