Reviewing Seahawks Defensive Needs After First Wave of Free Agency
We've officially reached the second wave of free agency, and though many of the big names were snatched up quickly by other teams, there's plenty of talent left on the market for the Seahawks to continue improving their roster.
Looking at Seattle's depth chart on defense, what are the biggest remaining needs general manager John Schneider still must shore up? And how will he address them moving forward?
Considering moves already made during the first two weeks of the new league year, here's a position-by-position defensive breakdown for the Seahawks with analysis, one priority free agent to consider, draft prospects to watch courtesy of Andy Benoit and Gary Gramling of the MMQB, and a need rating on the scale of 1 to 5, with 5 being most urgent.
Depth Chart: Bruce Irvin, Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Branden Jackson, Shaquem Griffin
Analysis: The Seahawks remain in a holding pattern awaiting a decision from Jadeveon Clowney, who hasn't received anywhere close to the offers in free agency he anticipated he would. Since they've been held hostage by Clowney's prolonged process, they missed out on several other quality veteran rushers, though the team did manage to bring back Irvin on a one-year deal. As it stands, calling this group underwhelming might be putting it too kindly, as Collier failed to do much as a rookie, Green led the team with just 4.0 sacks a year ago, and Griffin looks like a situational rusher. If Seattle doesn't re-sign Clowney and fails to sign Everson Griffen as a consolation prize, Schneider may have no choice but to re-explore trade options to upgrade the team's worst positional group.
Free Agent Considerations: Clowney, Griffen, Markus Golden
Draft Prospects to Watch: This isn't a great draft class for edge rushers, but as noted by Gramling, if Schneider decides to stay put at pick No. 27, he should have a good shot at drafting either Yetur Gross-Matos out of Penn State or A.J Epenesa out of Iowa to address the pass rushing problem. Both players offer great length and can be equally disruptive defending the run and the pass. Gross-Matos possesses a bit more burst, while Epenesa has the size to reduce inside on passing downs.
Need Rating: 5/5
Depth Chart: Jarran Reed, Poona Ford, Nazair Jones, Demarcus Christmas, Bryan Mone
Analysis: Re-signing Reed solidifies Seattle's starting defensive front, as he and Ford should be a formidable duo for the next two seasons or more. But depth behind them looks shaky at best after losing Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods to the Bills and Jaguars respectively. Jones didn't play at all last season due to a knee injury and only played sparingly in 2018 after a promising rookie campaign. Christmas also lost his entire rookie season on the PUP list recovering from a back injury and has yet to participate in an NFL game, while Mone played in just four games after making the team as an undrafted free agent. Replacing Woods with another big-bodied veteran would be wise, while adding another capable 3-technique behind Ford in the draft should be a priority.
Free Agent Considerations: Damon Harrison, Brandon Mebane
Draft Prospects to Watch: After re-signing Reed, the Seahawks aren't likely to draft a defensive tackle with one of their four draft choices in the first three rounds. However, snagging an overpowering nose tackle like Leki Fotu out of Utah could make a ton of sense in an attempt to replace Woods.
Need Rating: 3/5
Depth Chart: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven, Griffin, Emmanuel Ellerbee
Analysis: Seattle invested two draft choices in Barton and Burr-Kirven last April and with Wagner and Wright still roaming the middle of the defense, adding at linebacker may not seem like much of a priority. But Wagner and Wright aren't getting any younger and the future of free agent Mychal Kendricks is uncertain after tearing his ACL in the season finale, so it would make sense if Schneider decides to use another day three pick to add another young developmental prospect at the position for the future. There's a chance if a hybrid linebacker with pass rushing ability is available early, like Zack Baun from Wisconsin, that the 'Hawks could pull the trigger. It's also possible they could sign a veteran for special teams purposes, though other spots will take higher precedence at this point and Ellerbee could be in the mix for such duties if he's healthy.
Free Agent Consideration: Kendricks
Draft Prospects to Watch: Since Wagner, Wright, and Barton will all be returning for 2020, drafting a linebacker early appears unlikely. The one exception could be Wisconsin standout Zack Baun, who can also rush off the edge at the LEO defensive end spot and provides the type of versatility modern NFL defenses covet.
Need Rating: 2/5
Depth Chart: Shaquill Griffin, Quinton Dunbar, Tre Flowers, Ugo Amadi, Ryan Neal
Analysis: Before acquiring Dunbar from the Redskins for a fifth-round pick, cornerback looked to be an overlooked area of need for the Seahawks. But the addition of 27-year old instantly improves Seattle's starting secondary as well as depth with Flowers likely dropping into a reserve role. All signs point to Amadi being the starting nickel cornerback, but it's still possible Seattle will either kick the tires on a proven veteran to compete against him or draft another slot-capable defender to push him during training camp. Finding another lengthy outside corner with special teams ability should also be emphasized with Akeem King and Neiko Thorpe no longer under contract.
Free Agent Considerations: Damarious Randall, T.J. Carrie
Draft Prospects to Watch: Even after trading for Dunbar, Gramling believes the Seahawks could have interest in a "Seattle-style" cornerback in the first three rounds, specifically citing Alabama's Trevon Diggs and Virginia's Bryce Hall as possible targets. Dunbar and Griffin both will be free agents in 2021, so drafting such a hedge isn't out of the question.
Need Rating: 2.5/5
Depth Chart: Quandre Diggs, Bradley McDougald, Marquise Blair, Lano Hill, Tedric Thompson
Analysis: During the first half of the 2018 season, the Seahawks played musical chairs in the secondary with Thompson opening the year as the starter at free safety and McDougald at strong safety. Blair and Hill both made a handful of spot starts, but none of the combinations were overly effective, which led to the mid-season trade to land Diggs. The veteran's presence immediately bolstered Seattle's defense, as he produced three interceptions in his first five starts and the pass rush found some life albeit briefly. While Thompson is likely to be traded or cut, the rest of this group looks rock solid and as long as everyone stays healthy, the unit should be a strength in 2020. Aside from using a late-round pick at the position, don't expect any other significant additions.
Free Agent Considerations: N/A
Draft Prospects to Watch: Seattle won't be pulling the trigger early on a player like Minnesota's Antoine Winfield Jr. or Southern Illinois' Bradley Chinn, but a late flier could be taken on Tanner Muse out of Clemson. At 6-foot-1, 227 pounds, he ran a 4.41 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine and has surprising ball skills to go with his size and athleticism. He could be a long-term option at strong safety.
Need Rating: 1/5
For MMQB's look at the entire NFC West, click here.