Grading Every Seahawks Transaction From First Week of Free Agency

Following a hectic first week of free agency, how did the Seahawks make out? Reporter Ty Dane Gonzalez hands out individual grades for each of the team's moves thus far.
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Moving into the second week of the NFL offseason, the Seahawks still have some big items on their to-do list. From needing an edge rusher to receiving depth and a strongside linebacker, they're far from done in their offseason shopping, even though their needs outweigh their means at the moment.

What they've done up to this point, however, has succeeded in providing clarity at several positions. Over the course of seven transactions, general manager John Schneider, as expected, took a creative and fairly unorthodox approach to improving his team's roster. Retaining four 2020 contributors plus three more outside pieces, the Seahawks were busier and more aggressive right out of the gate than in years past.

While they still had some hiccups along the way, they've accomplished quite a lot through the first five days of the new league year. Let's take a dive into every move they've made up to this point, doling out grades and some quick thoughts for each one in chronological order.

Signed CB Ahkello Witherspoon to one-year, $4 million contract

Mere hours after Shaquill Griffin chose to depart Seattle for Jacksonville, the Seahawks found a potential replacement at left cornerback in Ahkello Witherspoon. Despite struggling with injuries and some inconsistent play throughout his first four years in the NFL, Witherspoon finished his time with the 49ers on a strong note in the second half of the 2020 season. 

Earning an 80.9 coverage grade from Pro Football Focus in 334 snaps, the former Colorado standout has some momentum heading into his new home in the Pacific Northwest. Though there's some uncertainty with this deal given Witherspoon's history, the Seahawks aren't assuming a huge risk with a short-term contract at a decent price point and some established depth behind him. If Witherspoon stays healthy and wins the starting job out of camp, this has the potential to be quite the steal for Schneider and company. 

Grade: B

Re-signed DT Poona Ford to two-year, $14 million contract

Expected to place a second-round tender on blossoming stud defensive tackle Poona Ford, the Seahawks surprised many by inking the fan-favorite to a deal that not only locked him down for 2021, but 2022 as well. Though it wasn't anticipated Ford would play anywhere else but Seattle this fall, both he and Jarran Reed were set to hit unrestricted free agency at the same time next year. 

The Seahawks will now avoid that situation by buying an extra year of Ford, who's only gotten better each of the last two seasons while playing several roles within the interior defensive line. It's also a great deal for Ford; he gets a pay boost this season and a significant increase next year. After that, he'll have the ability to hit unrestricted free agency at the prime age of 27—if he doesn't earn an even bigger payday from Seattle beforehand, of course. Overall, an absolute no-brainer for both sides. 

Grade: A+

Signed TE Gerald Everett to one-year, $6 million contract

Aside from the now departed Jacob Hollister, the Seahawks got very little pass-catching production out of their tight end group in 2020. Heavily relying upon another strong comeback from Will Dissly - who returned from his second serious lower leg injury in as many years - as well as an aging Greg Olsen, their gamble did not pay off and their offense faltered towards the end of the season as quarterback Russell Wilson struggled to consistently link up with any receiver not named Tyler Lockett or DK Metcalf. 

Following his former tight ends coach and passing game coordinator Shane Waldron from Los Angeles to Seattle, Gerald Everett should help rectify some of these problems. Though he's had to split time with Tyler Higbee and has never posted more than 417 yards receiving in a season, the Seahawks are betting that Everett has yet to reach his ceiling in the NFL. Given his extraordinary athletic profile and versatility as a receiver, they may be right. At $6 million, this one-year deal is definitely worth the look; it certainly carries more upside than the even more lucrative contract they gave Olsen this time last year. 

Grade: A

Traded 2021 fifth-round pick to Raiders for G Gabe Jackson

Hounded by public pressure from an unhappy Wilson, the Seahawks had to do something to address their interior offensive line in a significant way this offseason. With two spots open at left guard and center, they attempted to sign one of Kevin Zeitler and Joe Thuney—two of the market's top interior linemen. But after Thuney opted to sign with the Chiefs and Zeitler chose the Ravens over Seattle last Monday, the Seahawks had their hands tied when it came to truly upgrading their line. They were able to eventually fulfill Wilson's wishes, however, by acquiring acclaimed guard Gabe Jackson in a trade with the Raiders. 

Regarded as one of the best interior pass protectors in the league, Jackson - presumably set to take over at left guard in Seattle - gives the Seahawks exactly what they need up front. While they have him locked in for the next two seasons, the move does come at a greater cost than any potential free agency signing; not only did they have to take on a fairly large cap hit at $9.6 million, but they also surrendered one of their league-low four picks in the 2021 NFL Draft by dealing a fifth-rounder to Las Vegas. Still, at the core of this move is the accomplishment of properly addressing their most pressing need and going to fairly great lengths to make their superstar quarterback happy. For that, they deserve praise and a high grade. 

