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

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

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

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

The biggest names are as follows:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seattle Seahawks 2016 Draft Spectacular!

I watched all of the first round, while in my apartment, reading from Twitter, and sending out the occasional text.  I had the draft on in the background for rounds two & three as I visited with my dad and brother, occasionally muting the commercials so I could listen to the local coverage on KJR AM, until I ultimately lost interest as we started drinking and playing Yahtzee.  I missed most of the last four rounds entirely, as I was helping friends move some stuff, then ate lunch at The Eleven Eleven in Tacoma, before catching the tail end of the draft.  It was a fun-filled weekend of sun and laughs that I shall cherish for always.

The Seattle Seahawks picked up some new guys in the process.  These are those guys:

  • First Round (31st overall) – Germain Ifedi, RT
  • Second Round (49th overall) – Jarran Reed, DT
  • Third Round (90th overall) – C.J. Prosise, RB
  • Third Round (94th overall) – Nick Vannett, TE
  • Third Round (97th overall) – Rees Odhiambo, G
  • Fifth Round (147th overall) – Quinton Jefferson, DT
  • Fifth Round (171st overall) – Alex Collins, RB
  • Sixth Round (215th overall) – Joey Hunt, C
  • Seventh Round (243rd overall) – Kenny Lawler, WR
  • Seventh Round (247th overall) – Zac Brooks, RB

Some potentially interesting undrafted guys include:

  • Steve Longa, LB
  • Tre Madden, RB
  • Trevone Boykin, QB
  • Tyvis Powell, S
  • Vernon Adams, QB (tryout basis)

I dunno, there could be other interesting guys, but that’s what I’ve gleaned from Twitter and various websites.  Anyone who I didn’t list is either an oversight, or is merely camp fodder.

Among the guys I like to produce for the Seahawks right away include Ifedi (who I talked about last week as a guy who should most certainly win a spot somewhere on the offensive line), Reed (who projects to be Brandon Mebane’s replacement), Prosise (who looks to have the inside track for that 3rd down running back job), and Vannett (who looks to be pushing Cooper Helfet out of Seattle, barring injury somewhere else).  Since we’re looking at those four players as having the best chance to make the team better, let’s talk about them first (as I just mentioned, you can read about Ifedi in the link above).

Jarran Reed was noted to be the best run-stuffing tackle in the draft.  One of 25 players invited to sit in at the draft live, he was the 25th of those man taken as he slid into the middle of the second round.  The Seahawks talked about him as being among the guys they considered in the first round at pick #31, so it’s certainly awesome to see the Seahawks technically got two first round-graded players.  When you think about why a player this good might have slipped into the second round, I think you can look no further than how the NFL has devalued the running game.  Running backs aren’t being given the huge contracts they once were, they’re not being taken as high as they once were (even though the Cowboys went rogue and took one with the 4th overall pick), and more and more often you’re seeing rookies step right in and produce, for pennies on the dollar.  A byproduct of this line of thinking is that stopping the run has also become devalued.  Most offenses don’t feature the run like we do.  As such, most teams don’t feel the need to put a large amount of resources into stopping the run, when there are bigger fish to fry in the secondary and in the pass rush.  The Seahawks, by their nature, feature an elite secondary and a pretty great pass rush.  Other teams know that and might think they could run on us as a result, but that’s why – unlike most teams – the Seahawks don’t neglect stopping the run.  They coach it, and they put resources into it.  Up until this year, they’ve had Brandon Mebane under contract and filling that void.  With Mebane off to sunny San Diego, the Seahawks had another void to fill, and Reed figures to be it.  That’s no knock to Sealver Siliga – he’ll definitely be great to have around as depth, and as a veteran presence, not to mention any goalline packages against jumbo offensive sets – but he’s on a 1-year deal.  Reed is our nose tackle of the future, and we got him at a second round discount.

I know it’s not sexy, I know he probably won’t make any Pro Bowls (because, again, the elite run stuffers never get the attention they deserve; it’s all about sacks at the defensive tackle position that make them stand out), but Reed is a starter, plain and simple.  The Seahawks just drafted a quality 4-year starter who should help us maintain our dominance in stopping the run defensively.

You want to know what IS sexy?  Running backs!  Running backs are sexy as hell!  C.J. Prosise is a DB that was converted to a linebacker for a short period that was converted to a wide receiver that was THEN converted to a running back.  The kid’s got hands, he can run the entire route tree, but he’s also big enough (6′, 220 lbs), that he could theoretically run up inside and one day possibly be an every-down back for this team.  I don’t know if I want to project all of that upon him right now, but I LOVE his third down potential for this team.  I love thinking about the 1-back shotgun sets we like to run (zone read, play action, and so on), and I love thinking about the no-back/5-wides shotgun sets we like to run.  Normally, I HATE it when we go empty backfield, because I have these visions of Russell Wilson being chased around by bad men out to harm him.  And, while Marshawn Lynch had pretty good hands for a running back, he was never someone I was 100% confident in (but, maybe that’s more on me than a reflection of his abilities), but either way, he’s gone now, and there’s a void to fill there too.  When you look at someone like Thomas Rawls, you see a guy who really struggled in the pass-catching part of the game, which is pretty huge.  Wilson’s not a guy who likes to check the ball down to the running back often, but when he does it’s either because he has no other choice and he’s about to be flattened, or it’s because he sees potential for the running back to get a lot of yards, with a ton of green field around him.  So, losing those modest and potentially huge gains because the running back has stone hands is something that may ultimately hurt Rawls in the long run, and lead to an opening for Prosise to take over the job on an every-down basis.

Right now, the only thing standing in Prosise’s way is his ability to hold up in pass protection.  Regardless of how talented, or athletic, or fast you are; you could have game-breaking ability and be seen as The Next Fill-in-the-Blank-Superstar, but if you can’t pick up the blitz, you’re not even going to SNIFF the field.  Don’t believe me?  Ask Christine Michael how his professional career has gone so far, after being a highly-coveted second round pick and potential Marshawn Lynch replacement.  If Prosise has that in him, or at least the want-to to learn how to do it, then he’s light years ahead already.

Nick Vannett is a guy I find REALLY interesting.  Depth at the tight end position has been seriously lacking since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over.  Usually, we have one good one, and then a huge drop-off.  Zach Miller was the guy initially, and he was great when he was healthy.  He helped out tremendously when this offensive line was in its infancy, as an extra blocker to try to reduce some of the pressure on the quarterback.  He also did just enough in the passing game to keep defenses honest, as his soft hands made up for his inability to really run away from defenders down the seam.  The Seahawks went and drafted Luke Willson in 2013, but he was always more of a project.  The speed was there, and his height made him a nice little weapon in the passing game, but he’s never been known for his blocking ability.  Make no mistake, he’s made great strides in that area, as he’s been a hard worker for the Seahawks.  But, he is and always will be more known for his offense.  Plus, let’s be honest, he’s really more of a nice #2 option, which is why the Seahawks went out and got Jimmy Graham.  But, again, you’re talking about more of a wide receiver than a tight end.  No matter what he says, no matter how hard he tries, he’s never going to be a good blocker.  It doesn’t mean he doesn’t have value, but there are going to be times where he’s in there, and the Seahawks run the ball, and they don’t get anything out of it because Graham messed up on his assignment.  That’s just the way it’s going to be.

