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Could Von Miller, Chandler Jones fill Seahawks' need for 'game-wrecker' at edge?

The Seahawks have money to spend and need a pass-rusher, so a player like Von Miller could be a perfect solution. Marcio Jose Sanchez/AP

SEATTLE -- The Seattle Seahawks should be ready to cut a big check to a pass-rushing outside linebacker such as Von Miller or Chandler Jones when the NFL's negotiating window begins next Monday.

You read that right.

Normally, splash signings are the stuff of pipe dreams for Seattle fans, who wait restlessly March after March as their team sits out the start of free agency. The Seahawks typically let other teams spend big money early on, instead opting for value buys in the second wave. Most of their marquee additions have come via trades much later in the offseason.

But the dynamics seem a little different this year.

The Seahawks are in good enough shape cap-wise to be players in free agency, especially with roughly a third of the NFL currently sitting in the red or just under the 2022 spending limit. Seattle has around $38 million in available cap space according to Roster Management and would free up more either by moving on from veteran linebacker Bobby Wagner (which would create another hole in their defense) or restructuring his contract to lower his $20.35 million cap number.

They've made no secret about wanting to beef up their pass rush after ranking 29th last season in sacks per dropback; they also finished in the bottom half of the NFL in pressure rate and pass rush win rate. They want outside linebackers -- as opposed to bigger 4-3 defensive ends -- to play on the edge as they transition to more of a 3-4 structure. And first-year coordinator Clint Hurtt might have dropped a hint as to how far they'll go to add that type of player when asked last month on Sports Radio 950 KJR-AM what their defense needs.

Hurtt complimented the pieces they already have up front, a group headlined by veteran Carlos Dunlap II and third-year edge rusher Darrell Taylor, who combined for 15 sacks last year. From the sounds of it, they plan to use safety Jamal Adams more like they did in 2020, when he blitzed his way to a DB-record 9.5 sacks.

But Hurtt mentioned the need for someone else who can make a "devastating" impact.

"An edge rusher that can be a game-changer," Hurtt said. "A game-wrecker is what we need."

Those are hard enough to find outside the top 15 of the draft, let alone outside of the first round entirely. The Seahawks aren't scheduled to make their first pick until No. 41 overall; they're again without a first-rounder because of the Adams trade.

Which means their best chance to add an impact edge rusher might be to sign one next week, even if it means a departure from their MO. Consider that the $9 million base value of Ziggy Ansah's one-year deal in 2019 remains the biggest deal in terms of APY they've given to an outside free agent in at least seven years.

But game-wreckers aren't cheap. Then again, Miller might not be prohibitively expensive, either.

ESPN polled an NFL agent and another NFL contract analyst for projections on what some of the top free-agent edge rushers will cost. They had Miller in the $10-million-to-12 million per year range, both citing his age -- he turns 33 in late March -- as a factor that could keep his price down.

The agent and contract analyst differed on Jones, who turned 32 last month. One guessed his market value would top out at $15 million annually because of his age. The other guessed that he's still productive enough to command as much as $17-18 million, which would almost certainly price him out of Seattle.

Projections from Spotrac.com have Miller at $10.6 million and Jones at $14.6 million.

Jones had 10.5 sacks in 15 games last year and 107.5 over 139 career games. That's the second most among active players behind Miller's 115.5 in 150 games.

Jones has been a Seahawks nemesis since joining the Arizona Cardinals in 2016. His 16.5 sacks in 11 games against Seattle are by far his most vs. any team. The last one was a strip-sack of Russell Wilson that Arizona returned for a touchdown in Week 18. Miller has five sacks in three games vs. Seattle, including one in the Los Angeles Rams' December win over the Seahawks.

What better way to make up ground in the NFC West than to sign an impact player away from another team in the division?

Miller was a key piece of the Rams’ championship run after being acquired in a midseason trade from the Denver Broncos. Initially slowed by an ankle injury he suffered while in Denver, he recorded five sacks in eight regular-season games with the Rams and four more in the playoffs, including two of Joe Burrow in Super Bowl LVI.

Miller finished the 2021 playoffs with a pass rush win rate of 41.5%. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, that was by far the highest by a player in a single postseason (with a minimum of 30 pass-rush plays with a win or loss) since ESPN started tracking that stat in 2017. He and teammate Aaron Donald both had 18 pressures in the Rams' four playoff games.

How's that for a game-wrecker?

Considering the Seahawks paid Ansah $9 million when he was coming off major shoulder surgery and a down year, $10 million or $11 million for Miller hardly seems like a stretch.

Miller still has a permanent home in Denver as well as a young son there, whom he cited as one reason why it was difficult to leave when he was traded to Los Angeles. So staying on the West Coast may be his preference, along with joining a contender.

The Seahawks could credibly sell to Miller, Jones and other free agents that their 7-10 season was a one-year anomaly caused by Wilson's finger injury, that sweeping changes Pete Carroll made to his coaching staff can position them for a worst-to-first rebound like the Cincinnati Bengals pulled off in 2021.

They can also sell their plan for a more attacking defense that, according to Hurtt, will ask its edge players to rush and not drop into coverage.

"Everything we do is designed at rushing the passer, because it all happens there," Carroll said. "So everything we can do to make advancements is what's at hand."