Taking A Pre-2017 Look At The Seahawks’ 2018 Free Agents

There’s a great post over at Hawkblogger this week, taking a look at some of the decisions the Seahawks have to make looking beyond the 2017 season.  As it stands, this year is pretty much set.  The 2017 Seahawks might go dumpster diving at the tail end of the pre-season to pick up some bargains among other teams’ cuts, but for the most part what you see is what you get.

However, the 2018 Seahawks could look VERY different.  Well, okay, maybe putting the “very” all in caps is a bit of hyperbole, but there are some big pieces that could be playing elsewhere next year.  Big pieces to this team’s success dating back to 2012.  Guys we’ll always remember fondly for taking this team to such dramatic heights.

Obviously, part of this conversation – as noted in the Hawkblogger article – has to do with guys who will be cut after this year; guys just not getting the job done anymore, relative to the size of their contract.  Jermaine Kearse and Jeremy Lane generally top this list, but there’s just SO MUCH that can change in a year.  People getting injured, people becoming disgruntled, people getting unloaded for other players and/or draft picks to try to fill a position of need.  I’m not going to get into that today, as I believe there’s enough to talk about among just the impending free agents for next year.

The biggest names are as follows:

  • Kam Chancellor
  • Jimmy Graham
  • Justin Britt
  • DeShawn Shead
  • Eddie Lacy
  • Paul Richardson
  • Luke Willson
  • Cassius Marsh
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis
  • Luke Joeckel
  • Bradley McDougald

I’m going to work my way backwards here.  Let’s start off with McDougald and Joeckel.  They were brought in this season, along with a flurry of other guys on 1-year deals (Aboushi, Wilhoite, Garvin, Arthur Brown, Blair Walsh, Austin Davis, maybe a couple/few others), and honestly we don’t know anything about these guys.  They were given 1-year deals for a reason; they need to prove that they deserve multi-year contracts.  A few of them might not even play for the Seahawks this year!  Others might be relegated to backup status.  And a few just might break out and have great seasons.  We’ll just have to let the year play out and revisit them next off-season.

KPL and Cassius Marsh have spent the majority of their professional careers as backups and Special Teamers.  Neither of these guys even have their jobs secure for THIS year, so it’s weird to talk about their futures.  I do think Marsh will make the team this year, but I’m not breaking the bank to bring him back in 2018.  Unless he gets blown away by another team – either with more money or an opportunity for more playing time – I think maybe Marsh goes year-to-year with the Seahawks, until either he has a breakout season, or it starts to cost too much money to keep bringing him back year-to-year.  As for KPL, I think the writing is on the wall.  The Seahawks went out and brought in A LOT of linebackers on 1-year deals to come in and compete for his very roster spot, because by and large he’s been something of a disappointment.  I think he’s been pretty good on Special Teams, but probably not an elite-level player at that spot.  Unless he’s coming into Training Camp having taken a HUGE leap, I think he’s one of the final roster cuts as the team gets to 53 players ahead of opening weekend.

Luke Willson and Paul Richardson are a couple of interesting players.  Both were Seahawks draft picks with unique offensive abilities.  Both have, I guess, underwhelmed in their tenure here?  That’s probably not fair on Willson’s part; I think he’s been a fine player (coming from a terrible 2013 draft class) and I think he’s done what’s been expected of him.  He’s been healthy for the most part, he’s in an offense that doesn’t throw a ton compared to others around the NFL, and he really hasn’t had that many opportunities to be the TE1 on this team.  Sometimes guys ahead of him have gotten injured and thrust him into that role, but no one is going to put him up there with the great tight ends around the NFL.  The last couple years, he’s been firmly behind Jimmy Graham (i.e. the team was so concerned about the position, they went out of their way to make a blockbuster trade to bring in a true TE1).  As a TE2, I think Willson is fine.  He’s had his moments, he seems to be a good all-around player, and he hasn’t really cost this team a whole lot.  He’s making $1.8 million this year, on a 1-year free agent deal, because he couldn’t find anything better anywhere else in the league; that should say something about his value.  I’ll be really interested in where the Seahawks go with the tight end position going forward.  I think a lot has to do with what they do with Graham.  If Graham gets an extension, I think that’s it for Willson.  If they let Graham go in free agency, and Willson has an okay year, maybe you see the Seahawks bring him back on a 2-3 year deal at a very modest salary (just because I think it would be crippling to lose both of your top 2 TEs in the same year).  Some of it will have to do with Nick Vannett, a draft pick from 2016; is HE going to take a step up?  If he proves to be a capable and competent TE2, then the need to re-sign Willson goes way down (unless, again, Graham goes bye bye).

As for P-Rich, he’s the true underwhelming player of the two, from an underwhelming 2014 draft.  Of course, most of that has to do with all the injuries he’s sustained, but we really saw a whole new side of him down the stretch last year and in the playoffs, once Tyler Lockett went down.  The question we have to ask is:  who is the real Paul Richardson?  Is it the injury-prone string bean?  Or, is it the athletic freak who’s jumping all over the place making crazy catches through defenders?  Because, you know what?  The Seahawks could REALLY use the latter.  Indeed, the Seahawks have been looking for the latter pretty much since Pete Carroll got here.  Richardson isn’t that tall receiver we always talk about, but when he’s doing what he was doing in the playoffs, he PLAYS like a tall receiver.  If you pair THAT guy with the all-around greatness of a Doug Baldwin, and the speedy Lockett, we’re talking about one of the best wide receiver rooms in the league.  For a lot of these guys coming up, I’m going to be talking about whether or not the Seahawks should do an extension ASAP, do an extension at some point during the season, or wait until the season’s over and try to re-sign them; with P-Rich, it’s still early, but I think if he comes out of the gates on fire, you look to do an extension mid-season.  Get him locked up before the rest of the league has a chance to get its hooks in him.  I know the injury risk is there, and I’m sure any extension would reflect that in its guarantees/incentives, but if he looks as good in the first couple months of the season as he did in the playoffs, I think you LOCK THAT DOWN.

Eddie Lacy is another guy the Seahawks brought in on a 1-year prove-it deal, but he’s different than those depth guys.  He’s actually shown he belongs in this league.  I think he’ll come in here in the shape they want him to be in, and I think he’ll really flourish in this system.  That having been said, I’m really waffling on what the Seahawks should do with him.  I do think they need to wait it out a little bit before thinking about extending him.  Part of that has to do with the running back market itself; I don’t want the Seahawks to necessarily bid against themselves.  Part of it also has to do with how Rawls and Prosise look.  If those two stay healthy, and consistently blow teams away, is there really a need to keep Lacy beyond 2017?  Ultimately, I think you have to hold off until the next off-season and do a big picture assessment.  If Rawls and Prosise are hampered with nagging injuries again, and Lacy has a good year, then by all means wrap him up.  But, definitely wait and see.

The Seahawks caught a bit of a break in the DeShawn Shead situation.  On the one hand, yeah, it sucks balls that he’s hurt, and that he was hurt so late into last season; but on the other hand we WILL see him again in 2017.  He’ll get substantial action towards the back-half of the season, which will determine his fate.  Also, by that time, we should have a pretty decent idea of what we have in the new guys.  If one or more of the rookies really steps up and gets better as the season goes on, then there’s less of a need to go all out in re-signing Shead.  Also, if Shead fails in his rehab, or gets re-injured, then obviously his future is going to be determined by prove-it and/or incentive-laden deals.  But, if Shead comes back, plays like the Shead of old, and the rookies have more growing pains to go through than expected, then I fully expect the Seahawks to put in a good effort in bringing him back.  But, this would be another situation where I’d have the Seahawks hold off until next off-season.

As for Justin Britt, I’m surprisingly on the fence.  Going into this, I have to point out that the Jags just gave their center the highest contract ever for a center, at 5 years and $51.7 million, with $24 million guaranteed.  Is Britt worthy of that?  I’m not sure; his 2017 season will have a lot to say about that.  But, at the very least, that’s the market price now.  It’s the high-end of the market, but it’s out there, and it’s what Britt’s agent is going to aspire to.  I like Britt.  I like Britt as this team’s center, and I’d like to have Britt around for the rest of Russell Wilson’s career.  I like setting up a QB/Center duo and keeping them together for as long as possible; I think it’s very important to an offense’s success.  I also like the fact that they’re comparing his work ethic and leadership abilities to Max Unger.  I WANT that!  But, do I want to pay him upwards of $50 million?  When you take a look at that Hawkblogger article at the top, it shows you the percentage of what the Seahawks pay per position, and it’s clear that the team is robbing the O-Line to pay the secondary (and the defense as a whole).  While we can expect a bump in the NFL’s salary cap, will it be enough to offset Britt’s new deal?  Will that also allow us to extend other guys they want to or need to extend?  After all, we do need to start thinking about Frank Clark, and third contracts for guys like Russell Wilson, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, and so on.

There’s also the issue of Ethan Pocic that I find utterly fascinating.  To date, he really hasn’t been talked up as a guy in the driver’s seat for a job on this offensive line, even though it was God awful last year, and even though he was a 2nd round pick this year.  In years past, as we’ve seen with guys like Britt and Ifedi, those higher draft picks have been slotted into starting jobs immediately upon entering the league.  So, what gives with Pocic?  I mean, I think the Seahawks have done an okay job in bolstering the depth along the O-Line, but it’s by no means vastly improved!  You’re telling me from a strict talent point of view, Pocic isn’t immediately better than some of these crappy veterans?  Which gets me to wondering if maybe this team isn’t grooming him to be Britt’s replacement.  After all, he was a center primarily in college, and that appears to be his best position.  Do we give him a year to learn behind Britt, then hand him the keys in 2018?  Thereby saving this team money and allowing them to fill in other spots?

I guess we’ll see.  In a vacuum, I’d say Britt has earned an extension and he’s earned it yesterday.  But, taking everything else into consideration, where does center rank on this team’s priorities list?  I’d wager not as high.  In an ideal world, Britt is here for the duration, but I don’t know if that’s how the Seahawks want to operate.

Moving on, we’ve got the case for Jimmy Graham.  I’ve been in love with his contract ever since we got him, because essentially nothing was guaranteed.  We could’ve cut him at any point without any dead cap; and from day 1 I’ve been clamoring for the team to let it play out just as they have.  So, it would make zero sense for them to extend him now.  If they were going to do that, they should’ve done it before the free agency period, so they could’ve used the extra cap space to get someone better than Luke Joeckel to be this team’s left guard.  Now, they COULD do the extension mid-season, but I think that would be a mistake.  He made it through all the games last year intact, but I have to believe the injury from 2015 is weighing heavily on their minds.  Quite frankly, I don’t like the way he’s taken some of the hits he was taking last year; he tends to get blown the fuck up in the middle of the field, and I think it’s only a matter of time before he sustains another serious injury.  Also, let’s face it, he’ll be 31 in November; how many more great years does he have left?  He’s obviously going to be looking for another bigtime contract, because he’s one of the most talented and athletic tight ends in the game today, but do we really want to risk it on an aging player?

For what it’s worth, even if he does get injured, as long as it’s not another devastating knee injury, I think he’ll have a nice second act to his career.  I could very much see him being a Tony Gonzalez type, a veteran presence who knows how to get open and work the open zones of a defense.  But, I think his years of being an elite, Top 3 tight end in this league are numbered (and I think that number is one you can count on one hand).  For me, I think you let him walk.  I think you thank him for his services, but you do NOT pay him whatever the market price will be for him in 2018 and beyond, and I think you go in another direction for your big red zone presence.  Because, let’s face it, with all of 8 TDs combined in his two seasons here, it’s pretty fucking obvious the Seahawks STILL haven’t figured out how to get him the ball in the endzone.  So, why chase good money after bad?  Keep tight end the fringe offensive weapon it’s supposed to be, and look to Luke Willson, or some other young guy, to get those 30-40 catches per season.  Frankly, I’d rather have another Zach Miller type anyway, with the way this team struggles in pass protection.

Which brings us to Kam Chancellor.  I’ve been on the Extend Kam train for a while now, and I still think we can get a deal done – a la with Marshawn Lynch’s final contract in Seattle – where he gets the money he deserves, while the Seahawks get the cap security they want.  After all, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t want to go throwing around a ton of guarantees for a guy who hasn’t had a fully healthy season since 2013!  If that’s what he’s expecting, or if he’s still got a sour taste in his mouth from his holdout, then maybe he just wants to get out of Seattle and finish out his career elsewhere, which would be a shame.  For a guy who’s been as critical, as inspirational, as fun to watch, I’d really hate for this relationship to end poorly.  And, for the record, I do think he has some good years left in him.  I’d LOVE to see him retire as a Seahawk and one day go into our Ring of Honor, and who knows?  Maybe he’s already done enough to get in there.  But, he’s a unique talent, and I’d hate to see him come back in another team’s uniform and start murdering our guys.

