There were enough good questions this week about the Seahawks and the NFL to fill out another mailbag. So let’s get to it.
A: There has been speculation for months that the Chiefs may be forced to trade Jones, a fourth-year defensive tackle who made his first Pro Bowl last season as Kansas City went on to win the Super Bowl. Jones was given a franchise tag last spring but has made it clear he would prefer a long-term mega deal, something that so far the Chiefs haven’t given him.
Speculation about his future will only increase now that we are nearing the deadline for players who have been given a franchise tag to either sign a new deal by July 15 or play under the terms of the tag — Jones has yet to sign his tag — with their team unable to negotiate with them further until after the season.
Some of the speculation with Jones specifically also focused on the idea that the Chiefs may not have been able to keep him for the immediate future if they also signed quarterback Patrick Mahomes to a new contract, as Kansas City did earlier this week, giving him a whopping 10-year extension that makes him the highest-paid player in NFL history on a deal that could be worth up to $503 million.
The thought was a new Mahomes deal might make it even harder for the team to keep Jones and force the team to have to trade him now.
But when the final numbers of that contract were revealed, it didn’t really change Kansas City’s salary cap for the next two years and the Chiefs can easily keep Jones and his $16.16 million cap hit for 2020 — even after the deal with Mahomes, Kansas City has $6.2 million in cap space remaining for this year (Seattle has $13.9 million).
That, of course, doesn’t solve the question of the future.
But it’s possible neither side will care about that as much as the trade rumors surrounding Jones may indicate.
As Joel Corry of CBSSports.com noted, this season marks Jones’ first chance to make really big money — the $16 million would more than double the $6 million he has made so far in his NFL career. As Corry concluded, that might compel Jones to not want to take “an extreme stance” such as holding out, instead willing to play on the tag for this season and let the future sort itself out later (and maybe especially right now given the uncertainty of everything, which also means it may be harder for him to get an extension, which also could make each side decide to just play for the moment on this).
The Chiefs, meanwhile, have an obviously legit shot to win another Super Bowl and Jones is a key part of that effort — he had nine sacks last year and 15.5 the year before, totals rarely seen from an interior defensive lineman.
At this stage, the Chiefs wouldn’t get a player back who would logically be better and improve their chances in 2020. And while they might get a lot of draft capital, that won’t help them win a Super Bowl now.
In other words, before asking if Seattle would be interested in trading for Jones we need to see if the Chiefs will even want to think about dealing him.
If the Chiefs did want to deal Jones?
Well, given Seattle’s recent history of pulling off summer blockbusters (Jadeveon Clowney in 2019, Sheldon Richardson in 2017) you can bet the Seahawks would take a look (or should we say, do their “due diligence,” the phrase just about trademarked at this point by Pete Carroll and John Schneider).
And in the cases of both Clowney and Richardson, the Seahawks were willing to take on a player entering the final year of his contract and risk losing him after just a season.
Seattle has established starters at tackle in Jarran Reed and Poona Ford, but Jones is the kind of difference-maker worth shuffling things to get. Would a package of Reed (Seattle would have to create some cap space of its own to make such a move) and a couple of pretty high draft picks be enough?
The guess here is that the Chiefs — being in true and realistic win-now mode — will err on the side of keeping Jones unless things really get ugly or really attractive in an offer from another team.
A: I’m assuming the question here is about Shaquem Griffin, the third-year linebacker and fifth-round pick out of Central Florida in 2018. As I noted in a recent roster projection, Griffin does indeed loom as one of the more intriguing “bubble” players in camp this year.
Griffin has yet to carve out a starting role as a linebacker, a spot where the Seahawks have added three draft picks in the last two years — Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven — to add to stalwarts Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, and then this year also adding veteran free agent Bruce Irvin.
A realistic depth chart heading into camp I think would be Wagner, Wright (assuming he is healthy from an offseason shoulder surgery) and Irvin, with Brooks, Barton and Burr-Kirven as the backups (the Killer B backups?) and Griffin fighting to break into that group.
Could Seattle keep seven linebackers when six is a more regular number if all prove worthy of making the team?
The wild card in this is Griffin himself and the pass-rush role the team was developing for him at the end of the 2019 season — Griffin played 14 snaps in the two playoff games in a specialty pass-rush package, getting a sack against Green Bay.
Or, maybe, Irvin becomes considered more of a pass-rusher himself and doesn’t play as much strongside linebacker (which would happen if the team actually moves Wright to SLB to make way for Brooks at WLB) and sort of opens up a spot.
Certainly, it will be a little trickier for Griffin to make the roster in year three than in his first two seasons. Cap hits on rookie deals go up with each year, and Griffin’s this year is $829,405, of which $670,595 if he were released.
And then there is all that added competition.
Griffin has proven to be a valuable special-teams contributor his first two seasons, though his special-teams snap counts decreased at the end of last season, so that will be something to watch, as well. (He had 32 percent or fewer of special-teams snaps in the final four games of the year after playing 74 percent in the opener.)
But one thing I’ve mentioned that is worth mentioning again — it appears likely that practice squads will be increased from their current 12 to as high as 16. And everyone now has practice-squad eligibility, with teams able to call up two players from the practice squad to the active roster each gameday.
So, if Griffin were to not make the initial 53-man roster, I think the Seahawks would certainly sign him to the practice squad (assuming he clears waivers, which is no guarantee, but also worth remembering that most players usually do).
So while there’s always a lot of discussion about bubble players — and Griffin will definitely be one of them — I think Seattle’s hope is to keep all of those linebackers in the organization in some way.
A: No doubt, with each day the news seems a little more ominous.
On Thursday came reports of some additional NFL protocols for the season, which includes not allowing players to swap jerseys after games. That drew some swift and harsh reaction on social media from a number of players, including Irvin, who tweeted that “we might as well play 2 hand touch.”
While the NFL trying to eliminate players from gathering after games after they have spent three hours tackling and blocking each other definitely seemed contradictory, it also speaks to how complicated all of this is getting for the league.
The NFL’s hope in the spring, when the outbreak began, was to continue with its offseason business as usual and hope that things had cleared up enough by the time fall rolled around to go on with its season business as usual.
But with each day, that’s looking less likely.