After an impressive start to the 2020 season, the Seattle Seahawks came back down to earth to end the year. The team made the playoffs but ultimately lost to the underdog Los Angeles Rams in the opening round of the playoffs. Seattle fired offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer following the loss, replacing him with Rams passing game coordinator Shane Waldron.
In other Seahawks news since the season ended, offensive lineman Mike Iupati has retired. Meanwhile, quarterback Russell Wilson is upset with the lack of protection and some teams have even explored trade offers, though the club has shut them down.
Impending Free Agents
The Seahawks enter this season with net positive cap space, though it’s not much. They have just $4.4 million left to spend, though they will surely clear more space by shedding and restructuring contracts. Nevertheless, there is only so much that they can do, so the Seattle brass will have to be picky when focusing on their class of free agents.
Shaquill Griffin, Cornerback
Griffin, 25, is an unrestricted free agent hitting the market for the first time in his career. He has started 53 games over four seasons and earned a selection to the NFC Pro Bowl roster in 2019. This past season, he started all 12 games he was active for, amassing 63 tackles and three interceptions. Griffin continues to improve and could command a deal upwards of four years and $40 million this offseason. The Cleveland Browns, Dallas Cowboys, and Los Angeles Chargers are potential landing spots for Griffin, who isn’t expected to be part of the Seahawks’ 2021 plans.
K.J. Wright, Linebacker
Wright, a CAA Sports client, has impressed over a decade in Seattle. He amassed two sacks in 2020 while adding 86 tackles, one forced fumble, and one interception. While his age (31) is a factor in his free agency value, it is not a major concern. One serious factor to watch as Wright hits the market is the length of offers he receives. Since most players at his position and age receive two- or three-year deals (at most), landing a four-year pact could be a difference-maker in the negotiating process for Wright, who has already declared that he will not take a discount to stay in Seattle. Still, a return to the Seahawks makes a lot of sense, so look for the two sides to engage in serious talks over the next month.
Chris Carson, Running Back
Carson hits free agency as one of the top running backs on the market. The 26-year-old has looked impressive when healthy, though we have only seen him in a pass-heavy unit. Still, he managed over 1,000 rushing yards in both 2018 and 2019 before adding 968 scrimmage yards through 12 games this past season. Age and reliability are the big concerns with Carson, meaning he might not command an excessive amount of money. Perhaps the former seventh-round pick could find himself signing a deal similar to that of Mark Ingram, who joined the Baltimore Ravens on a three-year, $15 million deal at the age of 29. Carson might not sign on the first day of free agency as he would be wise to allow players like Kenyan Drake and Aaron Jones to set the market higher. Look for Carson to be linked to competitive teams, such as the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins.
Jacob Hollister, Tight End
Hollister has played an underrated role in the Seahawks’ offense since joining the team in 2019. Through 27 games (eight starts) over the past two seasons, the Wyoming product caught 66 of 99 targets for 558 yards and six touchdowns. He won’t sign on as a starter this offseason, but he has shown enough pass-catching ability to put himself among the second tier of free agent tight ends. A one- or two-year deal with a team like the New England Patriots, Arizona Cardinals, or New York Jets could make sense.
Bruce Irvin, Linebacker
Irvin, a former first-round pick, played in just two games this past season before tearing his ACL. Irvin has never been a Pro Bowler, but his overall reliability and knack for playing linebacker have kept him in the league for nine seasons, including five in Seattle (two separate stints). The ACL injury will severely hurt his market and force him to settle for a discount. At such a rate, the Seahawks will likely pursue re-signing him so he can fight back from his ailment in front of the Seattle football fans that have adored him for years.
Poona Ford, Defensive Tackle
Ford started all 16 games this past season and played a key role in the Seahawks’ defensive attack. He specifically came on strong late in the year, ultimately finishing the campaign with two sacks and 40 tackles, including eight for loss and nine on the quarterback. He also forced his first career fumble. Bringing back Ford on a fairly cheap deal will likely be a top priority for the Seahawks. While his youth expands his market (he would be a good fit on both contenders and rebuilding squads), Ford is a restricted free agency, meaning Seattle has the right to match any offer he receives.
Potential Cap Casualties
The Seahawks have roughly $175 million tied up to players for 2021, leaving them with a respectable $10 million (at least) to spend this offseason. However, they are losing several key members of their team and will surely require more than $10 million to find replacements.
Carlos Dunlap, DE ($14.037 million)
Seahawks fans aren’t going to like this one. Dunlap was a midseason acquisition from Cincinnati, and he wreaked havoc upon his arrival in Seattle. In fact, Dunlap’s talent seemed to help other players perform better, too. However, money is money. Dunlap is a 32-year-old pass rusher who refused to play for the Bengals. While this was likely specific to Cincinnati and won’t happen in Seattle, it is still a bad look. Of course, character isn’t even the major concern. Cutting Dunlap would save the Seahawks more than $14 million and doesn’t carry any dead money. The Seahawks will likely try to get younger on the defensive line this offseason and could split up Dunlap’s $14 million into contracts for three cheaper and younger players.
