Projecting Where The New Seahawks Fit

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

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

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

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

  • Fant – Glowinski – Britt – Ifedi – Gilliam

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Which brings us to the defense.

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

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

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

Just picture a line that looks like this:

  • Avril, McDowell, Bennett, Clark

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week: Looking On The Bright Side

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It’s Difficult To Win In Green Bay In December For Some Reason

I guess Green Bay is on some crazy-long winning streak at home in the month of December, and in games started by Aaron Rodgers it’s even crazier and longer?  I dunno.  I suppose that’s some comment on how difficult it is to win in freezing cold weather, unless you’re “used to it” like the Packers ostensibly would be.  But, doesn’t that feel like one of those stats that has more to do with the organization?  The Packers have been pretty damn good for a long time, and they’ve been particularly good with Rodgers at the helm, so it would stand to reason that an anomalous winning streak such as this might be in the cards.

If the Cleveland Browns played all their home games in Green Bay for the last decade, I’m certain we would not be having this same conversation.

So, I’m not going to put a ton of credence into this winning streak, because like all streaks, they come to an end eventually.  And since 2016 is literally the worst year in the history of years, it would stand to reason that some hardships are coming Green Bay’s way.

The Packers are 6-6 coming into this game, and they’ve looked decidedly unremarkable this whole year.  Their offense, which is supposed to be their strength, is ranked 13th in total yards, just two spots ahead of the Seahawks.  Their running game is particularly terrible, averaging less than 100 yards per game, ranked 24th overall (the Seahawks are only ranked 20th, but remember we’ve been dealing with another brand new O-Line and the struggles of Christine Michael for most of the year).  Most galling of all might be that the Packers are only ranked 10th in passing, behind teams like Arizona, Cincinnati, San Diego, and New England (and don’t forget Brady missed 4 games!).  Maybe most importantly of all, the Packers only rank 11th in points scored, behind teams like Buffalo and Tennessee.

It’s been a problem this year, because while their defense is rarely a strength, it’s even less disruptive this year.  They’re pretty middle-of-the-road in sacks, and now they’ll be missing their sack leader in Nick Perry.  They’re already down a couple of inside linebackers, and if Clay Matthews can’t go, you might as well stick a fork in their defense.  Ha Ha Clinton-Dix can’t be everywhere at once!

As was shown in the Tampa Bay game, though, it doesn’t necessarily take an elite front four to get pressure on the Seahawks.  Unlike that game, we’re healthy across the O-Line, and Garry Gilliam has effectively been benched for stopgap improvement Bradley Sowell.  I don’t know how you lose a right tackle job to Sowell, but Gilliam must’ve been awfully bad.  On the plus side, Britt is playing like a quasi-Pro Bowler at center, and Glowinski and Ifedi have looked better as the season has gone on.  Regardless, you have to be concerned for whoever’s trying to block Julius Peppers, but if that’s all they’ve got for their pass rush, I don’t feel too worried.

On the flipside, we’ve got a secondary that’s down Earl Thomas for the rest of the year.  I don’t anticipate we’re just going to completely fall apart in his absence, but there’s obviously a steep drop-off from him to Steven Terrell.  That doesn’t change the overall makeup of the defense though.  We’re still going to do everything we can to funnel everything into the underneath routes.  And, let’s be honest here, MUCH worse secondaries have been able to hold the Packers’ passing game in check this season.  Since we don’t really have a run game to worry about, it might make sense to regularly alternate between blitz-heavy packages and dropping extra guys into coverage.  I wouldn’t stick in a zone too much though, as the Packers seem to really struggle against man coverage.

In a vacuum, the Seahawks should have little trouble moving the ball and putting up points, as well as holding the Packers’ offense in check.  But, we’re looking at a game in sub-freezing temperatures, with a likelihood of snowfall.  In other words, crazy shit can happen.  The ball will be extra tough to kick, as well as – I’m sure – not ideal for throwing.  I want to say the team that runs the ball best will prevail, which puts the odds of winning severely in Seattle’s favor.

I mean, come on, tell me a Seahawks fan who isn’t looking forward to Christine Michael getting a lot of reps with the Packers!  On that playing surface?  He’ll be slipping and falling like CRAZY!

I ultimately think the Seahawks will win this game, but for some reason I keep coming back to these nagging doubts.  Is it the weather?  The haunting specter of almost losing to the Vikings in the playoffs last year?  The fact that I still hold Aaron Rodgers in the highest of esteem even though he’s not quite at the all-world level we’ve seen him at in recent seasons?  Or, is it that damned December winning streak in Lambeau Field?

More than anything, I just think it’s this NFL season.  I can’t remember the last time I’ve struggled this hard at picking NFL winners.  It seems like when I give the home team the edge in a 50/50 matchup, it backfires.  Then, when I pick the quote-unquote best team, regardless of location, it backfires some more!  No matter who I pick in this game, that team will most certainly lose.  So, I might as well pick the Packers and at least do the Seahawks a solid.

Or, has my saying that effectively reversed the reverse-jinx?  God, I hate me sports.

Seahawks Beat Panthers, Lost Earl Thomas

This fucking stinks.  Is it possible to put Kam, Bobby, Avril & Bennett in bubble wrap for the rest of the regular season and just take our chances with still making the playoffs and the 2-seed?

WHY CAN’T WE HAVE NICE THINGS?!?!?!

WHY CAN’T WE JUST HAVE OUR FULL TEAM FULLY HEALTHY AT ALL TIMES?!?!?!

