Will Poona Ford Become Next Seahawks Defensive Tackle to Receive New Deal?
Rolling into the 2022 season, the Seahawks have numerous question marks on their roster following a turbulent offseason headlined by the departure of future Hall of Famers Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. But if there's one area where they appear to be set both short and long-term, it is defensive tackle, where the team has an abundance of talent led by Poona Ford, Al Woods, and Bryan Mone.
As general manager John Schneider has proved time and time again, the Seahawks have a well-documented history rewarding undrafted players with much-deserved second contracts. For example, receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse each signed at least one multi-year deal after their rookie contracts expired, while Ford himself received a massive raise signing a two-year, $12.345 million extension prior to the 2021 season.
Earlier this week, Seattle continued that trend by extending Mone, handing the former undrafted signee out of Michigan a two-year deal worth up to $13.8 million with incentives and featuring a $1.5 million signing bonus. With both him and Woods under contract through at least 2023, the organization must now figure out what the future holds for Ford, who is slated to become an unrestricted free agent next March and could be one of the top defensive tackles on the market.
Since arriving in town as an unheralded free agent out of Texas in 2018, Ford has been a model Seahawk who exemplifies everything the organization stands for. A relentless worker who attacks every single drill with a burning desire to be great, he wasted little time establishing himself as a force in the interior, earning a spot on the 53-man roster out of training camp and the preseason. By the tail end of his rookie season, he had been elevated into the starting lineup and hasn't looked back.
While Ford rarely has much to say, his actions on the field speak loud and clear for all to hear and he commands the ultimate respect from coaches and teammates alike. Making draft evaluators look foolish for flagging him for his lack of height, the 5-foot-11, 300-pound defender may be the best athlete on Seattle's roster pound-for-pound, using elite quickness and nimble feet to penetrate gaps and disrupt plays in the backfield on a regular basis. He also plays with exquisite hand technique and uses his short, stocky frame to naturally win the leverage battle working off blocks.
Over the past four seasons, thanks to his athleticism, technique, and work ethic, few defensive tackles have been more reliable, consistent, and durable than Ford. He's logged 2,363 combined snaps, including 802 in 2021, which ranked in the top 10 in the NFL for defensive linemen. Dating back to 2019 when he first became a full-time starter, he's started in 47 out of 49 regular season games, amassing 125 total tackles and 19 tackles for loss, earning at least a 73.0 grade from Pro Football Focus each season.
An anchor in the middle playing snaps as a nose tackle as well as a defensive tackle shading the B gap, Ford has been an integral part to Seattle's success stuffing opposing run games, excelling both as a one and two-gapper. Rarely missing tackles and often setting up linebackers behind him to make plays, his presence up front helped the team finish in the top five in yards allowed per carry each of the past two seasons, including allowing a paltry 3.8 yards per rush in 2021.
Although he hasn't racked up many sacks to this point, Ford's greatest improvements in his NFL career thus far have come in the pass rushing department. In his first two seasons, he produced 19 combined pressures and only half a sack, failing to make much of an impact. Coinciding with the decision to give him more snaps out wide in 3-tech alignment midway through the 2020 season, he's amassed 61 total pressures over the past two seasons, including setting a new career-high with 33 last season.
Set to turn only 27 years old in November, if there's one reason the Seahawks should not hesitate extending Ford for the second time in two years, his steady growth as a pocket collapsing interior rusher sits atop the list. After producing 12 pressures and 1.5 sacks in the final four games last year, when considering his athletic tools and the 3-4 scheme he will now be playing in, there looks to be ample untapped potential in that area of his game and a breakout year still could be in the cards.
A sign of the times without Wilson or Wagner on the books, Ford currently carries Seattle's largest cap hit in 2022 at $10.075 million, sitting above receiver Tyler Lockett, safety Jamal Adams, and guard Gabe Jackson. That may seem like an expensive price tag for a player who has never produced more than 2.0 sacks in any of his four previous NFL seasons, and it's possible Schneider may have reservations about paying a similar toll at around $7-8 million annually on a third contract given the money already spent at the position.
However, for those questioning if Ford's performance warrants such a pricy investment now and in the future, Schneider and the Seahawks front office should have a new contract for him near the top of their priority list. Still an ascending talent and beloved in the building, he's not a player they can afford to lose. Given his immense contributions - the ones that show up on the stat sheet as well as the many that don't - this shouldn't be a matter of if he gets a new contract and only when and how much.