There is a lot of justified talk this week – following the 42-7 smackdown against the Rams – that the Seahawks need wholesale changes. Blow the damn thing up! No one is off limits! (up to and including Russell Wilson … shh!)
And, yes, I get that, 100%. This year, in many ways, has been a huge disaster (only to be punctuated by a 9-7 or 8-8 finish and missing the playoffs for the first time in the Russell Wilson era). The second half of 2015 for Russ appears to be more of an anomaly than a sign of things to come. We’re still seeing the same issues with him (missing open receivers because he can’t see them, running himself into sacks and/or turnovers, throwing the ball beyond the line of scrimmage and/or behind the line of scrimmage for intentional grounding penalties). We’re also dealing with the same O-Line issues (penalties, early pressure, lack of a running game) and the same running back issues (injuries, lack of dynamism). Jimmy Graham appears to be useless outside of the red zone, the receivers after Doug Baldwin don’t appear to be making any improvements, and the second and third tight ends aren’t anything more than second and third tight ends.
And that doesn’t even touch on the aging and injury-prone defense.
On top of all of this, we’ve traded away a lot of good future picks to bring in guys like Sheldon Richardson and Duane Brown, in an effort to Win Now (which I very much approved of at the time; it’s unfortunate that they haven’t been enough to push this team over the edge). So, the only way to get those kinds of draft picks back is to trade down in the first round again (when you’re looking at a first round draft pick that will be the best we’ve seen since 2012, somewhere in the Top 20 to start out), or trade away some of our valuable stars (of which we don’t have many who aren’t currently injured or on bad contracts or both).
The Trade Russell talk is pretty dire, and most certainly a topic deserving of its own post (which I’ll probably get around to at some point, even though I can all but guarantee it will never happen in a million years … or at least not until he’s considerably older and/or whenever a new regime takes over), so I will proceed here under the assumption that Wilson will be on the Seahawks in 2018.
With that unpleasantness out of the way, I do agree that almost everyone else is on the chopping block. Probably NOT Bobby Wagner, who has the second-largest cap hit next year, with $5.2 million in dead money. Probably NOT Doug Baldwin, who has the fourth-largest cap hit next year, with almost $9.5 million in dead money. And probably NOT Justin Britt, who is set to only count a little over $6 million against the cap, but has almost $9 million in dead money.
There are some obvious moves I think the Seahawks will make, without question. Jimmy Graham is off the books after this season, and I think he stays that way. It was a nice idea, but that experiment was an unmitigated disaster. Sheldon Richardson is in the same boat; I think you let him walk and you accept the comp pick for 2019. There’s no way he’s worth a huge extension at his age and at what will be his price. Jeremy Lane only has $2.5 million in dead money, and was never meant to see 2018 in a Seahawks uniform anyway (unless it’s on a veteran minimum deal, but he would surely get more than that from another team).
Jon Ryan is currently set to have the 13th-highest cap number on the Seahawks next year, which is INSANE. He’s not only been one of the least-effective punters in football, but $3.2 million? Get the fuck right out. It’s insane that we’ve been trying to pinch pennies all season, as far up against the salary cap as you can get, and we’ve got a punter making this much money. Nice guy? I don’t give a shit. Good father? Fuck you. Go home and play with your kids.
Then, as sad as I am to say it, you’ve got guys like Kam Chancellor and Cliff Avril, who might not play another down in the NFL. And, if they do, they’ll definitely be at risk the next time they get hit to either go back on the IR or end up paralyzed. No one wants to see that. Cliff is set to make $8 million, but only has $500,000 in dead money, so I think that’s a no-brainer: cut him. Kam, on the other hand, is set to count $9.8 million against the cap, while having a dead money hit of $7.5 million. Let’s get back to him.
Richard Sherman has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $13.2 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $2.2 million. It feels like Seahawks fans are already shoving him out the door without giving much consideration to the fact that he’s impossible to replace. Let’s also get back to him in a minute.
Earl Thomas, as well, has 1 year left on his deal; he counts $10.4 million against the cap, with a dead money figure of only $1.9 million. If you cut both Sherm and Earl, that’s a TON of free money you get to play around with. But, again, another guy who’s impossible to replace.