Or, shit, how about fully fucking healthy for one fucking game?

The Seahawks beat the shitty Panthers 40-7.  Those 7 points weren’t even legitimate because the guy’s knee was down when he was short of the endzone, but they obviously didn’t have a proper angle to overturn it.  Cam Newton was suspended for the first series of the game for not wearing a tie while the team travelled to Seattle, which turned out to just be the first play of the game, which was an interception thrown by Derek Anderson that led to us scoring a field goal.

Russell Wilson had a pretty good game, 277 yards, 1 TD, 1 INT.  Thomas Rawls had an explosive game with 106 yards on 15 carries and 2 TDs.  Tyler Lockett had a 75-yard run for a touchdown, as well as 63 yards receiving on 5 catches.  Graham, Baldwin, and Kearse all had over 60 yards receiving apiece, with Graham catching another TD.

The defense didn’t get a ton of pressure on Cam Newton when he finally entered the game, but they played sound fundamentally, and they were able to strip a fumble from Jonathan Stewart.  Newton was just off-target most of the day – aside from a pretty bomb to Ted Ginn for that phantom TD – and his receivers were harassed by our secondary for most of the day.  Wagner, Kam, Wright all stood out, as well as the return of Mike Morgan who really made his presence felt with that interception at the top of the game.  I also thought Shead had a solid all-around game as well.

But, what does it matter?  Earl collided with Kam, resulting in Earl breaking his leg.  It means he’s out for the year, which is just fucking great.  Steven Terrell came in and played all right in his place, though the Panthers were able to complete that 55-yard bomb to Ginn on the first play after Earl left the game, which is pretty ominous.

The Seahawks are 8-3-1, for now owners of the NFC’s #2 seed, with Dallas firmly entrenched at the top with an 11-1 record, and Detroit on our heels at 8-4.  Catching Dallas is a non-starter, but holding down the fort at #2 is well within our capabilities, particularly when you figure Detroit’s and Atlanta’s schedules the rest of the way are pretty difficult.

The one cool thing about having a tie on your record is you don’t have to obsess over tie-breaker scenarios like most of these other teams.  I can just shut my brain off and let the overall win/loss record do all the work.

I dunno, I’m sad about what’s gone down.  I’m sad about losing Earl.  And, quite frankly, I’m a little terrified that we have to go into Green Bay next Sunday where it’ll probably be snowing and Aaron Rodgers will probably be licking his chops at the thought of looking Steven Terrell off of a receiver running deep down the middle.

I’m also deeply concerned about this team’s depth.  No one wants Steven Terrell in there starting over Earl, but you REALLY don’t want to see who’s 3rd or 4th in line if Terrell goes down!  Particularly when you figure Kam Chancellor is pretty injury-prone in his own right.

Best not to think about that.  Better to wonder what the fuck Dallas did to deserve such amazing luck with injuries in their own right.  Hell, the one guy who DID get injured – Tony Romo – only opened the door for their next franchise quarterback to lead them to the best record in all of football!  FUCK ME GOD JUST KILL ME NOW I DON’T WANT TO LIVE IN THIS WORLD!!!

The 2016 Seahawks Have A 53-Man Roster

Labor Day weekend was spent, by me, watching college football, going to parts of Bumbershoot, and constantly refreshing Twitter to check out the cuts, the signings, the trades, and the practice squad picks.

I won’t get into the whole 53-man here, but I’ll talk a little bit about some of the noteworthy choices.  You can see how everything compares to my lone roster prediction here.

Scrolling from top to bottom, the first thing that sticks out is how the Seahawks waived Will Tukuafu, to eventually be replaced by Tani Tupou (who plays both fullback and defensive tackle).  For a while there, it looked like the Seahawks weren’t going to have ANY fullback, and people predictably lost their shit for some reason.  Beat writers spent most of the weekend reassuring people that this was all a cost-cutting effort by the team to avoid having a full season’s worth of salary guaranteed to the veteran Tukuafu; and that by having him sign AFTER week 1, the team would reach that goal.  Even though the Seahawks brought Tupou back, I think nothing has changed in that regard.  There was a reason why the team originally cut Tupou, and there’s a reason why he was still readily available all this time later.  Tupou will still be there in the coming weeks, if Tukuafu ever gets injured.  For one week, Tupou gets to show if he’s worth bringing back, should disaster strike the fullback position.

The next shocker comes in the form of Tanner McEvoy cracking the roster as the team’s fifth wide receiver.  I don’t know what this means for his prospects as a tight end.  I don’t even know if he’s healthy enough to practice after missing a couple weeks with a nagging injury.  I do know this speaks volumes about his potential, and that he was rightly sought after by other teams, and never would’ve made it to the Practice Squad.  What this means for him long term is anyone’s guess.  I’d wager we’ll see him as a healthy scratch more often than not, and he’s REALLY going to have to make strides in practice to not get passed over.

Regarding the O-Line, I had that unit nailed except for one guy.  Will Pericak indeed made it back onto the Practice Squad, while rookie George Fant – a tackle prospect – gets that 9th and final roster spot.  The ends justifies the means, I suppose.  I still like Pericak as a talented prospect, but it probably wouldn’t hurt this team to hang onto four tackles.  Sowell is no sure thing, Webb was beat out by Gilliam when he got the most guaranteed money of any of our free agent offensive lineman this offseason, and Gilliam has already failed in his charge of converting over to the left side, when that’s all he was working towards this offseason.  Fant will most certainly be a healthy scratch for most of the season, but hopefully he can learn the left tackle position and win the starting job in 2017.

