The first tough pill to swallow in free agency for Seahawks fans came Tuesday night with multiple reports that the Oakland Raiders had signed Seattle's prized free agent outside linebacker and edge rusher Bruce Irvin.
The 28-year old Irvin started 12 of 15 games in 2015, registering 38 tackles, including 5.5 sacks. He was prized inside the Virginia Mason Center for his athleticism and enthusiasm. After earning a "surprise" first round selection in 2012, Irvin emerged as key component to the Seahawks' highly ranked defense, offering underrated agility and speed in coverage with an explosive burst as an edge rusher. Contract details were not immediately known but the signing of Irvin is a potential coup for the Raiders, who will reunite Irvin with Ken Norton, Jr. and pair him with Oakland's already established young star Khalil Mack, giving the Silver and Black its fiercest duo of edge rushers in years.
It isn't just the variety of roles that Irvin played on the field which will be difficult to replace, however.
Irvin entered the NFL amid concerns about a rough upbringing. His passionate and competitive style earned him a reputation as one of Seattle's toughest players, however. Given that the Seahawks have already lost one of their toughest players on offense with Marshawn Lynch's apparent retiring, general manager John Schneider and his staff will no doubt be looking for some grit in this year's free agent and draft targets.
The Seahawks have few current options on the roster to replace Irvin, whose primary backup Mike Morgan, is also set to become an unrestricted free agent.
Kevin Pierre-Louis fared reasonably well when pushed into the starting unit a year ago when Bobby Wagner was sidelined. At 6-0, 236 pounds, KPL is a completely different style of player than the 6-3, 260 pound Irvin.
Irvin's replacement probably isn't already on the roster. A few players with similar builds and athleticism were interviewed by the Seahawks at the Combine.