Bruce Irvin is reportedly on his way reuniting with a coach who helped make him rich in the NFL.
And the Seahawks’ linebacker is about to get way richer — in Oakland.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport was the first to report Tuesday night that Irvin is leaving the Seahawks in free agency to sign with the Raiders when the market officially opens on Wednesday.
Oakland’s second-year defensive coordinator is Ken Norton Jr., Irvin’s position coach for his first three NFL seasons in Seattle. Norton’s belief in and endorsements of Irvin made the pass-rush specialist the 15th overall draft choice by the Seahawks in 2012, when most of the league saw Irvin as a one-trick player more worthy of the second or third rounds. Norton then turned Irvin into an every-down linebacker instead of merely a situational pass rusher.
Irvin played outside linebacker on the strong side of the offense’s formation on early downs last season, often dropping downfield in pass coverage. On passing downs he usually moved to end to rush the quarterback off the edge, moving Pro Bowl defensive end Michael Bennett inside as a hybrid tackle against over-matched, slower guards and tackles. Irvin and Cliff Avril outside with Bennett inside next to rookie pass rusher Frank Clark gave Seattle one of the league’s fastest pass rushes.
It’s a formula the Seahawks will now have to replace or reconsider without Irvin. Seattle drafted Kevin Pierre-Louis in the fourth round in 2014 as a possible heir, and the team’s coaches love his speed. But he hasn’t been able to stay healthy through two seasons. Last year when Irvin missed a game due to injury it was veteran special-teamer Mike Morgan, not Pierre-Louis, who started at outside linebacker. Morgan, incidentally, is also an unrestricted free agent now, so the Seahawks have some work to do and decisions to make at Irvin’s vacated spot.
It is likely Irvin’s replacement isn’t currently on Seattle’s roster.
The Seahawks could have had Irvin for $7.8 million for the 2016 season. That was the value of his fifth-year contract option the team declined to exercise last spring. Irvin admitted then he was angry and extra motivated for 2015 in what became a contract year, the final season of his rookie deal at a base salary of $1.66 million.
Now Irvin is about to earn as much as perhaps $9 million annually with his new deal, signifying how ultra-valued pass rushers are in the NFL.
That’s far more than the Seahawks could commit to him. They have about $15 million to spend under their 2016 salary cap.
Irvin said the day after Seattle’s season-ending playoff loss at Carolina Jan. 17 he’d consider staying with the Seahawks if the money is close.
“I honestly can’t even imagine myself playing with anybody else,” Irvin said in the team’s locker room in Renton Jan. 18.
Almost $7 million more dollars apparently altered his imagination.
No, the money wasn’t close.