On the D-Line, I rightly predicted Jordan Hill’s release, but I didn’t quite nail this team keeping the 5th D-Tackle.  Garrison Smith was claimed after the 49ers released him and hopefully he’ll help provide some of that interior pass rush Hill brought.  Either that, or let’s hope Quinton Jefferson as a rookie will make a big leap in the early going of his career.

For the rest of the defense, I see we let Pinkins go, which I probably should’ve seen coming.  Wishful thinking, I guess, but it’s no shocker considering the team has let him go before.  I also see that we kept 11 DBs when I thought that was too many initially.  Of course, my prediction differed GREATLY from what the team ultimately decided upon.

I had Marcus Burley, Tye Smith, and Brandon Browner all sticking.  Instead, we opted to hang onto Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and trade for Dewey McDonald from Oakland.  We had also traded for the 49ers’ L.J. McCray, but he has since failed his physical (hence the re-signing of Tupou above).  Burley’s a tough one to swallow, especially when it was rumored that the Seahawks made all of these moves in the secondary – in large part – to shore up our special teams coverage.  But, I guess the team likes Tharold Simon’s play on the outside more than keeping a third nickel guy.  Brandon Browner’s release wasn’t all that shocking, considering we never really saw him play much in the pre-season.  For all we like to think about this coaching staff trying to pull one over on the league, hiding players until the games matter, they actually do the opposite more times than not.  They don’t mind giving the league tape on our guys, because they also want to evaluate how these guys look in real game situations.

The biggest disappointment is Tye Smith.  He was a draft pick last year who the team kept on its 53-man roster the whole season, and he was a guy the team had high expectations for coming into 2016.  Hell, from the sounds of things, Tye Smith had high expectations about Tye Smith coming into 2016.  But, from what I saw, he never really flashed, never really made many impact plays, and was never really called out for excellent coverage skills by the broadcast team.  Not only was Tye Smith cut, but he wasn’t even brought back onto the Practice Squad!  He could still be out there on the ghost roster, ready to be picked up during the season should a need arise, or try out for the 90-man next offseason, but that’s a pretty big blow.  DeAndre Elliott, an undrafted rookie with a similar build to Smith, DID flash this pre-season.  I remember seeing him mix it up quite a bit.  He very well could be the next DeShawn Shead if he keeps at it, so that’s nice to see.

On the special teams, still no movement on the long snapper position.  Nolan Frese, you may be safe for another week!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Looking Forward To A Robust Seahawks Secondary

Dare I say, after a year wandering in the wilderness of mediocrity, the Legion of Boom will be back with a vengeance in 2016?

Look, nothing is ever going to compare to that 2013 defense.  From top to bottom, it’s a Once In A Generation feat of youth, talent, depth, and achievement.  You can have all the youth, talent, and depth that you want, but if they don’t go out there and produce, then you’ve just got a lot of potential that failed to make good.  That 2013 defense MADE good, and then some.

If we just focus on the secondary of that team, a lot of the usual suspects show up:  Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman.  We had Brandon Browner still in his prime, before the emergence of Byron Maxwell at season’s end.  We had Walter Thurmond as our primary nickel corner, with Jeremy Lane so far down the depth chart you could barely see him outside of special teams.  Chris Maragos was a backup safety and special teams standout.  Jeron Johnson also filled out our depth, with DeShawn Shead but a lowly rookie.  When you talk about murderer’s rows, the 2013 version of the L.O.B. is the epitome.  It’s never been as good, and might not ever be again.

Losing Thurmond, Browner, and Maragos deprived us of that good, good depth in 2014, but with Maxwell as a full time starter, the talent was still there, and there really wasn’t much of a dropoff at all in achievement.  The 2014 defense still led this team to the Super Bowl, and still led the league in most important categories.

In 2015, there was a significant set-back in achievement, as Maxwell got a max deal with the Eagles, Jeron Johnson found a home in Washington D.C., and the likes of Cary Williams came in to start opposite Richard Sherman (with the likes of Dion Bailey, Steven Terrell, and Kelcie McCray trying to hold the fort).  Ultimately, Williams was replaced by Shead, and then Lane upon his return from significant injury, and the defense somewhat stabilized for the stretch run.  It ultimately wasn’t enough to get us back to a third straight Super Bowl, but one could argue the team was sufficiently set back at the start of the season, when Lane was out, Williams was a big part of the plan, and Kam’s holdout cost us at least one if not two games in the first two weeks of the regular season.  Win those games, and a couple others along the way (where secondary breakdowns led to comeback victories for Seahawks opponents), and maybe the Seahawks play host in those NFC playoff games instead of road warriors who would be cut down by the eventual NFC champs.

I don’t remember what I deemed to be the primary reason for this team’s shortcomings in 2015, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this team is nothing without its dominant secondary.  And, the more I look at this roster as it’s currently constructed, the more I like what we have on paper going into 2016.

