After dominating the latter part of the 2012 NFL season, and going 11-5 over all, it was fair to expect the Seattle Seahawks to stay mostly still during the 2013 free agency period. It has been the norm for the Seahawks to let the market sort itself out before signing any free agents that weren’t their own.
After recording just two sacks in two playoff games, many expected Seattle to sign a pass rusher at some point. Starting DE/OLB Chris Clemons tore his ACL during a playoff game against the Washington Redskins. This injury left 2012 rookie Bruce Irvin as the only pass rushing defensive lineman on the roster. Clemons’ injury resulted in no pressure against Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons during the divisional playoff game. Seattle’s season ended in the Georgia Dome after the Falcons marched down-field with less than a minute left to kick a game winning field goal.
Surprisingly, Seattle has answered the pass rushing problem very aggressively in free agency by signing former Detroit DE Cliff Avril and Tampa Bay DE/DT Michael Bennett. Together Bennet and Avril combined for 18.5 sacks during the 2012 season. Both free agents expected to get big contracts but a tight salary cap for NFL teams has led to a slower market. Avril signed a two year deal worth $15 million. Bennett took a one year deal worth just $5 million.
Seattle now has a full arsenal of defensive linemen who can rush the passer. The only question is where will they all play? Many have looked at the New York Giants‘ NASCAR package which uses four defensive ends on the line of scrimmage. I believe Pete Carroll and the staff will take this approach with the Seahawks’ defense on passing downs. The NASCAR package requires two linemen who are fast and strong enough to play inside and create pressure up the middle, while the smaller defensive ends create a rush from the outside.
The player personnel for Seattle when deploying the NASCAR package would be (left to right) Irvin, Clemons, Bennett, and Avril. When this group of four potential threats is on the field, their height and weight average out to 6’4” and 259 pounds. The Giants’ NASCAR package which included Jason Pierre-Paule, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Mathias Kiwanuka averaged out to 6’5” and 267 pounds. While there may be a size difference in the New York and Seattle, the Seahawks have the dual advantages of youth and speed.
It is difficult to know for sure what package Seattle will send out on passing situations when the season starts, but it is intriguing to think about.