Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Mario Williams and Other Good Free Agents for Seattle

Is it wrong to be dreaming of improving the roster with 3 games still left to play?  If it is, why does it feel so right?  Is that why it is called rosterbating?  Moral dilemmas aside,  let's dig into the Hawks' defensive roster needs in free agency. There is one player that is obviously the focus of this article, but while on the subject, why don't we look at a few other names for just a moment. (Your moment, not mine. This stuff takes way longer to type than to read.)

First off, in two free agent periods, Mr. Pete Carroll and Mr. John Schneider have established that they are not as free-agent phobic as Schneider's roots in Green Bay, and even his words during his first offseason, may have suggested.  I expect that John and Pete are also not going to make as many free agent acquisitions in the future as they did in the truncated 2011 free agency period. However, they have cap space, and they have chutzpah, so I do expect to hear some names. Maybe just from rumor-mongers like Incarcerated Bob, but heard nonetheless.  Keep in mind that so far, they only break the bank for youngish free agents.

Such as...

Terrell Thomas, New York Giants
6' 0", 199 lbs; Current age: 26

Terrell will be mentioned for four reasons: he is a physical press corner who accumulates tackles on running backs, he gets interceptions, he played for Pete at USC, and he is only 26.  Oh, a 5th reason: the departure of Marcus Trufant is more than likely.  Thomas is coming off an ACL injury in training camp, so his recovery should be well along by March's free agency start.  They weren't afraid to draft another player of this profile, Walter Thurmond, so I wouldn't expect any squeamishness over Thomas if his recovery looks good.

Adam Carriker, Washington Redskins
6' 6", 315 lbs; Current age: 27

Carriker is first of all a Kennewick native, and second, would fit in Carroll's non traditional 4-3 role that Red Bryant has thrived in.  Think about what you know of Pete's ultra physical scheme, and read the following words from Jim Haslet, who coached Carriker both in his less than successful stint in St Louis and his current role in Washington.  Haslet said, about why Carriker did not make it as a traditional 4-3 three technique scheme fit,

"For a guy who ran the 40 in 4.7 and was 6-6, 315 pounds, you'd think he could do that. But that's not what he wants to do. He wants to play with strength and power, and he does a pretty good job of it. He feels so much more comfortable in this."  

Strength and power?  How is that not a scheme fit for Pete?

Carriker is a signing I would be very excited about.   He would not so much be depth for Red's position as he would be a rotational starter with Red.  He is a better pass rusher than Bryant, and would ease the minds of fans and coaches alike about what happens if Red is unable to play.

Cliff Avril, Detroit Lions
6' 3", 260 lbs; Current age: 25

Finally, we would get a player back from the Seatroit Sea Lions pipeline.  If you're not familiar with Cliff, think Chris Clemons but 5 years younger.  He isn't better than Clemons, just younger.  His growth curve is just taking off, while Clemons is fighting the undefeated Father Time.  In fact, he shows somewhat less commitment to run stopping than Clemons but has some college background as a linebacker, possibly a result of the get-after-the-QB scheme Jim Schwartz is running in Detroit.  He is getting sacks, forcing fumbles, and racking up personal fouls in Detroit at a prodigious rate.  The latter skill might make him fit in Seattle as much as anything, right? 

Detroit will not let him go easily, though.  If Avril makes it through the team re-signing period, I expect interest for him from a lot of teams. Seattle included.

Mario Williams, Houston Texans
6' 6", 283 lbs; Current age: 26

Initial response of all sane people:  "You, sir, have apparently misplaced your sanity.  Clearly, Houston will not be letting this guy get away at any cost." 

I understand your initial response. I had trouble believing he was not even under contract past this year.  Before you holler "Franchise tag, dummy," know this:  (from David Dalati at FoxSports Houston) 

Williams is now a linebacker, meaning he would be categorized among linebackers when it comes to salary calculation. Franchising a player means you are guaranteeing that player at least the average of the top five salaries at his position and the average salary of the top five linebackers is roughly $10 million. Problem: Williams' current cap number is $18 million.  Since Williams' cap number is greater than $10 million, franchising Williams means the Texans must guarantee him 120 percent of his current salary next season. It's the way the rule works, either the average of the top five salaries or a 120 percent of the player's salary, whichever is greater. In short, franchising Mario would commit the Texans to paying him over $21 million for the 2012 season alone.

From a mathematical standpoint, the Texans can't commit $21 million for a linebacker for one season, regardless of his impact. From a practical view, there is no way the Texans would pay that amount for a player coming off consecutive seasons in which he has been seriously injured. It's not happening and anyone discussing the franchise tag in Williams' case simply doesn't know what he or she is talking about."  

I know, that is a mouthful, possibly even a brain full, but think about what that means for the Hawks.

3-4 teams will not be going after Mario Williams.  Simple economics dictate that he will make more as a 4-3 defensive end than he will as a 3-4 linebacker.  See Julius Peppers salary vs Jerome Harrison salary.   That reduces the list of teams competing for his services by about half.  Yes, he could play 3-4 end, but he won't; that is not where the money is either.

