Seattle: There’s no doubt that Boulware, playing as a situational DE, would be of enormous benefit to the Seahawks and their indifferent pass rush. Seattle DEs Grant Wistrom and Bryce Fisher combined for only 12 sacks last season – Wistrom with 3.5 in a season marred by injuries, and Fisher with 8.5 for the St. Louis Rams. Boulware’s stats (67.5 sacks in his eight-year career, and never less than seven in a season until 2004), would lead one to believe that he could provide the positional depth that Seattle’s defense so desperately needs. The Seahawks began 2004 with the top defensive unit in the NFL through three games, due in large part to Wistrom’s game-changing abilities. But in the fourth contest of 2004, Wistrom was almost completely negated by All-World tackle Orlando Pace in a disastrous loss to the Rams in which St. Louis erased a 17-point deficit in the fourth quarter and went on to win, 33-27, in overtime.
As bad as that was, Game Five was where the team’s defensive tailspin really began. In a 30-20 loss to the Patriots, Wistrom suffered a broken bone in his left knee while tackling Corey Dillon and missed the next four games. Suffering ligament damage to the same knee later in the year against Minnesota, Wistrom missed seven games in 2004, and the Seahawks’ defense finished 26 th overall.
The team has very little depth behind Wistrom and Fisher (as they had very little behind Wistrom and Chike Okeafor last season). Boulware is the all-time sack leader in the history of the Baltimore Ravens – impressive when you consider the talent on that defense over the years – and would likely have little trouble moving from OLB to DE at 6’4” and 255 pounds and having played on the line in various permutations of Baltimore’s 3-4 defense over the years.
In addition, there are eleven linebackers on Seattle’s depth chart right now (Jamie Sharper, Tracy White, Kevin Bentley, Terrence Robinson, Niko Koutouvides, Lofa Tatupu, Cornelius Wortham, D.D. Lewis, Solomon Bates, LeRoy Hill and Isaiah Kacyvenski) and only one (Sharper) has any significant NFL starting experience inside OR outside. Robinson is playing in NFL Europe, Tatupu, Hill and Wortham were drafted this year, Kacyvenski is a special-teamer miscast as a starting linebacker and Lewis missed all of 2004 due to injury.
In other words, aside from wherever Sharper lines up, the linebacker scenarios for Seattle are a series of crapshoots.
Boulware could provide veteran savvy and pass-rushing acumen from an OLB slot in Seattle’s 4-3 in certain situations (possibly helping a rotation take over Chad Brown’s role in that regard). Seattle wouldn’t be paying for just a situational DE, and a little more experience at linebacker would seem to be crucial. Not to mention the fact that having a DE who has so much experience at OLB is a much better setup for zone blitzes. Although Boulware is a pass rush specialist and always has been (he has only one interception in his career), rest assured that whether a player should be moving forward or not, Seahawks defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes will have the guy backpedaling at times.
Feasibility Study: One of the two reasons Boulware was released by the Ravens was so that the team would not have to play him a $6 million base salary this season. He would have counted for $7.9 million against Baltimore’s salary cap in 2005, with his prorated signing bonus factored in ($13.5 million bonus over seven years from a 2002 contract). According to Seahawks.NET salary cap guru “The Hawkstorian”, Seattle is currently about three hundred thousand dollars under the cap. The very likely release of Bobby Taylor on June 1 will net the team $2 million in cap room, which will pay for the draft picks. Beyond that, it will cost the team one fairly big name to sign Boulware under the most cap-friendly of deals. The two names most prevalent, innuendo-wise, are wide receivers Bobby Engram and Koren Robinson.
The idea of cutting Engram seems to have come about due to the common misconception that cutting Robinson after June 1 would only net the team about ten thousand dollars, and that the acquisition of Joe Jurevicius would make Engram (the team’s most reliable receiver and a key man in the slot) expendable. Releasing Robinson after June 1 would actually provide $1.35 million in relief, while cutting Engram would provide only $1.2 million. Never mind the ancillary benefits that would come with the release of a player (Robinson) who can’t seem to stay on the right path, has shown little to no regard for his coaches and teammates with his actions and served a four-game drug suspension last season. Aside from dropping the final pass in the playoff loss to the Rams last season, you’d have to go a long way to find anything Engram has done to disappoint the team. And having led the NFL in dropped passes in each of the last two seasons, it would seem that the Seahawks could use all the “possession receivers” they can get.
