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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why The Front Office Deserves Its Share Of The Blame For The Seahawks’ 2015 Failures

File the 2015 Seahawks under “Missed Opportunity”.  Maybe not as frustratingly eyeball-stabbing as the 2014 Seahawks, but it’s impossible to look back on 2015 and not say, “What in the fucking FUCK just happened?”

The general, lazy narrative surrounding the 2015 Seahawks is that the offensive line did them in.  Granted, the O-Line did them few favors, and is certainly in need of some overhauling – especially in the pass protection realm – but the truth is there’s a smattering of reasons, all across the board, for why this team broke down and ultimately fell far short of its goal.

If you want to bring up the December Rams defeat, and the loss in the playoffs, I’ll go along with you on the O-Line argument:  we were absolutely obliterated up the middle for most of those two games.  It was the reason why the Rams were able to slow down our wrecking ball offense, who had been on a run of five straight dominating performances to that point; and it was a big reason why we were shut out in the first half against the Panthers as they steamrolled us to a 31-0 lead.

But, those are just two games.  Furthermore, who knows how the season would’ve gone had the Seahawks not blown those early games?

Yes, the offensive line sucked in the first half of the season, and certainly got better over time as the same five guys were able to – for the most part – play consistent snaps together.  But, the O-Line wasn’t the primary reason why we lost those first four games.  Especially galling was that first Rams loss, where Nick Foles & Co. moved the ball at will; but the defeats to the Packers, Panthers, and Bengals were all pretty bad in their own rights.  In all four of those games, we’re talking about late defensive breakdowns in conjunction with an offense that was unable to play add-on.  The secondary stunk, the pass rush stunk, the offense as a whole stunk, and the coaching stunk.  Furthermore, it could be strongly argued that roster construction played a big factor in torpedoing this season.  I know John Schneider and Co. tend to get saintly praise for all the great they’ve done – and for good reason – but there were some serious flaws heading into this season that I don’t think any of us (myself included) could have seen coming.

The big pre-season moves (not counting extensions) were as follows:

  • Trade Unger for Graham (with swapped draft picks)
  • Sign Cary Williams to replace Byron Maxwell
  • Sign Ahtyba Rubin to replace Kevin Williams
  • Draft Frank Clark
  • Draft Tyler Lockett
  • Sign Thomas Rawls to replace Robert Turbin
  • Sign Fred Jackson to replace Christine Michael
  • Draft/sign various other depth players

That was our offseason in a nutshell.  That’s what a back-to-back Super Bowl team did in hopes of making it three in a row.  Signing Cary Williams was a failure, but I don’t know what other options the team had.  I don’t recall a lot of better options out there on the free agent market, and we really got bitten on the ass by Tharold Simon not playing a down this year.  We did know that we needed SOMEONE, what with Jeremy Lane a lock for the PUP list; and we knew we couldn’t afford Byron Maxwell, so it’s somewhat easy to defend the choice to sign Williams from that standpoint.  But, an argument could be made that this team should have seen this coming and planned accordingly a year in advance.  The 2013 draft class gets a lot of flack for its lack of pizazz, especially compared to the classes of 2010-2012.  But, the 2014 draft class might go down as an all-time dud of duds, and might go a long way towards explaining why the 2015 Seahawks never had enough pieces to get the job done.

Paul Richardson has seemingly spent more time injured than contributing.  Justin Britt has been a starter since Day 1, and has been mostly mediocre the entire time.  Cassius Marsh has been a valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our depth along the D-Line.  Kevin Norwood is just a waste of a God damn draft pick in the middle of the 4th round.  Kevin Pierre-Lewis is another valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our linebacking depth (then again, it’s not like the guys ahead of him have given him many opportunities to make plays on defense).  After the 4th round, only Eric Pinkins is still on the roster, and he’s played hardly at all.  Among the undrafted rookies, we brought in Brock Coyle (backup middle linebacker, mostly a special teamer); Garry Gilliam (elevated to starting right tackle in 2015, did mostly all right); and Dion Bailey, who you may recall fell down and gave the Rams the game-tying touchdown in Week 1 of 2015 to send that game into overtime, where we’d go on to lose.

Maybe the board didn’t shake out too well when it came time to make draft picks, but there’s a notable lack of youthful talent in that class.  And, there’s a distinct lack of cornerback help which – when you factor in Simon’s injury, Lane’s injury, and the nothing we got out of Cary Williams – is a big reason for a lot of our ills in the secondary for the first half of the 2015 season.

Beyond the Williams debacle, there’s actually a lot to like about our pre-2015 offseason moves.  Rubin played like a stud in helping us dominate against the running game.  Clark didn’t make a huge impact, but he started to come on towards the end of the season (and I tend to give receivers and pass rushers a lot of leeway in their rookie seasons, since it’s so difficult to make an impact as a rookie receiver/pass rusher).  Which makes the Lockett draft pick so essential to our 2015 success and our future success; that’s another starter and Pro Bowler picked in the 3rd round or later for this team; another guy to hang one’s hat on.  Rawls ended up being an upgrade over Turbin, and could be Lynch’s replacement as soon as 2016.  The team didn’t take a step back with Fred Jackson, who had his role and played it well enough (plus, we ended up getting Christine Michael back anyway, along with Dallas’ 7th round draft pick, so bully for us).  And, the various other depth players are just that:  depth.  I won’t nitpick our choices in the back-end of this roster too much; that’s not really the point of this post.

The other major move that came to define the 2015 season was the trade for Jimmy Graham.  I’m on record as being in favor of that trade, even after knowing how the 2015 season ended.  I don’t think Unger is too much longer for this league, and I think there’s a lot we can get out of someone like Graham.  But, his insertion into this roster is endemic of a larger fault of this front office, which ultimately came to ruin this season.

We learned a hard lesson this past year:  the Seahawks have no business being in the market for veteran skill players from other teams.  Percy Harvin was the first strike, and Jimmy Graham was a quasi-second strike (like a foul tip behind the catcher’s outstretched glove).  The rationale SORT OF makes sense – as why would it be a bad thing to add really talented weapons to your offense? – but not when you pair it with this team.

The Seahawks, ever since Pete Carroll took over, have been a run-first operation.  We pound the ball, we take some chances down field, but we more or less only throw when we need to.  So, what’s the point in shuffling around so many resources to bring in guys to improve a part of your offense you don’t use as much as most other teams?

I hate to keep harping on it, but I can’t stop/won’t stop:  the team should have never gone after Percy Harvin and should have just kept Golden Tate instead.  At this point, I’d take Tate over both Harvin AND Jimmy Graham, but that’s not the point.  The point is, this coaching staff didn’t know what it was doing with Harvin and, for most of the first half of this season, didn’t know what it was doing with Graham either.  When teams make personnel decisions, they need to make them with a plan in mind.  The decisions to bring in these elite receivers seemed to have more of a fantasy football focus in mind, rather than a practical focus FOR THIS TEAM in mind.

It’s hard breaking in new, established receivers into a different offensive scheme; you’re almost begging for growing pains.  And doing so, while creating yet another hole along your offensive line – when you were already losing your left guard, and still unsure that your right tackle was the right guy for the position – at a semi-premium position like Center (who is in charge of a lot of the protection calls for the line), was the ultimate in final straws for what broke this team’s back.

Maybe we should have seen the slow start to the season coming.  But, either way, it’s obvious now.  And it starts at the top.  This team didn’t have a clear succession plan in place at its left cornerback spot.  This team let its offensive line completely fall apart, to where they were scrambling three weeks before the regular season, shuffling players around.  This team didn’t make smart use of its new tight end weapon.  And, ultimately, all of this cost the Seahawks four games in the first half it could have easily won (I won’t count that Cardinals defeat, as that was a pretty sound whuppin’, in spite of the close score).

A team with a more talented offensive line/secondary probably wins 14 regular season games and gets the #1 seed in the playoffs for a third straight year.  This Seahawks team with the top seed most likely gets another crack at the Cardinals in the Divisional Round, while the Vikings would go on the road to Carolina (hopefully with their stout defense able to bruise the Panthers up good), then likely hosts the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game (again, I’d like to see how well they would have played coming off of a tough matchup against the Vikings the week before, while also playing on the road, like the actual 2015 Seahawks had to do).

“Missed Opportunity”, from the top of the organization on down.  Here’s to hoping they’ve learned from their mistakes, and have done enough to sufficiently set themselves up for a championship run in 2016.

Taking A Mid-Season Look At The Seahawks, Part 2

Well, we’ve made it through the weekend, and no new complaints!  No one died, no one got arrested, no one got fired; you can’t ask much more out of a BYE weekend.

So, we continue on.  Last week, we took a look at The Good about the Seahawks’ 2015 season to date.  Today, we take a look at the rest, in a season where we’re coming off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, where we were once favored to make it three in a row; now sitting at 4-4, tied for second in the NFC West, two games behind the surprisingly healthy Cardinals (and, at the moment, decidedly on the outside looking in at any Wild Card spot).  God, where do I even begin?