Again, we have the usual suspects:  Earl, Kam, Sherm.  Presumably, the Seahawks will figure out a way to keep Kam happy and motivated, so until I hear otherwise, let’s just accept that as a given.  The re-signing of Jeremy Lane solidifies what was a significant weakness for this team last year.  Paired with him, we have the return of Shead, both of whom are interchangeable in that they can play outside or inside.  And, back from injury, and in a contract year, we have Tharold Simon.  I know what you’re saying, how can we count on the guy?  He’s been injured every year of his professional career!  Granted, but the kid still has talent.  And, more importantly, we’re not counting on him to be a starter.  If he comes in and wows us in the pre-season, then great!  I’m sure that will translate into getting him some more playing time, allowing us to push Lane into the nickel corner spot when the opposing offense dictates.  A healthy Simon makes this secondary quite formidable; but even without him, it’s still really good.

More importantly, the depth we’ve been missing since 2013 has returned!  Those three I mentioned – Lane, Simon, and Shead – could all be starters for a bunch of teams in the league, at least as far as talent is concerned.  For the Seahawks, one will be a starter and the other two will be regular contributors.  Beyond THAT, we’re looking at the return of Marcus Burley, who’s a solid nickel corner.  We’ve also got some holdovers like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Mohammed Seisay, George Farmer, and Douglas McNeil who all provide the prototypical size you look for in a cornerback in a Pete Carroll defense (each of them range from 6’1 to 6’3).  And, that’s not even factoring in Tye Smith, a rookie from last year who was kept on the 53-man roster all along, for fear of someone snatching him from our practice squad.  Obviously, if the team was willing to keep him on the 53-man, he must have the type of skills to make a huge impact for this team going forward.  He looks like a prototypical nickel corner, but if you recall, he played a lot on the outside in the pre-season last year.  He could be someone special, if given the chance.

And all of those guys are just corners!  Don’t forget the safety position, where we have two of the best in Earl and Kam as our starters.  Behind them, Kelcie McCray looked a lot better as the season went on and he got more comfortable in our scheme.  Remember, we traded for him near the end of the pre-season, so now he will have had a full year and a full offseason to get acclimated to what we’re doing.  Match him up with Steven Terrell – who now has two full years in our system backing up Earl – and there’s a lot to like about what we’ve got heading into this season.

A lot of these guys will be special teamers, some of these guys won’t even make the roster, but I’m pretty secure in my opinion that this will be the best secondary as a unit we will have had since the 2013 season.  If we can manage to get the pass rush up to snuff, to help these guys out a little more, we could be looking at a year of huge turnover numbers out of these guys.  And, let us not forget, we’ve still got the NFL draft coming up at the end of April.  Who knows if some stud will fall to us, or if we pluck another diamond from the later rounds?  I could be writing an even more glowing post about the secondary the closer we get to the regular season!

Seahawks Death Week: A Wishlist For 2016

OK, so I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy over here, so a lot of this stuff is going to be pretty general, based off of numbers I’m pulling from Over The Cap.  Anecdotally, the 2016 salary cap figures to be closer to $154 million, so that’s the number I’m going to play with when discussing the Seahawks.

Per Over The Cap, including all Dead Money, the Seahawks have $123 million already on the books for 2016, leaving around $31 million to play with.  This is a pretty decent amount of money, but as we looked into yesterday, there are a lot of contracts coming off the books, and a lot of decisions to make regarding our own free agents.  If we just take, for example, a few core starters who are free agents:  Okung, Sweezy, Kearse, Mebane, Irvin, Rubin, and Lane, you could see that $31 million disappear pretty damn quick.

Okung was already a high salary guy to begin with, earning around $8 million a year; in spite of his injury concerns, he’s proven to be a pretty talented left tackle in a league DESPERATE for left tackles.  He’s also got a pretty good amount of leverage against the Seahawks because he’s easily the best offensive lineman on this roster, and with the Seahawks drafting in the mid-20s, it’s not likely there will be a left tackle in the draft who’s as capable, who would fall to them.  So, the Seahawks would either need to meet his demands, or probably risk losing him to another team.  Believe you me, there ARE teams out there who will drive up the bidding for a guy like Okung.  There are LOTS of teams in the NFL with offensive line issues, and a short supply of proven left tackles.  So, if you were thinking the Seahawks would force Okung into less money because of all his maladies, think again.

At this point, I’d let Okung walk, and I’ll tell you why.  I think Garry Gilliam is a more natural left tackle than he is a right tackle.  He may not be Walter Jones either, but at this point, with the way we run our offense, and ESPECIALLY with the way other teams try to defend Russell Wilson, I think our primary objective for 2016 needs to be boosting our talent level at the interior spots of the line.  Call it the Aaron Donald Conundrum.  When Russell Wilson struggles most is when he’s got interior linemen pushing the pocket straight back into him (or, of course, when guys just flat out run past Justin Britt without him even touching them).  I would MUCH rather have three beasts at the guard & center positions, while sacrificing a little bit at our tackle spots, than the other way around.  Why?  Because more and more, teams are looking to keep Wilson in the pocket.  So, their outside rushers aren’t doing much more than trying to contain Wilson and prevent him from spinning outside the pocket and making plays with his legs out in space.  If they’re going to just give us a pocket to play with, then why not take advantage of that by making damn sure our interior linemen don’t continually fuck it up by allowing pressure straight up the middle every God damn other play?!  He’s not Peyton Manning.  This isn’t the movie The Blind Side.  The left tackle is kind of overrated in this type of offense, with this type of mobile quarterback.  And, as we’ve talked about a lot these last couple months, as Wilson improves as a pocket passer, he’s going to be running less as a result.

So, my first wish:  let Okung walk, spend the money we’re saving on interior linemen.