Now, though, we’ve got this Vannett guy, who right away comes with visions of Zach Miller.  Not in that he’s just a “blocking tight end”, but that he’s an “all-around tight end”.  Something this team has been lacking since Miller’s injuries finally forced him out of the league.  And, not for nothing, but Vannett’s confidence in interviews makes me think he’s got just the type of personality that’s going to thrive on a team of alpha dogs.  He’s 6’6, so there’s the height you look for; it doesn’t sound like he has great speed, so he’s not going to be a guy who burns it up the seams either.  But, by some accounts, he has some of the best pass-catching hands in the draft, which leads me to believe this guy is going to be super reliable and a secret weapon.  I mean, think about it, on a team with the wide receivers we’ve got, with Jimmy Graham, and with Luke Willson both as more like tall wide receivers than tight ends, someone like Nick Vannett isn’t going to attract the team’s best defender.  He’s going to get some slow linebacker or maybe even a defensive end on him, which means you should just throw to an area and be able to hit Vannett for a nice gain.  He’ll never be this team’s number 1 option or anything, but with other guys potentially covered, I like the potential this guy has to be a nice outlet for Wilson.  Plus, he should figure to be a quality option in the red zone too (assuming the team uses him properly, which is always a questionmark).

***

That brings us to the project half of the draft.  Guys who are interesting, but whose spots on this team are by no means guaranteed.

Let’s keep going down the line with Rees Odhiambo, a guy whose name I’m going to need to look up to remember how to spell for the first couple years at least.  He was a starting left tackle in college, but his frame suggests he’s going to be a guard in the NFL.  Which, when you think about it, most guards in the NFL are converted tackles anyway, who were only playing on the outside in college because that’s where teams put their best linemen.  With the shorter arms, and less athletic ability, you get bumped inside.  Odhiambo does have good size, though (6’4, 314 lbs), which suggests he may one day compete for the left guard spot (where Cable likes his bigger guards, compared to on the right side, where he likes them lighter and more athletic).  Considering Odhiambo was taken at the end of the third round (probably projected as more of a fourth or early fifth rounder, except the Seahawks had traded away their fourth rounder to move up in the second round), you figure he’s going to need a year to develop.  Depending on his skill-level right now, that either means the team stashes him on the practice squad (if he’s more raw in his skills) or is forced to carry him on the 53-man roster, and make him inactive every week (if he projects to be a future starter; see:  Mark Glowinski last year).

When you figure the Seahawks needed to upgrade along the offensive line, and needed to boost the level of competition among our reserves (with Alvin Bailey moving on), grabbing Ifedi and now Odhiambo gives us a couple of up-and-coming young players who may one day share jobs on the same O-Line.  Odhiambo, with his experience as a left tackle, should be more technically sound in the pass protection game, but we’ll see how he does in camp before we pass any judgment (good or bad) his way.

Let me go ahead and skip over a few guys, as I keep with the offensive line theme.  In the sixth round, the Seahawks took Joey Hunt, a center out of TCU.  As you may know, I (along with most everyone else) really wanted to see Ryan Kelly fall to the Seahawks.  Instead, the Colts took him with the 18th pick, to pair him with Andrew Luck for the next decade; can’t say I blame them.  Seeing a center go that high is beyond rare; you’ve got to be a special, once-in-a-generation type of talent (which is pretty sad, since he’s the Andrew Luck of centers, and he only went as high as 18th in the draft).  With three picks in the third round, you figured the Seahawks would grab one of the better ones there, but there was a little mini-run on centers earlier in the third round, so the position never really felt appropriate for the Seahawks to pick until the sixth.

Hunt was a guy in college who was an elite pass protector, which is something this team desperately needs in the middle.  If, indeed, we’re going with the types of guards Tom Cable likes to employ, they’re more maulers than they are protectors.  The Seattle Seahawks like to run the ball a lot, often to the detriment of the passing game, when it comes to the offensive line.  If we could manage to sneak just ONE elite pass protector in there, in a guy like Hunt, I think it would help out a great deal.  Now, he’s a bit under-sized, at anywhere from 295-299 lbs, which means there’s a chance he could get bullied in the running game.  But, when you look at centers, oftentimes they’re there to help double team with one of the guards.  As such, I don’t know if you expect a lot of 1 on 1 blocking out of your center.  What you NEED is a guy who is smart, who can call out the protections and assignments, and keep everything and everyone around him running smoothly (with the occasional burst up field to knock out linebackers at the second level).  I think Hunt can very much be that guy.  He may need some seasoning.  He may need a year to bulk up a little bit, to ensure he’s ready for the rigors of playing 16 games plus playoffs.  Which is why we have Patrick Lewis on board for one more year.  Let Lewis run the show in 2016, with an eye towards Hunt in 2017 and beyond.  Could be a GREAT value pick for the Seahawks if it pans out the way I’ve decided it should.

On the other side of the ball, the Seahawks took a second defensive tackle, this one with more of an eye towards rushing the passer.  Quinton Jefferson, whom the Seahawks traded up in the fifth round to get (giving up a 4th rounder in the 2017 draft in the process, but we should be getting a compensatory pick there, so it’s not all bad).  With Jordan Hill going into the final year of his rookie deal, you may be looking at his replacement right here.  Probably unreasonable to expect much out of him as a rookie, you nevertheless like the potential for him to slide into that rotation in pass rushing downs.  There’s going to be a significant numbers game going on with the D-Line this year, though, so we’ll see if he makes the cut.  Considering the Seahawks did trade up to get him, you think they’ll do everything they can to ensure he sticks with the team through the year.

Towards the end of the draft, the Seahawks picked up Kenny Lawler, a 6’2 wide receiver out of Cal, to throw onto the pile.  That gives us 12 officially on the roster, with, I’m sure, another few coming via tryouts and whatnot.  This is a stacked position, with Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson all figuring to be locks to make the team.  Then, you’ve got experienced guys in Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams back in the fold, and other guys from our ghost roster who are familiar with the system and our training camps.  By all accounts, Lawler has great hands, and is superb in the endzone, but he’s a seventh round pick for a reason.  He’s probably not all that fast, and in the NFL, he’s going to have to make his mark by winning the 50/50 balls.  Not dropping anything in sight is a great way to get your name remembered, but making highlight reel catches in practice will get you on the team in some capacity.  If he doesn’t have that in him, he might be practice squad fodder, or among the legion in our ghost roster, at the ready when the team needs someone off the streets.

I saved the other running backs for last, because I find it so fascinating that the team went with the Ball So Hard route at this position.  With Marshawn Lynch retired, the team has a serious void, and is apparently not fucking around.  Thomas Rawls returns, and has the inside track on the starting position, but he’s also returning from a serious injury, and the team doesn’t want to be left holding its collective dick if he has a relapse, or is otherwise not ready for the regular season.  Christine Michael is back on a 1-year deal, but that’s by no means guaranteed.  You figure he’s going to need to REALLY explode in camp if he’s going to stick around.  I think, more than anything, the team has put him on notice with the three draft picks it’s used, not to mention the undrafted guy from USC who’s coming in.