The Bad

How about the ol’ standby, right at the top of the list with a bullet:  4 blown 4th quarter leads in all 4 defeats.  Need a refresher?  Of course not, no one does; but here it is anyway:

  • At St. Louis – up by 7 points with less than 5 minutes to go; lost in overtime
  • At Green Bay – up by 1 point at the turn of the quarter; lost in regulation
  • At Cincinnati – up by 17 points at the turn of the quarter; lost in overtime
  • Vs. Carolina – up by 9 points with 8 minutes to go; lost in regulation

It comes as no comfort that two of those teams are still undefeated at 8-0, with a third still leading its division – and it should be of no comfort to you either.  If you’re willing to settle for, Aww Shucks, At Least We Got Beat By The Best, then you’re a loser and I’ve got no time for you.  To be the best, you need to beat the best, and so far the Seahawks haven’t beaten anyone REMOTELY even competent.  Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Dallas are all bottom-feeders.  If we’re only barely better than some of these bottom-feeders, then what does it say about the state of the Seahawks’ football team?  We need to rise up and beat a good team, and we need to do it this week.

Going down to the player level, you can’t look anywhere else until you look squarely at the offensive line.  It just hasn’t been good enough, and that’s all there is to it.  While you can’t blame them for every single sack against Russell Wilson, you have to blame them for most, because there’s a huge spike in sacks and hits this year compared to last.  And, I’ll give you they’ve showed improvement as the season as gone along – which should give all Seahawks fans at least some hope that this will be a somewhat useful unit by season’s end – but you have to wonder if it won’t be too late by that point.

For allowing this liability to get to this drastic level, there’s no one you can point to but the front office.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have totally and completely dropped the ball here when it comes to the offensive line.  You could argue it starts with the 2011 draft.  People believe that Pete & John have held that draft against Tom Cable – because they went Carpenter in the 1st and Moffitt in the 3rd, and neither panned out – but that’s juvenile and ridiculous.  They’re not going to actively harm their franchise just to make a point to an assistant coach.  The fact of the matter is, James Carpenter probably wasn’t worth the first round grade, and John Moffitt was a total wash-out.  The Seahawks subsequently spent the 2012 & 2013 drafts selecting offensive linemen no higher than the 7th round, then followed THAT up by putting a second round grade on Justin Britt – a wash-out at right tackle who looks no better at guard.  All the while, they let Carpenter and Giacomini walk, they traded Unger to the Saints, and they traded away multiple first round picks for offensive skill players while ignoring the meat & potatoes guys.

John Schneider has shown to be a savvy scout of college talent, but there have been some real draft busts in recent years.  The aforementioned Britt hurts the most – he’s our starting left guard now, but who knows how long that’ll last?  Kevin Norwood is a 4th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Jimmy Staten is a 5th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Christine Michael is a 2nd rounder from 2013 who was traded for next-to-nothing.  Chris Harper & Jesse Williams – 4th & 5th rounders respectively – from 2013 are gone.  Tharold Simon – 5th rounder from 2013 – can’t stay healthy.  Any of those picks could’ve been devoted to an offensive lineman or two – to pad out our ranks if nothing else – and for the most part they’ve been squandered.

Then, in 2015, we were back at it.  A couple guys taken in the 4th round are supposed to fix things?  They remain projects at this point, as they’re nowhere near reaching the point where they’ll see any playing time.  If the Seahawks don’t go offensive line hard and heavy in the first three rounds of the 2016 draft, then it’s going to be a long, hard few years for our beleaguered quarterback.

Moving on, we have to shout out Kam Chancellor in this section, for holding out the entirety of the pre-season, and the first two games of the regular season.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Rams squarely on his shoulders.

Shout out to Michael Bennett – one of my co-MVPs in last week’s Good section – for being an unstoppable Falling For The Hard Count machine.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Packers on him for giving Aaron Rodgers every conceivable advantage with all those free plays.

Shout out to the offensive coordinator for not using Jimmy Graham properly down near the goalline, aside from any number of baffling decisions in his career calling plays for the Seahawks.

Shout out to everyone affiliated with the offense in our four losses.  Where’s that killer instinct?  You can’t leave it on the defense to do EVERYTHING!  Sometimes, a defense is going to give up a lead; it’s your job as the offense to make those leads insurmountable.  On four attempts, you failed to either extend a drive to kill more clock, or play add-on with the score.  Those defeats are just as much in your hands.

Shout out to Chris Matthews who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to ingratiate himself with the coaching staff enough to get on the field and get some long-bomb plays called for him.  After a Super Bowl like that, being 6’5, with a crazy-insane catch radius, how is it you only have 4 receptions on 6 targets for a measly 54 yards?  Don’t blame the offense!  Don’t blame it on how conservative we are, because there are opportunities for down-field throws in this offense!  There are PLENTY of opportunities.  Instead of watching Russell Wilson try helplessly to throw to a double-covered Jermaine Kearse, I should be watching him throw to a double-covered Chris Matthews as he makes yet another sick catch for a long gain!  Instead, nothing.  Silence.  All the promise in the world and what does it mean?  You’ll almost certainly be playing elsewhere next year, and it won’t be long until you’re out of the game entirely.  Have some pride!  Step it up in practice and force your way out onto the field!

Shout out to Bobby Wagner for not really having much of an impact.  Outside of that fumble recovery in Cincinnati, when was the last time you marvelled at something Bobby Wagner did?

Shout out to Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark for doing their best impressions of Guys Who Don’t Show Up On The Stat Sheet.  We don’t need you guys to do your jobs, we need you guys to make an impact!  To step it up and let us scale back the snaps on Bennett and Avril so they can stay fresh all year.  And, not for nothing, but eventually we need you to replace those guys when they either get too old or expensive, so hop to it, huh?

Shout out to Cary Williams who is who we thought he was:  the weak link by a million miles in the Legion of Boom.  Shout out to injuries to Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, and Marcus Burley that continue to hold this unit back.

Shout out to the Ricardo Lockette injury that drastically reduces the effectiveness of our coverage units on special teams.

Shout out to Dion Bailey for whiffing hard on that touchdown pass in St. Louis.

Shout out to the entire Seahawks defense for making Nick Foles look like a God damn world-beater when the rest of the time he has looked like a sack of dribbling shit.

Shout out to Bruce Irvin who’s on pace to be a serious Contract Year Cautionary Tale.

Shout out to whoever was at fault on those two Tyler Eifert touchdowns up the seam.

Ditto to whoever was at fault on that Greg Olsen touchdown.

The second half is here.  No more lip service.  A lot of this bad shit needs to be corrected, or else 2015 will go down as one of the great lost seasons in our generation.

A Pre-Pre-Season Prediction of the Seahawks’ Opening Week 53-Man Roster

Because now seems to be the time to do these.  “Now” being:  at any and every point before the actual 53-man roster is finally chosen by the coaching staff.  I’m not immune to the type of wild speculation in the early going of a football season!  I’m just as excited as the next rabid NFL fan who’s sick and tired of the Seattle Fucking Mariners already!

Of course, this is just my best estimate, having seen exactly zero of the practices to this point.  I’m sure things will change greatly between now and the final pre-season game against the Raiders on September 3rd.  Will I do more of these as the pre-season goes along?  Maybe one more, right before the end, if I’m in the mood.

For most of these position groups, you’ll see a dashed line (————-).  Anyone listed above that line I consider a lock to make the team.  Anyone listed below that line I still think will make the final 53-man roster, but I’m not as confident.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson

Seems pretty cut & dry.  You gotta wonder how long we’re going to be able to keep bringing Tarvar back on 1-year deals, but I’m game to keep him around as long as he’s willing to keep winning championships.

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin
Christine Michael
————————
Derrick Coleman

I’m not as sold as some are on Thomas Rawls or Rod Smith.  I think either or both could be kept around on the practice squad (unless, of course, one or both absolutely breaks out in the pre-season games).  I still like Coleman over Will Tukuafu, even though Tukuafu is more versatile.  Coleman is still younger and better on special teams.  If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got it on lock.  I also highly doubt the team keeps five running backs, but if they do, it’ll likely come from one of my offensive line spots.

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
————————-
Ricardo Lockette
Chris Matthews
Kevin Norwood

I’m not deaf to all the hype surrounding Kasen Williams right now, but it’s one thing to look impressive in practice and it’s another to do so in game situations.  Norwood still has a year’s worth of experience on him.  Besides that, I think we can also sneak Kasen onto the practice squad.  The other five guys figure to be pretty safe, especially with Douglas McNeil converting to cornerback.  B.J. Daniels is a dark horse candidate to win a job, but to do so, there’d probably have to be a rash of injuries ahead of him.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
———————–
Cooper Helfet

This one will be interesting, though it might go down to who stays healthy.  Should the team keep Helfet, then we’re essentially talking about the team keeping three “move” tight ends.  Anthony McCoy is the obvious other choice to be the team’s third tight end, and you’d have to think he’d have an advantage given his blocking ability.  But, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy through an entire pre-season for I don’t know how long anymore.  I can’t pencil him into my predicted 53-man lineup until I actually see him play in a game again.

