Where will Bruce Irvin sign in 2016 NFL free agency?
Another season of NFL football has ended, and with its conclusion comes the least favorite part of the year for Seattle Seahawks fans: watching bits and pieces of their incredible defense leave in free agency. Though outside linebacker Bruce Irvin once famously declared he’d be playing for former coach Dan Quinn in Atlanta come the 2016 season, his fate still hangs in the balance of what GM John Schneider decides to do this offseason with his team.
Notable stat: 4 career forced fumbles
Pro Bowls: 0
All-Pro Teams: 0
Irvin has consistently performed like one of the best players in the league at his position, and as such he deserves to be paid like one. His current deal of four years for $9.3 million puts him just ahead of Denver Broncos rookie Shane Ray and Pittsburgh’s Bud Dupree on the totem pole of paychecks for outside linebackers. Simply put, that’s unacceptable. Irvin has expressed frustration with his contract over the last couple years, believing he’d far outplayed it already, and it’s hard not to agree with him.
At the very least, he deserves something akin to Connor Barwin’s deal in Philadelphia (six years for $36 million). At the most, you could make a convincing argument to pay him something closer to Paul Kruger’s deal in Cleveland (five years for $40.5 million).
Estimate: 5 years/$45 million/$25 million guaranteed
Will he stay?
As mentioned earlier, Irvin left little mystery in his future plans when asked by reporters last May where he’d end up at the end of the 2015 season. “I’m going to be in Atlanta next season. I’m ready. Atlanta is where I want to be. Believe that.” So there you have it.
Of course, saying that last year at an Atlanta Hawks game and meaning it still today are two different things, but Irvin hasn’t really backpedaled from his comments, though Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll would have us all believe the team is very committed to keeping Irvin in a Seattle uniform. I’m sure he is, but Irvin’s probably seeing dollar signs elsewhere that he won’t make by staying put.
If he leaves…
According to Irvin, he’ll happily swap one bird of prey for another. An Atlanta native, the talented linebacker is clearly chomping at the bit to move back home and reunite with former defensive coordinator Dan Quinn in the Georgia Dome. The Falcons should be able to position themselves to make at least one splashy signing this summer, and Irvin would be a no-brainer for a team still searching for their defensive mojo.
On the other hand, while it’s probably not tops on his list as a Seahawk, the San Francisco 49ers actually present a pretty decent situation for Irvin should he be open to crossing enemy lines. Chip Kelly, known for his innovative offenses, has expressed a willingness in the past to spend on big-name defensive acquisitions (think picking up Kiko Alonso in return for LeSean McCoy while with the Eagles).
Irvin would inject youth and swagger in a 49ers unit that seems to be lacking both these days, and he could be the key to San Fran rediscovering that long-gone Jim Harbaugh-era magic.