Alex Collins, the fifth rounder, looks to be a bigger, bruising type of back.  He shouldn’t be a threat to Prosise for the third down job whatsoever, but could theoretically knock Michael out of the game.  Zac Brooks, on the other hand, is a smaller guy, who should come in to compete for the scat-back type of role.  Given the resources the team has devoted to the position, I think it’s safe to say they didn’t draft all of these guys with the intention of keeping each and every one of them.  With Rawls pretty much guaranteed a spot, I suppose you could theoretically keep four non-fullback type running backs (if, indeed, the team cuts Michael as we head into the regular season), but I don’t know if I believe that’s a given.  I think it’s entirely possible that Michael beats out one of these two late round backs to be that third or fourth back (with Rawls the projected starter, and Prosise the projected #2).  Whoever proves to be more essential to special teams (either Collins or Brooks) could make that the tie-breaker in who wins a spot on the 53-man roster.  In that sense, I wonder if Alex Collins is the next Spencer Ware (i.e. squeezed out in a numbers game, doing it for the Kansas City Chiefs in a couple years).

All in all, this is a draft I really like for the Seahawks.  Could be the best one we’ve seen since 2012.  I see lots of starting and reserve potential for most of these guys.  I could also see some of these guys getting cut and immediately snapped up by other teams around the league.  Who knows?  In five years, I might be writing about how this is another one of those drafts where most of the guys got paid big money in their second contracts.  I can see the compensatory picks from here!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks

With Beastmode’s retirement this week, I thought I’d take stock and reflect upon where he lands among my all time favorite Seattle Seahawks.  While he’s my favorite over the last quarter century, he comes up just short of my all time fave.

I should probably point out that my knowledge of the Seahawks prior to the 1990s is pretty limited (I was born in 1981).  As such, you won’t find many of the old-timers.  Indeed, only 5 of my 25 played prior to 1990, and none of those five are named Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn, or Curt Warner.  Zorn was a guy I never saw play, Warner was always hurt when I started watching football, and the years I watched Dave Krieg were those loser years where he heavily contributed to his standing as one of the most fumble-prone quarterbacks in NFL history.  If I never again see Dave Krieg raise his arm back to pass, only to watch in horror as the ball gets flung backwards thanks to his criminally under-sized hands, it’ll be too soon.

Among the actual Honorable Mentions are the following:

Ricky Watters – a guy who reminds me a lot of Beastmode, but unfortunately didn’t play with us quite long enough to merit breaking through; Chris Warren – very underrated back, who unfortunately was saddled by a lot of mediocre Seahawks teams; Eugene Robinson – solid safety for some solid defenses; Michael Sinclair – second on Seattle’s all-time sacks list; Cliff Avril – who could potentially climb into the Top 25 one day, if he continues to produce the way he has; Red Bryant – mostly a fan favorite type, who I was happy to see find a role in the early Pete Carroll years; Robbie Tobeck – helped solidify the greatest offensive line in team history during the Holmgren years; Steve Hutchinson – who gets a bad rap even though it was Tim Ruskell who dicked him over first; Rocky Bernard – an underrated interior defensive lineman who this team would kill to have right now; Sam Adams – someone who blossomed after he left the Seahawks (and someone who I randomly have a signed jersey from); Bobby Engram – who was Doug Baldwin before Doug Baldwin; Chad Brown – who gets overlooked a little bit because he came from the Steelers, but still played quality football for his Seahawks tenure; Rufus Porter – a speed rusher off the edge and another fan favorite type; Zach Miller – who I’ll always respect for his toughness even though he got injured a lot; and Joe Nash – who would be my #26 if this list went that long, because he was an awesome nose tackle for this team who played here FOREVER.

Anyway, without further ado, My Top 25 All Time Favorite Seattle Seahawks:

1.  Steve Largent – He was this team’s first Hall of Famer, and when he retired, he had most – if not all – of the wide receiver records before they were broken.  When I started getting into football in the late 80s, there was every reason to be a fan of some other team in some other city, as those Seahawks teams were okay, but nothing special.  The 49ers had Joe Montana and Jerry Rice, the Raiders (who were a particular favorite among my elementary school classmates) had Bo Jackson (’nuff said), the Redskins, Oilers, Dolphins, and Bengals were all loaded with talent.  I don’t totally remember my thinking on this one, but I’m certainly convinced now that I would never have become a Seahawks fan if it weren’t for Steve Largent.  I mean, yeah, they’re the local team, so it’s easy to say I’d just stick with that as the reason, but throughout the 1990s, I used to mock this team relentlessly, and would frequently bet my family members that the Seahawks would lose (and won quite a bit of cash in the process, for a kid in the 1990s anyway).  But, I could always hang my hat that at one point, Steve Largent played for the Seahawks and was the best player at his position.  Also, didn’t hurt that I got to meet him at an autograph signing at the Tacoma Mall.  It was many hours of waiting in line, but it was worth it.

2.  Marshawn Lynch – Unlike many of the guys on this list, who were either career Seahawks, or played many more years here, Lynch became a favorite of mine in a little over 5 and a half seasons.  His bruising style of play, all the highlight runs, and his abilities as a receiver and blocker make him not only the most complete running back in franchise history, but one of the very best overall players we’ve ever seen in a Seahawks uniform, including the other Hall of Famers coming up next on this list.

3.  Cortez Kennedy – It’s hard to pick one over the other when it comes to Tez and Big Walt; both are consummate bad asses.  While you could make the argument that Walter Jones was the best player at his position in NFL history (which I do), I don’t think I’d necessarily put Cortez Kennedy as the best defensive tackle in NFL history (though, to be fair, I haven’t tried ranking them all, so who knows?).  What I will say is that what won me over in Tez’s favor is his Defensive Player of the Year Award in 1992.  First of all, it’s hard as fuck for a DT to win that award (there have only been two other players since 1992 at that position to win that award – Dana Stubblefield & Warren Sapp).  Secondly, no player at any position has ever won the award while playing on a shittier team (the Seahawks were 2-14 that year).  But, such is the fierce brutality that was Cortez Kennedy (who ranks 4th all time in franchise history for sacks); he finished that season with 14 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and a whopping 92 tackles.  Let me repeat:  92 tackles!!!  There are linebackers who don’t get that many tackles, and here we are, looking at a DT who got 92 tackles.  Just insane!  To compare, Stubblefield in 1997 had 15 sacks, 3 forced fumbles, and only 48 tackles; Sapp in 1999 had 12.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, and only 27 tackles (that wasn’t even Sapp’s best season, but regardless, he never surpassed 50 tackles in a season, so that point is moot).  Tez frequently battled double- and triple-teams throughout his career, and was still a God damn hurricane to deal with in the middle.  It’s just too bad he couldn’t be rewarded with more playoff appearances.

