Analysis

Seattle Seahawks Free Agency Outlook

Seattle Seahawks Free Agency Preview

The Seattle Seahawks endured a rocky 2021 season as they finished 7-10 and missed the playoffs for just the second time under Russell Wilson while finishing last in their division for the first time since 2000. Wilson suffered a broken finger in the third quarter of their Week 5 matchup against the Los Angeles Rams and missed three games, ending his streak of 149 consecutive games started. Seattle began the season 3-8 as they lost six of seven games from Week 5 through Week 12, with their only victory being a 31-7 thrashing of the Jacksonville Jaguars in Geno Smith’s best game of his three starts. Week 10 was the low point of the season as Seattle was shut out in Wilson’s return to action by the Green Bay Packers – a first in the Wilson era. The Seahawks did rebound to finish the season winning four of their last six games, including a Week 17 blowout of the hapless Detroit Lions and a thrilling Week 18 victory over the Arizona Cardinals. 

Despite its moribund record, Seattle had numerous notable individual achievements in 2021. Wide receiver Tyler Lockett became just the second receiver in franchise history to record three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons while running back Rashaad Penny recorded 671 rushing yards and six touchdowns over the last six weeks, delighting the Seahawks and fantasy owners alike. On defense, linebackers Jordyn Brooks and Bobby Wagner recorded 184 and 170 combined tackles, respectively, while safety Quandre Diggs had five interceptions and made his second consecutive Pro Bowl. The Seahawks entered 2021 with the eighth-youngest roster in the league and project to head into 2022 with nearly $35 million in cap space (eighth among teams). The team will have plenty of work to do, particularly on both lines of scrimmage, in order to return to the playoffs and appease Wilson. 

Update: The Seahawks now have $49,922,502 available in cap space.

Seattle’s Impending Free Agents

LB Bobby Wagner

LT Duane Brown

S Quandre Diggs

CB D.J. Reed

EDGE Rasheem Green

TE Gerald Everett

C/LG Ethan Pocic

CB Sidney Jones

RT Brandon Shell

TE Will Dissly

DT Al Woods

RB Alex Collins

RB Rashaad Penny

QB Geno Smith

DT Robert Nkemdiche

LT Jamarco Jones

LG Phil Haynes

CB Blessuan Austin

RB Adrian Peterson

S Tanner Muse

CB Nigel Warrior

LB Jon Rhattigan

CB Gavin Heslop

C Dakoda Shepley

DE Marcus Webb

WR John Ursua

WR Penny Hart (ERFA)

DT Bryan Mone (ERFA)

S Ryan Neal (ERFA)

CB John Reid (ERFA)

C Kyle Fuller (RFA)

The most notable free agents for the Seattle Seahawks are left tackle Duane Brown, free safety Quandre Diggs, and cornerback D.J. Reed. Brown was acquired in a midseason trade with the Houston Texans in 2017 and has manned Wilson’s blindside since then, having missed just four games over the past four seasons. He struggled significantly to begin the season, allowing seven sacks through Seattle’s first nine games, before finding his previous form and allowing just one sack in the final nine games. Brown will turn 37 prior to the 2022 season, and though the Rams’ Andrew Whitworth has shown elite tackle play can be found at that age, it remains rare. The potential for Brown to come back to Seattle on a one-year deal is high. 

Other key free agents on Seattle’s offense include running back Rashaad Penny and tight ends Gerald Everett and Will Dissly. Penny has played in just 37 of a possible 65 career games due to various injuries, though his late-season surge coupled with Chris Carson’s uncertain future could push Seattle to bring him back (they declined his fifth-year option last offseason). Everett had 48 catches for 478 yards and four touchdowns in 2021 while Dissly had less than half of that production. Despite his familiarity with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s offense, Everett failed to establish himself as a legitimate third weapon in the receiving game. 

