Seattle Seahawks

Reports: Seahawks lose LB Bruce Irvin to Raiders in big free-agent deal, $37 million for four years

Bruce Irvin, here celebrating a sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl 49 in February 2015, is reportedly leaving the Seahawks to sign a big, free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders.
Bruce Irvin, here celebrating a sack of Tom Brady in Super Bowl 49 in February 2015, is reportedly leaving the Seahawks to sign a big, free-agent contract with the Oakland Raiders. AP

Bruce Irvin is reportedly reuniting with one of the men 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 in his second and third seasons instead of merely a situational pass rusher.

That’s one reason Irvin is leaving Seattle. There are 37 million other ones.

USA Today reported Wednesday morning Irvin’s deal is worth $37 million for four years. He gets $12.5 million of that this year. He made $1.66 million last season in the final year of his Seahawks’ rookie contract.

Irvin also is reportedly getting from Oakland a fully guaranteed $2.25 million from a roster bonus next March. His $4.5 million base salary for 2017 will also be guaranteed, per USA Today.

So Irvin is getting an average annual raise of $7.59 million from the Raiders.

Irvin played outside linebacker on the strong side of the offense’s formation on early downs last season for Seattle 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 last season in what became a contract year, the final season of his rookie deal at a base salary of $1.66 million.

He went from 6 1/2 sacks in 2014 to 5 1/2 last season. His career high is 8 in his rookie year, that lone season he was more a situational pass rusher than every-down linebacker.

His windfall signifies how ultra-valued pass rushers have become in the NFL. It’s also far more than the Seahawks, who have about $15 million to spend under their salary cap, could commit to him. 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 Seahawks’ locker room in Renton Jan. 18.

As recently as last week, Irvin was at Seahawks headquarters in Renton hanging and working out with Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner and other teammates.

But almost $7 million more dollars apparently changed his imagination. No, the money wasn’t close.

Seattle has other, more pressing needs on their offensive and defensive lines and with 15 more of their own free agents possibly leaving beginning Wednesday.