4.  Walter Jones – If you went pound for pound, you’re probably talking about the very best player the Seahawks have ever had.  With Bad-Assery being a theme, they don’t get much more bad-ass than this guy.  He was repeatedly franchise tagged, repeatedly held out in training camp and in the pre-season, then showed up right before the regular season started not only in tremendous shape, but ready to start from Game 1.  Then, when you tack on his training regimen of him pulling Cadillacs to get ready for the season, and I think I need to go lie down for a while because I just got winded writing that statement.

5.  Matt Hasselbeck – This is probably where things start to get a little more fluid.  In five years, I would anticipate someone like Russell Wilson will have surpassed someone like Matt Hasselbeck.  Indeed, many fans might disagree with me, but I gotta admit I’m still a pretty big Hasselbeck fan.  He led this team to its first Super Bowl appearance, which is always going to be huge, even if the result isn’t what we wanted.  Where his talent may be lacking compared to a guy like Wilson, his personality and charm in the media more than makes up for it.  It’s always WAY more entertaining to hear a Hasselbeck interview than a Wilson interview.  I know, that means little compared to on-field accomplishments, and as I mentioned above, Wilson will probably pass him in a few short years.  But, for now, I hold Hasselbeck in higher esteem.

6.  Richard Sherman – This future Hall of Famer has nowhere to go but up on this list.  Pretty unlikely leader in the clubhouse of Legion of Boom participants, but Sherm has been the most consistently elite through the 2015 season.

7.  Shaun Alexander – He gets a bad rap for not being Marshawn Lynch, but I think a lot of fans forget just how great he really was.  If he didn’t start breaking down towards the end, he was well on his way towards getting into the Hall of Fame.  As it stands, he was one of the best two or three running backs in the NFL for a good five-year period.  He should be a shoo-in for the Ring of Honor, if the Seahawks ever get around to putting more people in there.

8.  Brandon Mebane – Love this dude.  He won’t be a Hall of Famer, he won’t have his number retired, he might not even make the Ring of Honor when it’s all said and done.  But, he was one of the better Tim Ruskell draft picks.  As a third rounder, he got on the field right away and has been a staple for this defensive line ever since.  Nine years in, he looks as good as ever, and I hope the team retains him so he can retire as a Seahawk.

9.  Kenny Easley – He’s the only player on this list who I don’t really remember watching play live.  So, I’m really basing his ranking on highlights and on testimonials from players around the league who talk about this guy with some of the highest reverence I’ve ever seen.  If his career wasn’t shortened by kidney disease, he’d be in the Hall of Fame right now.  Compared to Ronnie Lott, he’s the only other Seahawk to win the NFL’s Defensive Player of the Year award, in 1984, when he had 10 interceptions (2 returned for touchdown).  As it stands, he’s a Ring of Honor guy, and the best safety in franchise history (eventually to be surpassed by the next guy on this list).

10.  Earl Thomas – He’s our Ed Reed.  Our Troy Polamalu.  Our All Pro Machine striving to be the best this game has ever seen.  The only thing that could cut him short on his quest is if he succumbs to injuries.  His dedication to the game and being the best puts him in my Top 10.

11.  Russell Wilson – Seems criminally low, I know.  I don’t think it’ll be too much longer before he’s in my Top 10.  Maybe even one more season.  The way he’s playing right now, and with Lynch’s retirement, this will be HIS offense.  If he manages to carry this team to unknown levels of awesomeness, I think he’s destined to skyrocket up my list.

12.  Jacob Green – He was an absolute monster throughout the 80s, racking up the most sacks in franchise history with 97.5 (and that doesn’t even include his first two seasons, when the NFL didn’t record sacks as an official stat).  Certainly one of the more underrated defensive ends of the 80s.

13.  Joey Galloway – Probably another controversial pick – especially this high in the rankings – but I don’t care.  He only really played 4 seasons for the Seahawks before holding out for 8 games in his fifth year before forcing Holmgren’s hand, but those four years were outstanding!  He was an elite return man from the get-go, and a big play machine on offense as well.  If we only could have paired him with a competent quarterback (he was saddled with Rick Mirer, John Friesz, and Jon Kitna before we were able to get Warren Moon in here for a couple of injury-plagued years towards the end of his career) he might have been even better, for as crazy as that sounds.  Still, even the way he left things wasn’t so bad, as we ended up getting two first round draft picks (one of which we used to nab Shaun Alexander, with the other being traded for multiple picks so we could get Koren Robinson, Heath Evans, and some backup offensive lineman I’ve never heard of).

14.  Doug Baldwin – Another player whose ranking could go way up on my list if we manage to keep him on the team beyond his current contract.  He’s proven to be a clutch possession receiver, as well as a guy capable of making bigger plays downfield, and as of 2015, a touchdown monster.  To think an undrafted receiver who has started since his rookie year could still be getting better in his fifth season is pretty amazing.  I want to see the Wilson to Baldwin connection continue for at least the next half decade, if not longer.

15.  Golden Tate – Maybe another controversial pick, but I like who I like, and I like me some Golden Tate.  I kind of dismissed him when he left for Detroit, as we still had Percy Harvin, after all.  But, when Harvin proved to be a huge chump, I’ve longed for Tate’s big play ability ever since.  His loss is now mitigated by the drafting of Tyler Lockett, but there’s still a lot to like about a guy like Tate who was another outsize personality on a team full of ’em.  A guy who got under the skin of opposing defenders (like the fucking Rams, for instance).  And a guy who played bigger than his size.  Not extending him, in favor of bringing in Harvin, is a move this team continues to regret.

16.  Brian Blades – The wide receiver parade marches on, with Blades, who played significant minutes for a rookie under Chuck Knox, and who eventually went on to replace a legend in Steve Largent as this team’s #1.  He was never super flashy, and only made one Pro Bowl in his career, but he’s this team’s second-leading career pass catcher.  He has the team’s second-most receiving yards, and is fifth in touchdowns.

17.  K.J. Wright – He cracks this in large part due to recency bias.  He’s been here for five years, has played all three linebacker spots, has only missed a small handful of games, and should be in the Top 10 in franchise history in tackles by this time next year.  I love his smarts, his professionalism, his toughness, and the fact that on a defense full of superstars, he just quietly goes about his business of being consistently great.  He’s never been to a Pro Bowl, and probably never will, but when it’s all said and done, he’ll go down as one of the best linebackers in Seahawks history.

18.  Marcus Trufant – He was rarely flashy, but he was a first round pick and a starter from day 1.  He made a Pro Bowl in 2007 when he had 7 picks, and it doesn’t hurt that he was a local kid who made good.  And, not for nothing, but we went to the same high school and played on the same Freshman football team (he was the superstar, I was the third string right tackle who never ACTUALLY got to share a field with him on gameday, because I was terrible).

19.  Michael Bennett – In three short years, Bennett is already #10 on Seattle’s all time sacks list.  Of course, he’s so much more than sacks, but that’s still pretty impressive.  With his ability to play both inside and outside, against the run and against the pass, he’s probably the most talented defensive lineman in franchise history (just behind Tez, that is).  If we can keep him happy and playing through the end of this contract – or onto another if he keeps producing – he could easily shoot up this list as well.

