Predicting The 2017 NFL Season

It’s that time again!  Check out some predictions from past seasons:

Since I don’t do a good-enough job of noting this ahead of time, let’s take a brief look back at my 2016 predictions and see where I went wrong.

In the NFC, I had the NFC seeded in the following order (top 4 teams are division winners):

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Washington
  4. Carolina
  5. Arizona
  6. New York

In reality, they were seeded as follows:

  1. Dallas
  2. Atlanta
  3. Seattle
  4. Green Bay
  5. New York
  6. Detroit

So, I had two division winners correct, and three playoff teams out of six.  Not bad.  My best call was nailing the Giants for a Wild Card berth; my worst call was predicting the Falcons would finish fourth in the NFC South (not far behind:  predicting the Cowboys would finish third in the East).

In the AFC, I was considerably better, nailing the division winners (although, not quite in the correct order) and 5/6 playoff teams:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Houston
  4. Pittsburgh
  5. Oakland
  6. Buffalo

I wanted so desperately for the Bills to make it back to the playoffs, I was blinded by how terrible they are as a franchise!  In reality, the playoffs looked like this:

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Houston
  5. Oakland
  6. Miami

Best call here was nailing the top two seeds in order, and the top 5 (just flip-flopping the Texans and Steelers).  Worst call:  Dolphins finishing fourth in the East (behind the Jets???  Come on, man!), followed by the Jags finishing second in the South (I was drinking the Bort Kool Aid, for sure).

I ended up with a Seattle over Kansas City Super Bowl, because I’m a homer.  I also had a Seattle over Indianapolis Super Bowl the year before, and a Seattle over Denver rematch in 2014.  I will give myself some credit for correctly predicting the Seattle over Denver Super Bowl in 2013, as well as (I shit you not) a Baltimore over San Francisco Super Bowl in 2012.

So, it’s time to get back on the horse!  Without further ado, here are my divisional predictions:

NFC East

New York
Dallas
Washington
Philadelphia

There’s got to be some regression with the Cowboys.  Not a lot, but I think just enough.  Of course, I’m saying that knowing full well I’ve staked my fantasy football future on the arm of Dak Prescott, but I’ve got some real issues with that defense, and I just don’t think their offense can be as perfect as they were last year (particularly the running game, since I’m rolling with Ezekiel Elliott in two different leagues.  I like Washington, but I don’t care for their defense, and I question whether their passing game can be as potent as it’s been.  Obviously, I expect Kirk Cousins to play well, but he’s got a lot of new pieces around him.  The Eagles strike me as a few more years away.  The Giants just feel like the most complete team on both sides of the ball, so I’m rolling with them.

NFC North

Green Bay
Minnesota
Detroit
Chicago

Is there really any point in picking against the Packers?  They’re like the Patriots of the NFC; they’re always good, and they’re always surrounded by crappy division-mates.  I think the Vikings and Lions could go either way; I think they’re both about .500 teams.  I like the Vikings’ defense just a little bit more than I like Detroit’s offense.  I also think a second season with Sam Bradford should help them move the ball a little more.  I think the Bears will be a mess and, more importantly, I think that’s the best thing for them, as they’ll need to surround their new rookie QB with a lot of talent going forward.

NFC South

Carolina
Tampa Bay
Atlanta
New Orleans

I almost picked the Bucs, but I dunno.  I just don’t see it.  I think they’re a year away still; they strike me as fairly immature.  Honestly, I don’t feel strongly about ANY of these teams, but having Carolina bounce back is the least-ridiculous thing I can imagine right now.  I do still think the Bucs will make a Wild Card spot though, I’m just not so sure they’ll have enough to overtake the Panthers.  I think the Falcons will be about a .500 team as they remain hungover from that devastating Super Bowl loss.  And, I just don’t think the Saints are very good, and they probably need to think about blowing that situation up at some point.

NFC West

Seattle
Arizona
San Francisco
Los Angeles

The last couple years, I’ve been seduced by blind homerism when it comes to the Seahawks.  Nevertheless, they’ve still managed to win at least 10 games and make the playoffs both years.  So, I’m not TOTALLY crazy.  This year, however, I believe to be the year we get back our #1 seed and our home field advantage throughout the playoffs.  I still like Arizona to kick up a little fuss, but they’re about a .500 team too.  I think the 49ers will be better than people expect, though they’re probably still a 6-7 win team.  I think the Rams will be much WORSE than people expect, and I’m pretty sure people are already expecting them to be pretty bad.

Here’s a prediction for free:  I think the Seahawks will go 2-0 against the Rams; WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT???

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
New York

Tank-a-palooza is in full effect with the Jets, as I fully expect them to win no more than 1-2 games.  I like Buffalo only a little bit more, to be honest, as they’ve gotten rid of a lot of talent, and still don’t seem too keen on Tyrod Taylor being the guy going forward (I hope they let him loose at some point, so he can go to a team that deserves him).  I still like Miami to come up second in the division with Jay Cutler at the helm, but I still only see them as around a .500 team.  New England should run away with this thing with 13-14 wins.

AFC North

Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Baltimore
Cleveland

This could be an interesting little division.  I think the Ravens are a year or two away from returning to the playoffs.  I like a lot of the moves Cleveland is making (though, surely, they’ll face growing pains with their rookie QB).  I like a lot of the moves the Bengals have made this past offseason as well, though I think they’ll fall JUST short of the playoffs (likely on a tiebreaker).  I think the Steelers take this one with 11 wins.

AFC South

Tennessee
Houston
Indianapolis
Jacksonville

I think now, FINALLY, the Titans will have their year.  I also think they have the highest variance of any of the teams in this conference.  They could go 13-3, or 9-7, or anywhere in between, and I wouldn’t be shocked.  I went ahead and pencilled them in at 10-6, tied with the Texans, and both teams cracking the playoffs.  I think both the Colts and Jags will be terrible, netting between 2-4 wins each.

AFC West

Kansas City
Oakland
Denver
San Diego

I really wanted to put Oakland here, and this might be my biggest regret, as I’ve kind of been hyping them all off-season.  But, the Chiefs are just more of a complete team.  I think their defense is certainly better than the Raiders’, which could be their ultimate downfall.  I still like the Raiders to make the playoffs, but they might be a year away from grabbing one of the top two seeds.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. New York
  4. Carolina
  5. Tampa Bay
  6. Dallas

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Kansas City
  3. Pittsburgh
  4. Tennessee
  5. Oakland
  6. Houston

I’d absolutely love to see a playoffs with these teams involved.  Let’s look at the playoff predictions:

Wild Card Round

Dallas over New York
Carolina over Tampa Bay
Pittsburgh over Houston
Oakland over Tennessee

Divisional Round

Seattle over Dallas
Carolina over Green Bay
New England over Pittsburgh
Oakland over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Carolina
Oakland over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Oakland

OH SNAP!  Are you ready for this???  The Seahawks can only win Super Bowls against their old AFC West foes!  The storylines are pretty amazing, though, starting with Beastmode vs. his old team.  Michael Crabtree vs. Richard Sherman.  Ken Norton Jr. & Bruce Irvin vs. their old team.  Then, there was all that crap from Derek Carr about running it on the 1 yard line.  And, of course, there’s the 1983 season and how the Raiders prevented the Seahawks from making their first Super Bowl during that miracle playoff run.

You’re going to see a lot of people predicting the Seahawks vs. Patriots Part II, including Peter King in his MMQB column; but how many people will predict the Seahawks/Raiders?  Maybe just me.

Is it because I’m stupid?  Probably.  But, wouldn’t that be fun?

