Raiders see pass-rushing upside in signing Bruce Irvin
The deal: Per a report from Aaron Wilson, Bruce Irvin will ink a four-year, $37 million deal ($19 million guaranteed).
What it means for the Raiders: It’s rare to see a player four years into his career still being tagged with the “upside” label, but that’s what it seems like the Raiders are hoping for with this deal. Irvin’s rookie season was highlighted by dominant stretches rushing the passer. In it, he recorded 10 sacks, 12 hits, and had a top-10 pass-rushing productivity among 4-3 defensive ends. The next year though, Irvin switched to a more traditional linebacker role and rushed the passer on only 136 times, compared to 393 as a rookie. The Seahawks saw that he was being underutilized for perhaps his best skill, and employed him more as a nickel rusher the next two seasons, but Irvin never recaptured that rookie form, actually grading out below average as a pass-rusher the last two seasons.
But this is where the “upside” comes in. Ken Norton, Jr., the Raiders defensive coordinator, spent five seasons in Seattle as a linebackers coach, with three of them tutoring Irvin. He knows full well what the former first-round pick is capable of, and expects Irvin to form a fearsome pass-rushing duo with Khalil Mack.
What it means for the Seahawks: One has to wonder how much talent that vaunted Seahawks’ defense can bleed before they start to markedly regress. We already saw it to a degree in 2015, but losing another quality starter like Bruce Irvin won’t help. If there is a silver lining in losing their outside linebacker, it’s that he never quite developed into the feared pass-rusher the Seahawks saw glimpses of his rookie season. His pass-rushing grade declined every year after that 11-sack first season, even though his pass rushing attempts were about the same the past two seasons.