20.  Kam Chancellor – He took a bit of a hit this year with his holdout.  I don’t mind a guy who holds out of training camp and/or the pre-season, but I tend to draw the line when a guy starts missing regular season games (and starts costing us those games with his absence).  Truth be told, his 2015 was far from ideal; but, that doesn’t wash away the previous four years of amazingness.  If we can make him happy again and keep him around a few more years, he’ll return to his rightful place among the Top 15 or Top 10 on this list.  For now, it’s sort of Wait & See mode, for fans and the franchise alike.

21.  Lofa Tatupu – His career was relatively brief, but man did he shine bright!  In only six years (one of them severely injury-marred), he made three Pro Bowls, one first team All Pro, and cracked the top 10 in tackles in Seahawks history.  THIS is the best draft pick of Ruskell’s tenure, and a big reason why this team made the Super Bowl during the 2005 season.

22.  Darrell Jackson – Fourth in franchise history in receptions, second in touchdown receptions, and the number 1 receiver for most of Matt Hasselbeck’s time here.  His reputation was somewhat tainted by drops early in his career, but I feel he more than made up for it from 2003 through 2006.  Another guy who never made a Pro Bowl, and will probably never make the Ring of Honor, but he’s a big part of those Holmgren teams that brought the Seahawks to a level of respectability we’d never seen to that point.

23.  John L. Williams – Listed as a fullback, but he was really a do-it-all type of back.  He had hands like a receiver (3rd all time in receptions, 6th all time in receiving yards in Seahawks history), had quicks like a running back (fifth all time in rushing yards in Seahawks history, 9th in rushing touchdowns), and the size of a bruising fullback (5’11, 231 lbs), he could really do it all.  In an era that pre-dates these types of specialty backs who are equally as good at catching as rushing (LaDainian Tomlinson, Marshall Faulk, etc.), John L. Williams was truly a trailblazer.  He’s securely third place in franchise history in total yards from scrimmage (behind bellcow back Shaun Alexander with 10,940 total yards, and Hall of Fame receiver Steve Largent, who had a total of 13,172 yards), ahead of other, more notable, running backs like Curt Warner, Marshawn Lynch, and Chris Warren.  John L. played largely a reserve role, as a third or fourth option for this offense for most of his tenure here, but he played that role splendidly.

24.  Bobby Wagner – He’s been great since his rookie year, I only expect further greatness going forward.  He’s another who could easily skyrocket up this list, the longer he remains the quarterback of the greatest defense we’ve ever seen.

25.  Jermaine Kearse – What can I say?  He’s another local kid, another undrafted free agent, who worked his way through the practice squad into being this team’s #2 receiver.  Doesn’t hurt that he’s a Husky.  Also doesn’t hurt that he’s made some of the biggest catches in franchise history, including the 4th down touchdown against the 49ers in the NFC Championship Game, and the game-winning touchdown against the Packers the very next year in the NFCCG (not to mention the super-human TD catch in Super Bowl XLVIII, and the beyond-human bobbling/diving catch in Super Bowl XLIX).  He might have played his last down in a Seahawks uniform, and if so, I’ll be sad.  But, I’ll also be happy for a guy who started at the bottom and worked his way into a contract that was too big for the Seahawks to match.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here’s our 2014 draft class that remains:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Seahawks Death Week Reloaded

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

So, where does this team need help?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

***

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

Which Seahawks Team Had The More Difficult Path To The Super Bowl?

Yesterday, I did a little comparison of the rosters between last year and this year.  Obviously, it wasn’t comprehensive – as it’s JUST a look at the Super Bowl rosters and not taking into account all the injured players who helped get us to those points – but I think we can all agree that the 2013 Seahawks were the clear Best Team In Franchise History.  But, either way, we’re talking about two VERY good teams.  It takes a buttload of talent to make it to the Super Bowl; and it takes a special kind of buttload to make it to back-to-back Super Bowls.

My take on these two teams is this:  the 2013 Seahawks were more special, because it was our first championship.  You never forget the first time.  Those players will be fixtures in my sports fandom until the day I die.  But, what these 2014 Seahawks are doing is more DIFFICULT, and not just because of what we saw against Green Bay last Sunday.

I look at it like this:  go ahead and check the standings and how they compare between 2013 and 2014.  Now, check the Seahawks’ schedule between 2013 and 2014.  If you count the games where we faced legitimate opponents, you’ll see it’s pretty clear.  The 2013 Seahawks had to square off against 7 legit opponents.  Two vs. SF and AZ, then games against Carolina, Indy, and New Orleans.  The rest of the AFC South was a joke, the Rams were mediocre as usual, the rest of the NFC South was terrible, and the Giants and Vikings were God awful.  Now, granted, those 7 games were against real tough teams – including the 49ers who were the clear Second Best Team In Football – but I don’t think last year’s run really compares.  We kicked off our season with back-to-back great teams (and 3 in our first 5 games), but there was a huge lull in the middle where we played 1 good team in six weeks.  THEN we had a bye week before catching the Saints at home!  By the time we got through that powderpuff stretch, we were 11-1 and on cruise control the last four weeks as we finished up going 2-2, losing both of our difficult matchups in the process while still locking down the #1 overall seed.

In those 7 big games, we ended the regular season 4-3.  We more than made up for it with the gauntlet we had to take down in the playoffs, as I would argue the Saints were the 3rd-best team in the NFC and probably the 5th-best team in the NFL.  Then, we had to squeak by the 49ers again, before we slayed the best offensive team in NFL history.  So, when you include playoffs, the Seahawks had 10 really hard teams (but, then again, when you’re in the playoffs, just about every game is hard).

In 2014, the Seahawks not only had to contend with a more difficult schedule, but they had all the other distractions away from the game.  Just being a Super Bowl champion, for one.  Having that target on your back.  Getting everyone’s best game because they want so desperately to beat the best.  Then, you’re talking about losing a sizable chunk of your depth because you just can’t afford to pay everyone.  Starters like Tate, Giacomini, Browner, Clemons, and Bryant.  Role players like Thurmond, McDonald, and Maragos.  Key contributors from last year, playing for other teams.  THEN, you’ve got guys getting paid in the offseason.  It’s great for fans to see their favorite players locked up and happy, but you never know how that’s going to affect locker room chemistry.  And, quite frankly, you never know how the players who’re getting paid will respond.  Will they still have that desire?  Will they still wake up at the crack of dawn every day and put in the work to maintain their level of excellence?

We know a little bit about how Marshawn Lynch felt about it, because he threatened to hold out and retire and all this stuff before getting a bump in pay.  Still didn’t stop all the early-season chatter from the media that he was disgruntled and still thinking about retiring.  Or that the team was fed up and ready to cut him loose after the year ended.  Oh, and we can’t forget the whole Percy Harvin situation.  What a shitshow THAT was.

Hashtag Russell Wilson Isn’t Black Enough.

All of this stuff, plus the usual smattering of injuries every team has to deal with.  3/5 of our offensive line missing significant time, Kam and Bobby and Maxie all missing time.  Zach Miller and Brandon Mebane being lost for the year, along with a bunch of our young role players like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill and – most recently – Paul Richardson.

