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One personnel move shows why the Seahawks are better than the Redskins

Jan 21, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT


After rallying to beat the Packers, the Seahawks are headed to the Super Bowl. The Redskins, on the other hand, knew that they would be headed home in late December a couple of months before the season actually ended. Why are the Seahawks where they are and why are the Redskins where they are?

The answer, of course, is complicated but let’s take two players, one from each team, and compare them.


You don’t have to be an expert in analytics to figure out that the two players had comparable seasons. If you’re going to give one the edge you’d have to give it to Player A. But the two players really aren’t comparable in terms of what they cost their teams and what they say about how their respective teams were built.

Player A is defensive tackle Jordan Hill, age 23, of the Seahawks. He was a third-round draft pick of the Seahawks in 2013 (87th overall). The Seahawks paid him $495,000 in 2014 and he counted $651,000 against the cap.

Player B is defensive end Jason Hatcher, age 32, a free agent signed by the Redskins in 2014. The Redskins wrote him checks totaling $10.5 million to him this year and his cap number was $3.75 million.

I think you can see where I’m going here. The Seahawks needed a defensive lineman and they had Hill waiting in the wings after he played sparingly as a rookie. The Redskins needed someone on the DL and they had to go throw big free agent money at a 32-year-old coming off of a career year.

To be fair, it’s possible that Hill would not have had as many sacks if he was playing for the Redskins since he was playing on a team that had the lead much of the time. The Redskins trailed much more frequently than they led. And if you put Hatcher in Seattle, he may well have had more sacks.

And it’s not as though the Seahawks have never gone out to sign a free agent defensive lineman. In 2013, they signed Michael Bennett after he had spent a while on the free agent market. He wasn’t cheap–$4.8 million for one year—but he was a player the Seahawks, who had advanced to the divisional round in 2012, believed would push them over the top.

They were right. Bennett was their best defensive lineman, getting 8.5 sacks during the season plus another 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles during the playoffs. That playoff run, as you know, ended with the Seahawks hoisting the Lombardi Trophy.

Back to the original comparison, Hatcher likely will be gone after this year as his cap number becomes untenable for a 34-year-old lineman in 2016. He will leave behind $4.5 million in dead cap when he goes.

The Seahawks will have two more years of Hill at minimum salary before they have to decide what to do with him. If he remains productive, he can be re-signed to what will likely be a reasonable contract. Should they decide to let him go, perhaps because another defensive lineman they drafted in the middle rounds has overtaken him on the depth chart, the Seahawks would not have to deal with any dead money on their cap.

Scot McCloughan was part of the personnel department that drafted Hill. From 2010-2014 the Seahawks drafted 12 defensive linemen. In some years they drafted DL even when it wasn’t considered to be an area of “need”. That’s how you get a Jordan Hill.

The Redskins? They have drafted two defensive linemen since 2010. They also took Chris Baker off of the scrap heap and developed him into a pretty good end. But for the most part when they have needed defensive linemen they have gone to the free agent market, signing Hatcher, Barry Cofield, and Stephen Bowen to big-money deals. And now that age is catching up with all three of them the Redskins have no ready replacements.

It might take a while for the Redskins to get where the Seahawks are. In fact, they might never get there. But if they keep on bringing in hired guns like Hatcher instead of drafting guys like Hill, they will never even close the gap.

  1. corleonemd - Jan 21, 2015 at 12:37 PM

    Great comparison. Overall, this has been the Redskins’ problem for years. Not getting quality players through the draft. Doesn’t help that we gave up 2 first rounders and a 2nd for a “franchise” QB who may not be on the team for too long.

    I think we’ve got to be ready for the long haul and a few bad seasons in an effort to build through the draft.

    • brucealmty - Jan 21, 2015 at 2:36 PM

      Hard to fathom but the Redskins have gone 17 & 32 since drafting RG3 three years ago and their record is likely to be less than stellar next season as well.

