The Mediocre 90’s Ended With An Unlikely Seahawks Playoffs Apperance

I’ve been seriously negligent in my ongoing series of Seattle Playoff Futility, so thank you COVID-19 for killing sports and affording me the opportunity to wallow in the past. I’m effectively the human embodiment of this meme:

Also: I be shopping …

The 1990s were fucking HARD to be a Seahawks fan, especially for me. Which is a shame, because I was born in March of 1981, so they should’ve been smack dab in the epicenter of my wheelhouse. I was 7 years old in 1988 – the last time they made the playoffs before this year – and I remember very little about that time as a Seahawks fan, other than the fact that Steve Largent was my favorite professional athlete on the planet. But, he retired after the 1989 season, and it was all downhill from there (Largent would go on to a Congressional seat in Oklahoma by the time the Seahawks returned to the post-season in 1999).

Nevertheless, formative Steven A. Taylor caught the Seahawks bug coming out of the 80’s, which made the next ten years all the more tragic.

When you talk about the Worst People In Seattle Sports History, most others get overshadowed by the people involved in the Sonics going to OKC, but there’s a special wing in Sports Hell for Ken Behring (and owners of his ilk). He bought the team in 1988 – again, the last time the Seahawks made the playoffs – and he did everything to destroy this franchise from the inside out, so he could move them to Los Angeles in 1996.

It all started by disillusioning would-be Hall of Fame head coach Chuck Knox after the 1991 season, stripping personnel control away from the most-successful figurehead in franchise history to that point. Behring went on to hire Tom Flores, who had success with the Raiders in the early 80’s, but was well past his prime. It’s hard to tell who was more inept – the bumbling Flores, or the men he was charged with turning into professional football players – but the real losers were the fans, who had to watch the Seahawks from 1992-1994 go 14-34; including the absolute nadir in franchise history, when we went 2-14 in 1992 (as fate would have it, we weren’t even competent at LOSING, as we somehow managed to defeat the only other 2-14 team that season – the New England Patriots, IN Foxboro – to miss out on drafting Drew Bledsoe #1 overall, settling for the incomprehensibly-pedestrian Rick Mirer at #2).

As we got to the Dennis Erickson era from 1995-1998, my interest in rooting for the Seahawks took a serious nosedive. Thankfully, Paul Allen stepped up in 1997 to save the franchise and help get a new stadium built. That nevertheless didn’t stop this team from an endless string of middling finishes during this period:

  • 1995: 8-8
  • 1996: 7-9
  • 1997: 8-8
  • 1998: 8-8

Woof. There were some interesting players on those teams – future Hall of Famer Cortez Kennedy was wrecking fools on the D-Line, Joey Galloway was drafted and was easily the most-talented receiver we’d had since Largent, and Warren Moon was a gun-for-hire for those last two seasons at the tail-end of his career – but we were simply unable to put it all together for one reason or another (epitomized in a December game in 1998 against the Jets in Giants stadium, when Vinny Testaverde was clearly short of the goalline on a 4th down QB-sneak, yet the refs didn’t see him reach the ball over after the fact, resulting in the NFL re-instituting Instant Replay the next year; you could argue that lone play prevented us from making the playoffs and ultimately cost Erickson his job).

By the time 1999 rolled around, I was all but actively courting other NFL teams to root for (the Atlanta Falcons were a particular favorite of mine at the time). If it were easier (like today) to root for a team in another market, I’m sure I would’ve bailed long before. Paul Allen, to his credit, was quite a hands-off owner, but he knew when to step in at the right time. When it was clear that Mike Holmgren was available, Allen stepped in and hired him to be Head Coach and General Manager, unprecedented to that point in franchise history. And it worked! That move single-handedly kicked off the greatest run of Seahawks teams (until Allen turned around and hired Pete Carroll in 2010).

Even factoring in the disasterous Jim Mora season in 2009, from 1999 through 2019, the Seahawks made the playoffs 14 times in those 21 seasons (including 9 division championships, three Super Bowl appearances, and the one NFL championship I’ll never have to write about for this series).

What makes the 1999 season awkward to analyze is the fact that so many of the guys on this team were holdovers from the Erickson era (especially that 1998 team that came so close to breaking the futility streak). It’s brought into even starker perspective when you consider that first Holmgren draft was among the worst in franchise history (Lamar King, anyone?).

But, that team was weird in general. There were zero expectations heading in; we all figured there’d be at least ONE rebuilding season before Holmgren could tear everything down and build it back up again. Which made it all the more surprising when the 1999 Seahawks started out 8-2; they would go on to finish the season 9-7 and be improbable champions of the AFC West. Jon Kitna won the starting job and was a reasonably-capable Game Manager in his 15 games that season. Ricky Watters was an absolute stud for us at running back with over 1,200 yards rushing and another 387 yards receiving. Unfortunately, Joey Galloway – who should have THRIVED in a Mike Holmgren system – held out for half the season in a contract dispute and hardly made a dent that year when he did play (he would go on to be traded the next year for two first round picks, who would go on to be Shaun Alexander and Koren Robinson).

Obviously, backing into the playoffs is never a good thing (we were tied with the Chiefs at 9-7, but held the head-to-head tiebreaker by defeating them twice, including a Must Win matchup in Week 16 in the Kingdome), but considering it had been over a decade since our last post-season berth, beggars can’t be choosers.