Next on the list of core starting free agents:  J.R. Sweezy.  He’s a 4-year starter and has held up pretty well for the most part.  No injury concerns here.  He’s generally better than he gets credit for, but he’s also not without his faults.  He was a net asset for this team because he was a 7th round pick, so he was earning next to nothing.  Only in 2015 did he FINALLY get over the million dollar hump in salary, at $1.5 million, so obviously he’s due for a pretty significant raise (respective to what he’d been earning, of course).  Again, I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy, so I don’t necessarily have a good idea of what a guy like him would be worth on the open market, and I’m really grasping at straws when I throw out numbers.  I’d say YES to bringing him back, with the caveat that it’s under a reasonable deal.  What’s reasonable?  Again, I have no idea.  $4-$5 million per year?  That feels right, but what do I know?  I’ll say this:  it would probably be foolish to blow up the entire offensive line; I don’t think you can find 4 other guys to come in here and dominate for you, without spending your entire cap space and/or trading away a bunch of draft picks.  For the right price, Sweezy is worth keeping around.  He knows the system, so if nothing else, he’d be an asset if the team moves on from Okung and moves Gilliam to the other side.

Second wish:  bring Sweezy back on a friendly deal.

Let’s stick with the O-Line theme, since it’s the biggest issue facing this team in 2016.  We need a new left guard, full stop.  Justin Britt isn’t the man for the job.  In an ideal world, the second coming of Steve Hutchinson will be out there as an unrestricted free agent for us to poach away from some unsuspecting team, but I don’t know who all the other free agents are.  Obviously, you like building through the draft, but that doesn’t happen until the last week of April, and probably all the good free agents will be gone by then.  Nevertheless, I’m prepared to spend whatever it takes:  $8 million per year or more, if there’s an absolute superstar out there, to really lock down this spot.

Third wish:  superstar free agent left guard.

Fourth wish:  failing that, draft a superstar-in-waiting with our first round draft pick.

At center, I’m content to go with Patrick Lewis for another year.  I can’t imagine his stock is all that high, and even so, he’s a restricted free agent, so odds are we’ll at least get him back on a 1-year deal.  As I mentioned in a prior post this week, let’s bring Lewis back, make him our starter from Day 1 (assuming, of course, that he comes into camp healthy and in shape), but at the same time, draft the center of the future in one of the first four rounds (I hear this is a great draft class for centers, so we could be in good shape waiting a few rounds if need be).

Fifth wish:  bring back Lewis on a 1-year deal, draft our center of the future & have him learn under Lewis.

At right tackle, if we’re moving Gilliam over to left, then I suppose I could be okay with moving Justin Britt back over to right, and having him compete with whoever.  Low-end draft pick, guys on the practice squad, whatever.  Again, I’m not too picky on who our tackles are, as long as we shore up the interior.

Sixth wish:  Britt or whoever at right tackle; no need to work too hard to replace this spot.

***

With the O-Line set, let’s look at the rest of the offense.  The biggest story, from a national perspective, is obviously:  will Marshawn Lynch be back?  I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this subject, as it’ll be a sad day when he’s finally out of here, but for now the question isn’t “will Marshawn Lynch be back”, but rather “WHEN will Marshawn Lynch be GONE?”

His release pushes $5 million into our Dead Money column, but as he was going to count $11.5 million against our cap, that’s a net savings of $6.5 million (if the Seahawks cut him after June 1st, which for the record, I doubt they’d do, we’d be able to spread that $5 million in dead money over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, meaning we’d have an extra $2.5 million – or $9 million total – to play around with for 2016 … something to keep in mind with him or any potential cuts).  Let’s just say, we decide to pay homage to all the great service he’s done for us while in a Seahawks uniform, and we cut him sooner rather than later, to give him the biggest opportunity to maximize his contract with another team; that still gives us the $6.5 million I mentioned, pushing our over all cap room up to around $37.5 million or so.  That’s not nothing.

While we’re talking about potential roster cuts, I’d just like to put my two cents in that I believe Lynch will be the only major casualty.  Of our big money contracts in 2016 (besides Lynch), we’re looking at Wilson, Sherm, Earl, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wright, Kam, Bobby, and Doug.  In other words, our core guys.  If you really wanted to grasp at straws, you could look at Graham and Kam.  Graham is coming off of an injury, and poses no Dead Money issues if we let him go, so he’d save us a cool $9 million.  But, I just don’t see it.  We only had slightly more than half a season with him, he seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with the offense as the season progressed, and assuming he makes a full recovery, he’s still one of the best weapons we have and one of the top tight ends in the league.  The only way I see us dropping Graham is if there’s another free agent receiver out there we want to try to overpay for, but I kinda doubt that’s going to happen.

As for Kam, the only way I see us cutting him is if we don’t want to deal with the potential headache of him holding out again, and/or he demands too much money in re-working his deal.  For what it’s worth, I think the team will try to do a little something to juice his deal (maybe a million or two), but I could just as easily see the team dropping the hammer.  Letting Kam go would free up $4.1 million, which is nice, but if it were up to me, I’d rather have Bam Bam back and happy again.

So, getting back to Lynch, with him gone we’re looking at $37.5 million in free money, some of which would ideally go towards re-signing Sweezy and bringing in a stud free agent left guard (among many other moves).

That leaves us with Thomas Rawls and his penny contract starting for us at running back.  I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks using one of their later-round picks on a 3rd down, shifty scat-back in the Darren Sproles mold to pair with him.  As for our #2 running back, I think it’d be awfully cool to bring Christine Michael back and let him get those old Robert Turbin carries (or, shit, if Turbin’s a free agent, maybe we look into bringing him back on a low-end deal, although I think that’s highly unlikely).