Offensive Line

Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy
Justin Britt
———————
Drew Nowak
Mark Glowinski
Alvin Bailey
Garry Gilliam
Lemuel Jeanpierre
Kristjan Sokoli
Keavon Milton

I’ll be honest with you, offensive line is the biggest crapshoot on this team.  I’ve got three locks, that’s how bad it is right now.  The safe play is to say that Bailey and Jeanpierre will join the other locks in giving us the best chance to win right now.  But, I have a feeling that the team will give our rookies every opportunity to try to steal those jobs away, even if it means taking a hit on our production right now, with the hope that their ceilings will be higher by season’s end.  Terry Poole is a tough one to chop, but to be honest I wouldn’t be shocked to see him or a couple of these other guys I’ve listed make the practice squad.  I can’t imagine the rest of the NFL is all that excited about picking up some of our projects who we’ve converted from being defensive linemen.

Defensive End

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

All locks, all should be productive members of our pass rush this year.  Can’t wait to see how this unit meshes.

Defensive Tackle

Brandon Mebane
Jordan Hill
Ahtyba Rubin
———————–
Jimmy Staten

Really difficult to see who the fourth guy will be.  I think it comes down to Staten and D’Anthony Smith, but it very well could go to a guy who’s not even on the roster right now.  Pre-season games will go a long way in shedding light.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin
Brock Coyle
Kevin Pierre-Louis
————————-
Mike Morgan

Probably the most potent unit on the entire defense.  The final spot(s) will come down to special teams.  Mike Morgan has been here forever, which is a plus and a minus in his favor.  He knows the system, he’s versatile, and he’s obviously good otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he has.  But, I think he’s in the last year of his deal, so you have to wonder if the team will opt to go younger with someone like Eric Pinkins.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I think the nod goes to Morgan when all is said and done.  (Unless, of course, KPL’s injury is worse than expected, in which case, maybe both make it?)

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Tharold Simon
Cary Williams
————————
Will Blackmon
Mohammed Seisay
Marcus Burley

For what it’s worth, I’m REALLY banking on Simon returning to action at some point this pre-season and not landing on the PUP.  Haven’t seen him yet, so we’ll see.  Jeremy Lane will obviously start on either the PUP or IR Designated To Return.  While he’s a huge loss, it opens up some good competition this month.  I’m THIS close to making Blackmon a lock, simply because – while he’s on the older side at 30 – this team can’t fuck around at a position where it’s so thin.  We’re already committed to Williams and the young & injury-prone Simon, so it’ll be nice to have someone who’s good and knows the system, in spite of his age.  Beyond that, I like Seisay’s height and I hope like Hell that he makes a positive impact this pre-season.  The final spot goes to Burley until I see whether Tye Smith is capable of living up to the high expectations thrust upon the L.O.B.  What I’ve heard about Smith thus far has been pretty underwhelming, so I have to believe Burley has the advantage.  Smith might be a guy we can sneak onto the practice squad, so I wouldn’t consider him a total draft pick bust just yet.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
DeShawn Shead
———————–
Steven Terrell
Dion Bailey

MAYBE the team opts to keep only four safeties, in order to stock up on the D-Line, but I don’t think I’m buying it.  I think, at least in the early going, this team will want to have sufficent backups in the event Earl Thomas re-injures himself.  Obviously, Kam is still a concern, considering he still has yet to show up to camp.  I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I like how the younger guys are getting a lot of run.  I’ve heard a lot of exciting things about Dion Bailey, so I really hope he sticks.  Terrell appears to be pretty safe, as he’s still young, yet has some good experience.  Shead is obviously the glue that’s going to help us hold things together, as he can play both safety spots.  If he needs to step in for Kam, I don’t think we lose all that much (as crazy as that sounds).

Special Teams

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

Not a lot to say here.  The Nate Boyer story is fun, but I can’t see us keeping him unless Gresham gets injured.

Top 12 Seahawks I’m Most Looking Forward To Seeing This Pre-Season

I get it, the pre-season isn’t for everyone.  For the casual fan, it just means we’re about a month away from real football.  A good chunk will watch at least SOME of the pre-season games, but I’d be willing to bet the vast majority start checking out as soon as the regulars leave the game.

I happen to love the pre-season.  I try to block out the evening so I can watch the entire game uninterrupted.  Inevitably, I end up camping with my family during one of the pre-season games, but the last few years we’ve been DVR’ing it and watching it upon our return – avoiding our phones and any news on the radio until we’ve had a chance to get it in.  If you’re a hardcore football fan, what’s not to like?  You already get to watch 16 weeks with the regulars, plus playoff games.  They’re stressful and intense and exciting.

But, the pre-season?  It’s all relaxation!  Like a nice little vacation.  You can watch for the starters, to get a sense of how guys will mesh and work their ways into playing shape.  But, I like it mostly for the other guys.  The roster fringe.  You get to start out with 90 guys at the beginning of camp, knowing full well that many of them won’t make it.  But, there’s always a few who pop from out of nowhere.  And, there are bona fide prospects getting ready to make the jump from back-end of the roster to potential future star.  There are incoming free agents, draft picks, and guys returning from injuries.  I want to see ’em all!

And here are the 12 I want to see the most.  We’ll go in order starting with the one I’m most excited to see (jersey number in parentheses):

1.  Tyler Lockett, Wide Receiver/Punt & Kick Returner (#16)

The Seahawks traded up in the third round to nab him, giving up quite the haul.  Many believed it to be a reach, but I’ve been touting this guy since his final bowl game when he did a number on UCLA.  The safe stance has been:  well, at least the Seahawks finally have a quality return man; but, I think this kid has something special in him.  I think he’s going to make a real and immediate impact for our offense the way Paul Richardson never did.  Hell, the last rookie receiver to make an impact for this team was Doug Baldwin, so you can throw a bunch of names on that list of guys who never made an immediate impact (including Golden Tate, for the record).  Per reports, Lockett has looked good in the early going, so not only am I looking forward to him getting a lot of play this pre-season, but I’m looking forward to him getting some play with the starters.

2.  Cassius Marsh, Defensive End (#91)

He was a rookie last year, played in a few games, started to show some promise, and then he got injured and was lost for most of the year.  Now, he’s back, and per reports looks like an immediate impact player.  He figures to be a rotational guy behind Avril and Bennett, but I’ll be looking forward to seeing what he does for us in nickel situations, and in some base defense situations.  If he could apply the impact we used to get with Chris Clemons, there’s that third pass-rushing defensive end we’ve been looking for!

3.  Douglas McNeil, Wide Receiver (#19)

He’s 6’3, 200 pounds.  Most fans have probably never heard his name before; truth be told, I’m just getting acquainted with what he has to offer.  Watch the catch he makes at the 50-second mark, this kid could be the real deal.  Yes, he’s an Arena Football League receiver, but his hands, his quicks, his athleticism, they’ll all play well in the NFL.  Hopefully, he’s got some polish and is able to run a quality route, because he could be a nice little find for us.

4.  Frank Clark, Defensive End (#55)

I don’t expect as much out of Clark as I do out of Marsh, so that’s why he’s ranked a little lower (even though he’s probably a higher-ceiling talent).  It’s just tough for rookies to step into the league and dominate.  Nevertheless, I’m looking forward to seeing what we got out of our controversial first draft pick this year.  He’ll figure to get a lot of play in the second and third quarters – and even some special teams work – so we should certainly get our fill and he should certainly get his opportunities to make some sort of pre-season impact.

5.  Jimmy Graham, Tight End (#88)

If this was a list of Guys I’m Looking Forward To Seeing This Regular Season, Graham would absolutely top the list.  As it stands, this is the pre-season incarnation of that article, so he figures to not get all that much playing time.  At least until the third game, when the starters usually play into the second half.  Regardless, I’m pretty excited about that first drive of the first pre-season game next week, when I’m sure they’ll feature him extensively, followed by the fans in attendance going absolutely bitchcakes.

6.  Bruce Irvin, Linebacker (#51)

Again, this is more of a guy I’m looking forward to seeing in the regular season – as I’m CONVINCED he’s going to give us one of the better Contract Seasons we’ve ever seen – but from reports I’ve read, he looks like he’s bulked up while still keeping the speed that made him such an enticing first rounder to begin with.  Even though the pre-season games don’t really count, I’m still looking forward to Irvin making an immediate impact, to set the tone that this will be the best season we’ve ever seen out of a guy looking to get paid like a superstar.

