The Seattle Seahawks made their second major off-season acquisition in as many days yesterday with the signing of free agent defensive end Cliff Avril. Many people are predicting that Avril will improve the Seahawks pass rush from what they had a year ago and will help propel them to overtake the San Francisco 49ers for the division and conference championships.
However, upon further review, this signing doesn’t necessarily help the Seahawks from what they had last season. Avril will be replacing the role of “Leo” occupied by Chris Clemons last year. Clemons had 11.5 sacks and Avril only managed to get to the quarterback 9.5 times in comparison. Clemons also has more sacks over the last three seasons.
Clemons suffered a torn ACL in the Seahawks’ January playoff victory against the Washington Redskins and his availability for the season is in doubt. The Avril signing also makes the 31-year old Clemons potentially expendable given his age, health and contract. He signed a $22 million contract prior to the start of last season and still has two years remaining. This is a number Seattle may find too high for a player they know they can’t count on next season.
The Seahawks can’t outright release Clemons until he passes a physical, so it is possible there may be an injury settlement at some point if the organization deems that what he’ll produce in 2013 will not come close to justifying his current salary. In a perfect world, the Seahawks would be able to keep him, but when it comes to money and the salary cap, the team may decide to part ways and spend on players who they know are healthy and ready to contribute right out of the gate. Business can be cruel sometimes and Clemons may find out the hard way.
Even with Clemons on the team last year, the Seahawks had limited interior pass rushing capability and now it’s even worse with Jason Jones having signed with the Detroit Lions and Alan Branch being a free agent.
I am not insinuating that Avril does not improve the pass rush. He does from what they had just yesterday morning. I am simply stating that he isn’t as good of a pass rusher as what the Seahawks had last year in Clemons and even with him, the team still could not generate enough pressure on opposing quarterbacks.