And, in the middle of all of that, if you look at the schedule, we faced 10 legitimate opponents (11 if you want to count Carolina, but I’m inclined to throw that entire division in the toilet where it belongs).  We kicked off the season with three tremendous teams in Green Bay, San Diego, and Denver, before being saddled with the week 4 bye.  You can say what you want about the Chargers, but they finished the season with a winning record and that was a game on the road.  Plus, they were a much better team early in the year compared to their late-season swoon.  I’m counting ’em.

Once you get past that point, there was an 8-game stretch that I’d pegged at the beginning of the season as the stretch where we’d need to make our hay.  I didn’t see ANY of those teams being able to give us much of a game.  As it turned out, the Cowboys were pretty great, the Chiefs were better than expected, and the Cardinals were 9-1 and three games ahead of us when we got to play them.  I’m also counting the Chiefs as one of the legit teams as they ALSO finished the regular season with a winning record and that game was ALSO on the road.  As it turned out, the most difficult part of the schedule – the last six weeks – turned out to be much easier than expected.  But, I’m still counting Arizona and Philly as legit, because Arizona’s defense never quit this year, and Philly’s offense was still pretty solid even with Mark Sanchez.  It’s debatable as to whether or not I should include the 49ers in this list, but I’m going to do it anyway.  Granted, 8-8 is a pretty mediocre record, but we’re still talking about a roster that was comprised of most of the same parts that took that team to the NFC Championship Game last year and to the Super Bowl the year before, with the same coaching staff as well.  When you lump in how they’re our most bitter rival and prioritize beating us over any other team, I’m saying that’s a legit matchup.

So, to recap, two against Arizona and Frisco, with solo games against GB, Den, SD, KC, Phi, & Dal.  With a possible 11th if you want to count Carolina, but I’ll leave that up to you.  And, in doing so, we went 7-3 (8-3 with the Panthers).

Of course, with the level of competition, you have to take into account the level of turmoil.  Things were spiraling out of control as this team started out 3-3, playing four very good teams in that stretch, and losing a heartbreaker to a sub-par Rams team (who nevertheless managed to beat some pretty impressive teams this year on their way to a 6-10 record).  As I said before, we were 6-4 when we played 9-1 Arizona.  We pretty much needed to win out and get help.  And we got that help by Arizona losing their top two quarterbacks; otherwise this season may have played out VERY differently.  To elevate our game at the last possible moment, win six in a row to finish with the #1 seed yet again … I don’t know what else you can say.  Just a remarkable job.

Then, with the playoffs, we’re talking about rematches against the Panthers and Packers.  I don’t hold the Panthers in very high esteem, but I think the Pack ended up being the second-best team in the NFC this year (and probably third-best in the NFL).  Of course, the Packers are always going to be some variation of good as long as Aaron Rodgers is playing.  But, for once, they remained pretty healthy on both sides of the ball, and when that happens, the Packers are as formidable as any team.  I don’t think this year’s Packers team was necessarily better than last year’s 49ers team, but they’re pretty close, and they sure as shit gave us a helluva game.

To cap off the season, we get to face the #1 team in the AFC, the New England Patriots.  For the last 9 weeks, you could argue that the Seahawks and Patriots have been the top two teams in the league, so this is just as exciting as getting to play Denver was last year.  To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best, and the Seahawks don’t get any respite in that regard.

I dunno, maybe I’m wrong.  Maybe I’m looking at it all through biased eyes because this year’s team is still fresh in my mind.  But, I can’t see how you don’t find this year’s team much more impressive than last year’s, even if the level of talent isn’t quite as elite.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

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

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

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

Let’s start with the offense:

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

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s go with the defense:

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

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why The Seahawks Will Return To The Super Bowl

Right around this time last year – though, admittedly, a couple weeks later – I was writing a lot about the impending Super Bowl matchup between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks.  Sometimes, I do this thing where I’ll write one article on how the Seahawks could theoretically lose, and another article on why they’ll win.  Usually, I do this because I’ve run out of other things to write about, but sometimes there’s a good reason to argue both sides.  But, last year, I really struggled with it.  How might the Broncos have beaten us in the Super Bowl?  Well, on any given Sunday and all that …

Yeah, pretty much anything can happen at any time.  A player can take a wrong step and tear his ACL.  A perfectly-thrown pass can bobble out of the hands of a receiver and into the hands of a defender.  Fumble luck is INCREDIBLY random and sometimes infuriating.  A couple of special teamers can take bad angles and before you know it, the other team is running back a freebie touchdown.  I could go on and on.  There are millions of reasons why the Packers might beat the Seahawks this Sunday, just as there were millions of possibilities in that Broncos/Seahawks Super Bowl.

But, just looking at it rationally, it was pretty hard to believe that the Seahawks were going to lose last year.  Just like it’s pretty hard to believe they’ll lose on Sunday.

How, exactly, are this year’s Packers different than last year’s Broncos?  Both teams play/played with MVP quarterbacks.  With Aaron Rodgers’ calf strain, he’s about as mobile now as Manning was last year.  Neither defense was all that impressive.  And, I would argue that Denver’s offense last year was MUCH better than Green Bay’s this year.  The only thing left to look at is how the Seahawks are different this year compared to last.

On the surface, not much.  We’re missing a Golden Tate on offense, and you can’t argue that we’ve really found a replacement.  Jermaine Kearse has stepped up, so it’s not a HUGE drop-off, but our third and fourth receivers as a result are a step back.  So, there’s that.

We’re missing Zach Miller, but I’d say Luke Willson and company have stepped up adequately.  Our offensive line is about the same.  Running game is the same.  And quarterback is the same.

Defensively, we’ve lost Mebane and Jordan Hill along the interior.  Hill was turning into a nice little Clinton McDonald replacement, so that hurts.  On the outside, we no longer have Chris Clemons or Red Bryant, but we haven’t had those guys for the full year and our defense has still held up like gangbusters.  You’re still looking at the top defense in the league and it’s not really even close when the stars are healthy.

So, you tell me.  How are the Packers supposed to come in here and beat us?  I repeat:  “in here”, as in “in Seattle”.  The Super Bowl was on a neutral field!  So, not only were the Broncos a more formidable opponent, but they didn’t even have to play us in the most dominant home field advantage in all of football!

I just don’t see it.  I don’t think it’s possible to be more at ease going into a conference championship game.  I’m trying to get my worry on about this game, but it all comes back to fluke shit.

One thing I could look at is to review all of our defeats this year.  How did other teams beat the Seahawks?  Seems impossible, right?  But, it happened.  Four times, in fact!  Four different teams beat the Seahawks in 2014!  So, what can we learn?

Week 2, at San Diego

I would argue we were at our healthiest in this game among the four defeats, so this game really stings.  What happened here?  Well, the Chargers dominated time of possession by dinking and dunking us to the True Death.  They had two drives that lasted less than 4 minutes.  One came off of a turnover that they converted into a touchdown; the other was a punt after six plays.  In the second half.  We didn’t force the Chargers into a punt until the second half of the game!  The Chargers went 10/17 on third down and Philip Rivers was about as perfect as can be.  He was perfect because there was only one pass that was completed beyond 20 yards.  Patience, timing, and 100+ degree weather really did us in.  Our offense was moving the ball well, but almost too well, as all three of our scoring drives were touchdowns that took less than three minutes of clock.

