Seahawks Death Week: Were The 2023 Seahawks Better Than They Were In 2022?

Both teams finished the regular season 9-8. The 2022 Seahawks actually made the playoffs, while the 2023 Seahawks did not. The 2023 Seahawks clearly had higher expectations coming into the year, whereas the 2022 Seahawks were expected to be among the worst five teams in the NFL. But, just because the current iteration underperformed, while the previous one overachieved, doesn’t necessarily mean the 2022 Seahawks were the better team. And, since we don’t live in a magical world where we can have these two squads duke it out on the football field, we have to look at the numbers and see where they compare.

I will readily admit that I’m coming into this exercise HOPING that the 2023 team is actually better, and thanks to a game or two not going our way at the end, we ultimately failed to achieve our goals. Because, if that’s the case, then maybe an argument can be made that this is actually a team on the rise, and this year can be seen as an aberration. However, if the 2023 Seahawks are objectively worse, then this is a team going in the wrong direction. Then, we have to start questioning how good these last two draft classes actually were. Then, we’re left to wonder how long it’s actually going to be before things turn around.

I’ll start with the defense. Heading into the season, what was the biggest problem area, the biggest area of need, the part of the team we all knew needed improvement? The defense. In 2022, we gave up 361.7 yards per game (26th in football); in 2023, we gave up 371.4 yards per game (30th in football).

You know what sucks? Every team that was worse than us in 2022 improved. Detroit went from 32 to 19, Minnesota went from 31 to 16, Houston went from 30 to 14, Chicago went from 29 to 12, Las Vegas went from 28 to 13, Atlanta went from 27 to 11! This isn’t, like, small baby steps of improvement. These are LEAPS AND BOUNDS! And it’s not like we’re talking about teams that all made the playoffs; they were all varying levels of mediocre-to-bad in 2023. Yet they all also saw significant improvements on defense, in one season’s time.

If we keep going back, in 2021, the Seahawks were 28th in yards per game, in 2020 we were 22nd (but still gave up over 380 per game), in 2019 we were 26th. In 2018, we were 16th; that’s the last time we were even kind of okay. Before that, we were obviously very good. But, starting with 2019, that’s five years of being one of the worst defenses in all of football. Of being a defense that absolutely CANNOT compete for a championship. With a head coach that prides himself on being defensively-minded. We’ve been stuck in the shit for half a decade now; meanwhile, all these shitty defenses from 2022 are kicking ass in 2023.

Where did we struggle the most in 2022? Rush defense (150.2 yards per game, 30th in football). How did we fare in 2023? When we got rid of a lot of dead weight and put the majority of our resources into shoring up this part of the game? 138.4 yards per game, 31st in football. So, we improved our number of yards allowed per game, but still ended up worse compared to the rest of the NFL.

The two teams worse than us in 2022? Houston (32) and Chicago (31), who finished 2023 6th (!) and 1st (!!!) in rush yards per game allowed. IN ONE YEAR, they went from the worst to the best!

I mean, this isn’t fucking rocket science! We’re talking about Houston, who had a total coaching regime change, and Chicago, whose head coach in 2022 was just finishing his first year and was already on the hot seat. The Seahawks, meanwhile, are among the most stable franchises in the sport, yet again, we’ve struggled on defense for half a fucking decade. Un-fucking-believable.

To round it out, the 2022 Seahawks gave up 211.5 passing yards (13th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 233.0 (21st). The 2022 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game (25th); the 2023 Seahawks gave up 23.6 points per game 25th). We literally gave up one more point than a year ago. The pass defense – particularly the secondary – was supposed to be our biggest strength (even discounting Jamal Adams as “likely to be injured” heading into the season); yet it was kind of mediocre, in spite of the fact that we got more Jamal Adams than I ever thought possible.

Just a little more housekeeping, for context. The 2022 Seahawks were +2 in turnover differential; the 2023 Seahawks were also +2 in turnover differential. We actually turned it over less in 2023, but also generated fewer turnovers, which is how we get to that number. That’s interesting to me, because if you would’ve told me prior to 2023 that the Seahawks’ offense would have 6 fewer turnovers – knowing what I knew about the perceived improvement of talent on defense – I would say that’s HUGE, and might’ve translated to 2-3 more victories. Instead, that perceived talent improvement never really materialized.

For a little more context, the 2022 Seahawks had 45 sacks (tied for 7th); the 2023 Seahawks had 47 sacks (tied for 11th). Another interesting stat is the 2022 Seahawks gave up 62.7% completions (10th), whereas the 2023 Seahawks gave up 66.7% completions (26th). So, in spite of being slightly better at generating sacks, it looks like we were actually softer all around, and probably not generating as much pressure on the whole. Or, you know, maybe we just faced significantly better quarterback play in 2023 than in 2022; you can’t rule that out either. Maybe both are true!