A List Of The Seahawks’ Pre-Season Storylines

Making us all wait until Saturday before we get to watch the first Seahawks pre-season game seems a little masochistic by the NFL, but what are you gonna do?  Tomorrow, FINALLY, the pre-season starts.  All we’ve had so far are beat writer accounts of practice and sports radio interviews of coaches and athletes.  But, now we get to see the team in action.  It might be pretend action, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a whole lot about what these 2016 Seahawks are going to look like.

From this point forward, there will be a lot more writing on the Seahawks on this site, so get ready!  I’ve jotted down a list of the major storylines, with a little blurb on each one, that I could very well expand upon in longer posts sometime in the next month or so.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

The Offensive Line

Yeah, you better believe I’m going to be focusing on the O-Line more than any other unit when the Seahawks take the field this pre-season.  I read good things about various guys so far in Training Camp, but is that relative to last year’s abomination?  We’ll find out.

Improved Secondary

I think it’s funny to hear these national writers talk about the Vikings, or some other team, having the league’s best and deepest secondary, TOTALLY sleeping on the Seahawks.  Motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre the L.O.B.  Earl is still Earl, Sherm is still Sherm, Kam is still the most destructive force in the strong safety game today.  Beyond that, you want to talk about depth?  I’m looking at Lane, Shead, and Simon all playing at high levels when healthy.  I’m looking at a 2nd year pro in Tye Smith with a chip on his shoulder who had a healthy rookie year where all he had to do was learn the system.  I’m looking at safety Kelcie McCray who could be starting on a lot of teams right now.  I’m looking at a special role for Brandon Browner, matching up exclusively with other teams’ big receivers and tight ends.  Then, there’s Tyvis Powell, an undrafted rookie, who’s making a big impression these first couple weeks.  They’re sleeping on the L.O.B. now, but the league will be quick to learn who the real O.G.’s are.

The Defensive Line

I keep reading reports about how this is – or could be – the greatest pass rush we’ve had since 2013, but I’ve got my doubts.  We lost Bruce Irvin and replaced him with Frank Clark; is that a good move or not?  Last year, we had BOTH guys, so how does losing Irvin help us, exactly?  And, aside from Bennett, where are we getting our interior pass rush?  Is there someone I’m not familiar with who will step up as a 4th pass rush option from the defensive end position?  Believe you me, that’s going to be a huge part of my pre-season focus.

New Look Running Game

Obviously, the scheme will be the same, but the players are new.  Will Thomas Rawls return to last year’s record-breaking form?  Will the resurgence of Christine Michael translate into increased opportunities?  Will ANY of the rookies be able to stay healthy?

Passing Game Stability

I love the fact that the Seahawks brought Jermaine Kearse back, and that for the most part, our entire receiving corps is back for another run.  They may not be household names across the league (although, I don’t know how you can ignore Doug Baldwin’s contributions to our success any longer), but these guys continue to get the job done.  As they continue to mesh with Russell Wilson, in conjunction with the question marks surrounding the running game, I do think we’ll see an increase in this team’s passing numbers.

Backup Quarterback

For at LEAST the next two weeks, as the backups tend to play more than the starter in those games, this will be a constant point of focus, in the games and in the media between games.  Trevone Boykin vs. Jake Heaps vs. some possible third option not currently on the roster vs. Tarvaris Jackson perhaps?  Boykin appears to be more mobile, more Russell Wilson-esque; Heaps appears to be the better pocket passer and more accurate.  We know what Tarvar can do, so he could probably roll in here the day before the regular season starts and get his job back if he wants it.  But, I’ll tell ya, if the backups shit the bed against the Chiefs tomorrow, don’t be surprised if you see a flurry of tryouts by Monday.

Long Snapper

Scoff all you want!  You won’t be scoffing the moment one of these new long snappers sails a football over Jon Ryan’s head, or costs us a game-winning field goal attempt!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you chickenfuckers, because I’m going to have a little blurb about the long snappers after every pre-season game this year!  “Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner” I’ll call it, and it’s going to be all anyone ever talks about!

Michael Bennett’s Contract

Things have sort of quieted down in this arena, which is nice, because no one really wants to hear about it anyway.  But, you know it’s going to come up again.  If Bennett continues to kill it, you’re going to hear (from him, and media types alike) that he deserves bigtime money.  But, the fear is:  what if he goes the other way?  What if the production dips?  Surely, they’ll look to point out that he’s not content with the money he’s making.  Now, a lot of that is likely a bunch of bullshit; but if there’s any element of truth to it, and he does slack off because he’s not making the money he thinks he’s earned, then we could be in for a long, frustrating season.  He is key in so many ways to this team’s defensive success.

Bobby Wagner Bounce Back Year

It’s not in the numbers he put up last year, so much as the eyeball test.  I just want to see more of an impact, in the obvious, fan sense.  Big run stuffs, big sacks, big interceptions, big forced fumbles.  Let’s get Bobby Wagner back on the map and in the same arena as Luke Kuechly.

Brandon Browner’s Return

This guy was a Pro Bowler for us.  This guy’s tenacity and strength and attitude was a HUGE reason why this secondary was so good back in the day.  I want to see if he’s as bad as he was in New Orleans, or if he was just used improperly.  I want to see if he’s still got something in the tank to be an enforcer this team needs.  I want to see him knock some tight ends on their asses!  Remember all those games we blew late last year?  Cincy, Carolina, Green Bay, St. Louis?  All of them had big days out of their tight ends.  Here’s to hoping Browner can put a stop to that shit once and for all.

Russell Wilson’s Eliteness

There’s nothing fans love more than to tout their quarterbacks as the best.  New England fans have had a stranglehold on this type of douche-baggery for far too long.  Wilson showed he can be an elite pocket passer for much of the second half of last season.  Let’s see him pick it up where he left off (especially since we’re breaking in this all-new offensive line).  Let’s see him make Pete Prisco look more and more like the know-nothing jackass that he is.

Tyler Lockett’s Impending Breakout

He was excellent as a rookie.  So, what can this kid do now?  He made it through the whole year healthy, has had a full offseason to absorb the playbook and work with Wilson away from the practice setting.  He’s going to be on the field more than any other receiver except for Baldwin; he’s going to get PLENTY of chances to make some big plays.  I, for one, can’t wait to see him unlock his full potential.

Frank Clark’s Expanded Role

He was pretty solid as a rookie.  He didn’t have to play a lot, but he showed flashes.  I’m curious to see how he’ll do as more of a primary pass rusher (really, as this team’s third option behind Bennett and Avril).  I don’t generally have a ton of confidence in young pass rushers, so I hope he’s able to take a HUGE step forward.  Otherwise, as I mentioned up top, this team’s pass rush could be in real trouble.

The SAM Linebacker

Or, Replacing Bruce Irvin in Base Defense.  So far, it’s been a 3-man race between Mike Morgan, Cassius Marsh, and Eric Pinkins.  Morgan has the experience, knows the system, and feels like the sensible choice.  Marsh dropped weight to get to this point, has always been good against the run, and seems athletic enough.  Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, you don’t have to worry about him, because he’s one of this team’s best Special Teamers.  Pinkins has been coming on strong of late, from what I’ve read.  He appears to have the highest upside of the three, from a playmaking perspective.  He’ll need to play mistake-free, assignment-correct football (or pretty close to it) in the pre-season games to win the job.  I hope he does; this team could always use another young, cheap playmaking force.

Jimmy Graham & Thomas Rawls

Their returns from graphic injuries will continue to be stories until they’re not.  Until they get back on the field, in a game setting, and knock it around with the pros.  Rawls came off the PUP list first, and could be practicing with the team as early as next week.  Graham just came off the PUP list a day or two ago, has the more-serious of the two devastating injuries, and will need to be brought along more slowly.  As such, and given his star status, his every movement will continue to be news for the next month straight.  I eagerly await his return, but I’d be just as happy to see him held back as long as possible, to avoid re-injury, and ESPECIALLY to avoid injuring other body parts in compensation for protecting the knee.