Our reward was the #3 seed and a home Wild Card matchup against the 9-7 Miami Dolphins. All things considered, that was EASILY the cushiest of matchups that we could’ve gotten, considering the Titans – who would go on to lose in the Super Bowl to the Rams that year – were a 13-3 Wild Card team in the 4-seed, and the Bills were 11-5 as the 5-seed (Hello Music City Miracle!).

This was our first home playoff game since the 1984 season. It would also prove to be the last time Hall of Famer Dan Marino ever won a football game (the Dolphins would go on to be DESTROYED by the Jags the next week, 62-7).

But, Seahawks fans old enough to remember January 9, 2000, obviously remember this as the Trace Armstrong game.

Trace Armstrong was a … good defensive end. He played from 1989-2003; in five of those seasons he had double-digit sacks (and one of those seasons he was a Pro Bowler, in 2000, when he had a career-high 16.5). Sometimes he was great, sometimes he was mediocre, and obviously – because this is football – sometimes he was injured.

On January 9, 2000, however, he was a fucking WORLD DESTROYER!

Of his three sacks in the game, two of them came on third down (resulting in punts). His final sack came late in the fourth quarter, on a drive that would result in a punt (it resulted in a punt, because on third down, he stopped Kitna for a 1-yard gain to force yet another punt). But, even that doesn’t do his day justice. He was in Kitna’s face ALL DAMN DAY. If he wasn’t getting the sack, he was wreaking so much havoc that the guy next to him got it (Kitna was sacked 6 times total, 3 times in the fourth quarter, including twice on that all-important next-to-final possession).

On the final possession of the game, Kitna was 1 for 7 for 17 yards. This game outlined in great detail the need for improved offensive line play, as well as at the quarterback position (within two years, the Seahawks would go get Trent Dilfer, Matt Hasselbeck, and Steve Hutchinson – on top of eventual MVP Shaun Alexander – to really solidify things on the offensive side of the ball).

The Seahawks had so many chances to win this game. They were up 10-3 at half, and then 17-10 midway through the third quarter after a kickoff return for a touchdown. The offense couldn’t do jack shit in the second half, though. Aside from that kickoff return, we went 3 & Out, 5 & Out, 6 & Out, 3 & Out, and that final 7-play drive that ended on Downs; we moved the ball a total of 27 yards of offense and another 22 yards of defensive pass interference on one play. That’s just never going to get the job done.

Jon Kitna was 14/30 for 162, 1 TD and 2 INTs; Dan Marino wasn’t much better (17/30 for 196, 1 TD and 0 INTs), but he was only sacked one time and obviously didn’t make the mistakes Kitna made. In the end, it was a workmanlike 20-17 victory for the Dolphins, in the final game the Seahawks would ever play in the Kingdome (indeed, the final event the Kingdome ever hosted!).

All of that turmoil being said, as you could see by the thrashing the Jaguars gave to the Dolphins the very next week, there’s no way in HELL the Seahawks would’ve advanced any further. So, would you rather lose in a semi-heartwarming way to a beloved figure like Dan Marino? Or, would you like to be murdered and have your corpse micturated upon by Hitler and The Devil after ass-fucking you for three consecutive hours? Kind of a harsh image to put on a team like the Jags, but you get the idea.

Better days would be ahead for the Mike Holmgren-led Seahawks, but of course, not before a few more instances of utter heartbreak.

So, How Are We All Doing Without Sports?

Getting tired of watching all these scheduled re-runs they’re playing on TV yet?

I’ll admit it, I got a kick out of seeing some of the classic NCAA Tournament games last week when I was hungover, but there’s only so much enjoyment to be gleaned from something where you know the outcome. Hungover – my brain working at 1/3 capacity – it’s fine. The rest of the time, ehh …

Other than the Tourney, March is a pretty dry month for me, sportswise. I don’t follow a Sonics-less NBA, I haven’t bought into the NHL yet (pending the upcoming Seattle Whatevers, who still don’t have a team name for some reason even though they’re set to start next year), and MLB would JUST be getting underway as of last Thursday.

I guess my point is, from a sports perspective, it still hasn’t totally sunk in yet. I’m more or less FINE without sports. NFL Free Agency is interesting enough to write about on a regular basis, whenever there’s something new to report. But, otherwise I feel okay without anything on TV!

Of course, the longer this goes, the more squirrelly I’m sure I’ll be. Let’s face it, the vast majority of NFL Free Agency moves have come already; sure, there will be names to trickle in over the next few months. But, now we’re squarely on DRAFT PREP, though the NFL Draft itself doesn’t take place until late April.

Sure, watching sports is fun and a nice escape, but it’s the daily conversation – gobbling up new information, reading all the studies from the stats nerds – that really makes it a passion. We’re obviously seeing less and less of that, because nothing’s going on to talk about, and you can really only reflect on past events for so long before it gets tedious. I love listening to old games with Dave Niehaus as much as the next guy, but you know.

Gotta pursue some other hobbies! It’s the nightmare scenario for a lot of people, but if you’ve ever been interested in something that you thought you just didn’t have the time for … well, NOW’S THE TIME!

I clearly don’t have a lot to say today, so I’ll let it go. Hang in there, everyone! We’ll get through this somehow!