What do my eyes tell me about this defense? It’s tricky, because I believe we were actually significantly more talented in personnel in 2023 than we were in 2022. I think Jarran Reed had a fabulous season. I think Leonard Williams is the best all-around defensive lineman we’ve had since Michael Bennett (very different players/body types, but similarly dominant in everything that they do). I think Dre’Mont Jones is as talented as advertised, but likely wasn’t utilized properly. I think Boye Mafe took a HUGE step forward. I think Devon Witherspoon is deserving of every single accolade that comes his way. I think Jordyn Brooks is an animal, and it’s tremendous how well (and how quickly) he came back from such a significant injury. I thought Tre Brown, Mike Jackson, and Julian Love all shined at times. I thought Riq Woolen was injured for most of this year and that likely explains his step-back (I still think he’s great in coverage, but when he’s hurt, he’s going to be a liability in the run game).

That being said, I think we were another wide-body short on the interior, to significantly plug the run. I think Bobby Wagner likely helped in that regard, but probably not as much as everyone thinks. Wagner obviously had his struggles in pass defense (to the point where he probably should’ve been taken off the field on every 3rd & medium-to-long), but we also had no one behind him to fill in (linebacker depth was non-existent yet again); I also don’t think Wagner was the fix-all in the run game everyone’s making him out to be. How many times did he too get swallowed up, or jump the wrong gap? He’s old! He was old two years ago!

I also thought Quandre Diggs looked a little old. I thought Jamal Adams – aside from a few plays near the LOS here and there – looked legitimately bad. Maybe he was hurt all year, but still, he looks toast. And, I think the outside linebacker play was atrocious outside of Boye Mafe and Uchenna Nwosu (who got knocked out 6 games in), and I’m not even sure Mafe is any good at setting an edge. What I know for sure is that Darrell Taylor and Derick Hall are 100% NOT good in that regard, and it’s a huge hole for us.

A lot of these were problems in 2022, though. We couldn’t set an edge then either. Our linebacker room was unquestionably worse with Cody Barton getting significant reps. Adams was still hurt, Diggs was still getting up there, and we were obviously missing out on beef in the interior line.

So, how do you explain this across-the-board drop-off in defensive production?

The coaching staff. Clint Hurtt and Co.

He’s not a defensive coordinator. We learned that in his first season in 2022, and it’s been nothing but cemented into my brain in 2023, when he was gifted better talent, and his unit produced worse results. He needs to go.

***

Now, let’s go to the offense. Spoiler alert: it also looks like it’s worse in 2023 than it was in 2022.

2022 total yards = 351.5 (13th); 2023 total yards = 322.9 (21st). 2022 passing yards = 231.4 (12th); 2023 passing yards = 230.0 (14th). 2022 rushing yards = 120.1 (18th); 2023 rushing yards = 92.9 (28th).

So, passing yards remained stagnant, in spite of total stability at the QB spot, and arguably an improved wide receiver room with first rounder Jaxon Smith-Njigba replacing Marquise Goodwin. And we’re talking about a DRASTICALLY worse rushing attack, in spite of the fact that Kenneth Walker played in the same number of games (all as the lead back), while we added the robust talent of Charbonnet (taking the smattering of 2022 carries given to DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, and Rashaad Penny the few times he was healthy).

Okay, so point to the offensive line. Obviously, there were lots of injuries across the board causing this unit to suffer. Except, we took 46 sacks in 2022, vs. a combined 37 in 2023. Team passing, okay, you can attribute some of that to Drew Lock playing in 4 games (starting 2). But, Geno’s per-game numbers year over year obviously declined (fewer yards per game, lower completion percentage, fewer yards per attempt, lower passer rating).

Also, if your O-Line is so banged up, wouldn’t you WANT to run the ball more? In 2022, we attempted 425 carries; in 2023, it was 382. In 2022, we attempted 573 passes; in 2023, we attempted 575. Geno attempted a little over 33 and a half passes per game; but Drew Lock attempted 32 per game in his two starts, so it’s not like we really took it easy on him. Yet, neither quarterback benefitted from extended competence out of the rushing attack. As a team, we averaged 4.8 yards per carry (4.9 yards per carry if you take out two massive losses by our punter) in 2022; we could only muster 4.1 yards per carry in 2023.

So, what’s THAT all about? We thought we really had something with our new O-Line coach in 2022. But, while improving on our sack numbers (in basically the same number of drop-backs), we took a massive nosedive in our running numbers. I guess we have to HOPE that it’s just injuries and things are bound to positively regress in 2024. But, there’s also a number of personnel decisions we have to make – along the interior, particularly – that has been one of our greatest weaknesses since time immemorial.

