When the Seahawks and Bears get together Friday night in Seattle, it will be the rubber match between franchises that already have clashed twice this year.
Back in March, they split the results in their head-to-head pursuit of free-agent pass rushers, and Friday will certainly bring a slight feeling of "what could have been" for each side. And even though it is just a preseason game, you can bet the front offices will be watching closely.
The Bears were the biggest threat to the Hawks being unable to keep Michael Bennett, their do-everything pass rusher whose brother plays tight end in Chicago. Bennett ultimately chose to remain in Seattle for a little less money but a much better chance of winning another Super Bowl.
The Bears then got even when they were able to seduce veteran sack man Jared Allen from Minnesota, offering him more money than the Hawks could muster.
The Seahawks were just looking to stack the D-line deck by adding the league's second-leading active sacker (his 128.5 sacks are 12th in NFL history overall and second to John Abraham's 133.5 among pass rushers who are still playing). But Seattle had a budget, and in the end the four-year, $32 million contract the Bears offered the 32-year-old Allen was better than Seattle's offer, which was believed to be similar to Bennett's four-year, $28.5 million package.
Allen and fellow free-agent addition Lamarr Houston (five years, $35 million) create a high-priced pass-rushing tandem for the Bears.
Meanwhile, the Seahawks might have gotten more value out of the money they were willing to spend on Allen: They ended up adding veteran Pro Bowl defensive lineman Kevin Williams (a consolation prize out of Minnesota, where Allen and Williams were teammates) and veteran offensive tackle Eric Winston.
And, with Allen blowing them off for the Windy City, the Seahawks turned back to a familiar face as an option to replace Chris Clemons at LEO. Who needs Jared Allen when you have O'Brien Schofield?
While everyone expected second-year player Benson Mayowa to step into the LEO role, Schofield has been the guy who has stood out. He got good pressure in limited reps in Denver and had a sack, two tackles for loss and four quarterback hits against San Diego last week, seemingly locking up a spot on the Seahawks' roster again.
"O’Brien Schofield is somebody that stood out to me in training camp and through the first two preseason games," defensive coordinator Dan Quinn told reporters Tuesday. "I think he’s improved a lot as a rusher, through this offseason, through training camp. We can all feel when a guy is going for it, and I think it’s true with O.B. in this training camp."
Coach Pete Carroll said, "He’s shown two really solid games of being real active. He’s rushed tremendously … and he had a couple plays in the backfield in both games. … He’s really on it. He’s giving everything he’s got to make the club, and he’s making a great statement about doing that."
A pretty good turnaround for a player who found himself on the trash heap after the New York Giants rescinded a two-year, $8 million deal because they didn't like one of his knees.
Schofield, who was picked up by the Hawks off Arizona's waivers last July, eventually came back to Seattle on a one-year deal.
Quinn said the Hawks pushed for him to return with the thought of using him exclusively at LEO.
"We know he could always go back and play some SAM linebacker. He's got that in his history both at Arizona and here," Quinn said. "But this year we’ve exclusively used him as a rusher and are trying to feature him in that way. It’s been good. He's totally accepted the challenge and, like I said, you can feel when a guy is going for it -- and I can with him this year."
Quinn said Schofield is much more comfortable after having enjoyed a full offseason of minicamps with the Seahawks.
"He got here during camp last year, so maybe he was still trying to find that identity," Quinn said. "Imagine all of us just walking into a team in the middle of training camp: Where do I fit in? How do I go about this? And then all of a sudden now being here with the offseason and going through it all, it’s much different."
The Hawks won the Bennett tug-o-war and the Bears claimed the Allen sweepstakes, but the Hawks might end up being just as happy with Schofield rushing the passer.
We'll get a little teaser Friday when Bennett, Schofield and the Hawks host Allen, Houston and the Bears. And you can bet the front offices of each team will be watching the pass rushers closely.