Lots of good questions about the Seahawks as free agency is now just two weeks away. So let’s get to it.
A: Boy, that really seems like a lot to ask. As has been reported, Clowney is going to want something in the $18-20 million range but will likely try to get at least $21 million. Can he? We’ll all finally find out in a few weeks.
Yannick Ngakoue, meanwhile, is likely to be tagged by Jacksonville, which would mean a $19.3 million salary in 2020 — and unless he signs a long-term contract, that entire salary goes on the 2020 salary cap.
Taking on two huge contracts like that just doesn’t seem likely.
The Jaguars are going to want a lot for Ngakoue, who has expressed his desire to get out of Jacksonville. Because he will likely be tagged, they don’t have to rush into anything.
No doubt, Ngakoue is tempting — he’s only five months older than L.J. Collier and already has 36 sacks in four seasons with at least eight in each. He’s also forced 14 fumbles, exactly as many as Cliff Avril forced in his Seahawks career.
Ngakoue’s going to be really attractive to every team out there.
A best-case scenario for revamping the defensive-end spot:
- Get one premier end — re-sign Clowney, let’s say.
- Sign another cheaper vet, someone like Bruce Irvin, who made $4 million last year with Carolina on a one-year deal.
- Get another defensive end through the draft.
- Make sure to re-sign Quinton Jefferson.
That also leaves the matter of Jarran Reed and the tackle spot — Reed’s starting point is likely to be $10 million or so.
The $44 million the Seahawks currently have in cap money won’t buy everything.
A: You’re right, the Seahawks suffered a significant number of injuries last season.
There are varying ways of trying to quantify the impact of injuries. Obviously, losing a starting quarterback is a bigger deal than a backup at another spot. But one way to quantify that is to simply count the number of games lost due to active players’ injuries, as ManGamesLost.com does. By that site’s calculations, no team in 2019 lost more man games than the Seahawks, with 275.
Coach Pete Carroll said one of last season’s big regrets was the toll injuries took, especially down the stretch, when the Seahawks’ top three running backs suffered season-ending injuries in December.
To your question about revamping the training staff, the Seahawks actually did that a year ago. Here’s our story from almost exactly a year ago, when the team announced some significant changes, including hiring Ivan Lewis (who had worked under Carroll at USC and came with Steve Sarkisian from USC to UW and then back to USC) as the new strength coach and David Stricklin as the new athletic trainer.
Seahawks GM John Schneider explained the changes at the time: “We’re just trying to focus on getting better. Pete’s always talked about doing it better than it’s ever been done before. And so we went through that. We had a good evaluation of where we’ve been, regarding injuries and injury prevention. Again, that’s our training staff, our strength and conditioning staff, sports science, we are trying to be the best we possibly can be.”
At midseason, Carroll spoke a couple of times enthusiastically about the change.
As every player will tell you, football is a 100% injury sport — there is simply no way to play football and not get hurt. From that viewpoint, there’s not much anyone can do about, say, Rashaad Penny tearing his ACL or Chris Carson fracturing his hip.
We’re pretty much past the time when NFL teams make major changes to their coaching staff — that typically happens within the first few weeks of the end of the season and almost always by the combine, which was last weekend. So, I don’t foresee any significant changes this year.
Last year’s significant changes show Carroll and Schneider are not immune to switching things up. They’re always evaluating that aspect of their organization — and they’ll obviously hope for better in the injury department in 2020.
A: At the combine last week, Carroll said Tre Flowers “should be ready to make a good step forward” in 2020. That seems to imply Flowers will stay in the role he’s held the past two years at right cornerback. Three things are at play:
1. Flowers is young, entering his third season in the NFL and just his third at cornerback after playing safety at Oklahoma State. Seattle drafted him with the idea that he could make a good NFL cornerback, and I think they’ve seen enough to not give up on that just yet.
2. When they look at his overall year, the Seahawks think it’s not as bad as the playoff games would suggest. One stat to consider: Via Pro Football Reference, Flowers allowed a passer rating of 72.5 this season when targeted. Seattle’s other starting corner, Shaquill Griffin, allowed a rating of 97.3.
No doubt, the validity of passer rating — especially when used to judge defense — is hotly debated in the NFL analytic world, and it also measures just targets. True, Flowers was targeted 101 times and Griffin just 77, which obviously indicates teams more often saw reason to throw in Flowers’ direction. But stats like that help illustrate why the Seahawks look at his whole season and don’t think it was as bad as the ending made it appear.
3. Flowers is really cheap, and given Seattle’s need to spend big in other areas, they are going to need a position where they aren’t spending a ton of money.
Flowers is entering the third year of a four-year deal that will pay him an average of $689,681. That makes him the second-lowest-paid player who enters the 2020 season as a presumed starter, other than Carson ($616,285). Seattle already has four position groups in the top 10 in cap space allotted for 2020, including two on defense (linebacker and safety).
As noted, they are going to have to spend a lot to revamp the defensive line. Seattle currently has just $3.7 million committed to its corner spot, 30th in the NFL. It’d help Seattle greatly to be able to remain right around there to help out some of the other positions.
That’s why I think you’ll see Seattle draft a corner — and maybe bring in a veteran who won’t cost much — but probably not make a significant move otherwise.