    • wildbill1952 - Jan 21, 2015 at 2:57 PM

      Notice that this guy was a third round pick and is playing. Note our third round picks are not. Discounting the first round picks given up, there is still meat on the bone, so to speak. You have starters that can be found in the 2nd round and later. It’s just that the Skins 3rd round picks are still riding the pine or aren’t even suiting up. Leribeus Long, Moses were all third round picks. None are starting. Not to mention previous drafts picks like the year of Thomas, Davis and Kelly, otherwise known as “the waste of three picks in the second round”. The Skins just have not been able to evaluate talent. It’s not a matter of drafting BPA vs. Need. It’s a matter of drafting no talent vs. talent.

    • bangkokben - Jan 21, 2015 at 3:00 PM

      “I think we’ve got to be ready for the long haul and a few bad seasons in an effort to build through the draft.”

      Which is why Gruden and Barry have to be given more than one year. Otherwise, the personnel picked won’t be adequate for the next regime.

  2. hcicron - Jan 21, 2015 at 12:50 PM

    This is a great comparison however I would add that your merely comparing positions. While the Seahawks have definitely built thru the draft and we’ve consistently valued FAs more than most teams, take into consideration that the hawks best player is FA pick up lynch who will be gone due to cost after this season, our comparable RB is a low cost 6th rounder.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 21, 2015 at 1:14 PM

      Well, Lynch (who was acquired by a trade with the Bills, by the way) is better than Morris and Morris won’t be cheap much longer. I think if I did more than one position and went through all 53 on the roster we’d find that the Seahawks were smarter about all but perhaps a handful.

      • bangkokben - Jan 21, 2015 at 1:27 PM

        Well done, Rich.

        The point is that even when Seattle makes mistakes: Matt Flynn, Percy Harvin, Sydney Rice, and others; their overall philosophy allows for mistakes while in contrast the ‘skin’s recent philosophy allows any mistake to beget future compounding mistakes.

    • renhoekk2 - Jan 21, 2015 at 1:40 PM

      If the SEA acquisitions lead to Super Bowl wins and appearances then you can make the argument that they were worth it and it was money well spent. If the acquisitions result in finishing in last place every year with 3 and 4 win seasons, it’s hard to justify the moves. The FA signings succeed in SEA because the team drafts well and the Skins FA signings look like wasted money and cap space because of the lack of talent acquired in the draft. Gholston is the only draft pick prior to 2010 to get a second contract from the team. There are no “core” Redskins. If you only drafted one player worth resigning and he’s a backup DL then you end up with 4-12 and 3-13 and it doesn’t matter who you sign in FA.

  3. Penz - Jan 21, 2015 at 1:39 PM

    I usually like your articles Rich but not a fan of this one. Didnt the Hawks give up a 1st for Harvin who apart from a couple of plays in the SB did very little for them, also Hatcher did Ok considering injuries, supporting cast and how he was used, there have been far bigger FA busts than him. The Hawks are a lot better than us, not sure you went about demonstrating it in the best way, all teams make mistakes in free agency and find gems in the draft….even the Skins!

    • renhoekk2 - Jan 21, 2015 at 1:49 PM

      I’m pretty sure everyone in SEA is happy with those few plays in the SB. Considering they didn’t miss a beat after he left they aren’t complaining about what he cost. Every Skins fan would do that same move if he made those handful of plays and it resulted in a SB and then traded him away the next season and went back to the SB.

  4. brucealmty - Jan 21, 2015 at 2:27 PM

    More often than not, the Redskins have had high draft picks the in recent years. It really is frightening the lack of high quality players drafted by the FO during that time. One can only hope Scot will change that with the next few drafts.

    • skinsdiehard - Jan 21, 2015 at 2:42 PM

      Not actually true. Probably the only area in which the Skins have done pretty well is at the top of the draft when they have had picks.