7.  Chris Matthews, Wide Receiver (#13)

It’s been pretty resounding in the early going this camp:  the wide receiver battle is the one to watch.  Baldwin and Kearse look pretty entrenched.  Lockett obviously will have his spot on lock.  Paul Richardson will most likely start on the PUP, opening up one spot.  Kevin Norwood has the advantage of being a draft pick last year; Ricardo Lockette has the advantage of having played in the system for so long (plus, his talent for playing special teams).  It’s very possible there will be a bunch of REALLY talented receivers all fighting for one final roster spot.  Which is where Chris Matthews comes in.  He’s the tallest receiver in camp, at 6’5, AND he had that miraculous Super Bowl performance that kept it from turning into a New England rout.  A lot of people believe that Matthews has a spot waiting for him, so I’m looking forward to seeing if he goes out there this pre-season and earns it.  Nothing will be handed to him, and we’ve got a lot of hungry cats on this team.  Let’s see how he responds.

8.  Brandon Mebane, Defensive Tackle (#92)

Normally, Mebane wouldn’t be anywhere near this list.  After all, how excited can you be for a nose tackle in the pre-season?  For the record, I don’t expect him to play a ton, but I do expect him to play, as he’s coming off of a bad injury – his first real heavy-duty injury that kept him out of multiple games – and he’s getting up there in age.  On top of that, with the team releasing Tony McDaniel, we’re a little thin (so to speak) along the interior of our defensive line.  So, I’m looking forward to Mebane looking like his usual self, if nothing else than to calm my fears (let’s face it, I’ve got enough to worry about with how thin we are in the secondary right now).

9.  Ahtyba Rubin, Defensive Tackle (#77)

ANOTHER defensive tackle???  Well, yeah, but this guy’s new!  He played for Cleveland last year, but now he’s ours, and he’s officially replacing Tony McDaniel as our starting 3-tech defensive tackle in our base defense.  Beyond that, I’ve been hearing NOTHING but good things about him from our coaches in interviews, so I’m pretty stoked to see what he can do.

10.  B.J. Daniels, Wide Receiver (#5)

You may remember B.J. Daniels as our third-string quarterback the last few years.  Well, he has officially converted to wide receiver full time, and this is his first camp in that new role.  I don’t think he has much of a shot to make the final 53-man roster, but he’s got amazing athleticism, so I’m looking forward to seeing how the transition takes.  Hopefully he gets more play than just as our backup return man.  I want to see him get some snaps on offense, even if it’s with the second or third strings.

Tie – 11 & 12.  Kevin Smith & Kasen Williams, Wide Receiver (#17 & #18)

So, how exciting is the wide receiver battle this year?  HALF of my Top 12 are receivers!  Obviously, you can’t keep everyone, but these guys will give the coaching staff something to think about.  Maybe enough of these fringe receivers show promise to allow the organization to cut someone like Jermaine Kearse to save some money.  I’m not advocating for that (especially in this, my Washington Husky wide receiver section of the post), but I think we all know there’s a better than good chance Kearse is playing elsewhere in 2016; I don’t think the team will have the money to extend him long term.  So, maybe these aren’t guys we’re looking at to make the team this year, but MAYBE – if they’re still around – we could be talking about these guys next year.  Per reports, Kevin Smith has looked rock solid.  I’m not hearing as much about Kasen Williams, but he’s out there battling and it would be nice to see good things out of someone coming back from such a devastating injury.  Maybe one or both gets stashed on the practice squad.  I guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

Betting On Yourself: A Quick Thought On Russell Wilson’s Contract Negotiations

I’m certainly not the first person to come to this conclusion, but then again I don’t see it as a thought that’s readily expressed in most articles on the subject, so I’m going to put it down here.

I’ve had other thoughts on this matter, which you can read here.  And perhaps here.  And today’s thoughts probably won’t be my final thoughts – especially as we’re hearing today that if he doesn’t get a deal done by the start of Training Camp, the matter will be set aside until next offseason.  That’s pretty standard protocol; at this point it’s up to both sides:  Do I want to be comfortable and secure that a deal is in place?  Or, am I okay with letting this hang over everything for the next year.

I’m pretty damn sure that this negotiation is going to bleed into next year.  I just can’t see either side coming so far off of their current stance to meet anywhere in the middle.  I hope I’m wrong (and luckily for everyone, I frequently am), but this just screams to me to be a Joe Flacco situation.

Which probably wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world.  If Russell Wilson playing out his rookie deal means the Seahawks go all the way and win the Super Bowl, I would GLADLY watch the Seahawks give him the richest quarterback contract in NFL history.  Wouldn’t you?  Yeah, it’ll mean some lean times ahead; we’ll have to let some starters go we otherwise wouldn’t mind keeping around.  And the Seahawks will CERTAINLY have to start drafting more productive players than we’ve seen in the last few drafts (since 2013, the only productive players – aside from Justin Britt – have been backups & reserves:  Luke Willson, Jordan Hill, Tharold Simon, Paul Richardson, Kevin Norwood, Christine Michael).  Russell Wilson earning the maximum will create a hardship that might very well mean a dip in our future success, but what are you going to do?  Let a 2x NFL champion and 3x NFC champion quarterback walk in free agency?  Or trade him for 50 cents on the dollar?

I dunno, maybe that’s what a lot of fans want to see.  They like having the top defense, they like the powerful running game, and they believe the hype – that this type of team can win with an average quarterback.  I’m sure there’s a lot out there who believe that.  I think it’s insane, for many reasons.  First of all, these legendary defenses get old pretty quickly.  If you cling to a unit, you’re bound to be one of the oldest and slowest teams in the NFL within a few years.  Plus, injuries are a way of life in the NFL.  Even though most of our defense is right in their peak physically, you can’t account for freak injuries.  See how prepared we were for life without Jeremy Lane in the Super Bowl once he went out.  Tack on the fact that nearly everyone else in the secondary was playing through SOMETHING, and it’s pretty easy to see how the Patriots were able to carve us up so well in the second half.  Then, you’ve got to take into account the sheer number of games this team has played in since 2012.  Players wear down quicker when you’ve got so many post-season miles on your legs.  Factor in how Marshawn Lynch could retire at any moment, and it’s just not practical to throw away a franchise quarterback and try to build around someone inferior.

Quarterback is the most difficult position to fill, and the most difficult position to get right.  You don’t let franchise quarterbacks go; and make no mistake, that’s exactly what Russell Wilson is (a point made ever more clear should he lead this team to another championship in 2015).  This team would not be where it’s been had Tarvaris Jackson been starting for us.  That’s a fact, and all of you doubters have to realize that.  Having the league’s best defense and one of its most formidable running games isn’t enough to steamroll over the entire league.

Think about that game in Chicago in 2012:  no way we win that without Russell.  There are at least four games in 2013 – wins over Carolina, Houston, St. Louis, and Tampa – that very well would have been losses with Tarvaris Jackson at the helm.  And even if he does somehow lead us into the NFC Championship Game against the 49ers that year, does he do what Wilson did?  Does he make that throw to Kearse on 4th down to score the go-ahead touchdown?  I highly doubt it.  Then, if you look at last season, the NFC Championship Game probably looks a lot different without Wilson throwing all those interceptions; but at the same time, I don’t think anyone but Wilson is able to bring this team back from the dead.  And, with Tarvar in the Super Bowl, I don’t see him making ANY of the downfield throws Wilson made; I bet Super Bowl XLIX would’ve been a soul-crushing blowout loss instead of a soul-crushing near-win.

If you believe in a lesser quarterback like Tarvaris so much, I want you to go back to 2011 and take a REAL hard look at some of those games.  Maybe with some more weapons around him, he would’ve been able to do more.  But, just remember, Wilson hasn’t really had the weapons either, and look at how he’s made it work.  Furthermore, look at that offensive line!  Remember Tarvaris holding the ball too long?  Taking sacks he shouldn’t have been taking?  If the Seahawks let Wilson go, they absolutely CANNOT replace him with someone as immobile as Tarvar.  That guy will be killed faster than you can say David Carr’s NFL Career!  Sometimes, you need a guy to elude a rush.  Sometimes, you need a guy to lead you to a come-from-behind victory.  Defense and running game doesn’t do it all.  Sometimes, you need big plays out of your quarterback.  That’s where Russell Wilson comes in.  So, don’t bring your weak-ass argument in here about Russell Wilson not being a franchise quarterback.

***

You know what?  I got so off track with that rant that I completely neglected the original point of this post.  This was supposed to be a QUICK thought, dammit!

