The Seahawks do not have a first-round pick Thursday night in the NFL draft.
But they acquired a first-round pick Thursday, anyway — a former one, at least — in defensive tackle Robert Nkemdiche.
Nkemdiche was the 29th overall pick in 2016 by the Arizona Cardinals out of Ole Miss. In fact, many analysts that year predicted Nkemdiche would be picked by Seattle, including ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr., as the Seahawks had the 26th pick entering the draft. Seattle instead pulled off a trade to move down in the draft and took offensive lineman Germain Ifedi with the 31st pick and defensive tackle Jarran Reed in the second round.
With Reed now gone after he was released by the Seahawks in a salary-cap-cutting move, Nkemdiche becomes a Seahawk to help replace him. Seattle listed Nkemdiche at 6 feet 4 and 296 pounds and as a defensive tackle on the roster.
He comes to Seattle to also potentially put a happier ending on a career that has not lived up to expectations.
Nkemdiche started just six games in three years with Arizona, all in 2018, before being released. He spent part of the 2019 season with Miami before being released in November He was suspended for two games by the league in 2019 for unstated reasons. The suspension was listed as officially lifted 13 days later.
He was not on a roster last season, but according to a report from Ed Werder of ESPN, the 26-year-old Nkemdiche wanted another chance to play and “crushed” a recent workout with the Seahawks to show he was still in shape.
Nkemdiche has 51 tackles in 29 career NFL games with 4.5 sacks, all coming in 2018, with 2.5 coming in one game against the Chargers.
Nkemdiche was considered by some as a potential risk entering the NFL after he was suspended for Ole Miss’ Sugar Bowl game appearance against Oklahoma State.
According to ESPN, the suspension came after Nkemdiche had been charged with marijuana possession “after Atlanta police found seven rolled marijuana cigarettes in a hotel room tied to Nkemdiche.” He fell 15 feet and suffered mild injuries after breaking a window in a room at the Grand Hyatt in Atlanta, according to a police report obtained by ESPN.
Contract details were not revealed, but Nkemdiche is likely to have signed a one-year, veteran-minimum deal with Seattle which has five other tackles on its roster — Poona Ford, Al Woods, Bryan Mone, Cedrick Lattimore and Myles Adams.
Ford, Woods and Mone project as the top three in the team’s rotation — Seattle usually keeps three or four defensive tackles active on game day — with Nkemdiche now joining Lattimore and Adams in the battle to make the roster. Lattimore was a rookie in 2020 signed out of Iowa as an undrafted free agent. He was on the practice squad all season before being promoted to the active roster for the playoff loss to the Rams. Adams is a second-year player out of Rice who was in camp with Carolina last year and signed to Seattle’s practice squad late last season.
After the Seahawks cut Reed they brought back Woods for his third tenure in Seattle to help replace him. Woods will likely battle with Mone for the other starting spot at tackle in the base defense alongside Ford.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider on Wednesday called Reed a salary cap “casualty situation.” The team had hoped to restructure Reed’s contract to lower his $13.9 million cap hit. But he refused, and the team released him. He ended up signing with Kansas City on a one-year deal worth $5.5 million.
“Yes, we were disappointed,” Schneider said. “It ended up being a casualty situation with Jarran. We talk about this every year with you guys, that there’s going to be really tough decisions that we have to make along the way. We wish that Jarran would have worked with us a little bit, but it wasn’t in the cards. He made a decision.”
Coach Pete Carroll hinted Wednesday that the Seahawks had more moves coming, and Nkemdiche won’t be the only player the team adds over the next week as it fills out its roster. Seattle has 67 players under contract and has three picks in this week’s draft. Teams can have up to 90 for training camp.
Nkemdiche becomes the second former first-round pick with some baggage that Seattle has signed in recent weeks, with the Seahawks earlier this month bringing in defensive end Aldon Smith, a first-round pick by the 49ers in 2011.
Smith was charged a few days later on a second-degree battery charge, alleged to have gotten into an altercation with a man in a parking lot of a coffee shop in the New Orleans area. Smith remains on Seattle’s roster, with Schneider saying Wednesday during the team’s pre-draft news conference the team cannot comment on his situation until the legal process runs its course. Smith is set for an arraignment July 14.