Salary cap concerns and current roster considerations further limit some of the 4-3 teams that would compete for Mario Williams, leaving the Seahawks as one of the handful of 4-3 teams that would compete for what undoubtedly will be the star of 2012's free agency.  A quick look of 4-3 teams only shows a handful of teams - and by handful I mean three others - that are competitive, cap friendly, and schematic fits while not having huge amounts of capital already tied up at defensive end.  Goody, goody, we are one of them!  Watch the Giants be our main rivals for Mario's services when they let Osi walk.

If that one player is Mario, I can honestly say that this defense is one player away from dominance.  Sure, there are other positions to address in Seattle on defense, but this is the one addition that would improve the secondary and linebacking corps immediately.  The injuries would be a legitimate concern, but it is a surgically repaired pectoral, not his knees or ankles, so I can't see what would stop Seattle from pursuing Mario except price.  Which will be steep.

Make it happen, John.


  1. Worth mentioning that Red Bryant is a FA too. Resigning him would count to me as a big get

  2. John Schneider was on Sirius NFL Radio yesterday, and he said that several Seahawks being retained is a priority.

  3. The GB model is to pay your top talent well enough to keep them. I expect us to do that. It tells the players that if they deliver, they will be rewarded.

    I think Lynch is our top priority as a message to the players. He's sacrificed his body the most and leads by example. At today's presser, Carroll mentioned that the OL finishes stronger because they have faith that Lynch will still be on his feet, pushing for more yards. PC noted Gallery making a killer, downfield block, as well as Okung scraping off tacklers last week for that magic TD.

    Red might be more important from an individual play standpoint, and he's a great motivator too. But signing Lynch will deliver the bigger message of loyalty.

    That's not saying that we need to go overboard for Lynch, but we had better not get cheap. This is how the front office can show, "I'm in!"

  4. That Mario Williams article is screwy. It says 120% of his salary, but then he uses the cap number to calculate. Williams 2011 salary is 13.8 mil, so 120% of that is 16.6 million. Still a lot but not totally ridiculous. Peppers is averaging 14 mil a year.

  5. Red is staying for sure. Not a chance that he leaves.

    I could see Lynch possibly leaving if he continues to 115 yards per game the rest of the way and the Front Office gives him a solid offer but he leaves it on the table for a team that is desperate for his services and gives up a ton of money. Is that likely to happen? I don't think so. Could I see it happening? Potentially, yes.

    And, holy lord, having Mario Williams in the line in Clemon's place would be ridiculous.

  6. Scott, I really like your stuff and I also really like free agency topics, so this was a fun read for me. I really liked the suggestion of Terrell Thomas and Adam Carriker, as the real goal of free agency shouldn't be plunking down huge bucks for megastars but rather looking for under-valued types who can give you good production per dollar.

    Not that I have anything against Mario Williams. I agree that a Williams addition could help make this defense potentially dominant (its not far away as it is). I'd be really interested to see what Seattle does with Clemons if they give his starting job to Williams. The obvious answer is that he'd take Raheem Brock's current job as a situational end pass rusher, but part of me wonders if Seattle wouldn't experiment with Clemons at weakside LB and see what happens. Clemons is dominant on blitz plays, perhaps he could be a good blitzer as well. Clemons has played linebacker before, at least in college and with the Redskins and I think Oakland.

    Also, reading your transcript of John Schneider's Sirius bit, I thought he came off as indicative of pursuing a major free agent this winter, as if he already had someone in mind. Maybe that's just me though.

  7. Its also worth mentioning that while the Green Bay model is famous for avoiding big name free agents, they did go out and sign Charles Woodson to a big contract. They believed Woodson would have a transformational impact on their defense, so they went out and got him. If Seattle views Mario Williams in the same way, I see no reason why they wouldn't be major players for his services.

  8. How will the Hawks have room to add Mario Williams after they trade for Peyton Manning?

  9. @Kip
    I get the distinct impression from John's words that he is two years from fully implementing the Green Bay model.

    @anonymous, any disparities between Mario's 2011 salary and his 2011 cap hit could be the result of a variety of factors, such as signing bonuses, renegotiated deals that backload, etc.

    Cap hit and salary are often different.

  10. Do you think that moving Big Red inside is a possibility? Seeing the kind of havoc he wreaks seemingly every week is the kind of pressure that is hard to find inside. He doesn't get to the quarterback like you'd want out of your DE, but he certainly collapses the pocket and makes it harder for the QB. If we could put him and Mebane inside, and sign say.. Mario Williams, next season could our defensive line possibly look like:
    Mario Williams - Red Bryant - Brandon Mebane - Chris Clemons

    We would be able to get pressure from anywhere, and also be really good at stopping the run. That is an amazing defensive line, possibly one of the best in the league.


  11. Bryant was originally drafted to play inside, but Carroll moved him outside because he was ineffective at DT. He was too tall and lost leverage a lot, and also never took very well to gap assignments. DE is pretty much the optimal position for him.

  12. I would also suggest that people think about Robert Mathis from Indy. He is on the older side(going to be 31) but his production is still pretty good(6.5 sacks so far this season). He compares favorably to Raheem Brock as he is 2.5 years younger and comes from the same scheme. Mathis could sub in for Red on passing downs thus we could limit his snaps and not worry about him getting blown out on run defense. His contract could probably be front loaded so that we could cut him as he ages. I think that a tandem of Bryant and Mathis would basically create the perfect DE(plus run stopping and plus pass rush).