Bruce Irvin called it "refreshing" to be back with the Seahawks. He spoke on Tuesday afternoon via Zoom call with local reporters about his reunion in Seattle.
Irvin knew well before free agency began that he was eager to return to the Pacific Northwest. Those feelings began after Seattle beat Irvin's Panthers in Week 15 last. They continued when the Seahawks won in the Wild Card Round against the Eagles.
Irvin said he texted Bobby Wagner following that playoff victory, saying "Man I wish I was on that plane with y'all."
"I just wanted to come back," he shared.
His wish has since been granted. Bringing back their 2012 first-round pick marked one of the Seahawks biggest moves in free agency. Irvin signed a one-year deal worth $5.5 million. He's coming off a year with the Panthers in which he posted a career-high 8.5 sacks. That's nearly half of Irvin's four-year total with Seattle from 2012-15 (22.5).
"I think I'm a more polished player now. I think I'm a better player now than I was during my first four years in Seattle. The game is slower. I know how to set up certain moves. I know how to study film now. It's a lot of things. I know how to take care of my body better. It's things that come with maturity and age."
Irvin joked that he feels "old as hell" as he enters his ninth NFL season, but he'll play a pivotal role for the Seahawks in 2020. He's expected to once again play SAM linebacker on early downs before moving to defensive end on third down.
He's the eldest statesman among Seattle's pass rushers, and he understands that he's leading a much-maligned group. The Seahawks generated a measly 28 sacks in 2019. With Jadeveon Clowney's future still uncertain, Seattle will rely on Irvin, Benson Mayowa, 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor and others in what will be a collective effort this season.
Mayowa, who is coming off of a career-high 7.0 sacks in 2019 with the Raiders, is one of the wild cards on Seattle's defense. He's slated to start at defensive end.
"I don't think Benson has ever been in a major role – like a major starting role as a premier rusher. But I have the complete, 100% faith that he can do that," Irvin said.
And that faith in Mayowa exists with the rest of the players Irvin will be leading.
"We've got a young group, and we've got to work," Irvin said. "I couldn't predict how many sacks we're going to get right now, but I think we've got a young, talented group, and I'm going to work my ass (off) to lead these boys.
"I think we're going to be better than a lot of people think we are."
Many, understandably, will remain skeptical, but surely Irvin's confidence may put the minds of some fans at ease for the time being.
It should be noted that Seattle has a little more than $16 million in cap space and could still conceivably sign Clowney, Everson Griffen or Markus Golden. It's just impossible to bank on that at this juncture.