Mariners’ Opening Day Came & Went With No Baseball

Yesterday was supposed to be Opening Day for Major League Baseball. We had tickets to the Mariners hosting the Rangers, but of course that didn’t happen. Nothing’s happened in quite some time!

Here’s a great article on where things stand now. At this point, we’re looking at no baseball until June as a BEST-case scenario. Even then, we’re still talking about playing games in front of no fans; like those shitty bands in dive bars who only play for the other bands and their significant others. Then, there’s all the behind-the-scenes employees who might be looking at furloughs after April (an industry – worth billions, that will CERTAINLY bounce back after all this – that can’t bring itself to continue paying these people indefinitely is everything that’s wrong with the world); shit’s BLEAK!

As a Mariners fan, this is probably the worst non-baseball event to happen since 9/11 (I’ll never forget how that 2001 team lost so much momentum with the two weeks off that September, and how it might’ve cost us a shot at getting to the World Series). We all know this team was going nowhere this year, but 2020 was/is absolutely CRITICAL for developing the next crop of disappointments possible stars who will just get injured and be out of the league in the next three years anyway might break the streak and get this team to within a game or two of the second wild card spot before fucking it up in the end to all of our eternal dismay back into the post-season (will someone get that Debbie Downer out of here and let me finish this blog post?!).

The point is, we NEED baseball to be played! As much of it as possible! Otherwise, a timeline that was generously set for this team to start looking competitive by 2021 (realistically, we were always looking at 2022 for this team to contend, as a legitimate best-case scenario) gets pushed back a year. And with it, a year of service time for all of these prospects we need to be looking at, working with, and teaching up!

On the other hand, we’re coming upon the 20th anniversary of the last time the Mariners made the playoffs (Why Do We Put Ourselves Through This?). Disappointment in all things baseball is like a hard, crusty callous that’s enveloped our hearts. Of course M’s fans will make it through this mostly intact! We’ve all secretly stitched the phrase Same Shit, Different Day into the folds of all our team merch. The people who are REALLY feeling this are the true contenders. If you’re in Win Now mode, you’ve got to be freaking out! Just when we thought the Astros were knocked down a peg – and thus the World Series looked wide open – now we’re looking at a likely-truncated season, with an outside shot of no season whatsoever.

It’ll be interesting to see what that truncated season might look like. I get the idea of playing into October (although, Jesus, the number of late-season rainouts will surely soar!), and I actually like the idea of more planned double-headers, but there’s just no way to come close to playing the full slate of games in 2/3 of the time! And here’s the thing: the 162-game season is the great equalizer; you rarely see a team go all the way that doesn’t REALLY deserve it. The cream ALWAYS rises to the top (same way it does in the NBA). You can argue it’s that way across all sports (except hockey), but every once in a while you’ll see an NFL team shock the world (at the very least, you frequently see NFL teams go from worst-to-first in their divisions).

But, we’ve all seen those baseball teams that play hot through 2/3 of the season, before coming down to Earth as their lack of talent/depth reveals them for the frauds that they’ve been. I mean, shit, at least a few of those have been Mariners teams the last 20 years, who tantalized us for a while, before the inevitable swoon.

In a short season, there could be real chaos! We could see an unlikely team not only make the playoffs, but manage to get hot at the right time and go all the way!

We won’t get to see any of that, though, if this thing doesn’t get under control and we don’t return to some semblance of normalcy. I’ve left my house, I think, twice in the last 2+ weeks. My poor car has sat un-driven for so long. I’m not NOT going crazy, is the point.

Come back soon, baseball! I need to be predictably crushed by the weight of the Mariners failing to live up to even the most modest of expectations! I need to feel something nothing again!

Germain Ifedi Signs A 1-Year Deal With The Bears

I dunno, I think it’s news when a former Seahawks first-round draft pick signs with another team.

I can’t think of this year’s free agent market for offensive linemen off the top of my head, but I don’t remember it being particularly robust. Seemed like an average year; maybe fewer top-tier guys than usual, but not a crazy outlier or anything. Anyway, as has been discussed ad nauseam, the O-Line market tends to be pretty lucrative, because there’s not enough good ones to go around. So, even if you’re semi-competent, you seem to get many more millions of dollars than would seem fiscally responsible.

George Fant, for instance, was a guy who started all of 24 games across four years (who also, not for nothing, missed the entirety of the 2017 season with a torn ACL); he was mostly a blocking tight end for the last two years with the Seahawks. AND, he was a basketball player primarily in college, until his final year when he played, again, tight end. The Jets just gave him a 3-year deal for $27.3 million deal and a wink-wink guarantee to be their starting left tackle (arguably the most important position on the offensive line).

I mean, I like him, and I wish him all the best, but that’s a pretty big leap for a guy with not a lot of experience.

Whereas Ifedi has started 60 games across four years (who has never had a serious injury to speak of). Now, obviously granted, he had to play right out of the gate as a rookie, and got his ass handed to him on the regular for the first couple seasons of his professional career, but he was never a tight end; he played LINE. He started at right tackle primarily the last few years and made serious strides in his development over 2018 & 2019.

Knowing what we know about the needs across the league, combined with how difficult it is for college linemen to come in and start right away as rookies (what with all the spread offenses, on top of them simply being under-sized and under-skilled), I fully expected the market for Ifedi’s services to be HIGHER than Fant’s, or at the very least on par.