All in all, a lot of intrigue for this 2017 season.  Not just because of this being another year in the closing Championship Window for these Seattle Seahawks, but in how this team transitions from one Championship Window to (hopefully) the next.  Who will be the biggest stars and key components of the 2018 season and beyond?  Will guys like Clark, Prosise, McDowell, and Griffin be the next studs who deserve huge, bank-breaking second contracts?  And, who among those studs we have now will deserve even huger, bank-breakinger third contracts?  2017 will go a long way in parsing that out; it should be fun to watch.

Taking A Pre-Training Camp Look At The 2017 Seahawks Roster

Going into the 2013 season, I was as high on the Seahawks as I’ve ever been.  Indeed, there have been a number of years where I’ve predicted a Seahawks championship, but I’ve never been as certain as I was before that fateful season.

This year, on the other hand, I dunno.  You’ve got a lot of the same players, which should inspire confidence that – at the very least – this Seahawks team will give us another playoff appearance and probably another division title.  But, there are also question marks up and down the roster, where there weren’t any going into 2013.  Even the positions of strength are causes for concern, as we’ve discovered in the last few years that injuries can hit anywhere, at anytime, for any reason.

Let’s just start at the Safety position, for instance.  The Seahawks feature two of the very best in the game of football today in Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.  No sweat, right?  On a scale from 1-10, you write in a 10 for Most Confident and you call it a day!  Except, Earl is coming off of a horrendous injury and might not have his usual impact (particularly early in the season).  Is it appropriate to expect Earl to be as dominant as he’s always been?  Or will the injury – and subsequent rehab eating into his regular workout routine – mean we get just 75% of Earl or less?  And, quite frankly, there’s an honest concern that both of these guys will get re-injured at some point.  Both are another year older, and Kam has proven to be pretty injury prone over the last few seasons.  When they’re healthy, they’re the best in the game; but all I’m going to be doing whenever they’re on the field is worrying about their next injury.

And, honestly, this is the same issue we can run out there for a lot of position groups.  Cornerback?  Check.  Wide receiver?  Check.  Running backs?  Bigtime check.  So, as it was last year, the issue is going to come down to depth.  Because while the Seahawks have one of the most talented rosters in the league, they’ve also been the most snakebitten of late.

On paper, it’s really a tremendous group.  If you could sit here and promise me 100% health out of all of our starters, I’d tell you that I have the utmost confidence in this team making a deep run in the playoffs, up to and including a Super Bowl victory.  Very briefly, let’s scan the starters:

Russell Wilson, in spite of last season’s quasi-regression, is still a Top 10 quarterback in this league, and probably closer to Top 5 than a lot of people are willing to admit.  When he’s healthy, he’s as dangerous as they come.  At running back, we may not have Beastmode, but a healthy Thomas Rawls has proven to be wildly effective.  Eddie Lacy is a nice, big back who will get the tough yards and wear down defenses late.  And C.J. Prosise is as unique a talent at the running back position as there is in the league.  At wide receiver, Doug Baldwin is as good as they get.  Lockett is a speedster with great hands.  P-Rich really came on strong in the playoffs last season and has a lot of talent at making the difficult catches.  And Kearse is a fine #3 or #4 possession receiver with good blocking abilities.  Tight end might be our strongest position on offense, with the combo of Graham and Willson making life difficult for opposing defenses.  I won’t go crazy about the O-Line, but there are a lot of returning pieces who should improve by virtue of ending the 2016 season healthy, bulking up, and having that experience in their back pockets.  You have to like a lot about the D-Line, that killed it in run blocking, and has a lot of great pass rushers.  Avril & Bennett obviously anchor that line and are great in all facets of the game.  Rubin and Reed are solid run stuffers.  Frank Clark is coming on like gangbusters.  Malik McDowell has all the talent in the world at pass rushing from the tackle spot.  You can mix and match those guys in all sorts of different formations and should come off in a good spot.  At linebacker, we return Bobby Wagner – the team’s MVP of a season ago – and K.J. Wright, two of the league’s best.  When we’re not in nickel, you’re looking at any number of talented free agent signees to play that SAM spot and play it well.  At corner, we return Sherm and Lane; Sherm is still his wonderful self, and Lane is still good enough.  Shead will hopefully be back at some point to add to this team’s depth, and in the meantime a number of rookies will vie for that nickel corner spot (or the opposite outside spot, thus pushing Lane inside), including 3rd rounder Shaquill Griffin.  Tack on the aforementioned safeties, and I’m telling you, that’s a starting roster that can hang with the best of ’em, including the vaunted New England Patriots.

I don’t think anyone is questioning that, necessarily, but from a national perspective it’s a lot like that famous Eminem chorus:  motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre.

The NFL is very much a What Have You Done For Me Lately league, particularly with the fickle media.  If you scan around at some of the Power Rankings, NFL.com has the Seahawks ranked 10th (behind the likes of the Bucs, Chiefs, and Giants).  I mean, what do those teams have that the Seahawks don’t?  Last I checked, Tampa has a very young QB who has yet to prove he’s a winner at this level, the Chiefs are staring down the barrel of a quarterback controversy after trading up to pick one in the first round, and the Giants still employ Eli Manning.  ESPN.com has the Seahawks up at 6th, which feels a little more reasonable, but still behind the likes of the Steelers and Falcons.  The Steelers have a lot of fantasy football talent on the offensive side of the ball, but they’ve yet to really prove they’re ready to make the leap and challenge for the AFC Championship; and I think the Falcons are in for a rude awakening when they kick off this season with the COLLOSAL downgrade at offensive coordinator (Sark, stepping in for Kyle Shanahan).  Peter King, in all his infinite wisdom, has the Seahawks at 9th, behind the Chiefs again, as well as the Titans (in his Top 5!).

If you want my opinion, I think the Top 5 should look something like this:

  1. New England
  2. Green Bay
  3. Oakland
  4. Seattle
  5. Dallas

New England was the best team last season, and it looks like they’ve only gotten better with their offseason moves.  Green Bay is as good as they get as long as they have Aaron Rodgers (similarly to the Seahawks, they just need to stay healthy to reach their potential).  I’m in love with everything that Oakland has done this offseason (aside from abandoning their city and moving to Vegas); they remind me a lot of the 2013 Seahawks with how young and talented they are (though, maybe tilt it in the offense’s favor as opposed to the Seahawks’ defense in 2013).  And, you could go either way with Dallas/Seattle in the 4th/5th spot, with Seattle having the edge by virtue of Dallas crumbling in big game after big game.  Let them prove they belong to a higher ranking rather than just handing it to them with their so-so defense and injury-prone receiving corps.

But, as always, it comes down to depth.  Will the Seahawks need it and do they have enough of it?  And, can their remaining healthy starters do enough to compensate for where they’re lacking?

Let’s take quarterback out of the equation because without Russell Wilson, this team doesn’t work.  Trevone Boykin is cool and everything – and I fully expect him to win the backup job again – but he’s not even close.

Can the three-headed hydra of Lacy, Rawls, and Prosise make it through 16 regular season games plus the playoffs?  As much as I want to gnash my teeth about this position group, I think the Seahawks are okay here.  Yeah, Rawls will probably have some nagging injuries that cause him to miss a few games.  Yeah, Prosise will be banged up.  Heck, Lacy might even roll an ankle or something.  But, what are the odds that all three of them go down at once?  Even still, I thought Alex Collins looked okay in spurts in his regular season duty and should be able to fill in okay as an emergency backup.  Beyond that, I mean, I’m not going to sit here and predict another running back apocalypse like last year, so let’s move on.

The wide receiver group looks a lot different if Lockett has trouble and isn’t able to make it back.  I think that pushes Kearse back into the #2 role, which is less than ideal.  Also, while P-Rich was great in the playoffs, he’s yet to do that over the long haul.  Granted, he hasn’t really been given the opportunity, so here’s to hoping he makes the most of it this year.  Beyond those guys, Darboh is a rookie and I fully expect him to be a last resort type.  That leaves Tanner McEvoy and/or Kenny Lawler; both have their strengths, but gametime experience really isn’t one of them.  Continuing with tight end, the starters may be the most talented of any group on offense, but the reserves are the biggest question marks.  Nick Vannett was a draft pick in 2016, but never really played.  Beyond that, we have guys I’ve never heard of before, one of whom will surely win a job in the pre-season.

The one place the Seahawks tried their damnedest to improve depth – in their own Seahawky way, i.e. on the cheap – was along the O-Line.  Fant, Glowinski, Britt, and Ifedi all return, though with some projected shuffling of spots.  Britt is the leader and best of the bunch; Ifedi returns to his more natural right tackle spot (until he proves he can’t handle it and is moved back to guard); Fant is the key to the whole thing, as he needs to prove he’s capable of holding his own at left tackle, so we can slot our main competition into the guard positions (Joeckel vs. Odhiambo on the left; Aboushi vs. Glowinski vs. Pocic on the right).  Let the best men for the job go to town and hope for the best, I suppose.  What I would say is that the Seahawks are probably in a better position for success with this unit than they were at this time a year ago.  We know Britt is a bona fide starter in this league at center.  Fant, Glow, and Ifedi all have a year of starting experience.  Odhiambo has a little bit of experience, but he’s also being put into a better position to succeed by getting his shot on the left side of the line (as opposed to the right, where he struggled in limited action last year).  And Joeckel and Aboushi are a couple of serviceable veterans who by no means allow us to say, “Problem Solved!”, but they provide better depth than we had a year ago.  And, Pocic appears to be a talented, highly rated rookie, who could step in in a pinch, but will probably be better served in sitting and watching for a year to bulk up and learn the system.  If he’s as good as people say he can be, he could be filling in for any number of guys who win a job out of Training Camp.

The Seahawks are strongest along the D-Line, but you still wonder about their ability to get pressure up the middle.  With the emergence of Frank Clark, I think we’ll still see a lot of Michael Bennett sliding inside, but we had that for the most part last season and still didn’t wreak enough havoc to make much of a dent.  As such, it’s really do or die with Malik McDowell, as if he doesn’t make an impression as a rookie, you’re hoping for Quinton Jefferson to do something in his second season in the league, or one of the bigger guys – Reed, or Nazair Jones perhaps – to step up and do something they’ve yet to prove they’re capable of doing.  Also, not for nothing, but with the loss of Tony McDaniel, did the Seahawks sacrifice their run defense for the sake of interior pass rush?  That might not be the worst thing in the world if we only fall from Best In The NFL to something like 7th-best in the NFL.  But, if we take a deep hit, because of injuries or ineffectiveness, other teams’ abilities to run the ball at will could hinder our ability to put in the ol’ NASCAR package and really do damage to opposing quarterbacks.

I absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without the likes of Wagner or Wright, but it won’t be pretty.  As things stand, it’s a huge unknown what these new additions will bring to the table.  I hear good things about Wilhoite and Brown, but that’s just chatter; it means nothing until I can see them in games and see how they mesh with the scheme.

I also absolutely don’t want to think about what life would be like without our studs in the L.O.B.  Bradley McDougald, Neiko Thorpe, and a whole bunch of rookies and young guys.  Without Shead in the mix, it’s hard to say we’re all that improved depthwise, so here’s to hoping they can just hold their own until he’s good and ready (and here’s to hoping the pass rush is as advertised, as they could REALLY help ease this transition period in the L.O.B.).

I really want to like these guys.  I really want to be confident about this season.  I want to believe that we’re better than we were in 2015 and 2016, that we won’t have those fatal flaws that prevented us from getting past the Divisional Round in the playoffs.  Ultimately, it’s going to come down to getting the job done in the regular season, getting that playoff BYE week, and playing clutch football when it matters most.  To get to that spot, it’s going to come down to a lot of injury luck and certain guys stepping up in a big way over the production (or lack thereof) that we got last year.

The Definitive Mount Rushmore For Seattle Sports

That’s a bold proclamation, but I’m a bold individual.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers
Thursday:  Mariners, Supersonics, & Seahawks (past & present)

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of 80’s Heavy Metal Bands?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Def Leppard, and Motley Crue, and come at me bro if you think I’m wrong because I’ll fight this whole fucking town!

Today, it’s all on my shoulders to select the Mount Rushmore for Seattle sports.  It’s a daunting task, to say the least.  Am I man enough for it?  I dunno, probably not, but I’ll give it a shot anyway.

So, I suppose to do this right, there have to be some parameters.  Obviously, they have to be great at their sport; Hall of Fame level.  There’s an element beyond that, though; one that transcends their own personal greatness.  Popularity is certainly a part of it, not just in Seattle, but across America and around the world, but I’d be remiss if I put too much emphasis on their notoriety.  I think it matters not just that they were great on their respective teams, but great when compared to others in the history of the game and position they played.

