Seattle Seahawks

Why Seahawks are top candidates to sign back new free agent Bruce Irvin--and why they may not

Bruce Irvin (51) and then-linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. from early in their first go-rounds with the Seahawks, from 2012-15. The Oakland Raiders waived Irvin on Monday. The Seahawks are candidates to sign their former Super Bowl linebacker for the rest of this season, largely because of the relationship between Irvin and Norton, who is now Seattle’s defensive coordinator.
Bruce Irvin (51) and then-linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. from early in their first go-rounds with the Seahawks, from 2012-15. The Oakland Raiders waived Irvin on Monday. The Seahawks are candidates to sign their former Super Bowl linebacker for the rest of this season, largely because of the relationship between Irvin and Norton, who is now Seattle’s defensive coordinator.

The Seahawks’ lone off day of the week is Tuesday.

But they were still working--the Bruce Irvin angle.

The former Super Bowl outside linebacker for Seattle got waived Monday afternoon by the Oakland Raiders, according to the NFL’s official transactions. That started a 24-hour waiver period in which each team had a chance to put in a claim for Irvin, in reverse order of current league standings.

None did, and the waiver period for him ended Tuesday afternoon.

Putting in a claim for Irvin would have obligated the claiming team to pay the prorated amount left on Irvin’s $8 million guaranteed salary for this season, about $3.7 million with eight of 17 weeks remaining in this season. That would have been a steep cost for a 31-year-old linebacker, even at the expensive and coveted position of edge rusher.

Instead, Irvin is a free agent. Any team can now sign him at their cost. The Raiders owe Irvin that remaining $3.7 million, on top of the money from any new deal Irvin will now get from another team for the rest of this season.

Irvin had three sacks in eight games for the floundering Raiders, who barely played him the last couple weeks. They are cleaning their house for the future.

All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner assesses state of team's defense at season's midpoint following Seahawks’ home loss to Chargers.

The Seahawks need depth in pass rushing beyond end Frank Clark, who have 7 1/2 of the team’s 21 sacks through eight games. Seattle is tied for 19th in the league in sacks this season.

Irvin fits the Seahawks more than just pragmatically in the defense. Their bond remains personal.

The Seahawks took Irvin in the first round of the 2012 out of West Virginia. The rest of the league saw that as a reach, because most saw Irvin as a one-skill player: go get the quarterback off the edge.

The Seahawks, coach Pete Carroll and linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. saw Irvin as more in 2012: as an every-down linebacker. That’s what they turned Irvin into, on the strongside of their 4-3 defense next to rookie middle man Bobby Wagner and second-year weakside linebacker K.J. Wright. Those three became the center line of the NFL’s best defense. Irvin became a Super Bowl champion who has earned $36 million in his seven seasons, the first four with Seattle.

Irvin has thanked the Seahawks, Carroll and Norton publicly for saving his life. In 2015 while he was still with Seattle, one month before he played in his second consecutive Super Bowl for the Seahawks, Irvin said he was supposed to be “dead or in jail” after a rough start to his life in the Atlanta area.

Last month before the Seahawks played Irvin’s Raiders at Wembley Stadium in London, Irvin spent a long time on the field during pregame warmups talking to Norton.

In 2016, his first season with Oakland after signing a four-year, $27.7 million contract with the Raiders in free agency, Irvin said Norton is like “father figure” to him. He’s said Norton molded him into becoming a man while they were with the Seahawks from 2012-15.

Norton was Irvin’s defensive coordinator with the Raiders from 2015 through last season. Norton became Seattle’s defensive coordinator in January.

The one factor against Seattle in the team signing back Irvin after he clears waivers as expected: At age 31, Irvin may want to maximize his chance to win a Super Bowl right now.

The Seahawks are 4-4 and three games behind the Rams, whom they play on Sunday, in the NFC West. They and Atlanta are two games behind Carolina (6-2) and 1 1/2 games behind Minnesota (5-3-1) in the race for the conference’s wild-card playoff berths.

Falcons head coach Dan Quinn knows Irvin well. The two have a mutual friendship and respect from Quinn’s two seasons as Irvin’s defensive coordinator with the Seahawks, their 2013 and ‘14 Super Bowl years.

The New England Patriots have made it a recent mid-season habit to sign veteran defensive players for the rest of the year, to aid their annual push back toward another Super Bowl. At 7-2 with another comfortable lead atop the AFC East, the Patriots would give Irvin the best chance among these teams to win a ring this season. Then Irvin could go shopping in free agency in March for a longer deal at his price.

The Seahawks lost to the Los Angeles Chargers, 25-17, on Sunday, Nov. 4, 2018 at CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

It will also likely come down to which of the above teams, or someone else, offers Irvin the most above the roughly $500,000 prorated veteran minimum for the rest of this season. The Seahawks have about $4.8 million in salary cap space for this year, according to overthecap.com.

Twice on Monday, Carroll was asked about the possibility of bringing Irvin back to Seattle. He didn’t dismiss the possibility either time.

First was on his weekly day-after-game radio show with Seattle’s KIRO AM.

“We’re always watching the release wire and seeing what happens,” Carroll said. “Nothing specific about this one yet.’’

Carroll told 710 AM that Irvin is “a great kid. Always loved Bruce.”

Monday afternoon I asked the coach during his press conference at team headquarters how interested the Seahawks are in Irvin.

“I’m not commenting on that right now, if you don’t mind,” Carroll said. “Just wait and see what happens. He’s got waivers and all kinds of things going on.”

Not anymore.

“We’ll see what happens,” Carroll said.

Roster moves

The Seahawks made roster moves not involving Irvin on Tuesday.

They signed cornerback Kalan Reed from their practice squad. Reed was a seventh-round draft choice by Tennessee in 2016. He played seven games for the Titans over the ‘16 and ‘17 season.

The Seahawks waived linebacker Emmanuel Ellerbee from the roster. Ellerbee played in one game. He had 13 special-teams snaps last weekend against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Seattle signed to its practice squad one-time summer love and running back Troymaine Pope. Pope led the Seahawks in rushing in the 2016 preseason as an undrafted rookie from Jacksonville State, but the team cut him at the end of that preseason anyway. Seattle briefly re-signed Pope in the spring of 2017 then released him a month later.

The Seahawks cut tight Tyrone Swoopes from the practice squad, per the NFL’s official transactions. Swoopes, an undrafted rookie free agent last year and former University of Texas quarterback, made his first NFL start last month against Oakland. He caught his first career pass in that London game.

He lost his place on the active roster when starting tight end Ed Dickson made his season debut two weeks ago at Detroit coming off the non-football-injury list.

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