Is Brandon Mebane a good fit for Carolina?

One widely accepted (and in turn, hardly disputed) fact among CSR readers is that we need help on the defensive line, particularly at the defensive tackle position. Even though we did address this need in the 2011 Draft by selecting South Florida DT Terrell McClain and Stanford DT Sione Fua in the 3rd round, many of us agree that we still need help at defensive tackle, because while these two players will certainly add quality reps in a rotation, they are not expected to be 3-down linemen in their first few seasons as they adjust to the speed and strength of the NFL game.

Once the new CBA is signed and teams can start signing free agents, the Panthers’ front office has to seriously consider bringing in a few veteran DT’s who will be available to the highest bidder. A solid 3-down DT will work wonders for our front seven on defense, and will allow pass rushers like Charles Johnson (assuming he decides to stay in Carolina) and Everette Brown more opportunities to get to the opposing quarterback.

One player that we've discussed a few times in the recent past here at CSR is soon-to-be free agent Brandon Mebane, who has played his first four seasons in the league as a member of the Seattle Seahawks. Since I admittedly don't know that much about the Seahawks other than what Marshawn Lynch did to Tracy Porter in last year's playoffs (couldn't resist), I contacted Danny Kelly, the blog manager at Field Gulls, and asked him to give me a Seahawks fan’s perspective on what Mebane brings to the table, and whether or not he’s worth pursuing in free agency. Kelly had a lot of positive things to say about Mebane, and hopefully through this interview I can convince you that you should jump on the Mebane bandwagon (if you’re not already on it), or at the very least show you that Mebane is definitely worth considering when the time comes to pursue free agents.

Before I get into my interview with Danny, let’s take a look at Mebane’s stats to see what he has done during his time in Seattle. Follow me after the jump...

Brandon Mebane's Career Stats:

2007: 16 G / 29 Tkl / 2 Sack / 3 Stuff / 0 PDef / 0 FF / 1 FR / 0 Int / 0 TD
2008: 16 G / 39 Tkl / 5.5 Sack / 4 Stuff / 1 PDef / 2 FF / 0 FR / 0 Int / 0 TD
2009: 15 G / 49 Tkl / 1.5 Sack / 4 Stuff / 0 PDef / 0 FF / 0 FR / 0 Int / 0 TD
2010: 12 G / 31 Tkl / 1 Sack / 5 Stuff / 2 PDef / 0 FF / 0 FR / 0 Int / 0 TD

Total: 59 G / 148 Tkl / 10 Sack / 16 Stuff / 3 PDef / 2 FF / 1 FR / 0 Int / 0 TD

As you can see by the numbers, Mebane is a consistent player, and a pretty good one to boot. He would fit in quite well on our defensive line, and the addition of a player of Mebane’s caliber would work wonders for the defensive ends as they embark on their quest to destroy the opposing quarterbacks on the schedule.

The only thing that slightly concerns me is the fact that his sack total has fallen from 5.5 down to 1 in the course of three seasons, but at the same time the Seahawks did go through a coaching change during that time, so it could be something as simple as a change in defensive philosophy that accounts for the drop off in sack totals. I also think that the DT's main responsibility is to clog the middle of the field and allow the DE's and LB's to get to the quarterback anyway, so I'm not expecting a 10 sack season from our DT.

Ok, so we’ve looked at the numbers, and some of you may have seen Mebane play a few games here and there or remember him playing against the Panthers last season (he had 4 tackles), but in order to get a true feel for what he can do on the field we really need to get feedback from a Seahawks fan. Therefore, I conducted an email interview with Danny Kelly, manager at Field Gulls (Seattle’s SBN Blog) to gather his opinions on Mebane.

CSR: What kind of defense does Mebane best fit? Is he better as a run-stuffer or a pass-rusher? Is he a 3-down DT, or is he a rotational player?

DK: Brandon Mebane is most definitely a starter-quality DT. He's a versatile player that has the athletic ability and size to play at several positions on the line. His position for the Seahawks in 2009 and 2010 has been the 3-tech defensive tackle and he's played well there. He is a 4-3 defensive tackle and will almost surely play in a 4-3 in 2011.

The question of whether he's a better run stuffer or pass rusher is a bit hard to answer; when he played the 1-tech spot in 2008 he had 5.5 sacks, but since moving to the 3-tech, a spot that you hope to see get interior penetration, he's only had 2.5 sacks in two years. The sack totals don't tell the whole story though, as he does a good job of getting pressure on the quarterback and pushing the pocket. He's also good against the run. He's an every down lineman.

