Normally, in the days & weeks following the end of a Seahawks season, after lamenting where it all went wrong, I’d look forward to see what the Seahawks could do to be even BETTER next year and go all the way.
Well, suffice it to say, this year is a little different. The Seahawks are the best team in football. They WON the Super Bowl. Granted, you’ll always accept your team getting a little better, even if they’re coming off of a season where they won it all, but in reality I’m not expecting other teams to magically become SO much better that we’d have to be any more improved than we were in 2013.
Essentially, what I’m saying here is: we just need to maintain the status quo.
If I could bring this same exact team back next year in its entirety, I would do it in a heartbeat. But, of course, that’s not going to happen. Guys are going to be getting raises. Free agents are going to command more money than we can spend under the salary cap. I’ve more or less gotten into that in a previous post, so I’ll use this space today to be a little more broad in my thinking.
For starters, I think we’re going to have to get younger along the offensive line. We’ve been blessed with another year with Tom Cable, so I suggest we put that time to good use. Michael Bowie and Alvin Bailey should be starting for this team in 2014. One of them (likely Bowie) should be our right tackle, and the other (likely Bailey) should be our left guard. I’m not saying we need to cut the cord with James Carpenter as of yet (let him duke it out for that left guard spot if need be), but we most certainly should cut the cord when it comes to McQuistan and Giacomini. The way I see it, we got by last year with more or less an average offensive line. I think we can replace those two veterans with younger guys and achieve the depth we need.
Before we get into what the Seahawks should do in the draft, I should remind everyone that we don’t have a third rounder (thanks to the Percy Harvin trade). In essence, we have two “high” draft picks (1st & 2nd), three mid-round picks (4th & two 5ths), and two late-round picks (6th & 7th). I don’t know if there will be any compensatory picks, nor do I know if we’ll be wheeling and dealing for more draft picks (though, you’d have to think we’ll trade back at least once to get some more guys).
For my money, I’d like to see this team address the offensive line just as they’ve been doing: late round picks & undrafted guys.
In those first couple of picks, I’d like to see this team go after two of the three following position groups: wide receiver, tight end, defensive line. At some point, this team is going to have to find a way to save money in these areas. We can’t keep over-paying Zach Miller forever, so if someone like ASJ falls to the end of the first round, I’d give him every opportunity to win this team’s starting tight end job. Between ASJ and Luke Willson, I think you’re set at that position (you can find a third tight end anywhere, for peanuts, if need be).
This team is also in need of cheaper big bodies among the defensive line. I think it’s wise to cut Clemons and re-sign Michael Bennett; I don’t think you lose a whole lot in your pass rushing abilities. I’m thinking more along the defensive tackle realm with this high draft pick. Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant won’t be around (and healthy) forever. I think you take a shot in this year’s draft AND next year’s draft to try to find replacements. If you can’t get two starting defensive tackles in three draft classes (including 2013’s, assuming Jesse Williams will be able to participate in football activities), then I don’t know what to tell you. All I know is, there is money to be saved in the defensive line, as the Seahawks spend the most in that position among any team in the NFL.
Also, I know everyone thinks we’re all set in the wide receiver department, but my question is: are we? Yes, we all assume Sidney Rice will be gone. That leaves Percy Harvin and Jermaine Kearse, with Doug Baldwin likely to be back and Golden Tate a free agent. Even if this team re-signs both Baldwin and Tate, there are two issues at play. First, that does nothing to improve your size at that position. Second, we will still need depth in a couple years when more decisions need to be made. Will Harvin ever play a full season? What if he comes back next year and only plays in half of the games? Odds are, this team will have to cut Harvin after three years regardless, because his contract is way too high and there will be other guys to better spend that money on. We need to keep re-stocking the back-end of this position, especially because it usually takes at least a couple years before a wide receiver really breaks through.
Yes, a tall, athletic receiver in the first or second round could be exactly what this team needs. And, if Tate happens to walk, then this position is in even more need!
