The Seahawks have a history of adding significant talent late in the offseason, at the end of the preseason, and even during the season. John Schneider may have done most of his heavy lifting already, but the esteemed general manager will not sit idly. Seattle still has needs to address and if the Jadeveon Clowney trade last August has taught us anything, it's that they'll be aggressive to make it happen.
Every preseason, veterans are cut and or traded, giving teams an opportunity to make late improvements to their roster. In this series, I will look at one player from each of the other 31 teams that could come to Seattle via a late trade or as a free agent castoff. Continuing our eight part series, let's look at the NFC South.
New Orleans Saints
The Saints have run up quite a debt on their charge card in an attempt to maximize the twilight of Drew Brees' Hall of Fame career, and as a result, they are running extremely close to the salary cap for 2020 and are actually projected to exceed the cap by more than $30 million in 2021. So, they'll need to get creative and make some tough decisions.
They already cut Larry Warford, their starting guard, who may have made some sense for the Seahawks. But perhaps the most intriguing player is one that would likely require a trade. Sheldon Rankins, the former first-round selection out of Louisville, is entering the final year of his contract and is set to account for $7.69 million against the cap. Cutting or trading Rankins would double the Saints' available cap space.
Rankins has been a solid interior defensive lineman, but hasn't exactly lived up to his 12th overall pick billing. But the 26-year old did produce 8.0 sacks and 15 quarterback hits in 2018, showing there are some pass rushing skills in his tool belt. He missed six games in 2019, but did grade out as an above-average defensive tackle. With just two tackles on the roster with extensive NFL experience, Jarran Reed and Poona Ford, adding Rankins to the mix could help in both the run game and the passing game.
Just nine months ago, most of us assumed Falcons coach Dan Quinn was going to be fired. In fact, some even speculated after a Week 8 loss to the Seahawks, he might just board the plane with Seattle. But Atlanta played quite well down the stretch, and while Quinn may enter 2020 with a warm seat, he'll get a good shot at retaining his job.
But much like the Saints, the Falcons have some cap issues to take care of as well. They currently have just over $11 million of space in 2020 but they have just $59,000 in available space in 2021.
Unfortunately, it will be tough to clear that space without sacrificing a quality starter or two along the way. One potential sacrifice the Falcons may need to make is cutting veteran center Alex Mack. While still a high-quality center, Mack turns 35 years old in November and is set to make $7 million against the cap in 2020. The Seahawks had some interest in Mack once before and with just B.J. Finney, Ethan Pocic, and Joey Hunt on the roster now, Mack would certainly be an upgrade for Russell Wilson and company.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Another team in the NFC South who has some cap issues? Stop the presses. But for the Bucs, who went all in this offseason to sign Tom Brady, their issues are more immediate. The team currently has just $5 million in cap space and has a rookie class left to sign. In short, they have very little margin for error.
But when looking at potential cuts for Tampa, there isn't a name that immediately jumps out. At least, not at a position of need. However, there is a talented safety by the name of Justin Evans who could net the Bucs an extra $1.2 million in cap space. That isn't astronomical, but it is 25 percent more space than they have right now.
Evans was a second-round pick three years ago who has had a tough time staying on the field, including in 2019 when he missed the entire season. But with the Seahawks still looking to add some veterans and a few cap constraints as it stands now, moving from Bradley McDougald and his $5.4 million cap hit to a younger and faster Evans might make some sense if he's cut.
The Panthers are rebuilding. There really isn't any point in debating it. They severed ties with both Cam Newton and Ron Rivera and will move forward with Teddy Bridgewater and Matt Rhule at the helm. More cuts are coming and they will likely start with the highest-paid player on their team in Kawann Short.
The seven-year veteran defensive lineman only played in two games in 2019 thanks to a rotator cuff injury and could save the Panthers $13.125 million in cap space this year and $11 million next year if he's jettisoned.
Short will need to pass physicals and show he can still contribute, but he only missed two games in his entire career before 2019 and racked up 32.5 sacks and 87 quarterback hits along the way. Short made the Pro Bowl in 2018 and had 7.0 sacks during the season prior, showing he can be disruptive as a pass rusher.
A healthy Short would give the Seahawks another weapon to push the pocket and could make life easier for Reed, Bruce Irvin, Benson Mayowa, and others by eating up double teams inside.