The Seahawks on Tuesday made major moves toward taking care of one of their biggest remaining needs this offseason — shoring up the pass rush — by bringing back one of their best edge rushers of last season, veteran Benson Mayowa, and then signing free agent Kerry Hyder of the 49ers.
Both players agreed to deals that include voidable years, allowing the Seahawks to spread out the cap hit of the signing bonus money by pro-rating it throughout the life of the contract.
Mayowa agreed to what is reported to be a four-year deal that voids after two years. The NFL Network reported the deal is worth up to $8.8 million with $4.61 million guaranteed in year one.
Hyder agreed to what was initially reported as a three-year deal worth up to $17.5 million. But the third year voids, so the deal is more correctly viewed as a two-year, $6.5 million contract, as initially revealed by Pro Football Talk. The void year allows for the cap hit to be spread out over the third year, but Hyder is not technically under contract for that season (while Mayowa’s spreads the cap hit over a reported four years but ends after two). A source confirmed to the Times both players have agreed to deals with the Seahawks.
Seattle has now used voidable years on four contracts during this free-agent season – the others on Chris Carson and Ethan Pocic – working to fit players into a 2021 salary cap that has been reduced to $182.5 million from last year’s $198.2 million due to COVID-19-related losses in revenue. Seattle had not previously used voidable years during the John Schneider/Pete Carroll era.
Hyder, 29, had a career-high 8 1/2 sacks for the 49ers last season after playing the previous year in Dallas and from 2015-18 in Detroit, Hyder played at Texas Tech going unselected in the 2014 NFL Draft.
The 29-year-old Mayowa had six sacks in 13 games with nine starts for the Seahawks last season, missing three games at midseason due to an ankle injury.
The two signings raise the question of whether the Seahawks will still be able to retain free agent Carlos Dunlap, who revived the team’s pass rush after being acquired in a trade last October with the Cincinnati Bengals.
However, the Seahawks plan to use Hyder as their five-technique end and not at the same rush end/LEO spot that Dunlap primarily played, so his arrival does not necessarily preclude Dunlap returning.
Hyder, listed at 6 feet 2, 270 pounds, was rated by Pro Football Focus as the 183rd-best free agent available this offseason.
In its scouting report of Hyder, PFF wrote, “Playing on his third team in three seasons, Hyder turned in a career-high 68.6 overall grade … tying a career high with 55 pressures in 2020. Hyder knows how to win as a pass-rusher up front, ranking near the middle of the pack in pass-rush win percentage since 2018, but he must do a better job of finishing plays as he’s missed an incredible 21 tackles on just 114 career attempts.”
As PFF noted, Hyder thrived last season playing in a system with the 49ers similar to that run by Seattle under former defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who is now the head coach of the Jets but once was a Seahawks assistant. That Hyder played well in a similar system undoubtedly influenced Seattle’s decision to sign him.
“Hyder played the most snaps of his career and had at least two pressures in every outing but one, and now he’ll look to cash in free agency, potentially playing for his fourth team in four straight seasons,” PFF wrote.
Dunlap emerged as the team’s best pass-rusher in the final two months of the 2020 after being acquired for never-used offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a 2021 seventh-round pick. But he was released earlier this month so the team could get out of his $14.1 million cap hit for the 2021 season.
At the time of his trade, the cap hit would have been $11.1 million for 2021. But Dunlap agreed when being traded to Seattle to defer $3 million to the 2021 season as a bonus (that he ended up not getting when he was released).
Dunlap had five sacks in eight games for the Seahawks, who finished the season with 46, seventh-most in the NFL. They were led by the 9 1/2 of strong safety Jamal Adams.
With Dunlap, Mayowa and Bruce Irvin free agents and still unsigned as the second week of free agency began, how Seattle fills out its pass rush loomed as one of the big remaining questions.
But adding Mayowa and Hyder now goes a long way toward solving that mystery. And it’s thought Seattle wanted to strike more quickly to address its pass rush this season in free agency than it did a year ago, when Seattle waited a while to see if its offer to Jadeveon Clowney would be accepted before eventually deciding it couldn’t delay any longer.
Mayowa had four sacks in the final seven games of the season after returning from injury and began sharing more time at the LEO/rush end position with Dunlap.
Coach Pete Carroll said he felt Mayowa was more productive when he didn’t have to play as many snaps. Mayowa played no more than 58% of snaps in the final seven games after playing at least 63% in the first six games of the year.
The Seahawks hope to again use Mayowa in a rotation at the rush-end spot again with 2020 rookies Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson and maybe Dunlap or another veteran such as Irvin, who is recovering from a knee injury suffered last September.
Hyder will join the five-technique end group that also includes L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green. All have the ability to play end in the base defense and slide inside and play tackle in the nickel.
Also at question now is the moves Seattle will have to make to get compliant with the salary cap. The Seahawks were listed as being $2.7 million over the cap entering Tuesday by OvertheCap.com. And that was without accounting for the contract of tight end Gerald Everett, who reportedly signed a one-year deal worth up to $6 million.
Add the Hyder and Mayowa deals, and Seattle has a little work to do.
Possibilities include redoing the contract of offensive lineman Gabe Jackson, or restructuring the contracts of Russell Wilson and/or Bobby Wagner to turn salary into a signing bonus and further spread out the cap hits.
Hyder becomes the third free agent signed from another team during the 2021 free-agent signing period, joining Everett (Rams) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (also the 49ers) along with acquiring Jackson in a trade with the Raiders.