Seahawks Death Week: No Post-Season For The First Time Since 2011

I don’t know if there’s any point in rehashing this one too in depth, so let’s blow through it really quick:  the Seahawks lost at home to the Arizona Cardinals.  Led by Drew Stanton and his slightly torn ACL (that still left him spry enough to repeatedly run away from Michael Bennett in the open field), the Cards racked up 259 yards en route to a 26-24 victory.  Of course, the most mind-boggling thing was their 20-7 halftime lead, but at this point should it even be all that mind-boggling anymore?  We suck early in games, period.  That only made the inevitable second half comeback all the more painful in the end, as Blair Walsh sailed yet another field goal wide of its target in the closing seconds of the game.

Of course, by that point, it was known that the Panthers – behind garbage-ass Cam Newton’s 3 interceptions – lost to the Falcons, blowing their opportunity to win their division in the process (because, against all odds, the Bucs actually managed to beat the Saints).  So, it didn’t really matter what Blair Walsh did, and missing that kick actually made things better for the Seahawks, not just in dropping our draft pick from 20 to 18, but ensuring that there’s no fucking way this front office loses its collective minds and opts to re-sign that good-for-nothing piece of shit kicker.  21 of 29, for the worst season percentage of his career.  3 of those misses were under 40 yards (not counting the extra point he also missed), and 0 of those makes were 50 yards or more.  Ostensibly, we brought Walsh in here to be a cheaper alternative to Steven Hauschka, but we also brought him in here because of his big leg.  Once it was determined that he couldn’t be trusted, he finished the season with just 1 attempt over 50 yards, so obviously that was a huge embarrassing failure of a signing.

But, you can’t blame the fact that the Seahawks missed out on the playoffs on a terrible kicker like Blair Walsh (though, you can certainly trace at least a couple of these close losses to his missed field goals).  There’s plenty of blame to go around for why the Seahawks finished 9-7 and outside of the playoffs.  We’ll get into more of that as Seahawks Death Week goes on.

Before we get to that, a few notes on this final game of the season:

Tyler Lockett looked amazing, particularly on his kickoff return for a TD.  He’s slowly but surely returning to form after his devastating injury; I would expect great things from him in 2018.

I hope the Seahawks can bring Byron Maxwell back on the cheap.  He’d be a nice depth piece to have behind Sherm and Griffin.  I would also hope DeShawn Shead can return, but I think that’s less likely.  He’s probably looking for more of a starting role, and if he shows out in workouts, could very well command a salary this team has no business matching.  Besides, Justin Coleman appears to have that slot corner position on lockdown, so there isn’t a lot of room for more DBs (assuming, of course, that the team goes out in the draft and picks up another one).

I would absolutely love it for Dion Jordan to stay on.  I’ll get to where he should play in the coming days (hint:  so long, Michael Bennett), but I thought he was clearly the best defensive lineman on the field for the Seahawks in the last couple weeks, and it would’ve been nice to see him at least get more than 50% of the defensive snaps.

I’m less high on Sheldon Richardson returning, but I’d consider it for a couple reasons:  I don’t want the Seahawks to waste their time on high-priced free agents from other teams (mostly because I want some good compensatory draft picks for 2019).  While he would certainly figure in that equation if he walked away, I just don’t know who you could bring in to fill that spot, unless you’re sure Malik McDowell can come back from whatever stole his rookie season from him.  I have my doubts there.  Obviously, though, if Richardson is looking for Ndamukong Suh-type money, then let him walk.  But, if he can be had at the right price, with an out after 2-3 years, I say jump on it!

Okay, so I’m jumping on some of my future posts, so I’ll wrap it up with this:  I think the Seahawks need a lot of work in their receiver corps.  Baldwin is a stud, Lockett is criminally under-utilized, but as for the rest … yeesh.

Seahawks @ Rams Preview

I hate the fuckin’ Rams like The Dude hates the fuckin’ Eagles.  Just this bitter, resigned exasperation, like, “Really?  We’re doing this shit again?”

I hate the Rams and I really shouldn’t, is what I’m getting at.  The Rams have been mediocre-to-terrible for over a decade now, with no end in sight if I’m being honest.  And yet, they’ve beaten the Seahawks an alarming number of times, dating back to the Holmgren years.

Hell, they haven’t won more than 8 games in the regular season since 2003!

But, I’ll be God damned if they don’t have our number, and it starts right up there at their defensive line.  Like that idiot owner in fantasy who loads up at one position, to the detriment of the rest of his team, the Rams have stockpiled a ridiculous number of elite defensive linemen, while neglecting things like – oh, I dunno – quarterback, wide receiver, offensive line, linebackers, the secondary, tight end … pretty much anything that isn’t the defensive line or Todd Gurley.

If this were the 1930s, I’m sure the Rams would be the cock of the walk, and I’m sure Jeff Fisher would seem like a genius.  But, this is now, the Rams are fucking terrible, and Jeff Fisher can only seem to beat Pete Carroll, which is a neat parlor trick to show off to your friends, but it isn’t going to keep you gainfully employed.

(as a quick aside, I’ve been laboring under the impression that they’d already given Fisher an extension beyond this season, but apparently all those reports were of a deal being “imminent”.  Which I assume means, “just as soon as he beats the Seahawks”.  I’m still sticking to my guns that this is going to be his final year there, extension or no extension, because come on)

And so here we are, another year older, another couple of Rams games on the schedule.  The first one is this weekend, and it’s the first regular season game back in Los Angeles since whenever they moved away last.  There will be 90,000 die hards in attendance, of which I want to say half will be corporate or celebrity, which is another way of saying it’ll have a Super Bowl atmosphere without the stakes.  I’m sure it’ll be loud in the early going, but once we get into this thing, I can’t imagine the crowd is going to have that much of an impact.

Key to this game will, of course, be Russell Wilson and how well he’s able to move in and around the pocket.  Last Sunday, after the Suh hit, it didn’t look like he could take more than a couple steps.  I would assume he’ll be better today, but I think it’s a longshot that we’ll see him as an active runner on read-option plays.  My hope is, if he can handle it, to tuck and run with the ball early, to at least show the defense he’s okay (even if he’s not totally 100%).  That should mitigate things a bit, and hopefully open things up for the running backs.

Thomas Rawls will return to his starting role, which I think is appropriate, and not just because I have him on my fantasy team.  He’s the more complete back, and he should be getting the bulk of the carries.  I still like Christine Michael, but I think I like him more as a change of pace back.  Pick your spots and let him do his thing.  But, I still don’t know if I trust him to hold down the starter’s job full time.

The offensive line is what everyone will be focused on, of course.  They’re going up against a D-Line even better than an already-good one in Miami.  On the plus side, they’ve had an extra week to work with J’Marcus Webb at right guard, so hopefully they’ll be able to gel a little bit, and we won’t see so many breakdowns from the right side of the line.

Still, this is a game you just have to grit your teeth and hope for the best.  The Seahawks most certainly won’t be able to move the ball all that well.  Even in the second half of last year, when Russell Wilson was putting up God-like numbers, we laid an egg at home to the Rams in Week 16.  If that’s the case, there’s no good reason for us to expect the Seahawks’ offense to produce this time around.

The defense, as always, will have to run the show.  Take a look at what the 49ers did on Monday Night, and do that.  Do exactly that.  I want constant pressure on their quarterback, I want Gurley’s ass to be dumped in the backfield on the reg, and I want their receivers stuffed short of the line to gain.  No more breakdowns, no more tight ends running free down the field, no more missed tackles, and so help me God, you BETTER force some turnovers!  I’m not kidding!  If the Rams are going to throw our offense around like a ragdoll, I want our defense to be twice as vicious!

And, for the love of all that is holy, stop falling for their special teams tricks!  Is it too much to ask to fucking FOCUS on the shit that keeps repeatedly beating us?