Seventh wish:  cut Lynch (frowny face), make Rawls the starter, draft the next Sproles, re-sign Michael to be the #2.

At receiver, we’ve got Doug Baldwin going into the last year of his deal.  I would be SUPER stoked if the Seahawks took this opportunity to lock him up to a long-term deal.  His last deal was 3 years, $13 million, which I felt was great, but obviously he’s due a raise.  Co-leading the league in touchdown receptions will automatically raise your stock (weird!).  If I had to guess, I’d put him in the range of $6+ million per year, but under $8 million, or the Eric Decker range ($7.25 million per year).  MAYBE you talk Baldwin into a bit of a discount, as he’s still got a year left under his current deal (set to earn $4 million in base salary), but I’d venture a guess that he gets Decker money regardless.

Eighth wish:  extend Doug Baldwin for another 4-5 years.

Beyond that, we’re in good shape with cheap deals on Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  The only other decision is:  do we re-sign Jermaine Kearse?  Oddly enough, a good comp for him is that time we re-signed Doug Baldwin.  Would you pay 3 years, $13 million for more Kearse?  I think I would.

Ninth wish:  bring back Kearse on a smallish deal.

No need to do anything fancy with the tight ends.  Keep Graham, Willson, and whoever as our third guy.

***

Now, let’s look at the defense.  Recall, the major defensive free agents are Mebane, Rubin, Irvin, and Lane.  Mebane has made a healthy $4-$5.5 million per year over the last few years.  While his 2014 was cut short by injury, he played in every game in 2015, and showed no signs of slowing down (albeit to my semi-untrained eye).  He’s 31 years old, so odds are we’re not talking about a long term deal.  I’d be okay with something in the range of 2 years and $10 million, with maybe a $5 million base salary in 2016 and a $2 million signing bonus (something like that, where his cap hit reduces as we go forward, in hopes of keeping him until he decides to retire).  Rubin, meanwhile, is coming off of a year that saw him count less than $3 million against our cap, so he’ll be due a raise.  How big remains to be seen.  All the talk that I’ve heard is that we can’t afford to bring them both back, so if I can only have one, I choose Bane.

Tenth wish:  re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace Rubin with another cheap free agent, draft another run-stuffing defensive tackle in the early or middle rounds.

Next up is Bruce Irvin, and I honestly have no idea.  He accounted for a little over $9 million total over the four years of his contract as a first round draft pick in the new CBA era.  Given his production, he’s due a big, fat raise too.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what a guy like him earns on the open market.  He’s not Von Miller (yet), so you’d be hard pressed to see him get top-of-the-line money.  Nevertheless, pass rusher is a premium position in this league, and he’s accounted for 22 sacks over 4 years.  But, he had 8 sacks in his rookie year, when he was exclusively a pass-rushing defensive end.  Obviously, his skill set limits him in run defense, which limits his overall value, but it’s only natural to look at those 8 sacks in somewhat limited duty as a rookie, and start to drool at the potential of him as an every-down pass rusher.  I’m generally in favor of keeping Irvin, as I’ve said repeatedly, I think his best days as a pass rusher are still in front of him, but I’m not in favor of keeping him at any price.  Not when we’re paying Bobby Wagner among the top middle linebackers in the game, while at the same time paying K.J. Wright a good chunk of change too (he’ll be accounting for over $6 million in cap space going forward for the next three seasons).

Eleventh wish:  re-sign Irvin, at a somewhat cost-effective price.  Otherwise, replace him with someone like Mike Morgan, or a draft pick.

Then, there’s Jeremy Lane.  So, let’s take this opportunity to talk about the secondary in general.  We’ve got most of it locked down in Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Obviously, if the team parts with Kam (who didn’t do himself or the team any favors with his semi-down year in 2015; I can’t imagine his trade value has gone up all that much, if the team felt that to be an option), we need to replace him.  Is that Kelcie McCray?  Probably, but I’d also look to draft at that position just in case.  As for Lane, I think he’ll be looking for starter’s money.  And, to be quite honest, I think he’s earned it.  That injury in the Super Bowl was the flukiest thing I’ve ever heard of.  I mean, how do you do so much damage to so many body parts all on the same play?  The fact that he recovered, returned in 2015, and played as well as he did, shows that he’s capable and ready to be an everyday player.  Hopefully, what the Seahawks have figured out – in the wake of the Cary Williams debacle – is that we CAN’T just bring in any guy from the street and expect him to play like the Legion of Boom.  Speaking of the devil, Williams signed a 3-year, $18 million deal to come to Seattle, with $7 million guaranteed ($3.5 million as a signing bonus, $3.5 million in base salary in 2015).  Of our current dead money, he’s the primary reason for what we’re dealing with in 2016.  Would 3 years and $18 million be enough to retain Jeremy Lane?  Probably not.  But, he’s also not going to command 4 years and $56 million like what Richard Sherman got; he’s obviously somewhere in the middle.  What about 4 years and $30 million?  Is Jeremy Lane worth $7.5 million per year?