Week 6, vs. Dallas

Admittedly, this was the only game I didn’t watch this year, as I was travelling.  But, from what I’ve read and seen, the Cowboys were able to run the ball at will and made just enough plays through the air to keep us honest and win the fourth quarter.  A particularly back-breaking completion to Terrance Williams converted a third & long late in the game, allowing them to secure victory.  In this game, the Seahawks were pretty banged up.  Also, this was the game where Percy Harvin reportedly refused to re-enter the game late.  The team was kind of a shitshow at this point in the season, and the Cowboys were an underrated power.  Sort of a perfect storm if you will.  It’s almost too bad we don’t get to play them again, as they may still believe they’re better than us (silly mortals).

Week 7, at St. Louis

The Seahawks had just traded Harvin a couple days before.  The Rams pulled off a road-runner punt return for a TD as well as a fake punt late in the game to seal it.  I’m calling bullshit on this one.  I highly doubt Green Bay will devote their week to a bunch of asinine trick plays to beat us (though, I guess if they’re smart, they probably should, as we seem to fall for it every time).

Week 11, at Kansas City

The defeat where we were at our MOST banged up.  Brandon Mebane had just gone down.  We were on our final week without Bobby Wagner.  And, the Chiefs straight up bullied us with their running game.  Still a hard one to swallow, considering how badly they finished the regular season.

What to take away?  Well, for starters, as I alluded to before, throw out that Rams game.  If the Packers are going to win, they’re going to have to achieve some combination of the other three games:  i.e. develop a running game and stick to it, while at the same time having Aaron Rodgers maintain a level of patience where he sticks to the easy, short throws and doesn’t challenge us deep.  Likewise, they’re going to have to keep him protected.  Yeah, it’s always important to keep your quarterback from getting hit, but it’s especially important in this scenario, as Rodgers is already gimpy and he IS their team.  Without him, they might lose by 40.

Somehow, I just don’t see it.  Eddie Lacy might have some success, but I doubt he’ll have the type of success where he’s gashing us consistently.  Also, let’s face it, there is blood in the water.  Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Bruce Irvin must be absolutely licking their chops at the prospects of chasing down an immobile Aaron Rodgers.  I wouldn’t be surprised to see more blitzing out of this defense than we’ve seen at any other time in the last three years.

One key will be whether or not Byron Maxwell is healthy.  I need to see him back and starting on the other side of the field.  Particularly, I need to see him put a stranglehold on Randall Cobb.  Either that, or lock down Jordy Nelson and allow Kam Chancellor the opportunity to put Cobb on his ass a la Wes Welker last year.

On the flipside, I don’t see the Packers stopping our offense.  Once again – like in the run-up to last year’s Super Bowl – people are ignoring the other matchup of our offense vs. their defense.  Yes, the marquee reads “Aaron Rodgers vs. The Legion Of Boom”, but the undercard of “Wilson & Lynch vs. Whatever The Hell The Packers Call Their Defense” is really what’s going to determine things.  If we can get out to a strong start, we’ll take away any hopes they had of running the football.  At that point, it’ll be time to tee off on Rodgers.

I expect the Seahawks to have a MUCH better rushing attack this week compared to last.  The Panthers are stout up front; the Packers … not so much.  I’d expect a 100-yard day out of Lynch at a minimum.  And if they try to stack the box and take him away, well guess what:  Big Game Russell Wilson is back there, ready to take over.  The Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble moving the ball and scoring on this team.  Oh, and all this talk about Clay Matthews moving from outside to inside linebacker?  Great!  Leave the edges to an inferior defender so Russell Wilson can abuse them with his legs!

I’m sorry, but I’m totally at ease in this game.  The only way we lose is if we screw ourselves with an abundance of turnovers.  Or, if our defense isn’t able to capitalize on turnover opportunities.  It also wouldn’t shock me in the least to see Rodgers go down and have to leave the game at some point prior to the 4th quarter.  Mark it down.  I’m usually wrong, but I don’t see how I can be wrong here.

Come Monday, we’ll all be giddy with anticipation for a repeat Super Bowl appearance.

And, just to get it on the record now, I HOPE we get to play the Patriots.  I’m sorry, but the Colts scare the bejesus out of me.  Their defense is better than they get credit for (especially with Vontae Davis healthy as one of the top cornerbacks int he league).  Luck is obviously the more mobile quarterback, and he’s got tons of weapons to throw to.  Neither team really has much of a rushing attack to worry about, but I just feel like we could get to Brady more often, and we can neutralize Gronk (who is really the only guy to worry about on their team).  Gronk, meet Kam, and get your clock cleaned in the process.

So, yes, go Patriots.  Go Seahawks.  Let’s ring up another championship, boys!

Revising My All-Time Seahawks Greats

The last time I did something like this, we were in the middle of the offseason in 2011.  In all likelihood, I was looking for some way to fill space in the dreadful month of March when all the other local sports are effectively shut down and you can only say so much about Spring Training.

You may recall at the time that we were just coming off Pete Carroll’s first year with the team.  We made the playoffs at 7-9 and upset the reigning champion Saints in the Beastquake Game.  It was all very fun, but built on a house of cards.  The roster was aging, as leftovers from the Holmgren Era clung for dear life.  We drafted some promising rookies before the 2010 season – including Russell Okung, Earl Thomas, Golden Tate, Walter Thurmond, and Kam Chancellor – which may go down as the all-time greatest draft class in franchise history (and, indeed, probably ranks pretty high in NFL history as well).

To be fair, my list of the greatest Seahawks of all time was pretty solid for what it was.  But, it’s CLEARLY out of date now.  So, I thought I’d go back and compare what my list would be today vs. what it was nearly four full years ago.  Let’s go to town:

Quarterback

2011:  Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg, Jim Zorn
2014:  Russell Wilson, Matt Hasselbeck, Dave Krieg

You’re going to see a pattern here as we go forward:  better players from the current era will be pushing down players from previous eras.  It’s difficult to compare someone like Wilson – who is working on his third year in the pros – against someone like Hasselbeck who played for us for so much longer.  But, in this case, I’m going to keep it nice and simple:  Russell Wilson led us to three playoff appearances, two division titles, two #1 seeds, and one Super Bowl title (pending what happens in this year’s playoffs).  Wilson is a winner, and he’s the guy who’s starting for me in my hypothetical Greatest Seahawks Team Of All Time.

Running Back

2011:  Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner, Ricky Watters
2014:  Marshawn Lynch, Shaun Alexander, Curt Warner

I opted to throw out the numbers here.  If I went strictly by numbers, Shaun Alexander would still be the clear starter for this team.  9,429 yards and 100 TDs with the Seahawks for Alexander against 5,930 yards and 54 TDs with the Seahawks for Lynch.  The numbers say it’s a no-brainer.  But, I’m going with my heart on this one, and my heart says BEASTMODE!