As for a prediction, I don’t even know how to start.  I know what this game SHOULD look like:  it should be a bloodbath where the Seahawks win 27-7, and the Rams only get that TD late in the 4th quarter after we’ve inserted our subs.  What WILL it look like?  Oh, probably more of the same horseshit.  If I’m feeling optimistic, maybe something like a 16-13 Seahawks victory.  If I’m feeling realistic, probably a 24-18 Rams drubbing.

This game has Huge Embarrassing Failure written all over it.  Once again, we’ll be pointing to games like this as the reason why the Seahawks failed to get the seeding they wanted in the playoffs.  I almost don’t even want to watch this catastrophe.

Seahawks Win Yet Another Seahawky Game

It was just one of those fucking things, you know?  Be happy with the victory and try to forget about it.

Except, how can we, what with Russell Wilson’s ankle injury sure to dominate the local conversation this week?  I’ll say this about the play:  it sure LOOKED like an accident, the way Ndamukong Suh hit him, causing his ankle to twist an unnatural way, but that big fucking galoot – known for more than his fair share of intentionally dirty hits – sure has a knack for injuring guys.  When you’re as athletic and as talented as Suh, there’s a way to make that play where it doesn’t hobble our quarterback.  Likewise, when you’re as athletic and as talented as Suh, you probably learn new ways to make dirty hits look “accidental”.  So, fuck that guy, I hope his ACL snaps real soon.

By all rights, the Seahawks should’ve lost that game.  On top of the fact that Russell couldn’t move after his ankle injury, the team in general couldn’t run the ball whatsoever.  That made us one-dimensional for most of the game, and with our makeshift O-Line against their front four full of studs, we had to be extra careful in the passing game, often limiting us to shorter, quicker throws.  Since we’re not the San Diego Chargers, and our quarterback isn’t Philip Rivers, that’s not exactly our forte, and we struggled accordingly.  By and large, we weren’t getting open in the conventional ways we normally get open, which left us grasping at straws on third down.  It wasn’t until that final drive where we hit on a couple of 4th down conversions, but we pretty much started out that drive in 4-down territory, so that likely dictated our play-calling on 3rd down.

Defensively, we were as savage as I can remember.  But, again, PROBABLY should’ve lost that game.  Kenny Stills got behind everyone, only to drop what would’ve been a HUGE touchdown early in the game.  Earl Thomas struggled like I can’t remember him ever struggling before.  There were more missed tackles than I like to see.  But, for the most part, the defense was on point.  The Dolphins had five 3 & Outs and had to punt 7 times on the day.  There was another critical stop by Kam Chancellor early in the game on 4th down that at the very least prevented them from scoring 3 points.  That’s on top of a mammoth blocked field goal by Cassius Marsh early in the 4th quarter to keep our 3-point lead intact.

Indeed, the way the defense was going, I wondered if we could hold on and make it a 6-3 final.  But, of course, as soon as I started to seriously maintain that line of thinking, midway through the 4th quarter, the Dolphins finally managed a competent scoring drive to take a 10-6 lead.  I’d be curious to know if, defensively, we played that drive any differently than we had up to that point.  From my naked eye and limited football acumen, it didn’t look totally out of character:  lots of zone, a blitz or two sprinkled in.  But, it was almost shocking the way the Dolphins were able to get in the endzone, considering how much we’d dominated them to that point.  It’s not fair to expect a defense to be perfect for a full game, but there you go again:  another lead blown by that unit late in the game, in remarkably easy fashion.

I was pretty sick about the whole thing once Miami went ahead.  The Seahawks got the ball back with a little over 4 minutes to go in the game, and with the way Wilson was immobilized, and the way our offense had performed in general, it wasn’t looking likely we’d go down there and score a touchdown.  Then, I remembered I was the only person left in our Eliminator pool who didn’t pick the Seahawks this week, and I knew the gambling gods wouldn’t let me win it all in Week 1 (the fact that I had the Cardinals, who would go on to lose later that night, was further proof that the gambling gods hate me to no end).

Sure enough, the drive started out bumpy as hell, but the Seahawks put themselves in position to win it, and did so with a nifty little fade to Doug Baldwin on the left side of the endzone.  We’d go on to miss the extra point – because apparently that’s what the NFL likes:  ineptitude – but it would go on to not matter, because our defense quickly rediscovered our edge and made mincemeat of Ryan Tannehill.

Christine Michael got the start in this one, and looked okay, but also looked like he biffed a couple of assignments.  Thomas Rawls nearly matched him touch for touch, in spite of the discrepency in snaps (Michael out-snapped him by a wide margin), and while neither of their numbers were all that impressive, I liked the way they looked together.  Rawls will get you those difficult yards Marshawn Lynch used to get; Michael will slash and dash for large chunks of yardage, and is the consummate home run threat at tailback.  Just when a defense figures out how to stop one guy, you bring in the other for a total change of pace.  It does nothing for me in fantasy – as long as both are healthy, they both remain non-starters for fantasy purposes – but as a fan, it’s as much as I could’ve hoped for, what with Lynch’s retirement and all.

Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, is a guy you MUST start in fantasy, as he’s definitely Russell Wilson’s go-to guy, particularly in or near the red zone.  Yesterday, he caught 9 balls for 92 yards and that game-winning touchdown, and I think it’s just the start of a legitimate Pro Bowl season.

Tyler Lockett didn’t do a whole lot, and had a couple drops (one of them punched out by Byron Maxwell, but even then, had he caught it cleanly to begin with, he might’ve been able to hold onto it through contact).  He’ll need to do better, as Wilson looked his way early and often on third down in this one, resulting in a couple drives being stalled.

Jimmy Graham got into it a little bit.  I didn’t see him at all in the first half, but he played pretty regularly in the second half, though he looked like more of a decoy than anything else.  Nevertheless, he did catch one ball on that touchdown drive to get us a first down en route to the endzone.  Assuming he feels no ill effects from the game, I look forward to his re-emergence as the team continues to bring him slowly back.

C.J. Prosise had a nifty catch and run for a first down early in the game, but had to leave with a sprained wrist.  I don’t know what that means for his availability going forward – he might miss a game or two – but it sure limits us on third down.  Where’s Troymaine Pope when you need him?  Oh, right, with the Jets.

Defensively, I don’t know where to start, except yes I do, and it’s Bobby Wagner.  Oh man, WHAT A GAME!  He didn’t lead the team in tackles, but the ones he made sure counted, as all 6 were solo tackles.  He also had a couple QB hits, and they weren’t cheapies.  That’s what I talk about when I talk about a guy making his presence felt.  Wagner had his hands all over this game.

K.J. Wright was the leading tackler with 11, and he too had a QB hit, as well as a sack, and a tackle for loss.  The rest of the NFL has been slow to catch on to his greatness, but he’s the main reason why you’ll hear people around the Seahawks say this team has the best linebacking corps in the league.  He’s also the main reason why you don’t totally dismiss those people out of hand for their homerism.  Wright and Wagner, as far as one-two punches at the linebacker position are concerned – particularly with the way most teams ONLY play two linebackers, with how pass-wacky the league has become – are as good as any one-two linebacker punches in the league.

Richard Sherman stood out, one for his obvious dominance in coverage, as I don’t recall him letting anyone catch anything around him, but also for his tackling.  He made a couple of the most impressive open-field tackles in the game, where had he missed, they would’ve gone for huge gains.  Never take for granted Sherman’s tackling; it’s truly a precious and wonderful thing.

