Despite the loss of defensive tackle Jarran Reed, the Seahawks have arguably upgraded their front line in a significant way this offseason. They've plucked Kerry Hyder Jr. from the 49ers, brought in Al Woods for his third stint with the team, and retained pass-rushers Benson Mayowa and Carlos Dunlap.
Starting things off by re-signing restricted free agent Poona Ford to a two-year contract, Seattle feels good about its depth at defensive tackle. While there's quite a bit of youth and inexperience behind Ford and Woods, the team is enamored by Bryan Mone, who's played 317 defensive snaps, and Cedrick Lattimore.
The latter, however, has only appeared in one career game: the Seahawks' 30-20 wild-card loss to the Rams this past January. Although he played well, especially given his particularly unique circumstances, his ability to make the team this fall is solely based on that one game and pure projection as of now. While there's certainly a lot to be excited by with Lattimore, as well as Mone, Seattle should consider a fallback plan if one - or both - fail to meet expectations.
After inking receiver Tyler Lockett and newly acquired guard Gabe Jackson to extensions, the Seahawks freed up more salary cap space to work with in 2021. Pretty much anything is on the table for the team at this point in free agency, and defensive tackle just so happens to be a spot still brimming with veteran talent.
Amongst the available names is eight-time Pro Bowl selection Geno Atkins. Entering the league together in 2010, he and Carlos Dunlap formed one of the most devastating defensive line duos in the NFL with the Bengals. The two had been inseparable for the entirety of their careers until Dunlap was shipped off to Seattle in a midseason trade last year.
In those 10-plus years together, the tandem set franchise records while imposing their will on opposing offensive lines. Over that time, Pro Football Focus registered them with a combined 565 tackles, 178.0 sacks, and 1,193 quarterback pressures.
Last season proved to be a strange year for several of the Bengals' longtime players. In a clear state of transition, veterans such as Dunlap and receiver A.J. Green often appeared visibly frustrated by their respective situations. Atkins and Dunlap, specifically, were being phased out in favor of younger, potential long-term pieces.
Both were ineffective in limited opportunities with the Bengals in 2020, but as soon as Dunlap landed somewhere he wanted to be, things clicked for him once again and he went on to be a game-changer for a struggling Seahawks defense. Atkins, unfortunately, was not afforded a similar chance.
Laboring a shoulder injury suffered in training camp, Atkins played in just 107 defensive snaps over the course of eight games last year. He logged only one tackle with no sacks on just three pressures, eventually being placed on Injured Reserve in December. With the writing on the wall, the Bengals officially cut Atkins a week prior to free agency.
The former fourth-round pick out of Georgia may be coming off the worst season of his career, but if anything can be learned from his former teammate Dunlap's journey over the last half-year, it's that it may have had more to do with the situation in Cincinnati rather than the ability of the player. In a 2019 season in which he was healthy and actually utilized often by the Bengals, Atkins was still effective as ever. PFF put him down for 29 tackles and 5.0 sacks on 53 total pressures to the tune of a 76.2 overall grade.
At this point in his career, it doesn't seem as if Atkins's decision on where he plays next will come down to money. Heading into his age 33 season, the three-time first-team All-Pro will likely covet a destination that will not only give him the chance to compete for a championship, but simply win a playoff game—something he's never done before in his career.
With the potential need for him in Seattle, as well as the presence of his old friend Dunlap, the Seahawks may be his best fit as they continue to gear up for another season with Super Bowl aspirations. Even if he's truly lost a step, this looks like a great opportunity for the team to put the cherry on top of their impressive defensive line overhaul this offseason.