      2000 – Chris Samuels (pro-bowler)
      – Lavar Arrington (pro-bowler)
      2001 – Rod Gardner (ugh)
      2002 – Patrick Ramsey (ugh)
      2004 – Sean Taylor (pro-bowler)
      2005 – Carlos Rogers (pro-bowler)
      – Jason Campbell (ugh)
      2007 – LaRon Landry (ugh)
      2009 – Orakpo (pro-bowler)
      2010 – Trent Williams (pro-bowler)
      2011 – Kerrigan (pro-bowler)
      2012 – Griffin (ROY and one-time pro-bowler)
      2015 – ? (hope OLB Randy Gregory – future pro-bowler)

      Basic problem to me is that they have missed on the QB’s. If they ever figure that out, it’s easier to rebuild a defense. Finding a QB is the hardest.

      • bangkokben - Jan 21, 2015 at 3:38 PM

        The Redskins have also done well drafting players between the 100th to 105th pick:
        2014 102 Bashaud Breeland
        2012 102 Kirk Cousins
        2011 105 Roy Helu
        2010 103 Perry Riley

        Where they’ve been bad is picks 15-100 and part of the problem is not having enough of these picks.
        No picks
        41 Jarvis Jenkins
        79 Leonard Hankerson
        71 Josh Leribeus
        51 David Amerson
        85 Jordan Reed
        66 Morgan Moses
        78 Spencer Long

  5. nflbreakdowns - Jan 21, 2015 at 3:37 PM

    You know I like Rich Tandler typically, but this is a terrible comparison. Let’s look at some real stats for comparison:

    * Hill: 5.5 sacks, 5 qb hits, 10 qb hurries
    * Hatcher: 5.5 sacks, 6 qb hits, 26 qb hurries

    Further, Hatcher played in 150 more snaps than Hill while Hill’s snaps were 73% on pass rushing plays and Hatcher was only on 68% of the time.

    You may think Hatcher has more volume stats? That’s still not true:

    Pass Rush Productivity takes into account snap volume: Hill had +6.9 (19/72 for people with 25% snaps played) and Hatcher +9.6 (#3/45 for 25% snaps played).

    Not denying HIll isn’t an up-and-coming player, but we needed pass rush and we paid a premium for a pass rusher that killed it this season.

    • Rich Tandler - Jan 21, 2015 at 3:45 PM

      I can’t tell if this comment is intended to be humor or not. If you’re telling me that the Redskins wouldn’t be better off with Hill and about $12 million more in cap space over two years than they would with Hatcher I have to assume you’re not being serious. Hatcher “killed it”? He had his moments but, no, he did not come anywhere near killing it.

      • nflbreakdowns - Jan 21, 2015 at 4:21 PM

        I’m not being humorous at all. For the record, I too would rather have Hill + $12 mil in cap space over 2 years, but that’s not what I argued at all.

        I pointed out that you used a very basic statistic to prove that they had similar productions or give the illusion they had similar productions when they didn’t. Sacks, forced fumbles, and pass deflections aren’t the only metrics that matter for defensive lineman. The difference between a sack and a QB disruption/hit is typically so minute it’s criminal to leave out that statistic in a comparison of like-minded roles. Look at JJ Watt for example. Yes he had the sacks, but he also had 44 QB Hits and 54 QB hurries to go along with his 20+ sacks, which is why he is so ridiculously good.

        Going back to 2013, we were a defensive unit that relied on Cofield, Orakpo, and Kerrigan to get pressure. We needed another source of interior pressure which is why the FO thought Hatcher, even though expensive would be a good upgrade to a defensive line that featured Bowen, Golston, Baker and Jenkins where none of them possessed any source of pass rush that season. Economically yes, we paid a premium for him, but when we didn’t have all of our draft picks it’s very hard to spend a 3rd rounder on a defensive lineman when we had much bigger needs and players that we needed to develop.

        By the way I still disagree on your vote of him “killing it or not”. Watch the 1. Houston, 2. Jacksonville, 3. Philly, 6. Arizona and 9. Minny games again.