DeShawn Shead gets his own set of kudos.  The whole secondary played pretty well, aside from Earl on a few bad plays that stuck out like a sore thumb, but Shead looked like the real deal Holyfield.  The L.O.B. has had a number of quality cornerbacks opposite Richard Sherman.  Brandon Browner famously made the Pro Bowl in 2011 and helped give this unit its edge in its infancy, Byron Maxwell replaced Browner and helped lead us to a championship in 2013 before going on to a huge free agent payday, but Shead might be the best of them all.  He broke up a couple passes, and was an all-around force the likes of which I haven’t seen since teams stopped trying to challenge Richard Sherman in 2014.  I’m fully on the bandwagon now; look for Shead to have a HUGE year this year.

The D-Line as a whole stepped up in a big way.  Bennett, Avril, Clark, and even Marsh all had sacks on the day.  The Nascar lineup looks as fast and disruptive as it was in 2013.  And, the interior didn’t disappoint, holding the Dolphins to only 64 yards on 3.2 yards per carry.  Also, hat tip to Jarran Reed for two big batted balls at the line of scrimmage.  I hope that’s, like, a thing he’s randomly, weirdly good at, because it would be huge for our interception numbers this year.

Also, let’s go ahead and give kudos to Marsh again, as well as Mike Morgan on special teams.  Marsh had that blocked field goal, as well as a couple monster hits on returns.  And, if it wasn’t Marsh, it was Morgan who was always around the runner with the ball, ensuring his immediate introduction to the turf.  Can’t say enough about how well we covered punts and kickoffs in this one.

Look, all in all, I’m as not-thrilled as the rest of you with how the game played out.  Obviously, it would’ve been a million times worse had the Seahawks fallen short at the end, but there are positives to take away.  Defensively, in particular.  Reasons for hope on offense include the fact that Wilson was never actually knocked out of the game.  So, the ankle injury can’t be THAT bad.  By the same token, he couldn’t really run on it, and that sucks every dick in the free world when you think about how we’re playing the Rams next week.  Looking better offensively than we did against the Dolphins should be completely off the table right now.  Even winning this game at all is dodgy at best.  Getting Wilson through the game without making the ankle worse needs to be our top priority.  From there, we get a nothing game against the 49ers, followed by another fucking massive D-Line with the Jets.  What was once looking like a viable 4-0 start now has 2-2 written all over it.  I guess the early BYE week this year will actually come in handy for once.

Other reasons for optimism, if you really want to grasp at some straws, is that after this initial 4-game set, we don’t really face a dominating D-Line again until December, when we face the Panthers.  So, you know, we’ve got that going for us.

If by some miracle, we’re able to keep Wilson upright – which, hint hint Darrell Bevell, is going to require you to leave your tight ends in to chip A LOT MORE than you did against the Dolphins – the rest of the skill position players look up to the task of picking up our hobbled QB1.  Fingers crossed.

The Seahawks Face The Lions On Monday Night

With no Seahawks game on Sunday, I’m free to obsess about my fantasy football team, who’s already in a deep, dark hole thanks to Steve Smith getting injured in last night’s slugfest between the Ravens and Steelers.  In an effort to distract myself from what will surely be the first loss of many for Catalina Wine Mixer, I’ll try to focus on the real, important game on Monday night.

The Lions come to town!  Matthew Stafford, Calvin Johnson, the return of Golden Tate, a criminally underused running game, a Suh-less defense.  It should actually be a pretty entertaining contest, even though the oddsmakers are predicting a Seahawks blowout.

What we’ve got going for us is that their offensive line is also a total and complete mess, hence why they struggle rushing the ball even though they’ve got an exciting rookie runner in Ameer Abdullah.  The Seahawks SHOULD have little trouble keeping their ground attack at bay once again, while at the same time generating significant pressure on their quarterback.  The fact that this is being played in Seattle only bolsters that argument.

What we’ve also got going for us is that their defense isn’t anything special.  So, in short, what I’m telling you is that this is pretty much every single Detroit Lions team we’ve ever seen since Barry Sanders retired.  Haloti Ngata is a big ol’ widebody and might pose some challenges to our running game.  But, he’s a significant step down from Ndamukong Suh in every way there is to be a defensive tackle, so I’m not too worried.  My worry MAY increase if Marshawn Lynch is sidelined again, but I liked what I saw from Rawls last week.  And, of course, the real question is whether our O-Line is improved enough to handle even a mediocre defense that the Lions may throw at us.  Don’t be shocked if, yet again, our offense starts slowly and frustrates for most of the first half.

Let me put it this way:  if I’m in a sportsbook while this game is going on, I’d put a large wager on the Seahawks being down at halftime (or, at the very least, not covering the halftime spread), parlayed with the Under.  Then, at half, hit up the sportsbook to bet the Seahawks to cover and the game to just crack the Over.  It’s a risky bet, but if I’ve seen any Seahawks games the last few years, I think it’s a winning one.

From everyone I’ve read, this game (more than most) should hinge on turnovers.  Matthew Stafford is a slob with the football, throwing interceptions like he’s dropping a plate full of spaghetti & meatballs on my God damned brand new carpet!  On the flip, the Seahawks have 0 interceptions and only 4 recovered fumbles in the first three games.  I wouldn’t worry about our defense in the creating-turnovers regard (the Bears were playing offensive football like old people fuck, and the Packers are the Packers and Aaron Rodgers doesn’t get picked off at home), but I think it’s also a little misguided to just expect the Seahawks to pick off Stafford 2-3 times in this game.

You know what you get with a game in Seattle.  You know you have to be extra extra EXTRA careful with the football, or you’re going to get steamrolled.  You also know that you’re most likely not going to connect on anything deep (especially when you can’t get Michael Bennett to jump offsides due to all the crowd noise).  So, as we’ve seen with almost everyone who’s played against us, expect a lot of shorter throws to open receivers.  Expect Stafford to complete a high percentage of those throws, leading to a lot of 2nd/3rd & shorts.  If we get any picks, then either Matthew Stafford is a complete moron (which, you know, don’t rule it out), or more likely the ball was probably tipped up into the air.

Either way, turnovers or no turnovers, this is still a dangerous Lions offense.  Yes, they’re 0-3, but they had to go all the way out to San Diego in week 1, then they had to go on the road to Minnesota in week 2, and they had to face the Broncos at home last week.  The Chargers are like the Lions in a lot of ways, with the Lions blowing a huge lead in the second half thanks to some shoddy defense.  The Vikings are probably better than we all expected, and they’ve got an up & coming defense that should carry them pretty far this year (at least in the hunt for a Wild Card).  And, the Broncos have one of the best defenses in football.  It’s going to take an A-Game out of our defense to match what the Broncos were able to do last week.

I’ll be really interested to see how the Seahawks look in this one.  So far, we’ve looked like crap for the first two weeks (albeit, on the road, and without a full defense), then we played probably the worst football team in the league last week at home.  This will be a good test to see where we are.  Are we closer to the teams who botched it on the road?  Or, are we closer to the dominant force we saw who shut out the Bears?  This game could go a long way towards shedding some light on how good this team really is.  If we blow it at home and fall to 1-3, we are in SEVERE trouble.  But, if we win – even in a close, ugly game – I’ll feel a lot more comfortable about our chances going forward.

As it stands, I’m pretty confident the Seahawks will prevail.  I’m sensing that this will be one of those standout Russell Wilson performances we tend to see so much in primetime games.  I wouldn’t even be shocked if we see a 300-yard passing/100-yard rushing day out of our quarterback, with the wealth spread out generously among Graham, Baldwin, Kearse, and Lockett.

Predicting The 2015 NFL Season

I love doing this post, I don’t care how wrong I am.  Last year, I was pretty far off in a lot of ways.  Detroit winning their division, Green Bay out of the playoffs entirely, New Orleans as the clear-cut second-best team in the NFC (and maybe NFL), Tampa and Atlanta both sneaking in as wild cards (essentially, I was high on everyone in what would be the worst division of all time – the 2014 NFC South – except the actual division winner).  And, of course, I made the mistake of picking a repeat Super Bowl matchup, which is about the dumbest thing you can possibly do.

