1. The Jets’ first signing of the free agency period was former Seahawks offensive tackle George Fant. What could you tell us about Fant’s career in Seattle? Why couldn’t he regain a starting spot after returning from injury in 2018? Do you think he has the potential to be a serviceable starter in the league?
Fant was Seattle’s backup left tackle as a rookie, and then when Bradley Sowell got hurt he filled in and performed admirably. He was projected to be the starting left tackle in 2017, but he tore his ACL in preseason and that is essentially what spurred the Duane Brown trade and rendered Fant a reserve option again. He did start a few games in the place of Brown when he was hurt, but his main role was as a swing tackle and occasionally lining up at tight end. I’m not going to make the case that Fant is a future All-Pro or the next Jason Peters, but he is a capable NFL starter and I think he’ll be a solid addition to the Jets offensive line. Fant is quite athletic and he’ll certainly be an asset in the power running game.
2. Seattle struggled upfront in 2019 and has already made three signings there with B.J. Finney, Cedric Ogbuehi, and former Jet Brandon Shell. How will these players fit in and what more could we see the Seahawks do to address their offensive line in the coming months?
And you can add Chance Warmack to the list. That’s a curious signing given he’s been out of the league since 2018, but John Schneider is a firm believer that he can squeeze some juice out of a terrible 2013 NFL Draft class — he has acquired 7 of the top 13 picks from that year over his time as GM. Finney looks like a versatile guard and center and I’d bet he’ll be playing at guard, especially if DJ Fluker is a potential cap casualty or if they do not re-sign Mike Iupati. Ogbuehi... I just hope he’s depth, because nothing I’ve seen out of him suggests he’s halfway decent.
As for Brandon Shell, the sacks allowed in 2019 suggest that he won’t be much of an upgrade over Germain Ifedi. But over the course of his career and even adjusting for snap count differential, Shell looks to be a good alternative with ideally not nearly the penalty issues. The state of the Seahawks offensive line will probably involve Duane Brown, B.J. Finney, and Brandon Shell as starters, but everything else is up in the air. Ifedi was a lightning rod for criticism — some of it deserved, some of it overblown — so really Shell has a low bar to clear to be considered better than Ifedi.
I still hope Seattle keeps looking at options in the draft, given Duane Brown is up there in age and won’t be the team’s starting left tackle. We have some younger depth in the form of Phil Haynes (left guard) and Jamarco Jones (guard/tackle) but outside of pass rush, retooling this offensive line will be important. I feel like offensive line has been an issue for all but a couple of seasons since 2005.
3. Jadeveon Clowney remains on the open market. How would you summarize his first season in Seattle? How likely did it feel that he would return heading into free agency, and how much has that feeling changed now that we are nearly a week into this?
If you expected gaudy numbers then Clowney’s first (and maybe only?) season with the Seahawks was a disappointment. If you peeled back the onion you’ll find he was one of the few bright spots on the worst Seahawks defense in years. His one-man wrecking machine performance against the San Francisco 49ers in November was exactly what fans hoped to see, but injuries and the ineffectiveness along the rest of the defensive line meant a not particularly outstanding year for Jadeveon. To my not thoroughly well-trained eye, while he made some outstanding plays in run defense, his over-aggressiveness cost him a bit on play-action and on a few occasions he’d get the running back... except he didn’t have the ball.
As far as his free agency status, I thought he’d get a sizable contract given the going rate for defensive line players. I didn’t expect the Seahawks to re-sign him, but now there’s a good chance he could stay put. What’s resulted in him remaining a free agent? First thought that popped into my head is that Clowney’s injury concerns are scaring off a lot of teams. This is a guy who had microfracture surgery on his knee a few years back and played much of this season with core muscle problems. Then the next aspect is that no matter how much the advanced stats can show Clowney’s effectiveness and pass-rush win rate success (plus how often he was double teamed), three sacks is three sacks. You do not get Khalil Mack money for three sacks in a season. And part of Clowney’s problem is that he is really not a pure pass rusher as he’s erroneously advertised. He can be a valuable part of any team’s defensive line, but asking him to be THE guy as your top pass rusher is not the way to go. For what it’s worth, I find his run defense to be one of his real strengths, and you don’t pay top dollar on the d-line for a run-stopping DE. Clowney is young but his health is a legitimate concern such that I do not think anyone wants to take a long-term risk for that reason.
4. Bruce Irvin is coming back to Seattle. What role do you see him playing this season? Was the pass-rush an issue for the Seahawks in 2019?
Irvin was a pure pass rusher as a rookie, then they moved him to linebacker and he showed himself capable of being both a coverage guy and a pass rusher, but his bread and butter is his ability to get after the quarterback. He’s coming off a career-high 8.5 sacks playing just 13 games for the Carolina Panthers. He might not be a youngster at 32 but he has been a durable player throughout his career and his strengths as a pass rusher are geared towards his quickness off the edge and his underrated power. So his role in Seattle will be in that familiar LEO spot, and he’s a great option off a cheap contract.
The Seahawks pass rush in 2019 was an embarrassment. They were 28th in pressure rate and 29th in sacks and at times it felt like they were worse than that. It is without a doubt the top priority through this offseason to beef up the pass rush as much as possible, and also hope that Shaquem Griffin and Rasheem Green (who led the team in sacks with 4) develop even further, and that LJ Collier shows any sort of competence after a totally ineffective rookie campaign.
5. Greg Olsen is heading to the Seahawks for his age-35 season, while Will Dissly is coming off of a season that started solidly but ended with a torn Achilles. How do you see the tight end depth chart shaking out, and how often will the position be utilized in the passing game?
Olsen doesn’t look washed up, he’s just not been consistently healthy. Dissly is coming off consecutive extremely terrible season-ending injuries. Jacob Hollister is a restricted free agent so while I think he’ll be back, no guarantee that he is even on a second-round tender. You also have Luke Willson and Ed Dickson, and frankly I don’t expect either one to be on the roster by September. Essentially that leaves me thinking we’ll have a depth chart of Olsen-Dissly-Hollister. Brian Schottenheimer, if nothing else, has done a great job utilizing tight ends as pass-catchers, hence Hollister could swoop in off the practice squad and finish 3rd on the team in receptions. Dissly was extremely efficient in his limited playing time, and Olsen has been one of my favorite TEs to watch over the years. Seattle’s uncertain depth at wide receiver and lack of reliable receiving backs has me thinking we’ll have a reliance on TEs in 2020, and you can’t go wrong with any of those three options.
6. If you could add one offensive and one defensive player from any point in Jets history to the current iteration of the Seahawks, who would you choose?
Defensive player is prime Darrelle Revis. I love/loved Richard Sherman but Revis is the greatest cornerback I’ve ever watched. If not him I’d go with John Abraham because at his best he’d instantly fix Seattle’s pass rushing woes by himself.
Offensive player is a little bit tougher. Given Seattle’s center position is down to BJ Finney, the undersized Joey Hunt, or potential cap casualty Justin Britt (coming off a torn ACL), none of them can hold a candle to Kevin Mawae. A HOF center can make a world of difference for a quarterback who’s... not had the greatest set of offensive linemen throughout his career.