Now that we are two months removed from the start of the league year and a month past the NFL Draft, we are starting to get a pretty good idea of what the Seattle Seahawks’ depth chart looks like. The majority of the expected impact players on roster are rookies from this year’s draft class or were on the team in 2021. However, the Seahawks did look to the free agent market to bring in multiple veterans who should become key backups or important starters on the roster. So, who are a few of those free agent additions that project to make the biggest impact this upcoming season?
Uchenna Nwosu – OLB
2021 stats – 15 starts, 40 tackles, 8 TFL, 5 sacks, 17 QB hits, 13 hurries.
The outside linebacker/edge room was one that the Seahawks looked to overhaul this off-season as they acquired Shelby Harris in the Russell Wilson trade, drafted Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith and signed Uchenna Nwosu in free agency from the Los Angeles Chargers. They penned the former USC Trojan for a 2-year deal worth $19,055,000, $10,535,000 of which is guaranteed.
During his first three years with the Chargers, Nwosu was mainly a special teams player as his defensive snap percentage was 26%, 37%, and 42% respectively. In his fourth season with the Chargers, his snap count saw a significant spike to 782 defensive snaps which was good enough for 67%. He also notably took 9 total special teams snaps compared to 676 total snaps in his first three seasons. His production matched his increased snap count as he posted career highs in pressures with 30, tied for 31st in the league, 12 QB knockdowns (15th in the NFL), as well as highs in tackles, sacks, hurries and tackles for losses. His 17 QB hits tied him for 29th in the league last year with notable names such as Chris Jones, Von Miller. and Cam Heyward also getting 17. With a starting role he has the talent to put up numbers to go along with the elite pass rushers around the league. Nwosu is penciled in as the starting strong side linebacker in Hurtt’s 3-4 scheme and should be given significant run as the teams go to pass rusher. If he can get up to 80% of the total defensive snaps it is certainly not out of the question to see Nwosu post his first double digit sack season of his career.
Quinton Jefferson – Defensive tackle
2021 stats – 17 starts, 47 tackles, 5 TFL, 4.5 sacks, 16 QB hits, 10 hurries.
Jefferson is a player who should slot in perfectly as the starting 3-tech next to Poona Ford and Nwosu on this Seahawks defense. Seattle brought back their 2016 fifth-round pick after stints with the Bills and Raiders on a 2-year deal worth $9,500,000 with a $3,515,000 cap hit for this season. Like Nwosu, Jefferson had a career year in 2021 as he registered career highs in sacks, tackles, QB hits, hurries, pressures, whilst tying his high in tackles for loss and posting his lowest ever missed tackles number with only one on the season.
Part of the reason Jefferson was able to post career numbers was because he tallied a career high count of 685 defensive snaps. The increased snap count was in part due to this being the first 17-game NFL season, but it was also as a result of this being the first season in which Jefferson started every single game for his respective team and only the third time where he appeared in every regular season game in his career. Jefferson is not going to post eye popping numbers for the Seahawks however he will be a strong running mate to Poona Ford, and he will be able to impact plays should offenses slide consistent help to whomever is blocking Nwosu.
Austin Blythe – C
As discussed in prior articles, the Seahawks have an extremely young offensive line with 3 projected starters being 25 or younger — potentially two of them being rookies. As a result, bringing in a veteran center who will be able to make pre-snap adjustments to the blocking scheme was a major need for Seattle this offseason and it was something they filled with the signing of Blythe. The Seahawks were able to bring in their likely starting center in Blythe on what is an extremely affordable deal at 1-year worth $4,000,000, $2,500,000 of which is guaranteed. Blythe only started two games in his first two seasons as a pro but started 47 regular season games for the Rams from 2018 to 2020, 21 of which came at right guard and the other 16 coming at center.
Blythe played for the Chiefs in 2021 although he only appeared in four games for them. In 2020, which was his last full season, Blythe was one of the better centers in football as he only allowed 4 sacks and took one penalty in 1,120 offensive snaps. There is no guarantee that Seattle will be able to get that production from him again, having barely played in Kansas City. However, if they are able to get Blythe to play to 75% of the level that he did in 2020, which came with Andy Dickerson and Shane Waldron on the Rams’ coaching staff at the time, it will likely go down as one of the smarter signings from the 2021 offseason across the league.