I did have this little nugget of wisdom heading into the 2014 season, and if you replace all the Denver parts with New England parts, it rings eerily true:

My thing is – and I’ll deny it to my grave if I’m wrong – I have a SERIOUS nagging worry that the Seahawks and Denver will both make it back to the Super Bowl, but it’ll be the Broncos hoisting the Lombardi trophy while we sit and watch, devastated.

Of course, my official pick was a repeat Super Bowl championship, and we all know how that turned out.

So, let’s turn the page to 2015.  Here are my picks, in all their glory:

NFC East

Dallas
NY Giants
Philadelphia
Washington

Seemingly every year, I find the NFC East to be a crapshoot, where the hottest team in December ultimately wins the division.  That USUALLY means the Cowboys are on the outside looking in, but in 2014, they finally put it all together.  For 2015, I don’t see a whole lotta drop-off.  They still have that offensive line, so their running game should be all right, which means their offense should continue to be the strength.  Do just enough on defense, and I think they’ll take it.

Coming into this month, I would’ve had the Giants as my pick.  I like the way they finished last year; and a full season of Eli to ODB should be gangbusters.  But, I hear too much bad stuff about their defense for comfort (then again, that same bad stuff was said about the Cowboys’ defense last year, and they turned out okay).  I have a hard time trying to peg Philly.  I think they could be as good as a top 2 seed in the NFC, or they could be last in their division with 4 wins.  I choose to believe that Sam Bradford will at some point be lost for the year.  I also believe their defense got lucky on a lot of return TDs last year, and DeMarco Murray is another injury waiting to happen.  Ultimately, all the tinkering will have made them worse.  As for Washington, the less said about them, the better (though, I do believe with their new GM – Scot McCloughan – they have a chance to turn it around in a hurry; so long as Dan Snyder doesn’t fuck things up first).

NFC North

Green Bay
Detroit
Minnesota
Chicago

Well, if I’m going to put the stink on anyone, it might as well be the Packers.  I’ve got them as the biggest challenge to the Seahawks making it to a third straight Super Bowl, and right now, in fact, I have them with the edge for that #1 seed (by way of them hosting us in week 2, and by way of their incredibly easy schedule for a first place team).  The loss of Jordy Nelson for the year isn’t great, but with James Jones back in the fold, they should have enough receivers to get through the year just fine.  One of the strongest Packers teams I’ve seen since they went 15-1.

I still like Detroit – indeed, I like them as a Wild Card pick – and think they’ll have no trouble winning 10 games, even with the losses they’ve suffered on defense.  I like Minnesota to take a step forward, as Teddy Bridgewater gets more comfortable as a passer.  And, I like Chicago to be one of the very worst teams in the entire NFC (and therefore, the world).

NFC South

Carolina
Atlanta
New Orleans
Tampa Bay

I still find this division to be pretty pathetic, and I still doubt the winner of this division will have more than 9 wins.  I don’t like Carolina much, but I like the teams I’ve ranked below them even less.  Atlanta is still far from solid on defense, and they’ve got exactly two good players on offense (Matt Ryan & Julio Jones).  That’s it.  In games it wins, I’m sure the Ryan to Jones connection will be on point.  But, good teams will be able to shut that option down, and thereby shutting down the entire offense.  They don’t have a running game at all, Roddy White is very near retirement, and they’re STILL trying to figure out a way to replace Tony Gonzalez (will the mummy Antonio Gates be a free agent anytime soon?).

I’ve got New Orleans in the 3-hole, but I could easily see them as dead last.  Who are Brees’ options?  Are they REALLY going to devote their offense more to the run?  Do they even HAVE a defense?  I could see this year going sour in a hurry.  Tampa actually has some upside, and if their #1 QB gets the hang of this game, they could approach 6-8 wins.

NFC West

Seattle
St. Louis
Arizona
San Francisco

I’ll get to the Seahawks throughout the week in a series of previews, but suffice it to say, with all the turnover, I still feel the Seahawks are one of the best two or three teams in the NFL.  In a little more shocking news, I finally like the Rams to get over the hump and into the playoffs.  I think this is the year their defense puts it all together.  I don’t like Nick Foles a ton, but he is a starting quarterback in this league, and I’d much rather have him than someone like Cutler, Dalton, Fitzpatrick, Bradford, Cousins, Hoyer, and QB Browns.  Furthermore, I don’t think they’ll have to do much at all on offense to win games this year; I foresee a lot of 16-13 wins, as teams struggle to move the ball.  The schedule doesn’t help them out much early (3 of first 5 on the road, with games vs. SEA, vs. PIT, @ AZ, and @ GB), but after their week 6 BYE, they have a stretch where they play 6 of 9 at home, featuring (vs. CLE, vs. SF, @ MIN, vs. CHI, @ BAL, @ CIN, vs. AZ, vs. DET, vs TB).  I see them winning 7 of those games alone, and with a couple of unmentioned road games against the 49ers and Redskins, it’s not impossible to see this as a 10-win team.

I don’t like Arizona at all.  I think they got incredibly lucky in 2014 (which is a ridiculous statement, considering how unlucky they were with injuries, specifically with the quarterback position) and were not as good of a team as their record.  Carson Palmer is back, but I can’t imagine he has much left in the tank.  They’ve lost a bunch of guys on both sides of the line, and they still don’t have a running game at all.  They might get off to a good start early (home games against the Saints, 49ers, and Rams in the first four weeks, with the only road game being at Chicago), but look for the wheels to come off as that stretch is followed by the following (@ DET, @ PIT, vs. BAL, @ CLE, BYE, @ SEA, vs. CIN, @ SF, @ StL).  I could easily see them losing 6 of those games, and that doesn’t factor in a tough stretch of mostly home games to close out the season (vs. MIN, @ PHI, vs. GB, vs. SEA).  With Palmer surely injured by this point, I could see them losing out and having at least 10-11 losses this year.

And with all of that said, I STILL think the 49ers will be worse!  My hope is that they’re terrible, but not so terrible that they get a Top 5 pick.  Is that possible?  Well, considering all their good people are either retired or playing/coaching elsewhere, we might actually be looking at the future #1 overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.  Not quite my worst nightmare, but it’s close.  The only things they have going for them is a Week 10 BYE and they get to host us on a Thursday (#ShortWeek).

AFC East

New England
Miami
Buffalo
NY Jets

With Tom Brady embiggened emboldened by the overturning of his 4-game suspension, I fully expect him to lay to waste any defense that comes across his path.  The thing with that is, teams aren’t just going to roll over and die (well, MOST teams; I fully expect the Steelers on Thursday to roll over like the good doggies they are, as I’m playing against my friend in Fantasy Football who’s starting Brady this week).  The Dolphins, Bills, and Jets all have pretty tough defenses.  I don’t expect them to beat the Pats a whole lot, but I’d LIKE to see them knock Brady around, to wipe that smug fucking smirk off his face.  They also face the defenses of Houston, Denver, and Dallas who should all be pretty tough as well.  How they managed to dodge playing the Ravens in the regular season is a crime against NFL scheduling (though, I obviously understand how NFL scheduling works, wouldn’t the hype for that game – which would invariably be played on either a Sunday or Monday night – be deliciously over the top?).

Elsewhere, like the Rams, I think this is the year the Dolphins finally make it over the hump.  Mike Wallace is gone, so that’s addition by subtraction.  I think they have the weapons in both the passing game and the running game to be a consistent force on offense.  With the addition of Suh on defense, that gives their run defense instant credibility, forcing other teams to be one dimensional.  That formula (combined with playing the NFC East and AFC South) should be more than enough to get them to 10 wins and a wild card.  I like Buffalo for approximately 7-8 wins (mostly due to their very-strong defense and lack of a quarterback), and I like the Jets for even less than that (mostly due to their less-strong defense and even BIGGER lack of a quarterback).

