Valentine’s Day is a day for love. It is also a day to share your feelings with others and hope they return those same feelings. But for football fans, it is also time for our post-Super Bowl Tradition of mock drafts and fawning over potential free agents. For Seahawks fans, this season may have started more than a month ago after Seattle was unceremoniously bounced from the playoffs in the first round.
Despite the crushing loss, Seattle’s defense did what it had done for the previous eight weeks – it played well. While nobody would have predicted it in October, Seahawk fans almost certainly feel better about their defense today than their offense. But the unit that showed unbelievable growth in the back half of the year has some work to do, as six Week 1 starters are set to test free agency and key contributors like D.J. Reed, Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs, Carlos Dunlap, and Jarran Reed are all in the final year of their contracts.
So while most people’s focus will now be on the offensive side of the football, general manager John Schneider has a lot of work to do to keep his defense playing at a high level. But with limited resources available to acquire players, he’ll need to make sure he loves the players that he will spend his assets on. And while Schneider certainly doesn’t need my input, here are six players I love.
Defensive Free Agent Crushes
Kevin King, CB Green Bay Packers
Many of your first thoughts after the mention of Kevin King’s name is likely the difficult game he had in the NFC title game. It was a rough game for King, who has been a bit of a disappointment since Green Bay selected him with the first pick of the second round in 2017.
King did struggle in 2020, earning a meager 55.7 Pro Football Focus grade, but his five interceptions and two sacks in 2019 show the kind of upside he brings to the table. Like Melifonwu, King looks like a guy who was born to be a Seahawks corner. He stands at 6-foot-3 and weighs 200 pounds with elite short area quickness and explosiveness.
Sometimes a scheme change or new voice can work wonders for a player and King played his football at the University of Washington, a fantastic breeding ground for NFL defensive backs. For a team that may need to replace Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar without spending massive amounts of money, King is an insanely appealing option.
Romeo Okwara, EDGE Detroit Lions
The 25-year old enjoyed a breakout season in a contract year, gathering 10 sacks and three forced fumbles, earning a 69.5 Pro Football Focus grade. Seattle didn’t get a single snap from Darrell Taylor. Carlos Dunlap has a massive cap number and is 32 years old. Benson Mayowa is a free agent. So I think we can all agree that finding a quality edge rusher should be a priority for Seattle.
Okwara isn’t going to come cheap, but with just one year of premier sack numbers and an uneven performance throughout 2020, he may have to wait until the second wave of free agency, similar to Seahawks legendary pass rush tandem Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. Okwara was the third-best pass rusher in the league from Week 12 on and in a market with less money to go around, Seattle should be willing to get aggressive on the young Lion.
Jadeveon Clowney, DL Tennesee Titans
After flirting with Clowney all spring and summer only to be spurned at the last minute, it is understandable why some fans may not want to give their heart to this idea again. What’s worse, Clowney was a rather large disappointment for the Titans and missed most of the season with an injury.
There are a few red flags here, nobody can deny that. But when things are going well, there are few players who can wreck a game like Clowney. As a bonus, his injuries and lack of production (sacks) should slow his market yet again. With the league already showing an unwillingness to give Clowney top-flight money and a market that will have less cash available than last year, the former No. 1 overall pick presents a fascinating buy-low option.
We know what Clowney can do in Seattle’s defense and with the improvements to the supporting cast around him, he could be drawn to the idea of a one-year, incentive-laden contract. Like any free agent signing, the Seahawks would need to get creative with the structure of the deal and find the money from other players to make it happen. But for a talent like Clowney, it might be worth it.
Defensive Draft Crushes
Elijah Molden, CB Washington
Elijah Molden doesn’t have the prototypical size the Seahawks covet at corner. He’s only 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds. He doesn’t have the monster wingspan either. At first glance, Molden doesn’t look like a Seahawks corner. But then again, neither did D.J. Reed.
Like Reed, Molden is just a stellar football player who makes up for his lack of overwhelming skills with elite instincts. He has an incredible knack for diagnosing plays pre-snap which allows him to play with incredible anticipation. He’s fluid and explosive and a hard nose tackler.
If Molden was two inches taller and 15 pounds heavier, he’d be a first round pick. But with the success of Reed as an outside corner, Seattle may be willing to rethink some things, and Molden’s ability to play inside or outside makes him a fantastic fit for any team.
Ifeatu Melifonwu, CB Syracuse
Of course, if the Seahawks do want to find a stereotypical Seahawks corner, Ifeatu Melifonwu looks like he was built to be a Seahawk. At 6-foot-3, 215 pounds, Melifonwu is a physical corner who uses his length to disrupt passing lanes and rack up pass breakups. But Melifonwu is also a great athlete who brings fluid hips and explosive straight line speed to the table.
Melifonwu continually improved on the mental side at Syracuse and shows adequate route recognition, a trait that should improve in the NFL with time. He’s bigger, stronger, and faster than most wide receivers in the league. He’s a physical tackler who isn’t afraid to lower the hit stick on receivers and running backs. The Seahawks were reportedly quite interested in his brother Obi Melifonwu, who has disappointed as a second-round pick. But Ifeatu is far ahead of where his brother was and brings all the same traits to the table.
Daviyon Nixon, DT Iowa
There may not be many athletes like Daviyon Nixon in this draft. Standing at 6-foot-3 and weighing 305 pounds, Nixon is nimble for a man his size and shows good burst and agility. In 2020, he led the Big Ten with 13.5 tackles for loss and was second with his 5.5 sacks. He even recorded a 71-yard pick-six against Penn State, sidestepping a quarterback and outrunning a running back to the end zone.
Nixon is an excellent 3-tech prospect who shows skills at penetrating both in the run and pass game. He may already be inaccessible to Seattle as he is currently projected to go in the top two rounds. But if he is sitting on the board, Seattle should resist the temptation to trade down and select one of the best interior defensive linemen in the country.