Anyway, I just had this notion.  One of the perceived sticking points in the whole negotiation that’s been bandied about in the media is this issue of Guaranteed Money.  One of the rumors goes so far as to suggest Russell Wilson’s side is demanding the entire contract – or at least a prohibitive percentage of that contract – be fully guaranteed.  Who knows is this is true or not?  Seems to me, certain media members noticed Wilson’s agent is a baseball agent, they connected the dots to how baseball contracts are fully guaranteed, and put two & two together with the fact that this agent doesn’t have any other football player clients, so it doesn’t matter if he burns bridges with NFL executives.  When you combine that with Russell Wilson’s “Why Not Us” attitude, and how he wants to achieve the impossible, or prove all the doubters wrong, or whatever, it seems like a reasonable argument.

If that IS true, then I would counter with this:  Russell Wilson is a guy who’s totally willing to bet on himself in order to get what he wants.  That’s a given.  And that’s why these negotiations are going to continue into next year.  The threat of playing on a fourth year of sub-standard wages is not an issue.  He’s got enough money to get by with endorsements and he’s got a big, fat insurance policy to make sure he never goes to bed hungry.  Likewise, the threat of being Franchise Tagged isn’t even a threat either.  For starters, he’ll finally be making some motherfucking money, and it’ll just give him another year to prove to everyone that he’s worth all the money he’s asking for.

But, demanding a fully guaranteed contract just doesn’t seem to be keeping with his personality.  It’s a little too greedy and a little too nefarious.  If he’s willing to bet on himself to the point where this thing will go to the absolute last possible moment – whether it’s this year, or next year, or the year after that when we’re looking at a crazy second franchise tag – then he shouldn’t have any problem betting on himself when it comes to a non-guaranteed deal.

You figure, the average franchise quarterback’s deal has a hefty signing bonus, and maybe the first two years’ worth of salary fully guaranteed.  It’s going to put him somewhere around 60-75% of the contract guaranteed anyway; so what’s the big deal if those last two years aren’t fully guaranteed, as long as they represent an average per-year salary commensurate with other franchise quarterbacks of his ilk?  Joe Flacco’s deal was for 6 years and $120 million, with whatever smaller amount guaranteed.  But, if he keeps winning, and he stays healthy, he’s not only going to see every last dime of that deal – making it, for all intents and purposes a fully guaranteed deal anyway – but he’s going to get another contract extension probably before the end of the deal that will see him make even MORE money.

Why wouldn’t Russell Wilson bet on himself staying healthy for the full 4 years of his impending deal?  It just seems too obvious.  If he thought he was ever going to get injured beyond repair, he would’ve agreed to a deal by now!  So, why should a fully guaranteed contract be a sticking point for him?

If it is, then he’s truly not as good of a guy as you’d like to think.  Let’s be real here, I understand the “plight” of the NFL player in this world of non-guaranteed contracts, and I understand how they have to “get theirs” while the getting’s good.  But, at the same time, I think fully guaranteed contracts in ANY sport are a ridiculous concept.  The Mariners are going to have Robinson Cano under contract for 8 more years after this year.  If he really is on the downslope of his career, that means we’re going to be paying $24 million a year for a guy who isn’t even worth a tenth of that salary.  That’s what’s wrong with baseball in a nutshell, and it’s the last thing I want to see happen to the NFL.

Ranking All The Draft Picks of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era

Has this been done to death?  I have no concept of what’s been done and what hasn’t.  I feel like it has, but I also don’t care.  There’s probably a larger blog post at play here – Ranking All The Draft Picks In Seahawks History – but I’ll be damned if I’m the man to grapple with that nonsense!  Hell, I wasn’t even alive for the first 70 picks the Seahawks ever made!

Best Front Office In Football ...

Best Front Office In Football …

But, that’s neither here nor there.  I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the last five drafts this team has made, so I’m going to throw in my two cents and you’re either going to read it or not.  Of note:  I’m only talking draft picks here.  You undrafted free agents all hold a special place in my heart, but you don’t hold shit on this list.

Also of note:  the plan is to update this yearly, as long as Pete Carroll and John Schneider work together for the Seahawks.  So, look for there to be a page under the Best of Seattle heading up top.

To date, there have been 48 draft picks in the Carroll/Schneider Era, across 5 drafts, from 2010-2014.  For this exercise, I’m going to break these players up into four groups:  Great, Good, Too Soon To Tell, and Bad.  Simple, right?  I’m basing these rankings mostly on my gut, so take that for what it’s worth.  I’m going to try to weight this towards what these players have done for the Seattle Seahawks (as opposed to what they’ve done for other teams), but I’m not going to totally discount what they’ve done elsewhere (after all, it’s quite the numbers game in Seattle, and a few of these guys were cut loose after hard-fought battles).  Let’s begin:

Great Draft Picks By Carroll/Schneider

1.  Russell Wilson (2012, 3rd round)
2.  Earl Thomas (2010, 1st round)
3.  Richard Sherman (2011, 5th round)
4.  Bobby Wagner (2012, 2nd round)
5.  Kam Chancellor (2010, 5th round)
6.  Russell Okung (2010, 1st round)
7.  Golden Tate (2010, 2nd round)
8.  K.J. Wright (2011, 4th round)
9.  Byron Maxwell (2011, 6th round)
10.  J.R. Sweezy (2012, 7th round)

This is a massively tough list to rank at the top.  You could easily interchange any in the top three and you wouldn’t be wrong.  I don’t want to make this all about “value picks” but you also can’t discount the fact that the Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacks in football and they plucked him out of the third round.  I mean, every team had multiple chances at taking him!  But, we’ve got him, and I promise you, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we’ve been without him.

I’ve got Earl Thomas in the 2-hole because he’s the man.  I gotta figure he’s the best player on an elite defense, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.  Sherm, Wagz, and Kam round out the Top 5, with Kam narrowly edging out Okung for his spot.  You can’t do what we’re doing without a solid left tackle, but what keeps Okung out of the Top 5 is the fact that he’s been injured so often that we actually HAVE done what we’ve done without him a lot of the time.  Tate makes my Top 10 because he’s awesome and easily the best receiver we’ve drafted in this era.  Wright has been a mainstay on our defense since he was a rookie.  Maxwell rose through the ranks to get to a near-elite level by the time Philly graced him with a bank-breaking contract.  And, you know what?  Scoff at Sweezy all you want, but he’s a 7th round pick who has started for us at right guard since day 1 and has been getting better every year (without any significant injury, I might add).

I didn’t mean to only pick 10 players to put in the “Great” category, but that’s just sort of the way it went.  What you’ll notice is that it’s quite heavy on the first three drafts of the era.  4 from 2010, 3 from 2011, 3 from 2012.  Want to know how to go from one of the oldest and worst teams in football to a Super Bowl champion in four years?  Draft your quarterback, your entire starting secondary, 2/3 of your linebackers, 2/5 of your offensive linemen, and your #1 receiver in your first three years.  I’d say that’s a rock solid foundation if I’ve ever seen one.  7 out of 10 of these guys have made at least one Pro Bowl in their careers.  I could go on and on, but you know how great these guys are.

Good Draft Picks by Carroll/Schneider

11.  Bruce Irvin (2012, 1st round)
12.  Malcolm Smith (2011, 7th round)
13.  James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
14.  Robert Turbin (2012, 4th round)
15.  Luke Willson (2013, 5th round)
16.  Walter Thurmond (2010, 4th round)
17.  Jeremy Lane (2012, 6th round)
18.  Anthony McCoy (2010, 6th round)
19.  Jordan Hill (2013, 3rd round)
20.  Tharold Simon (2013, 5th round)
21.  Christine Michael (2013, 2nd round)
22.  Jaye Howard (2012, 4th round)
23.  Michael Bowie (2013, 7th round)
24.  Greg Scruggs (2012, 7th round)
25.  Winston Guy (2012, 6th round)

None of these guys were really all that close to making it into the “Great” category, and the only ones I can see with a realistic shot at potentially getting there would be Irvin, Willson, Hill, Simon, and Michael if he ever gets a crack at starting somewhere.  Irvin certainly leads the pack in the “Good” column though.  He’s been a significant role player since he entered the league, and has become a steady starter at strongside linebacker after the conversion in his second year.  Malcolm Smith – even though his Seahawks career ended poorly – still played a significant role as a backup weakside linebacker who got some injury starts late in the 2013 season and on through the playoffs.  Hell, he’s our Super Bowl MVP, and that wasn’t the only game where he made big plays.

Carpenter was held out of the “Great” pile due to injuries and inconsistent pass protection.  No one can question his run blocking abilities, and once he moved over to left guard, he really helped solidify our line (again, when healthy).  Turbin gets the nod over the three guys below him simply because he’s been a solid backup running back since day 1.  He spells our superstar and we don’t see too big of a drop-off.  He might be a marginal starter for another team, but he’s one of the better backups in football.  Luke Willson has made a moderate impact as a pass-catching tight end on a team that doesn’t throw the ball too much.  Drops (and being iced out by the likes of Jimmy Graham) will prevent him from ever being truly great.  But, he’s been solid, and drops can be fixed.