I’m KINDA leaning towards Yes on this one.  Let’s look at it this way:  we don’t want another Cary Williams situation, so pretty much eliminate any big name (or semi-big name) on the free agent market.  But, if Lane walks, we’re tangling with another pretty big hole in our secondary for the second straight year.  We can assume DeShawn Shead returns, and would be the likely starter opposite Sherman, but then you gotta take a look at who’s behind Shead.  Tharold Simon is an interesting name.  He’s going into the final season of his rookie deal.  Obviously, you like that, because you know he’s going to be super motivated.  But, he’s proven in his first three years in the league, that he absolutely cannot stay healthy, at all.  IDEALLY, if the team opts to let Lane walk, you’d start Shead, but then bump Shead inside to the slot receiver and have Simon play outside when we’re in our nickel defense.  In this world, you have to feel pretty confident in Simon’s ability – when healthy – to give us the type of production we’ve come to expect out of the Legion of Boom.

When you go from there to look at our backups, you’re talking about guys like Burley, Terrell, and Seisay, who are all restricted free agents, and who all will most likely be back (at least through training camp and the pre-season).  But, none of them are all that impressive, and none of them project to be starters.  Then, there’s our rookie from 2015, Tye Smith, who the Seahawks managed to stash on the 53-man roster for the full year (because we didn’t want to risk losing him by putting him on the practice squad), but who essentially red shirted as a professional.  So, obviously, the team likes him A LOT.  I mean, to not even put him on the IR feels like a pretty rare thing for a championship-calibre team like the Seahawks, with as many issues as we had with injuries this season (at times, just BARELY filling out our 46-man gameday roster with healthy guys).  Tye Smith figures to be a slot corner (with his size, at 6’0), but if he’s as talented as I think he MIGHT be, the sky could be the limit for him.  It’s still unrealistic to see him starting in Game 1 of the 2016 season.  But, if he pans out, that mitigates the damage of letting Jeremy Lane go.  It also helps us going forward, if we happen to lose Shead and/or Simon going into the 2017 season.

BUT, if the Seahawks can find it in their budget to re-sign Lane (even at the seemingly excessive deal of $30 million over 4 years), just imagine what that does for us, depth-wise.  We’d have the greatest collection of secondary depth since the 2013 season, for starters.  Sherm, Lane, and Shead are all starting-quality players.  Simon is too, when healthy, and if Tye pans out, you’re talking about five guys we can throw out there at any given point (giving us plenty of wiggle room for when Simon inevitably has to sit out).

So, I’m going to make my twelfth (!) wish:  re-sign Jeremy Lane for a deal that’s considerably more than Cary Williams’, but considerably less than what Byron Maxwell got from the fuckin’ Eagles.

The cool thing about this Seahawks team is that it feels more set than ever, so there’s no need to do a lot of crazy things in free agency or trades.  Our biggest need is offensive line, so a high-priced free agent at guard should be our top priority.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of paying our own guys who deserve to return (Lane, Mebane, Kearse, Sweezy, maybe Irvin), letting the guys go who probably don’t deserve huge salaries (Okung, Lynch, Rubin, maybe Irvin), and locking down Baldwin a year early to make him a Seahawk for life.  Again, to reiterate my wishlist:

  1. Let Okung go, move Gilliam to left tackle
  2. Bring back Sweezy
  3. Sign a stud free agent left guard
  4. Or, draft a stud left guard with the first round pick (or, shit, why not both?)
  5. Bring back Lewis, while also drafting a center of the future in the middle rounds
  6. Move Britt back to right tackle, make him compete with other cheap guys
  7. Cut Lynch, make Rawls the starter, bring back Michael for #2, draft a quick, pass-catching 3rd down back
  8. Extend Doug Baldwin on a 4-5 year deal
  9. Re-sign Kearse to a 3-year, $13 million deal
  10. Re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace him with another cheap DT, draft a DT in the early-to-middle rounds
  11. Re-sign Irvin for a reasonable amount, or don’t and spread his savings elsewhere
  12. Re-sign Lane, 4 years, $30 million-ish range

I don’t know if all of this is possible, under salary cap structures in place, so feel free to pick it apart all you want.  While you’re at it, pick apart all my other hare-brained ideas, what do I care?

Seahawks Death Week: Looking At The Free Agents

Started talking about this a bit yesterday, but here’s the full dive.

First, we’ll start with the unrestricted free agents.  These are the guys who are free to sign with whatever team they want, with no draft pick penalties.  On offense, we have, in no particular order:

  • Russell Okung – left tackle
  • Jermaine Kearse – wide receiver
  • J.R. Sweezy – right guard
  • Tarvaris Jackson – quarterback
  • Will Tukuafu – fullback
  • Ricardo Lockette – wide receiver
  • Fred Jackson – running back
  • Lemuel Jeanpierre – center
  • Anthony McCoy – tight end
  • Chase Coffman – tight end
  • Bryce Brown – running back

I could take or leave the last five guys on that list.  I feel like Jackson was a 1-year deal, but we’ll probably look to get younger at our 3rd down back spot on the roster.  I like Jeanpierre as depth, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to have him come into camp, but I could easily see the team looking to move on.  McCoy and Coffman are probably both camp fodder, desperately trying to make it as a 3rd tight end, but probably won’t make it here unless we have a bunch of injuries.  Brown might be a good guy to have around, if the team looks to move on from Lynch, but I think we can do better.

As far as Lockette is concerned, he’ll need to fully recover from his injury.  If that works out, I wouldn’t mind having him back as a low-end receiver/special teams guy.  I like Tukuafu a lot; if he’ll come back for the right price, I wouldn’t mind having him around.  And, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have Tarvaris Jackson around for another year, but at some point, I think the team might want to look to the draft for a backup quarterback.

