At the close of the 2022 season, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said his team needed to “become more dynamic up front” on their defensive line.
Seattle took a big step toward doing that Monday night with the NFL Network and other outlets reporting the team had reached agreement with one of the top defensive tackles on the free agent market – Denver’s Dre’Mont Jones.
The NFL Network reported Jones agreed to a three-year deal worth up to $51.5 million with $18 million guaranteed.
It’s a contract that marks a significant departure from Seattle’s usual cautious approach to the opening phase of free agency, but seemed to illustrate just how desperate – or eager – the Seahawks are to try to fix their defense.
“We needed to be better up front,” Seahawks general manager John Schneider said at the NFL scouting combine in February after a season in which Seattle finished 25th in points allowed and 26th in yards allowed. “I think it was pretty evident. We were on the field a lot. We didn’t defend the run real well. We had some games in there, we did a really nice job and then we had several games that didn’t go so well. We know what the issues are and we’re ready to attack them and fix them.”
The 26-year-old Jones was considered among the best defensive linemen available – Pro Football Focus rated him the third-best interior defensive lineman available and the 22nd overall.
“Jones still has room to round out his game, but the value of an interior pass rusher was never more apparent than during the 2022 season, and that’s exactly where Jones wins,” PFF wrote. “Since he entered the league in 2019, Jones’ 138 quarterback pressures are tied for the 19th most among interior defenders, with his 14.5% pass-rush win rate ranking 11th best over the span. Jones set career highs in snaps played, quarterback pressures and stops this past season. Players with his skill set don’t hit free agency too often, so teams looking for a 3-4 defensive end will be very interested in bringing him aboard this March.”
That scouting report sounds like exactly the kind of player the Seahawks said they needed to not only improve what was an inconsistent pass rush but also a run defense that allowed 4.9 yards per carry, 26th in the NFL.
Jones, who played at Ohio State, was the 71st overall pick in the draft in 2019. He has started 29 games in his career, including 13 in 2022 when he had a career-high 47 tackles and tied a career-high with 6.5 sacks.
The Seahawks entered the day with just over $20 million in cap space, according to OvertheCap.com, but are expected to release Shelby Harris – a former teammate of Jones’ with Denver before he came to Seattle in the Russell Wilson trade a year ago – to create another $9 million more.
Seattle’s largest contract handed to an outside free agent in the last decade came a year ago when the Seahawks signed end Uchenna Nwosu to a two-year deal worth up to $19 million.
Asked why he picked the Seahawks, Jones told NFL reporter Josina Anderson of CBSSports: “I feel like they have the biggest belief in me. They have a really promising team, and I am looking forward to transitioning to that city.”
Barton to join CommandersFormer Seahawks linebacker Cody Barton, a 2019 third-round draft pick, agreed to terms on a 1-year deal with the Washington Commanders.