The Seattle Seahawks made it abundantly clear they believe this team can win the championship by bringing defensive tackle Leonard Williams to the Emerald City. That's terrific for this year but creates an interesting problem for 2024.
Just a few days ago I wrote about potential trade targets for the Seahawks. I looked at small moves rather than major deals like this, and there's a very good reason for that. As Lee Vowell wrote about the deal, this is the first major trade deadline the Hawks have swung since 2020. The last three times Seattle has made trade deadline deals, they came away with pretty good results.
The 2020 trade resulted in Carlos Dunlap. 2019 brought us Quandre Diggs, while 2017 gave us Duane Brown. Sure, only Diggs is still here, but Brown was a lynchpin for the Seahawks offensive line, and Dunlap's career was only derailed by injuries, not performance. Seattle simply doesn't swing for the fences too often.
The other reason I didn't expect a big move like this, is exactly why I'm writing about it, rather than making the move. I mean, I do okay. I predicted DK Metcalf would be this good two months before he plays a single snap. I called it on Boye Mafe's rise to beast level this season before camp even started. Not to brag or anything, but I'm the guy who said bringing Eddie Lacy to Seattle was a tremendous move. So, yeah, if I was running things for the Seahawks, they'd probably look a lot like the Cardinals. Or worse, if that's possible.
The Seattle Seahawks showed they're in win-now mode by getting Leonard Williams
Now, that doesn't mean they've mortgaged their future, like, oh, the Denver Broncos, for one example. Or the Rams, for that matter. I'll give Los Angeles credit; at least they got the championship out of it. The Seahawks didn't have to give up too much to land Williams, either. Well, I suppose that depends on your point of view. Seattle sent New York its second and fifth-round picks for 2024, and that's some serious draft capital. But the Seahawks have two third-round picks next year, their own and one from Denver, whichever is the lower pick between the Broncos own pick and the Saints.
Add the fact that the Hawks would receive a fourth-round pick next year as compensation if they don't try to re-sign Williams. That's according to Matty F. Brown of seahawksontape.com. Best of all, Seattle only has to pay Williams the balance of the veteran minimum, about $647K, as New York ate the rest of his contract.
We'll get into how good this is for the Seahawks playoff chances another time. What interests me is the idea that Pete Carroll and John Schneider may not be looking at Williams as simply a rental player. As quoted by Bob Condotta in the Seattle Times, Carroll had this to say about how he views his newest piece of the defensive puzzle: "We’ve watched him for a long time,” Carroll said. “… He brings a lot of versatility. … He’s the kind of guy that can make a difference in games.”
He also said that Williams can play all over the line, from end to end, and at nose tackle. And we all know how much Pete values versatility. Williams played his first six seasons at end, then two years at nose tackle, and his last two - well, year-and-a-half- at tackle. At 6'5" and 300 pounds, yeah, he can play up and down the line for the Seahawks.
So what happens in 2024? Williams is in the final year of a three-year, $63M contract. You can see how $647K might be a bit appealing to the Seahawks brass, right? Of course, he's not playing for that in 2024. The excellent financial site spotrac.com currently estimates his market value as $16.3M. That of course would only increase if Williams excels in Seattle. And that means that the Seahawks will have to make some decisions, possibly tough decisions if they want Williams as more than a rental player.
Now according to overthecap.com, Seattle is estimated to have $17.1M in cap space for 2024. That number would have to include signing their next crop of draft picks, of course, so they're going to have a lot of wiggle room. While he doesn't have the highest cap hit, not by far, the first name to come up has to be Dre'Mont Jones. Seattle could restructure his base salary to free up another $4 or $5 million easily.
That's assuming that Jones continues his gradual improvement over the past few weeks. If the Hawks aren't happy with his production, they could release him before June 1st and save $5 million on the cap as well. I'd assume they'd prefer to renegotiate his deal, as they could save just as much by reworking the deal.
No, the truly interesting possibility - and the biggest savings for the team - would be to release Geno Smith after the June 1st deadline. That would free up $22 million in cap space. Now, that's a lotta cheddar. Of course, that would leave the Hawks without a quarterback, so it might not be the smartest approach. The Seahawks could re-sign Drew Lock at a reasonable price as the caretaker for whoever they land in the 2024 quarterback derby. But unless Geno Smith absolutely flames out - and I believe he'll improve over the rest of the season - this would be a monumentally bad decision.
The point though, is that the Seahawks can rework some contracts to make room for Williams and Jones. Or Williams and Jones and Reed, if you prefer. It all depends on how well the new and improved defensive line performs. I expect some big things from the newest member of the Seahawks, with a very good chance we'll see more of him next season as well.