For instance, Steve Largent is my favorite football player of all time, and at the time of his retirement he was the best the game had ever seen.  But, now?  Largent is 18th in the NFL in total yards, surpassed by the likes of Henry Ellard (played 2 more seasons, is not in the HOF), Andre Johnson (who is good, but does he strike you as transcendant?), and Reggie Wayne (who had one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time in Peyton Manning throwing to him; of COURSE he has more yards!).  I’m just saying that the greatness of the wide receiver position has been deminished in the wake of the NFL turning into a passing league.  I mean, Terrell Owens has the second-most receiving yards of all time (behind the great Jerry Rice) and he’s still struggling to make it into the HOF!  I don’t care about his reputation or his attitude or whatever; 20 years ago, if he’d retired with the most yards in NFL history, he would’ve been a first ballot enshrinee.

Also, look at someone like Felix Hernandez; my favorite player of all time.  Yeah, he’s great, and he’s in my Mariners Mount Rushmore, but compared to some of the greatest pitchers of all time, Felix is just another guy.  Maybe in another era, with the stuff he has, he would’ve put up numbers commensurate to some of the all timers, but he’s in the era he’s in, and it knocks him back accordingly.  You have to go above and beyond in these situations if you want to make my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

In an effort to make this easier on myself, let’s knock out a couple of really obvious ones.

At the top, in the pole position of my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Ken Griffey Jr.

Absolute no-brainer.  22 years in Major League Baseball, 13 years in Seattle, at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #1 overall draft pick by the Mariners in 1987, in his first 11 years with the organization he made the All Star team 10 times.  10 Gold Gloves, 7 Silver Sluggers, and was the American League MVP in 1997.  He hit 417 of his 630 home runs with the Mariners.  He took the team to its first two playoff appearances in the history of the franchise.  He led the A.L. in homers 4 times and in RBI once.  He’s in the Mariners’ Hall of Fame, is the only actual Mariner to have his number retired, was a member of the MLB All-Century Team, and was the highest vote-getter in MLB Hall of Fame history in his first year of eligibility.  HE WAS THE MOST POPULAR ATHLETE ON THE PLANET!  He’s 6th on the all time home run list, and if you discount the cheaters that are Bonds and A-Rod, he’s truly in rare company (Aaron, Ruth, and Mays, are you KIDDING me?).

That’s what I mean.  Ken Griffey Jr. is the definition of a Mount Rushmore-type player.  He’s the greatest athlete the city of Seattle has ever seen and might be the greatest we will EVER see.  Anyone alive who got to see him play in his prime should thank their lucky stars.

At my #2 spot in my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore, I have Gary Payton.

Again, I think this one is a no-brainer.  18 seasons in the NBA, 13 seasons in Seattle, again at the absolute peak of his powers and popularity.  #2 overall draft pick by the Supersonics in 1990, in his Seattle years he made the All Star team 9 times.  2 All-NBA first teams, 5 second teams, and 2 third teams.  He was the NBA Defensive Player of the Year in 1996, as well as the steals leader the same year.  He is 4th all time in NBA history in steals with 2,445 (behind Michael Jordan, Jason Kidd, and a million miles behind John Stockton).  He’s also 8th all time in NBA history in assists with 8,966 (among the likes of Stockton, Kidd, Nash, Mark Jackson, Magic, Oscar, and Isiah).  When you’re talking true point guards, you’re talking the best of the best, and GP is right there.  He was always a defensive force, but his offense didn’t really start to take off until his fifth season in the league; yet he still managed to score 21,813 points, which is good for 31st all time, just ahead of Larry Bird, and just behind Clyde Drexler.

Again, we’re talking about some of the greatest players to ever put on a jersey and play the game of basketball!  I don’t know if people necessarily think of GP the way they think of Griffey, because Griffey might be the best or second-best centerfielder of all time; whereas there are a bunch of great point guards who are as good or even better.  But, I’m here to tell you that there really aren’t that many.

Guys like Stockton and Kidd played great defense and dished it out like no one else, but their offensive games were largely lacking.  They couldn’t take over a game and back down an opposing guard like GP could.  Nash and Iverson were awesome scorers, but they weren’t as suffocating on defense as GP would be.  Honestly, I think the only people in Gary’s league are Magic, Isiah, and maybe Oscar (but, I’ll be honest here, all three of those guys were either a little or a lot before my time, and I didn’t get to see them play in their primes).  Anyway, I’m talking about COMPLETE point guards, guys who played on both sides of the ball and did it damn well on both ends.  Not to mention from 1995 through 2003, Gary averaged over 38 minutes per game.

The only shame of it all is that he played in the opposite conference from Michael Jordan, and only got to face off against MJ the one time in the NBA Finals.  I think if those guys were in the same division and had to go against one another 4 times a year plus every year in the playoffs, it would’ve been one of the truly great rivalries in NBA history.  As it stands, Gary really didn’t have anyone who was his direct rival.  He was already established when Kobe was a young pup.  Kidd and Stockton were never much to speak of on the offensive side of the ball, so they never really challenged him at that end.  All the best scoring guards during Gary’s prime were in the East, or they were past their primes when Gary was in his.  That Finals series in 1996 was one for the ages, though.  It’s just too bad it was the first for that group in Seattle; I think the severity of the situation got to them mentally.  For the Bulls, it was old hat; just another business trip.  I think if the Sonics had gotten theirs in 1994 (like they SHOULD have), by 1996 it would’ve been like two equally fierce titans going against one another.  What could have been.

***

With the easy half of our Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore out of the way, now we get to the more difficult decisions.

For starters, where are the Seahawks?  I’m pretty sure you can’t have one of these without throwing a Seahawk on there, so let’s get cracking.

As I wrote about yesterday, there are currently 4 Seahawks in the NFL Hall of Fame (with this year’s induction of Kenny Easley).  So, yeah, a lot to choose from here.  At the top, I talked about Steve Largent a little bit, and I still stand behind that.  I think his candidacy for this list is pretty lacking, when you consider his current place in NFL history, which I very much believe applies here.

When you look at the rest of the Hall of Famers, I think one name clearly stands out, and that name is Walter Jones, my third choice for the Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

There aren’t really a ton of stats I can sit here and pull up to show Big Walt’s greatness; it’s not like the NFL keeps track of “pancakes” as an official stat (BTW tho, they absolutely SHOULD).  Jones made 9 Pro Bowls, was First Team All Pro 4 times, and Second Team twice.  He was on the NFL’s All-Decade Team for the 2000s.  He was inducted into the NFL Hall of Fame in his first year of eligibility, and has had his #71 retired by the Seahawks.

If you want to get a little deeper, in trying to compare him to the other greats in NFL history, that’s a little trickier.  Pro Football Reference has their “Approximate Value” stat that tries to equalize things across all positions, and gives your career a numerical value accordingly.  Across all positions, in the entirety of NFL history, Jones is currently tied for 150th, which – when you think about how many players there have been – is pretty astounding.  I did the research, and there are only 26 offensive linemen ahead of him on that list, but the vast majority of them are either guards or centers.  Among just the left tackles, there are only 6 ahead of Walter Jones:  Anthony Munoz, Lomas Brown, Willie Roaf, Mike Kenn, Gary Zimmerman, and Orlando Pace.  Four of those guys are Hall of Famers, and the other two (Brown and Kenn) just played forever.  So, yeah, I’d say that’s pretty good company.

Anecdotally, Walter Jones IS one of the greatest left tackles in NFL history.  The combination of speed, size, technique, power, durability, raw talent; it’s something we probably will never see around here ever again.  It’s ultimately the durability issue that cost him the end of his career, as injuries and surgeries became too much and cut it short, but he’s also a guy who was able to play through a lot of pain and injuries and keep up his high level of play.  He may not be the force of nature, popularity-wise, that Griffey or even Payton were, but his talent and standing among the greats at his position relative to the history of the game more than makes up for it.  As such, Big Walt is my #3.

***

Which leads us to our Abraham Lincoln spot on the mountain.  Who is my #4?

The fact that this is far and away the most difficult choice for me ultimately leads me to believe that whoever I choose is not long for this spot.  I’m a firm believer in the Smell Test, or the Eyeball Test, or whatever you want to call it.  Is a guy a Hall of Famer?  That should be obvious; it shouldn’t take much more than 10 seconds to decide.  Either he is or he isn’t.  Obviously, there are people on the bubble who need arguments in their favor (*cough* EDGAR *cough*), but for me it’s a lot more simple.  Yes, Edgar is a Hall of Famer; NEXT!

But, I don’t really have a solid #4, which means my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is sitting atop a pretty shaky foundation.  There are certainly guys in the running.  Edgar Martinez, for instance, would be a fine choice; but can I include a guy who’s not even in the MLB Hall of Fame (yet)?  Same goes for someone like Jack Sikma (who absolutely should be a basketball hall of famer).  There are plenty of former Sonics and Seahawks who ARE in their respective halls of fame, so it doesn’t seem totally fair.  On top of that, can you rank any of these other guys as among the greatest at their positions all time?

My actual belief is that the #4 player on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore is currently playing for the Seattle Seahawks.  But, since his career hasn’t ended yet, is it really appropriate to put him on there now?  Frankly, I think we’re another 7 years of quality play out of Earl Thomas from him being the guy.  If he can keep it up, and manage to stay healthy, he will go down as one of the most talented and important free safeties in the history of the NFL, with this Seahawks defense going down as one of the elite defenses in the history of the NFL.  As I wrote about yesterday, he’s the straw that stirs the drink; others may come and go, play or be injured, but the constant is Earl Thomas.  And, most importantly, we got a clear and obvious look at what this defense is without him, in the final 5 regular season games and 2 playoff games last year:  it’s not pretty.

So, I WANT to put Earl in here, but I just can’t.  What if injuries plague him from here on out and cut his career short?  Well, that opens the door for Richard Sherman, who is already the greatest cornerback in franchise history and already has made a name for himself among the greatest to ever play the game.  He needs some longevity to go with that to be Mount Rushmore-worthy, and the biggest question here is:  will he play out the duration of his career in Seattle?  There are obvious, serious doubts there too.

Which takes me to Russell Wilson.  What if he plays another 15 years for Seattle, and leads us to another 2-3 Super Bowls?  Doesn’t he HAVE to be the #4 on my Mount Rushmore, simply for the fact that he’s the most popular, recognizable figure on this team, at its most important position?

So, you see the bind I’m in.  All three of those guys are worthy, but all three of them need to put on some more years before they can be taken seriously among the top three on this list.

Where do I go from here?  While I acknowledge all of the above is true, I refuse to put “Placeholder” as my #4, so I’ve gotta make a choice.  To me, I think it has to come down to a couple of names:  Cortez Kennedy and Ichiro.

The Tez falls a few points below Big Walt on the ol’ Approximate Value scale, but I’m not going to go through and count the number of defensive tackles ahead of him.  Here’s what I’ve got:  11 year career, all with Seattle.  First round draft pick, #3 overall.  8 Pro Bowls, 3 First Team All-Pros, 2 Second Teams.  NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 1992.  NFL 1990s All-Decade Team.  His number 96 is retired, and he’s in the NFL Hall of Fame.  Unfortunately, he got saddled on a lot of bad and mediocre teams, so the 2-time College Football National Champion only made one NFL playoff appearance (losing in the Wild Card round).  In my estimation, Tez ranks among the best all time at what he did, which was an all-around defensive tackle who could both rush the passer and defend against the run.  His sack numbers are impressive – particularly when you consider the number of double-teams he had to face – but his total tackle numbers are even MORE impressive.  I mean, he had 3 seasons where he averaged over 70 tackles per year!  As a DT!  Those are linebacker and safety numbers!

Then, there’s Ichiro.  He’s not in the MLB Hall of Fame, but that’s only because he’s STILL playing, at the age of 43.  Here’s a guy who spent 9 years in Japan before coming over to Seattle.  From age 18-26 (where, for a lot of people, he’d be working his way through the minors and getting into his prime at the Major League level), his numbers are essentially rendered irrelevant by a lot of baseball fans.  He nevertheless, as a pro starting at the age of 27, has managed to get over 3,000 hits, 2,533 of which were in a Mariners uniform.

Let’s get into it:  he was with the Mariners for 12 seasons.  An All Star his first 10 years (including All Star Game MVP in 2007).  A Gold Glover his first 10 years.  A Silver Slugger 3 times.  A Fielding Bible Award winner 3 times.  American League batting champion twice.  In 2001, he was the Rookie of the Year and the MVP in the A.L.  He also led the league in stolen bases that year.  He also had over 200 hits in his first 10 years, and set the single-season record for hits with 262 in 2004.  Like Tez, Ichiro was saddled with some pretty bad Mariners teams after the 2003 season.  Yet, he stuck around and remained true to the organization long after he could’ve gone to any number of teams to play for a contender.

