NFL offseason activity never really stops, nor do the questions about the Seahawks. So let’s get right to it in our latest Seahawks mailbag with questions about Jadeveon Clowney, the backup-quarterback spot, which veteran may have the most to lose in the preseason and more.
A: On Clowney, there’s no real specific news other than a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter this week that he turned down a contract offer from the Browns. That’s not a huge surprise because Cleveland’s interest has been known, and because Clowney hasn’t signed so he obviously has turned down every offer he has received.
The report leaves it unclear when Clowney turned down this offer (or what the offer was, other than to say it was the richest he has received). Cleveland.com reported Thursday that the Browns remain interested in Clowney and he is weighing his options, so the door may not be closed on the Browns.
Seattle remains interested in Clowney, too, but — say it with me now — only at the right price. And the Seahawks don’t have as much money to spend as they did in March — they would have to make a serious cut or two from the roster to create salary-cap space for Clowney. The Seahawks are listed as having $15.9 million in cap space as of Thursday by OvertheCap.com, but that does not include the contract of running back Carlos Hyde. His signing was announced Thursday, but his contract details are not yet available. The Seahawks also will need to pay bonuses for draft picks and keep some in reserve.
As for other free agents, there doesn’t appear to be anything new. There were lots of rumors last week about receivers Josh Gordon and Antonio Brown. But until the NFL rules on possible suspensions for either, nothing is likely happen. Gordon remains indefinitely suspended, and Brown’s case is under review, with no timeline set for a decision on either.
And if there’s a slow time of the year in the NFL, we’re about to reach it with offseason programs wrapping up in the next few weeks. Once teams break for the summer in mid-June there probably wouldn’t be much activity until training camps begin in late July. Of course, there will be lots of league activity in sorting out how things will work due to the coronavirus pandemic. But in terms of signings, those typically slow to almost a halt.
So the Seahawks may make another move or two over the next few weeks. But Clowney’s situation may not be resolved until around the time camp begins (which for Seattle is likely to be around July 29).
A: He’s A LEO (a hybrid linebacker/defensive-end position), that’s for sure. But you need more than one, and Benson Mayowa is going to play there, as may Bruce Irvin and rookie Alton Robinson.
But Taylor, a second-round pick in last month’s NFL draft, could emerge as the starter. Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said the team considered taking Taylor in the first round, so they obviously view him as a big talent.
And Taylor appears in line to at least play significantly, though I’d doubt any player holds the position this year with quite the same grip as Cliff Avril did in his heyday, such as 2015 when he played 79 percent of the snaps in 2015 as the team’s primary LEO. I’d doubt Seattle is necessarily planning on anyone playing that much this year, so depth and mixing and matching is going to be important, too.
A: The most obvious big-name vet who may have competition for a job and would present significant salary-cap savings is linebacker K.J. Wright.
The Seahawks could save $6.5 million by releasing him, but they would take a $3.5 million dead-cap hit, and Wright received a $1 million roster bonus in March — you’d assume if they were really considering cutting Wright they would have done so before that kicked in.
Still, since then the Seahawks have drafted a linebacker in the first round who could contend immediately for the weak-side spot (Jordyn Brooks), and revealed that Wright not only recently had shoulder surgery but also could be tried at the strong side, a spot he played earlier in his career before settling in for good at the weak side in 2013.
That spot already will be competitive with Irvin expected to be tried there and Cody Barton in the mix.
Still, the Seahawks saying Wright could be used at strong side and weak side indicates they will look for ways to get him involved even if Brooks shows he deserves to play immediately.
The Seahawks hope to upgrade a defense that last year ranked 26th in the NFL and 22nd against the run, and they believe they need more speed.
Wright, entering his 10th NFL season, is one of the most important players of the greatest era of Seahawks football and an almost-certain future Ring of Honor honoree. But we’ve seen the Seahawks make tough moves before, and if the season rolls around and they don’t think Wright will play, that cap savings could prove tempting.
A: I’m going to respectfully disagree with the notion they need to add another QB.
I think the Seahawks like this setup a lot. In Smith they have a veteran to back up starter Russell Wilson, one who knows the offense, which is more important than ever this season with the lack of ability to do on-field work during the spring.
Assuming camps open as usual in July, teams will have to hit the ground running without having had the benefit of the 13 on-field full-team workouts they could have had during OTAs and minicamp.
That makes Smith’s knowledge of the system and experience valuable, and among the reasons most people figured he’d be back.
That allows them to begin grooming Gordon, who I think will end up on the practice squad unless he were to make the 53-man roster out of camp. But you wouldn’t think Seattle would feel the need to keep three QBs, especially with the added flexibility this year of moving players up and down off the practice squad.
If Gordon plays exceptionally well in the preseason the Seahawks might have to worry about getting him through waivers and on to the practice squad. But the relaxed rules on practice-squad eligibility means they could keep Gordon, cut Smith and re-sign Smith to the practice squad, assuming he would go along with that (in previous years players with as much experience as Smith were not eligible for the practice squad, but now teams can have two players with any amount of experience on it).
So I think Seattle has a three-QB situation it likes and hopes to keep throughout the season, assuming no real hiccups/surprises with performance or injury.