Rashaad Penny, RB ($1.368 million)
The Seahawks had high hopes for Penny when they snagged him with the 27th pick back in 2018. However, he sat behind Chris Carson in his first two seasons before ultimately tearing his ACL in the second half of 2019. He returned for the last three games in 2020 but had a minimal impact, rushing for just 34 yards. Cutting Penny is less of a salary dump (though he does create $1.368 million in cap savings if cut and $1.948 million if traded) and more of a moving-on for a Seattle franchise that is also losing Carson.
Jarran Reed, DT ($8.975 million)
The Seahawks won’t cut both Dunlap and Jarran Reed, but parting with one or the other makes sense. Reed is a talented piece in the Seahawks’ ever-fluctuating defensive line puzzle, but he’s owed nearly $14 million next season. Through 16 games this past season, the 29-year-old made 38 tackles, including 6.5 sacks. He also defended a pass and forced a fumble. Losing a player like Reed hurts, but once again, the argument can be made that there are far better values on the open market.
Open Market Free Agent Targets
This offseason could be tricky for the Seahawks. With limited cap space and a swarm of impending free agents, Seattle may be limited in terms of bringing in big players. Rather, patchwork signs across the board are far more likely. Look for them to add help at running back, tight end, linebacker, and cornerback. If they part ways with a starting defensive lineman, they will presumably bring in a cheaper one to replace him.
Gerald Everett, TE, Los Angeles Rams
Tight end has been a glaring need for several years. While Everett isn’t elite, he is a talented pass-catcher who would fit nicely in Seattle after four years in the NFC West with the Los Angeles Rams. He might not be a top priority signing for the Seahawks, but if Everett doesn’t sign in the first week of free agency, the team might look to sign him after addressing their other needs.
Ahkello Witherspoon, CB, San Francisco 49ers
The Seahawks need help at cornerback, so why not bring in a talented defensive weapon from an NFC West foe. Witherspoon is one of several 49ers impending free agent cornerbacks. Entering his age-25 season, the former third-round pick owns four interceptions over 33 starts (47 games) in four years. He’s defended 24 passes and made 117 tackles. With Shaquill Griffin on his way out, Witherspoon could be a great fit for Seattle.
Leonard Fournette, RB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Seahawks need help at running back, especially if they cut Rashaad Penny. Seattle has been linked to players like Mike Davis and Phillip Lindsay, but it seems like they might pursue a better-known name. After years of instability at running back, they can’t be content with a major downgrade, right? Fournette isn’t Chris Carson, but he looked solid in his time with Tampa Bay this year. The former first-round pick impressed in his time with the Jacksonville Jaguars, too, proving himself as both a rusher and pass-catcher. Depending on his price tag, Fournette could be a top target for a Seahawks offense looking to fill a painful void that just won’t disappear.
Everson Griffen, DE, Detriot Lions
Griffen, 33, is a four-time Pro Bowler who spent his first nine seasons with the Minnesota Vikings before playing for the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions in 2020. The veteran is a ferocious pass-rusher, accruing at least eight sacks in five of the last seven seasons. He also has a relationship with head coach Pete Carroll. Griffen’s time at USC (2007 to 2009) coincided with Carroll’s time as the school’s head coach. This factor, as well as the Seahawks’ frequent need for defensive line help, has caused Griffen to be linked to the Seahawks for several years. Perhaps this is the offseason where a deal finally comes to fruition.
Leonard Floyd, LB, Los Angeles Rams
The third NFC West player on this list, Floyd could be a top target for Seattle after an impressive year in Los Angeles. The former first-round pick made 12 starts, accruing seven sacks and 33 tackles. He also forced a fumble. At just 28 years old, Floyd is one of the younger members of this free agent class’ top linebackers. He should command a four-year deal worth north of $50 million, but whether or not the Seahawks want (or are even able) season to pay that much money is another question.
Previewing the Draft
The Seahawks rarely ever keep their first-round pick. Once again, they parted ways with the asset this year in a trade for Jamal Adams. Seattle now owns five picks, including just one in the first three rounds. If they had more picks, they could go defense-heavy early on. Then, they could pivot to depth at wide receiver, running back, and offensive line in the later rounds. But they only have a handful of selections, and they have to spend them wisely. They should go defense first before taking a balanced approach for their final selections (while also trading up or down in the process).
Round 2, Pick 56: Cornerback or Linebacker
The Seahawks have to go defense here. However, while there have been gaping holes in the defensive line in recent months, adding a cornerback or linebacker seems more likely. There should be plenty of options at this pick, and the Seahawks are in a great position to select a late-first-round talent who takes a fall to the latter half of the second round. One common prospect linked to Seattle is Elijah Molden, a cornerback who spent his college career nearby at the University of Washington.
Early 2021 Expectations
If Wilson stays, the Seahawks will focus on defensive improvements and should be a playoff contender next season. But if he is traded, Seattle could be in a tough place—even if they turn around and spend the first-round pick they receive on a new franchise signal-caller. A lot rides on Wilson’s status, so while he will likely stay in Seattle, Seahawks fans should prepare for a turbulent offseason.
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