All told, our 2022 Seahawks scored 23.9 points per game (9th); our 2023 Seahawks scored 21.4 points per game (17th). An already-bad defense somehow managed to get worse, and a decently-good offense became painfully mediocre. In spite of the fact that the offense had a ton of carry-over, improved in both the running back and wide receiver rooms, and had a quarterback who couldn’t have been more motivated to better his career-best numbers from the previous season.

Does that also come down to coaching? Because, to me, that comes down to coaching.

***

Here’s my ultimate ruling on the question at the top:

I think, personnel-wise, the 2023 Seahawks were better than the 2022 Seahawks. However, I think the play on the field was worse. The numbers bear that out, even if their records were the same. We were -38 in point differential in 2023, meaning we probably overachieved. The NFL record 7 go-ahead TD passes by Geno Smith in the 4th quarter or OT sort of proves that point. We had a +6 point differential in 2022, which seems appropriate for a 9-8 team. So, while things were disappointing for Geno Smith, and some of the other veterans in 2023, I don’t think they were so much worse that it cost us. Ultimately, I put it on our coaching staff – our coordinators specifically, though Pete Carroll certainly doesn’t get a pass from me at this point – as the reason why the 2023 Seahawks were worse.

I believe, with more competent leadership, the 2023 Seahawks should’ve won more games and reached the playoffs.

That doesn’t mean I believe this team was good enough to win the NFC West. They clearly had a ceiling that was much lower than the 49ers. But, I do believe we should’ve beaten the Rams at least once, if not twice. Win one and we’re in the playoffs. Win both, we’re 11-6 and playing in Tampa in the first round of the playoffs (while the Rams would’ve been 8-9 and on the outside looking in, where they belonged).

So, in that sense, it’s pretty clear why Pete Carroll needed to go. We can’t really tell at this time if it was a matter of the messaging not getting through, or too much meddling by Pete in the personnel decisions to keep around these guys who are getting up there (saying nothing of giving up a second round draft pick for half of a season of Leonard Williams). But, I believe we didn’t have the proper staff in place to get the best out of these players. A more run-focused offensive scheme (becoming almost exclusively either a run or play-action team), with more attention paid to stopping the run and generating pressure by being blitz-heavy on defense, likely would’ve enhanced our win/loss record.

What we couldn’t do were the same things we’ve done the last 5+ years. What we couldn’t do was declare a shift towards a 3-4 defense, only to pretty much play a random hodgepodge of the exact defensive fronts we’ve used all along. What we couldn’t do was give up huge defensive cushions underneath – hoping to take away the deep ball – only to give up the deep ball anyway, and everything else opposing offenses wanted to do. Change it up! Drastically, if necessary! But, do SOMETHING.

This team did nothing, and mediocrity was our end result. Let’s hope that doesn’t continue on into 2024.

Frank Clark Returns As The Seahawks Take On The Browns

There’s no discounting the loss of Uchenna Nwosu for this Seahawks defense. He was unquestionably our best defensive player last year, he earned a relatively big-money contract extension this past offseason, and even though the numbers aren’t eye-popping this season, the eye-test and the ancillary numbers point to Nwosu being our best outside linebacker/pass rusher. While it’s wonderful that Boye Mafe has taken the next step to be a super-productive second banana, after the loss of Nwosu, the drop-off is pretty considerable.

You may be saying to me, “Don’t forget about Darrell Taylor!” But I think it’s clear at this point that he’s pretty one-dimensional. There are a lot of reasons why the Seahawks have so drastically improved in their run defense – Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Dre’Mont Jones, Devon Witherspoon, no more Cody Barton – but I think a big key is the reduced role Taylor plays on rushing downs. He’s a solid-to-good pass rusher in obvious passing situations, but other than that, I don’t really trust him as an all-around outside linebacker. That doesn’t mean Taylor doesn’t have value, or isn’t important to this team’s success. But, I take a less-is-more approach with him.

And, as for Derick Hall, I think there’s a lot of promise there, but he reminds me a bit of Boye Mafe as a rookie last year. Maybe a bigger, beefier version, but someone who probably is a year or two away, if he’s going to hit at all.

Seahawks fans have been focused on the impending trade deadline on October 31st for good reason. While the defense has been extraordinary – especially compared to expectations – you can always use a little more. With the way we like to rotate guys in and out, you can never have enough weapons at your disposal. Then, when you factor in the inevitable injuries that will crop up – starting with Nwosu last week – it’s all the more imperative to keep reloading on that side of the ball, not just with bodies, but competent ones.