Ranking The Seahawks By How Much I’d Freak The Fudge Out If They Got Significantly Injured

There’s never really a GOOD time to get news about a player being injured.  No matter who it is, no matter when it happens, it’s cutting into your team’s depth, and that’s always going to be bad.  I suppose if I HAD to pick a “good” time, it would be sometime before the season starts.  With the hopes that they’ll either recover in time for the games that count, or that they can be put on IR-Designated To Return, with the idea that they’ll show up for a good second half of the season stretch run.

But, even then, I can’t help but simmer at a low boil right now, in constant fear of the first major injury to befall my favorite team.

So far, it’s just been a couple of reserves with Achilles injuries, as far as MAJOR injuries are concerned.  I guess you could lump Rawls and Graham in there, but those guys were hurt last year, and they’re reportedly on the mend and set to come back for the regular season.  But, there really aren’t any significant NEW injuries to speak of (knock on all the wood you’ve got), so my low boil remains.

As there have been the usual reports of a lot of minor strains and such, with the start of Training Camp – pretty normal, as guys get back into football playing shape – I started thinking about the unthinkable.  So, let’s dig in!  I love nothing more than to be wildly inappropriate, so let’s put it all on the table.  Let’s talk about the guys the Seahawks can ill afford to lose.  The illest, as it were.

  1. Russell Wilson – It’s so obvious it’s hardly even worth mentioning.  Russell Wilson makes this offense go.  Without Russell Wilson, we’re toast; you might as well call us the Denver Broncos.  That’s on an ordinary year.  But THIS year, where Tarvaris Jackson remains unsigned, and we’re looking at a couple of undrafted rookies as potential #2’s, it’s even more obvious.  This list is “Russell Wilson” in the first 550 spots, and then we get to someone different.
  2. Doug Baldwin – Threw you a curveball!  I bet you thought I was going to say any number of elite defenders!  But, this isn’t a list of “Best Seahawks”, this is a list of Most Important Seahawks To Keep Healthy.  Or, in other words, it’s a ranking of where I feel this team is strongest and weakest.  And I’ll tell you right now, I like our depth along the D-Line, and I LOVE our depth in the secondary.  But, the drop-off from Doug Baldwin to Jermaine Kearse, or Doug Baldwin to Tyler Lockett, is pretty significant.  I still like Kearse to make the tough catches, and I still like Lockett to make the big plays, but Baldwin does it all.  He’s a security blanket on third down, he’s a big-play machine in the open field, and most importantly of all, he scores them TDs.  With the running game to be a big fat question mark until either Rawls returns from injury, or someone else proves himself fit to carry the load, this team is going to need to rely on the passing game.  And Baldwin is the biggest non-QB component of that passing game, hands down.
  3. Michael Bennett – I like the D-Line, but I don’t love it.  A lot of what makes this unit passable is the fact that Michael Bennett is so versatile.  We need him wreaking havoc on the outside, containing the run game; but we need him even more on the inside, slashing through the line and making the opposing quarterback’s life a living hell.  He allows you to play less versatile guys on the outside in obvious passing downs, which gives this team three viable pass rushing options to get the job done.  Without Bennett, the Seahawks have absolutely zero interior push (unless they blitz up the middle, which they rarely do), so losing him would completely change the defense.
  4. Cliff Avril – This more or less speaks to the lack of depth we have in our pass rush.  I’ve narrowed it down to three guys:  Bennett, Avril, and Frank Clark.  The drop-off, from a defensive end standpoint, is pretty stark.  Cassius Marsh?  He’s never proven to be anything more than a solid special teams guy, and someone surprisingly good against the run.  But, Marsh has never really been a pass rush specialist.  With Bruce Irvin now on the Raiders, and Chris Clemons having retired, this team REALLY needs someone to shock the world in the pre-season.
  5. Earl Thomas – I tried to fend it off as long as I could.  Kelcie McCray appears to be the backup, though, and I thought he looked pretty good last year!  Nevertheless, there’s only one Earl Thomas, and after making it through last year, able to prepare for this season from a standpoint of health, I would expect him to be a scud missile this season.  He allows this defense to get away with so much, because he can cover so much ground.  Combined with Sherm, and a solid triad of Lane, Shead, and Simon on the other side/in the nickel, it allows Kam and/or Browner to play closer to the box and be the enforcer this defense thrives off of.
  6. Bobby Wagner – Because no one wants to see Brock Coyle in there.
  7. Richard Sherman – Because while I like the depth of our secondary as it stands now, we all know it’s only a matter of time before Tharold Simon is lost for the year, and at THAT point, we’d be proper fucked.
  8. Frank Clark – Because I really want to see this nickel defense at full strength, to see how well we do in replacing Bruce Irvin.
  9. Thomas Rawls – Because I don’t know if I trust Christine Michael, and I don’t want to go into this season with nothing but rookies at running back.
  10. Germain Ifedi – Because I hate losing highly-rated draft picks in their rookie seasons.  I want him to get all the experience he can, then go into the offseason completely healthy, so instead of rehabbing, he can focus on getting stronger and working on technique (in hopes of being our starting right tackle of the future).

That’s all I got.  I could probably drag this out some more, but the whole 12 thing is played out.

Taking A Hard Look At The Seahawks’ Roster

On Twitter, I heard Pro Football Focus ranked the Seahawks as having the 13th-best roster in the NFL, which on the one hand is absurd, because seriously?  Worse than Philly, Oakland, and Dallas?  And on the other hand, is a missed opportunity, because that’s the perfect opportunity to take an extra dig at this fanbase by ranking the Seahawks 12th (or, at least tied for 12th).

I don’t subscribe to PFF, nor am I an ESPN Insider, because I have enough shit to read on the free Internet, I don’t need to go spending money to read more shit for which I just don’t have the time.  So, I can’t tell you the context or the rationale behind it, but knowing the Seahawks, I think you can look squarely at the offensive line, the loss of Marshawn Lynch, and the questionable pass rush.  If you factor in a couple of key injuries here and there, then who knows?  Maybe the 2016 Seahawks take a large tumble.

So, just how dire is it?

I’ve gone on at length about the O-Line, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so as we get into the pre-season, so I’ll just say this:  it’ll look bad early, it’ll get better as the season goes along, but it’ll always be a source of dismay for the fans.  The question we need answered is:  how bad is it RIGHT NOW (i.e. what is the floor for this unit?), and how much better can it get as it gels over the weeks (i.e. what is the ceiling?)?  Last year, the floor was pretty low.  But, I’m hard-pressed to cite it as the overwhelming reason why we started off the season so poorly (if anything, I’d blame the O-Line for why the season ended the way it did, with a late home loss to the Rams, followed by a first-half dismantling in Carolina in the playoffs).  If the ceiling isn’t going to be any better than it was last year, then we’re either screwed, or we’re going to need to get lucky in our matchups down the stretch and in the post-season.

As for the pass rush, it’s too early to make any definitive statements, which is both exciting and scary.  Assuming Avril and Bennett are back and healthy (and not holding out), that’s a terrific pass rushing base.  The loss of Bruce Irvin certainly hurts, but that opens up a role for Frank Clark, so it’s not all bad.  Can Clark be a percentage of what Irvin gave us?  Will his ceiling be higher?  Let’s not forget, Bruce Irvin wasn’t some Tasmanian Devil; if he was some elite, All Pro pass rusher, the Seahawks would’ve done more to hang onto him.  So, you know, it’s entirely possible that Clark can be exactly what Irvin was, at least from a pass rush standpoint.  And, regardless, we’ve also got Chris Clemons back in the fold, as a veteran LEO end we can use in spots, who should have enough in the tank to give us a little extra something we didn’t have last year.

