Skip to main content
Report this ad

See also:

Seahawks' defensive line is a transient unit -- just ask Brandon Mebane

Brandon Mebane celebrates in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19 in Seattle
Brandon Mebane celebrates in the fourth quarter of the NFC Championship Game on Jan. 19 in Seattle
Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

How transient can the NFL be?

In two years, nearly an entire defensive line can hit the streets. Just ask the Seahawks.

Red Bryant has been released, and if they also cut Chris Clemons the Hawks could lose five of their top eight linemen from 2013, and Brandon Mebane could be the only one remaining who played for the team in both 2012 and 2013.

In 2012, the usual starters were Bryant, Clemons, Mebane and Alan Branch. The top reserves were James Jones (until he went on IR), Clinton McDonald and rookies Bruce Irvin and Greg Scruggs.

Branch and Jones left in free agency in 2013, and the Hawks brought in Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel. Irvin was moved to linebacker, and Scruggs missed 2013 with a torn ACL.

Scruggs will be back this year, but McDonald seems likely to leave for more money in free agency. Clemons -- who has started alongside Mebane since 2010 -- is expected to join Bryant on the release list, and Bennett and McDaniel also are free agents.

That leaves only Mebane from the 2012-13 lines. A third-round pick in 2007 who is the longest-tenured Seahawk, Mebane likely would be joined by Avril, Scruggs and 2013 rookies Jordan Hill and Benson Mayowa -- and Bennett, if the Hawks re-sign him as expected (they will be able to afford $8 million a year).

They have several other young players who could figure in: pass rusher Kenneth Boatright and tackles Jesse Williams, Michael Brooks, D'Anthony Smith and Dewayne Cherrington. But none of those guys is a sure thing.

The Hawks have ostensible replacements for Clemons and McDonald already in Mayowa and Hill. And they could prioritize re-signing O'Brien Schofield, who worked as a pass rusher upon occasion last season and could compete with Mayowa and Irvin at Clemons' LEO spot.

If the Hawks don't bring back the 6-foot-7 McDaniel, they will want to find another giant for the middle. They might go into free agency to replace him with someone such as Buffalo's Alex Carrington (6-5) or Tennessee's Ropati Pitoitua (6-8). Or they could draft Minnesota's RaShede Hageman (6-6) in the first round.

Replacing Bryant shouldn't be that problematic. The Hawks have plenty of cheaper guys to try at 5-technique.

Scruggs could be the top option there. Scruggs told The Fan 1090 that Bryant has always talked about grooming him to take his spot.

Scruggs said he has bulked up to 311 pounds, is close to 100 percent healthy and is capable of playing anywhere along the line, as he showed in 2012.

The team also could surprise everyone, as it did last year with Avril and Bennett, by making a bit of a splash, especially now that the salary cap is jumping from $123 million to $133 million.

Cincinnati's Michael Johnson is 6 feet 7 and 27 years old, and he can play inside and out as a run stopper and pass rusher. He played under the $11.175 million franchise tag in 2013 and obviously is hoping to get similar money in a long-term deal.

He's probably way out of the Hawks' price range, but if he doesn't see the market he likes, it is not inconceivable that he would follow the example set by Avril and Bennett last year and join the Hawks on a short-term deal worth $7 million or $8 million a year.

General manager John Schneider certainly would not be surprised. He told John Clayton on 710 ESPN last weekend: "Those guys (Avril and Bennett) coming here was a very, very special thing for the organization because it did prove that people thought highly of us."

Signing Johnson might be an unnecessary pipe dream, but pass rushers such as Jared Allen, Justin Tuck and DeMarcus Ware are more realistic options (and Clemons could return on a cheaper contract).

The Hawks reportedly checked into trading for Allen, 32, last season and could be interested again at the right price. They signed his former Minnesota teammate, 36-year-old Antoine Winfield, last April, so it's possible the Hawks would be willing to bring in Allen for a couple of years. It certainly would fill their "Sign a Viking" quota.

It also would give Allen a chance to win a Super Bowl while offering some veteran pointers to Seattle's young pass rushers.

The Hawks probably would be interested if he were willing to play for $4 million or so. He made about $14.5 million last year and had 11.5 sacks, but no team is going to pay an aging pass rusher that much anymore.

Tuck, 31, finished 2013 on a tear – 9.5 sacks in the Giants' final six games – and might overvalue himself. Or he might be more interested in winning a third Super Bowl as part of the league's best defense.

Ware is still looking for his first Super Bowl. If the Dallas Cowboys cut the 31-year-old, he could be another veteran pass-rush option. He is coming off a six-sack season and has a $12.25 million salary scheduled for 2014, which is why he is expected to be released.

Schneider knows the free-agent options are better now because Seattle is a great, young champion team with a player-friendly coach (Pete Carroll).

It's especially true for pass rushers, who know they would get a big boost from the 12th Man playing in Seattle.

Schneider said that was part of the allure for Avril and Bennett, who looked forward "to coming to play at C-Link and jumping off the ball because it is so loud."

"There are certain people who want to come play with Earl Thomas (and) Russell Wilson," Schneider added, referencing the young talent on a team poised to contend for several years. "(Last year) we had players who wanted to come play for us that were doggone good football players that we said no to."

It surely will happen again. Even as the Hawks part ways with expensive vets and some of their own free agents prepare to cash in on Super Bowl rings, the Hawks can feel confident they will be able to replace them with guys who want rings of their own.

And Mebane will yet again have a few new linemates.

Here are some projections for the 2014 defensive line (all assume Bennett is re-signed):


Sign Allen and Carrington

BASE: Bennett/Scruggs, Carrington, Mebane, Allen

NICKEL: Avril, Hill/Scruggs, Bennett, Allen/Mayowa/Irvin

BACKUP OPTIONS: Kenneth Boatright, Jesse Williams, Michael Brooks, D'Anthony Smith, Dewayne Cherrington


Sign Ware and Carrington

BASE: Bennett/Scruggs, Carrington, Mebane, Ware

NICKEL: Avril, Hill/Scruggs, Bennett, Ware/Mayowa/Irvin


Sign Allen, re-sign McDaniel

BASE: Bennett/Scruggs, McDaniel, Mebane, Allen

NICKEL: Avril, Hill/Scruggs, Bennett, Allen/Mayowa/Irvin


Sign Allen, draft Hageman

BASE: Bennett/Scruggs, Hill/Hageman, Mebane, Allen

NICKEL: Avril, Hill/Scruggs, Bennett, Allen/Mayowa/Irvin


Sign Johnson, re-sign Schofield

BASE: Bennett/Scruggs, Hill/Johnson, Mebane, Avril

NICKEL: Avril, Hill/Johnson, Bennett, Mayowa/Irvin/Schofield


Re-sign Clemons and McDaniel

BASE: Bennett/Scruggs, McDaniel, Mebane, Clemons

NICKEL: Avril, Hill/Scruggs, Bennett, Clemons/Irvin/Mayowa

Report this ad