If you want to talk about popularity – particularly on a global scale – Ichiro sits up there with Ken Griffey Jr. in his prime.  Even across America, he was the face of the Seattle Mariners for a decade!  He was a dominant force at the top of the lineup, and he was equally as great at his defense in right field.  He stole bases, he kept the opposing team’s running game in check, and if he were in a better-run organization, he could’ve done even MORE with his offensive numbers.

Is he among the greatest outfielders of all time?  That’s a little tougher to nail down.  He wasn’t like a Griffey or a Mays; Ichiro’s game is speed and singles (among other things).  I think he ranks up there among the greats at his defense, and among the greatest all time leadoff hitters.  I think he’s the greatest Japanese-born baseball player of all time, which is not an insignificant feat.  And, I think when you tack on the fact that some of his prime years were spent in the inferior Japanese leagues, you have to wonder what could’ve been had he gotten to America sooner.

All of that considered, that’s why I’m making Ichiro my #4 on my Seattle Sports Mount Rushmore.

So, what do you think?  Griffey, Payton, Jones, Ichiro.  With a very strong likelihood that my future #4 will be someone on this current Seahawks team.  Maybe in another decade I’ll come back and write a new one of these for shits and giggles.

The Mount Rushmores For Each Seattle Pro Team

* That I choose to cover, because I don’t give a fudge about the ones I don’t.

Mount Rushmores:
Tuesday:  Seattle Sports Announcers
Wednesday:  Seattle Head Coaches/Managers

It’s All Star Week in Major League Baseball, which means it’s pretty much a dead week in sports.  I’m not 12 years old, so the All Star Game doesn’t mean anything to me; I’m not 62 years old, so golf doesn’t mean anything to me.  But, a blogger’s job is never done!  Or, I dunno, maybe it’s been done ad nauseam.  Either way, I’ve got nothing timely to write about, and I’ve got nothing else better to do, so I’m doing this.

We’re celebrating some of the local Mount Rushmores in a series of posts this week, because that’s something people do, right?  Sports radio and the like; what’s your Mount Rushmore of TV shows still airing new episodes right now?  Off the top of my head, I’d have to say Rick & Morty, Better Call Saul, Bob’s Burgers, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, but ask me another day and I might give you four completely different shows.

Today is going to be the first of a two-parter, of sorts.  I’m going to split up my Mount Rushmores between the Mariners, Sonics, and Seahawks, with the goal of locking down an official Mount Rushmore for All Seattle Sports tomorrow.

First up:  the Seattle Mariners.

  1. Ken Griffey Jr.
  2. Edgar Martinez
  3. Felix Hernandez
  4. Ichiro

I thought this one was pretty easy, but I could see why people might want to make the argument for someone like Randy Johnson or Alex Rodriguez or even Alvin Davis, but ehh.  Griffey is Griffey; he’s the greatest player in Mariners history.  Edgar is Edgar; he’s the greatest hitter in Mariners history.  Felix is the King; his prime in a Mariners uniform was better than Randy’s prime in a Mariners uniform.  Had the Mariners never traded Randy, and he won a bunch more Cy Young Awards and whatnot, then yeah, Randy all day.  But, I’m going with the King because he’s my favorite player of all time and because he deserves to be on this list.  And, I’m going with Ichiro as my #4 due to his longevity and his sustained brilliance as this team’s leadoff hitter.  Again, it comes down to tenure over someone like A-Rod who had a short stint of supreme excellence before taking the money and running to the Rangers.  In the end, I don’t think A-Rod would end up on any team’s Mount Rushmore, and that’s exactly what he deserves.

Next up:  the Seattle Supersonics.

  1. Gary Payton
  2. Jack Sikma
  3. Fred Brown
  4. Shawn Kemp

You could go any number of ways with the Sonics.  Ray Allen, Lenny Wilkens, Gus Williams, Xavier McDaniel, Nate McMillan, Spencer Haywood, Slick Watts, Detlef Schrempf, Big Smooth, Dale Ellis, and on and on and on.  There were so many great players, so many great teams, and so many great eras of Sonics basketball.  I’ve got the Glove at the top because I think he was the best all-around player in team history.  He’s obviously known for his lockdown defense, but he really developed into a dominant offensive player over his career, becoming the team’s unquestioned leader.  Sikma was the best big man in team history, averaging a double-double in 7 of his 9 years in Seattle (as well as making 7 All Star Games).  Brown was a 13-year career Sonic bridging the early 70s, through the championship year, on into the mid-80s and the next generation of great Sonics teams.  And, finally, I’ve got 5-time All Star (with the Sonics) Shawn Kemp, the most explosive and athletic player in team history, who really developed into a force in the league, at a time when there were tons of great power forwards in the game.

And, without further ado:  the Seattle Seahawks (past).

  1. Steve Largent
  2. Walter Jones
  3. Cortez Kennedy
  4. Kenny Easley

Okay, so here’s the deal:  those are four Hall of Famers.  If you’re going to have a Mount Rushmore of Seattle Seahawks, you’ve gotta go with the actual NFL Hall of Famers, right?  Steve Largent, at the time of his retirement, had just about every single wide receiver record in NFL history; he was THE greatest, until Jerry Rice became THE greatest.  Now, many receivers have blown past Largent’s stats through the years, but the game is a lot different now than it was in the 70s and 80s.  Walter Jones, I think, is the greatest left tackle in NFL history; he absolutely belongs on this list!  The Tez is, without question, one of the greatest all-around DTs in the history of the league.  His ability to clog up the middle, command double-teams, and still create an abundance of pressure up the middle is simply mind-boggling.  And, as for Easley, he was a Pro Bowler 5 of his 7 seasons, and a first team All Pro in 3 of his 7 seasons.  Had he not had the health issues that forced him into retirement, he would’ve been an NFL Hall of Famer MANY years ago.  Essentially, he was Kam Chancellor before there was Kam Chancellor, at a time when the safety position was oft-overlooked.  His type of game-changing talent is generational and precious and should not be taken for granted.

There have obviously been other great Seahawks throughout the years – Matt Hasselbeck, Curt Warner, Shaun Alexander, Jacob Green, Dave Brown, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, and so on and so forth – but no one is on the level of the four above-referenced Hall of Famers.

Now, that having all been said, I think this current batch of Seahawks – since Pete Carroll and John Schneider joined the team – have some NFL Hall of Famers on it as well.  So, really, I had no choice but to split this part up.

We had the Seahawks (past) and now the Seahawks (present).

  1. Earl Thomas
  2. Marshawn Lynch
  3. Richard Sherman
  4. Russell Wilson

Obvious asterisk here in that Beastmode is not a current Seahawk, but he’s from this Pete Carroll Era, and that’s really what I’m talking about here.  I think Earl Thomas (assuming he comes back from his injury) is the best and most obvious future Hall of Famer.  Like Easley, in Earl’s first seven seasons, he’s made 5 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros.  He’s the heart & soul of this defense and really what makes this defense tick.  As you could see when the Seahawks lost him last year, this defense falls apart without Earl!  With him, it’s among the best in the league, and the primary reason why we’ve led the league in fewest points allowed so many times under Pete Carroll.  Next up, I think you have to go Beastmode.  I think, as it stands right now, he’s a borderline NFL Hall of Famer.  But, with a good season or two in Oakland, I think he blows past borderline into Obvious NFL Hall of Famer.  Lynch took this team from soft and old and carried it to back-to-back Super Bowls.  He allowed this team to bring its rookie franchise quarterback along slowly, and when it mattered most – in those playoff games – Beastmode brought his game to another level.  Ultimately, I think it’s his performances in the playoffs that will carry him into the Hall of Fame (in spite of his famous discontent with the NFL media), and it’s why I have him ranked so high on my list.  Third, I’ve got Sherm.  He’s the greatest cornerback in team history.  Period.  4 Pro Bowls and 3 First Team All Pros in his 6 seasons, and he has yet to miss a game as soon as he entered the starting lineup.  I don’t know how much longer he’ll be a member of this team, but as long as he is, he’s on my present-day Mount Rushmore.  And, fourth, I’ve got Russell Wilson.  I could’ve gone any number of directions here – Wagner, Kam, Bennett, Avril, K.J., Doug – and indeed, any number of those guys might end up making the Hall of Fame alongside my top 4, but I’m rolling with the QB.  In spite of the fact that for quarterbacks nowadays, it’s probably harder than ever to make the Hall of Fame, what with all the passing records that are falling, and how difficult it is to last in this league for 10, 15 years or more.  And make no mistake, Russell has A LONG WAY to go.  5 seasons, 3 Pro Bowls, no All Pros.  It’s especially questionable when you consider the step back he took last year with lots of injuries and behind an ineffective O-Line.  For this choice, I’m going mostly on faith, and I do have faith that Russell will reach all of his goals and go down as one of the greats of this era.  Disregarding all of that, right now, for what he is, Russell is the guy that stirs the drink.  This team doesn’t do what it’s done without Russell Wilson behind center.  No Super Bowls (plural), no division titles (plural), not nearly as many 10-win seasons (he’s 5 for 5 in his short career, no pun intended) with a replacement-level player.  Quarterback is the most important player on every NFL team, and the Seahawks are no exception.  As such, he’s making my Mount Rushmore over the rest.

Tomorrow, I’m going to pick from among the above-listed 16 players and come up with a definitive Mount Rushmore for Seattle Pro Athletes.  Weeeee!

Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

I think it’s always helpful to remind ourselves that the Seahawks are a good football team.  They’ve won at least 10 games every year for the last five seasons, and have won at least one playoff game each year to boot.  Only the New England Patriots have been more successful in this stretch by those parameters.  When they grab the #1 seed, they go to the Super bowl; when they don’t, they lose in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.  But, I think panic is starting to set in as this team’s championship window starts to close.  No Super Bowl in the last two seasons?  BLOW IT UP!

While there have been flaws in this team that have done the Seahawks in the last two years, they can also be corrected.  The offensive line has always been a matter of concern for this team, even as far back as 2012 and 2013; the only difference is those teams had so-so O-Lines, while the last two years, the O-Line has been one of the very worst in the league.  Also, I think it’s safe to say while opposing teams haven’t “figured out” the Seahawks’ defense, they’ve definitely made some inroads into not being thoroughly dominated on a regular basis.  Injuries – and a lack of proper depth – torpedoed our season last year, particularly following the loss of Earl Thomas.  But, when this team is healthy, this defense is still near the top in all of football, simply based on talent alone.

What those great Seahawks teams had, that these recent Just Okay Seahawks teams have lacked is what I pointed out in that previous paragraph:  league average O-Line play, and proper depth in the defense.  With the moves the Seahawks made this offseason, the hope is that they’ve done enough to right those wrongs, without creating holes elsewhere.

So, let’s start with the offensive line, because that’s ONCE AGAIN going to be the topic du jour not only from the national pundits when referencing the Seahawks, but very much from the local guys as well.  Last year, the primary configuration of the line looked like this:

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

Right off the bat, we know Gilliam is gone, having signed with the 49ers.  On the way in, we’ve got Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Ethan Pocic, and Justin Senior (along with various holdovers from last year, and undrafted free agents).  We know Britt is safe, for at least this year, if not for many years to come.  But, the other four spots are very much up for grabs at this point, ostensibly with the best man winning the job.

It’s impossible to project the exact battles until we get into OTAs and Training Camp and our trusty beat writers give us the scoop.  For now, we know Fant will battle for left tackle.  I’m pretty sure Glowinski will battle exclusively for the left guard spot, though I suppose it’s possible he could flip over to right guard (but, for the purposes of this post, I’m going to keep him on the left side).  Fighting with them will be Luke Joeckel, who has $7 million guaranteed on a 1-year $8 million deal; he will be considered for both the LT and LG spots.  Also being considered at LT and LG is Rees Odhiambo, 3rd round pick in 2016.  Four guys for two spots; I’ll put the early favorites as Joeckel and Glowinski, but absolutely nothing will shock me with the way this team operates.

On the right side, 2nd rounder Ethan Pocic will get a hard look, along with 2016 first rounder Germain Ifedi.  Ifedi was the RG last year, but was a RT in college, and word around the team is that they’re going to put him back outside.  That would seem to jibe with the selection of Pocic, who has extensive experience at center, and projects more as an interior lineman.  Aboushi is a guard who will also be in the mix on the right side, as well as 6th rounder Justin Senior, though he feels more like a project the team would want to redshirt.

