The Jared Allen sweepstakes ended Wednesday with the Seahawks being left out in the cold. He chose to dance with the Chicago Bears for four years and $32 million, and now the Seahawks must…do what exactly?
The common theme during Allen’s flirtations with the Seahawks was this: It was another example of the rich getting richer. Seattle pulled off a cost-effective coup last year by signing defensive linemen Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Now the Seahawks were going to add a once-dominant and still-valuable pass rusher to an solid rotation.
But here’s another argument: The Seahawks needed Jared Allen. Not in the way they needed a left tackle in 2010 after Walter Jones retired, and not in the way some teams need quarterbacks. But Allen wasn’t just a luxury car to throw into a crowded garage.
“Really, Allen, to me, is a need for them,” former Bears general manager Jerry Angelo said a few days ago. “He’s a perfect fit. And Allen knows it, too. I would be shocked if he said no to it. They are the best fit for him.”
General Manager John Schneider said last year that the Seahawks modeled their defensive line after the Broncos teams that won back-to-back Super Bowls in the ’90s. Those teams rotated eight players along the line, and Schneider wanted to duplicate that in Seattle.
The Seahawks had such an embarrassment of riches last year that former NFL scout Louis Riddick once said, “They have nine guys on the defensive line that could start if you were building a team from scratch.”
That’s not the case anymore, at least not right now. Starters Chris Clemons and Red Bryant are gone. So is defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, who was a surprisingly valuable rusher in passing situations.
Right now the Seahawks’ defensive line looks like this on the surface: Tony McDaniel in Red Bryant’s old role, and Avril in Clemons’ spot. Brandon Mebane will anchor inside. Bennett will likely continue rotating between end and tackle.
And then what?
Greg Scruggs showed flashes as a rookie two years ago and could play outside or inside, but he missed all of last season with an injury. Same with fifth-round draft pick Jesse Williams. Jordan Hill, a third-round draft pick last year, played only limited snaps a year ago and battled injuries. And defensive end Benson Mayowa, an undrafted rookie the Seahawks are high on, played no meaningful snaps.
The situation isn’t dire. Bennett and Avril were Seattle’s best pass-rushers a year ago, and by some measures Mebane was one of the league’s best run-stuffing tackles.
But the Seahawks are in need of more depth, whether that be through outside help (free agency, the draft) or from internal sources (Hill, Scruggs, Mayowa).
Said Angelo of pass-rushers, “You can’t have enough of ‘em, but you’ve got to have at least three.”
That’s why the Seahawks wanted Allen, after all. But Allen never shied away from his desire to get a deal he thought paid him what he’s worth. And on that front Seattle couldn’t budge. In fact, the situation money-wise isn’t all that different from Golden Tate’s. The player thought his value was higher than the team was willing — or capable — of paying.
That’s life under the salary cap. If the Seahawks were going to re-sign Bennett to a big deal this offseason, and if they’re going to eventually re-sign Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, they have to be prudent with their short-term decisions.
As Schneider told NFL.com when discussing Allen on Tuesday, “We’re limited in what we can do in terms of our cap space and what we want to do with our young football team, and he has a limit, too, in terms of what he can do. There just has to be a balance. We had a great visit, he’s a great guy, has a great family …. anything that we were able to offer was not out of disrespect or anything. It was just trying to fit the pieces together.”
Allen would have been a good fit as a pass-rush specialist with Seattle. Here’s what Angelo had to say when evaluating Allen, a guy he saw twice a year while Allen was in Minnesota and Angelo in Chicago:
“He’d be a great fit for them. He’d be the third guy similar to what Clemons did. He’s got a high motor. He plays exceptionally hard. His forte is rushing the passer. He’s not much versus the run. You could beat him up. He’ll surrender if you attack him on the steady diet. But he knows what he is. He stays within his wheelhouse.”
“That’s why I say, for Seattle it’s a very good fit. He’s still on turf. He’s a better dome player, but they still have turf up there so that will bode well with him. He’d fit in… The one thing is he’s really just one-dimensional. He’s really just a pass rusher, and he has to play on the right side. That’s all he’s ever done, and he’s a non-factor against the run. When you go at him, he’s got the strength of a wide receiver. Mentality-wise and physically speaking, he won’t hold up against the run. And they know that. That’s easy to say. But I really respect how hard he plays.”
Now the Seahawks must search for other options to bolster their defensive line. It’s not dire, but Seattle does have work to do.