So, in summation, the offense needs to supplant their two older free agent offensive linemen with the two rookies from 2013 (as well as replace the depth with low-end draft picks and undrafted free agents). The offense should try to re-sign both Tate & Baldwin if possible, while also looking to draft a tall, athletic receiver. The Seahawks should absolutely draft ASJ and – if they do – waive Zach Miller. The Seahawks need to stay away from adding any more running backs. And, I wouldn’t be opposed to bringing back Tarvaris Jackson as a backup QB if he’s willing.
Let’s move on to the defense now. Brandon Browner is gone. Walter Thurmond is most likely gone. That doesn’t decimate our starting secondary, as Byron Maxwell is still under contract, but it cuts into our depth a little bit. Jeremy Lane will be back as a nickel corner, which is a godsend. If we end up letting Thurmond walk, I’d recommend using one of our mid-round picks on another cornerback, because why not? If you’re thinking long-term, then you’re thinking Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are going to command huge salaries. Hopefully, they’ll get those salaries and hopefully the Seahawks are the team that pays them. If we assume 3/4 of our Legion of Boom will be here long term, then you have to assume that other 1/4 will be part of a rotating cast of characters. Like the Spinal Tap drummer, only hopefully less injury-prone.
What I’m getting at is: you can’t pay Sherman, Thomas, Chancellor, AND Maxwell huge salaries and think you’re going to get away with it. I think you have to let Maxwell go after his contract runs out. Which shouldn’t be a huge deal, as long as we’re able to draft guys and coach them up like we’ve coached up Maxwell and Co. But, to do that, you have to continuously draft guys and keep them on your roster until it’s their time to step up.
So, the Seahawks need a mid-round cornerback. They also need to get Earl Thomas extended. And, they could either try to extend Sherman now, or let his contract expire and try to deal with it after the season. I’d prefer to get everyone locked up all at once, but that might be a pipe dream.
With the linebackers, I don’t think you get too crazy. You leave Malcolm Smith in there on the weak side, you leave Bobby Wagner in there in the middle, and you put K.J. Wright back over to the strong side. Bruce Irvin probably needs to go back to the defensive line and tend to that LEO position (which will be vacated when we dump Clemons). It might be a good idea to pick up a mid-to-late round linebacker who is also a standout on special teams, because I don’t know how much longer you can keep paying Heath Farwell the money he deserves. With the veteran’s minimum increasing with every year he’s in the league, there’s some moderate savings to be had by picking up someone younger to go in his place.
Along the line, as I said before, I think you draft a defensive tackle. High if possible, but if no one is there, then in the mid rounds at least. I think you put Bruce Irvin in at the LEO defensive end position, as part of a rotation with Michael Bennett; when Irvin’s in there, you slide Bennett inside to rush from the tackle spot. I’d really love it if this team could find a way to keep Red Bryant, as I’ve gone into before, because that reduces the amount of turnover in a very volatile spot on the defense. If you assume Clinton McDonald gets more money elsewhere, I think we can still maintain some semblance of what we had in 2013.
Ideally doh, the D-Line looks like this:
- Michael Bennett
- Brandon Mebane
- Jordan Hill
- Red Bryant
- Bruce Irvin
- Cliff Avril
- Greg Scruggs (coming off of an IR’d 2013)
- Jesse Williams
- And a couple more guys for depth (either via the draft, or guys who recently signed futures contracts)
Also, there’s Tony McDaniel, but I don’t see him returning. I could see the Seahawks going after another Tony McDaniel “type” in free agency, though, playing for a minimal amount, and pushing Jesse Williams for a roster spot. Obviously, you can’t predict injuries and such, so I wouldn’t expect this to be the roster on Opening Day or anything, but this is essentially what I’d like to see as the plan for the Seahawks.
Again, in summation: the defense should draft for depth along the linebackers and cornerbacks positions in the mid-to-back end of the draft, they should draft in the upper area for defensive tackle, they should re-sign Michael Bennett and extend Thomas & Sherman, and they should figure out a way to keep Red Bryant around.
With Rice, Clemons, and Miller gone, as well as some of our pricier offensive linemen and depth guys, I would hope that would be enough to do all of the important things this team needs to do (new contracts for free agent receivers and defenders). Then again, this organization has been full of surprises from Day 1 since Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over, so this entire post is most likely going to be rendered pointless in a matter of time.