AFC North

Baltimore
Pittsburgh
Cincinnati
Cleveland

The Ravens won the Super Bowl in the 2012 season, then suffered an immediate setback thanks to the Joe Flacco contract.  They shed older players, reloaded through the draft, and now they’re back once again, ready to contend for more championships.  You know I love me some Seahawks front office, but I have only the utmost respect for the Ravens’.  And, not to get off on a tangent here, but I like the Ravens’ front office even more than the Patriots’.  Yeah, the Pats may have been more successful over the last decade and a half, but they’ve also been cheating throughout, and most importantly, they’ve EASILY had the lowest level of divisional competition by a fucking thousand miles.  If you swapped the Ravens and Patriots (so the Ravens were in the AFC LEast and the Pats were in the AFC North), I can make a pretty easy argument for the Ravens being the last great dynasty in the NFL, and the Pats still being pretty good, but nowhere near 6 Super Bowl appearances in 15 years.

Like the Giants, if you’d asked me to rank the divisions a month ago, I probably would’ve put Pittsburgh on top.  Again, you gotta like the way their offense played down the stretch.  But, that defense is clearly rebuilding, and they’re unlikely to remain as lucky with injuries as they were in 2014 (their center is already out for at least half the year, being put on the IR-designated to return).  If I had to predict the 2016 division champions, I’d probably tell you the Steelers will finally be ready.  But, as it stands now, I think they win no more than 9-10 games, and I think that’s still not good enough to crack the Wild Card.  I like Cincy to fall below .500 for the first time since Andy Dalton came into the league.  I also think Andy Dalton’s stranglehold on the starting QB job is in jeopardy and he starts losing some snaps to A.J. McCarron (Wave of the Future!).  Finally, I think Cleveland is a mess and that’s the end of that analysis.

AFC South

Indianapolis
Houston
Jacksonville
Tennessee

Indy is quickly taking over the reign of Worst Divisional Opponents In The NFL from New England, which is pretty easy to do when you’re good and the rest of the teams in your division don’t have any quarterbacks.  I think Hoyer and that Texans defense will be good enough to get to around 8 wins.  I think Jacksonville will make some strides towards .500 this year, but I don’t believe in Bortles as far as I can throw him; he’ll be another bust.  And the Titans are too young to do much of anything.  Mariota being Jake Locker 2.0 is probably their worst nightmare.

AFC West

Kansas City
Denver
San Diego
Oakland

I think we’re reaching the end of the line for Peyton Manning.  I like them to sneak into a wild card spot, but I’m not even really high on that, to be honest.  This is sort of a hedge pick; if Manning stays healthy, and the defense keeps up their end of the bargain, the Broncos could be divisional winners.  If Manning gets hurt, I think they could fall as far as last place in the division.  So, I decided to meet in the middle – maybe Manning misses a bunch of games in the middle of the season and they get him back for a hot stretch run in December.  Either way, I feel pretty good about the Chiefs grabbing control of the division.  Most people blame Alex Smith for their offensive woes last year; I blame their sub-pedestrian receivers (led by the corpse of Dwayne Bowe).  With a REAL number one receiver in Jeremy Maclin, I think this offense hums along like those old Andy Reid Philly teams.  And, considering their defense is pretty fearsome, I wouldn’t be shocked if this team won 12 games and a BYE in the first round of the playoffs.

I could see the Chargers sneaking past the Broncos for that final wild card spot, but I dunno.  The Chargers seem to be a team that always has all the promise in the world, but ultimately falters to a .500 finish.  I’m going to say their defense isn’t up to the charge (!), their running game isn’t where it needs to be, and Rivers doesn’t quite have the receiving weapons to get the job done.  As for the Raiders, it all hinges on Derek Carr.  That’s a scary proposition.

NFC Playoffs

  1. Seattle
  2. Green Bay
  3. Dallas
  4. Carolina
  5. St. Louis
  6. Detroit

AFC Playoffs

  1. New England
  2. Indianapolis
  3. Kansas City
  4. Baltimore
  5. Denver
  6. Miami

Wild Card Round

Dallas over Detroit
St. Louis over Carolina
Kansas City over Miami
Baltimore over Denver

Divisional Round

Seattle over St. Louis
Dallas over Green Bay
New England over Baltimore
Indianapolis over Kansas City

Championship Round

Seattle over Dallas
Indianapolis over New England

Super Bowl

Seattle over Indianapolis

In 2012, the Colts – with rookie Andrew Luck – won 11 games, made the playoffs, and lost in the first round to the Ravens.  In 2013, the Colts won 11 games again, made the playoffs again, beat the Chiefs in the Wild Card round, and lost to the Patriots in the Divisional round.  In 2014, the Colts won 11 games one more time, made the playoffs, beat the Bengals in the Wild Card round, beat the Broncos in the Divisional round, and lost to the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.  My point being:  the Colts have gotten better every single year under Andrew Luck.  Their first year was just seeing what they had – and what they had was the next Peyton Manning.  The next year was seeing if the first year wasn’t a fluke.  Last year was taking that next step towards being elite.  THIS year is where they put it all together.

They’ve got Andre Johnson to go with T.Y. Hilton, which is a vast improvement over Reggie Wayne towards the end of his career.  They’ve got the steady presence of Frank Gore who’s been nothing if not healthy and is dying for a chance to win a ring.  And, FINALLY, I think they’ve made real strides to toughen up that defense.  I think this is the year they finally get over the hump of the Patriots running the ball down their throats.  I think they’ve got the complete package – even an elite shutdown corner in Vontae Davis (if he can stay healthy) – and I think this is the year they make their reemergence into the Super Bowl.

And, with all that being said, I think they’re going to get beat by the Seahawks.  You could argue that the first 10 games of the 2014 season saw the Seahawks wrapped up in a long term Super Bowl Hangover.  I think there’s no such hangover this year.  Everyone has their eyes on that prize and they’re going to do anything and everything to make people forget about The Play Call That Shall Not Be Named.

I have no such doubts about this year like I did going into last year.  I’m not QUITE as confident as I was going into the 2013 season (where I knew as soon as the 2012 playoffs ended that we’d be the team to beat), but that team was as complete as can be on both sides of the ball.  This team is almost there, but I worry about a few growing pains early.  If we beat the Rams and Packers in the first two weeks, all doubt will be washed away going forward.

The course for a Seahawks Dynasty is still very much on track.

For Whom Might The Seahawks Trade Russell Wilson?

‘Tis the season for rampant speculation on matters we know nothing about!  It’s a glorious time to be alive, what with the Internets and whatnot.

I read this over the weekend from Mike Florio with Pro Football Talk.  It references another option in the Russell Wilson Contract Saga that nobody’s really talking about:  in lieu of signing him, or franchising him, the Seahawks might feel like they need to trade him.

For the record, this is the last thing I want to see happen.  I’m of the school of thought that you do NOT trade your franchise quarterback for anything!  Unless he’s too old and broken down, and even then I’d be pretty sad to see him go.  Nevertheless, I was reading that story and it got me to thinking.  I’m not so much interested in the super-bounty of draft picks, but I am interested in the part where it talks about, “the Seahawks could send Wilson to another team for its starting quarterback.”

So, consider that the premise for this post:  who would the Seahawks realistically get in return for a Russell Wilson?

Before we get started, I agree with Mike Florio in the article:  regardless of what happens, I 100% doubt that the Seahawks are trading Russell Wilson in 2015.  Even if we’re a billion dollars apart in our contract terms, I still think we ride this season out and hope for another ring.  So, what we’re looking at – in this hypothetical world where the endgame is Russell Wilson being traded – is the Seahawks putting one of the franchise tags on him, then sending him away.

So, I’m going to go through all the quarterbacks who are either starting for their teams, or are in some kind of a timeshare/training camp battle because none of them on that particular team are all that good.

