When the NFL ushers in a new league year on March 17, the Seahawks will face a number of difficult roster decisions, including figuring out which of their own free agents they intend to re-sign with limited cap space at their disposal.
With less than a week until free agency officially kicks off, which of Seattle's 11 defensive free agents will return to the team? And which ones will depart to play elsewhere? Corbin Smith and Ty Gonzalez dish out predictions for where each player will land in coming weeks.
Coming off his first Pro Bowl selection in 2019, Griffin's fourth season as a Seahawk got off to a bit of a rocky start from the outset. While he picked off two passes during the first six games, he allowed five touchdowns in coverage during that span and got torched by Dak Prescott and the Cowboys in a Week 3 win, allowing 151 receiving yards on nine completions against him. Then, a hamstring injury suffered in Week 7 cost him four games. Upon his return to the starting lineup in Week 12, the former third-round pick out of UCF played much better in the final two months, allowing 20 receiving yards or fewer in five of the final seven regular season games and just one total touchdown in the second half. Consistency has been an issue, but due to his youth, athleticism, and upside, he could be one of the most coveted corners available.
Prediction: Signs four-year, $38 million contract with Broncos
Continuing to play at a very high level in his 10th season while adapting to a new position, Wright racked up 86 tackles, 11 tackles for loss, 10 passes defensed, and a pair of sacks while starting all 16 games for the Seahawks. Somehow getting slighted again for the Pro Bowl, he wrapped up the season as the only player in the league to post double-digit passes defensed and tackles for loss. In addition, he forced a fumble and made a spectacular one-handed interception in a Week 5 win over the Vikings. Though he may lack the speed to be an off-ball linebacker at this stage, he can certainly help a contender at the strongside linebacker position and remains one of the league’s most underrated talents.
Prediction: Signs two-year, $17 million contract with Cowboys
Earning a starting role at the LEO defensive end spot for the Seahawks out of training camp, Mayowa registered a sack and a key fourth down pass deflection in the team's Week 1 win over the Falcons. However, he only produced one sack and four quarterback hits over the next five games before suffering a high ankle sprain that cost him three games. Once he returned, he split starts with newly-acquired Carlos Dunlap and wrapped up the season on a tear, generating 4.0 sacks and five tackles for loss in Seattle's last six games. He’s proven that while he likely isn’t a starter in the league, he can be a force as a key rotational pass rusher and should generate some interest in free agency as a result.
Prediction: Signs two-year, $9 million contract with Seahawks
After being acquired from Washington for a fifth-round pick in March 2020, Dunbar's time in Seattle got off to a rocky start, as he was arrested for alleged involvement in an armed robbery back in May before charges were eventually dropped. Despite showing up for training camp out of shape, he started the team's season opener in Atlanta across from Shaquill Griffin and registered five tackles and a pass defensed. The following week, he intercepted Cam Newton in the Seahawks 35-31 win over the Patriots. Unfortunately, he suffered a knee injury during that game that bothered him throughout the rest of the year, limiting him to six games before landing on injured reserve and undergoing season-ending surgery in December. There’s never been a question about Dunbar’s talent, but he has ended three straight years on injured reserve, which may make his market lukewarm at best.
Prediction: Signs one-year, $5 million contract with Cowboys
After re-signing with the Seahawks on a one-year deal in March, Irvin was installed into the starting lineup at SAM linebacker, the same spot he played for most of his first four seasons entering the league in Pete Carroll's defense. The veteran enjoyed a strong training camp and produced two quarterback hits along with a tackle for loss in Seattle's season opening victory over Atlanta. Unfortunately, his knee buckled on a non-contact injury while rushing Cam Newton during the fourth quarter against the Patriots the following week and he was diagnosed with a torn ACL the following day, bringing his season to an abrupt end. He’s since had two surgeries, so his status remains in question for 2020, but if healthy, he still packs enough punch as an edge rusher to help someone.
Prediction: Remains unsigned until at least training camp recovering from injury
A free agent until the latter stages of training camp, Moore signed with the Seahawks in early September to add depth at the defensive end position. Despite seeing minimal snaps in a rotational role, he produced four quarterback hits, a sack, and a forced fumble in Seattle's first five regular season games as the team raced out to a 5-0 start. But after a stellar performance against San Francisco in Week 8, he was slapped with a six-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs. His checkered past won’t help him land his next gig, but since he plays special teams and has flashed as a rusher, he could get a late look as an offseason signing somewhere.
Prediction: Signs one-year deal at veteran minimum with 49ers
With Seattle adding Jamal Adams via trade in late July, Hill battled for a reserve role in training camp and beat out Ryan Neal for a roster spot. Seeing action in sub packages, he logged 29 defensive snaps and recorded five tackles in a season-opening win over the Falcons. But as has been an issue throughout his career, a back injury landed him on injured reserve a few weeks later and he missed the remainder of the season. At 216 pounds, he’s a capable box safety with special teams ability but hasn’t proven himself capable of being anything more than a reserve at this point.
Prediction: Signs one-year, $1.5 million contract with Jets
Signed during the middle of the regular season off of Arizona's practice squad, Bullard dressed for six games for Seattle, offering versatility as a defensive end who could also reduce inside and play 3-tech defensive tackle. Logging just 117 defensive snaps, he showed flashes as a pass rusher with four pressures and a pair of quarterback hits while registering five combined tackles. Due to his positional flexibility and relative youth at 27 years of age, the Seahawks may have interest in potentially bringing him back and other teams might be willing to take a flier on him to bring to training camp as a rotational reserve option.
Prediction: Signs one-year deal at veteran minimum with Bills
Once viewed as one of the NFL’s best gunners in punt coverage, injuries have derailed Thorpe’s career over the past two years. After re-signing on a one-year deal, he played in just three games for Seattle last season and recorded a single tackle, spending the majority of the season on injured reserve. He’s very popular in the locker room and has a lengthy track record of being a stellar special teams player, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy and likely will have to wait until the latter stages of free agency to sign somewhere.
Prediction: Remains unsigned heading into training camp
Jackson entered training camp vying for a reserve role at defensive end, only to be taken off the field in an ambulance at Seattle’s first mock scrimmage game in August. He landed on injured reserve and did not play at all in 2020. It remains unclear if the veteran will be able to play again after sitting out this year due to a neck injury, but if he is cleared to return, he should latch on elsewhere due to his ability to play multiple spots along the defensive line.
Prediction: Due to injury, Jackson will announce his retirement from the NFL
A former first-round pick for the Packers, Randall joined the Seahawks practice squad early in the 2020 season and eventually earned a promotion to the 53-man roster. He dressed in 10 games, primarily playing special teams and recording three tackles. While his days as a starting safety or cornerback appear to be behind him, the ex-Arizona State star should have an opportunity to compete for a roster spot in Seattle or elsewhere next summer.
Prediction: Signs one-year, $1 million contract with Seahawks