It’s funny that some people automatically dismissed the Frank Clark option. Maybe they had a good reason; I guess we’ll find out. His numbers with Kansas City for those four seasons certainly weren’t explosive. It’s hard to say he justified the contract he was given; when you sign someone to a deal worth over $20 million per season, you expect more than an ordinary defensive end. He averaged just under 6 sacks per (regular) season, though he added 10.5 sacks in 12 post-season games with the Chiefs. Certainly, whenever I watched the Chiefs (which, yeah, a lot of those games were probably in the playoffs), it seemed like they were getting their money’s worth. But, they clearly felt he was expendable when they cut him this past offseason.

And, also clearly, he didn’t mesh with what the Broncos were trying to do. He signed with them for 2023, at a little under $5.5 million, and got cut after playing in only 2 games. They even went so far as to make him a healthy scratch and put him on the trade block – in addition to reworking his deal to lower the cap hit – but found no takers. Then, he just sat there as a free agent for a couple/few weeks, until the Seahawks came calling.

Now, of course, there are a lot of caveats to all of this. For starters, the Chiefs are – as most teams – up against the salary cap. They have a lot of stars who they’re paying truckloads of money, and they just can’t afford to keep everyone. Maybe they felt he was slipping; maybe they would’ve welcomed him back at the veteran minimum. Clark chose to get what he could with the Broncos; that’s fine. Once the Chiefs gave a little cookie to Chris Jones after his holdout, I’m sure they’re even further pressed against the cap, making in-season moves quite difficult. That could explain why Clark didn’t go back to KC (or, again, maybe they think he’s cooked). But, I don’t know if I’m ready to write Clark off simply because the Broncos cut him. That team is in shambles for a second straight season; it sure looks like they’re getting ready to clean house this upcoming offseason. If they’re indeed looking to covertly tank, getting rid of Clark is an easy way to ensure you’re not getting unwanted production on that side of the ball. Or, you know, maybe that makes two teams who believe Clark isn’t the player he once was.

Then, there’s the obvious argument that Clark and Nwosu really don’t play the same position. Clark is 6’3, 272 pounds; Nwosu is 6’2, 251 pounds. Clark is much closer in body type to Mario Edwards than he is to Nwosu or Mafe. Not for nothing, Clark is much closer in age (30) to Edwards (29) than he is to Nwosu (26) or Mafe (24). I love Clark as an edge-setter and a run defender, I still like him as a pass rush threat, but I don’t know if I love the idea of Clark trying to defend a skill position player in space. Maybe that, ultimately, is the reason why a certain segment of the Seahawks-following public dismissed the notion of a Clark return.

But, he’s here now. And I think this could be a perfect fit. What I’m not necessarily buying is that he knows the system. He was last here in 2018; that was Norton’s first season as DC. Maybe defense is defense; maybe this whole 3-4/4-3 thing is muddier than I think it is. But, I wouldn’t say the defense is exactly the same.

What I will say is that as part of a rotation, this could be the marriage we need. Keep Clark in there for rushing downs, then slide Taylor in there for obvious passing downs. Make that a platoon of sorts. Mafe can take over for Nwosu’s percentage of snaps, and we can use Hall to spell him. Also, I love the idea of a front four consisting of Clark, Reed, Jones, and Mafe if we’re in a jam and need to create pressure with a 4-man front. Throw Taylor into that mix on a blitz? *Chef’s Kiss*.

I would say I’m a little more on the positive end of the spectrum on this move. Very low risk, we didn’t give up a draft pick to get him, he’s getting the veteran pro-rated minimum, he’s at least familiar with the coaching staff and the city. He’s still young enough to where – if he plays well – he can keep getting boatloads of money thrown his way. Quality defensive linemen who can rush the passer can play well into their 30’s, so it’s not like he’s a running back or a receiver or something. It’s a high value position, an area of need, and we have an immediate opening. The downside is: maybe he’s finished, he’s nothing more than a body, and he’ll be out of the league in a year or two. That’s what we have to find out. But, he’s not blocking anyone, he shouldn’t command an inordinate percentage of snaps (unless we have more injuries), and if it doesn’t work out, that’s fine, Nwosu will be back in 2024 anyway.

That brings us to the Cleveland Browns this Sunday. I found it extremely intriguing that Pete Carroll was already talking about him playing this weekend, even though he hadn’t shown up yet. That tells me Clark must be in pretty good shape. I can’t wait to watch this game and see what he has in the tank.

I also can’t wait to watch this game because we’re FINALLY bringing back the throwback jerseys! It’s so stupid that it’s taken this long to get here, but it’ll be so great to see them on the field again. Never has it felt more like me rooting for clothing than it will on Sunday.