Here we have a list of quarterbacks whose teams would never trade them to us:

  • Aaron Rodgers
  • Andrew Luck
  • Joe Flacco
  • Matt Ryan
  • Cam Newton
  • Ryan Tannehill

Rodgers, I feel, is pretty obvious:  he’s the best quarterback in the league and I don’t think Green Bay is in for an over-priced step down.  Luck’s not quite there yet, but he clearly WILL be the best quarterback in the league, and I would wager sooner rather than later.  Joe Flacco is already a Super Bowl-winning quarterback; I don’t see Baltimore giving him up.  You could argue he’s making too much money and looking to shed some salary, but remember in this scenario:  Russell Wilson is looking to be the highest-paid quarterback in the history of the game.  I think Ryan, Newton, and Tannehill are too young, and they’ve just gotten paid.  Plus, I don’t think those teams could afford to take the cap hit that Wilson’s going to bring (especially Miami, what with Ndamukong Suh making all the money he’s making).

Next up, quarterbacks whose teams ALMOST CERTAINLY won’t trade them:

  • Tom Brady
  • Ben Roethlisberger
  • Tony Romo
  • Eli Manning
  • Matthew Stafford

With Brady and Roethlisberger, I just think they’re too tied to their respective teams and cities.  But, those organizations have been known to be ruthless with their veterans, so if they felt like either one might be slipping, and they had a chance to get a young stud QB in return, they MIGHT pounce on him.  I’d put Romo and Manning in the same boat (too tied to their teams & cities), just on a lesser scale because they’re not as good.  Stafford’s interesting because I think he’s right on the edge of being good and being overrated.  Seemingly every year I have a different opinion about him.  Ultimately, I think Detroit feels he’s good enough to get the job done, and likely wouldn’t trade him away for a guy like Wilson.

The Division Rivals:

  • Carson Palmer
  • Nick Foles
  • Colin Kaepernick

The overarching theme of this section is:  under no circumstances do you EVER trade your franchise quarterback to a team in your division.  Putting that aside, I think all three of these teams would trade their starters for Russell Wilson in a heartbeat.  Carson Palmer is obviously too old and too injury prone to be counted upon.  Nick Foles is interesting, but ultimately not worth facing Wilson twice a year (especially with their offensive line and defense overall, I think the Rams would be a total dynasty with Wilson at the helm).  And honestly, Colin Kaepernick might be the best fit in the league for our offense – given his scrambling ability.  I think if you reined him in, forcing him to be a little more conservative with his throws, he wouldn’t be much of a step down at all compared to Wilson.  Hell, under Harbaugh he went to three straight NFC Championship Games; I think he’d do okay here as well.

The Young Ones:

  • E.J. Manuel
  • Geno Smith
  • Johnny Manziel
  • Teddy Bridgewater
  • Jameis Winston
  • Ryan Mallett/Tom Savage
  • Blake Bortles
  • Marcus Mariota
  • Derek Carr

Manuel, Smith, and Manziel are just too bad.  No way the Seahawks take them in return.  I think the Seahawks would think long and hard about Bridgewater and Winston, but if Bridgewater makes steady improvement in 2015, I don’t think the Vikings will want to get rid of him (and if he takes a step back, I don’t think the Seahawks would want him).  The Bucs are just too committed to Winston as part of their rebuild, so I don’t think he’d work out in this scenario.  Mallett and Savage are a couple of unknowns, but ultimately I don’t think they’ll be all that great as starters.  I feel like Bortles and Mariota are a couple of future backups being thrust into roles they’re not good enough for.  I think the Seahawks might take Carr in a heartbeat, but I don’t think the Raiders will give up on him (for the record, I’m pretty high on Carr and think he’s going to have a great second year).

Too Over-The-Hill:

  • Peyton Manning
  • Matt Cassel
  • Josh McCown

Pretty much says it all, if you ask me.  Manning is signed through 2016, but you have to wonder if he’s even going to be around.  He almost opted to retire THIS year.  After getting banged around in Gary Kubiak’s offense (where I FULLY expect to see Manning seriously injured at some point), I’m almost convinced he’ll be done.  Either way, I don’t think you can throw Russell Wilson away on a guy who’s going to be 40 next year, who MIGHT have 1-2 years at the most left in his career.  Cassel and McCown aren’t even worth the words.

Too Terrible:

  • Sam Bradford/Mark Sanchez/Matt Barkley/Tim Tebow
  • RGIII/Kirk Cousins
  • Jay Cutler
  • Brian Hoyer

Speaking of “aren’t even worth the words,” we have the poo-poo platter that the Eagles have in camp this year.  It should go without saying, but Bradford is TOO DAMN INJURY PRONE.  The rest of those guys are the total beans and the Eagles are going to be lucky to win five games this year.  RGIII is also too injury prone, plus he’s a terrible leader who doesn’t follow directions, plus he’s just a bad all around quarterback.  Cousins is Just Another Guy, same as Hoyer.  Jay Cutler seems enticing, but that’s just because of that cannon he’s got for an arm.  Squint a little more closely and you’ll see he’s easily the second coming of Jeff George (not a compliment).

The Definite Possibilities:

  • Drew Brees
  • Philip Rivers
  • Alex Smith
  • Andy Dalton

I know Brees and Rivers feel like those guys up top who are too tied in with their teams and cities (Brees especially).  But, I have my reasons for having these guys down here.  For starters, I think New Orleans is in full on rebuild mode.  Brees isn’t getting any younger, and the Saints are probably five years away from being a championship-type team again.  They MIGHT decide to give Brees a chance to win a title elsewhere.  And, considering we’ve already done that deal for Jimmy Graham, it honestly might be the most perfect fit we could hope for.  On the downside, Brees will be 37 years old next year, and it’ll be the last year of his current deal.  At best, you hope he’s got three more elite years left after 2015, but realistically it might be closer to one or two.  A trade for Brees gives us the best “Win Now” option.  When you consider Pete Carroll’s on the short contract (by design, as he might opt to retire or move to another team), Brees might be the next best thing to just keeping Russell Wilson forever.

Philip Rivers will only be 34 in 2016, so you gotta like your chances with him longer term.  Honestly though, this probably doesn’t work because 2015 is the final year of his deal, and I don’t know if they can franchise tag him or not.  The other variable is whether or not the Chargers are moving to Los Angeles.  Will Rivers want to stay?  If not, maybe they work out a sign & trade with the Seahawks.  The downside to that is, I’ve read reports that should Los Angeles get two teams – which seems to be the way this is going – there’s the possibility of the Chargers moving to the NFC West.  And, as I said above, you do NOT trade Wilson to a team in your own division – even a team that might one day move to your division.

Alex Smith might be the best type of guy we can hope for.  He’ll be 32 next year, and 2018 is the final year of his deal.  He’s not making all that much money – which would allow us to spread the wealth to other positions.  He’s the consummate Game Manager:  doesn’t make mistakes, is decently mobile, is comfortable playing in a run-first offense.  The downside is, obviously, his downfield throwing.  We wouldn’t get those chunk plays that we like to get.  But, with weapons like Jimmy Graham around him, and with the emergence of some of our younger receivers, I think he’d be good enough to get the job done.  He sort of reminds me of a Brad Johnson type.  Brad Johnson won a title with the Bucs, why couldn’t Alex Smith do that with the Seahawks?

