Analysis: Assessing Seahawks' Defensive Position Groups After Two Weeks of Free Agency

After a quiet first week in free agency, the Seahawks went into aggressive mode fortifying their pass rush with a trio of signings in a two-day period. With a few big name free agents still unsigned, what's next for Seattle on defense?
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Sticking with status quo, general manager John Schneider and the Seahawks didn't necessarily make any splashy signings during the first couple weeks of the free agency period. However, the franchise did address several positions of need, including signing former 49ers cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon and recently bringing back Pro Bowl defensive end Carlos Dunlap.

With two weeks of free agency in the books, here's a look at how Seattle's roster is shaping up on the defensive side of the ball and what's next for each positional group as the offseason unfolds.

Defensive End

Players on Roster: Carlos Dunlap, Kerry Hyder, Benson Mayowa, L.J. Collier, Rasheem Green, Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson

Additions: Kerry Hyder

Departures: None

Unsigned Free Agents: Damontre Moore

What's Next: After sitting pat the first week of free agency on the pass rusher front, Schneider came out aggressive bolstering the unit, starting with the move to re-sign Mayowa. The soon-to-be 30-year old veteran wrapped up the 2020 season fourth on the team with 6.0 sacks. Then, Seattle signed a key player away from a division rival, agreeing to terms with Hyder on a two-year pact with him expected to take over as the new starter at base defensive end. To cap off a flurry of activity, Schneider brought back Dunlap on a two-year, $16.6 million deal, re-signing him for a fraction of his original $14 million cap hit to add star power to the edge. These three additions will allow youngsters such as Taylor and Robinson to continue growing in a rotational role without forcing either into the starting lineup too quickly and give the team arguably the best pass rushing depth they have had since 2013.

Defensive Tackle

Players on Roster: Poona Ford, Bryan Mone, Al Woods, Cedrick Lattimore, Myles Adams

Additions: Al Woods

Departures: Jarran Reed

Unsigned Free Agents: None

What's Next: Though the Seahawks were forced to part ways with Reed due to a huge 2020 cap hit and ultimately released the five-year starter, the team should still feel confident with the talent and depth they have at defensive tackle. Ford recently signed a two-year extension to keep him with the team through 2022, Mone received an exclusive rights tender, and after a stellar debut in the playoffs, Lattimore could be ready to take on a bigger rotational role after signing a future/reserve contract. In addition, Woods' return provides another experienced veteran with past starting experience to help fill the void. With Reed gone, it might not be a bad idea to consider drafting a defensive tackle or signing one as a priority undrafted free agent next month, but the team remains in decent shape at this position.

Linebacker

Players on Roster: Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven

Additions: None

Departures: Shaquem Griffin

Unsigned Free Agents: K.J. Wright, Bruce Irvin

What's Next: One of the biggest remaining questions for Seattle to answer is whether or not K.J. Wright will be back in the fold in 2021. The long-time standout linebacker enjoyed one of his finest seasons last year, but with Brooks ready to play full-time and the team lacking cap space, it's still unclear whether the team will be able to retain him. He's exploring his options. If Wright and Bruce Irvin aren't re-signed, Barton will likely be the favorite to step in as the starting SAM linebacker in his third season. It's possible the Seahawks could also explore drafting a hybrid edge rusher/linebacker to fill that role, though that may not be ideal with only three draft choices currently.

Cornerback

Players on Roster: Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed, Ahkello Witherspoon, Ugo Amadi, Gavin Heslop, Jordan Miller

Additions: Ahkello Witherspoon

Departures: Shaquill Griffin

Unsigned Free Agents: Quinton Dunbar, Jayson Stanley, Linden Stephens

What's Next: The departure of Griffin for Jacksonville left a major gap in Seattle's secondary, but the team worked swiftly to sign a potential replacement in Witherspoon. The former third round pick out of Colorado will likely compete against Flowers for a starting spot across from Reed, who played very well down the stretch to close out the 2020 season. In the slot, Marquise Blair will be returning from an ACL tear and once again compete against Amadi in training camp, while Heslop and Miller will likely be camp bodies battling for practice squad roles. This still looks like a group in need of further reinforcements, which could mean the eventual return of Dunbar on a team-friendly deal and/or snagging a cornerback from a solid draft class featuring a bevy of lengthy, athletic prospects at the position.

Safety

Players on Roster: Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Marquise Blair, Ryan Neal

Additions: None

Departures: None

Unsigned Free Agents: Lano Hill, Damarious Randall

What's Next: After sending multiple first-round picks to the Jets to acquire Adams, negotiating a long-term extension with the All-Pro safety sits atop Schneider's offseason to-do list. Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection, Diggs also will be seeking a new contract entering the final year of his current deal, so there are certainly long-term issues that must be addressed at the position. Assuming both players are extended as anticipated, Blair and Neal provide two excellent reserve options with starter upside behind them who can also play significant snaps in sub-packages, giving the team top-notch safety depth. Drafting a hedge could be a possibility, but much like defensive tackle, the Seahawks should be happy with this position group as constructed.