Barring injury, I’m okay with what our pass rush looks like going into the season.  If we can get what we got last year – which wasn’t Top 5 by any stretch, but was probably closer to league average – I’m entirely fine with that.

Because I think our secondary is going to take a HUGE step forward.  Having Jeremy Lane to start the season is an immediate upgrade over the likes of Cary Williams.  Having some combo of Tharold Simon, Brandon Browner, Tye Smith, and DeShawn Shead, will make us MUCH deeper than we were last year.  And, the inclusion of Browner in more of a safety role – to target the bigger tight ends we were getting beaten by so often last year – should help reduce some of those late-game let-downs we gave up last year.

An outstanding pass rush can – and often will – make up for a lacking secondary.  On the flipside, an outstanding secondary can – and often will – give the pass rush a little extra time to get home.

You can argue that some guys on defense last year didn’t appear to be their usual, dominant selves.  For instance, I didn’t see a lot popping off the screen when I watched Bobby Wagner or Kam Chancellor.  But, I would argue that K.J. Wright took a huge step forward, Richard Sherman was as good as he’s ever been, and you’re going to struggle to convince me Earl Thomas has lost a step.  Just because the guys weren’t making good on a lot of turnover opportunities, doesn’t mean this unit has all of a sudden fallen off the cliff.  If anything, turnovers are random, and could just as easily be this team’s defining characteristic in 2016.

Yes, injuries would kill our depth, but you can say that with any team.  But, I would argue the Seahawks made great strides in free agency to at least shore up some of that depth.  Clemons, as I mentioned above.  Siliga is a great option at tackle behind our draft pick, as well as re-signing Rubin for the 3-Tech.  Mike Morgan is back to compete at SAM in the base defense.  Lane and Browner, as I mentioned above, are upgrades over guys we were starting early last year.  I have high hopes for this defense – as is – to be better than it was in 2015, and to have enough depth to get us through the tough times, should guys go down with nagging complaints that keep them out a few weeks.

Which brings us to the offense.

You don’t go anywhere until you talk about Russell Wilson’s great leap forward over the last half of last season.  That’s hard, real-world evidence of a guy hitting the next level.  That’s important.  It’s also something that needs to be furthered if this offense doesn’t want to take a step back in 2016.

Like it or lump it, the running game is in jeopardy.  The O-Line is, obviously, built to run the ball, so that’s fine.  But, who carries the rock?  Will Rawls be ready?  If he’s ready, will he be the same guy he was in 2015?  If he’s not, or if he’s supplanted, will his replacement have what it takes to carry the load, and at least approach what Beastmode gave us in his healthy years?

Just as there will certainly be some growing pains in our pass protection to start the season, there could very well be similar growing pains in our run game, only the O-Line likely won’t be at fault.  Nevertheless, we’re going to need Wilson to be an elite, Top 5 QB just to MAINTAIN what we were able to do.  Then, once the running game gets going, the sky is the limit for this offense.  But, how long will that take?  And, how many games will it cost us in the early going?

In the passing game, there’s a lot of carry-over, which is nice.  The wide receiver group is pretty much the same, especially at the top-end of the group with Baldwin, Kearse, and Lockett.  While it’s reasonable to question whether Graham will be ready or not, he’ll be back eventually, and in the meantime there’s a lot to like about the guys behind him, with Willson and draft pick Vannett.

I suppose, you could argue that outside of Russell Wilson, and a healthy Graham, there isn’t a lot of dynamic game-changers on offense (like there is on defense).  So, if you’re ranking teams from top to bottom at this arbitrary point in the offseason, you can look at the Seahawks and shrug your shoulders at the running backs, and the overall depth in the receiving game.  While Baldwin was legitimately great in 2016, he’s still seen as a possession receiver.  While Kearse has made some of the biggest, most important catches in franchise history, he’s still seen as Just Another Guy.  Lockett has yet to really prove himself on offense.  And, beyond those guys, you’ve got a bunch of receivers no one has ever heard of before (outside of Seattle, anyway).  And, until someone plays himself into a starting role, the running back group is essentially anonymous, with guys like Prosise and Rawls having the upside you like, while at the same time having the question marks you hate to need to count on.

If I step back and look at this team honestly, you know what I see?  In many ways, it could be a transition year just like 2015.  That’s hard to swallow, as a fan, when you’ve seen this unit – by and large – go to back-to-back Super Bowls.  You’d like to think, for a team this stacked, you wouldn’t need more than a year off before going back to another title game.  But, there were a number of missteps on many fronts that led to this.  Not taking Kam’s holdout seriously and working to build depth at the safety position was something that cost us a couple games last year.  Trying to get by with smoke & mirrors on the O-Line for another year, when you knew you were likely going to lose Okung and Sweezy at season’s end and have to start all over.  And, quite honestly, the severity of the injuries to Rawls and Graham have us in a bind.  It dictated how we drafted – taking an absurd three running backs, hoping that at least two of them will stick – and it’s ultimately going to dictate how high our upside is as we enter the regular season.  Regardless, 2015 was a transition year no one really saw coming, which could very well carry over into a 2-year hangover of sorts from the disasterous end of Super Bowl XLIX.

I go back to floors and ceilings when I think of the 2016 Seahawks.  We’re going to get a clear view of this team’s floor come September, when guys are still getting used to playing (and playing together) on both sides of the ball.  Any injuries on top of that will only delay our potential rise to prominence.  If we can get off to a quality start to the season, while playing at our relative floor, it’ll make all the difference.  Because, in spite of what I see as a team in transition in 2016, I still see a team poised to make a big jump over the second half of the season.  The O-Line should improve with more games played together; the running game should sort itself out as guys get healthy (and rookies get used to the speed of the NFL).  The defense as a whole should be improved over what it was in 2015, so as long as we can keep it patched up and running smoothly (particularly early in the season), there’s a good chance that this “transition year” could morph into another championship year.  Either by overcoming a slow start – and improving our play on the road, particularly through the playoffs – or by overcoming our early-season shortcomings, WINNING in the first half more than our primary NFC rivals, and gelling in time for a quality finish to the season and another high seed in the playoffs.

So, while the roster might indeed be something the rest of the league (and the analyzing public at large) sleeps on, none of that really matters.  All that matters is how the schedule shapes up.  Can a so-so Seahawks squad get through the early weeks before they turn into a butterfly and lay to waste the rest of the league in the later weeks?

The Dolphins, Rams, 49ers, and Jets await us in the first four weeks.  Can we go 3-1 or stay perfect in that stretch?  It’ll be important, because then we get the BYE before hosting the Falcons.  That leads us into our first really important game, in Arizona, before games against the Saints and Bills take us to the midway point in the season.  One would hope, after 8 weeks (if not sooner), the Seahawks can get through their growing pains and start to gel, as I mentioned above.  If the Seahawks can figure out a way to go 6-2 or better in the first half, we’ve got a good chance to be really special, even if the second half is full of teams that are – on paper – super good (Pats, Packers, Panthers, Cards again, not to mention the Bucs and Rams again).

But, if we struggle early, end up 4-4 at the midway point, with all those tough teams yet to play, then yeah, I could see this being another year where we flame out as a Wild Card team, or even miss the playoffs altogether.

The point in all this is while the roster might not be championship level now, or to start the season, it has potential to get there by season’s end, or going into 2017 after a year’s worth of experience for some of these young guys.

In The First Round, Seahawks Draft An Extra Third Round Pick & An O-Lineman

MOTHER OF GOD does the draft take for-fucking-ever!

