RENTON, WA - Over the past month, the Seahawks have made strengthening their defensive line a top offseason priority.
Despite initially releasing him as a cap casualty to save $14 million less than a week before the start of the new league year, defensive end Carlos Dunlap happily returned to Seattle on a two-year pact after testing the market. Fellow veteran Benson Mayowa also re-signed on a two-year contract, while Kerry Hyder and Aldon Smith were signed as outside free agents to further bolster the team's pass rush.
Coming off a strong finish to the season in which the Seahawks led the NFL in sacks from Week 9 through Week 17, coach Pete Carroll couldn't be more excited about retaining Dunbar and Mayowa along with bringing additional experienced firepower on board with Hyder and potentially Smith joining the fold.
Crediting general manager John Schneider and the front office for their efforts building the unit, Carroll expects those four will be teaming up with a now-healthy Darrell Taylor as well as Alton Robinson, giving the team a variety of options with players offering different skill sets.
"For us to come back and get Carlos [Dunlap], it was a great accomplishment for us, and Benson [Mayowa]," Carroll told reporters on Wednesday. "That's a really big deal. Kerry Hyder had a really good year in our division last year - had 8.0 sacks and was a big factor - so we love that we add him too. We're still going. There's a lot of things coming back to this pass rush. The return for Darrell Taylor to be a factor in that, the emergence of Alton Robinson. Those are really positive factors for us and we're not done yet."
Unfortunately, the Seahawks weren't able to slip through an offseason with a decreased salary cap set at $182.5 million without suffering a major loss along the defensive line. To help create the cap flexibility needed to bring back Dunlap and Mayowa while also pursuing other free agents such as Hyder, the team ultimately had to cut ties with former second round pick Jarran Reed.
After signing a two-year contract in March 2020, Reed had one year left on his current deal and carried a cap hit of nearly $14 million. With the cap dropping nearly $20 million due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Schneider and cap guru Matt Thomas reportedly approached Reed about restructuring his contract and adding a "void" year in 2022 to help lower his cap hit for next season.
But in the midst of his prime and coming off a stellar season with 6.5 sacks, Reed wanted a long-term deal and wasn't open to the idea of a short-term restructured deal. Unwilling to consider the possibility, Schneider was forced to make a tough choice and with no teams offering draft compensation in return via trade, he was released on March 26 and promptly signed with the Chiefs.
"We were disappointed. Ended up being a cap casualty situation with Jarran," a visibly frustrated Schneider said. "We talk about this every year with you guys that there are going to be tough decisions to make along the way. We wish that Jarran would have worked with us a little bit, but it wasn't in the cards. He made a decision."
Before Seattle officially parted ways with Reed, the team did agree to terms with veteran Al Woods on a one-year contract. He will compete against Bryan Mone for a starting spot next to Poona Ford, who received a two-year extension through 2022, while Cedrick Lattimore should be in the mix for snaps as well.
North of 280 pounds apiece, defensive ends L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green also have the versatility to reduce inside on passing downs, giving the team a bit more flexibility depth-wise.
If there's another silver lining, Ford, Mone, and Lattimore all joined the franchise after not hearing their names called at the past three drafts. Assistant coach Clint Hurtt has done a fantastic job developing players at the position and considering Seattle's track record under Schneider, the team may be able to uncover another gem in this year's class after the seventh round concludes.
Nonetheless, Reed's departure creates a significant void for the Seahawks at the 3-tech spot and clearly Schneider wasn't thrilled about how things unfolded. With only three picks in this weekend's draft, they may not have the capital to be able to add at the position either, creating a situation worth monitoring as one of the team's few holes on the roster heading towards the 2021 campaign.