Thurmond and Lane are close.  Thurmond ultimately has made the bigger impact on this team, even with all of his injuries and suspension.  Lane – if he ever recovers from his devastating Super Bowl injuries – figures to pass Thurmond eventually, who hasn’t been as good as an ex-Seahawk.  McCoy was fine when healthy.  He could’ve been so much better as a great blocking tight end with surprisingly soft hands.  Hopefully, he can pull his career together.  Hill and Simon are hard to place, as both got their first big breaks in the 2014 season.  Hill started to come on as an interior pass rusher until he was knocked out for the year.  Simon was forced to take over for Maxwell at times and was so-so, as he was continuously picked on by opposing quarterbacks.  C-Mike can’t catch a break as the team’s third string running back.  He supposedly has all the talent in the world, but then again, you’d think with all that talent, he would’ve forced his way into more playing time than he’s had in his first two years in the league.  Jaye Howard is no longer with the team, but he’s a rotational guy for the Chiefs and was playing some serious minutes as of last year.  One that got away, it might seem.  Bowie was an okay spot-starter on the line who could play both tackle and guard spots; he was released due to injury and concerns with his weight.  He was quickly picked up though, and figures to be solid depth on another team.  Scruggs hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to prove he belongs.  Both he and Guy are fringe “good” players who are oh so close to landing in the “Bad” category.  They’re still kicking around the league with better-than-decent chances at making a final 53, so I’m keeping them here for now.

Too Soon To Tell

26.  Justin Britt (2014, 2nd round)
27.  Cassius Marsh (2014, 4th round)
28.  Paul Richardson (2014, 2nd round)
29.  Kevin Pierre-Louis (2014, 4th round)
30.  Kevin Norwood (2014, 4th round)
31.  Eric Pinkins (2014, 6th round)
32.  Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
33.  Kiero Small (2014, 7th round)
34.  Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)

Obviously, this is the entire 2014 draft class.  And, obviously, this is a total cop-out, but I have a hard time saying if someone is good or not based on a single season.  If I were to eliminate the “Too Soon To Tell” category, I’d put Britt high on the Good list; I’d put Marsh, Richardson, and KPL low on the Good list; and I’d put the rest on the Bad list.  But, is it fair to call Kevin Norwood “bad” because he wasn’t all that productive as a rookie?  Who knows if he’ll make a huge leap in his second year?!  For him, it’s truly too soon to tell.  By the same measure, what if Britt takes a big step back in his second year and either gets hurt or gets beat on the reg?  That’s going to affect his ranking for sure.  So, to work around this, I gotta see what you do after two years in the league.  Even if one year is spent on the IR, at least I’ll have two different seasons to compare.  For the record, Garrett Scott – waived soon after he was drafted due to medical concerns – is a lock to be pretty low on the Bad list just as soon as the 2015 season ends.

Bad Draft Picks by Carroll/Schneider

35.  Kris Durham (2011, 4th round)
36.  John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
37.  Ty Powell (2013, 7th round)
38.  Ryan Seymour (2013, 7th round)
39.  Korey Toomer (2012, 5th round)
40.  Chris Harper (2013, 4th round)
41.  Dexter Davis (2010, 7th round)
42.  Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
43.  Spencer Ware (2013, 6th round)
44.  Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
45.  Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
46.  Jameson Konz (2010, 7th round)
47.  Lazarius Levingston (2011, 7th round)
48.  E.J. Wilson (2010, 4th round)

Ahh, does the fun ever START?  Kris Durham leads the pack of the “Bad” picks as he somehow made a career for himself after the Seahawks waived him prior to his 2nd season.  Keep in mind, it’s not a GOOD career, but he’s still kicking.  John Moffitt ended up playing in 17 games for the Seahawks (mostly as a starter) after being drafted in 2011.  Alongside Carpenter, Moffitt was an injury-plagued disappointment who ended up getting traded to Denver before retiring early.  Ty Powell ended up jumpstarting his career in Buffalo last season; he’s racked up all of 19 games in his career thus far.

Those are the BEST of the worst, mind you.  It’s a steep drop-off from there.  Seymour has had 3 starts in his career – none in Seattle.  Toomer has always had talent, but has never stayed healthy.  He’s a pre-season dandy who’s still kicking around the league, but I’ll be damned if I know where he is now (the Rams still?).  Harper was cut before his rookie season could even begin.  I think he’s still kicking around, but he’s unlikely to even make a practice squad at this point.  Dexter Davis and Mark LeGree are in the CFL now, so at least they’re playing football!  Spencer Ware played in 2 games and is on a Futures Contract right now.  Jesse Williams is 2 for 2 on IR appearances.  He’s still with the Seahawks – hoping to somehow crack the roster – but his odds are beyond long.  Jared Smith has played in 0 games, but is on Atlanta’s roster for the moment.  Konz was an athletic freak who never really had a set position (he was drafted as a wide receiver, though he’s also played tight end, defensive end, and linebacker in his pre-season career); he might be on a practice squad right now, but who knows?  Levingston is OOF (out of football) having only played 7 games.  Wilson is also OOF, having played in only 2 games.

And that’s it!  The draft starts tomorrow, though the Seahawks have no picks in the first round, so who really cares?

Seahawks Death Week: It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

If we win that Super Bowl, all conversation right now is focused on The New Dynasty.  For anyone who’s not a Seahawks fan, it’s pretty miserable to have to listen to, so in that sense the world is probably happier that the Patriots won.

For us, though – the tortured souls forced to relive that moment in every highlight package about last season – the only thing worse than an offseason focused on why Tom Brady Is The Greatest Quarterback Of All Time will be all the articles burying the Seahawks.

Yeah, it started with Keith Olbermann’s lunacy, but don’t think that’s going to be the end of it.  After all, the 2013 Seahawks were champions and looked stronger than every other team in the league by a million miles, and last year people STILL endlessly picked us apart, trying to degrade the quality of our roster as they made their convoluted predictions about why we wouldn’t get back to the Super Bowl.

The fact of the matter is – as I said yesterday – the Championship Window is still wide open for this team.  Even if Marshawn Lynch is 50/50 to return next year, take a look at the players we’ll have returning:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Earl Thomas
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Richard Sherman
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Michael Bennett
  • Cliff Avril
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Jeremy Lane
  • Jordan Hill

That doesn’t factor in an offensive line that gets the job done more often than not, a deep running back group, and some veterans I left off who SHOULD be back (like Zach Miller, Brandon Mebane, and Tony McDaniel).

This is still a deep roster.  And it’s a quality roster in all the right places.  Our quarterback will be entering his fourth year, and he’s already shown that he belongs in the upper third or upper quarter of franchise quarterbacks in the league.  With Russell Wilson, we’re ALWAYS going to be somewhere on the “Good” spectrum.  We’re always going to at least contend for division titles and playoff spots.

It’s the players around Russell Wilson that make us championship-calibre.  The great thing about this team is that everyone plays off of everyone else.  Russell Wilson gets help from an elite running game.  The receivers get help from other defenses focusing on our running game, and from Wilson’s scrambling ability that gives them time to get open.  Defensively, our cornerbacks are allowed to be more aggressive thanks to the great play of our safeties.  Everyone in the secondary is helped out by our pass rush and our line’s ability to stop the run.  It’s all one terrific unit that only works when everyone is playing in unison.

Now, obviously our coaching staff took a bit of a hit with Dan Quinn moving on to coach the Falcons, but I don’t think any team has ever been totally devastated by the loss of a coordinator.  Kris Richard gets a deserved promotion, which is good for coaching continuity, as well as good for the message it sends to the guys.  Just as our greatest players are rewarded with contract extensions, our greatest coaches are rewarded with promotions.  Although, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, how hard can it really be to coach this defense with all the talent we’ve got on the roster?  Are Gus Bradley & Dan Quinn really that amazing?  Or, did they just luck into a roster for the ages?

I wouldn’t expect much of a drop-off because this is still Pete Carroll’s team.  It’s still his vision.  And, in spite of certain decisions that were made at the end of certain ballgames, Pete Carroll is still one of the best head coaches in the league.  And John Schneider is still one of the best general managers in the league.  The organization is still in good hands.

The only thing that could possibly derail things would be injuries, and those are impossible to predict, so it’s not even worth trying.

It’s hard to tell when the Championship Window might close.  It obviously opened in 2012, when we made that great season-ending run.  From a roster-quality standpoint, we probably peaked in 2013.  We dipped a bit in 2014, but if you focus on where this team ended up – after all the early-season strife in coming off of our first championship – you can see a team that peaked at right around where it was in 2012 (or maybe a little better still).  How long the window remains open depends on how well our recent draft picks of the last couple years – on into this year – pan out.  We had a great run of drafts from 2010-2012 that made us into what we are today.  It’s the drafts from 2013-2015 that will determine if we stay on this championship run, or if we fade back into the status of mere playoff contenders.