Hey so funny story, the Seahawks traded back from 26 to 31, to allow the Super Bowl champion Broncos to draft their quarterback of the future, Paxton Lynch.  It made a long day that much longer for Seahawks fans itching for their favorite team to draft Myles Jack make its selection finally.

And then they did.  Germain Ifedi, offensive lineman, Texas A&M.  He’s apparently played right guard and right tackle, and is apparently super athletic.  6’6, 324 pounds, long arms.  So, yeah.  Seahawks see him as a right tackle at the moment, so I guess we have some competition for free agent signee J’Marcus Webb.

On paper, this looks like the Seahawks just re-drafted James Carpenter.  I would say probably a higher upside, someone who should hopefully fare better in pass protection should he manage to stick at right tackle, but in the end a really big body who’s a little raw and in need of some coaching up of his technique.  If he can come in, start right away, make a positive contribution AS a tackle (and not a guard), and most importantly stay healthy, then I think we’ve got a winner.  But, if he comes in all broken down, has to miss half his rookie year due to injury, and is forced to play catch-up in year two like Carpenter was, then I think it’s safe to think, “Here we go again.”

But, you gotta look at it like this:  #1 need for the Seahawks coming into this draft, without question, and by a million billion miles, was and is offensive line help/depth.  Coming in, we were looking at Gilliam, Britt, Lewis, Glowinski, and Webb.  Also known as:  “Never Started At Left Tackle”, “Turnstile Everywhere He’s Played”, “Projects As Career Backup Center”, “One Career Start To His Name”, and who can forget ol’ “Mediocre-To-Terrible Everywhere He’s Played”?  So, if you’re a Seahawks fan, and you’re mad at this pick … I mean, are you blind?  Are you mentally ill?

This draft pick makes Simple Jack's eyes rain ...

This draft pick makes Simple Jack’s eyes rain …

What do you want?  Do you want the Seahawks to address their weakest position – a position that Seahawks fans ACROSS THE BOARD have bitched about non-stop for the last four-plus years – or do you want them to take “Best Player Available” even though they’re kinda set on that position and that side of the ball.

Yes, yes.  I watched the draft like you did.  I saw Myles Jack fall and fall and fall.  It was a little shocking and a little sad, but then again he did pick UCLA over UW, so fuck him!  He doesn’t even really play Bruce Irvin’s position anyway; we would’ve had to move K.J. Wright over to make the whole thing work, and on top of it we’d still be in this pickle with our O-Line.

No, you gotta draft for need.  That’s what the draft is for, to fill NEEDS!  Will Ifedi be good?  Will he start as a rookie?  That remains to be seen.  Given his pedigree, his draft slot, and his build, I’d say there’s a very good chance Tom Cable is able to coach him up to his satisfaction, to where if he’s not our starting right tackle, then he’s at least a starting guard.  Regardless of the details of where he ends up, you know the Seahawks are going to go with the five best offensive linemen that we have.  I think it’s a LOCK that, if he stays healthy, Germain Ifedi will be one of those five linemen.

Sight unseen, I’d be willing to bet at the VERY least he’s better than Justin Britt right this minute.  I also think there’s a better than good chance he’s better than Webb right now, but if not now, he should be come September.  So, there you go, one hole on this team will be filled by this pick.

Weakside linebacker was NOT a hole!  Shit, Myles Jack will probably still be there in the second round for us anyway!  Didn’t you hear?  His knees are about to explode!

The cherry on top of this day ends up being the extra draft pick we got.  For Denver to move up five spots, they had to give us their third rounder, which now means we have three third round picks at the end of the round (our original at 90, Denver’s at 94, and a compensatory pick at 97).  Which means we’re looking at A LOT of action at the end of the day today.  Or, who knows, maybe the Seahawks package something to move up?  Our pick in the second round (56th overall) is pretty nice, but what if you package that with a third rounder to move way up?  Just sayin’ …

Look, yeah, I’ll admit it, Myles Jack was tempting.  That’s a Top 5 talent that just slid all the way out of the first round.  That’s a potential game-changer for whoever has the balls to grab him.  Even on a team like the Seahawks, if they make that pick, you FIND A WAY to get him on the field, regardless of who you’ve already got on your roster.

But, you know what?  I’m not going to rant and rave that he’s not here.  There’s an obvious risk, without an obvious need for his services.  I’m sure he’ll be snapped up by Tennessee with the second pick in the second round and they’ll further be known as The Team That Won The Draft.  You have to admit, trading for a bunch of draft picks, then trading again to move up and grab one of the top left tackles, and THEN having the best defensive talent in the entire draft drop to you in Round 2 is the thing that GM of the Year awards are made for.  So, chin up everyone!

A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

The 2012 Seahawks’ Draft Class Is Very Wealthy

I’ll never EVER get tired of mocking this Bleacher Report post that gave the Seahawks an F grade for their 2012 draft class.  Let’s overlook, for a moment, the fact that grading a draft class the day of, or the next day, or even in the first year, is pretty ridiculous.  You don’t know how good or bad players are going to be!  All you know is what the Mel Kipers of the world have been blathering on about, and they don’t know anything either!  Grading a draft class based on pre-draft projections and predictions is pretty silly.

But, there are some real juicy pull-quotes from that Bleacher Report link.  They called Bruce Irvin, “one of the worst picks in the first round I can ever remember,” before going on to say that the Seahawks, “didn’t draft any positions of need or draft for the future.”  Let’s run down those draft picks really quick:

  • Bruce Irvin, DE/OLB, 1st round, 15th overall
  • Bobby Wagner, MLB, 2nd round, 47th overall
  • Russell Wilson, QB, 3rd round, 75th overall
  • Robert Turbin, RB, 4th round, 106th overall
  • Jaye Howard, DT, 4th round, 114th overall
  • Korey Toomer, LB, 5th round, 154th overall
  • Jeremy Lane, CB, 6th round, 172nd overall
  • Winston Guy, S, 6th round, 181st overall
  • J.R. Sweezy, RG, 7th round, 225th overall
  • Gregg Scruggs, DE, 7th round, 232nd overall
  • Jermaine Kearse, WR, undrafted free agent
  • DeShawn Shead, CB/S, undrafted free agent

I tacked on those key undrafted guys to bolster my argument, but also because they’re still significant players in the NFL.  But, let’s look at this for a moment.  I’m sure I’m not the first to rail into Bleacher Report on this very topic, but they mentioned the Seahawks didn’t draft any positions of need.  Didn’t they?  Let’s look at the 2011 Seahawks for a bit.

Regarding pass rush – which they addressed in the first round with Bruce Irvin – the 2011 Seahawks were in the bottom third of the league, with 33 sacks.  They were essentially Chris Clemons and that’s it.  Looks like a position of need to me.

Regarding the middle linebacker spot – which they addressed in the second round with Bobby Wagner – the 2011 Seahawks were rolling with the aging and injury-prone David Hawthorne.  Lofa Tatupu was gone, K.J. Wright might have gotten a look there, but he’s better suited as an outside linebacker.  And, let’s not forget Aaron Curry on the other side; no help there!  I’d say middle linebacker was a HUGE area of need!