So, how does that strike you?  The best two left-side guys, Britt, Pocic and Ifedi?  Will that formation ultimately be better than what we got in 2016?  I would assume yes, but that’s not saying much.  ANYONE will be a better left tackle than 2016 Fant, up to and including 2017 Fant.  I didn’t see Gilliam as the line’s biggest issue last year, but obviously he can be improved upon as well.  Will moving Ifedi back to his natural spot at right tackle help things click for him?  I’ve yet to see Pocic play, but I have to believe he’ll be better than any of the guards we had going for us last year.  And, I know the team really likes Odhiambo, so I hope he’s been working his ass off to win that job on the left side.

It’s going to be critically important for the line to at least be functional, because once again this team failed to address backup quarterback.  I don’t blame them, as I mentioned earlier, this team has a lot of holes and a lot of depth to replenish, and the worst thing you can do is reach for a quarterback you don’t necessarily want, but that just means the onus is on this team to protect its most important asset:  Russell Wilson.  I’m through trying to parse out blame on sacks, by the way.  Sure, Wilson might run himself into some pressure, but as long as the O-Line keeps letting guys get uninterrupted runs at our quarterback, I’m placing the blame squarely on them to fix that issue.

As for Wilson’s weapons, the only real major addition is Eddie Lacy at running back.  Between him, Rawls, and Prosise, the hope is that at least one of them will be healthy each and every game.  I like what they all bring to the table, aside from the fact that they seem to be on the trainer’s table more than the field (table).  Table.  I’m also not buying the seventh rounder we drafted, unless it comes to a point where there are a barrage of injuries at the position, at which point he’ll probably still be blocked by 2-3 guys.

At tight end, the Seahawks were conspicuously absent in the draft.  Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson are both on the final years of their deals, with Nick Vannett on the second year of his rookie deal.  I can’t imagine the team is ready for Vannett to jump to the #1 tight end spot in 2018, which would lead me to believe that they’re looking to extend one of Graham or Willson.  It might not be the worst idea to let the season play out before making your decision on this, as I can’t imagine the market for either will be out of our range heading into 2018.  If one of them has a serious injury this year, then your decision has effectively been made and you can extend the other guy.  Considering there really isn’t much left on the free agent market (and the Seahawks were able to save some pennies by trading out of the first round), it doesn’t make a ton of sense to extend Graham now just to lower his cap hit.  The time to do that would’ve been BEFORE free agency started, when there was still an opportunity to get a great player with the money saved.

At receiver, Baldwin and Kearse are back, Tyler Lockett is coming back from an injury, Paul Richardson is going into the final year of his deal, and the Seahawks drafted Amara Darboh in the third round.  On top of that, we’ve got Kenny Lawler (7th round draft pick in 2016), Tanner McEvoy (our 5th receiver for most of last year), and Kasen Williams (among others) fighting to make the final roster.  Last year, the team mostly just kept 5 receivers, opting to go with an extra tight end, but I think this year the Seahawks will look to keep 6 receivers.  They’ll obviously want to keep Darboh around (who can justify his roster spot by owning a special teams role), leaving Lawler, McEvoy, and Williams fighting it out for the final spot.  Lawler should still be able to pass onto the Practice Squad for another season, but I think it’s do or die for Williams at this point.  Considering this is Kearse’s last year, I’ll be really interested in what the team decides to do come training camp.  Also, let’s not forget, Paul Richardson really came on in the playoffs last season; he could be in for a HUGE breakout year (which, not for nothing, has been long overdue).

My hunch is, the Seahawks let Kearse go AFTER this season, they reward Richardson with a Kearse-like 3-year deal (because, while he could be in for a “HUGE breakout year”, that’s all relative to the fact that these are the run-first Seahawks, and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham are still going to command the lion’s share of the targets), and in 2018 the Seahawks go in with a receiving corps of Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Darboh, and a couple of TBDs, but that’s over a year away and neither here nor there.

With the bulk of the offensive weapons returning from last year, all that matters is getting even marginal improvement out of the O-Line, and I think you can expect better things over last year.

Which brings us to the defense.

My #1 priority coming into this offseason was seeing the Seahawks bring in top notch talent in their secondary.  While they didn’t necessarily overlook the position, they obviously had their priorities set elsewhere.

For starters, they signed a grip of backup linebackers in free agency, to bolster the strong-side linebacker spot, as well as our depth and special teams.  They also took a flier on Dion Jordan to see if he has anything left in the tank after busting out in Miami.  More than anything, though, they made D-Line their #1 priority in the draft, which will be a big key heading into the season.

Malik McDowell is an interior lineman adept at causing pressure up the middle.  Aside from Michael Bennett – who more often than not finds himself in the defensive end spot – we really haven’t had anyone to bring the pressure up the middle since Clinton McDonald, and even then we’re talking about a part-time player.  McDowell’s ceiling is MUCH higher than McDonald’s, and if everyone manages to stay relatively healthy, he could be the key to making the lives of opposing quarterbacks miserable.

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

Or, you know, some variation of that order.  Those are some rabid dogs!  That’s a 4-man defensive line that can get home, allowing the other 7 guys on defense to help out in coverage.  That’s a line that will not only generate a bunch of sacks and hits, but also a TON of hurries, that will hopefully lead to some bad decisions from those QBs.

The Seahawks have always been pretty solid in their sack numbers since bringing in Avril and Bennett, but the defense as a whole hasn’t been able to generate a lot of turnovers since 2013, when they were getting the most pressure with their 4-man front.  If McDowell hits, we could be talking about the best 4-man line we’ve seen since our championship season.

Which will hopefully make the lives of our secondary a lot easier and more fulfilling.  Shaquill Griffin looks like he can start right away, which is good, because odds are we’ll need him to.  Between him, Lane, and Sherman, I like our cornerbacks.  I’ll like them a lot more whenever Shead gets off the PUP list.  And, I’ll like them even more still if some of these other guys manage to surprise us!

Neiko Thorpe is a name to watch.  He has a year in our system and just re-signed.  He’s obviously here for his special teams prowess, but he’ll definitely be given a shot to compete for a spot on the defense from Day 1.  Then, we have the other three draft picks, who were all safeties coming out of college, but who all will get a look at corner as well.  I mean, let’s face it, no one in this draft was ever going to take the place of Kam and Earl.

In watching some of the highlights of these guys – Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson, and Mike Tyson – they all look the part.  If I had to guess, I’d say Thompson projects as the best of the three in coverage.  Hill very much looks the part of a downhill strong safety a la Kam Chancellor.  Tyson also looks pretty solid in coverage, but is probably behind Thompson and Griffin.  They all look like great tacklers and they all look like HUGE upgrades over our secondary depth in 2016.

This is what I was banking on.  I was hoping we’d go to the secondary early and often in the draft (as opposed to the third round and later), but when you’re right, you’re right:  everyone was saying how this draft was super deep in the secondary, and that very much looks like the case.  I think Hill will ultimately be a better long-term option behind Kam than Kelcie McCray ever was, and I think dropoff from Earl to Thompson is a lot smaller than the dropoff from Earl to Steven Terrell.  Bottom line:  assuming these rookies don’t get injured or hit a wall, I think our secondary depth is leaps and bounds improved over last year.  Particularly with the promise that our pass rush will be able to generate extra QB pressure.

So, will the 2017 Seahawks be better than the 2016 Seahawks?  We’ll have to see these guys prove it in Training Camp, while ultimately staying a lot healthier than they did last year.  In the early going, I’m leaning towards yes, the Seahawks will be better.  At which point, we have to ask:  are the 2017 Seahawks good enough to get back to contending for the #1 seed?  I mean, I don’t see why not.  They can’t be any unluckier than they were last year, with respect to injuries.  It looks like the rest of the NFC West (aside from maybe Arizona) will be rebuilding.  But, it’s really now or never with this group.  Our core guys are all getting into their late 20’s.  Which means they’re as good as they’re ever going to get, in all likelihood.  The odds of these guys getting injured only increases.  And, with some, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a drop-off in production due to the natural aging process.

We very well may look back at the 2017 season as the last year where we had everyone in the primes of their careers.  It might all be downhill after this year, for all we know.  So, the team needs to see this and use it to increase their sense of urgency.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have done their part:  they’ve kept the core intact (not panicking, not blowing it up, not trading Richard Sherman for pennies on the dollar and creating extra holes where you didn’t need to have them before), while filling in admirably along the edges of the roster, hopefully bolstering its depth.  At this point, it’s on the players to do their jobs, and the coaches to get everyone ready to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

I can’t wait for the off-season to start ramping up.  It’s going to be fun hearing about how the new players are fitting in.

The Seahawks’ 2017 Draft Was Unsexy & Pivotal

I don’t think we’re going to see a lot of national coverage on what the Seahawks did in this draft, and I’m okay with that.  You can see it as disrespect all you want, and I’m okay with that too, but that just means we can sit here in our little corner of the United States and just focus on football.  We’re not one of these teams who needed to draft a quarterback in the top third of the first round; we didn’t select any of these woman-beaters or drug users.  Hell, most of our guys have really uplifting and tearjerking stories of how they got to where they are today!  Good character guys, who at the very least won’t distract us from what’s most important:  the quality of play on the field.  I can’t tell you how sick and tired I was of all the Frank Clark stuff when we brought him in a couple years ago.  I thank my lucky stars we didn’t get Joe Mixon, or some of these other guys, so I don’t have to read 5,000 thinkpieces on why the NFL hates women (they do, or at least they don’t give a shit about women, so long as you can score touchdowns or sack quarterbacks on the reg, but it doesn’t mean I want to spend the whole offseason reading about it over and over again).

I know I don’t know much about the players the Seahawks drafted, so I can’t really give an informed opinion.  I like the thought process behind the positions the Seahawks targeted, even if it’s not necessarily the order I would’ve picked them in (I’ll have a separate post written at some point, lamenting the lack of Huskies and further lamenting where most of them ended up).

As always, it’s going to take a few years to see where we’re at with this class, so I’ll forego grading this thing:

  • 2nd Round – Malik McDowell – DT/DE
  • 2nd Round – Ethan Pocic – OL
  • 3rd Round – Shaquill Griffin – CB
  • 3rd Round – Delano Hill – SS
  • 3rd Round – Nazair Jones – DT
  • 3rd Round – Amara Darboh – WR
  • 4th Round – Tedric Thompson – FS
  • 6th Round – Mike Tyson – S/CB
  • 6th Round – Justin Senior – OT/G
  • 7th Round – David Moore – WR
  • 7th Round – Christopher Carson – RB

After trading down twice – from 26 to 31 (to get an extra 3rd & 7th), then from 31 to 34 (to get a 4th rounder) – the Seahawks traded down from 34 to 35 with Jacksonville, picking up an extra 6th rounder.

With the 35th pick, the Seahawks finally selected Malik McDowell.  This guy will play right away, particularly in obvious passing situations, as a pass rushing defensive tackle.  He can also play on the end, as I’m sure he and Michael Bennett will be interchangeable.  From the tape I watched on him after we made this pick, he looks like he can be quite the disruptive force in getting upfield.  I don’t know if he’s too great at stopping the run, so that might be something for him to work on.  He’ll need to stay extremely disciplined if he plays for the Seahawks, minding the gaps he’s supposed to mind and so on.  There’s also people who greatly question his effort, which is obviously concerning, because I keep hearing reports that McDowell is a Top 5 talent if not for his effort concerns.  I have to wonder if that just means going all out every play, or if that encompasses his entire life.  Like, is he going to keep up with offseason workout programs?  Am I going to have to worry about him showing up overweight and out of shape?

What I don’t buy is McDowell falling because of poor interviews.  I don’t care if my stud D-Linemen are great orators; quite frankly, with guys like Bennett, Sherman, Doug Baldwin, and so on and so forth on this team, I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks drafting a fucking mute.  Who cares if McDowell gives boring, one-word answers?  He’s not getting paid to give great interviews; he’s getting paid to kill the quarterback!

What I also don’t buy is knocking McDowell for poor effort on a bad Michigan State team in his senior season.  They keep saying his effort went downhill as they kept losing as the season wore on.  Well, so what?  If I only have to worry about his effort when he’s on a bad team, then I shouldn’t have to worry very much, because the Seahawks are VERY good still!  He’s coming onto a championship contender, so I would expect the effort will be there.  And, if it’s not, or if he’s injury prone or whatever, then we obviously have huge problems.

What I saw when I watched McDowell play is a guy with long arms, lots of strength, and lots of quickness.  He’s going to make quick work of single-teams, and if he’s double-teamed (which he probably should be a lot of the time, particularly on the interior of the line), then that just opens up lanes for Bennett, Avril, Clark, and so on.  The upside with this kid is through the roof!  If the veterans are able to keep him in line and he comes in with a positive attitude, we could be looking at the guy who replaces Bennett whenever he’s ready to retire.  McDowell is a potential superstar and long-term player, if we got this pick right.  If we failed, and he turns out to be a diva, he could be a spectacular bust.