This game also features the return of D.K. Metcalf, who had some interesting things to say at his weekly press conference (namely that he wasn’t allowed to talk about injuries). More and more, it’s looking like last week was a suspension, hidden behind the cloud of his nagging pain complaints. Regardless, we’ll need him; I just hope he’s got his head in the game, and this isn’t the beginning of an irreparable rift with the team.

I am NOT super confident about this one. The Browns’ defense is one of the true elites in the league this year. Considering we’re coming off back-to-back sub-par outings by our offense, the last thing I wanted to see is Myles Garrett making mincemeat of our O-Line. Injuries are still killing us up front – with Bradford looking to be out, possibly being replaced by Jason Peters, who is more of a tackle than a guard – and we’d be crazy if we don’t chip him with a tight end or a running back on every play.

Then, it came out that Kenneth Walker hasn’t practiced for the last two days. He took on the full load of running back production last weekend – with Charbonnet out – and it looks like he’s paying the price. Charbonnet is on track to return this week, but it might be in time to make his first NFL start. I’ve adjusted my fantasy team accordingly, to pick him up as a replacement, just in case.

On the flipside, Deshaun Watson is out this week. He tried to come back last week, was ineffective, and it was clear that he wasn’t ready. So, P.J. Walker gets the start in his place. The Browns are also banged up at running back, and aside from Amari Cooper (who looks diminished in his old age) and Njoku, I don’t know who their pass catchers are.

This game is just screaming Low Scoring Grudgematch. I think it’s going to be extremely close throughout, and if either team goes up by two scores in the second half, I think it’s over. I worry about the Seahawks here, because while I think this is a game we should win – even if it’s in an ugly fashion like last week’s 20-10 victory over the Cards – I could also see our offense completely bottoming out. If it’s 10-0 late in the third quarter, I don’t believe we have the horses to come back against that ferocious pass rush.

What sucks is that we’re two weeks away from a potential Get Right game for our offense. That means we have to figure out some way to put points on the board against elite defenses, because the Browns aren’t the first, and they won’t be the last.

I think this will be, like, a 16-12 Seahawks victory. Ugly as all get-out, but as long as we can hold the Browns to field goals, we should be in good shape.

Are The Seahawks Progressing Faster Than Usual This Season?

The Seahawks under Pete Carroll have a certain reputation, that I don’t think is actually warranted anymore. They’re a team that starts slow, but then comes together and improves as the season goes along, until they slam into a home stretch that puts them over the top by playoff time. The biggest lament of this scenario is the fact that the Seahawks usually dick around too much early in the season – losing too many games – and are unable to qualify for a divisional title or a top seed in the conference. We might be playing the best ball by the end of the regular season, but we’re going to be playing that ball on the road, and it makes a big difference in the playoffs.

Anyway, that’s the reputation, but again, if you go back season-by-season, I don’t know if it’s really true anymore. It probably hasn’t been true since 2018. But, just go with me on this.

If we focus exclusively on the defense – and, spoiler alert, that’s what the title of this post is referring to – then I think you very much CAN make that argument, across a long span of time. Probably dating back to 2016. As the L.O.B. aged out and went their separate ways, the Seahawks have failed in trying to replenish this team with defensive stars. It’s been nothing but middling players, with an occasional splash trade for an overpriced veteran who isn’t able to do enough to bring this unit back to its former glories.

So, what happens? Well, we start each and every season looking like the worst defense in all of football. We look like that, because we ARE that. Doesn’t matter if it’s Kris Richard, Ken Norton Jr., or Clint Hurtt; this side of the ball is going to massively struggle early, Pete Carroll is going to assert his will to get things more in line, and it’s eventually going to look somewhat better. But, that never lasts, because there’s a major talent shortage, and you can only hold the dike together with scotch tape and bungee cords for so long before it bursts.

Why does this year look different? How did we – in one offseason – go from looking like one of the worst defenses in football, to potentially looking like one of the best? Don’t get me wrong; I’m not saying we’re the 49ers or the Jets or something. But a difference from being Bottom 10 to Top 10 is certainly massive.

Well, let’s start with the guys we brought in. Dre’Mont Jones, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed, Devon Witherspoon, Julian Love, Mario Edwards, Derick Hall, Devin Bush, and Cameron Young are the major culprits. Then, there’s the return of Jamal Adams, Tre Brown, and Jordyn Brooks from injury. And maybe the biggest catalyst is the improvement of Boye Mafe from year one to year two.

