The Seattle Seahawks finally got busy on the second day of free agency.
Seattle had been one of only three teams with no listed moves through the first day of free agency Monday.
But that changed Tuesday as Seattle agreed to terms with cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon on a one-year deal after losing cornerback Shaquill Griffin earlier in the day to the Jacksonville Jaguars — a move that also means the end of the Seattle chapter of the heartwarming Griffin twins story after three years together with the Seahawks.
Seattle also locked up defensive tackle Poona Ford for two years.
And, by the way, they also saw the Chicago Bears agree to sign quarterback Andy Dalton, which just might put an end to all those ever-present rumors that Russell Wilson will be traded.
Here’s a recap of the major moves of the day
One corner gone, another comes in
Griffin, a third-round pick, agreed to a three-year deal worth a base of $39 million with incentives up to $44.5 million, according to various reports, to sign with the Jaguars. Jacksonville was flush with cap room, and the move also represents a homecoming for Griffin, who grew up in St. Petersburg, Florida, and played at Central Florida.
He is likely to be joined there by brother Shaquem, who will not be tendered as a restricted free agent by Seattle and will become a free agent. Shaquem Griffin indicated on social media he may be headed to Jacksonville, as well, after three years as a special-teamer and backup linebacker in Seattle.
The Seahawks worked quickly to secure a possible replacement for Shaquill Griffin, agreeing to sign Witherspoon to a deal reported by The Athletic to be worth up to $4 million.
Witherspoon started 33 games in four years with the 49ers, battling injuries the last two seasons, He has played left and right sides, so Seattle could look to have him step in to Griffin’s spot on the left side.
At a listed 6-2, 195, the former Colorado Buffalo — who was taken 66th in the 2017 draft, 24 spots before Griffin — has the kind of size Pete Carroll likes in cornerbacks. Witherspoon is coming off a season in which injuries limited him to 11 games. But he allowed a passer rating of just 83.3 and had the sixth-best grade from Pro Football Focus of 121 cornerbacks.
Seattle also returns D.J. Reed, who stepped in for Quinton Dunbar at right cornerback and could do so again this year. Tre Flowers, who started the 2018 and 2019 seasons at right cornerback, is also under contract for the 2021 season.
Dunbar is also a free agent, and it’s unclear if the signing of Witherspoon means he is now off the table to come back.
Shaquill Griffin becomes the third Seahawk to agree to sign with the Jags, the others being running back Carlos Hyde and receiver Phillip Dorsett on Monday. Jacksonville is scheduled to play in Seattle in the 2021 season.
With Andy Dalton reportedly headed to Chicago, are the Russell Wilson rumors over?
Given the way the NFL news cycle works, rumors about Russell Wilson’s future in Seattle may never really end. But it appears you can cross off the Chicago Bears — who have long been said to be the team most interested in trading for Wilson — as the team agreed to terms with free agent quarterback Andy Dalton on Tuesday.
And with that, you may be able to also put an end to the rumors of Wilson getting traded.
The Bears were one of four teams on the list that Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, had told ESPN he would approve a trade to, the others being the Cowboys, Raiders and Saints, and the last of the four that seemed to have a need or desire to try to make a deal happen.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reported that the Bears decided to sign Dalton after making “a very aggressive pursuit” of Wilson but were told that “Seattle is not trading him at this time.’’
OK, this being the NFL, some may take “at this time’’ and run with that as a sign that the door isn’t totally closed, especially with Deshaun Watson still unhappy in Houston and wanting to be traded, and the Texans signing quarterback Tyrod Taylor on Tuesday.
Wilson’s contract with Seattle runs through 2023, so “at this time’’ could encompass a lot of ground.
But reports indicated that if Seattle had really wanted to trade Wilson now, it could have to the Bears and gotten a significant haul.
“Talk about unloading the chambers,” said Stacey Dales of the NFL Network describing Chicago’s efforts to get Wilson. “We’ll leave it right there as to how much they tried to go after Russell Wilson.”
But indications are that the Seahawks never gave serious thought to dealing Wilson, with the team knowing that would likely mean a few years of rebuilding.
Dalton is said to be getting a one-year, $10 million deal that could grow to $13 million. The Bears also still have Nick Foles on their roster at a salary of $4 million for this year and a dead cap number of $10.6 million.
Each of the other three teams on Wilson’s list appear to be set at QB as well, with Dallas having re-signed Dak Prescott, the Raiders seeming content with Derek Carr and the Saints having re-signed Jameis Winston on Monday to compete with Taysom Hill to take over for Drew Brees.
Seahawks hoping to stay Ford tough for two years
A source confirmed to The Seattle Times that the Seahawks secured a two-year contract with defensive tackle Poona Ford instead of giving him a tender as a restricted free agent.
As reported by The NFL Network, the two-year deal is worth up to $14 million with incentives. It assures Ford $4.4 million in 2021, more than the $3.38 million he would have gotten on a non-guaranteed second-round tender. As the NFL Network put it, Ford can get “bigger money” in 2022 and will have a chance to hit free agency in 2023.
Ford has emerged as one of Seattle’s key defensive players since making the team in 2018 as an undrafted free agent out of Texas.
Ford started all 16 games last year at nose tackle, playing a career-high 671 snaps.
Ford finished with a Pro Football Focus grade of 79.8 in 2020, 15th out of 125 defensive tackles.
Leonard Fournette, Rodney Hudson in play?
As of early Tuesday night, Witherspoon was the only free agent Seattle had agreed to sign.
But a report early in the day from Albert Breer of SI.com stated the Seahawks have “made a strong bid’’ to try to reel in free agent running back Leonard Fournette, who was last seen helping lead Tampa Bay to a Super Bowl title.
The Bucs, though, are also trying to keep Fournette.
Speculation also grew through the day that the Seahawks might make a play for former Raiders center Rodney Hudson, who it was reported will be released. Hudson is 31 and apparently asked for his release after the team voided a $3.5 million guarantee for the 2021 season. However, the release did not become official Tuesday, so he cannot sign with any team just yet.
But Hudson, who was the eighth-rated center in the NFL last year by Pro Football Focus, figures to have a lengthy list of suitors which could include the Seahawks, who have a vacancy there with Ethan Pocic set to become a free agent.
The signing of Hudson might also be seen as the kind of splash to beef up the offensive line that Wilson essentially advocated for earlier this year.