***

One of the biggest shocks for me of this Seahawks draft is – after they made all of their trade downs to collect extra draft picks – they didn’t try to trade up (particularly in the 2nd round) and use some of that extra draft capital to pick up a unique talent.  Maybe the right deal never came along, maybe the unique talent didn’t fall far enough, or maybe all the talent at the end of the 2nd round was pretty much the same anyway and the Seahawks just took the best player available (considering their needs, of course).

In this case, that player turned out to be Ethan Pocic, offensive lineman out of LSU.  He checks off a lot of the boxes we like:  pro-style offense, has played multple positions along the line, is very intelligent, is very athletic, played in the SEC, and he absolutely towers over Russell Wilson, so watch out for those sight lines!

I think what flipped out a lot of Seahawks fans about this one is the fact that he primarily played center for LSU.  He does have experience at tackle and guard, but the overwhelming majority of his playing time was devoted to center.  And, obviously, the Seahawks already have their starting center in Britt.  Which means either we picked this guy to be our center after 2017 (in this case, Britt would walk in free agency), or the Seahawks plan to eventually extend Britt long term, and we’ve just drafted yet another guy we’re going to have to convert into something else.  Something that’s NOT his natural center position.  It’s just getting a little frustrating, you know?  Carpenter came in as a right tackle, eventually converted to left guard.  Britt was a right tackle, then a guard, until he finally made it work at center.  Ifedi was supposed to be a right tackle, but last year we made him a right guard, and now it looks like we’re going to move him back to tackle again?  Now, this Pocic guy, who is a center, will be a WHAT in 2017?

Well, for now, it looks like he’ll land on the right side of the line.  He, Ifedi, and Aboushi will all compete to be starters for those two positions, with the loser as backup.  I’ll talk more about my thoughts on the O-Line another time, but for now, I like the pick.  I’ll like Pocic even more if he IS as versatile as they say he’ll be.

***

The next two guys were right in my sweet spot.  Right where I’ve been screaming at the Seahawks to address since the 2016 season ended:  the secondary.

Shaquill Griffin is a cornerback out of UCF.  6′, 194 lbs.  He’s got long arms, is apparently a good tackler, and can play press coverage or off the ball, so he’s exactly what the Seahawks look for in a corner.  He should come in and compete for a starting spot right away, and can likely play inside or outside, which is nice, because the Seahawks need both.

Delano Hill is a strong safety out of Michigan.  Nearly 6’1, 216 lbs.  He strikes me as a Kam Chancellor type.  He likely starts out as a backup safety, playing a lot of special teams, and learning at the feet of the master.  He is good in helping to stop the run, but his coverage skills may be suspect.  Of course, they said the same thing about Kam when he came out in the draft, so we’ll just have to see.  If he can spend the majority of this year just being a promising backup, maybe next year he’ll come in and be twice the player he is now.

***

With the final two picks in the third round, the Seahawks did some very Seahawky things.

First up, Nazair Jones, DT out of North Carolina.  6’5, 304 lbs.  This guy is more of a run-stuffer, likely replacing Tony McDaniel in the interior rotation on base defense.  He should fit in nicely with Reed and Rubin, though you’ll be hard pressed to see him and McDowell on the field at the same time.  They kind of project to play the same spot on the line, with Jones in there on likely run situations, and McDowell there in likely passing situations.  This pick would seem to eliminate the annual last-minute DT free agent signing, and hopefully shore this position up for a few years.

Then, the Seahawks went rogue, picking up Amara Darboh, wide receiver out of Michigan.  6’2, 214 lbs.  Big receiver who likely won’t play much right away (unless he catches on as a special teamer), he does project to have a potentially huge role in 2018 and beyond.  We’re going into a contract year with Paul Richardson, and we’re also going into the likely final year with Jermaine Kearse (as you can cut him after the 2017 season with minimal dead money going against the cap).  While Darboh doesn’t have the speed of a Richardson, he could very well have the ball skills and leaping ability to high point over defenders.  And, while Darboh doesn’t have the experience or toughness of a Kearse, he does appear to have the blocking ability that’s kept Kearse employed for so long.  The question remains:  can he make those big, game-changing catches we’ve seen Kearse come down with throughout the years?  He’ll have to prove that in practice and pre-season games.

That having been said, I have the same concerns for him as I do for all mid-round receivers:  will he ever develop into anything?  A guy like Doug Baldwin can flourish when he came into the league, because the Seahawks were still rebuilding when he signed on.  But, the Seahawks are mostly set everywhere and are just filling in the cracks of the back-end of the roster.  Can Darboh make an immediate impact?  If not, can the Seahawks afford to keep a guy based on potential?  When our championship window continues to close on us?  It just seems like these “big” receivers we keep drafting are never worth a shit.  Hopefully, Darboh is the exception and not the rule.

***

After a pleasant night to think about the final four rounds, the Seahawks were back at it early on Saturday.  They had the 3rd pick of the 4th round, then didn’t pick again until the 3rd pick of the 6th round, but that didn’t stop them from bolstering their secondary with both of those selections.

Tedric Thompson, a safety out of Colorado, kicked it off.  6′, 204 lbs.  While Delano Hill projects as more of a Kam-type safety, Thompson projects as more of an Earl-type free safety.  Generally speaking, Colorado’s secondary was the best secondary the Huskies played all year last year; those guys REALLY impressed the shit out of me, and it obviously translated into those guys getting drafted by the NFL.  Thompson has great coverage and ball skills, producing a lot of turnovers in college, which is exactly what the Seahawks need.  His tackling skills leave a lot to be desired, but I feel like that’s something the Seahawks can coach into him.  The real worry is his history of concussions.  With the way this team likes to tackle – emphasizing shoulder tackling over spearing guys and drawing flags – I wouldn’t think that would be a huge problem.  But, you can never REALLY prevent hits to the head, so it’s going to require a bit of luck to keep Thompson in the league over a long career.

Then, the Seahawks picked up Mike Tyson out of Cincinnati in the 6th round, and everyone had a huge fucking laugh.  6’1, 204 lbs.  He’s very athletic and very raw.  Right now, he’s projected to compete as a cornerback as well as safety, so we could be looking at a guy to help compete at the nickel.  I would anticipate he cracks the special teams, develops behind the scenes, and maybe starts getting rotated into the nickel defense in 2018 and beyond (that is, if he makes the team at all, which is far from a guarantee).

More than anything, I love the strategy here.  The Seahawks saw a need for depth in the secondary, and instead of just drafting a couple 3rd rounders and calling it a day, they went out and threw a bunch of resources into the L.O.B.  All four of these guys won’t make the Opening Day roster, but you seriously improve your chances of hitting on at least one or two of these guys with the more picks you devote to the position.  I think that, more than anything, is the reason why the Seahawks never used their extra picks to move back up in any one round.  They wanted this to be a Numbers Game situation.  You hit on 100 women at the bar, odds are you’ll get at least 1 phone number!

***

The Seahawks had 3 picks in the late 6th and 7th rounds.  All of these guys are projects who I won’t spend much time on.

In the 6th, the Seahawks picked up Justin Senior, offensive tackle out of Mississippi State.  6’5, 331 lbs.  He’s only played right tackle, so that would appear to be his spot.  That having been said, a guy just playing one position has never prevented the Seahawks from pounding a square peg into a round hole.  Even if that position is power forward on the college basketball team, but I digress.  I wouldn’t expect much out of this kid.  Best case scenario is he’s a backup swing tackle.  Again, more depth.

In the early 7th, the Seahawks selected David Moore, wide receiver out of East Central.  6’1, 219 lbs.  He’s from a Division II school, which isn’t a reason to keep him out of the NFL, but obviously you first have to question the level of talent he played against.  His only shot to make the team is if he plays special teams REALLY well.  Odds are, we try to stash him on the practice squad.

In the late 7th, the Seahawks brought in Christopher Carson, running back out of OK State.  6′, 218 lbs.  Another long shot, though with the way Seahawks running backs have been getting injured the last couple seasons, maybe not as long a shot as it would first appear?  He kind of strikes me as a Thomas Rawls type, so maybe he’s a hedge against yet another Rawls injury.

***

All in all, I don’t mind the strategy.  I will say this:  I think the odds of the Seahawks picking up a cornerback who can start right away were MUCH better when taking one with your first pick, as opposed to your third rounder.  They obviously felt that the drop-off from McDowell and the type of pass-rushing DT that would’ve been available to them later in the draft was too much to cope with, when compared to the lesser drop-off of cornerbacks from Kevin King to Shaq Griffin.  But, when I look at a Kevin King (or other, comparable cornerbacks in the late first/early second round), I see a guy who not only starts right away, but plays every down.  When I look at a guy like McDowell, I see a guy who plays situationally, in a rotation.  Now, the ceiling on McDowell is through the roof, so maybe you take the long-term approach to your draft assessment.  If you hit on McDowell, and he plays at a Pro Bowl level, you can argue a disruptive D-line force is more valuable than a starting cornerback in a Cover Three defense.  But, I also think the odds of McDowell becoming that Pro Bowl-type player are longer than they are for someone like Kevin King to be a Pro Bowl corner.  In which case, the Seahawks might’ve forsaken a Pro Bowl corner just to draft a Cassius Marsh-type D-lineman (worst case scenario, obviously).

But, you can’t say the Seahawks are afraid to take risks.  Go big or go home seems to be the motto.  I think this draft, more than any of the drafts since 2013, is the most pivotal to our long-term success.  In that sense, if they’ve failed this weekend, and passed on more sure things to roll the dice on the likes of McDowell, Pocic, and Griffin, it could really spell doom for this franchise and set us back a long time.  I mean, look at the results, we haven’t had a game-changing draft since 2012; it’s been spotty at best ever since.  We need to get back to really hitting on some guys, or this team is going to wither and die at the feet of an aging Russell Wilson in a few years.

If nothing else, though, I like the potential of this draft to do EXACTLY what it was supposed to do:  improve the depth of this ballclub at the back-end of the roster.  The secondary looks like it could be replenished in a big way, the D-line DEFINITELY looks like it’s got some dogs for many years to come, the team didn’t neglect the all-important offensive line (as Pocic looks like he can not only come in to play right away, but he might be the best lineman after Britt on the entire team, without playing a single snap!), and they looked to the future of the wide receiver position and brought in at least one very interesting player who could be productive in 2018 and beyond.

If some of these guys can come in to play right away, it’ll be huge.  You know injuries are coming, and you know some of these guys (particularly on defense) will be pressed into action early and maybe often.  If they can do what some of our crappier reserves from last year couldn’t – and actually mitigate the drop-off in quality of play from starter to backup – the Seahawks might just have another Super Bowl run in them.

That’s a very big IF, of course, but the draft is here to give us hope, so we might as well take a long, satisfying drag from that cigarette.

What I’d Like To See The Seahawks Do In The 2017 NFL Draft

I’m not a draftnik by any means.  I don’t do mock drafts, because I don’t know enough about the vast majority of college football outside of the University of Washington, and because they’re a collosal waste of time.  I like to write about other sports when nothing’s happening in the NFL, so I don’t know what I would do if I had to write about the NFL all year round.

But, you know, some information does manage to slip through into my brain from time to time.  I have a vague, general idea of some of the best players in the draft this year and where they might end up going.  I’m also keenly aware of the Seattle Seahawks and their needs in the aftermath of the first round of the free agency signing period (the second round is between the draft and the start of the regular season, and it’s much less interesting, with guys getting training camp tryouts more than anything else).  I know where the Seahawks pick, so I have a pretty good idea of who will be available and who won’t be.  And, I’ve got a decent idea of where this draft is strongest and weakest.

The Seahawks pick 26th out of 32 in the first round.  They have a second round pick in roughly the same spot, and three third rounders.  No fourths or fifths; one sixth and one seventh, for a total of 7 draft picks.  Knowing the Seahawks, they’d like to have more than 7 picks in this draft, so it’s entirely plausible that the Seahawks end up trading down on one or more occasions, to perhaps pick up an extra 2nd or 3rd rounder, or maybe fill in that extensive gap between their last 3rd rounder and their 6th rounder.

So, if I had to guess, I’d say the Seahawks don’t actually make a selection at 26.  I say that because they’ve traded down in the first round multiple times before.  I say that because there’s REALLY no consensus among rookie quarterbacks coming out this year, meaning it’s not too likely a quarterback is taken in any of the top five picks, but it’s entirely possible that many multiple quarterbacks are taken between 6-32, as I get the feeling different teams have different QBs rated as their highest and would love nothing more than to prove the rest of the NFL wrong, that they know better.  As such, there’s a pretty good chance we see a team willing to trade up from the early 2nd round and move into Seattle’s spot.  Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, and the Jets all pick pretty early in the 2nd round, for instance.  The lower the Seahawks go down the ladder, the more in draft capital they’re likely to pick up.

