RENTON — The Seahawks’ last-ditch effort to retain Jadeveon Clowney over the weekend ended when he signed a one-year contract with the Tennessee Titans.
It’s not as if the Seahawks didn’t try. Their offer in the spring, roughly $16 million per year, is thought to be on par with any offer other than one from Cleveland at more than $18 million.
The Seahawks tried to stay in it to the end, but Clowney ended up signing a one-year deal with Tennessee worth up to $15 million with a base value of $13 million, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero (as for why, he may well explain when he is scheduled to talk to the media Thursday in Tennessee).
And that Seattle didn’t retain Clowney, which raised questions of how the team will fare without him.
The way defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. sees it, the answer may well be just fine, thank you.
Had he returned, Clowney would have slid into the starting role at the team’s strongside defensive end spot, or what’s also referred to as the five-technique.
Now that spot belongs to second-year player L.J. Collier and third-year player Rasheem Green.
In a surprise, Collier was listed as the starter on the depth chart this week ahead of Green.
That’s not necessarily a big deal because both players will see a lot of action, with the end spot being one where players regularly rotate.
But Collier, Seattle’s first-round pick in 2019, was one of the team’s bigger unknowns heading into the season after playing just 152 snaps a year ago after suffering a sprained ankle in training camp.
And when Collier got healthy he didn’t make much of an impact, declared by the team as inactive for both playoff games.
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider expressed confidence throughout the offseason in Collier, pointing specifically to the training camp injury as a significant factor in throwing his season off course.
And so far, Collier appears to be repaying their faith.
“Really good growth,” Norton said Wednesday of Collier when he talked to media via Zoom after practice. “He’s come a long way. He understands the way we practice, he understands the scheme. Understands what his role is in the defense and what his responsibilities are. So I think he’s really going to take a lot of steps.”
In a separate Zoom call with media, defensive line coach Clint Hurtt noted that Collier has lost weight from his listed 291 and is now in the 270s, similar to where he was in college at TCU.
“He’s moving really well,” Hurtt said.
Added Norton of Collier: “The urgency is where it needs to be. We are excited for him to really get going.”
None of which, the team cautions, is meant as a slight on Green, a third-round pick in 2018 out of USC who took the kind of big step in production last season in his second year in the NFL that the team now hopes Collier can, leading the Seahawks with four sacks.
“The competition continues,” Norton said. “Obviously you will see them both on gameday. But at the same time, we are strong there because we have two really good football players.”
The Seahawks could use some other players there too, such as Damontre Moore, who was signed last week, returning after playing a few good games for Seattle in 2016.
Still, for now the onus of replacing the lost production of Clowney will largely fall on the shoulders of Green and Collier.
Norton says they are up to the task.
“There’s no question we are going to be pretty good there because both of those guys are pretty good,” Norton said.
Pocic happy but not satisfied
Carroll officially named fourth-year player Ethan Pocic as the starter at center earlier this week, capping a rebound of an offseason and training camp for the team’s second pick in the 2017 draft, taken in the second round out of LSU.
Pocic played just four games last season while dealing with neck and sports hernia injuries and he was generally viewed as a longshot to win the starting center job heading into camp after the Seahawks signed B.J. Finney to a two-year deal with $4.5 million guaranteed.
But this was the first year Seattle used Pocic exclusively at center, which was his primary position at LSU. He had offseason surgery to fix a sports hernia issue that had lingered, in part after Pocic said it was initially misdiagnosed.
‘”I didn’t realize I had it until it got real bad,” Pocic said. “But I’m feeling better now and it’s just moving forward.”
Winning the starting center job is particularly significant for his career as he enters the final season of his rookie contract. Holding onto it might compel the Seahawks to offer him a deal to stick around.
Pocic said he was happy to get the news that he’d won the job but realizes it’s just a start.
“It’s one of those things that it’s awesome, but it’s one day at a time and you’ve got to continue it,” he said when he talked to the media via Zoom before practice Wednesday. “For me, the way I see it, it’s not one of those things where ‘you got it, you are good, you earned it, whatever.’ You did earn it, but you’ve got to go out each day and prove it.”
Seahawks add Rush to practice squad
The Seahawks officially signed defensive tackle Anthony Rush to the practice squad Wednesday. That he’d agreed to sign was reported over the weekend, but he had to go through the league’s COVID-19 protocol before he could officially sign.
Rush was waived by the Eagles at the cutdown to 53 on Saturday. He played in nine games for the Eagles last year as well as the wild-card playoff game against the Seahawks (he also played against the Seahawks in a game in November).
Rush is listed at 6 feet 5 inches, 350 pounds and projects as a base defense, run-down lineman.
Seattle has just three listed defensive tackles on its 53-player roster — Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Bryan Mone — and has Rush and undrafted rookie free agent Cedrick Lattimore on the practice squad.
Teams can call up two players off the practice each Saturday to be on the active roster on Sunday and go back to the practice squad the following Monday.
Seattle’s tackle numbers may indicate the Seahawks could use one of their two spots on a defensive tackle over the next few weeks.
The addition of Rush and re-signing receiver John Ursua filled out the practice squad to the maximum 16.
Teams last year had just 10 players on the practice squad, but the number was going to be increased to 12 as part of the league’s new collective bargaining agreement and it then went to 16 as part of protocols put in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Just three on injury report
The Seahawks’ first official injury report of the year did not contain any surprises, with just three players listed as limited — left tackle Duane Brown (knee), offensive lineman Cedric Ogbuehi (pectoral) and receiver Phillip Dorsett II (foot).
The Seahawks have said Brown’s practice time would be managed while Ogbuehi and Dorsett each appear on the mend from injuries that held them out earlier in camp.