Instead, he’s signing a 1-year deal with the Bears (for a currently-undisclosed amount), where it sounds like he’ll have to slide over to right guard (probably the LEAST-valuable spot on an O-Line). I don’t get it.

I mean, yeah, he’s always had trouble with penalties, and he’ll still get beat on occasion. But, it seems like there was still room for growth there! Now, who knows, maybe he was always meant to be a guard. He’s certainly got the size and brute strength to be one (while not necessarily being as fleet of foot as you’d like for a tackle), but it kinda feels like a give-up move. Tackles are so much more valuable; you’d think if he was going to take a 1-year deal, he’d go somewhere where he could at least stick at tackle! I dunno, maybe his agent sucks.

All hope isn’t lost, of course. If he goes in there at guard and really kills it, he can certainly earn a top-notch contract next year; there are always teams who will over-pay for guards. But, you REALLY have to stand out as one of the very best in the game; whereas – as Fant has proven – you don’t need to do a whole lot to get paid as a tackle (granted, he looks to be a left tackle, but still).

If I thought the Seahawks were in line for any compensatory picks next year, I’d probably be (WAY) more upset, but obviously we’ve signed so many street free agents that it’s just not gonna happen. Nevertheless, I kinda feel bad. The Seahawks are always maligned for their offensive line play, so I always like it when one of our guys (like James “Pancakes” Carpenter, like Mark “Mark” Glowinski, like George “College Basketball Player” Fant) hits the open market and gets paid. It’s a signifier – to Seahawks fans, if nothing else – that our guys really aren’t that incompetent, and they get unfairly criticized by the national media. A bigtime Ifedi deal might’ve been the biggest feather in our caps, as he’s been a fucking WHIPPING BOY for both the national media and most of the local fans alike. This deal has to give us all pause and reflect, “Oh yeah, he did kinda suck most of the time, didn’t he?”

I don’t think that’s necessarily fair, but apparently the market has spoken! So, here’s to hoping he’s able to really stick it to everyone this season, and gets what he deserves in 2021!

The Seahawks Continued To Shore Up Depth By Signing Phillip Dorsett

I honestly can’t remember the last time I’ve been this excited about the Seahawks’ free agency period. 2013 sounds like such a sucker answer, but it might be true!

The old adage, of course, is you build your NFL team through the draft, and you use free agency and the like to fill in any cracks. And, for a while, the Seahawks were the model of efficiency in that department. But, it’s IMPOSSIBLE to continue to hit with the success rate that the Seahawks ran from 2010-2012; indeed, as soon as 2013 we started seeing them fall woefully short in the draft, and therefore needing to rely more and more on crazy trades and trolling the bottoms of the seven seas for washed-up, has-been free agents on their last legs (due in large part to salary cap constraints, thanks to some of those trades, as well as extending our superstar draft picks from 2010-2012).

Through it all, coaching and Russell Wilson have kept this team afloat, as they’ve continued to stretch all they can get out of their salary cap dollars. But, this is the first year since 2013 where the Seahawks have had significant money to spend (and, indeed, there are more moves they can and will make to improve upon that amount), and I’ve never been happier with the results.

I’ve harped on it enough, but we all knew heading into the offseason where the major holes were/are on this team:

  1. Pass Rush/Defensive Line
  2. Offensive Line
  3. Secondary
  4. Offensive Weapons

I would say the Seahawks have had a nice START to filling out the #1 priority, but obviously there are a lot of things that can happen in that arena between now and the start of Training Camp. Multiple holes opened up on a pretty solid offensive line, thanks to injuries and free agency; and I’d say the Seahawks did the best they could with the resources they had available, to shore that up and at least maintain the level of consistency we’ve seen in 2018 & 2019. I would argue there isn’t a ton the Seahawks could do with the secondary, but the trade for a potentially-elite cornerback has to sit pretty well for most Seahawks fans. As for the offensive weapons, we’ve seen minor deals for tight ends – Greg Olsen, Luke Willson, and Jacob Hollister – but nothing in the receiver market.

Until yesterday, when it was announced Phillip Dorsett was signed to a 1-year deal.

Dorsett was a first round pick by Indy in 2015, and has largely been considered to be a disappointment. To that, I would say Andrew Luck missed half his games as a rookie with various injuries; Dorsett had a better 2016, but of course played second-fiddle to T.Y. Hilton. He was then traded to the Patriots for Jacoby Brissett. In 2017, he was way down the depth chart (behind Brandin Cooks, Gronk, and their bevy of running back targets), and in 2018 he was behind James White, Gronk, Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, and others. He finally got a shot in 2019, but still was way behind Edelman and White.

Plus, let’s face it, the Patriots’ passing game was atrocious last year. Tom Brady’s arm has about had it, their offensive line frequently forced him to rush his throws, and in all honesty Brady over the last few years has been CONSTANTLY looking for the check-down pass as a means to avoid being hit. Yeah yeah yeah, Brady’s the G.O.A.T. or whatever, but I don’t blame Dorsett for Dorsett not breaking out in that offense. Brady is a My Way or The Highway kind of guy at this point in his career; he’s not making the receivers around him better, he’s demanding you get on his wavelength, or he’ll find someone else who does.