Now, let’s look at who’s NOT here. Cody Barton, Ryan Neal, Shelby Harris, Al Woods, Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson, Bruce Irvin, L.J. Collier, and Bryan Mone (still on the roster, but injured). There’s a lot of addition by subtraction going on here. Neal is probably the best player in this group, but the combo of Love and Adams certainly more than makes up for his loss. Barton is one of the worst linebackers in football. Poona has hardly even played. Collier is who we thought he was. The rest of them are role players at best. And maybe the biggest catalyst here is the fact that Mike Jackson’s role has been severely diminished with Brown and Woolen healthy. Rather than being this team’s 2nd corner, he’s now the 4th or even 5th option, which is probably where he belongs (and as far as 4th or 5th corners goes, he’s pretty good at that).

So, it definitely looks like the Seahawks pulled all the right strings in this past offseason.

Witherspoon is obviously getting the lion’s share of attention, for good reason. He’s wonderful! We’ve never seen someone quite like him, and he’s quickly proving why he was deemed to be the #5 overall pick, and the best DB in the draft. I would say, however, that the biggest surprise has been Jarran Reed. The NFL more or less left him for dead after he left the Seahawks the first time, since he hasn’t done a whole lot with the Chiefs or Packers. He’s back and he might be better than ever!

The combo of Reed and Jones is better than any interior option we’ve had since the L.O.B. days. Jones got off to a bit of a slow start, but he’s beginning to assert himself, and it’s really paying dividends. You can see it in the VAST improvement of our run defense, but they also have 5 sacks between them after 5 games.

Having Wagner and Brooks together again has also been a breath of fresh air. I am in awe over Brooks’ ability to return so quickly from ACL surgery. Not just to play since week 1, but to play at a high level. You also want to lump in Witherspoon and a healthy Adams into this mix, because they’re wreaking havoc near the line of scrimmage.

We talk about depth a lot with the Seahawks’ defense. They don’t seem to have – on paper – the kind of front-line stars that teams like the 49ers, Jets, and Eagles have. Those teams, as we’ve seen, also have lots of depth, but I think that’s easy to come by when you have so many superstars. Put anyone with a pulse around Nick Bosa, Fletcher Cox, and Quinnen Williams, and you’re bound to look good. But, the Seahawks – 1 through 25 – look pretty rock solid, and it’s making all the difference.

Nwosu is still playing like he did last year. Mafe, again, has taken a clear step forward in his progression (tied for the team lead in sacks with Reed). Hall and Darrell Taylor are still valuable rotational pieces in the pass rush. Even Edwards and Young have plugged holes and made some noise.

Thus far, the secondary – the unit we all expected to be among the best in the game – has been the biggest disappointment. But, I would argue they’ve also been the most banged up. Adams, as per usual, has only played in a game and a quarter. Woolen was injured before the season and came late to the party. Ditto Witherspoon. Brown has been in and out. Now, we’re down Coby Bryant with a toe injury (currently on IR). We’ve had to use Love more than we would’ve liked, and probably in areas where he’s not best utilized. Jackson, in spite of a promising 2022, and a highly-regarded training camp, has not looked good. Diggs has had everything on his plate, and hasn’t been able to just let it rip the way he does best (as a turnover machine). With our stars returning, though, everyone else can settle into the roles that best maximize their talents, and you get what we’ve seen the last two games: the Seahawks shutting down opposing passing games (including the vaunted Bengals) the way we all expected heading into the season.

We can’t claim the Seahawks are up there with the true elites, simply because when injuries start to crop up again, we won’t have enough behind them to keep us in that upper echelon. But, if we can avoid truly devastating injuries, and somehow cobble together the rest of this season with Adams involved ON the field, I think there’s real potential here.

The offense won’t always be as bad as they were against the Bengals. I wouldn’t even say they were truly bad, just inept in the red zone. They should keep us in most every game the rest of the way. But, that’s a two-way street. I firmly believe this defense can also keep us in every game the rest of the way. Then, it comes down to execution, and a little luck.

We’re not in an insurmountable hole, even though a 3-2 record – after losing a very winnable game – is far from ideal. Having the defense seemingly figured out only a month into the season is a big boost for this team, though! Now, I could be dead wrong, and this unit will revert back to giving up tons of yards and points this very next game. But, I don’t think I’m off here. And that will mean big things for this team the rest of the way.

We have 12 games left. 6 at home, 6 on the road. If we break it up, three of our next four are at home (Arizona, Cleveland, at Baltimore, Washington). Two of those games should be wins, if we expect to be a playoff team. With the other two, I would say both are winnable, and you’d like to come away from this stretch at least 3-1. That makes us 6-3 as we head into the gauntlet of the schedule.