Then, there’s quarterback.  I’ll forgive Bleacher Report if they didn’t believe that the short, running quarterback could hold up in the NFL.  But, to say that quarterback wasn’t an area of need for this team – this team that was trotting out Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst the year before – is insanity.  And, don’t give me Matt “2 starts in the NFL” Flynn, because he was never going to be a sure thing.  In their analysis, Bleacher Report went on to say that Wilson, “doesn’t fit their offense at all,” and was “by far the worst move of the draft.”  Even in the infancy of Wilson’s professional career, while I might understand some doubt, I can’t even remotely understand how drafting him in the third round would be one of the two worst moves in the entire draft (with Irvin being the other one).  By all accounts at the time, if Wilson were only 2 inches taller, he would’ve been a first round, maybe even Top 10 draft pick.  He had all the tools, all the intangibles, everything going for him but those two inches.  The WORST pick?  Seems like hyperbole got the better of Bleacher Report here.  But, either way, what’s that about “fitting the offense”?  What offense?  You mean the one that likes to run the ball a lot?  You mean the one where Tarvaris Jackson was under pressure on a near-constant basis?  Seems to me a running quarterback – behind that suspect offensive line – was EXACTLY the right fit for our offense.

Anyway, I could go on and on.  But, I didn’t really intend on this being a Kill Bleacher Report post.  They’ve been killed enough, by a plethora of other writers out there.  What I want to look at is just how great this class really was.

For starters, all of the guys listed above – each and every person drafted, plus those two undrafted cats – are still in the league four years later.  That’s pretty big, when you think about it.  How many busts have we seen get drafted and are out of the league a few months later?

Now, obviously, not all of these guys are still with the Seahawks.  But, that just goes to show you how strong this class really was:  we couldn’t afford to keep them all!  Hell, at the moment we only have 5 out of 12 of those guys, and Shead’s on the last year of his deal!  Nevertheless, everyone but Shead has seen a second deal, and Shead is all but guaranteed to join the party after the 2016 season, given his versatility.

On top of that, five of those guys have pretty wealthy second deals that they’ve recently signed, with another couple more making some serious money too.  Below, I’ve re-listed all those guys, with how much money they earned on their rookie deals, as well as their general current contract terms next to it.

  • Irvin – $9 million earned / 4 years, $37 million, $19 million guaranteed
  • Wagner – $3.3 million earned / 4 years, $43 million, $22 million guaranteed
  • Wilson – $2.2 million earned / 4 years, $87.6 million, $61.5 million guaranteed
  • Turbin – $2.5 million earned / 1 year, $760K in 2016
  • Howard – $2.5 million earned / 2 years, $10 million, $8.3 million guaranteed
  • Toomer – $1 million earned / 1 year, $600K in 2016
  • Lane – $2.3 million earned / 4 years, $23 million, $11 million guaranteed
  • Guy – $1.8 million earned / 2 years, $1.42 million
  • Sweezy – $3.4 million earned / 5 years, $32.5 million, $14.5 million guaranteed
  • Scruggs – $1.6 million earned / 2 years, $1.3 million
  • Kearse – $3.8 million earned / 3 years, $13.5 million, $6.3 million guaranteed
  • Shead – $2.2 million earned / 1 year, $760K in 2016

All told, that’s $35.6 million earned, with another potential $251.4 million in their current contracts (with Shead’s second deal to come next year) and $142.6 million in guaranteed money.  If you ask me, that’s a pretty nasty draft class.  2012 is the type of draft you only dream about.  It not only sets you up to win now, but to win for many years down the line.  We’re talking about 7 starters, 5 more reserve/rotation guys, with an All Pro and a Pro Bowler in the mix.  Outstanding!

Brandon Browner Is Back, The Legion Of Boom Is Whole Again

One of the more interesting moves of the offseason has seen the Seahawks return to some familiar faces, in signing Chris Clemons and now Brandon Browner to 1-year prove-it deals.  As this post posits, perhaps this is a reaction to a perceived void in veteran leadership on this team.  You could argue that this team has a lot of leaders already, in Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse on offense; and Earl, Sherm, Wagner, Wright, Bennett and Avril on defense.  Nevertheless, I would say – to borrow from Jim Mora Jr. a little bit – that the team doesn’t necessarily have very many dirtbags on the team.  Enforcers who bring one primary trait to the table:  pain.  Clemons, by all accounts, is a nasty customer, whose focus on taking out the quarterback is legendary on this team.  And, of course, we all know how lethal Brandon Browner can be.  I would also note that with Kris Richard as a first-time defensive coordinator, and a young one at that, it’s nice to have an abundance of veterans on this defense to show the younger players how it’s supposed to be done.

In the ol’ Gods & Clods way of team-building, you’ve got a lot of expensive players, and a lot of very VERY cheap players (usually rookies/guys on rookie deals).  When you can bring in players on cheap, 1-year deals, who know the system and are able to bring something of a teaching element to Training Camp (even if it’s simply leading by example), I believe there’s really no downside to these types of moves.  There’s no guarantee either Clemons or Browner make the team in 2016, but if they push younger guys to be great in the pre-season, they will have been well worth the modest cost of their signing bonuses.

With both of these guys, you’re looking at 50/50 deals as far as whether they make the team or not.  I think with Clemons, it’ll be a matter of him proving he’s still got it.  You don’t bring in a guy like Clemons to be a starter; you bring him in to add a little extra to your pass rush in obvious passing situations (to help lessen the blow of losing a guy like Irvin).  If he comes in during Training Camp and pre-season and he looks a step slower than everyone, then hey, at least he’ll impart some lessons to the younger guys, and it doesn’t cost you much to cut him.

With Browner, I’ll give the same odds of him making the team, even though his position has much more competition.  Browner’s reputation has taken quite a hit the last couple years.  He was a big part of costing the Seahawks in Super Bowl XLIX, but at the same time, he was super prone to penalties and was cut by the Patriots after the season ended.  Then, he cashed in with New Orleans, but his defensive coordinator was a boob and didn’t use him properly, so he continued making many boneheaded penalties and getting beat frequently.  The Seahawks know what Browner brings to the table, limitations and all.  In this system, Browner made a name for himself, and was able to cash in on that.  Returning to this system, we should see something of a bounce-back year out of him (assuming he makes the team, of course).

I’m not as negative as a lot of Seahawks fans are with this move, mostly because I agree the guy wasn’t in the right scheme last year.  If you bring in a veteran on a free agent deal, you sure as shit better adapt your defense to him and not the other way around.  With a rookie, you can mold him; with a veteran, you’re not teaching an old dog new tricks (unless he’s a superstar like Revis, but even then, he struggled a bit in Tampa when they had him play more zone coverage than his customary lockdown man coverage).

I’m also tempering my expectations a little bit.  Browner’s best years with the Seahawks were in 2011 and 2012 (mostly 2011, if we’re being honest; his Pro Bowl season).  He wasn’t exactly all that dominant in 2013, when he played only 8 games, and wasn’t even around during the stretch run or the playoff run; that’s where Byron Maxwell stepped into the starter’s role and ran with it.  Even Browner at his best has his limitations.  He’s not as great against smaller, shifty receivers.  Against a guy like Kearse – who he was able to shut down in the Super Bowl – Browner is all kinds of effective.  In that sense, you wonder if he’s a guy who will see a lot of time in certain games, against certain teams, and then next to nothing against others.

What we should all be looking forward to is the fact that – barring injury – Browner isn’t coming in to be a starter.  Jeremy Lane is the one who got the big contract, and he’s going to see the majority of the snaps on the field after Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Browner is here for depth – so the team is able to push Lane inside on nickel situations – and he’s here to push Tharold Simon, who is solid when healthy, but who’s never healthy for a full season.  In that sense, as a depth piece, he further cements the secondary as the best unit on the team, and nearly brings us back to the greatness that was the secondary of 2013.

We’ll see how it all shakes out in the pre-season, but my initial impressions are nothing but favorable.

Knowing What We Know Now: Who Should The Seahawks Draft?

In the days following the end of the Seahawks’ season, a lot of bloggers like myself took to their keyboards to concoct plans for what the Seahawks should do this offseason.  I was no different, and I think it’s fun to go back and look at how things in real life differed from my Seahawks Vision Board (for the TL;DR crowd:  scroll to the very bottom for my concise list).

