RENTON, Wash. -- Not even the ever-hopeful Pete Carroll imagined the Seattle Seahawks' swap of pass-rushers working out as well as it did when they traded Frank Clark in April. He was only kidding when he answered otherwise.
"Oh, sure. I had this totally in mind," Carroll said Wednesday, trying to keep a straight face. "I had this one wired, yeah. Not exactly, no. No, I couldn't. Maybe John was the dreamer at that time that thought that something could come."
Indeed, maybe the only person who could have envisioned the Seahawks replacing Clark with Ziggy Ansah and Jadeveon Clowney -- at discount prices, no less -- was the man who pulled it all off: general manager John Schneider.
In an interview this week with 710 ESPN Seattle, Schneider said he began talking with Houston Texans coach Bill O'Brien and then-GM Brian Gaine about Clowney before the draft. It was the week of the draft that the Seahawks traded Clark to the Kansas City Chiefs when the price to extend him surpassed their threshold. Those talks with Houston cooled when the Seahawks turned their attention to the megadeals they would eventually give to quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner.
"And we had stayed in touch on it, then it kind of went away," Schneider said. "We were working on Russ, we were working on Bobby and trying to figure out [how] we were going to budget ourselves. We just stayed in it. I stayed in contact with Bill, and then when things sounded like they were kinda heating up a little bit, we got back in it."
And Schneider became determined to add Clowney even after signing Ansah, the former Detroit Lion, in May. By that point, Seattle had drafted defensive end L.J. Collier with the first-round pick (No. 29) it acquired in the Clark trade, which also netted them a 2020 second-rounder and allowed them to flip their own first-rounder for more selections. Seattle entered the draft with a league-low four selections, which Schneider turned into 11 draft picks.
"So it was really in phases," Schneider said. "We got through that period right before the draft. We were able to acquire L.J., move back a little bit -- we needed to acquire some more picks -- and then stayed in touch with Frank Bauer, who represents Ziggy, and we were able to work through the situation with Ziggy because he had some medical stuff going on, so we wanted to make sure our staff and our strength-and-conditioning guys could handle him and his recovery process."
The Seahawks went into the offseason thinking Clark was going to remain in Seattle, even if it meant him playing on a franchise tag that would pay $17.128 million in 2019.
"We thought we were going to get a long-term deal done, otherwise we wouldn't have franchised him," Schneider said. "Once a couple of these other deals hit, we were kinda thrown off kilter a little bit. There's other things we wanted to do and wanted to accomplish in the offseason."
The deal that sealed Clark's fate in Seattle was the five-year, $105 million extension DeMarcus Lawrence signed with the Dallas Cowboys. The Seahawks didn't think they’d be able to extend Clark the following offseason, by which point his price tag likely would have easily exceeded Lawrence's $21 million average.
Schneider didn't want to give up any draft picks in the Clowney trade, but he ended up giving Houston a 2020 third-rounder in addition to linebackers Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin. His consolation was getting the Texans to pay Clowney a $7 million signing bonus, which means the Seahawks will pay him $8 million in 2019. They've also agreed to not franchise him next year. Ansah's one-year deal carries a base value of $9 million (with $4.25 million in incentives).
So the Seahawks added two premier edge rushers on one-year deals worth about the same amount of combined money it what would have cost them to keep Clark on the franchise tag. Collier counts $1.97 million against the cap in the first year of his rookie deal, meaning that even if Ansah reaches all of his incentives, the combined cost for all three will be only about $2.5 million more than the $20.8 million average of Clark's deal with Kansas City.
Carroll recalled his first coaching gig at the University of the Pacific in 1974 for context on the significance of adding Ansah and Clowney in the same offseason.
"We had to wait so long for Zig to get ready to go that we didn't feel the impact of that much at this point, so that starts happening Game 1," he said. "But to also come up and get Jadeveon to add to it, that's a real boost. I've said before, any coach in the history of football is looking for a pass-rusher going into Week 1. If you can find a way to get a guy -- since UOP I've been thinking about that. For this to happen here in this situation is really exciting, and hopefully we can make the most of it."
There is merit to the thought the Seahawks should have simply extended Clark, who has been healthier and more productive than either Ansah or Clowney. But that's easier said than done for a team that also had to give Wilson and Wagner top-of-the-market deals. And you can't argue with the value plays Schneider made once he determined Clark's price tag was too steep.
Ansah and Clowney can now make that swap look even better.
"To me, this is a classic example of competing," Carroll said of Schneider's pursuit of Clowney. "Every turn, wherever there's players available and there's an opportunity to get better, we're working it. We're always trying to get in every deal. John will always say it that way. We're always trying to get in every deal that's out there to see if it suits us. He worked his way through it and made it happen."