Duane Brown is back in 2018 at a figure just under $10 million, with no dead money since he was acquired in trade. I don’t think it hurts you at all to keep him for another season, then make a decision on left tackle (groom George Fant to take his place in 2019 and beyond?).
Michael Bennett is an interesting case. He’s under contract through the 2020 season, set to count only a little over $8 million against the cap, with only a little over $5 million in dead money. You could argue that his 2018 season hasn’t been on par with his peak, and I would agree with you. But, I don’t feel like he’s been totally useless.
K.J. Wright is another interesting case. He’s only signed through 2018, and while his cap hit will be $8.2 million, his dead money is only $1 million. He missed the Rams game due to a concussion, so a lot of people are lumping him in with the “aging defense” that needs to be purged, but he really hasn’t been all THAT injury-prone in his career.
My point, with guys like Kam (if he is medically cleared to play again), Richard (assuming he makes a full recovery of his Achilles, which I think will happen), Earl, Duane, Bennett, and Wright, is that you don’t necessarily NEED to dump all these salaries right away. If you’re worried about extending Frank Clark, don’t be. The Seahawks will have more than enough money to keep him here for the long haul. If you’re worried about any of the other impending Seahawks free agents, I would ask why? What have they done to garner such concern? And, if you’re worried about having money to bring in other free agents, to bolster the O-Line or whatever, then I repeat: don’t. The Seahawks will have enough money coming off the books from the likes of Graham, Sheldon, Lacy, Joeckel, Walsh, Lane, Ryan, and any of the other turds on this team who don’t deserve to be back, that we should be fine to plug holes where needed.
But, I honestly don’t think we need to do a total rebuild. Not THIS offseason, anyway. I think, if you were to rid the Seahawks of every single big contract (outside of the aforementioned Russell, Bobby, Doug, and Britt), you only do that because you want to tank the 2018 season. And, if you’re doing that, then you might as well go all the way, trade EVERYBODY (including Russell Wilson), stockpile a billion draft picks, and start all over with a new rookie QB in 2019 with the first overall draft pick. But, I’ve never been much of a fan of the Cleveland Browns approach, and I don’t think you should be either.
I think the Seahawks should let it ride in 2018 (minus, of course, the obvious moves of letting go of Graham, Richardson, Lane, Ryan, Walsh, Lacy, Joeckel, Avril, and so on and so forth). I absolutely don’t think the Seahawks should be thinking about throwing around any extensions to any of our aging vets, and I think we use 2018 as a testing ground. If 2018 goes well, and the team improves, maybe we look on a case-by-case basis. For instance, I don’t hate the idea of extending Earl or Richard, if they make it through 2018 unscathed, as long as their next deals give us some easy outs in the event of future injury (particularly Earl, as I could see him eventually acquiring this neck/stinger issue that Kam’s dealing with right now).
And, if 2018 goes to shit, then I think you’re in a MUCH better position to drop all the vets, blow the thing up, and head into 2019 with a cleaner slate to start over through the draft and whatnot.
This is also contingent, of course, on not blowing your wad with 2018 free agents. Bringing in Sheldon Richardson in the first place – and giving away such a high draft pick – was only palatable because he was going to get us a huge compensatory draft pick in 2019. If we fuck that up, by spending a ton of money on high-priced free agents, then what was the point? Same goes for keeping Jimmy Graham around; he should get us at LEAST a 4th round comp pick, if not another 3rd. I WANT those comp picks!
And, for the love of God, stop trading away our draft picks for players! It should be the other way around, if anything! It was fine for 2017, as we were clinging to hope that our championship window could be extended. But, to double down on this terrible line of thinking would be a disaster. Kicking the can down the road is exactly what the New Orleans Saints did for so long, and they ended up with a bunch of 8-8/7-9 seasons as their reward. It wasn’t until they finally devoted themselves to rebuilding through the draft this past offseason when they were finally able to get back to division-winning football.
Let’s just … maintain. No huge splashes in free agency, no giving away draft picks for veterans, no free agency money PERIOD on the running back position, let the big money free agents walk so we can get some comp picks, cut off some of the fat, but save the rest of the fat to deal with after 2018, at which point we’ll be better prepared to set this team up for 2019 and beyond.