Part of what made my list so impractical is that I really didn’t have a handle on how much cap room the Seahawks really had.  Nor could I have seen how much money some guys – like Irvin and Sweezy – would end up commanding on the open market.  But, let’s quickly go one by one down the list to see how my vision differs from reality:

  1. The Seahawks did, in fact, let Okung go and move Gilliam to LT – CHECK!
  2. Couldn’t bring back Sweezy, cost too much (probably for the best anyway)
  3. Instead of “stud free agent guard”, the Seahawks went for a so-so guard and opted to move him to right tackle (Webb)
  4. (draft stud left guard in 1st round – draft hasn’t happened yet, but might be unlikely to see a stud fall to 26th overall)
  5. Seahawks brought back Lewis at center – CHECK! – and may indeed draft one as well
  6. Seahawks seem set at leaving Britt at left guard, and have already named Webb the starting right tackle, so this prediction looks like a bust
  7. Lynch retired, Rawls looks good to be the team’s #1, team re-signed Michael to be the #2, and still could draft a third down back late – ALMOST CHECK!
  8. Have yet to extend Baldwin, but still have time to do so
  9. Re-signed Kearse to 3-year, $13.5 million – CHECK!
  10. Kept Rubin, let Mebane go, replaced Mebane with cheap FA option (Siliga), and still could draft another – ALMOST CHECK!
  11. Seahawks didn’t re-sign Irvin (too expensive), looking to spread savings elsewhere – EITHER WAY I COULDN’T LOSE THIS CHECK!
  12. Re-signed Lane to 4-year, $23 million – CHECK!  (even better because I projected more money in my prediction)

So, I’m well on my way to getting 7 of these things right, with potential to get to 9 by the time the draft passes and we get closer to Training Camp.

Anyway, we’ve got a good idea of what most of the roster looks like right now.  In all likelihood, the Seahawks already have at least 39 of 53 players on their roster right now, and possibly as many as 49 of 53, depending on how the pre-season shakes out.  Let me run a quick list of my thoughts on the roster right now.  Guys listed I feel are locks, guys in parentheses () are potential roster guys, and if he’s not on the list, he’s a longshot in my eyes:

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Thomas Rawls – RB
  • Christine Michael – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Jermaine Kearse – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Paul Richardson – WR
  • (Kevin Smith – WR)
  • (Kasen Williams – WR)
  • Jimmy Graham – TE
  • Luke Willson – TE
  • (Cooper Helfet – TE)
  • Garry Gilliam – LT
  • Justin Britt – LG
  • Patrick Lewis – C
  • Mark Glowinski – RG
  • J’Marcus Webb – RT
  • (Kristjan Sokoli – C)
  • (Drew Nowak – C)
  • (Terry Poole – T)
  • (Bradley Sowell – T)

I ranked these guys in order (by position), so I think it’s more likely Kevin Smith makes it over Kasen Williams, but neither is a sure thing.  I think Helfet is here for insurance, but it wouldn’t shock me for the team to draft another tight end, or sign a guy off the free agent scrap heap who’s a quality blocker.  I think the team likely keeps one of Sokoli/Nowak and one of Poole/Sowell, depending on who looks best in the pre-season.  Anyway, that’s the offense.  I think we have a minimum of 16 offensive players already under contract, with the potential (though unlikely) of up to 21 players.  The Seahawks will need around 24-25 offensive players by the time the regular season starts.

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DE
  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Cassius Marsh – DE
  • (Chris Clemons – DE)
  • Ahtyba Rubin – DT
  • Sealver Siliga – DT
  • Jordan Hill – DT
  • (A.J. Francis – DT)
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Mike Morgan – LB
  • Brock Coyle – LB
  • Kevin Pierre-Lewis – LB
  • (Eric Pinkins – LB)
  • Richard Sherman – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB
  • DeShawn Shead – CB
  • Tharold Simon – CB
  • (Tye Smith – CB)
  • (Marcus Burley – CB)
  • Earl Thomas – S
  • Kam Chancellor – S
  • Kelcie McCray – S
  • Steven Terrell – S

As we learned recently, there’s relatively little guaranteed money in the Clemons signing, which means he’s going to have to earn his spot in the pre-season.  As the team is likely to draft a defensive end relatively high, it could be a tough roster spot to win.  I think the team likes Francis a lot, so his spot largely comes down to how high another defensive tackle is drafted, and how well that player performs.  Pinkins has always been a bubble guy, but he’s stuck around for the most part.  Smith and Burley might have a lot to prove, as I feel like the team will be in the market for another tall, outside corner, meaning there might not be many nickel corner spots to go around.  I have it as at least 20 defensive players already on the roster, with potential for up to 25.  Considering the max is probably 25-26 defensive players, I wouldn’t bank on me having all 25 predicted right now.

  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Jon Ryan – P
  • (Drew Ferris – LS)

I don’t know where the Seahawks are going with their long snapper position, and I don’t want to know.  Just make it a guy who won’t fuck up, ever.

That exercise more or less gives us an idea of what the Seahawks need heading into the draft.  A backup quarterback, probably two more running backs and a fullback, maybe a wide receiver and/or a tight end.  Maybe 2-3 offensive linemen (particularly a Center of the Future who can sit and watch and bulk up in his first year).  You always like to create competition among the pass rush – so probably one of each as far as end and tackle are concerned.  Probably not a linebacker, unless you find an undrafted guy or a late-round guy you like a lot.  Maybe a corner and maybe a safety to add to the depth there.

At the moment, the Seahawks have 9 draft picks.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seahawks move down once or twice, build up to 11 or 12 draft picks if they can.  But, assuming we’ve just got the 9, let’s take a look at where they are:

  • First round – 26th
  • Second round – 56th
  • Third round – 91st
  • Third round – 97th
  • Fourth round – 124th
  • Fifth round – 171st
  • Sixth round – 215th
  • Seventh round – 225th
  • Seventh round – 247th

The great thing about this draft is how strong it is along both the offensive and defensive lines.  So, that Center of the Future I’m talking about?  You can probably find him in the third or fourth round.  And, unless a real dominant pass-rushing force of a defensive tackle falls to you at 26, you can probably get an all-around good guy/run stuffer in the third or fourth round.  So, while you could argue those are the two biggest needs (C and DT), you probably don’t need to draft either of those in the first two rounds, unless you find someone really special.

Among the other highly-pressing needs this team has, we’re talking about the guard/tackle position on the offensive line, and a pass-rushing end on the defensive side.  While you like to find starters for your team in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have so few holes on their roster that it seems pretty improbable they’re going to draft either of these positions and find guys who will start right away.  Gilliam seems pretty entrenched as the team’s left tackle (and looks pretty studly, from the videos I’ve seen of his workout routines), and Britt is probably locked in at guard, considering he’s been a starter since day 1, he has experience, and he’ll be going into the second straight year as this team’s left guard (that consistency – not jerking him around from spot to spot – will hopefully help him to improve his overall technique).  Likewise, when you’re talking about the team’s defensive ends, Avril and Bennett are the guys.  Clark has a leg up over everyone, and Marsh has experience to probably fend off any defensive end we pick at either of the first two draft spots.

Nightmares of Lawrence Jackson notwithstanding, you hope to at least find a rotation guy at 26, if you go the defensive end route.