Russell Wilson, by contrast, is smack-dab in the prime of his career. He’s the best deep-ball passer in football. Dorsett is entering a situation with one of the three best QBs in football, where he doesn’t HAVE to prop up a shaky offense. There are other weapons! Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf are the top two receivers on this team; they will continue to be that for the foreseeable future. On top of which, the Seahawks are one of the more-balanced teams in football; we’re not throwing the ball 40 or 50 times a game. Dorsett, in all likelihood, won’t see much more than 50 or 60 targets in 2020; but I can damn near guarantee he’ll put up better numbers than he ever has.

He’s fast, he’s being put alongside two other very fast guys in Lockett and Metcalf, which means he’ll see primarily single-coverage from defenses. I don’t know about his leaping, or his ability to go up and high-point a football, but I like his chances in any one-on-one situation, especially since he almost certainly won’t have to face the opposing team’s best, shutdown cornerback. Regardless, if he can run fast, Wilson shouldn’t over-throw him very often. I expect a high yards-per-catch average, and I expect him to grab anywhere from 6-10 touchdowns, probably somewhere around 500 yards or so.

Bottom line is he’ll be better than Jaron Brown, David Moore, and anyone else who’s been on this team in recent years as this team’s #3.

This is the sort of depth I’m talking about. Dorsett was never going to succeed in that Pats offense last year as their designated #2; but he will THRIVE as the Seahawks’ #3. And, with that success, it wouldn’t shock me to see him revive his career moving forward.

I have to imagine it was hard for him on the Pats. So much of football – especially the skill positions – is about confidence. Guys always talk a big game, but they also need to be put in spots to succeed, and I don’t think that was ever going to happen in New England, not even with Brady. But, it certainly CAN happen here.

A+ signing in my book. Most importantly, the Seahawks don’t necessarily have to worry about drafting a receiver now. Frankly, I don’t think the Seahawks need to draft anyone on the offensive side of the ball, period, except maybe a running back in the later rounds. That makes this year’s free agency period particularly exciting for me. While I’m sure the Seahawks will be pretty defense-heavy in the draft, they’re also more-or-less free to simply draft the Best Player Available.

If that BPA just so happened to be a quality offensive tackle who could learn under Duane Brown for the next couple years, all the better, but that’s neither here nor there.

The Seahawks Traded For Quinton Dunbar (Isn’t That Enough For You?!)

The Seahawks had a BIG need to improve their cornerback play. I don’t know if this will do the trick or not, but it’s a nice step in the right direction.

We traded a 5th rounder to the Redskins, which sounds like a steal according to reports. 2020 will be his sixth season in the league, which will see him making just over $3 million (the final year of his current deal). He’s 6’2 and coming off of the best season of his career (he was one of the higher-rated cornerbacks, depending on where you look).

But, of course, there’s a catch. With the type of production he had last year (4 picks and 8 passes defended in 11 games), he’s already demanded a trade or a raise from the Redskins, so presumably he won’t be happy playing for just under $3.5 million from ANY team. Also, not for nothing, but his last two seasons – really his only seasons as a starting cornerback – ended prematurely with leg/hamstring injuries. When you factor in the relatively small sample size, combined with what I’m expecting to be a pretty high demand for a contract extension, you can see why this might blow up in our faces.

Does he show up to play? Does he hold out into the regular season? Any pre-season holdouts will significantly hamper his value, as he’ll need that time to learn our system. Or, do we sign him to an early extension right away? That could be great! But, what if he doesn’t fit our system? What if injuries creep into play? And, what if recent Pro Bowler Shaquill Griffin – who, himself, is heading into his first opportunity to nab an early extension (he’s set to earn just over $2 million in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal) – ends up disgruntled that the Seahawks opted to reward a newcomer (arguably a less-accomplished newcomer, compared to Griffin, who has started all three years) before him?

There are just SO MANY WAYS this can go haywire!

Look, in a bubble, obviously it’s a great deal. Just like we did with Quandre Diggs in the middle of the 2019 season, we were able to flip a fifth round pick for a quality starter in our secondary. But, there are so many other things that can happen (and we still have to either sign Clowney or another elite defensive end to help round out our front seven), that it all feels a little daunting. I’m not saying I regret it happening; but I’m saying there’s still a lot to be done in just this situation alone to make being excited about the 2020 Seahawks defense more palatable.

In that aforementioned bubble, of course, is the fact that Dunbar probably takes over immediately for Tre Flowers. Dunbar also has experience playing the slot, if it comes to that. I’ll be honest, I don’t HATE Flowers, but I think he got thrown to the wolves a little bit as a rookie (converting from safety to corner for the first time in his career), and unfortunately I don’t think he quite made as much progress as we’d hoped for in Year 2. He had a particularly brutal run in the playoffs that had a lot of people calling for his head. I think those wishes have been granted, to an extent. But, I also don’t think we’ve seen the last of him. Shaquill Griffin had an up & down rookie season, then struggled mightily in his second year (flipping from the right side to the left side of the defense, with Richard Sherman leaving), but he made a big leap last year, his third season. Well, it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Tre Flowers did the same thing.

The only question I want to worry about with the Seahawks is who plays the right side, and who plays nickel? I’d like happy players, under reasonable contracts, to take all other concerns off my plate. Because, if we can get THERE (and, of course, if we can continue to improve our pass rush), then I’ll be willing to let my excitement level bubble over.