  6. kenlinkins - Jan 21, 2015 at 3:56 PM

    Anyone recall a transaction (other than D. Jax falling into the Redskins lap or a 3rd string QB who became the starter) that was not a disappointment in 2014? When the Redskins required a bit of a youth movement, GM Allen went the other direction, and then signing 2 -4 year deals with so many of the older / coming off injury types. I just wonder how many years 2014 will set the Redskins back. All the Cap Space that could have rolled over to 2015 that just went up in smoke. The Redskins could have been looking at about $30 million in roll over, plus cap cuts of about $15 million, plus another $20 million in Cap Growth: Total of $65 million! That could have purchased some nice first time under the new CBA Free Agents. One thing is for sure, Joe Berry will feel like he is back in Detroit when he gets here as President Allen’s track record is not that much better than GM Matt Millen!

    • bangkokben - Jan 21, 2015 at 5:57 PM

      Still on the beat Bruce Allen horse?

      Let’s first agree that replacing Allen as the top football guy was a good move. Now let me give defense to the indefensible – BRUCE ALLEN. The front office acknowledged the flaws of the team and then followed a plan to improve those areas. It saw a need to improve both lines, the pass rush, the safety position, identify which Redskins to keep, and improve special teams. At the same time they acknowledged that all could not be fixed in one off-season and they wanted to be fiscally responsible. With that in mind, they hired a head coach with a similar offensive philosophy to the previous regime and retained the defensive coordinator to maintain some sense of continuity as well as to not create more personnel needs than what were already a long list. Then they brought in free agent o-linemen for looks – signing Lavauo for more beef, jettisoning Monty and moving L’Stieger over to center. They also decided not to sign Donald Penn. In addition, they traded back in the 2nd round to get an extra pick in the 3rd and used both 3rd-rounders on two o-linemen with the idea that they could be ready by 2015. They looked at a bunch of d-linemen with the idea of improving the pass rush up the middle. They settled on Hatcher and re-signing Baker. They also agreed to franchise Orakpo and not give him a long-term deal. Now they had three legitimate pass rushers. Additionally, they drafted Orakpo’s replacement in Murphy with their first pick (low risk; low reward pick). Then they settled on Ryan Clark as a stop gap at safety. As bad as Clark was – and he was terrible – he was still better than Barcarri Rambo, Reed Doughty, or Madieu Williams. They decided on keeping D Hall, Perry Riley and Chris Baker – all filling needs. They then signed a bunch of just a guys to be special teamers and compete with Robinison for the London Fletcher’s vacated spot.

      This was a good job of identifying needs and finding cheap replacements – not just 2014 needs but future needs. Now injuries and a lack of resources – draft picks and additional cap room – hindered these efforts but this was a HUGE improvement from Vinny & co.

    • bangkokben - Jan 21, 2015 at 5:59 PM

      So to answer your question, Robinson being allowed to develop into the starting Mike and drafting Breeland are two additional ‘transactions’ that were not disappointments.

    • fwhalstead1 - Jan 21, 2015 at 6:02 PM

      You’re looking at the wrong year as far as being a “set back” year. That year would have been 2012 because no matter how good Bob Griffin would have turned out it still was a steep price to pay and those lost picks on top of a guy who finished this year as the 2nd string QB hurts much, much more ….

      • bangkokben - Jan 21, 2015 at 6:39 PM

        That was a crazy year where FA was after the draft and we don’t make the trade if we know we’re getting hit with the $36M in cap fines. Of course if he never gets injured I suspect his lack of growth is not as severe a problem.

  7. Michael Baggett - Jan 21, 2015 at 7:47 PM

    Man sometimes I wonder if u like the skins or if u like to hate us. I’m sure u can b a beat reporter for Seattle if u want.

  8. red - Jan 21, 2015 at 9:21 PM

    Is there a chance we keep Orakpo and put him on the line? Great stuff. Cant wait for next one!

  9. skinsgame - Jan 21, 2015 at 11:10 PM

    70% of the entire league has this same story. Hopefully the new GM breaks this cycle for the Redskins. Archives

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