Click bait. Mention a big free agent name and the team you write about, and readers are sure to follow. Those of you who have read this blog long enough know chasing big name free agents is not only something I often advise against, but something I generally do not even like to write about. John Schneider and Pete Carroll are smart enough to know truly sustainable winning must come from solid drafting and great player development working in concert. There are exceptions, though, to every rule. Spending money on a dominant defensive tackle like Ndamukong Suh is not as outlandish as some would have you believe.
Fire your gun
Schneider and Carroll have made big moves before. They spent lavishly on Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, and Percy Harvin. The only one of those moves they probably truly regret was Harvin. He will still count over $7M against the Seahawks 2015 cap due to what is called a dead money charge associated with his signing bonus that Seattle is still responsible for even after the trade.
The moments when Carroll and Schneider go big tends to be when there is specific roster gap that has been hard to fill through the draft and they want an immediate contributor at that position. The most obvious areas of the current roster that fit that bill would be wide receiver and defensive line. Spending big on another wide receiver is unlikely. They are not going to attract or sign a guy like Demaryius Thomas or Dez Bryant. A veteran who wants to win a ring and can bring a big body with him makes more sense.
Defensive line is far tougher to ignore. Brandon Mebane is entering the final year of his deal and is coming off an injury. Kevin Williams is a free agent. Tony McDaniel had an underwhelming year. Jordan Hill popped, but has yet to produce for a full season. Cassius Marsh is still an unknown. The odds are against Jesse Williams ever playing.
The Seahawks have gotten by with Mebane at nose tackle and signing veteran run-stoppers at base 3-technique (e.g., Alan Branch, McDaniel). They could stay that course. Or, they could add an All-Pro anchor to that line that would give them one at every level of the defense. The right defensive tackle would improve the run defense and take pressure off the secondary in pass defense. He would demand double-teams and make Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril that much more dangerous. There are very few out there who fit the bill. One of them just so happens to be from around these parts and is an unrestricted free agent.
Dominant defensive tackles are worth the cost
Seahawks fans who were around in the 90s saw just how transformative a dominant defensive tackle can be to a defense. Cortez Kennedy was an unblockable, immovable object causing chaos in the middle of opposing offenses. Ndamukong Suh is not the player Kennedy was, but he is undeniably one of the most disruptive forces in the NFL.
He is a terrific run stuffer and a plus pass rusher. He has the strength to take on double teams and the burst to collapse the pocket. The offense must account for him on every snap or he can single-handedly ruin their day.
The idea of Suh playing next to Bennett and Avril and Bruce Irvin has to be terrifying to opposing offenses. It would not only make those players better, but it would help Bobby Wagner and the entire secondary. Seattle would be feasting on more opponent 3rd and longs and have less time to throw.
Suh was at the center of one of the best run defenses in recent history. He would make this defense offensive. Seattle may start gaining yards when their opponents have the ball. The only other players like that in the league would be Gerald McCoy or J.J. Watt. Geno Atkins once was, but has regressed a bit. That is why you will not see similar articles from me about other top free agent defensive lineman like Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Houston or Terrance Knighton. Nice pieces, but not perfect fits.
If Seattle is going to open the vault for a defensive player, it has to be someone who can elevate the entire team. Just improving the pass rush is not enough. Getting Suh here would be the hard part.
Cost of acquisition
Avril knows him from Detroit, and would surely be feeding him plenty of good feedback about what it is like to play here. Suh grew up in Portland and reportedly prefers to sign with Seattle if they would have him. That does not mean he will take a discount.
There is no way the Seahawks add him without saying goodbye to Mebane, Miller, and Byron Maxwell. They may also need to part with Marshawn Lynch. Most Seahawks fans would accept the first three, but the last one stings. The truth is Seattle may not have a choice in the matter. Lynch could choose to retire or simply be unwilling to play at the contract numbers Seattle is willing to offer.
The question would then become whether it made sense for Seattle to spend so much on their defense after already wrapping up Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Avril, Bennett, and K.J. Wright. Wagner is sure to follow. It is fair to ask whether the money would be better spent on the offensive side of the ball to help Russell Wilson score some points.
It is extremely rare to have a chance to add a franchise level defensive tackle. Suh is the most unique talent on the market, and happens to address an area the Seahawks have not done a good job of filling via the draft. Spending the money here would make the draft highly focused on offensive options, and that might be the right move anyway. A veteran free agent receiver would still be possible.
Seattle has already made due without Miller for a year, and showed they can play great run defense without Mebane. Signing Maxwell is probably a longshot either way.
The risk would be largely around Suh’s propensity to get fined and suspended. Spending this kind of cash on a player means he has to be on the field. His durability has been terrific so far, missing only two games, and he his built in a way that should allow that to continue. At age 28, he should be able to play at a high level for at least the next four years, after which his contract would likely be structured in a way that the team could choose to move on.
So go on Seahawks fans, dream a little. Your team is used to giving opponents nightmares, and Suh would turn those into full on night terrors.