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Seattle Seahawks

Commentary: Should Jordyn Brooks, a staple but not a standout, return to Seahawks?

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones, left, gets a hug from Seattle linebacker Jordyn Brooks after the Seahawks’ 24-3 win on Oct. 2 in East Rutherford, N.J.  (Tribune News Service)
By Matt Calkins Seattle Times

SEATTLE – Ask an everyday Seattle sports fan to name five Seahawks, and Jordyn Brooks probably won’t come up.

His jersey never pervaded Lumen Field. The chances – percentage-wise – of him making the ring of honor probably start with a decimal point.

But the linebacker is a former first-rounder who has spent four seasons in Seattle, 3½ of them as a starter. He could also be gone by March.

Should he be?

Brooks started his career with the unenviable task of lining up with future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner and former Pro Bowler K.J. Wright. It was the twilight stage of the Seahawks’ golden linebacker age, and the powers that be – then-Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and current general manager John Schneider – took him 27th in the 2020 NFL draft hoping he’d be the LB of the future.

What ensued was a solid but not quite stellar four seasons on a defense that has been among the NFL’s worst since he arrived. So as he wades in free agency, it’s worth asking if he’s worth bringing back.

As it stands, Brooks is ranked as the 50th-most-desirable free agent by analytics site Pro Football Focus. In other words, he’d be most teams’ second-best free agent and the third or fourth on a few others. This unlikely is what the Seahawks or Brooks envisioned when he was drafted – and certainly not what either hoped for – but he has done little to prove himself as an elite linebacker.

It wasn’t until last season that Brooks nabbed the first (and only) interception of his career. He has forced two fumbles (one in 2022, and one last season) and has tallied 6.5 career sacks – 4.5 of them coming in 2023. In 2021 he led the league in solo tackles with 109. But that was the season Seattle finished last in time of possession (nearly 1½ minutes less than the next-to-last team) meaning Brooks was just perpetually on the field.

Of course, the fact that Carroll wouldn’t take him off the field spoke to a relative level of productivity. Brooks was never the flashiest player – and his impact never reached the heights of Wagner or Wright. But his starting spot wasn’t in question.

Still, when you’re ranked 69th out of 82 linebackers by PFF, as Brooks was last season, you come off as expendable. His ranking was even worse the season before, when he replaced Wagner at middle linebacker.

Brooks’ next contract has been projected between $9 million and $10 million. The Seahawks are about $5 million over the salary cap. Adding to the Brooks equation is that the Seahawks A) might want to re-sign defensive end Leonard Williams (a more coveted player on the free-agent market) and B) might want to reunite former Ravens linebacker-turned-free-agent Patrick Queen with coach Mike Macdonald, the ex-Baltimore defensive coordinator.

Brooks has been transparent about the fact that his days in Seattle might be over. That Carroll, the coach who drafted him, is no longer with the team may amplify those chances. He also has held himself accountable for the Seahawks’ defensive shortcomings, saying in December that they have greatly underachieved on that side of the ball and that he’s part of it.

Although he was never touted as a defensive savior the way, say, Devon Witherspoon was last draft or Jamal Adams was when Seattle traded for him, it’s fair to ask whether these past four years have been a disappointment for the 26-year-old.

To Brooks’ credit, he shocked a lot of people by starting in Week 1 last season, less than eight months after tearing an ACL. He has been durable, missing just five games in four seasons – no easy feat for a linebacker. Still, while he’s been a staple in the lineup, he hasn’t been a standout.

I’m not sure much of Seattle is waiting on the edge of its seat wondering if Brooks is going to return to the Seahawks next season. The 12s, I’m sure, are thinking more about any whales the team might land from other teams and who the brass will take during the draft.

But Jordyn plays a key position and could potentially play a key role for this team next season.

This is Schneider’s team now, and he has a new coach in his ear. I am not going to predict whether Brooks comes back, but he hasn’t proven himself as a necessity.