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Jason Jones was a prized free agent. St. Louis coach Jeff Fisher, who coached him in Tennessee, brought him in as soon as free agency opened. Nobody knows what Jones can offer better than Fisher. The Rams successfully signed Jones’ former teammate Cortland Finnegan, and immediately deployed him to recruit Jones. They had dinner the night before Jones was scheduled to fly out to Seattle. The Rams even had Jones come back to Rams headquarters on his way to the airport the next morning.
Seattle’s front office hosted Jones during one of the ugliest weather days in recent memory. They did not bowl him over with a mega-deal to pry him away from their division rival. Instead, they approached the situation with an uncanny sense of what would motivate a person in Jones’ situation. There have been some injury concerns about Jones. He was forced to play out of position last season at defensive end, and saw his production decrease. John Schneider offered him a one-year deal, and the chance to have a break-out season in front of the best fans in football, where sack numbers are often maximized. Jones is only 25, and now gets a chance to become a free agent after a great season instead of after one that lacked luster. The Seahawks get the best possible interior rusher they could have hoped for this off-season, and an inside shot to re-sign him long-term after this year. Jones gets a fat paycheck this year (terms undisclosed, but $7-8M would not shock me), and will play in an ideal situation that includes a heavy rotation that can keep him fresh.
Compare and contrast those two approaches. How many front offices would be confident and level-headed enough to host a guy that was so sought after, and offer him less than other suitors? Schneider and Pete Carroll will not swing wildly to address their needs. There will be no blind haymakers, but there will be haymakers. Jones will not get the publicity that Mario Williams did, but his signing will impact the Seahawks ability to rush the passer more than if they had signed Williams. Jones will apply pressure up the middle, either sacking the quarterback, eliminating his ability to step into a throw, or flushing him out into the arms of an edge rusher. More than one expert has said that no player outside of Albert Haynesworth (in his good years) was more effective than Jones at wreaking havoc in the middle of the Titans defensive line. That’s high praise.
This move opens up the ability for the Seahawks to add edge rushers at linebacker and defensive end in the draft and free agency. A player like Melvin Ingram would be the ideal addition. Ingram and Jones will offer considerably more production than Williams at 1/10th the price, for more years. Kamerion Wimbley was released by the Raiders, and could draw interest by the Seahawks as a guy who could eventually take over for Chris Clemons at the LEO end position, or just fill the Raheem Brock situational rusher role. He could also potentially be the SAM linebacker that would shift K.J. Wright into the middle. There are a dozen-plus other linebacker options that could add speed and pass rush on the outside. There was only Jones who could provide the interior pressure. A pivotal get by the front office.
There was also addition by subtraction yesterday when Charlie Whitehurst signed a deal to back-up Philip Rivers in San Diego. It is shocking that another team wanted him on their roster. Good luck with that Chargers’ fans. They also will get to see one-year Seahawks safety Atari Bigby, who signed a deal with their teams last night. Bigby was a good fit for the Seahawks last season, and would have been a possibility to bring back, but will not be that hard to replace.
Matt Flynn left town to go visit the Dolphins, who are said to be taking a conservative approach. They do not have a ton of cap space, and are probably the only team that would be offering Flynn the starting role. Flynn has not done enough to warrant displacing Tarvaris Jackson without an open competition. Many fans would argue against that point, but the people getting paid to make personnel decisions in the NFL seem to agree. Even the Dolphins are not breaking the bank to lure Flynn. Expect Seattle to invite Alex Smith to town in the next few days. He would not be handed the starting job or a big contract either, but would be the favorite to take over the position if he came aboard. No matter your feelings about Smith, it is clear the front office is not sold on Jackson as the starter, and wants to bring in veteran competition. If not Flynn or Smith, expect them to keep looking, potentially Matt Leinart.
If the Seahawks did sign Smith before Peyton Manning made his decision, it could leave the 49ers in a messy situation. Manning could wind up choosing the Broncos, which would leave the 49ers with very few options at quarterback in a season they are supposed to contend. Manning signing with the Titans would lead Matt Hasselbeck coming available and very likely signing there. Hasselbeck could go to the Browns as well, but the 49ers are Super Bowl contenders with Smith, and only get better with Hasselbeck.
The Seahawks have already locked up Red Bryant, Breno Giacomini, Paul McQuistan, Michael Robinson, and Marshawn Lynch. Jason Jones is their first free agent signing that was not on the 2011 roster. The team could do little the rest of free agency, and still have been very successful. They will be bargain shoppers from here on it, unless an unexpected opportunity like Zach Miller reveals itself again. Wimbley may be that guy, but Schneider and Carroll have proven they will not let desire outpace reason.