The Seahawks are reported to be getting a visit from veteran DT Tom Johnson as Minnesota wooed away Sheldon Richardson, who said the Vikings "gave me a better offer than Seattle did."
In a news conference held shortly after the announcement, Richardson said he chose the Vikings because “I wanted the best opportunity to win a Super Bowl and I feel this is it.”
Richardson, though, also said the Vikings simply “gave me a better offer than Seattle did.”
In fact, a report from Charles Robinson of Yahoo.com stated Seattle’s offer was just $6.5 million compared to Minnesota’s package of an $8 million base and $3 million more possible in incentives. Richardson was also reported to have wanted just a one-year contract so he could potentially hit free agency again next year.
The Seahawks had been trying for some time to lock up Richardson, for whom they paid heavily just before the start of the 2017 season, trading a second-round pick in 2018 as well as receiver Jermaine Kearse to the Jets (while also swapping seventh-rounders) in a move Seattle hoped might prove to be the missing piece in another Super Bowl run.
Richardson was available in part because he was entering the final year of his contract and the Jets had not been able to re-sign him to a long-term deal. And Seattle made the deal to fill a void created when rookie Malik McDowell suffered season-ending injuries in an ATV accident in July.
“Malik had his situation this past summer, so we were really looking for a 3-technique, so we added Sheldon,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said at the NFL Combine a few weeks ago.
The Seahawks hoped that if Richardson fit in well and the team made a deep playoff run that they might be able to get a deal done with Richardson before he hit free agency.
But that didn’t happen as Seattle fell to a 9-7 record and missed the playoffs for the first time since 2011. And the 27-year-old Richardson made it clear as the season ended that he was intrigued by hitting free agency for the first time in his career.
Seattle could have assured he would return for the 2018 season by placing a franchise tag on him. But that would have meant a $13.9 million salary in 2018 and the Seahawks didn’t want to pay that and also didn’t want to set that as a floor for negotiations for a long-term deal.
The Seahawks will now hope to get a third- or fourth-round pick as compensation in 2019 and the flexibility to use that as trade bait this year.
But it also means a big hole in Seattle’s defensive front that the Seahawks need to fill.
Seattle sent signals Friday that it knew Richardson was out the door when multiple reports surfaced that the Seahawks will have Minnesota veteran Tom Johnson in for a visit Monday.
Johnson plays a similar role as Richardson though at 33 years old (he turns 34 in August) would probably be signed to a short-term deal.
The 6-3, 288-pounder has 16 sacks in his four years with the Vikings and also is regarded as a solid run defender.
Here’s how Pro Football Focus assessed Johnson in its free agent preview: “Johnson was seen as a designated interior pass-rusher for the majority of his career, but he has reinvented himself as an every down 3-technique in recent years. Consistently ask him to hold up against double teams or reduce down to a 1-technique, and you’re going to have a bad time. But let him go one-on-one and shoot a gap, and he can still make plays. At 33 years old, contenders in need of interior pass-rush are going to be giving him a look at this point in his career.”
According to PFF, Johnson’s 736 snaps this past season were the second-most of his career and his 9.1 run-stop percentage was 12th-best among defensive tackles and a career high while he only finished 24th in pass-rush productivity this past season at 5.3.
Johnson has a particularly interesting story having not played in an NFL regular season game until he was 27, and spending time in the Arena League, NFL Europe and the CFL (he was a teammate of Brandon Browner’s with Calgary) before finally breaking through and making it with the Saints in 2011.
The Seahawks also have gotten a visit from Quinton Dial, who played for the 49ers from 2013-16 and spent last season with the Packers, making 12 tackles in 13 games.
And Seattle earlier was also reported getting a visit from end Tank Carradine.
Losing Richardson could also mean Seattle will make a harder push for free agent defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, who was released by Miami on Wednesday.
Suh, a Portland native, was in Seattle earlier this week though that was not for an official visit with the team. However, he was reported to have talked with Seattle coach Pete Carroll and is said interested in the Seahawks. Suh, though, also is reported to have visits already lined up with the Saints and Titans, with no word yet if he will have an official visit with Seattle. Suh, in fact, was reported by Dianna Russini of ESPN to be having dinner with “Saints brass” Friday night.
The Seahawks will obviously hope that visit does not lead to a signing and leave them a chance to still court Suh.
As for Richardson, he leaves having made one sack and 27 tackles in 15 games for Seattle, though the raw stats don’t show the impact he had on the team’s run defense in 2017, which grew stouter throughout the season after a rough start, with the Seahawks ultimately allowing 4.0 yards per carry.
He also leaves with a legacy that will be hotly debated.
Seattle’s acquisition of Richardson came in a season when the Seahawks appeared to be all-in to make one last run at a Super Bowl title with its aging core, as would the trade for left tackle Duane Brown in October.
Seattle traded for both Richardson and Brown to fill holes created by injuries — McDowell’s ATV accident and George Fant’s season-ending knee injury suffered in a preseason game in August.
The hope was that Richardson would be added for the long-term, just as it’s thought the Seahawks will try to get an extension done with Brown, whose contract runs through the 2018 season.
But now, Seattle will see Richardson only when the Vikings come to CenturyLink Field next season.
And they have no idea if they will see McDowell, whose situation remains murky. He suffered what coach Pete Carroll has said was a bad concussion and he will have to pass a battery of tests to get cleared to play, with no one sure if or when that will happen.
When the Seahawks traded for Richardson, there was much fanfare about the Seahawks having three former Pro Bowlers on their defensive line.
Now, barely seven months later, all could be gone. Richardson is off to the Vikings, Michael Bennett traded to the Eagles and Cliff Avril widely speculated to likely retire or be released soon due to a neck nerve issue that could mean he cannot play again.
The departure of Richardson also continued what has been a pretty drastic makeover for the Seahawks the last few months as six defensive players who have been starters at some point in the last two years have moved on — Bennett, Avril, Richardson and cornerbacks Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead — as well as tight end Jimmy Graham and receiver Paul Richardson, who combined for 16 of the team’s 34 receiving touchdowns in 2017.