Grade: A-

Re-signed FB/ST Nick Bellore to two-year, $4.45 million contract

Under interim coordinator Larry Izzo, the Seahawks’ special teams unit was perhaps their most improved out of all three phases in 2020. So much so that it earned Izzo the full-time gig beginning this fall over Brian Schneider, who coached special teams in Seattle for 11 years and will now fill the same role with the Jaguars. At the heart of the turnaround was Nick Bellore, a 10-year NFL veteran who’s spent the last two seasons in the Emerald City.

Technically a fullback, Bellore mostly saw the field as a special teamer in 2020. He made the most of his opportunities, however, proving to be one of the best special teams players in the league on his way to his first-ever Pro Bowl selection last year. Though he’s likely at even more of a disadvantage to see many offensive snaps in Waldron’s scheme, he should provide plenty of value on kickoff and punt coverage. If he performs anywhere close to what he did in 2020, the stability that can give an ever-changing group like special teams is more than worth the near $4.5 million investment the Seahawks have made here for the next two seasons.

Grade: B+

Re-signed IOL Ethan Pocic to one-year, $3 million contract

Given their financial situation and roster-wide needs, it always felt like the Seahawks would have to choose between spending a decent chunk of change on either left guard or center, but not both. They made their decision by going all-in on the guard position with their trade for Jackson, leaving even less money and draft capital to play with. At a point now where finding value will be key to filling out the rest of their roster, bringing in a familiar face in Ethan Pocic to compete for the starting center job isn’t the worst idea in the world.

As I wrote on Friday, reuniting with Pocic on a one-year deal that’s projected to cost just $1.5 million towards the cap is totally fine. If he doesn’t win the starting role out of training camp, he at least provides legitimate experience off the bench. If he does win it, then he’s likely earned it and that’s a win for the Seahawks as well. Depending on what else they do at the position this offseason, reuniting with Pocic is a perfectly reasonable and understandable move. If they don’t bring in someone to push him for the starting job, that would feel a bit negligent given how his season ended. But that would be more damning of the Seahawks’ process rather than this particular move itself. For now, consider me lukewarm.

Grade: C

Re-signed RB Chris Carson to three-year, $24.6 million contract

When head coach Pete Carroll said he wanted to run the ball more efficiently in 2021, it was hard to envision what that would look like with the Seahawks’ two top rushers last year, Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde, both hitting unrestricted free agency. Hyde quickly flew off the board after agreeing to terms on a two-year deal with the Jaguars last Monday, but Carson remained out on the market for some time. While the chances of a reunion always felt slim-to-none for a multitude of reasons, the longer the former seventh-round selection went unsigned, the easier it became to ponder the possibility.

Unfortunately not seeing the market develop as he hoped it would, Carson’s number eventually came down to a price point even the cap-strapped Seahawks could comfortably afford. Utilizing some unique contract structuring, Schneider and company built a deal that equally worked within their cap confines and for Carson as well. With potential outs in both 2022 and ‘23, the Seahawks have, at the very least, bought themselves more time to address their running back position while giving themselves first dibs on one of the most talented backs in the NFL for the next two offseasons. If they cut him, he gets a chance to test free agency again; if they don’t, he’s in line to receive a nice payday. At a cap hit of just $2.5 million in 2021, this is incredible value for the Seahawks as they unexpectedly avoid a running back by committee scenario and don’t have to pull much from their limited cap space to do so. 

Grade: A

Overall grade

While swinging and missing on the first crop of interior offensive linemen was a disappointing way to kick off free agency, the Seahawks have had a really strong offseason since. They recovered nicely, managing to come out of all this with a quality lineman in Jackson, even if it did cost them one of their few draft picks. They’ve also done a great job in retaining a few of their free agents - some more unexpected than others - and could still strike a deal with K.J. Wright or Carlos Dunlap, depending on how their markets shake out.

The lack of restructures and extensions is a bit surprising, but those moves will have to come soon. OverTheCap.com currently projects them in the negative, meaning they’ll have to free up some money to get back within the legal limit. But their work is far from done, and the makeup of their whole offseason could greatly change over the coming weeks. They still need a lead edge rusher, a strongside linebacker, receiving depth, and more. Thankfully for them, they’re not short of options. They’ll need more financial wiggle room, though.

All things considered, they’ve put together a really good first week and have a clear pathway to putting an exclamation point on the rest of their offseason with a few more pieces. Whether they’re able to do that or not remains to be seen, but it’s certainly well within their power. It’ll be interesting to see where they go from here, but so far, so good. 

Grade: B