What Does the Bruce Irvin Suspension Mean for the Seattle Seahawks?

Gary Davenport@@IDPSharksNFL AnalystMay 18, 2013

LANDOVER, MD - JANUARY 06:  Bruce Irvin #51 of the Seattle Seahawks celebrates sacking  Robert Griffin III #10 of the Washington Redskins in the fourth quarter during the NFC Wild Card Playoff Game at FedExField on January 6, 2013 in Landover, Maryland.  (Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)
Win McNamee/Getty Images

Did you ever get the feeling that things were going too well? That odd sense of dread that comes just before the other shoe drops?

Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll is having that kind of day.

The Seahawks got the first bad news of what has otherwise been a wildly successful offseason on Friday. As Lindsay Jones of USA Today reports, defensive end Bruce Irvin has been suspended for the first four games of the 2013 season for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing-drug policy.

The second-year pro, who had 16 tackles, eight sacks and a forced fumble for the Seahawks in 2012, was contrite in a statement in which the 26-year-old stated he would not appeal the suspension:

I want to apologize to my teammates, coaches and Seahawks fans for making a mistake when I took a substance that is prohibited in the NFL without a medical exemption. I am extremely disappointed in the poor judgment I showed and take full responsibility for my actions,

Irvin's suspension continues a troubling trend for the Seahawks. Since 2011, no fewer than six Seattle players have tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs.

That rather unsettling fact aside, the more pressing issue for the Seahawks becomes what to do while Irvin is out of action.

How many adjustments the Seahawks need to make defensively will depend in large part on whether defensive end Chris Clemons is available in Week 1.

The 31-year-old, who led the Seahawks with 11.5 sacks last year, tore his ACL in the playoffs, and his availability for the beginning of the 2013 season is still very much in doubt.

If Clemons is good to go, then it's simple. He plays one end spot, free-agent acquisition Cliff Avril mans the other, and all is right with the universe.

However, if Clemons isn't ready to take the field against the Carolina Panthers on Sept. 8, then the Seahawks may have to play musical pass-rushers.

The easiest solution in that event would seem to entail another of the Seahawks' free-agent pickups.

Seattle's original intent was to move Michael Bennett, who had nine sacks for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012, from defensive end to tackle. However, if Clemons isn't ready to play by the beginning of the season, then those plans may be scuttled, at least temporarily.

Luckily, the Seahawks have the depth at tackle to change those plans in the short term. Brandon Mebane is a veteran presence who had 56 tackles and three sacks a year ago. Additionally, Seattle added depth at tackle in the 2013 NFL Draft with Alabama's Jesse Williams and Jordan Hill of Penn State.

There had also been some talk of lining up Irvin at strong-side linebacker, which would allow the team to flip K.J. Wright to the weak side, filling the gap left by the departure of Leroy Hill.

Those plans would also appear to be on hold, at least for now, leaving the team the decision of plugging an unproven player, such as Heath Farwell, into the starting lineup or combing through the bargain bin for another free-agent pickup.

The good news is, it would appear the Seattle Seahawks have the depth to absorb Bruce Irvin's suspension with minimal adverse impact. It may have appeared a month ago that the Seahawks were hoarding defensive linemen. Now, it looks like they covered their bases very well.

The bad news is that Bruce Irvin now joins an alarmingly long list of Seattle players looking at a one-year vacation if they run afoul of the NFL again.

Seriously. Guys. Step away from the medicine cabinet.


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