The AFC North was one of the strongest divisions in 2020, producing three of the conference’s seven playoff teams. Though none reached the AFC championship game, the future certainly appears to be bright—especially for the Browns and Ravens.
The division could take a slight hit this offseason, however, as all four teams boast deep free agent pools rich with some of the best talent in the league. Which of these players could appeal to the Seahawks over the coming months? Let’s take a look.
Pittsburgh Steelers: DL Tyson Alualu
Whether Seattle parts ways with Jarran Reed or not this offseason, it wouldn’t hurt to add more depth to their defensive line. At 6-foot-3 and 304 pounds, Tyson Alualu is a mover in the trenches and is coming off back-to-back stellar seasons as a rotational defender.
Able to play both inside and out, the 33-year old former first-round selection appeared in just 43.6 percent of the Steelers’ defensive snaps but made the most of his opportunities when he got them. In 15 games, he put up 38 combined tackles - four of which went for a loss - and two sacks on 13 total pressures.
Once rumored to be of interest to Pete Carroll and John Schneider in their first ever draft together back in 2010, Alualu makes a ton of sense for a defensive line that was gashed by the Rams’ run game in their 30-20 wild-card loss last month.
Other options: QB Joshua Dobbs, RB James Conner, OL Matt Feiler, OT Zach Banner, Jerald Hawkins, CB Cameron Sutton, S Sean Davis
Cincinnati Bengals: WR A.J. Green
Quick note: I really wanted to put edge rusher Carl Lawson here, but it seems like he's going to have a busy market this offseason and I just don't see the Seahawks going the distance there unless they move on from former Bengal Carlos Dunlap.
The elite A.J. Green is likely long gone, but I don’t necessarily view him and a potential acquisition in the same vein as, say, Brandon Marshall in 2018. He was still effective in 2020 after missing the entire 2019 season due to an ankle injury, though it became very clear he was unhappy in Cincinnati on and off the field.
Green often looked dejected and uninterested in games after wanting out of a rebuilding situation with the Bengals. The team did not trade nor cut him despite countless rumors flying around about a potential move, forcing him to ride out the remainder of his contract in Cincinnati. He only caught 47 out of 104 targets this past season, but some of that could be attributed to his unhappiness and the poor quarterback play that followed Joe Burrow’s season-ending knee injury.
Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson has an affinity for savvy veterans with a long track record of success in the NFL, which has led to such acquisitions of players like Marshall and tight end Greg Olsen. Although those specific situations did not work out to Seattle’s advantage and Green appears to be on the decline, it doesn’t seem that he’s at the end of his rope just yet and would provide a solid tertiary receiving option who’s sure to please the currently disgruntled Wilson.
Other options: WR John Ross, IOL Quinton Spain, Alex Redmond, ED Carl Lawson, DL Mike Daniels, Christian Covington, Margus Hunt, LB Josh Bynes, S Brandon Wilson
Cleveland Browns: DT Larry Ogunjobi
There weren’t a ton of options from Cleveland that I was attracted to in this exercise, but the player I eventually landed on here is defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi. As stated when talking about Alualu, depth along the defensive line isn’t necessarily a massive need in comparison to some of the other holes along the roster, but it’d be nice to have.
Ogunjobi isn’t spectacular in any particular facet of his game, though he’s logged 14.5 sacks through his first four years in the NFL and plays solid run defense. In 2020, he put up 2.5 sacks on 22 total pressures with 46 combined tackles.
Ogunjobi would be an affordable replacement to help supplement some of the pass-rush ability the Seahawks would lose if they cut ties with Jarran Reed. Even if they don’t, adding that kind of profile behind Reed and Poona Ford - along with the exciting young talents in Bryan Mone and Cedrick Lattimore - is enticing.
Other options: WR Rashard Higgins, OL Kendall Lamm, LB Malcolm Smith, CB Terrance Mitchell
Baltimore Ravens: ED Pernell McPhee
In this series, I’ve looked at quite a few potential edge replacements in the event Benson Mayowa leaves in free agency and Pernell McPhee might be one of my favorites thus far.
McPhee, 32, had a really strong start to his now 10-year career but injuries and an overall lack of production virtually made him a non-factor for most of his time with the Bears and Washington. However, in his return to Baltimore - where he started his career and won a Super Bowl - McPhee has found success once more.
Now hitting free agency, McPhee may be inclined to stick with a really good Ravens team. But if not, the Seahawks should absolutely bid for his services. In 2020, McPhee earned 3.0 sacks on 35 pressures while playing in just 43 percent of Baltimore’s defensive snaps.
Other options: RB Mark Ingram, WR Willie Snead, OL D.J. Fluker, C Matt Skura, ED Tyus Bowser, DL Derek Wolfe, Jihad Ward, DT Justin Ellis
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