Free safety Quandre Diggs was acquired for a pittance in 2019 – Seattle traded a fifth-round pick to the Detroit Lions for Diggs and a seventh-round pick – and he has exceeded expectations by leaps and bounds since then. He is the only player in the NFL to have at least three interceptions in each of the past five seasons and that type of playmaking ability normally leads to a significant payday in free agency. However, Diggs suffered a dislocated ankle and broken right fibula in Seattle’s Week 18 game against the Cardinals which could put a damper on his free agency prospects though he should be fully ready by the start of 2022. Cornerback D.J. Reed was claimed off waivers in 2020 and has performed well over the past two seasons. At 5-9, he is shorter than the prototypical cornerback Pete Carroll has skewed towards but has emerged as Seattle’s most dependable cornerback, but has excellent length to make up for it. He allowed the lowest opponent passer rating of his career in 2021 and is expected to be paid handsomely in free agency. 

Other important free agents on Seattle’s defense include edge rusher Rasheem Green, cornerback Sidney Jones and defensive tackle Al Woods. Green is currently just 24 years old despite having played four seasons in the NFL. He compiled 6.5 sacks in 2021 as he proved to be a capable rusher inside and out. Jones was acquired just before the past season began for a 2022 sixth-round pick from the Jacksonville Jaguars, and started 11 games. He certainly had his ups and downs and his injury history means that Seattle could face minimal competition to re-sign him. Woods returned for his second stint with the Seahawks after playing for the team in 2019 and turned in one of the best seasons of his 11-year career. He will be 35 before the 2022 season begins and is a good short-term solution for a team in need of an inexpensive yet effective run-defender.

Franchise Tag 

Seattle has used the franchise tag just twice in 12 seasons under General Manager John Schneider and Head Coach Pete Carroll (on kicker Olindo Mare and defensive end Frank Clark). The Seahawks do not have any candidates that appear likely to receive the franchise tag, though they do have multiple intriguing possibilities in their secondary. If the team is unable to re-sign Diggs or Reed, the franchise tag for safeties is projected to be $13,544,000 and $17,295,000 for cornerbacks. Tagging Diggs would give Seattle the costliest safety tandem in 2022 thanks to Jamal Adams’ contract, while tagging Reed would place him among the top ten cornerbacks in AAV despite just 22 career starts under his belt. 

Update: The Seahawks did not end up using their franchise tag this offseason.

Team Needs

  1. Offensive Tackle
  2. Cornerback
  3. Edge Rusher 
  4. Defensive Tackle
  5. Running Back
  6. Quarterback

The annual cycle of crowing about necessary upgrades for the offensive line charged with protecting the most-sacked quarterback since 2012 – by far (Wilson leads Matt Ryan, second on this ignominious list, by 62 sacks) – once again begins. With both starting tackles free agents, Seattle looks to have a replacement for right tackle Brandon Shell in place but lacks a succession plan for Brown. Jake Curhan, a 2021 UDFA, started 5 games in 2021 at right tackle in place of Shell and played well, which bodes well for Seattle moving forward. However, the team lacks a reliable in-house option at left tackle for 2021 which is why a one-year deal with Brown makes sense for both parties.

As mentioned, both starting cornerbacks are free agents in a year in which free agency is flush with options at the position. Jones should be realistic for Seattle to retain if they choose but they will have plenty of competition for Reed in free agency. The Seahawks ranked just 24th in total sacks in 2021 as they struggled to get to opposing quarterbacks and had just three players record more than two sacks. Improvements at edge rusher to pair with Darrell Taylor and Carlos Dunlap as well as on the interior of the defensive line to pair with Poona Ford are crucial to defensive success in 2022. 

Chris Carson’s neck injury has placed his status for 2022 and beyond in jeopardy, and the impending free agency of Penny and fellow running back Alex Collins places Seattle’s backfield in flux. Behind them, running backs Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas have proven to be passable complementary backs, but neither has shown the ability to lead a backfield for an extended period of time. Rumors about Russell Wilson continue to swirl, though nothing is imminent and it is overwhelmingly likely that he is a Seahawk for at least the remainder of his contract. Nevertheless, Seattle did get a glimpse at life without him in 2021 and the results were not pretty. Developing a better backup quarterback than Smith with an eye towards the expiration of Wilson’s contract after the 2023 season would be a prudent move.