At the Rams (didn’t have this one pegged as part of the gauntlet heading into the season), 49ers on Thanksgiving night, at Dallas also on Thursday, at 49ers, home for the Eagles. I would like to believe we can compete with L.A., but I dunno. If we manage to win that one, it’ll likely have to be a shootout. Dallas seems like a game we might be able to steal. The Eagles don’t look quite as dominant as they did last year. That leaves us with two against our direct rivals, the 49ers. If we can split those two, and win 2 of 3 against the rest, that puts us at 9-5 heading into the stretch run. Seems far more likely we’re 8-6, and still clinging to wild card hopes, but we’ll see.

The final three games are at Tennessee, home for Pittsburgh, and at Arizona. You’d like to think, by that point, those teams will have nothing to play for. Regardless, all are incredibly flawed. Still, when have we ever managed to be perfect in the final month against incredibly flawed teams? Seems like we always bungle one of these types of games. 3-0 would put us at 11-6 or 12-5, with a puncher’s chance at the division (but, almost certainly falling short, because the 49ers seem destined to make the Super Bowl). If we go 2-1 (which is my official prediction), that still puts us at 10-7 or 11-6, which is almost assuredly a wild card spot.

I will say that – other than Washington and Arizona – there’s a lot of high-end defenses on this slate. So, of course, now that we’re feeling good about our defense, it’ll be the offense that we have to worry about (the one thing we were all feeling pretty great about heading into the season). Isn’t it always the way? We just can’t have nice things.

Have The Seahawks Done Enough To Overtake The 49ers?

That’s the question we’re asking ourselves all offseason. It’s really the only relevant question to the 2023 season from a Seahawks perspective.

The 49ers were 13-4 last year, and very clearly the second-best team in the NFC. They were the #2 seed in the playoffs, they met Philly in the NFC Championship Game (the #1 seed, naturally), and they got pounded into submission.

The 49ers had one of the best and deepest rosters in the NFL, on both sides of the ball. They’re well-coached, and they have a quality offensive system that allows them to plug & play literally any quarterback (including Brock Purdy, a rookie last year who was taken with the literal final pick in the NFL Draft), and they’re STACKED where it counts. They have one of the best running backs (when healthy) in Christian McCaffrey. They have one of the best wide receivers (when healthy) in Deebo Samuel. They have one of the best tight ends (when healthy) in George Kittle. They have one of the best defensive linemen (when healthy) in Nick Bosa. They have one of the best middle linebackers (who’s always healthy) in Fred Warner. Now, the fact that almost all of these guys have had major injuries recently – yet were all healthy in 2022 – tells me the 49ers were exceedingly lucky last year. One has to wonder if that’s going to carry over; perhaps that’s a feather in our cap.

Where the 49ers are most in flux is at quarterback. Jimmy G is gone. Brock Purdy got injured at season’s end and is no sure thing to return by the start of this regular season. Trey Lance got hurt early on and was lost for most of 2022; he’ll be back, but now there are questions about his viability as a starter going forward. And their big hedge in all this is Sam Darnold, I guess?

Here’s the deal: talking about injuries, or pontificating on who the quarterback is going to be, leaves a lot of variables in play. I’m not interested in “What Ifs” when it comes to the 49ers. I think Brock Purdy will come back and play again; I believe he’ll be in the majority of the games this season. I also believe – as noted up top – they can roll with anyone (including Sam Darnold) and be fine on offense. They have enough talent at the skill spots to move the chains, and they have a deep enough defense to not need a lot of points to win games. Now, they didn’t have much of an opportunity to fill things out in the draft – and eventually the chickens will come home to roost for this franchise – but I’m going into 2023 believing the 49ers will be pretty much as good as they were in 2022. Without even looking at their schedule, I’ll pencil them in for 11-13 wins right now.

I want to focus on the Seahawks more than the 49ers, for obvious reasons. I follow the Seahawks more closely. This is a Seattle-centric blog. And the onus is on the Seahawks to have done enough to bridge the gap.

The 2022 Seahawks were also in the playoffs, as a wild card team, with a 9-8 record. For our hard work, we were rewarded by playing the 49ers in the first round. We got obliterated. Indeed, we lost three games to the 49ers last year, and none of them were particularly close. We couldn’t move the ball! That’s the long and the short of it; we couldn’t move the ball until we were already getting killed, and by that point it didn’t matter. None of the games were competitive, and that’s hard to do when both teams are playoff teams, who are in the same division. We know the 49ers! There were no surprises. They just beat our fucking asses, mano a mano.

This post isn’t just about beating the 49ers this year. It’s about overtaking them for the NFC West title. Any team on any given Sunday and all that; we could fuck around and luck into a win. But, I’m more interested in going toe-to-toe with the 49ers over the long haul. So, what have the Seahawks done?