Here are the players we still have from our 2013 draft group:

  • Christine Michael (RB)
  • Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Alvin Bailey (OL) – undrafted free agent

Williams has finished his first two seasons on the IR and might not be on the roster come September.  Bailey is depth along our offensive line who can play four positions.  Michael has been a third string running back who has been inactive more often than not; it doesn’t appear he’ll ever get a chance to be a starter with this team as long as Lynch is around.  Hill came on in the second half of 2014 as a strong part of our defensive tackle rotation, so hopes are high that can continue.  Simon has made some spot-starts and looked okay – though he’s been picked on quite a bit, and hasn’t come away as well as Maxwell did when he took over the starting spot opposite Sherman.  Willson spent most of 2014 as our #1 tight end and for the most part did pretty well.  I’m not convinced yet that he can be a #1 tight end forever, but he’s a great #2 or #3 tight end.

Here’s our 2014 draft class that remains:

  • Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Justin Britt (OT)
  • Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Eric Pinkins (DB)
  • Garry Gilliam (OL) – undrafted free agent
  • Brock Coyle (LB) – undrafted free agent

While there’s not really a prize jewel of the 2013, there are enough role players in that group to make it “good enough”, with the potential for greatness if either Michael or Simon somehow pans out.  The 2014 class has a higher upside, in spite of the fact that only four guys managed to make it all the way to the end without being put on IR.

Britt is obviously the biggest “get” in the group, as he started right away at right tackle – a position of need going into the season.  He played nearly every game and was good enough to be considered a starter going forward.  He’s not perfect, but you have to like all the experience he got.  He’ll heal up from his nagging injuries, get stronger going into next year, and we should see a nice boost out of him in year two.

I’m really high on Cassius Marsh.  He tops out as a starting defensive end opposite Michael Bennett (while eventually replacing him when Bennett retires or is let go at/near the end of his deal).  His floor, though, is what makes me happy, as I think at worst he’s still a rotational guy who can play both inside (on passing downs) and outside (on any down).  Considering we still have Bennett, Avril, and Irvin going into next season, if Marsh can stay healthy, I don’t think we have to invest a whole lot in our outside pass rush (the interior rush is another story, of course).

Richardson and Norwood are the wild cards of this class.  If they both pan out, we could be talking about this group in ways we talk about the draft classes of 2010-2012.  If just one sticks, I still think we’re happy.  If they both flame out, then we wasted two draft picks in an area of great need for this team.  I thought Richardson really started to come on at the end of the year, but obviously his torn ACL makes him a question mark going forward.  If he returns (and yes, it’s an “if” in this scenario), will he be the same guy?  Will he have the speed required to make it in the league?  Will he inevitably injure it again?  Remember, he had the same injury in college, to the same knee.  As for Norwood, it might be unfair, but I think we all expected a little more out of him.  The phrase “security blanket” has been used quite a bit with him.  Hopefully, being healthy and having a year’s experience under his belt will help him grow in year two.  We’ll need it, that’s for sure.

The other guys are longshots.  KPL figures to be a depth guy and a special teams standout if he can stay healthy.  Staten probably tops out as a rotational tackle on our defensive line, and probably one who isn’t active very often.  Pinkins was drafted to be another tall cornerback, but it doesn’t look like he has the ability and will probably be moved back to safety (where, obviously, we’re pretty well stocked).  Either Pinkins sticks as a backup to Kam, or he gets cut.  Gilliam is more offensive line depth.  And Coyle is a special teams guy and an okay backup to Bobby Wagner.  It wouldn’t shock me to see any of these guys get the ax at the end of Training Camp this year, if the right people come along to replace them.

There are certainly guys you like out of the 2013 & 2014 draft classes – even guys who project to be starters – but there aren’t many (if any) superstars in the bunch.  I know it’s hard, when you’re consistently drafting near the end of the first round every year, but then again, this is the team that has managed to make 4th & 5th rounders into superstars.  Here’s to hoping we get another diamond in the rough in this year’s class to keep the good vibes rolling.

Seahawks Death Week Reloaded

a.k.a. What The Seahawks Need To Do To Get Back To The Super Bowl & Win It All This Time, Again

“Rebuilding” is a word people use to talk about bad teams who are trying to get good again.  Eventually.  In a couple, two, three years.  “Reloading” is a word people use to talk about good teams who are trying to stay good in a hurry.  I’ve seen that word “reload” used to describe what the Seahawks are doing this offseason, but I’ve always read that with a negative connotation.  Teams that need to “reload” are teams that have been good in recent years (plural), but in the most recent season, the quality of their team dipped.  Like, a team that’s made the playoffs a bunch of years in a row, then had one down season where they missed the cut.  And, instead of blowing things up, they’re just going to reload for another run at a championship.

The 49ers are a PERFECT example of this.  Great team, had a rough 2014.  They weren’t terrible; they weren’t bad enough to warrant a complete rebuild.  They just need to reload.  Add some pieces to the core they’ve got now and they’ll be all set for another post-season run.

“Reload” is also a word you use when you talk about teams that are desperately trying to cling to relevance when they’re WELL past their prime.  Think about what the Seahawks were doing in the offseason between 2007 & 2008.  They PROBABLY should have blown it all up and done a total rebuild.  Instead, they tried to keep the team together, reloaded with a couple of ill-advised signings in Julius Jones & T.J. Duckett (among others), to give it one more go with Hasselbeck, Jones, and Co.  What happened?  They bottomed out in 2008, and bottomed out again in 2009 when they had the same strategy (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, anyone?).

These Seahawks, right now, this year, aren’t “reloading”, because these Seahawks are already loaded!  Regardless of what happens, we’re still going to be one of the youngest and most talented rosters in the league next year.  Losing a Super Bowl doesn’t mean you “reload” for next year.  You don’t re-anything!  You do a little tweaking and you continue to build up the depth of your squad.  It would be no different had we won the Super Bowl, or ended up losing in the NFC Championship Game.

***

The primary storyline this offseason will be the extension of Russell Wilson.  The secondary storyline this offseason will be the extension of Bobby Wagner.  Considering they were drafted into the new CBA, this is the first opportunity the Seahawks have had to extend these two (and to give them raises commensurate to the output they’ve given this team on the field).  We’re actually in really good shape right now, thanks to the in-season extensions the team gave K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril; those are two fewer deals the team has to worry about now that the offseason is ramping up.

How Wilson’s deal is structured will dictate a lot of the other moves this team makes, so it’ll be important to get that squared away pretty quickly.  I would argue Wagner’s deal – by virture of him not being a quarterback in the NFL – will be much simpler and easier to plan for (though, I doubt the team will wait to get him done either).

Those two guys are a given, and will get done, likely sometime around the Draft.  There are other, lesser guys up for new deals that the team will have to think about.

James Carpenter is a free agent.  After a rocky start to his career – one that has been pretty injury-plagued – it wouldn’t shock me to see the team let him walk away.  I can’t imagine he’s going to command a king’s ransom on the open market, but I’ve been surprised before.  Considering he’s more of a run-first blocker, with suspect pass-protection skills, I can’t imagine he’s a great fit for most teams who are pass-first.  If the Seahawks can bring him back on the cheap, I’d be all for it.  If they can’t, I’m not going to shed too many tears.  Either way, I would expect this team to draft hard for interior linemen this year.  Perhaps a guard/center type who could replace Carpenter now, and replace Unger when he’s no longer fit to handle the center duties.

Byron Maxwell is another biggie, and one we’ve all along said is not long for this team.  I can’t imagine the market is going to low-ball him; he’s going to get serious starter’s money.  Maybe not All Pro money, but it’ll likely be enough to price out the Seahawks.  I believe John Schneider when he says that Maxwell is a high priority, but I don’t think that’s at any price.  Here’s to hoping Tharold Simon grows up in a hurry between last season and this season.

Malcolm Smith is another free agent, but you can kiss him goodbye.  He hardly played at all outside of special teams when our core linebackers were healthy.  We’ve already extended Wright, we’re in the process of extending Wagner, and Irvin appears to be a coveted piece of our future that we’re keen on keeping around long term.  There’s just no room for Smith, who could likely be an effective starter on another team.  Let him go, replace him with a guy making the minimum, and we’ll be just fine.

Beyond that, the only other free agents we could potentially lose would be depth guys.  Tarvar, Schofield, Shead, Jeron Johnson.  None of these guys are “must keeps”.  I would argue extending our long snapper is of more value to the team than any of these other guys I’ve mentioned in this paragraph.

***

So, where does this team need help?