The Seahawks Signed Chance Warmack & No Other Stuff Happened

Another offensive lineman! I guess this year’s draft is a piece of shit when it comes to the O-Line, so the Seahawks are going hard in free agency to hedge some bets.

I guess I took more stock in D.J. Fluker’s status as a starting guard a little more seriously as I should’ve. Granted, Warmack sounds more like a left guard, but then how do you explain B.J. Finney’s 2-year deal? Unless Finney really is going to vie for the starting center job with Joey Hunt.

The point is, I guess the Seahawks have a lot of options, all across the board. Duane Brown locks down the left tackle spot. Warmack and Finney might compete for left guard with youngsters Jamarco Jones, Ethan Pocic, and Phil Haynes. Hunt, Pocic, and Finney might compete for center (with Britt MAYBE, but I doubt he’ll be around). Then, you’ve got Fluker, Finney, and the youngsters also going after the right guard spot. And, finally, there’s Brandon Shell, Cedric … Ogbuehi, and I don’t know who else going after the right tackle spot (though, I feel pretty secure in anointing Shell at this point, based on his experience).

I think this is all good. I feel MUCH more comfortable going with veteran re-treads over rookies any day, but there’s enough potential here to build something better than average. The holdovers are all either great (Brown) or solid (Hunt, Jones, Fluker), with the new depth holding limitless possibilities (particularly Warmack and Shell; Finney to a lesser extent), and some of the younger guys having a lot of promise (everyone seems high on Haynes, and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to totally quit Pocic, especially if he’s the center).

Depth! Depth at a critical position of need on a team where it’ll make a world of difference. We all know Russell Wilson can manage without a top notch O-Line, but he’s unlocked and allowed to go off when he’s got even a modicum of protection. He thrives, the running game thrives, and the offense as a whole is really free to do its thing.

These are also relatively cheap deals, meaning there’s still a significant reserve of funds available (especially with a few key roster cuts) to bolster the defense. As a plus, this frees us up in the draft to go hard after some high-risk/high-reward defenders. Considering where we’re picking (27th overall) and considering where our D-Line ranked last year, I think it’s time to roll the dice again. They’re not all Malik McDowells! Sometimes they’re Frank Clarks! I mean, as I write that, it doesn’t sound totally great, but on the field Clark was a beast and that’s what I’m talking about here! Finding a beast in this year’s draft who maybe didn’t allegedly do … things, you know what? Nevermind. Whatever the Seahawks want to do, or not do. Whatever.

No one said it was easy being a sports fan.

The Seahawks Brought Back Bruce Irvin (And Yes, Other Stuff Happened Too)

So far we’ve seen a lot of little moves to fill in the cracks on this roster, so if you’re waiting for your needle to move one way or the other, settle in, because it could be a while.

Bruce Irvin is moderately interesting, because he’s a former Seahawk returning to the team that drafted him (then refused to extend him to a big-money deal when he became a free agent, but that’s neither here nor there). Also, he’s a guy who’s proven to be able to get to the quarterback, albeit again, moderately. Last year was his career-best in sacks, and it was still only 8.5 (which would’ve easily led the Seahawks last year, but that’s not saying much; I damn near led the Seahawks in sacks last year!). He’s a complementary piece. In theory, you could play him every down, but at his age and size, he’s probably more of a rotational guy. I would anticipate him seeing a lot of time at the LEO end spot where Cliff Avril made his living.

If we’re rolling with the assumption that the Seahawks are just going to re-sign Clowney (which is where it looks like things are trending, as he wasn’t among the first wave of free agents to snap up huge gobs of money), as they also re-signed Reed the other day, then Bruce Irvin is the first REAL addition to this defensive line. How does that make you feel? I’m pretty happy with it, because he’s leaps and bounds better than 2019 Ziggy Ansah; but so is a corpse. 6 extra sacks is nothing to sneeze at, though, so I’ll take it.

Of course, if the Seahawks fail (or just opt NOT) to re-sign Clowney, then obviously we’re in trouble. Again, we just have to wait and see how the full picture presents itself.

***

The most entertaining bit of news was the Tweet that read, “Tedric Thompson has been given permission to seek a trade.” Oh REALLY?! I actually heard that he’s been given permission to go and fuck the hell off of this team! I would die if the Seahawks actually managed to snag ANYTHING in return for someone who has been one of the bigger busts in recent Seahawks draft history (Malik McDowell notwithstanding). Anyway, it’s exciting knowing that T2 will be out of my life relatively soon.

After the Irvin signing, it was announced the Seahawks signed Brandon Shell for 2 years and $11 million. He’s presumably here to take over for Germain Ifedi, which makes sense because giving Ifedi a large contract can NOT be within our budget this year. While I’ll miss all the false starts and holding penalties, I won’t … uhh, yeah. Ifedi, you were always there. That’s something, I guess.

Shell was a fifth round pick in 2016 and has pretty much been a starter for the Jets since 2017. He’s had a few injury issues, but it doesn’t look like a chronic problem. With the dearth of offensive line talent, it’s curious that the Seahawks were able to sign him so cheap. Feels like a bad sign to me (especially since the Jets clearly valued George Fant over him). Then again, you could easily make the argument that damn near anyone would be an improvement over Ifedi (even though I thought he made a lot of progress the last two years).

