Sheldon Richardson has been a target for the Seahawks before. The team tried to bring him in previously but couldn’t finalize a fair deal for both them and the Jets, however the teams finally agreed upon making the move right before the 2017 season kicked off, adding, what many would call, the final piece to the puzzle on Seattle’s already stacked defense. Pete Carroll has longed for a pass rushing 3 technique defensive tackle since becoming the head coach some 8 years ago, so how did he do in his first and, potentially only season in Seattle?
Sure, you could look at his sack numbers (1 all season in 2017) and question why you’d want him on the team but Sheldon brings so much more to the team than sacks. He caused 28 QB hurries and racked up 7 QB hits last year, just a half a second delay and that single sack could have easily been 5-8. Couple that with his elite run stopping ability (109 tackles and 86 run stops) and you have a defensive lineman that almost guarantees specific scheming from the oppositions offensive line. A by-product of that is making things easier for EDGE guys as well, you can’t double team everyone, after all.
Something that many may not have considered, though, is how much Sheldon Richardson would have helped middle linebacker Bobby Wagner’s game. Given how often Sheldon dealt with double teams over the 3 gap, it meant that lineman couldn’t get to the second level to get on Bobby Wagner, It’s a legitimate consideration when contract talks begin, how much he improves the players around him will unquestionably add value.
His most notable games came in his first appearance in a Seahawks uni, week 1 against Green Bay where he racked up 6 pressures and managed to get to that number again in week 13 against the Eagles.
You could argue that Sheldon is a bit of a luxury piece moving forwards and I’d be inclined to agree, but with the likelihood that many of the current stars on this team won’t be around for many years to come, it’s time to start creating new stars, and Sheldon certainly has the ability to be just that. I guess a lot of his status with the team relies on what happens with Malik McDowell. If the team are 100% confident he will be back next season, I expect the team will be less inclined to push hard for Sheldon. However, if I suspect correctly, the team simply won’t know the status of McDowell so their hand will be forced with Sheldon.
It goes without saying that the team would have to make a roster move or two to fit his contract under the cap. As it stands, Seattle simply couldn’t afford him given their current cap position sits at a little over $14,000,000 with the rookie draft class to pay (about $6,000,000) as well as filling the roster out (currently 46 players under contract) as well as keeping some back for emergency signings due to inevitable injuries through the season.
What will Sheldon cost in free agency? Well for a start, he has never experienced free agency before so I wouldn’t be expecting to hear of him signing with anyone on day one, he will likely have an offer on the table from Seattle and go and listen to offers from other teams. I think he is expecting around $13-14m APY (average per year) which I don’t think he is going to get. His career, from a stats point of view, is going in a negative direction, in each of his part seasons since 2014, his numbers have been lower than previous year so his agent will not be able to argue that he is improving, coupled with teams only looking at his sack production, I think he is going to receive offers in the $8-11m range. I’d pitch Seattle in the middle of the ballpark figure at around $9.5m over 3, maybe 4 years. What it may well end up coming down to is the contract structure, guarantees and physical locations of the teams with offers on the table.
Another thing to consider, if Seattle feels they don’t absolutely need him on the roster but wants to gain some value back is to franchise tag him and trade him. Seattle gave up draft capital and Jermaine Kearse knowing Sheldon would only be under contract for another year, it’s fair to assume another pass-rushing DT needy team wound offer the same. Given the team has no 2nd or 3rd round pick, this avenue may even be number one on their priority list. Never say never…It’s looking like the franchise tag number for 2018 is going to be around the $14m figure ($13.387m in 2017).
The last realistic possibility would be that he is disappointed with the offers on the table from the teams and agrees to play in Seattle on another 1 year deal and try to maximize his value for free agency in 2019.
In 2018, his main competition from fellow free agents at around the same value are Kyle Williams (Bills), Dontari Poe (Falcons), Bennie Logan (Chiefs) and Nick Fairley (Saints). In 2019, his competition is much lower, with the only two 3-4/4-3 DT’s hitting the open market being Geno Atkins (Bengals) and Brandon Mebane (Chargers) at around the same contract level, so he may well recoup any lost money in 2018 back in 2019, albeit with the associated risks with playing on a single year contract.
With free agency a matter of weeks away, at least we won’t have to wait too long to find out what happens with Sheldon Richardson. My hope is that he is on the roster on a multi-year deal but we will see soon enough!
As always, Go Hawks!