2016 Offseason Analysis Part VI: Linebackers
The Seahawks will likely need to add to their linebacker talent pool via the draft, where they have had great luck finding immediate contributors in the past. Wagner and Wright form a great duo, but unless Irvin becomes affordable, the team will need a new starter.
SAM - Strongside Linebackers
MIKE - Middle Linebackers
WILL - Weakside Linebackers
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This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2015 performance, and how the front office may make changes, including free agency or the draft. The final part of the series will propose a cumulative plan.

Part I: Quarterbacks
Part II: Offensive Line
Part III: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part IV: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part V: Defensive Line
Part VI: Linebackers
Part VII: Secondary
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

Article

State of the position: Linebackers

 

Linebackers have been an area of strength for the Seahawks under John Schneider and Pete Carroll. Unlike the defensive line, the team has done an excellent job of finding and developing young talent at the position. K.J. Wright was drafted in the fourth round, Bobby Wagner in the second, and Bruce Irvin in the first.

 

Each had terrific seasons in 2015, led by a career year from Wright. Wagner was not quite the impact player that he had been in years past, but was still one of the top middle linebackers in the league.

Irvin is set to become a free agent after totaling 5.5 sacks. He is often criticized as not living up to his promise as a first round pick, but his 21.0 sacks through four seasons is the third-best total in Seahawks history.

 

Seahawks fans might be surprised to know Bruce Irvin has the third most sacks through the first four seasons of any player in franchise history, trailing only Jeff Bryant and Cortez Kennedy.

 

Irvin is not Von Miller, but he is far from a bust. He will get plenty of attention on the open market, and will be difficult for the Seahawks to retain. One challenge in making a decision on Irvin’s value is his age. He was an older rookie, and is already 28 years old.

The hope had been that Kevin Pierre-Louis would have developed enough to step in at weakside linebacker and shift Wright over to strongside in place of Irvin. That plan took a hit when Pierre-Louis got a shot in a game against the Panthers earlier in the season, and he played poorly. The coaches had other chances to insert him in the lineup, but chose to play Mike Morgan instead.

That does not mean the door is closed on Pierre-Louis, but he clearly has not proven to coaches that he is ready to step forward, and that will impact how they plan for the position during the offseason.

Morgan is free agent as well. He has been a valuable contributor on special teams and as a backup on defense. Eric Pinkins was converted from safety to corner to linebacker. He showed flashes of promise during training camp, and is an exclusive rights free agent this year. Seattle will likely bring him back to compete at the SAM position.

 

2016 Seahawks Free Agent Linebackers:

  • SAM/DE Bruce Irvin
  • SAM Mike Morgan
  • SAM Eric Pinkins (Exclusive Rights)
  • MIKE Nick Moody (Restricted)

 

Seahawks Linebackers Under Contract:

  • SAM/MIKE/WILL K.J. Wright
  • MIKE Bobby Wagner
  • WILL Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • MIKE Brock Coyle

 

Possible Free Agents To Consider

James Laurinaitis

Recently released by the Rams, Laurinaitis is a solid tackler and great in coverage. He would be an interesting option at SAM, depending on price. He is not a dynamic pass rusher, but does not really need to be.

 

Mason Foster

The former Husky Foster is a terrific athlete who is young and might be the type of affordable addition Carroll could bring into the program and develop.

 

Bruce Irvin

It seems unlikely the Seahawks will spend what is necessary to bring back Irvin, but his departure would leave a bigger void than most fans realize. He is both an above average starting linebacker and a nickel pass rusher.

 

9 Responses

  1. Paul Goode

    I think that Irvin is gone. To keep BI, the team would have to pay him more than Wright (a lot more when adjusted for the number of snaps). Seattle already has compensation issues with Bennett and Chancellor, and they aren’t about to invite one with Wright. It’s just not worth it.

    That being said, this is the first offseason in a long time where there is no depth at LB. It will be interesting to see how JS/PC address it.

    • scumdog

      I expect the Hawks to draft a backer to replace Irvin. I think everyone on the Hawks defense are above average run defenders, that’s why they were #1 in the league and they have an eye for those players in the draft in the past. I wonder if Norton was the reason for such stud linebacker draft picks? Maybe they have a hard time drafting backers now? Haha, probably not but seriously, they know how to pick run stuffers. I’m excited to see Clark get some consistent playing time to fill the void in the nickle package. I like Joshua Perry from Ohio state at SAM in the 3rd round. He is a stud and has led the Buckeyes in tackles on that awesome defense the last couple years. Draft 2 defensive tackles in rounds 1 and 2. When Carolina got Star and Kawan a few years back and they led the panthers to a SB this year. Need some youth on the Dline

      • Raymond

        Not going to find a Short round 2, plus they had early picks. Also need to fix Offensive line.

      • Dan

        I think the Hawks should mostly sign o linemen and draft defense this year sign osmele wiswinski and okung and let sweezy walk

      • Paul Goode

        If history is a guide, they’ll keep the 1st round pick only if a player who they grade as a 1st-rounder falls to them.

        All things being equal, they’ll jump at any chance to draft a DT who can rush the passer.

  2. Raymond

    Most interesting, but very high risk, replacement for Bruce Irvin is Aldon Smith. Talent wise he is on Von Millers level, but needs to get his head on straight and behave

    He’ll get another minimum offer from somebody but you better have a guy who can fill in if he gets in trouble

  3. Robert Loeder

    Wouldn’t Pinkins be a WILL with KJ moving back to SAM? Pinkins provides tantalizing speed and length. He would be a big upgrade in pass coverage, but can he hold up setting the edge and getting off blocks in the run game?

  4. HD

    Seattle will draft a LB…they probably have someone in mind already…I’m not ready to give up on KPL yet…Pinkins I think will continue improve this year learning the position…Seattle will probably resign Morgan for his multiple roster ability. Seattle even toyed with Marsh a bit last year on the outside,

  5. hawkman54

    KJ had a very good year and should have been on the pro bowl team instead of BW who had a real drop off last year. Mason Foster is a good player to look at ,agreed. I have always felt that other than the MLB the LB position is one of the easier ones to fill via the draft.

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