Our obvious starting point is Wide Receiver.  We need a couple, and we’re probably going to have to draft them to get them.  Let’s face it, trying to attract a free agent wide receiver into this offense is about as easy as the Seattle Mariners trying to attract a slugging right-handed power bat; nobody wants to sign here and watch their numbers plummet!  And, I don’t know if this has hit you yet, but we’re about to have a quarterback who is one of the top two or three highest-paid players in the NFL, so it’s not like we can afford to over-pay for Larry Fitzgerald or whoever else may or may not be available on the open market.  There will be no Percy Harvin-esque deals this offseason, or for the foreseeable future.

Draft.  Draft is the way to go for this position.  Lock them in pretty much against their wills and try to squeeze as much as you can out of them.

One route to take is what the Falcons did a few years ago:  sell out and trade up to draft a sure thing.  While it’s enticing – since this team is already at a championship-level – it’s never going to happen.  But, we do need to draft a receiver high.  In the first round, ideally, but no later than the third.  And, we probably need to draft a couple (one early, one late) just to get our numbers up and create some really good competition in camp this summer.

Doug Baldin is locked in thru 2016.  Jermaine Kearse is a restricted free agent who will be tendered at a high rate, meaning he’s pretty much a lock to be here at least in 2015.  These are two fine receivers, who both probably need to be bumped down a peg or two.  Ricardo Lockette is another restricted free agent who SHOULD be back, but he’s less of a lock than Kearse.  Paul Richardson had that devastating injury and is probably a strong candidate to start the season on the PUP list (meaning he will miss at least the first six weeks of the season; so it’s pretty safe to consider him a non-factor for 2015, considering the rate of re-injury when players try to rush back into playing shape mid-season).  Kevin Norwood had quite the underwhelming rookie campaign, so who knows if he’ll even be on the team when we eventually cut the roster back down to 53?  Then, there’s Chris Matthews, Bryan Walters, and some other fringe guys to think about.  I know Matthews was a revalation in the Super Bowl, but there’s a reason why he wasn’t playing the whole game – he was only in a small package of plays, because he’s not really that good.

I mean, yeah, Matthews is tall and athletic, and that accounts for something, but a lot of being a wide receiver is being in the right place at the right time and doing the right things when you get there.  He might not be the best route runner, he might not be adept enough at shedding defenders or creating separation.  I dunno, but there’s a reason why that guy kicks around on the fringes of the NFL all his career.  If he was better at all the things BESIDES height, he’d be making millions of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.

Really, what this all boils down to is:  get ready for another crapshoot.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and find a top-notch receiver in the draft.  But, we took two cracks at it last year – with Richardson and Norwood – in one of the all time deepest drafts for the position, and we likely came away with a couple duds.  This year doesn’t look to be nearly as promising, so hopefully we find that diamond in the rough.

Because if we don’t, I hate to break it to you, but the overall makeup of our wide receiver group doesn’t figure to be all that remarkably improved in 2015.  Yes, the team needs to keep trying to get it right, but unless you get that Odell Beckham, you’ve likely got a project on your hands that will require a couple years to get up to speed.  Remember, Golden Tate wasn’t a star the minute he stepped into the NFL.  This shit takes time.

***

After receiver, things look a little more reasonable on offense.  I would expect the Seahawks to go hard after a free agent tight end.  That may or may not spell the end of Zach Miller’s Seahawks career, but considering he’s making a relatively low figure of $4 million, I would suspect he’ll be back (he may also agree to a pay cut, which would be all the better).  If we could pair Miller with a high-quality free agent tight end, and let Luke Willson continue to develop (i.e. stop dropping the ball so much), we may not NEED a bona fide #1 wide receiver.  Hell, Luke Willson by himself is already matchup hell for defenses; imagine if we’re able to sign another studly threat at tight end to go with him!  At a reasonable cost, that’d be the way I’d go.

Don’t expect the Seahawks to wade in the free agent waters for a lineman.  Carpenter is a wild card.  J.R. Sweezy might be looking at an extension this year, at a relatively reasonable cost.  We’ve still got Alvin Bailey, Garry Gilliam, and Patrick Lewis as quality depth pieces.  Okung is signed thru 2015, Unger is signed thru 2016, and Britt is signed thru 2017, so really the bulk of our offensive line will remain at least through next year.  I would still expect some late round finds by Tom Cable, but this probably isn’t the year where the Seahawks look high in the draft for replacements, unless someone TOO good falls to them.

Another big storyline is what’s going to happen to Marshawn Lynch.  Good God, is this something I don’t want to have to worry about.  The Seahawks are already on record as wanting to extend him, to keep him happy and well paid.  But, rumors are floating around hot and heavy that Lynch is thinking about retiring, which depresses me to no end.  I’ve been as vocal as anyone about not keeping running backs past their expiration dates, but Lynch is as crucial as they come.  I agree with the Seahawks in their desire to extend him another couple years, and I hope Lynch takes the deal.  If he were to happily retire as a Seahawk, I don’t know if I could be any more pleased.

Failing that, if he does leave the game this year, the Seahawks are obviously going to have to look to the draft.  Turbin is signed thru 2015 and will be the likely starter.  But, I imagine there’d be a big time share between him, Michael (signed thru 2016), and any rookie we bring in who wins that third RB job.  Our running game will take a noticeable hit, but I’m hopeful we’d be able to find our running back of the future out of that mix.

***

On defense, the immediate need is in the interior defensive line.  Kevin Williams was on a 1-year deal and probably won’t be back (he may retire, or he may take another small deal to try to get that ring, but I think the team will end up moving on).  Mebane and Tony McDaniel are both signed thru 2015.  I have a hard time seeing the team moving on from either of these guys before the ends of their deals, but I do think we’ll look to draft a defensive tackle pretty early.

What we’ve got that we can count on is Jordan Hill.  He’s probably not a starter, but he’s certainly a quality depth piece who has found a role in our pass rush packages.  Beyond that, it’s a lot of slim pickin’s.  Filler guys like Dobbs, Scruggs, Jesse Williams, and a bunch of other names who are THIS close to trading in their jobs in the NFL for jobs as nightclub bouncers and with private security firms.  Ideally, we’d be able to pick up someone high in the draft who will go into the rotation immediately and eventually replace Mebane or McDaniel, with another guy drafted late who could hopefully develop into a replacement next year or the year after.

This is also a position the team could look to bolster in free agency, if the price is right.  Ndamukong Suh is an interesting name people are talking about as a potential target for the Seahawks, but I’m not buying it.  He’s about to be one of the top two highest paid defensive linemen in the NFL; 1) he’s not taking a discount to be here, and 2) we’re not going to blow up our entire salary cap for the next three years just to bring him in.  Yes, it would be AMAZING if Suh played on this line next to Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril; we’d probably have the single greatest pass rush the world has ever seen.  I could also win the Mega Millions lottery tonight and be a wealthy unemployed person tomorrow.  Let’s not waste the time or brain cells giving this too much thought.

More likely, the team goes after a lower tier free agent.  Cost effective, helpful, hopefully younger with a longer shelf life than a Kevin Williams.  Someone equally as effective at stopping he run and rushing the passer.  I don’t have any specific names for you right now, but they’re out there.  It’s just a matter of if they want to play for a winner or not.

***

Elsewhere on the defense, I think there’s a lot of clamoring for another defensive end, but I’m actually pretty happy with what we’ve got.  Bennett on one side, Avril on the other.  When Bennett moves inside, we’ve got Irvin along with Avril on the same line going after the quarterback.  Even our depth is okay, with Cassius Marsh looking like a good prospect last season before he went out with injury.  Hopefully this is the year we let Schofield go and find a quality replacement in the draft.  Maybe somewhere in the 2nd round to 4th round range.  Get some freak athlete who does one thing and one thing extremely well.  Probably not a spot we’ll look in free agency, unless it’s as a depth guy to help out in camp.

Our linebackers are solid.  As I mentioned before, we’ll have Wagner, Wright, and Irvin all back.  We’ve still got Kevin Pierre-Louis and Brock Coyle who are signed long term as quality depth guys and special teamers.  Malcolm Smith should be pretty easy to replace with another low-round draft pick or undrafted free agent.

In the secondary, I’m assuming Maxwell will be gone.  Lane is signed thru 2015, Simon is here thru 2016.  Beyond that, I would expect the team to go after another corner or possibly two in the draft.  Unlikely you’ll see this team get a free agent unless it’s another depth guy for camp.

***

As per usual, this is a team that’s built through the draft, with strategic forays into free agency.  I would expect more of the same.  With Russell Wilson’s contract expected to be pretty reasonable in 2015 (most of his money will be in the form of a signing bonus; his cap number this year will be manageable because we can spread out his bonus across five years of salary cap), there may be opportunities to get free agents on bigger 1-year deals.  But, unless Lynch retires, or something unexpected happens, I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go out of their way to bring in a big money free agent from another team.  The most we spend – aside from extending our own guys – will likely be for a quality tight end.  Otherwise, it’s all draft, all the time.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013’s overall roster to 2014’s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.