Andy Dalton is the guy I most fear the Seahawks pursuing.  He’ll be 28 years old next year, and his deal runs through the 2020 season.  He too isn’t making any serious kind of money (his biggest cap hit is in the final year, and it’s only $17.7 million).  By 2020, that’s going to be peanuts!  He’s shown a propensity to hit on the deep ball, but that’s with the likes of A.J. Green.  More importantly is Dalton’s shoddy decision-making and his inflated sense of self-worth.  He’s one of those guys who thinks he’s better than he really is, which is going to make it difficult when he can’t make all the throws he needs to make.  As it is, he’s had more career meltdown games than you like to see; what’s he going to be like in three years when he’s that much older and beaten down?  Furthermore, playing behind our offensive line, how’s he going to handle the near-constant pressure?  I think Dalton is a guy the Bengals would gladly unload for the chance to sign Wilson (yes, even with how stingy their ownership is; I think they’d feel like Wilson would be worth it).  And, I think, if the Seahawks didn’t get blown away by any other deal they saw, they’d pull the trigger on a Dalton-centric trade.  I just hope like hell this never comes to fruition.

The Seahawks Blew All Of Our Minds; Traded Max Unger For Jimmy Graham*

* – plus gave up a 1st round draft pick for a 4th round draft pick

Not gonna lie to you, it was going to take a lot for me to be interested in these offseason moves the Seahawks were making.  Anthony McCoy re-signed?  Will Blackmon brought back?  Cary Williams as our Byron Maxwell replacement?  Marshawn Lynch extended?  Yeah, that’s all fine, but it’s not moving the needle of my own personal interest.

I thought FOR SURE there wouldn’t be any big splashes this offseason.  You know, aside from extending our own guys (Lynch, Wagner, Wilson, etc.).  I watched as Suh signed with Miami, Julius Thomas went to Jacksonville.  Hell, even the Jets managed to bring in Brandon Marshall for a song!  The Eagles were making their moves, the Colts look to be making their moves, the 49ers are falling apart, the Cardinals are making middling deals, the bottom-feeders with all the money will throw it around like it’s raining titties in their faces.  And meanwhile, the Seahawks would bide their time, collect as many compensatory draft picks as possible, and rummage through the scraps when all was said and done.  It wouldn’t be flashy, it wouldn’t even be all that pretty, but we’d cross our fingers, hold our breath, and hope for the best.

And then yesterday happened.  There was, like, a 1-2 hour window where everything on Twitter was a clusterfuck of adventure.  You know what everyone was talking about before noon yesterday?  How there’s going to be a Zoolander 2; DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER THAT NOW???  Then, look at what happened after noon:

  • Patrick Willis officially announces his retirement
  • The Bills & Browns going after Charles Clay
  • Various reports of the Saints shopping players, including Jimmy Graham
  • Speculation on where Reggie Bush might end up
  • Then, Jay Glazer brings the hammer down with Seahawks talking about Jimmy Graham with Saints
  • Then, almost immediately after, the deal is all but official
  • Then, almost immediately after that, Haloti Ngata goes to Detroit
  • Then, the Rams trade Bradford to Eagles for Foles (and picks traded also)
  • Then, the Pats let Browner walk
  • Then, Denver signs Owen Daniels
  • The Raiders sign Malcolm Smith
  • Frank Gore & Andre Johnson visit Colts

And, that doesn’t even get into Jake Locker RETIRING.  And everything else that happened afterward.  Just, absolutely, INsane.

My first coherent thought was:  there are no half measures with the Seahawks.  They’re not making blockbuster trades for scrubs.  It’s hard to ask for much more – talentwise – than Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham (I know these aren’t the only trades we’ve made, but these are the trades that cost us the most).  On paper, there’s not much to dislike about Jimmy Graham.  He’s been in the league five years and in four of those years he’s caught over 80 balls, at least 9 touchdowns, and over 800 yards.  And that’s on a Saints team with some really talented pass catchers through the years.

But, you know, it’s not even really about ALL of that.  We didn’t trade for a guy who’s going to catch 100 balls or 1,000 yards per season.  Just like we didn’t trade for that guy when we brought in Harvin.  Bottom line:  what we did was secure a dominant force in the red zone.  And he doesn’t even need to necessarily be who he’s been!  Granted, if we line him out wide, and he’s guarded one-on-one by a cornerback, we’re probably going to exploit that matchup more often than not.  But, just having him out there is going to draw the lion’s share of the red zone coverage (and in ways it never would have been with Harvin in the fold).

Speed is nice and everything, but it doesn’t make up for size when you’re down inside the 20.

The flipside of all of this is:  we lose Max Unger and we lose our first round draft pick.  Again.  Did you know Bruce Irvin was our most recent first round draft pick?  That was in 2012 for Christ’s sake!

Now, to be fair, trading for Jimmy Graham – as opposed to signing Julius Thomas for a comparable amount of money – means we retain a likely 3rd round draft pick in 2016 (a compensatory pick for losing Byron Maxwell in free agency).  So, in fairness, yes we lose the #31 overall pick this year, but we gain an extra 4th rounder from the Saints, AND we preserve our 3rd rounder next year.  So, that mitigates things a bit.

But, I dunno, I guess it’s just annoying.  There’s value in drafting in the first round, even if it is in the low 30s.  Maybe we do like we did last year and trade it back to gain a 2nd & a 4th.  Maybe we flip it for a first rounder next year!  Or, shit, maybe we keep that pick and draft a guy who starts for us immediately!  Maybe it’s not an all-world tight end or wide receiver, but I bet that hypothetical player would’ve been someone good!

All I’m saying is – when this blows up in our faces – you’re going to be reading many a blog post about how the Seahawks could’ve drafted So-And-So if they kept their first rounder.  Happens ALL THE TIME.

I’m less upset about losing Unger, because let’s face it, that guy is breaking down like nobody’s business.  When he’s healthy, he’s as good as it gets – especially in the run game – but each year he’s getting more and more dinged up.  We blew through four centers last year!  And, I know it wasn’t always pretty, but we managed.  The reason we struggled for so long wasn’t just because Unger was out.

I’ve been saying all along that the Seahawks need to draft a Center Of The Future this year, and that was when I still factored Unger in as our starter!  You have to think that guy’s out of football within two years; better to unload him now and save a bit of money with all that we’re taking on with Graham’s contract.

My concern about Jimmy Graham – outside of everything that we gave up – is twofold.  The first reason is more abstract:  the Seahawks traded away a first round draft pick for a receiver (and make no mistake, Graham is more wide receiver than tight end); teams that trade away first rounders for receivers almost ALWAYS see that shit blow up in their faces.  The Seahawks don’t have to look any further than Deion Branch and Percy Harvin.  Shit, everyone creamed in their pants over Harvin, and look at how that ended!

Now, the good thing about this one is that Graham doesn’t appear to be quite the hothead or mental case that Harvin was and is.  While there might be some hurt fee-fees after some of the jawing the Seahawks defense did with him a couple years ago, I doubt that’s going to single-handedly dismantle the locker room chemistry like Harvin managed.  That’s the kind of lightning you DON’T want to see strike twice!  That’s, like, actual lightning striking you twice.

My more concrete fear is the softness of Jimmy Graham.  He’s the same delicate little flower that would disappear for weeks at a time, while padding his stats against the bottom-feeders of the league.  Now, like I said before, I don’t necessarily need him to take over the entire offense between the 20’s.  But, I’m going to need a manly man in that endzone when we’re trying to convert drives into touchdowns!

Luckily, he only has to face the Seahawks’ defense in practice and not in games.  But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  you put a body on Graham and he’s going to crumple!

Now, factor that in with the fact that he’s a bigger, taller gentleman.  6’7, 265.  These guys tend to break down on a football field.  He’s already not all that fast, but he’s going to slow down to Antonio Gates levels in a hurry.  That might not mean a whole lot on the goalline, but he also can’t be TOTALLY anonymous between the 20s either.  2015 will be his sixth year in the NFL.  I feel pretty safe to say that it’s going to be the last year of his “prime” and it’s all downhill starting in 2016.

Meaning?  We better not lose him for a season like we fucking did with Harvin.  Because, if he goes down with a hip or an ACL or some damn season-ending thing, I don’t think there’s any recovery.  And, not only that, but we blew yet another first round pick, while all of our core gets another year older.

