Seahawks bring back old friend in linebacker Irvin

The 32-year-old, who was drafted by Seattle in 2012, had 8.5 sacks for the Panthers last season.

Linebacker Bruce Irvin, who had 8.5 sacks last season for the Panthers, agreed to a deal to return to the Seahawks on Wednesday. Seattle drafted Irvin in the first round of the 2012 draft and he played his first four seasons in Seattle. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

Linebacker Bruce Irvin, who had 8.5 sacks last season for the Panthers, agreed to a deal to return to the Seahawks on Wednesday. Seattle drafted Irvin in the first round of the 2012 draft and he played his first four seasons in Seattle. (Jeff Haynes/AP Images for Panini)

While the Seattle Seahawks remained in negotiations with Jadeveon Clowney as the free agent signing period officially began Wednesday, they made one move to improve their pass rush by bringing back an old friend — Bruce Irvin.

Irvin was reported to have agreed to terms to come back to Seattle by Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network. Irvin confirmed the news a little while later, tweeting: “IM SO HAPPY TO BE GOING HOME!!!! 12’s I love you!”

Terms of the deal were not immediately available.

The first-round pick in Seattle’s memorable 2012 draft class (Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson were the next selections), Irvin played for the Seahawks from 2012-15 and was a starter on two Super Bowl teams before signing with the Oakland Raiders as a free agent in 2016.

He later played for Atlanta and Carolina, spending last year with the Panthers on a one-year deal.

Irvin is now 32 years old, but he remained productive for Carolina last season with 8.5 sacks and 16 quarterback hits, each of which would have led the Seahawks. And Irvin has always been durable. He missed the first three games of last year with a hamstring injury, but then returned to play each of the final 13 for the Panthers, getting 608 snaps.

Irvin has missed only two other games due to injury in his eight NFL seasons (he also sat out the first four games of Seattle’s Super Bowl-winning season of 2013 after being suspended by the NFL).

Seattle and Irvin obviously know each other well — current Seattle defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. was also the DC with the Raiders when Irvin signed there in 2016.

The Seahawks had hoped Irvin might return when he was released by the Raiders in 2018, but at the time he opted to sign with the Falcons so he could play near his home in Stockbridge, Ga.

But that obviously didn’t create any ill feelings with the Seahawks who now bring him back with the hope he can continue to play at a high level.

Irvin becomes the first significant addition to the defense with Seattle also having also re-signed tackle Jarran Reed on Monday night.

The Seahawks saw defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson depart to Buffalo on a two-year deal Tuesday night and have three other veteran defensive linemen who officially became free agents Wednesday at 1 p.m. PDT — Clowney, Ziggy Ansah and Al Woods.

Irvin generally has played the LEO or rush end spot in Seattle’s defense, so the Seahawks will plug him back there.

Reed and Poona Ford are back as the likely starting tackles with the Seahawks still hoping to re-sign Clowney to be the starter at the other end spot.

The Seahawks also tendered restricted free agent Branden Jackson and have recent draft picks L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green at the end spots.

And obviously the Seahawks signing Irvin hardly means they are done adding to the pass rush, even if they also re-sign Clowney.

One issue, though, could be that it might be a little while before anything is resolved in Clowney.

As the day progressed, there were several reports from the NFL Network that Clowney’s market had not developed the way he hoped — meaning, no one was offering him the $22-23 million or so that would make him the top-paid player at his position.

That could help the Seahawks, who continue talking with Clowney and were reported to have given him an offer on the tier below the top pay scale for ends.

But one indication that maybe a Seattle signing isn’t immediately imminent arrived in a later report from Rapoport stating that “there have been some questions about his injuries and his health.”

Rapoport then noted that Clowney is healthy, after having had surgery to repair a core muscle injury suffered with the Seahawks last November, and is working out in his native Houston.

It was pretty easy to wonder if the report wasn’t a strong signal from Clowney’s side that he remains open to offers and is willing to answer any questions about his health.

That, though, could be especially tricky right now with teams prohibited from flying players in for physicals due to steps the NFL is taking to prohibit travel during the coronavirus outbreak.

The ban on traveling also muted the beginning of the free agent signing period as many teams did not announce contract agreements, with signings contingent on physicals being passed.

Other defensive ends the Seahawks could pursue who remain available include Everson Griffen of the Minnesota Vikings — he played for Seattle coach Pete Carroll at USC; and possibly Jacksonville’s Yannick Ngakoue. Ngakoue received a franchise tag, but the Jaguars are thought to be exploring trade offers for him and Seattle has been rumored to be interested.

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