Seahawks Still Have Golden Fallback Option to Boost Pass Rush
Closing in on a month since the start of NFL free agency, the Seahawks have taken care of numerous needs thus far this offseason, including adding four offensive lineman and trading for budding star cornerback Quinton Dunbar.
But in regard to fixing Seattle's biggest flaw - rushing the opposing quarterback - the team hasn't made the splashy moves fans hoped for. So far, general manager John Schneider has re-signed veterans Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa and that's it.
After weeks of negotiations, the Seahawks look to be on the verge of bowing out of the Jadeveon Clowney sweepstakes. After being held hostage to an extent waiting for him to make a decision, they've also missed out on several quality free agent pass rushers who could have instantly improved their defense.
Assuming Seattle doesn't make a last minute run at Clowney, Schneider has limited options to salvage the situation. Veteran defensive end Everson Griffen remains unsigned and has expressed interest in a reunion with coach Pete Carroll, while trading for a franchise-tagged rusher such as Yannick Ngakoue remains on the table.
With limited cap space available to work with, however, the Seahawks may have to resort to option D, building a patchwork defensive line with several mid-level rushers. If that's the game plan, could Schneider turn his attention to courting Markus Golden?
As one of the few proven pass rushers left unsigned, the 29-year old Golden has endured an up-and-down NFL career to this point.
Drafted in the second round out of Missouri in 2015, Golden primarily played as a reserve in Arizona's 3-4 defensive scheme as a rookie, producing 4.0 sacks and 10 quarterback hits. Though the Cardinals declined to a 7-8-1 record in 2016, he broke out with a career-best 12.5 sacks, 51 tackles, and forced four fumbles.
After missing most of the 2017 season with a torn ACL, Golden struggled in his return to action, registering just 2.5 sacks and six quarterback hits in 11 starts. With the Cardinals in the midst of a second coaching change in as many years, he wasn't re-signed and became a free agent.
Reuniting with his former defensive coordinator James Bettcher in New York last season, Golden rediscovered his 2016 form back in an attacking 3-4 scheme. Starting all 16 games for the first time in three years, he racked up 72 tackles, 10.0 sacks, and a career-high 27 quarterback hits for the Giants.
Considering how well Golden played last year, why hasn't he found a home yet? It all comes down to scheme fit and durability questions.
If there's a reason why teams like Seattle haven't explored signing Golden to this point, it could be as a result of his struggles in his lone season playing defensive end in Steve Wilks' 4-3 system. He has found much greater success as an outside linebacker rushing off the edge in a 3-4 scheme during his five-year NFL career.
Back in Bettcher's defense last year, Golden reached double-digit sacks for the second time in his career. But per ESPN, he also benefited from seeing double teams only 13 percent of his rushes and finished in the middle of the pack among qualified defenders with a Pass Rush Win Rate around 18 percent.
Due to multiple injuries, Golden has also missed 17 games over the past three seasons. Even at the college level, he missed time as a senior with a hamstring injury, so questions about his ability to stay healthy remain relevant.
Still, considering those factors, with the calendar now flipped to April and the 2020 NFL Draft approaching rapidly, Golden should be available at an affordable price and he's still a fairly young player. At 6-foot-3, 260 pounds, he may be better suited for Seattle's LEO defensive end spot than a limited sample size from two years ago suggests.
Given the dearth of talent left on the market, and the exorbitant price tag that goes with trading for Ngakoue, Matt Judon, or Chris Jones, the Seahawks should check in on Golden to see what he's seeking financially. Though the group would lack star power, a trio of Golden, Irvin, and Mayowa would provide a substantial upgrade in the pass rushing department without breaking the bank.