On the heels of the Shell signing, the Seahawks also picked up Cedric Ogbuehi (a name I’m going to dread having to look up how to spell every fucking time I write about him). He was a first round pick in 2015 and absolutely flamed out of Cincinnati after two terrible years as a starter. He was a backup for the Jags last year and seems likelier to just compete for a roster spot rather than the starting right tackle job. At 1 year and a little over $3 million, I guess you have to like the potential of a first-round talent (the Seahawks sure do!), but I’m not holding my breath on this guy.

One bit of interesting news was that the Seahawks opted to not tender Jordan Simmons (an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning no team could’ve signed him away from us had we tendered him). So, he reverts to a full-blown free agent now. Word on the street is that the Seahawks could still try to bring him back, at a lower salary (likely more incentive-laden, given his myriad injury issues); but, I mean exclusive-rights free agents aren’t all that expensive in the first place, so he’s probably gone. Which is a bummer, because when he’s healthy, he’s got REAL potential to start at either guard spot.

Finally, in non-Seahawks news, Todd Gurley was cut by the Rams! They’ve made a mockery of their salary cap situation for a couple years now, with that Gurley contract a prime instigator. He’s clearly not worth all the money they gave him (which was a deal obviously based on past performance), he’s apparently got some sort of degenerative knee issue that’s going to blow up on him at any time now … but he’s still really talented. The Rams really worked him like a dog his first four years, but they scaled him way back in 2019, so at the very least he should be fairly fresh in the short term. I would expect at least two really good years out of him before you’re white-knuckling it.

Of course, to bring it back to the Seahawks, there’s obviously rumors flying that we’d be interested in taking a flier on Gurley. I would anticipate a lot of other teams have similar interest as well, and I just can’t support signing ANY running back to a hefty contract (even if it’s not as insane as the one the Rams gave him). That being said, a backfield with Gurley, Carson, Penny (eventually) and Homer? I would NOT throw that running back room out of bed for eating crackers!

The Seahawks Signed B.J. Finney & Other Stuff

2 years, $8 million. We’re talking about a guy who was never really a starter – though he started a few games here and there – but how good can he be? He was a 4-year backup for the Steelers, which right off the bat, they usually strike me as a good offensive line team. So, you know, that beats picking up some scrub from the Cardinals or Seahawks or something.

It looks like this guy is either going to be a left guard or center, though I suppose he could flop over to right guard in a pinch (but I don’t know if I see Fluker going anywhere). It just so happens with Iupati a free agent, and Britt a likely cap casualty, the Seahawks have a very real need for both of those positions. Also, with the dearth of talent along our defensive line demanding the most of our salary attention, the Seahawks have a very real need for CHEAP alternatives at left guard and center. 2 years, $8 million is pretty cheap for a starting offensive lineman (on top of whatever Joey Hunt gets for his original-round tender, assuming no other team snaps him up).

Now, whether Finney is actually good enough to start at offensive line remains to be seen. He’s listed at 6’4, 318, so presumably he isn’t going to be pushed around. I think ideally you’d love to play him at center over guard, but that’s mostly due to the Vietnam-style flashbacks we all experience whenever we imagine Joey Hunt being shoved back into Russell Wilson’s face like he’s wearing a pair of roller skates. But, then that means we’re paying $2+ million for Hunt to be a backup, which doesn’t seem likely. That would also necessitate the Seahawks picking up yet another guy to play left guard (because there’s no way Hunt is the ideal body type for that spot), which will only cost us more money.

So, for now, it looks like Duane Brown, B.J. Finney, Joey Hunt, D.J. Fluker, TBD, from left to right.

The plus side, of course, is that if Finney proves himself, then the Seahawks just signed a STEAL to be their starting left guard for the next two years. For what it’s worth, from the potential value alone I like this deal more than I like the one for Jarran Reed on the other side of the ball (though Reed’s production will likely prove to be more critical if this team is going to return to the playoffs in 2020). Finney doesn’t strike me as a guy with any significant injury issues, so that’s a step up from an old fart like Iupati (and Fluker, for that matter, and every other interior lineman on this roster to boot). If he ends up being legitimately great, then who knows? Maybe we’ve landed on our Left Guard Of The Future!

***

In other news, I guess Quinton Jefferson signed with the Bills. He’s a fine rotational piece, but as one of the premiere linemen for the Seahawks last year, he wasn’t good enough. So, spending any real resources whatsoever would’ve been money poorly spent. I wish him well on a Bills defense that looks like it’ll be even more stacked than it was last year (as a legitimate top 10 or top 5 unit in the league).

Also going to the Bills: Stefon Diggs (thank Christ!). If he was disgruntled in Minnesota with a dumpy, inaccurate, mediocre guy throwing to him, just wait until he gets a load of Josh Allen! There’s no way the Vikings didn’t do this on purpose! I wouldn’t be shocked if they turned down a significantly-better deal elsewhere just to ship Diggs off to Siberia to play for this generation’s Rick Mirer!