There’s really just three primary unrestricted free agents on offense this year:  Okung, Sweezy, and Kearse.  I could see the team bringing all three back, I could see the team moving on from all three, or any combination in between.  Okung looks to be the priciest of the three, since he was originally a draft pick under the old CBA, and he’s a noted Pro Bowl left tackle (and also, not for nothing, our best offensive lineman by a thousand miles).  Given his injury history, and the fact that he’s nobody’s Walter Jones clone, I’m less inclined to do whatever it takes to bring him back.  If he opts to return under something of a team-friendly deal (i.e. not a ton of dead money lurking, if we decide it’s time to move on), I’d be cool with his coming back.  But, considering he’s acting as his own agent, I feel like he’s going to use these negotiations to make a point, and try to get the best possible deal he can.  Don’t be shocked if that comes from another team.

I had high hopes for a higher ceiling out of Sweezy, but I think what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get.  He flashes a lot of toughness and agility, but he also flashes complete ineptitude at letting our quarterback get killed.  Again, I’d be okay with the team bringing him back on a team-friendly deal; but, I’d also be okay with the team punting on this whole issue of converting defensive linemen into guards and rebuilding the interior of the line through the draft (of high picks) and/or free agency.  It might be difficult to replace 3-4 spots on the line, so if Sweezy is able to return on a moderate deal, maybe we can devote resources elsewhere (like shoring up the left guard position and selling Britt down the river).

Kearse, as I’ve said before, I’d like to have back.  While he’s not a #1 receiver, he does all the little things you like out of someone who plays the position.  He blocks well, he has good hands, he has a decent catch radius.  He plays his role on this team perfectly.  The pragmatist in me would say that we have a guy like that in Kevin Smith, who’s cheaper and under team control already, so in that sense, I wouldn’t be totally devastated if Kearse moves on.  But, as a pure fan, I’d be disappointed to see him go.

In other offensive free agent news, the following players are restricted free agents and will almost assuredly be back with the team, so long as the team wants them to be back:

  • Cooper Helfet – tight end
  • Derrick Coleman – fullback
  • Patrick Lewis – center
  • Alvin Bailey – guard/tackle
  • Christine Michael – running back

My guess is, Helfet and Coleman will be back for sure, and most likely under a very minor deal.  I like the idea of drafting a center relatively high this year and letting him learn behind Patrick Lewis on a 1-year deal, then having him take over in 2017.  Bailey is a quality backup and should be worth keeping around for his versatility alone.  Michael is an interesting case; he would’ve been under team control had we not waived him earlier in the season.  I imagine the team will tender him a pretty low offer too and we’ll see what happens.  If Lynch goes, this is probably his best opportunity to compete for a job with Thomas Rawls.

On defense, here are the unrestricted free agents, again in no particular order:

  • Brandon Mebane – defensive tackle
  • Bruce Irvin – outside linebacker
  • Ahtyba Rubin – defensive tackle
  • Mike Morgan – outside linebacker
  • Jeremy Lane – cornerback
  • Demarcus Dobbs – defensive tackle/end

From what I’m reading, it sounds like the team likely wouldn’t be able to bring back both Mebane and Rubin, so we’d have to choose.  The fan side of me wants Mebane back, and to retire as a Seahawk.  Rubin is slightly younger, and had a really breakout year for us.  I’d honestly like to have both back, but again, you can’t pay everyone.  My gut tells me Mebane stays and Rubin goes, but what do I know?

I’m less inclined to believe Irvin will be back.  I’d pay more heed to his words during last year’s offseason, where he was talking about practically being out the door.  Maybe Atlanta brings him in, with Dan Quinn?  Maybe Oakland, with Ken Norton as their defensive coordinator?  Maybe some other team with deep pockets who could use an athletic pass rusher?  I’d put the chances on Irvin being a Seahawk next season at less than 30%.

In which case, as I noted yesterday, Morgan is an interesting option to replace him, as he figures to be cheaper, and HAS to know the system.  The thing is, I’m not totally sure if he plays the same position, or if he’s more of a weakside linebacker.  I seem to remember him spelling Irvin this year, but whatever.

Jeremy Lane should be our highest priority, but again, if some team over-values Seahawks cornerbacks, I could see him taking a lot of money to play elsewhere.

As for Dobbs … we like Dobbs.  More training camp depth!

Our restricted free agents include:

  • DeShawn Shead – cornerback
  • Steven Terrell – cornerback/safety
  • Marcus Burley – cornerback
  • Nick Moody – linebacker
  • Jesse Williams – defensive tackle
  • Mohammed Seisay – cornerback
  • Eric Pinkins – linebacker
  • A.J. Francis – defensive tackle

Shead will definitely be back.  Terrell, Burley, and Seisay will all most likely be back, in the hunt for a couple of those backup cornerback spots on the roster.  I don’t see why the team would let Moody and Pinkins go, or for that matter, Francis (whoever that is).  I keep thinking every year is the last chance for Jesse Williams, but I would think 2016 is the for real, very VERY last chance.  Given his injury history, consider him the longest of long shots.

So, yeah, that’s sort of an overview of all the Seahawks who could potentially be gone (I’m not going to get into the guys under contract for next year who might be cap casualties).  Tomorrow, I’ll dig into what I think the plan should be for the Seahawks, as we wrap up Death Week for another year.