The Seattle Seahawks are continuing to make moves in the wake of the 2022 NFL Draft, including declining the fifth-year option on one of their former first-round picks.
Defensive end L.J. Collier was reportedly notified that the Seahawks are not picking up his option, making him a free agent after the 2022 season. Collier was selected with the 29th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft. Jeremy Fowler of ESPN was the first to report the decision by Seattle’s front office.
All first-round picks are given a fifth-year option that teams may elect to pick up, but at a higher cap hit. For Collier, that option would have been worth $11.5 million. The Seahawks made the decision to pass on that hefty price tag for the 26-year-old defensive end.
L.J. Collier Has Had a Disappointing Start to His NFL Career
Expectations were high for Collier as a first-round pick back in 2019, but so far the former TCU star’s NFL career has been a disappointment.
As a rookie, Collier suffered what was considered an “unusual” ankle sprain in training camp. He played in just 11 games that year before undergoing ankle surgery the following offseason. He record just three combined tackles as a rookie with zero sacks or quarterback hits.
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Collier started to show at least some promise in 2020, starting in all 16 games while recording three sacks. However, the limited production over his first two years led to him riding the bench this past season, playing in just 10 games and missing the other seven as a healthy inactive.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider drafted Collier hoping that the former TCU standout could bring some pass rush to the Seattle defense. That hasn’t panned out up to this point, which is a big reason why the Seahawks declined Collier’s fifth-year option.
Shelby Harris is Seattle’s Replacement for L.J. Collier
Although Collier will likely still be on Seattle’s roster for the 2022 season, former Denver Broncos defensive end Shelby Harris looks to be the former first-round pick’s long-term replacement.
The Seahawks acquired Harris along with quarterback Drew Lock and tight end Noah Fant in the Russell Wilson trade. A 30-year-old NFL veteran, Harris is coming off of his best season as a pro, finishing 2021 with 49 combined tackles and six sacks. Listed at 6’2″ and 290 pounds, Harris will give the Seahawks defense a solid upgrade at the defensive end position.
Harris still has two more years on his deal, with a cap hit of just under $8 million in 2022 according to Spotrac. The deal also includes zero in dead cap space if Harris is cut in 2023, giving the Seahawks plenty of flexibility to evaluate their new defensive end going forward.
Although he plays a different position, Seahawks second-round pick Boye Mafe will also be looking to make an impact as a pass rusher. Mafe showed flashes of being a premier pass rusher while at Minnesota, finishing his senior year with seven sacks.
With the trade for Harris and a promising rookie in Mafe, the Seahawks will be looking for other players besides Collier to become key playmakers on defense.