The deal the Seahawks made with Jamie Sharper, detailed by “The Hawkstorian” in this recent article, could be indicative of the kind of offer Boulware would receive from Seattle:
“Sharper signed a 5-year deal (for $17.5 million total) that was reported to contain a $1.5M signing bonus. What hasn’t been reported is a second bonus is scheduled to be paid in 2007 of $1M. That bonus is contingent on Sharper meeting playing time standards (the details of which I’m not privy to). Because the bonus is considered to be guaranteed, it also prorates over the life of the deal, essentially making the proratable bonus $2.5M, or $500,000 each year. His 2005 cap figure is therefore $1.5M when his current year base salary is included, slightly more than the $1.3M that has been more widely reported.”
If such an offer would be amenable, the Seahawks could hypothetically “trade” Koren Robinson for Peter Boulware. And who wouldn’t make THAT deal? Boulware is well-known as a high-character player - perfect for the new Ruskell paradigm - while Robinson sticks out like a sore thumb. If the team essentially “traded” Chad Brown for Jamie Sharper on April 21, this scenario would seem to be a total no-brainer.
Add in the friend factor (Sharper and Boulware played in the same LB corps in Baltimore from 1997 through 2001) and the family factor (Peter’s brother Michael is a rising star in Seattle’s secondary), and you’re looking at an almost perfect fit.
“Almost”, you say? Well, there’s also the injury factor – the second reason Boulware was released by Baltimore and certainly a consideration for any team looking at him now. He suffered a knee injury against Cleveland in the last game of 2003 and then battled turf toe, missing the entire 2004 season. Before 2004, he had only missed one game in his career, but this is not a man afraid of playing hurt – he played the 1999 season with a harness to support a dislocated shoulder and recorded 10 sacks, winning the Ed Block Courage award. ESPN.com’s Len Pasquarelli recently reported that some teams believe that Boulware is only about 80% recovered from his most recent injuries. Obviously, a complete physical would be key to any team making a deal.
Cleveland: So where are the Browns in the race for Boulware? The team has expressed serious interest, and the connections include new GM Phil Savage, who Boulware knows well from their days in Baltimore, and Gary Baxter, the former Ravens safety who signed with Cleveland in March. New Browns head coach (and former New England Patriots defensive coordinator) Romeo Crennel will be installing his own highly effective variations of the 3-4 defense in Cleveland, which would likely reverse the role Seattle has envisioned for him – instead of a pass-rushing DE who could play some linebacker, Boulware would likely rush at the line coming from an OLB position. The Crennel/Belichick defense has so many variations, and Boulware’s familiarity with multiple 3-4 sets would greatly accelerate his learning curve.
Feasibility Study: According to Barry McBride, the Managing Editor of BerniesInsiders.com (Scout.com’s excellent Browns site), Cleveland has at least $1 million in cap room, and will be freeing up additional cap space by recouping bonus money from TE Kellen Winslow after Winslow’s recent motorcycle accident, which resulted in a torn ACL and Winslow out for the 2005 season. However, a time crunch may affect Cleveland’s ability to use any of that money to acquire Boulware. ESPN.com recently reported that Cleveland will enforce the "dangerous activities" stipulations of Winslow’s contract in an effort to seek repayment of between $2 million and $3 million of the $5.05 million in bonus money he has received. This would certainly put the Browns in the catbird seat from a salary cap perspective, but there’s a catch.
The team can’t recoup that money until Winslow misses a mandatory three-day minicamp, which is scheduled to begin on June 13. Unless Boulware decides beyond any doubt that Cleveland is his ideal destination, or is offered a considerable amount of that nebulous bonus money, the Browns could be put in the unfair position of having to sit on cash while Seattle (or another team) swoops in and signs Boulware.
McBride also mentioned that there are very few Browns players who would be candidates for a June 1 release, as most of the Butch Davis-era players who would have been candidates for release have already been let go – many of them to Denver’s “interesting” plan to re-tool their defensive line with Cleveland castoffs.
The Bottom Line? Boulware is expected to visit Seattle and Cleveland over the next few days. Both teams have a lot to offer. Although Boulware has visited Houston already and once expressed an interest in the Colts, it would seem that the Seahawks and Browns have the edge. Wherever he signs, Peter Boulware has a chance to redefine his career and help a team that desperately needs an experienced, high-character, pass-rushing demon.
Doug Farrar is the Editor-in-Chief of Seahawks.NET. Feel free to e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.