RENTON, Washington. Bruce Irwin was excitedly discussing his first sack in nearly three years since the Seattle Seahawks’ victory over the Arizona Cardinals last Sunday, when a question about fellow linebacker Uchenna Nwosu made him fall into an almost reverent tone.

“He’s the real deal,” Irwin said of Nwosu, who just hacked up two more sacks to give him seven to nine games. “He is the real deal. He doesn’t get the fame and recognition he deserves. The guy just comes in, breaks his tail every day and produces. You see, four sacks in the last two games. If you ask me, he’s one of the best guys in the league.”

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It wasn’t until Irvin returned last month for his third stay in Seattle that he realized Nwosu’s talent. And according to coach Pete Carroll, not even the Seahawks knew it when they signed Nwosu to a two-year, $19.055 million contract in March. At the time, they viewed the 25-year-old as a young, physical, up-and-coming player whose experience playing in a similar defense system with the Los Angeles Chargers made him perfect for their transition to a predominantly 3-4 front.

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Two months into the season, Nwosu already looks like the best free agent signed by the Seahawks since Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in 2012 in terms of performance and value.

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Nwosu’s seven sacks are two more than his career last season, and he is seventh in the NFL. According to Sportzshala Stats & Information, his 24 pressing ties are tied for 12th, and his eight tackles in losses are tied for 11th. He has two forced fumbles, including one on the goal line that helped Seattle hold on to a season-opening victory over Russell Wilson and the Denver Broncos.

“Dude, he was so good,” Carroll said on his weekly radio show. “He was so good, so tough, consistent, creative. He was cheeky and he was productive. The bags he gets and the contribution to the bags, but it’s also the hits in the line of scrimmage and in the backfield, the way he takes blocks and attacks. He’s just fantastic. This is the Pro Bowl season you’re looking at right here.”

A second-round pick by the USC Chargers in 2018, Nwosu spent his first three seasons primarily as a stand-in for Joey Boz and Melvin Ingram, a pair of professional bowlers, before becoming a full-time starter in 2021. He was also held back in a system that didn’t always allow him to be on the offensive.

Handcuffs removed in Seattle.

The Seahawks, as Carroll describes it, freed Nwosa and gave him the freedom to rely on his instincts to land his shots. If he sees an opportunity to play, he will have the green light to relinquish his responsibility, knowing that other defenders will adjust and provide him with cover.

“He just got away with it,” Carroll said on his radio show. “That’s not the style of play he played. They were more strict about how they made him play on the edge. He always had a free outside hand and threw blocks back, which he was great at. He did a solid job. So when we took him, we needed a winger who could be in the starting lineup, and he could be in the starting lineup, but I didn’t see him play dynamically. He had [five] sacks last year, had a great year playing on the other side of Bosa… But it’s a whole new level and it’s really fun to watch.”

During the off-season, general manager John Schneider and his scouting department were successful. Their draft class has already produced several major contributors, including a couple of Rookie of the Year candidates in defenseman Tarik Wulen and running back Ken Walker III. They also stumbled across a few veterans additions. Shelby Harris, acquired from the Broncos in exchange for Wilson, was perhaps their most influential player on the inside line. Irwin and Marquess Goodwin’s receiver No. 3 play key roles in minimum wage deals.

Nwosu was the best of the lot, and by relative bargain.

His average deal value of $9.53 million is the largest deal the Seahawks have given to a free agent from another team since Carroll and Schneider took over in 2010. But this speaks both of their unwillingness to spend money in March, and of investments. they are made in Nwosu. According to Over The Cap, he is ranked 33rd among the wingers on average per year.

It would be a surprise if the Seahawks didn’t try to extend him into the offseason, given how enthusiastic the players and coaches are about him.

“This guy is top notch, business all day, incredible work ethic, super, super smart,” defense coordinator Clint Hertt said. “He is selfless due to his ability to work with the other guys that surround him and a great leader for young players in terms of how to carry himself… I just can’t say enough good things about this cat. The person that he is, the player that he is. And he’s young. He’s only getting better. He’s going to keep improving aspects of this game. Thank God we found it. So you’re so lucky.”