Wide Receiver

2011:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Paul Skansi
2014:  Steve Largent, Brian Blades, Bobby Engram, Darrell Jackson, Joey Galloway, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin

So, the thing is, it’s going to be VERY difficult to overtake the top three (and damn near impossible to overtake the top receiver on my list, because Largent is my favorite), what with how this offense is constructed and executed.  Furthermore, I realize Skansi was a reach, but I’m not sure I had a whole lot to work with.  Also, with Golden Tate playing for the Lions now, he’s obviously stuck where he is, with no chance for advancement unless he – by some miracle – returns to the Seahawks.  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, if he sticks it out long term, could be a quick riser.  We’ll see where we are in another 3-4 years.  I could see someone like Baldwin topping out in the top 2 or 3.

Tight End

2011:  Itula Mili, John Carlson, Christian Fauria
2014:  Zach Miller, Itula Mili, John Carlson

The tight end position for the Seahawks throughout history is a vast wasteland of sadness.  Numbers might say that Jerramy Stevens deserves to be in the top 3, but numbers can suck my dick because Jerramy Stevens can suck my dick.  Zach Miller is a lynchpin for this offense who’s equal parts offensive lineman and soft-hands-pass-catcher.  He’s adorbs and I hope he gets well soon and sticks around another couple years.  I also hope someone like Luke Willson improves his catching ability, because I could see him being a fast riser here too.  It’s pretty sad that someone like Carlson is still hanging around on this list, what with how short his time was with us.

Fullback

2011:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams
2014:  Mack Strong, John L. Williams

While the fullback position is going the way of the dodo bird, I still got love!  And, while I think the world of Michael Robinson as a leader, a special teams stalwart, and a powerful lead blocker for Beastmode in previous seasons (before being forced into retirement and a new career in the media), there’s just no way his impact surpassed what Mack Strong and John L. Williams were able to do.  And, not for nothing, but I think those two names are going to be 1 & 2 on this fullback list for the duration of my lifetime.

Offensive Line

2011:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard
2014:  Walter Jones, Steve Hutchinson, Robbie Tobeck, Bryan Millard, Howard Ballard

So, the thing here is:  I’ve made a conscious decision to list a man for every spot along the line (as opposed to, say, listing the five best linemen regardless of where they played along the line).  That having been said, if I felt like cheating (or, if I had the power of some sort of god), I’d probably look to put Russell Okung in at right tackle (because, let’s face it, he nor anyone else will be supplanting hall of famer Walter Jones).  Max Unger is a curious omission, but quite frankly, he’s been too injured in his stint as this team’s starting center to get serious consideration.  An interesting case will be J.R. Sweezy.  If he sticks around and continues his trajectory of improvement, we could be looking at a switch at right guard.  But, for now, Sweezy’s a little too loose in pass protection to take over that spot.

Defensive End

2011:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Phillip Daniels
2014:  Jacob Green, Michael Sinclair / Jeff Bryant, Michael Bennett

Chris Clemons gets an honorable mention here.  I’ve split these up by first and second team.  Green & Sinclair are the clear 1 & 2 in Seahawks history and will be for the foreseeable future.  Michael Bennett jumps up into the second team because he’s been a force since his return and can pretty much do it all.  I opted to put him in with the ends because, to be honest, there are too many good defensive tackles, which you will see shortly.

Defensive Tackle

2011:  Cortez Kennedy, Joe Nash / Rocky Bernard, Sam Adams, John Randle
2014:  Cortez Kennedy, Brandon Mebane / Joe Nash, Rocky Bernard

The only reason Mebane was left off of my 2011 list is because he hadn’t quite played long enough, and because there was a question about whether he’d be sticking around long term.  Luckily for us, Carroll & Schneider saw fit to extend him, which has been a boon to our line.  You get a great sense of his value with him out of the lineup, as there are many things we just can’t do without him.  It has taken a rotation of 3-4 guys to try to make up for Mebane’s absence, which is about as impressive as it gets.

Also, can you IMAGINE what a defensive line would look like with a healthy Mebane in at nose tackle and an in-his-prime Cortez playing right alongside him?  Partner those two up with literally any of the defensive ends I’ve listed above and you’re talking about a powerhouse line on par with some of the best in the history of the NFL!

And, for the record, I understand going with a 3-man second team in 2011 was a total cop out.  Glad Mebane is here on this list to clean up my mess.

Linebacker

2011:  Chad Brown, Lofa Tutupu, Rufus Porter
2014:  Chad Brown, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright

So, yeah.  In my hypothetical defense here, I’m sticking with just the lone middle linebacker, but I’ve opted to essentially interchange who plays at outside linebacker.  In other words, I haven’t differentiated between strongside and weakside.  K.J. Wright’s primary position is weakside, but I THINK that’s where Brown played as well.  What puts Wright ahead of most other linebackers in Seahawks history is his versatility.  He can play all three spots, he’s been a stud since he joined the team, and he was just extended long term.  For the record, if I was picking linebackers regardless of position, Lofa certainly makes this list.  But, Bobby Wagner is lethal and should be for many more years than Tatupu.

Cornerback

2011:  Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant, Shawn Springs
2014:  Richard Sherman, Dave Brown, Marcus Trufant

This one is kind of irritating.  Right off the bat, Richard Sherman is the greatest cornerback we’ve ever had, full stop.  Dave Brown is a Ring Of Honor member and a VERY good corner in his own right.  Before Sherm came along, it was Dave Brown and everyone else a distant second.  Now, if I’m going by any cornerback who has ever put on a Seahawks uniform, then I’m looking at either Brandon Browner or Byron Maxwell over Trufant in a heartbeat (gun to my head:  I probably pick Maxwell because he can play inside and outside corner spots).  BUT, Trufant had a Ring Of Honor career in his own right, and Maxwell will only have a year and change as a starter before he moves on to another team (as the Seahawks surely won’t be able to afford to extend him).  And, not for nothing, but Trufant in his prime was as good as any other corner, so I don’t feel SO bad putting him third on this list.  Nevertheless, if the Seahawks do somehow find a way to squeeze blood from a stone and extend Maxwell, I’m coming back to this page and revising it immediately!

Safety

2011:  Kenny Easley, Eugene Robinson
2014:  Earl Thomas, Kenny Easley, Kam Chancellor

If I’m being 100% honest, I’m probably not splitting up Earl & Kam if I’m starting up this team.  But, I know I’m not the only one who wonders just what it would look like if Earl played alongside Kenny in his prime.  SICK!

Special Teams

2011:  Norm Johnson (Kicker), Rick Tuten (Punter), Steve Broussard (KR), Nate Burleson (PR)
2014:  Steven Hauschka (Kicker), Jon Ryan (Punter), Leon Washington (KR), Nate Burlson (PR)

I hope I’m not totally jinxing things, but I’m taking Hauschka as my all-time kicker.  Jon Ryan is sort of a no-brainer (he is, after all, the MVP of our hearts).  Leon Washington, while short in his time with us, made a HUGE impact (plus, let’s face it, the Seahawks don’t have a long and storied history with kickoff returners; also, Percy Harvin can suck it).  And the challengers to Nate Burleson’s throne never quite did enough (in this case, Joey Galloway – who didn’t last long as a return man – and Golden Tate – who was awesome, but is no longer with us, and wasn’t quite as dynamic).

So, there you have it.  A blog post for Thursday.  Giddyup.