The Seahawks’ quest to find more edge pass rushers has led them to reunite with a familiar face plus add an intriguing talent.
While trying to re-sign quarterback Russell Wilson to what’s expected to be the richest contract extension in NFL history and also working on getting top pass rusher Frank Clark a new deal beyond his franchise tag for 2019, the Seahawks signed free-agent defensive ends Cassius Marsh and Nate Orchard Thursday.
Because Marsh was released by San Francisco last month and Orchard by Kansas City during last season, neither will factor in the NFL compensatory pick formula for 2020. Seattle is still in line to get the maximum of four comp picks next year. They have none in this year’s draft that begins April 25.
That and trades are why the Seahawks have just four picks in this year’s draft, the fewest in the league. They are seeking to make trades, likely down from 21st overall in round one, to acquire more choices.
The Seahawks have been trying to find a consistent edge pass rusher to pair opposite Clark since before they traded Michael Bennett in the spring of 2018 and fellow Pro Bowl end Cliff Avril was forced to retire with a neck injury last offseason. They failed mightily with 2017 top draft choice Malik McDowell. The Seahawks released him last month without him ever practicing or playing in a game for them, following head injuries from an ATV accident in the summer of 2017. Dion Jordan’s continual knee problems have him as an unsigned free agent right now after a couple of frustrating seasons for Seattle.
Marsh, 26, has played in 68 games over five NFL seasons since Seattle drafted him in the fourth round out of UCLA in 2014. His first three seasons in the league were with the Seahawks. Coach Pete Carroll repeatedly remarked how he loved the young Marsh’s “motor.”
But after just three sacks in three seasons, all in 2016, penalties and mostly special-teams play, the Seahawks traded Marsh to New England at the end of the 2017 preseason. At the time he wasn’t living up to the promise the Seahawks saw in him as a high-energy, high-impact pass rusher.
Marsh played nine games for the Patriots and six for San Francisco in 2017, then all 16 games last season the 49ers. He had a career-high 5 1/2 sacks last year with the Niners.
Marsh and his fiancee Devyn Adair had their first child last week, Cassius Jr.
“It’s a special place for sure,” Marsh said of Seattle, to the Seahawks’ website. “I personally developed some bonds that will last me the rest of my life. There’s a lot of guys I played with here who I stayed in contact with and I really love as brothers, so it means a lot to come back to where I started. I love this fan base and the coaches. There’s a lot of positives things about coming back here—my girl, her parents are from here, it’s where she’s from. We just had a child, so having that support is huge for us.
“There’s just a lot of positivity around coming back here. I’m pretty pumped.”
Seattle traded Marsh for the seventh-round pick in 2018 they had given to the Patriots one day earlier in September 2017, to acquire nickel defensive back Justin Coleman. The Seahawks also got a 2018 fifth-round choice from New England in that Marsh trade. Seattle used that choice from the Patriots to select Ohio State offensive tackle Jamarco Jones last year. Jones spent his rookie season on injured reserve.
Seattle used the seventh-round pick it got from New England for Marsh as part of a trade to move up and select punter Michael Dickson in the fifth round last year. That worked out more than OK for the Seahawks. Dickson became an All-Pro and the league’s first rookie Pro Bowl punter in 33 years.
Orchard, 26, had five sacks in three seasons for Cleveland after the Browns drafted him in the second round in 2015, out of Utah. Cleveland released him in September.
Instead, he went to Buffalo and played three games for the Bills. Then he signed with Kansas City and played one game last season for the Chiefs before they released him.
At 6 feet 3, 255 pounds, Orchard has prototypical NFL pass-rusher size.
And he has motivation and a chip on his shoulder Carroll loves to cultivate on the Seahawks.
As he told me for a News Tribune story in 2015 out of the league’s scouting combine, Orchard was named Nate Fakahafuaa when he became a runaway as a 13-year-old. He eventually was found and adopted by his club-team basketball coach in Salt Lake City, Dave Orchard.
“I didn’t imagine myself in this position. I was a kid who was lost. No way in heck did I think I’d be here today,” Orchard said in 2015 of entering and being in the NFL. “I always dreamed of it, but I went off the road. I went astray and wasn’t doing the right things.
“But I’m back on track now.”
Seattle begins official offseason workouts at team headquarters on April 15.
That is the deadline Wilson has given the team to get him the long-term contract extension he wants.