Ohio State's Joshua Perry, USC's Su'a Cravens among possible Bruce Irvin replacement candidates for Seahawks

The Seahawks would love to re-sign Bruce Irvin but if they are unable to do so who might be some candidates in the 2016 NFL draft athletic enough to potentially replace him?

The obvious focus for the Seahawks over the offseason will be re-signing or potentially replacing standouts along the line of scrimmage, including left tackle Russell Okung, right guard J.R. Sweezy and both starting defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin. In previous articles at SeahawkFootball.com, we've gone over the talented crops of incoming rookies you seem like particularly good fits for Seattle's offensive line and defensive line needs.

Too often ignored in Seattle's off-season to-do list, however, is at outside linebacker where Bruce Irvin could prove the priciest of the Seahawks' free agents. Since his oft-criticized selection at No. 15 overall in 2012, Irvin has developed into one of Seattle's most versatile defenders, having started at both outside linebacker roles as well as sliding down to defensive end on obvious pass rushing downs.

Capable of applying instant pressure on the quarterback because of his trademark burst and bend off the edge, Irvin is likely to receive lots of interest on the open market, including from teams operating out of a traditional 3-4 alignment who may see the 28-year old as a 10+ sack a year candidate if allowed to rush more often than he did with the Seahawks.

Every indication I've received from the Seahawks is that the club would like to re-sign Irvin, whose versatility, toughness and increasingly vocal leadership is highly valued by the coaching staff and front office, alike. There simply may not be enough room for the salary Irvin is likely to command, however, and there is pessimism inside the VMAC of reaching any kind of extension with him prior to free agency.

As such, with all due respect to backups Mike Morgan (also an unrestricted free agent) and Kevin Pierre-Louis, Seattle may be forced to look at potential replacements in the draft. 

Fortunately, there are some quality candidates to consider with Eastern Kentucky's Noah Spence perhaps the closest match of Irvin's length, athleticism and versatility.

The 6-3, 254 pound Spence is three pounds heavier than Irvin was when he was drafted out of West Virginia four years ago. Like Irvin, he's explosive off the snap, agile when changing directions and has experience dropping into coverage. Also like Irvin, unfortunately, Spence comes with significant off-field concerns which could push him down the board into Seattle's territory at No. 26 overall. Physically-speaking, Spence should be drafted in the top 10.

Spence would almost surely cost Seattle its first round choice and with significant needs elsewhere it wouldn't be surprising to see John Schneider and Co. opt to wait until later rounds to find help at linebacker - especially given the success Seattle had in finding Bobby Wagner in the second round (No. 47 overall, 2012) and K.J. Wright in the fourth round (No. 99 overall, 2011).

While he was frequently overshadowed by other talented defenders at Ohio State (including Spence, at one point), Buckeyes' outside linebacker Joshua Perry offers the combination of size (6-4, 253), power, athleticism and instincts to project as an immediate starter in the NFL. He may be available when Seattle is on the clock in the second round (No. 56 overall) as could Southern Cal's Su'a Cravens or Boise State's Kamalei Correa.

At a listed 6-1, 225 pounds, Cravens lacks the length which has helped make Irvin, Wright and potentially both Spence and Perry standouts in the NFL but he's a dynamic playmaker with a nose for the ball. Cravens attacks the line of scrimmage like few others, showing an awareness, knack for producing turnovers and competitiveness which would fit in well on Seattle's defense. The 6-3, 245 pound Correa is an undersized edge rusher who I expect to turn heads in workouts and enjoy a steady rise up draft boards.

A few middle round candidates to keep an eye on could be Minnesota's De'Vondre Campbell and Wisconsin's Joe Schobert. The duo couldn't be much different in terms of style with Campbell (6-4, 234) more of a project as a JUCO transfer with better traits than instincts, as this time. Schobert will be viewed by some as more of an inside linebacker prospect at a relatively compact 6-2, 247 pounds and he possesses the instincts and slipperiness to evade would-be blockers to handle this position switch. He's also surprisingly athletic and is effective as a rusher, as well.



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