After posting a disappointing 7-10 record to finish in last place in the NFC West during the 2021 season, the Seahawks made an earlier than expected transition into what will be a critical offseason for the future of the franchise.
When the new league year opens on March 16, Seattle will have 15 players scheduled to hit the market as unrestricted free agents. Three players will be restricted free agents and 11 will be exclusive rights free agents, while several other key veterans such as receiver DK Metcalf will be entering the final season of their respective deals ready to negotiate extensions.
Over the next several weeks, I will break down each and every one of the Seahawks’ unrestricted free agents by revisiting their 2021 seasons, assessing why they should or should not be re-signed, breaking down an ideal contract, and making an early prediction on whether or not the player will return in 2022.
Continuing the series, Duane Brown has been a rock protecting Russell Wilson’s blind side for the past four seasons. Approaching his 37th birthday, will Seattle retain him as the unsung leader of the offensive line?
Season In Review
Entering the final year of a three-year extension signed prior to the 2018 season, Brown orchestrated a “hold in” seeking a new contract during training camp. The Seahawks ultimately didn’t give him a new deal, instead sweeting the pot with more money up front and adding incentives to earn up to $12 million in 2021. In the starting lineup in Week 1 after agreeing to the restructure, the durable veteran started all 17 games at left tackle for the Seahawks and eventually earned his fifth Pro Bowl selection as an injury replacement for 49ers star Trent Williams.
Why Seattle Should Re-Sign Him
Following a rough start by his standards, Brown returned to his typical Pro Bowl-caliber self during the final eight games, allowing only 10 pressures and a single sack during that span. Proving he still packed a punch in the run game as well, he received at least a 68.0 run blocking grade from Pro Football Focus in five of those contests, helping open up run lanes for Rashaad Penny to eclipse 130 yards four different times. Despite being one of the oldest tackles in the NFL, he arrived at camp in outstanding physical shape and does a superb job of taking care of his body, which should bode well for his chances of squeezing out at least another quality year or two before he hangs up his cleats. His value transcends the field as well with him providing invaluable leadership in the trenches and in the locker room.
Why Seattle Should Let Him Walk
Set to turn 37 years old in August, Brown exhibited noteworthy signs of decline during the first half of the 2021 season. He yielded eight sacks in Seattle’s first nine games, which ranked second behind only Miami rookie Liam Eichenberg, and his 24 pressures allowed in that span surpassed his entire total from 2019. While some of this may have simply boiled down to his lack of practice time in camp or communication-related issues with a new center, he struggled to neutralize speed rushers more than he has at any point in his career, allowing immediate pressure on Wilson in several instances. This points to diminishing athleticism and creates legitimate concerns about how much he has left in the tank moving forward.
One year, $11 million
Based off his prior comments, Brown has made it clear on several occasions that he would like to finish his career in the Pacific Northwest. He also has stated that he would be willing to return on a one-year deal with the understanding teams such as the Seahawks may be hesitant to sign him to a multi-year pact given his age. With that said, if he isn’t re-signed before the start of the new league year, he could have a healthy market of suitors as a plug-and-play option for contending teams seeking a short-term upgrade at left tackle, so his return isn’t guaranteed by any stretch of the imagination. Ultimately, the Seahawks don’t have a viable backup plan currently in place and bringing Brown back will likely be significantly cheaper than trying to sign a younger, experienced veteran in free agency. Expect to see the two sides agree to a one or two-year deal to keep him as Wilson’s blind side protection.