An every down interior defensive lineman is something that we definitely need in Carolina, because as of this moment we do not have on on the roster. We don’t know how our two rookies are going to pan out, and the rest of our DT’s are rotational guys at their very best. Adding a guy like Mebane would be an instant upgrade to our defensive line.

John Morgan, another member of Field Gulls, had the following to say about Mebane back in May 2008 (emphasis mine):

JM: Because Seattle is primarily a one gap defense (though, on a side note, one of the important distinctions between Seattle’s D and a Tampa 2 is that Seattle employs larger defensive ends capable of playing two gaps. So while their defensive tackles are akin to a Tampa 2, their defensive ends are not), Mebane forces double teams mostly while rushing a single gap. His combination of strength and speed off the snap make him a pretty rare 1/3 hybrid. Teams are forced to double him because he’s quick enough to sack the ball carrier or record tackles for a loss, but strong enough to walk back or cast off a single blocker. That’s one of the reasons I’m such a big fan.

While this comment may be 3 years old, it would be fantastic if it still applies (especially if we offer him a contract). Can you imagine what our defensive ends could do if we had a DT who commanded a double team in the middle of the field? Greg Hardy, Everette Brown, Eric Norwood, and Charles Johnson should be begging Hurney to sign this guy if what Morgan said about Mebane is still true.

CSR: Would the generic Seahawks fan be happy or upset to see him leave via free agency?

DK: Most Seahawks fans would be disappointed to see him leave as he's probably our best interior defensive lineman. Furthermore, at the moment the Seahawks have no real replacement. If he does leave in free agency Seahawks fans will rightly begin to panic.

Sounds familiar, doesn’t it? I remember a strong sense of panic this time last year when a certain defensive lineman left for the greener pasture that is Chicago.

CSR: Are the Seahawks going to make an effort to re-sign him? How high is he on their priority list?

DK: It's been a bit mystifying to fans that he hasn't already been re-signed and some view this as a sign the Hawks won't try too hard to keep him. My guess is that they've got a number in mind for him and will make the offer once the lockout ends. GM John Schneider called him a "steady pro" and alluded that the Hawks would like to have him back but that review is hardly glowing. Whether or not this is a negotiating tactic or the actual truth remains to be seen.

It's unclear how high of a priority he is but considering they have almost no depth behind him and did not draft a replacement, logic dictates he should be a top priority.

That being said, in Pete Carroll's defense, the 3-tech needs to be your interior pass rusher and the Seahawks front office may simply believe they can get more out of a different player. 1 sack in 2010 is not what you'd hope for from that position, plain and simple. Perhaps the Seahawks will look elsewhere.

I don’t know about you guys, but based on Danny’s tone here I gather that Mebane is ripe for the picking. It seems that Seattle will want to go in a different direction as they don’t believe that Mebane is the right fit for their defense now that Pete Carroll is the head coach. Perhaps he would be a better fit in Ron Rivera’s aggressive scheme?

CSR: If you were the Panthers GM, would you make him an offer? If yes, how much would you offer him? If no, why not?

DK: He'll be one of the more sought after defensive tackles in the free agency period and could fetch a big contract. He was one of the major candidates for the Seahawks to franchise tag, but ultimately they decided against it. I don't know how well I can answer for the Panthers as I'm not super knowledgeable [of] your roster. What I can guess is that he's likely to get a contract anywhere from $4 to $10 million a year.

We have the cap flexibility to sign someone of Mebane’s caliber for the amount of money he will likely fetch in free agency. I see no reason to not make a phone call to his agent and at least make a sales pitch to see if he’d be willing to play in Carolina for the next 4 years.

Now that we have an idea of what a Seahawks fan thinks about Mebane, I turn the discussion over to you, Panthers fans. Do you want the Panthers to sign Brandon Mebane? We all pretty much agree that we need a defensive tackle, so why not get a young guy who’s had good results on the field and can be had at a reasonable price?

I think it’s a smart business decision, and one that JR and Hurney would be glad they made when looking back on it down the road.

Author's Note: A very special thank you goes out to Field Gulls manager Danny Kelly for taking the time to answer my questions for this article, because not only did he help me gather the basic facts to support my idea for this column, he also educated me in the process. If you ever have any need or desire to catch up on the Seahawks, or if you have a friend or co-worker who happens to be a Seahawks fan, be sure to check out our friends over at Field Gulls for all your Seahawks information.

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