Seattle will likely try to make every effort to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney
The Seattle Seahawks' 2019 season required a ton of resilience, as they were one of the most injury-riddled teams in the NFL. However, Seattle still found a way to finish 11-5, earned the top wild-card spot, and had a shot to win the NFC West in Week 17. The Seahawks went on the road to Philadelphia in the Wild Card Round and ground out a 17-9 win over the Eagles before losing at Green Bay 28-23 in their NFC Divisional Playoff game at Lambeau Field.
Despite making another trip to the playoffs and winning a postseason game — which they hadn't done since the 2016 season — the brain trust of general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll have some things to address in the offseason. Starting defensive end Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent, the offensive line is not getting any younger, and the secondary will need to be beefed up in order for the Seattle to keep pace in what is developing into a brutal NFC West with the 49ers and Rams, along with the rebuilding Cardinals.
1. Re-signing Jadeveon Clowney
Salary cap space shouldn't be a problem as it relates to the Seahawks' efforts to bring back Clowney. Seattle heads into the offseason with more than $59 million to spend, according to OverTheCap.com, which puts it among the top 10 NFL teams in that category. Getting consistent pressure on the quarterback was a huge problem for this defense last year; the Seahawks were 28th in the NFL in QB Pressure rate at 19.3 percent. In addition, they allowed 381.6 total yards per game, a number that is not good enough if you want to be a Super Bowl contender.
Clowney won't come cheap as his expected contractual demands were one of the reasons Houston traded him to Seattle prior to the start of the season. He also figures to have plenty of suitors, given the demand for quality pass rushers. One of the biggest benefits of re-signing Clowney for the Seahawks is that they know he already fits both the scheme and the locker room. If Schneider is going to back up the Brink's truck for any player this offseason, it should be Clowney. This team is still capable of contending, and this defense needs a playmaker of his caliber. Clowney also appears to come with less risk than re-signing Jarran Reed, who is more of a question mark after he was suspended for the first six games of the season for a violation of the league's personal conduct policy. He simply wasn't the same impact player he was a year ago, registering just two sacks compared to 10.5 in 2018.
2. Offensive line
There is plenty of work to be done with this unit after finishing the regular season 27th overall, according to the Pro Football Focus' unit rankings. First, the health of this group needs to be better moving forward, and it also needs to get younger for long-term stability. Duane Brown will start at left tackle, but he will be 35 next season and battled injury issues. Mike Iupati and Germain Ifedi will be free agents that most likely won't return. Key reserve George Fant is another free agent. Additionally, D.J. Fluker and Justin Britt are both approaching 30, and the latter played in just eight games before a knee injury ended his season. Both should be back next season, but the team needs to find some reinforcements in this year's draft and, ideally, a future starter or two.
The tight end position also needs to be addressed, as expected starter Will Dissly has played in just 10 combined games over the past two seasons because of injuries. Jacob Hollister stepped up in a big way, hauling in 41 passes for 349 yards and three touchdowns, but he's best suited for a complementary role. This could be an area the Seahawks try and find a potential starter on Day 2 or 3 of the draft — San Francisco All-Pro George Kittle was a fifth-round pick in 2017 — or could even look to free agency. Either way, expect more bodies at the position come training camp.
Seattle had zero answers for Green Bay's Davante Adams in the Divisional Round playoff loss. He torched the Seahawks for 160 yards on eight catches with two touchdowns in the 28-23 loss. The inability to slow down Adams epitomized the Seattle secondary’s struggles in 2019, as the defense allowed 256.7 passing yards per game (24th in the NFL). Third-year cornerback Shaquill Griffin took a huge step forward and was named to the Pro Bowl. The former UCF Golden Knight finished third in the league with 14 pass breakups and is someone the Seahawks can build around. Fellow corner Tre Flowers was plagued by penalties throughout the season and figures to see competition in training camp. Seattle's secondary got a boost when the team acquired Quandre Diggs from Detroit in late October. When he was healthy, he made his presence felt with three interceptions (one of which he returned for a touchdown), a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery in the seven games (including both playoff contests) he was on the field for the Seahawks. Diggs' arrival helped stabilize the defensive backfield, which is something you can't put a price tag on.
With Diggs expected to be fully healthy for the 2020 season, he and Griffin will form the backbone of Seattle's secondary. Who will join them is more of a question mark. Whether it's through free agency, the draft, or a combination of the two, the Seahawks must address this area of their defense if they want to stay a contender in what figures to be a competitive NFC West next season.
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.
(Top photo by Rod Mar/Seattle Seahawks, courtesy of seahawks.com)