Finally, because I guess it has to be talked about by everyone: Tom Brady is going to Tampa. I want it on the record that I called this last year, when people were starting to talk about where he might go if he ever left New England. Of course, I never believed in a million years that he’d actually LEAVE New England, but that’s neither here nor there. He struck me as such a Bruce Arians-type of quarterback (old, white, used-to-be-successful-but-is-now-sorta-washed-up) that after a year with Jameis throwing 30+ interceptions, he’d back the Brinks truck up in front of Brady’s house! And with that offense, I wouldn’t be shocked to see Brady’s numbers skyrocket (he’s making me seriously re-think my fantasy football keepers for next year, I’ll tell you that much).

That all being said, I don’t necessarily believe the Bucs are automatically a playoff team. We’ll see if their defense shows up. We’ll also see if their offensive line holds up (because if Brady gets hurt, it could get ugly in a hurry). I would also caution tossing any dirt on the grave of the Patriots (though I find the idea of Cam Newton playing there to be endlessly entertaining).

The Seahawks Re-Signed Jarran Reed & Other Stuff From Legalized Tampering Period Glory

You know, I mean, there’s nothing stopping the NFL from just saying that March 16th was the start of Free Agency. Why go through all the rigmarole? If the day coincides with a billion Tweets about so and so getting traded or extended or signing elsewhere, just make THAT day the day!

Anyway, yeah, yesterday was the start of the Legal Tampering Period, which is like The Purge for NFL free agency (mostly because Bill O’Brien likes to crush the hopes and dreams of Houston Texans fans on an annual basis in the most brutal, blood-spattering way possible). I mean, seriously, how does he still have a job?! Moreover, how is HE in charge of that team’s personnel? What kind of owner would allow this man to trade a Hall of Fame wide receiver for ANYTHING let alone the peanuts he got in return from the Cardinals?! Has anyone checked on Bob McNair’s widow to make sure she’s still conscious?

MA’AM, ARE YOU IN ANY DANGER? WHAT IS BILL O’BRIEN DOING TO YOU?!

I mean, it’s not JUST that he traded DeAndre Hopkins to the Cardinals, but yeah that certainly chaps my ass! It’s the fact that someone who clearly is out WAY over his skis is allowed to run an entire franchise into the ground in a futile attempt to preserve his own job for one more year, without taking long-term ramifications into play. I’m as mad about the Texans as I am about the Knicks or the Redskins or the Seattle Fucking Mariners, but that’s neither here nor there.

As if the Seahawks’ secondary didn’t already need a ton of help just to return to some semblance of competence; now we’ve got to face the most talented receiver on the planet two times a year. Fuck me.

Anyway, Jarran Reed! Woo.

Look, I’m fine with it. It’s fine. He had a down year in 2019, which apparently brought his price down to only $23 million over 2 years. (Only!) There isn’t a ton of risk here, because it’s such a short duration; so, if he sucks, he’s not our problem for long. But, there’s next-to-no upside either. If Reed returns to his 2018 form where he had 10.5 sacks, then that’s awesome in the short term, but doesn’t really buy us anything in two years when he’ll be looking for a huge, max contract.

It’s not a sexy deal, it’s kinda underwhelming, so what did I really expect from the Seahawks at the onset of free agency? This is what we do. I’m sure I’ll talk myself into it at some point – probably when the picture is clearer and I can visualize who Reed will be playing alongside – but in a vacuum it’s just Whatever.

I’ve been harping on it all offseason: the Seahawks’ D-line in 2019 was God-awful, so just running it back again isn’t going to cut it; they need to ADD. Bringing Reed back is a step toward the Running It Back direction, and while he’s a young, hungry piece to the puzzle who – I’m sure – will be working his ass off over these next two seasons to build his value back up, I’m much more interested in what outside pieces we end up bringing in (to not only compensate for the presumed loss of Clowney, but to build beyond that in returning this defense to some form of relevance).

In other news, we don’t have George Fant to kick around anymore, as he landed a 3-year, $30 million deal with the Jets, presumably to be their starting left tackle. I always liked him; I’ll always wonder what his Seahawks career could’ve been had Justin Britt not fallen onto his knee just as he was being anointed this team’s starting left tackle (before the Duane Brown trade rendered him a super-sub). I don’t expect the Seahawks to be as obsessed with the comp pick formula in this free agency period, but I read on Twitter that Fant’s deal would bring back a 4th rounder, so that’s interesting.

In yet other news, Jacob Hollister was given a second-round tender (meaning anyone who signs him would have to give the Seahawks a second round pick), which I think is exciting! I’d love it either way! Bring him back, and shore up that tight end room; let him go and nab a high draft pick, bingo bango bongo! David Moore was given an original-round tender (meaning anyone who signs him would have to give the Seahawks a seventh round pick, since that’s the original round he was selected in), and again, same deal! Moore is an adequate #4 or #5 receiver; but if a team wants to give us a seventh round pick, all the better!

Also, apparently Joey Hunt and Branden Jackson were both tendered as well, but we don’t know which levels yet. Jackson was undrafted, but I also can’t imagine we’d put a second-round tender on him (because he’s done nothing in his career) so I have to imagine that’s an original-rounder. Hunt was taken in the sixth round, and while I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s also an original-rounder, he did finish last year as our starting center, and I’ve contended for a while now that we should slap a second-round tender on him (and release Britt to save money).

Finally, in cool dude news, Luke Willson looks like he’ll be back! Once we dump Ed Dickson, that gives us a lethal tight end room of Greg Olsen, Luke Willson, Will Dissly, and Jacob Hollister! I like that very much a lot.