A lot is riding on this deal working out.  MUCH more than with the Harvin trade.  At the time, you could argue that Harvin was the cherry on top of an already championship-level sundae.  This time, we’re talking about the difference between maintaining a championship level vs. falling back to the pack.

Cards on the table:  before the Graham trade, the Seahawks were well on their way to being just another playoff team.  You could’ve argued that the Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals, and even the Giants were making waves in the NFC.  We were no longer the clear leaders of the pack; we were just part of that pack.

Now?  Now, I think this is a move you can safely say makes the rest of the NFC cringe a little bit.  The Seahawks WERE a team without much talent in the receiving game.  We were going to have to hit the draft hard and hope someone popped, but more likely, it would’ve meant a receiver popping in the next year or two.  Jimmy Graham is an influx of elite-level talent that makes us much more balanced on offense.  He bumps Baldwin, Kearse, and everyone else down a level, back down where they belong.

Sure, we’re stuck now replacing 40% of our offensive line, but I would argue that we needed to do that anyway.  Letting James Carpenter sign elsewhere is a boon.  He’s always getting dinged up, and now we get another compensatory pick for him.  Getting rid of Unger helps mitigate some of the cost we’re taking on, plus it throws a little more urgency in our search for his replacement.  A search – I’ve argued before – needed to happen regardless.

Overall, I feel much more at ease than I did before this all went down.  Yes, there’s risk.  Yes, there’s ALWAYS risk, in anything you do.  But, in the short term, it brings a lot of things into focus.  The Seahawks can be a little more choosy in their drafting and in their signing of low-level free agents.  One MAJOR hole has been filled.  Doesn’t mean you stop building, or thinking about the future.  But, at least this way, if the Seahawks run across a top-level player in the second round who isn’t necessarily our most-pressing need, we can still pick him up and bolster our roster.

Now, if we can just encase Jimmy Graham in carbonite until September, I’ll be much more at ease.

Seahawks Death Week: A Look Ahead

Yesterday, I got into the broad strokes of what the future of the Seahawks looks like:  good, potentially great, for many years to come.  So, what’s in store for 2015 specifically?

Well, for starters, let’s take a look at the schedule.  While the 2015 schedule hasn’t officially been released, we still know which teams we’ll be playing by virtue of it’s always the same rotation.  We get the teams in our division twice apiece, the NFC North, the AFC North, Dallas, and Carolina.  And, for reasons unknown, we also know who we’ll end up playing at home and who we’ll end up playing on the road.  To wit:

Home

  • San Francisco
  • Arizona
  • St. Louis
  • Chicago
  • Detroit
  • Cleveland
  • Pittsburgh
  • Carolina

Away

  • San Francisco
  • Arizona
  • St. Louis
  • Green Bay
  • Minnesota
  • Cincinnati
  • Baltimore
  • Dallas

For starters, I’m kind of fucking annoyed by the difficulty of our road schedule.  I’d MUCH rather go to Carolina than Dallas.  I’d also MUCH rather go to Cleveland and Pittsburgh than Cincy & Baltimore.  And, I’ll tell you this much, I’m not so foolish as to expect every time we play Green Bay, we get to play them in Seattle, but I’m not looking forward to playing them on the road either.  That’s a TOUGH road slate, with the only dud I see being Minnesota (and who knows if they’ll be better in year two under Teddy Bridgewater).  Meanwhile, I’ll give you three home duds right now with Cleveland, Chicago, and Carolina.

I think it’s pretty safe to assume another 7-1 home record in 2015, with our lone defeat probably being the Lions.  The question here is:  can we get to 5-3 on the road?  Not knowing what our division will look like, I definitely think it’s possible.  I’d REALLY like to believe we won’t be fooled by the bullshit the Rams try to pull every time we go there.  I don’t have much faith in the 49ers being a serious threat now that Jim Harbaugh is gone.  And, I still have the same reservations about Carson Palmer that I had going into last year, only this time he’s a year older and coming off of yet ANOTHER knee injury.  There are three winnable games right there, and we haven’t even gotten into how not-scary it is to play in Cincinnati, and how games in Dallas tend to draw a large road contingent.

It’s a potentially tough schedule, no doubt about it, but these teams on paper right now will look a lot different on the field when we play them.  What I will say is, there appears to be a large number of potential 10am starts in our future.  Unless we’re graced with a full slate of road primetime games like we were in 2014, I’m looking at the games against St. Louis, GB, Min, Cin, Bal, and possibly Dallas being early starts.  Fortunately for us, you gotta figure those contests against GB and Dallas are pretty tantalizing for primetime schedulers.  And, it wouldn’t shock me to see either Cincy or Baltimore being a Monday Night game, as both of them figure to be safe bets to be good this season.

On the field, you gotta think the Seahawks will be pretty great, but obviously a lot of it depends on what happens with the draft and in free agency.  In 2014, the offense was a true liability – whereas in 2013, the offense was pretty underrated and solid throughout.  The passing game struggled, our red zone offense failed too many times to convert long drives into touchdowns, and in general we could stand to improve on third downs.  That’s tough, because overall our third down conversion percentage looks pretty solid, but that’s taking into account the games where we absolutely dominated on third down.  But, there were games where we just disappeared, and lost accordingly because of too many 3 & Outs and too many stalled drives at midfield.  We’re a conservative offense in our play-calling and we’re a conservative offense in our decisions to go for it on 4th down.  When you put those two together, you have to be damn near perfect in the opportunities you have to pass the ball.  Drops, and otherwise poor performances out of our receivers held this team back too many times.  An infusion of talent is a must.

Defensively, it’s going to be a struggle to lead the league in fewest points allowed for a fourth straight year.  Losing Byron Maxwell is going to have a crippling effect, and if we can’t cover that up by improving our pass rush back to its 2013 peak, we’re GOING to give up more points and more yards than we’re used to.  Going into 2014, I thought our defense was going to slide a bit, but I thought our offense was ready to take a step forward and start compensating a little more.  It turned out the defense was on point for the most part and still carried this team like it has since 2012.  Going into 2015, I KNOW our defense is going to slide a bit, and I’m concerned our offense won’t improve enough to match and keep us at a championship level.  This Percy Harvin fiasco is the gift that keeps on giving, isn’t it?

I just have a tough time envisioning a scenario where we bring in a defensive back who’s able to match Maxwell’s level of play.  I honestly don’t think Tharold Simon is up to the task of improving himself.  I don’t think Jeremy Lane is going to be healthy enough to step into the lineup on Day 1.  And, I don’t think there will be a rookie available to us who’s able to step in and play on Day 1.  The hope is, whatever rookie we do end up with, is able to survive some growing pains and turn into a Maxwell-type by the end of the season.  Good luck with that.

Same deal with improving the pass rush.  Even if we draft someone, I don’t think this person will be able to step in and be a force immediately.  Not where we’re drafting.  And, I don’t think there’s a free agent out there for us who will make the huge impact we need right away, as Ndamukong Suh is simply out of our price range.  That likely means we’ll be picking from the scraps of the free agent wasteland, and hoping for the best.  I’m less than encouraged by this scenario.

While I have faith that this team can maintain its level of dominance to get to 12 wins, take the division, and contend for a first round BYE, part of me realizes that the writing is on the wall.  Injuries happen to everyone.  Guys not panning out happen to everyone.  Our depth is seriously strained at this point, and now I’m reading about how Earl Thomas and Jeremy Lane might not be available in the pre-season, which says nothing about Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, and Marshawn Lynch’s availability.

This can all fall apart in a hurry.  While I don’t THINK that’ll happen (or, at least, I keep telling myself I don’t think that’ll happen), you never know.  Here’s hoping Russell Wilson has some more magic in that old silk hat he found.

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.