To wrap up this part of the post, would I be in favor of the Seahawks trading down?  Why not?  However, if it prevents us from getting certain guys I want, I’m going to be a little upset.

So, who are some of the guys projected to go to Seattle?  Well, I’m sure among many, many others, I’ve been seeing the following names a lot:

  • Cam Robinson OT
  • Garett Bolles OT
  • Forrest Lamp G
  • Kevin King CB
  • Obi Melifonwu S

I could probably go on and on if I wanted to really do some research, but I’ll tell you what I think about these guys.  Even though offensive line was an abject disaster last year, I’m not super high on taking a lineman in the first round.  When I hear things like, “This is the worst draft ever for offensive linemen,” I cringe.  All those people saying that could be dead wrong, and there could be any number of quality linemen who develop from this class, but it seems like a longshot to me.  Taking an offensive lineman at 26 (or wherever the Seahawks land with their first pick of the draft) is going to have the feel of a reach to me.  The Seahawks drafting for need over value, taking whatever lineman is the best available just because.  If the Seahawks are going to take yet another offensive lineman with their first pick, it better be a guy who is a quality starter from Day 1, and quite frankly their track record stinks in this area.

  • Ifedi, last year, was a starter from Day 1, but not a good one
  • Britt (their 2nd selection in the 2014 draft) wasn’t good until year 3
  • Carpenter (2011) wasn’t the right tackle we were promised, eventually settling into a so-so left guard
  • Moffitt (also 2011) was never good, is out of the league now
  • Okung (2010) the only quality lineman, but had his own issues (was also a #6 overall draft pick and the second left tackle taken in the draft)

The Seahawks and Plug & Play O-Linemen don’t really mesh.  It either takes time for them to develop into decent players, if they ever develop at all.

So, what are we supposed to do if we take one of these tackles like Robinson or Bolles, if they’re still around?  Well, you have to play them, of course!  You have to get value out of your top picks, meaning you need to feature them early and often to get your money’s worth!  Considering it looks like Ifedi is being moved over to right tackle, and considering the Seahawks signed Luke Joeckel, and considering they still highly regard George Fant, I mean, what do we do here with this embarrassment of debts?  (that’s the opposite of Embarrassment of Riches, right?)  Besides that, do either of them play left tackle, which is actually the position we need to be filling with a competent player?  I have my doubts.

Plus, I don’t even think O-Line is the most pressing need right now.  I think the Seahawks did all they did in free agency so they WOULDN’T have to settle on taking an O-Lineman with their first draft pick.  They NEED to replenish their secondary, and I think they do that here.  I hope they do that here.  I NEED THEM TO DO THAT HERE!

I’ve had it in my head, pretty much since the combine, that we can get the band back together – so to speak – with regards to the UW secondary.  I absolutely LOVE Kevin King’s potential for growth, and I also think he’d be ready to start from Day 1 opposite Richard Sherman.  And, in a couple years, when Sherman opts to move on to another team, I love Kevin King’s potential to take over that spot and flourish for many years to come.  I’m also well aware that, since the combine, his stock has skyrocketed, and as a result he may get selected before the Seahawks could even sniff at a chance of trading up for him.  Like, maybe even in the Top 20.  In which case, if that happens, so be it, and I wish him a long and fruitful career (except when he plays the Seahawks).

I also need to understand that there are many other cornerbacks and safeties out there that the Seahawks could conceivably covet (like that Melifonwu guy out of UConn), that could be as good or even better than Kevin King.  I just think I’m going to be REALLY upset if King is still there and the Seahawks pick someone else over him, that’s all.

As a dark horse, who no one is really talking about when they talk about the Seahawks, is Budda Baker.  Like I said, I’m REALLY high on the Washington Huskies’ secondary, and I think I want as many of them as possible to play for Seattle.  I know Baker’s essentially blocked at the safety position by Earl Thomas, and I know they just signed Bradley McDougald as a prominent backup safety they hope to incorporate into the defense; but I’ve also seen what this team looks like without Kam Chancellor, and without Earl Thomas (though, thankfully, not without both at the same time, which I fear would be the death of me), and I honestly believe you can’t have enough talent at that position, when you’re playing a Pete Carroll defense.  With Baker backing up Earl, you don’t have NEARLY the dropoff you had last year when Earl went down.  But, even if Earl and Kam don’t miss a single important snap the entire season, that doesn’t mean you wasted your selection on Baker.  Budda can play cornerback too!  Line him up outside and move Lane inside, or keep Lane outside and let Budda play nickel, either way I think you’re going to have tremendous production from him, and a fabulous stopgap until DeShawn Shead can come back from injury.

Not for nothing, but I haven’t even mentioned Sidney Jones here.  With his achilles tendon injury, his draft stock fell pretty hard.  If he were to fall to the Seahawks in the second round, I think I might lose my shit, though I think that’s a longshot.  Nevertheless, coming away with Baker and Jones in this draft might make it all worthwhile in mine eyes.

There’s also talk of the Seahawks going with a pass rusher with their first pick, but I dunno.  I just don’t know who’s going to be available.  They have Avril, Bennett, and Frank Clark in the fold already.  In the big pass rushing package, you can slide Bennett inside and play all three of those guys at once, but you still need another interior pass rusher to pair with him, and the very best ones of that group tend to be picked super high (I see you Solomon Thomas, and I hope to holy hell that the 49ers don’t pick you #2 overall).  If you could guarantee me the Seahawks find some diamond in the rough, I suppose I’d be for it, but there aren’t a ton of rookie pass rushers who make huge impacts AS rookies.

More than anything else, I want a guy who can come in and start right away, but I also want a guy who will have a big positive impact right away.  Seems unlikely at any of the line positions (either offense or defense), seems unlikely at wide receiver or running back, and in my opinion going after a linebacker (with Wagner and Wright never leaving the field) would be beyond irresponsible, given the holes this team needs to fill.  The only thing worse would be if the Seahawks went quarterback with their first pick, at which point I might throw my remote through the television.

The only logical choice is to use that first pick on the secondary.  So that’s what I’d like to see the Seahawks do in the 2017 NFL Draft.

Sincerely,

TL;DR

Seahawks Sign Depth Pieces At O-Line, Linebacker, Safety

Guard – Oday Aboushi
Linebacker – Arthur Brown
Safety – Bradley McDougald

They’re all 1-year deals for pretty low money, so again with that theme of having lots of roster flexibility going into 2018.  They’ve also got some starting experience and aren’t necessarily guaranteed anything by coming here.  In fact, I would venture all are blocked at their respective positions, but all are looking to rebuild some of their value by coming here and playing for a potential winner.

Oday Aboushi is another guy to throw onto the O-Line pile.  He’ll likely come in and compete right away with Mark Glowinski and Rees Odhiambo.  The more the merrier is what I say.  No one is confusing Aboushi with an All Pro, but it wouldn’t shock me if he’s better than Glowinski right now and gives us at least SOME modicum of improvement at the guard position from day one.

Arthur Brown looks like a Special Teamer, and possibly a Brock Coyle replacement.  Talking cheaper, talking possibly more athletic, talking a guy who was once a really highly rated prospect at the linebacker position, we could be looking at someone who has yet to fulfill his full potential.  I don’t know if you look forward to him starting on this defense that’s already stacked at linebacker (as an injury replacement, of course), but if he’s a baller on special teams, I’ll gladly take him.

Bradley McDougald is the most intriguing of the three, as a guy coming from Tampa Bay who has extensive starting experience as a free safety.  The Bucs opted to go with someone a little more established – and thus a lot more costly – but I think this is a fantastic move for the Seahawks.  Upgrading safety depth was one of my biggest priorities for the Seahawks going into this offseason, particularly with how terrible this team was against the pass after Earl Thomas went down.  I can’t imagine a scenario where McDougald is any worse than Steven Terrell; I very much CAN imagine a scenario where he’s a whole helluva lot better, and will be an asset to this team should one of our starting safeties go down.

All in all, things are shaping up pretty nicely heading into the NFL Draft on April 27th-29th.  Cornerback is the obvious priority #1 at this point, which you have to think will be knocked out either in the first round or early second round (assuming the Seahawks trade down, which a lot of us fans believe they will).

Seahawks Death Week: The Road Ahead

So, what do the Seahawks need to do to get back to playing in Super Bowls again?

The simple answer is:  bolster the O-Line, bring in a stud running back, pump up the secondary, sign an interior pass rusher, and fill out the roster with athletes.

But, it’s never that simple.  Pete Carroll made shockwaves among Seahawks fans by indicating – in his end-of-the-season press conference – that the plan right now is to bring back the same starting O-Line that we finished with.  On the one hand, you’re not going to get anywhere without continuity along the offensive line.  Those guys need to play together, get used to one another’s tendencies, and have that sort of mental telepathy to know where they’re supposed to be and who they’re supposed to be blocking.  But, on the other hand, you can get continuity by signing me and four of my friends to play on the line, and it doesn’t mean it’ll be worth a damn if you keep running us out there year-in and year-out.  At some point, you need some motherfuckin’ talent, and talent is always going to trump continuity.

Obviously, we’ve been going on and on about how great Britt has been, so that settles the center position.  You can argue that guys like Ifedi and Fant have a lot of room to grow.  They’ve gotten a ton of experience, they got through the season mostly unscathed, they can work this offseason to get stronger and learn the intricacies of their respective positions, and they can come back next year hopefully ready to take the next step in their progression.  You can sort of make that argument with Glowinski as well, but he always seemed a better fit for the right guard position; maybe with the full year under his belt, he’ll be ready to rock n’ roll in 2017.  I think Gilliam has had it though; he’s probably as good as he’s ever going to be.  Which would be passable if the other four guys were studs, but they’re not, so I think at a minimum you have to bring in some competition for right tackle.  If I had my druthers, I’d hit the free agent market hard and pick up a good one, but I don’t know what the market’s going to look like.  You’d think there’d be at least ONE right tackle worth a damn who’s up for grabs.  I say, spend some of that extra money and pick one up.  That would make two spots on the line you don’t have to worry about, and you can flip Gilliam over to left tackle and have him push Fant in a competition for that spot.

The deal with left tackle is, obviously, Fant is far from ideal.  But, he’s who we’ve got.  You’re not going to find a superstar left tackle on the free agent market, because those guys always get snapped up by the smarter teams who actually value the O-Line.  You’re also not going to find a superstar left tackle at the 26th spot in the draft, because this is a thin draft class for offensive linemen and all the good ones are going to be drafted WAY before it gets to Seattle’s turn.  And, you’re not going to trade for one, because the cost would be prohibitive, and again I don’t think there are a ton of teams clamoring to give away their franchise left tackles.  So, the best we can hope for is to bring in competition to fight it out with Fant and may the best man win.  For what it’s worth, Fant needs to come in bigger and stronger, so he’s not constantly beaten to death by the bull rush.  Also for what it’s worth, if the Seahawks sign someone off the scrap heap, it better be someone better than fucking Sowell and Webb.

At guard, Ifedi isn’t going anywhere.  For better or for worse, the two guaranteed spots on the O-Line right now that you can lock in are Britt at center and Ifedi at right guard (barring injuries, of course).  I think they’ve come to their senses about Ifedi ever being a tackle in this league, and there would be no point in flipping him to the left side of the line since that’s his weaker side.  Plus, he’s a first round draft pick; they’re not going to give up on that kind of a talent just because he had a tough rookie season.  Hell, they gave Britt three different chances at three different spots on the line over his first three years, and he was only a second rounder!  But, at the left guard spot, I think you’ll see Glowinski and Odhiambo duke it out, which again, I don’t know if that’s something Seahawks fans want to hear, but there you go.  Now, it’s POSSIBLE the team drafts the best guard available in the first round, in which case YAY, even more competition!  I mean, seriously, this team needs to bring in as much talent as it can get, and if that means overloading at guard to finally land on the right set, I’m all for it.  I’d probably prefer that they reach for a tackle at that spot in the draft, just because I think we’re so much worse off at that position long term, but I don’t know if that’s realistic.

So, what I’m looking for out of the O-Line:  sign a right tackle, draft a guard/tackle high, and maybe sign another swing tackle off the scrap heap.

***

As for the rest of the offense, let’s start with the running game.  I like the Seahawks to draft another one.  Maybe a couple, like they did last year, but at least one.  My hunch is they’ll look to get one in Day 3 of the draft, but I wouldn’t hate it if they found a real dynamic talent in the first or second rounds.  Pit Game Changing Talent with Rawls and Prosise and I think you’ve got something you can work with.  Given Rawls’ injury history, you’re all but guaranteed that Game Changing Talent will get significant playing time.  Give me a 3-headed hydra at running back any day of the week.

