TNT’s Gregg Bell on what shocked Pete Carroll about the Seahawks’ 2019 draft that had SO many moves
They traded like they were on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange, not in a draft room in Renton.
They got 11 new players. They are signing maybe a dozen or so more undrafted rookie free agents the team will announce likely Monday or Tuesday. They fulfilled what coach Pete Carroll called their No. 1 priority in this draft: getting big, fast wide receivers who can fly down the field to maximize Russell Wilson’s deep-ball throwing. They got two safeties. Two linebackers. One guard. Even a running back.
OK, now what are the Seahawks doing about improving their biggest issue?
What about the pass rush?
After trading top sack man Frank Clark to Kansas City last week — part of those eight trades to get seven additional picks in this past weekend’s NFL draft — Seattle has a Mount Rainier-sized hole in its pass rush. This weekend they drafted only one sack man, first-round choice L.J. Collier, from Texas Christian. That was after the very best of a historically deep class of edge rushers were already gone.
The Seahawks traded down from the 21st pick to 30th because general manager John Schneider and his staff thought more offensive linemen, specifically coveted tackles, would go earlier in round one. They didn’t. Defensive linemen and edge rushers did.
Ten of the first 19 picks were D-linemen and pass rushers. That included Jeffery Simmons from Mississippi State. The Seahawks reasonably may have thought Simmons would slide to them because of his reconstructive knee surgery in February.
How quickly did the supply of elite pass rushers begin to run out in this draft?
“Right away,” Schneider said.
“First round,” Carroll said. “There were 11 or 12 defensive linemen taken in the first round. Plus Josh (Allen, the linebacker/edge rusher from Kentucky who went seventh overall to Jacksonville).”
So the Seahawks really didn’t address it beyond the unproven Collier, who had just one, standout season at TCU, last year. That leaves the issue: what are the Seahawks going to do address the pass rush?
“There is work that we’re engaged in (during) this stage of filling up the roster,” Carroll said. “And we’re very involved in what is coming up next.
“We’re not done. We have work to do. We’re excited about what’s coming up, and you guys will see, in time.”
That time may be on or after May 7.
Unrestricted free agents signed before that date count against a team’s calculations by the league for next year’s compensatory draft choices. Those signed on or after that date do not.
The Seahawks are counting on keeping the NFL-maximum four comp picks they are in line to have in 2020. Schneider said the reason they traded back into the draft in round seven on Saturday to select Hawaii’s touchdown-making slot receiver John Ursua was the 12 picks, including four comp picks, the Seahawks expected to have in 2020. Now they expect to have 11; Seattle gave Jacksonville a sixth-round choice next year to draft Ursua.
“We talk about those phases of free agency and there’s basically three or four different phases,” Schneider said, “and we’re basically now heading into phase three.”
Which pass rushers are available in phase three?
Ziggy Ansah is one. He had 48 sacks in 80 games with Detroit, including 12 sacks two years ago.
Why is he available? The Lions gave him the franchise tag in 2018 and paid him $17.1 million dollars. Then he had shoulder injuries and just four sacks while playing only seven games last season. Getting older and more injured is the way to be set free in the NFL.
On March, Ansah, 29, became an unrestricted free agent. He remains one. He visited the Seahawks on Monday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
He could come relatively cheaply for his level of accomplishment in the NFL, on a short-term, prove-it contract. And, again, if signed on or after May 7 he would come without factoring in the comp-pick formula for 2020.
So would Nick Perry. The 29-year-old rush linebacker had 18 sacks in a 26-game span for Green Bay from 2016 to ‘17. Perry has played in only 11 games the last two seasons. A wrist injury and surgery ended his 2018 season in early November. Rather than have him cost more than $14 million against their salary cap this year the Packers released their first-round pick from 2012.
Because he was released instead of his contract running out, signing Perry also would not count in Seattle’s comp-pick calculations, per league rules. That’s no matter when he signed.
That, and not undrafted rookie free agents, may be the route the Seahawks go for adding more pass rushers.
Of the numerous rookies who had posted on social media they had signed with Seattle or been linked to signing free-agent deals with the Seahawks as of Sunday, none were pass rushers.
The list included: Texas cornerback Davante Davis, Baylor cornerback Derrek Thomas, Western Kentucky tight end Mik’Quan Deane, South Dakota State quarterback Taryn Christion, Ohio State offensive lineman Demetrius Knox, New Mexico wide receiver Delane Hart-Johnson, Utah offensive lineman Lo Falemaka and Northwestern State (La.) wide receiver Jazz Ferguson.
I had predicted the Seahawks would select Ferguson in the seventh round in my mock draft. He has size and speed, which Carroll loves in wide receivers. Those are the traits that made D.K. Metcalf one of Seattle’s two second-round picks Friday and Gary Jennings from West Virginia one of its fourth-round choices Saturday.
Ferguson is 6 feet 5 and 227 pounds. He and runs a 4.45 40. Some in Louisiana think he can run a 4.3
His is the kind of backstory Carroll also finds attractive. Ferguson began his career at LSU but then had academic issues and failed a drug test. He landed in state at the Football Championship Subdivision Demons. He paid his own way his first year at Northwestern State because he didn’t have the grades to qualify for a scholarship. He worked to pay for school that year while playing on Northwestern State’s scout team. In 2018 the former LSU washout and lower-division scout-team walk-on became the Southland Conference’s offensive player of the year.
Overcoming adversity and being humbled, two of Carroll’s most desired traits in players: Check and check. And now Ferguson is going to get the chance to make Carroll’s team.
The Seahawks need all the big, fast wide receivers they can get with Friday’s news Doug Baldwin is contemplating retirement.
Schneider said Saturday it will be “weeks,” not months, until Baldwin’s situation gets resolved. It appears the 30-year-old Pro Bowl veteran and Wilson’s top target for years has played his last game.
Now, about that pass rush...