The Seahawks kicked off the NFL league year with a bang by acquiring Percy Harvin from the Minnesota Vikings. I haven’t jumped on the blog since the first day of free agency but since my last post the Seahawks have made a few great signings. The Seahawks were clearly on a mission to improve our pass rush and our defensive line through free agency and that is exactly what they have done so far. Here are some brief thoughts on Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, and Tony McDaniel.
I love the signing of Cliff Avril the most of any of our signings. Avril hit the open market as one of the top pass rushers available and we were able to sign him for two years and only $15 million. Last season Avril turned down a contract extension offered by the Detroit Lions which would have paid him $10 million a year. These numbers made it hard to believe that the Seahawks would be in play for any veteran defensive ends such as Avril, John Abraham, and Dwight Freeney, among others because of the money I thought they would be asking for. Signing Avril for $8.5 million a year is a bargain in my opinion and a signing that set the market for the rest of defensive end free agent group. Avril and Bruce Irvin will battle for the starting defensive end spot while Chris Clemons is rehabbing his torn ACL. I think Irvin is expected to be the starter but no matter whom is the starter both Irvin and Avril will make significant contributions to the Seahawks pass rush this season.
After the Avril signing I figured we had found a replacement for Clemons and that our shopping for defensive ends was over. I was wrong. The Seahawks then went out and signed Tampa Bay defensive end Michael Bennett to a one-year $5 million contract. Bennett was signed by Seattle as an undrafted free agent in 2009 but was released at the trading deadline of that season. Tampa Bay picked him up and he had a solid impact with the Buccaneers from 2009-2012 recording 15 sacks; 9 of which came last season. Over the past few days it has come to light that the reason the Seahawks were able to sign Bennett to such a cheap deal is because he played with a torn rotator cuff last season. According to Seahawks general manager John Schneider, surgery is not on the table for the time being and it is not required for Bennett to play in 2013. Although a defensive end, I think the Seahawks may want to try to use him as an interior pass rusher, similarly to Jason Jones who left in free agency to the Detroit Lions. I consider Bennett to be Jones’s replacement.
Today it was announced the Seahawks signed former Miami defensive tackle Tony McDaniel to a one-year contract. McDaniel is a 6-7, 305 pound run stuffer who was an undrafted free agent in 2006. I think this signing means the Seahawks will not attempt to re-sign Alan Branch who is a similar physical build to McDaniel.
If the season were to start today, I predict that the starting defensive line will consist of Red Bryant, Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, and Cliff Avril. Bruce Irvin, Michael Bennett, and Chris Clemons when healthy will all be used on passing downs, giving the Seahawks four or five exceptional pass rushers on the field at the same time. I am a fan of all of these moves, especially since their contracts are not huge hits to the salary cap and they still give us the freedom to go out and make other signings. Before the signing of McDaniel, the Seahawks had $6.8 worth of salary cap space according to ProFootballTalk.