At wide receiver, I don’t think you have to do much of anything.  Baldwin, Lockett, Kearse, and Richardson are your top four.  We’ve still got McEvoy in the mix, as well as a bunch of practice squad and IR guys from 2016.  Maybe you draft one on Day 3 to throw onto the developmental pile, but I think you could be best served going after a couple undrafted guys instead.

At tight end, I think you keep Jimmy Graham and I think you extend him another 2-3 years to loosen up our 2017 cap burden, while at the same time still giving us some outs in case he has another devastating injury.  For the life of me, I don’t understand the hate on this guy, considering how awesome he was in 2016.  You can piss and moan all you want about 2015, but he was still getting acclimated to our system after a career in New Orleans.  I think he’ll only continue to get better the more time he gets with Wilson.  Beyond that, I’d like to see Luke Willson back on a reasonable deal.  But, if some other team blows him away, it’s not going to kill me.  We drafted Nick Vannett to be our backup, all-around tight end, so my hope is he takes a step forward in his second year.  Also, not for nothing, but don’t be shocked if we spend a 4th or 5th rounder on another tight end in the draft, as I hear this is a good year for that position.

At quarterback, I think we bring Boykin back, but I think we look to push him by drafting another QB.  I have no insider knowledge on this, but my gut says we could even go as high as a 3rd rounder on a backup quarterback, which sounds crazy, but not as crazy as having to start Boykin if Wilson gets injured.

So, what I’m looking for out of the rest of the offense:  select another running back in the first couple days of the draft, get another backup tight end in the middle of our draft, find a diamond in the rough at quarterback (possibly as high as round 3), and hold off until Round 8 to get any more receivers.

***

Let’s go with the secondary next, because I think this unit needs the most work on defense.  I have some REAL big plans with the first two or three picks the Seahawks make in this year’s draft, and I think one of them would be best used on another safety.  Get someone big and talented, who can learn from the best.  I suppose you COULD hold off to the middle rounds for this player, but my concern is that the safety position has seen an increase in value over the years, since the Seahawks drafted the blueprint in Kam & Earl.  It’s why someone like Keanu Neal goes in the first round of the draft last year, when he might have fallen to the 4th or 5th just a few years earlier.  Also, I think this team needs someone who can play right away, because at this point I don’t know if it’s wise to trust either of our starters to play a full 16-game slate.  If they do, then that’s a bonus, and maybe you fiddle around with your defense to let the new guy get his feet wet in some special packages.

Ideally, this safety would also have excellent coverage skills, and could be used in a pinch in some nickel or dime sets, if guys get injured or whatnot.  Someone who can play both positions is exactly what this team needs right now, considering Shead is likely to start the season on the PUP list.  I think this team needs to hit the cornerback position pretty hard, so I wouldn’t be surprised if you saw three DBs drafted.  The Seahawks have Sherman, Lane, and a whole lotta young guys right now, so bringing in a guy who can play right away in the first day or two of the draft seems to be the smartest way to go.  If Budda Baker somehow fell to us at 26, I’d lose my shit.

Beyond that, I like the idea of the Seahawks hitting the free agent market for a dominant interior pass rusher.  I know Calais Campbell’s name has been bandied about on Seahawks Fan Twitter, and believe me, I’m right there with ’em.  I just don’t think you’re going to find any sort of game changing talent in the draft, picking where we are.  Maybe they grab another experimental player late in the draft, but I think if we’re ever going to get this sort of guy, we need to throw money at a veteran.

The rest of the D-Line is solid, I think.  I’m also a big fan of the linebacking group as well, and I hope we get a shot at re-signing Mike Morgan to be our SAM, as I don’t think this team really needs to break the bank at that position.

So, what I’m looking for out of the defense:  hit the secondary in the draft early and often, re-sign Mike Morgan, sign a superstud interior pass rusher, and maybe some experimental players at the D-Line and linebacker spots if there’s room.

***

What I like most about our chances going into 2017 is that there’s not a ton of dead weight to lop off.  I think you let Sowell sign elsewhere.  Don’t break the bank on Luke Willson.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Marcel Reece back, as I thought he did some of the best lead blocking in a Seahawks uniform since Mack Strong retired.  I wouldn’t mind seeing Tony McDaniel back at the right price.  Maybe we look to shore up linebacker, find someone in the draft a little more promising than KPL.  And, don’t really kill yourselves trying to bring back McCray.

I think the Seahawks need to look awful hard at long snapper again this year, because that was never NOT an issue with this team in 2016.  And, I think the Seahawks need to look at the kicker spot.  Was this year just an anomaly for Hauschka?  Or, is this the beginning of the end?  Kicking is such a mental game, and if these longer extra points are going to be an issue for him, then maybe the Seahawks have to look at selecting a kicker in the 6th round.  I mean, a drafted kicker couldn’t be MUCH worse than what we got out of Hauschka last year, right?  Sure, dude only missed 4 field goals all year, but two of them were inside of 30 yards.  Plus, he missed 6 extra points and another one in the playoffs.  So, you know, that shit’s gotta stop.  Plus, his last deal with us averaged nearly $3 million a year, so it’s not like he’s going to accept a significant pay decrease just to re-sign with us.  Maybe 2017 is the year we draft a kicker of the future and take our chances?  It wouldn’t crush me, I’ll put it that way.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

Hey look, I get it, losing sucks.  Teams like the Seahawks have a finite championship window.  On the one hand, that’s a good thing because it means we have a good team.  The Cleveland Browns don’t have a finite championship window because they suck!  On the other hand, that championship window is going to close sooner or later, if it hasn’t already.  For what it’s worth, I think the future still looks pretty promising, but that obviously comes with the fact that they have work to do on the player personnel side.

Before I get into the promising future, let’s take a quick look back.  We’re at the end of the best 5-year run in franchise history!  56-23-1, or a .706 winning percentage.  That easily bests any of the best 5-year runs in the 80’s, as well as that superb 5-year run in the Holmgren years.  This includes the fact that we’ve won at least 10 games AND made the playoffs AND won at least one playoff game every season since 2012.  Only the Patriots have done that, and they enjoy the luxury of having the very worst divisional opponents this side of the AFC South.  On top of that, factor in 3 divisional championships, 2 Super Bowl appearances, and 1 championship, and you could say the Seahawks have been pretty hashtag-blessed in this run.

All the while, the Seahawks have remained one of the youngest teams in the NFL.  Now, more and more, that’s a result of the back-end of our roster being filled with rookies, but the players at the top are still in their primes, which means we’ve got at least 2-3 more years of this championship window left to stress over!

First and foremost, we’ve got a franchise quarterback.  You’re not going anywhere without a franchise quarterback.  Just ask those aforementioned Cleveland Browns, or the Houston Texans, Buffalo Bills, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Chicago Bears, New York Jets, and so on and so forth.  Even in those rare instances where a team rides its defense to a title, you’re never going to be able to achieve sustained success with that tactic.  Yeah, Peyton Manning stunk in 2015 and the Broncos won it all, but you saw what happened in 2016.  Due to salary cap constraints, players get poached.  Due to the law of averages, a defense largely healthy one year suffers a bevy of injuries the next.  I mean, go back through time of all the teams with elite defenses and crappy quarterbacks – 2002 Bucs, 2000 Ravens, 1985 Bears – did any of them repeat?  The Bears didn’t make another Super Bowl until the 2006 season; the Bucs haven’t been back period; and the Ravens didn’t win it all again until the 2012 season, at which time their defense was a shell of its former self, and they were able to ride the hot hand of Joe Flacco of all people.  The overwhelming majority of Super Bowl champions – and even Super Bowl participants – had either great quarterbacks, or average quarterbacks having great seasons.

Now, is there cause for concern about Russell Wilson’s 2016 season?  Sure felt like a step back to me, but I don’t know how much you can learn about a season when he’s hobbled and still running for his life because of that O-Line.  I think it all finally caught up to him, resulting in rushed throws, which in turn resulted in a lot of inaccurate throws.  Improved offensive line play will surely result in improved quarterback play.  Or, it’ll spell doom for a promising young player who looked like he was on the fast track to the Hall of Fame.

As I mentioned before, the wide receiver group is as strong as ever.  Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett are great players.  Jermaine Kearse unquestionably had a down year in 2016, but he nevertheless brings a lot to the table with his blocking and his rapport with Wilson and the other receivers.  Paul Richardson came on like gangbusters after Lockett went down.  If we’re able to incorporate him more into this offense, we haven’t had a player with his combination of speed and catch radius EVER in the Pete Carroll era.  The person who comes closest is Sidney Rice in his prime, which I think this team would take in a heartbeat.  When you top it off with Jimmy Graham – who I believe this team not only needs to hang onto in 2017, but should probably look to extend out another 2-3 years to make his cap hits more reasonable – this offense has the weapons in the passing game to succeed.  They won’t need to hit the free agent or trade markets, nor will they need to look in the draft all that high.

Running back might be another story.  When healthy, you’ve got elite talent with Rawls and Prosise, but obviously you can’t count on either of them for a full 16-game season plus playoffs.  Alex Collins really started to play well towards the end of the season, so obviously I think you keep him in the mix.  But, this team will most definitely have to look in the draft for another quality back to throw onto the pile.

In talking about the O-Line, Justin Britt was a pleasant surprise and lone bright spot.  While there is plenty of work to do here, it’s nice to know at least ONE spot out of five is locked in.

Defensively, we’re still stacked up and down the lineup.  Bennett and Avril are still making lives miserable.  Frank Clark – already solid as a rookie – took a big leap forward in his second year, setting himself up for a HUGE third season, and likely a huge payday once next season concludes.  Along the interior, Rubin and Reed and the return of Tony McDaniel helped us maintain our status as one of the best run defenses in the league.  You never mind picking up extra talent in this group – particularly at the back end, to shore up the depth – but D-Line isn’t really the priority it has been the last couple years.

I was most impressed with our linebackers in 2016.  Bobby Wagner had a so-so 2015, and responded with the best season of his career this past year.  He was, in fact, the best linebacker in the entire NFL, which is no small feat.  Led the league in tackles, managed 4.5 sacks for a guy who doesn’t rush the passer a ton, and was just generally always around the football.  K.J. Wright continued being the most underrated defender in football, and the guy most deserving of a Pro Bowl invite who has yet to actually make it who finally got in this year!  This group didn’t see its strongside linebacker out on the field a lot, but when Mike Morgan came back from injury, he was a force, particularly in setting the edge on running plays.  Just, all around, the best linebacking unit in football, period.

The secondary, while it needs some work, has the broad strokes in place.  Richard Sherman didn’t have his best year (and, it sounds like half that year he was dealing with an MCL issue), but when he’s locked in on his side of the field, as you saw in the Detroit playoff game, he’s still a force to be avoided.  On the opposite side, DeShawn Shead got the starting nod and really acquitted himself well.  Unfortunately, they didn’t trust him enough to just leave him over there – as we saw more and more Richard Sherman following the other team’s best receiver – and I think that might’ve had something to do with our defense taking a step back.  At safety, Kam was his usual dominant self when he was on the field, and Earl was Earl (again, when he was on the field).  The fact that both of those guys missed some pretty extensive time this year, and the fact that our defense REALLY suffered accordingly, means this team has work to do in shoring up our depth in the secondary.  Those four guys, plus Jeremy Lane, were supposed to make the secondary this team’s #1 strength.  Instead, they were this team’s second-biggest weakness, when the likes of Kelcie McCray, Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and Neiko Thorpe were thrust into active duty.  Bolster the unit from the bottom up and we should see a return to former glories for the secondary.

The foundation is solid, is what I’m trying to get at!  Across the board, except for the O-Line.  We’ve just got to figure out a way to get the complementary pieces in place to get us through the hard times.  As luck would have it, 2017 presents a unique opportunity to really pump this team full of talent.  The Salary Cap should be upwards of $170 million.  Our dead money is currently less than $1 million.  Add that to our contracts already on file, we’ve spent approximately $135 million on our 2017 roster.  The best part, though?  Our list of unrestricted free agents is pretty weak.  The most expensive player on that list is Steven Hauschka, and we might end up looking in another direction at kicker anyway, given how poor of a season he had in 2016.  Then, there’s Luke Willson, who figures to test the market and see if he can get himself a starting job somewhere.  If he comes back to Seattle, it’ll likely be on a very reasonable deal.  As for starter types, Mike Morgan and Tony McDaniel could be had on small deals as well.  Beyond those guys, we’re talking about the bottom of the roster:  McCray, Sowell, Thorpe, Marcel Reece, Tukuafu, Jeron Johnson, Brandon Williams, and Damontre Moore.  So, you know, it’s not like there’s some big contract we need to take care of on our own roster.

I’m fuzzy at best as to what the free agent market is going to look like, but that’s a topic for another day.  For now, let’s just bask in the glow that we’ve got a very good football team, with some very smart people running the show, and we’re really not THAT far off from competing for the top seed in the NFC and the Super Bowl.