Since we’re talking about the Seahawks – a team that had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin securely under contract, then went out and drafted Christine Michael in the 2nd round anyway – you have to talk about the possibility of John Schneider and Pete Carroll going rogue in the first two rounds.  Ultimately, I think the Seahawks draft Best Player Available with their first pick, if not their first two picks (though, it’s hard to see them not taking a pass rusher with either one).  So, if a quality cornerback or tight end falls to them late in the first round – even though those are two positions I believe the Seahawks are particularly strong in, and therefore should be among the last positions the team targets in the draft – it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.  Even running back has to be on the table here.  I like Rawls as much as the next guy, and while I think they could go so far as to ignore the running back position altogether in the draft (and pick up someone like Arian Foster after the draft, to be in the RB rotation), it wouldn’t shock me if they saw Beastmode 2.0 fall to them at 26 and take him.  For as important as the running game is to Pete Carroll, don’t rule it out.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Seahawks pick two of the following three spots in the first two rounds:  offensive guard/offensive tackle and defensive end.

In the third & fourth rounds, where the Seahawks have three picks, I’d like to see a center, a defensive tackle, and either a quality cornerback, or a third down running back.

In the fifth and sixth rounds, I’d like to see whatever they don’t get in that last pairing (either a cornerback or third down running back) and an outside linebacker to push Mike Morgan as we replace Bruce Irvin.

In the seventh round, I think the Seahawks pick up another offensive lineman (whatever they don’t draft – guard or tackle – in the first two rounds), and either another running back, a fullback, or a project at either cornerback, safety, or tight end.

And, if I have to be specific, let’s make it so:

  • First round – Offensive Guard
  • Second round – Defensive End
  • Third round – Center
  • Third round – Defensive Tackle
  • Fourth round – Running Back
  • Fifth round – Cornerback
  • Sixth round – Outside Linebacker
  • Seventh round – Offensive Tackle
  • Seventh round – Fullback

Seahawks Re-Sign Jeremy Lane, Jermaine Kearse, and Jon Ryan

I want to say the coolest news of them all dropped on Friday, after all the signings I just mentioned in the title of this post.  That’s when we found out the Seahawks received 3 extra draft picks in this year’s draft:  a third rounder, a fifth rounder, and a sixth rounder.  These compensatory picks are my favorite things in the world, because they reward smart teams (who are smart because they build through the draft) for other teams’ stupidity (who are stupid because they build through free agency).  Last year, the Seahawks let Byron Maxwell explore free agency, and the Philadelphia Eagles made one of the more mind-boggling signings in recent memory (made all the worse on their part by Maxwell having his worst season ever as a starter).  Similarly, the Seahawks let James Carpenter go to the Jets, and Malcolm Smith to the Raiders.  We got the third round pick for losing Maxwell, the fifth rounder for Carpenter, and the sixth rounder for Smith; these are determined by the size of the contract.  All told, this brings the Seahawks up to 9 total draft picks:  a first, a second, 2 thirds, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and 2 sevenths; four of those draft picks are in the Top 100.  Here’s to hoping we don’t trade them away for any suck-ass veterans.

I was under something of a time crunch last week, so I couldn’t really comment on everything as it was happening.  Last week, of course, was the start of Free Agency, and news was flying around like crazy.  I’ve already written about the Seahawks re-signing Rubin and losing Irvin, Sweezy, and Mebane.  Now, we’re on to happier posts:  the Seahawks retaining bigtime contributors.

You’ll notice that the first week of free agency has seen the Seahawks only sign guys who were on the team last year, and no guys from outside the organization.  That’s by design.  For starters, every time you sign a guy from outside the organization, it nullifies all the players from your team that others have signed away (when it comes to those compensatory draft picks I was writing about up top).  Right now, we’re looking at something like a 4th rounder for Irvin, maybe a 5th rounder for Sweezy, and maybe a 6th rounder for Mebane.  If we were to sign a guy from outside the organization for big money, it would take away that draft pick we’re getting for Irvin.  If we sign a guy to a medium deal, it likely cancels out Sweezy’s draft pick, and so on.

The other reasons why the Seahawks haven’t signed anyone from outside of the organization include the fact that we really don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around like the Raiders, Giants, and Jaguars.  Also, it’s just not a smart model for NFL success.  Like I said before, you build your foundation with the draft, and you supplement that team through free agency.  But, once you start over-paying for your building blocks on the free market, that’s how you get into cap hell.  Free agents tend to be older, and more prone to breaking down or declining in their skillsets; draft picks have nowhere to go but up!

But, finally, probably the biggest reason why the Seahawks haven’t signed anyone from outside the organization yet is simply because we need to re-sign our own guys, who tend to be better than anything else that’s on the market (and if not better, then at least they know our system better).

Jeremy Lane, for me, is probably the most important signing the Seahawks will make in this offseason.  He came in at 4 years, $23 million, which is FANTASTIC.  The first two years are beyond reasonable for a guy with his skillset, who can play outside in our base defense, and who can shift inside when we go nickel.  If he proves to be as indispensable as I think he’ll be, then the last two years are still at a reasonable cost to the team (especially when you consider the salary cap overall should still be going up at that point).  But, if he plays poorly or is injury prone, we can cut him after two years with relatively little damage.

You may recall that Lane was one of my 12 priorities for this offseason (scroll to the very bottom for the TL;DR version of that post).  I thought 4 years, $30 million was reasonable, so this deal is even better in my book.

In looking at the rest of my wishlist, it really hasn’t gone down the way I had it, but that’s not the worst thing in the world.  Sweezy is gone, but Okung is still in play.  Considering Okung is the better lineman, if we can get him back at a reasonable cost, I’d be for it.  If he leaves, I wouldn’t be depressed.  We haven’t signed any of the stud left guards out there, but there’s still a chance to draft one.  We re-signed Rubin and let Mebane go, instead of the other way around; but it does look like we’re both going to sign a cheap DT and draft one high.  Given Irvin’s contract, we couldn’t have brought him back on a reasonable deal, so we’re using the savings in other areas.

And, if you look at #9 on my list, one of those areas just might be re-signing Jermaine Kearse.  I predicted 3 years, $13 million, which was based on the extension we gave Baldwin before.  Kearse ended up getting 3 years, $13.5 million, which I guess accounts for inflation (for what it’s worth, I still think the Seahawks are going to work on extending Baldwin this year, if he’ll go for it).

I love the Kearse deal for all the reasons I wrote about here.  He solidifies our WR corps as a whole, meaning we don’t necessarily have to count on Kevin Smith and/or Kasen Williams to make a huge leap in production; or count on Richardson and/or Lockette (if he makes it back) to stay healthy.  He knows the system, he works well with Russell Wilson, he’s a reliable pass-catcher, route runner, and blocker on the edge.  He’s got big play ability, obviously.  And, this means we’re less likely to trade away draft picks for receivers on other teams.  I like any move that will save this front office from itself, and while John Schneider and Company have a lot of great strengths, one of their weaknesses is certainly how they value low-end first round draft picks (and how they give away multiple draft picks for other teams’ star receivers).  Likewise, this buys us at least a year when it comes to drafting a receiver in the upper rounds.  This draft is heavy along the O-Line and D-Line.  It’s not so great at receiver.  So, what say we fill up on beef in 2016, and maybe look at the 2017 draft for a top-notch receiver, huh?

A wide receiver unit that goes Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson inspires a LOT more confidence in me than one that goes Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, and Smith.  For that price?  $13.5 million, with the option to cut him after two years for relatively little dead money?  That, my friends, is what I am talking about.

Finally, the MVP is back!  I don’t think I want to live in a world where Jon Ryan isn’t our punter.  He signed a 4-year, $10 million deal that gives him a $2.4 million signing bonus and only 2016’s base salary is guaranteed ($1 million).  We could cut him after this year and have less than $2 million in dead money (very unlikely, if you ask me), and his cap hits don’t go over $3 million until the third year of the deal (at which point, it’s probably the going rate for MVP-quality punters anyway).