  • We signed Jason Myers to an extension. He’s great every other year, so I’m a little worried about what 2023 has in store. That being said, the 49ers just drafted a kicker, so I’d be more concerned if I were them.
  • We signed Geno Smith to an extension. Obviously, this is much bigger news than a kicker. His contract is pretty well tied up with his performance; if he does even a fraction of a percent better than he did last year, he’ll get PAID. If he fails to live up to what he did last year, he’ll still get paid, but considerably less.
  • We signed Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed to plug the middle of our defensive line. They both feature vast improvements in pass rush ability, with moderate improvements in run stuffing.
  • We filled out our offensive line with trusted veterans (on short-term deals) and exciting rookies (on long-term deals). Gabe Jackson is no more, but Phil Haynes returns (and figures to get first crack at one of the guard spots opposite Damien Lewis). Evan Brown was brought in to compete at center; he replaces Austin Blythe (who was a detriment for us last year) and figures to be much more competent. We also drafted a couple of thrilling prospects in Anthony Bradford (humongous guard taken in the 4th round) and Olu Oluwatimi (a savvy 5th round pick who many project to become our starting center as early as game 1).
  • We signed Devin Bush and Julian Love at inside linebacker and safety, respectively. Bush is a potential reclamation project who – at the very least – should be a slight improvement over Cody Barton. Love is much more interesting, as he figures to be a major hedge against the inevitable Jamal Adams injury. Love essentially cost us Ryan Neal, but it still feels like a solid upgrade at the position.
  • We brought back Bobby Wagner, which was vitally important, considering how mediocre we were at linebacker last year (again, see: Cody Barton), as well as factoring in the Jordyn Brooks injury (who figures to start this year on the PUP list, and might not be back to normal again until 2024). This improves our run defense, our communication on defense, and gives us another brilliant mind on this side of the ball to ensure players are in the right spots and doing what they’re supposed to be doing.
  • Then, we went out and drafted the best cornerback and wide receiver in the class. We also brought in a couple of very promising running backs (to replace Penny and Homer), a few defensive linemen to fill out our depth, and even another safety who is getting all kinds of kudos (Jerrick Reed won’t be a starter – or even much of a defensive participant – in year one, but he figures to cut his teeth on Special Teams, and could eventually develop into a Quandre Diggs replacement down the road). It appears to be the second consecutive elite draft class by the Seahawks – with a major emphasis on Best Player Available – and as we all know, there’s no better way to quickly turn around your franchise than to draft the way we did from 2010-2012.

And that’s the rub, isn’t it? The previous iteration of a championship-level Seahawks squad took three drafts to reach. So far, this one has only had (MAYBE) the two. Granted, finding even ONE elite draft class is a stretch, for any organization. But, if we want to keep up with the Joneses, we gotta be on the ball. I will say – in comparison to the L.O.B. squad – that we are starting from a MUCH better spot compared to what the Seahawks were from 2009 to 2010 (when Pete Carroll and John Schneider took over). So, an optimist might say that we only NEED the two elite draft classes.

What do I like? Let’s start there.

I’m absolutely enamored with the non-quarterback skill guys on offense. D.K., Tyler, and JSN are all incredible; here’s hoping JSN gets healthy and stays there (it’s disconcerting that he’s still dealing with an injury he suffered in college). Kenneth Walker returns (along with DeeJay Dallas, I guess), and gets paired with a couple of rookies who look tremendous. The tight ends are fine Seahawks tight ends.

I like the potential of this offensive line. Our two hotshot tackles had a full (healthy) year to experience everything the NFL had to offer; the hope is they take a big step forward in year two. The interior should be solid, if not improved over the dead weight we jettisoned this offseason. Any amount of extra time we can give Geno Smith is only going to help him when it comes to finding all his weapons.

Speaking of, I don’t hate the Geno signing, but I especially love how incentivized it is. He’s hungry, he proved he’s at least a capable starter in this league, now we’ll see if – with all this talent around him – he can take his game to another level.

And, how do you not like the secondary? Tariq Woolen as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a top cover guy. Coby Bryant as a rookie showed he’s capable of being a quality nickel guy. We still have Quandre Diggs playing at a high level (as another veteran leader to keep guys in line). We still have Jamal Adams (who is dynamic when he’s on the field). We still have promising depth in Tre Brown and Mike Jackson. Then, you add the consensus best cornerback in this draft class, to go opposite Woolen. That makes the whole room CONSIDERABLY better. Then, you add one of the top free agent safety acquisitions in Love. Then, you add another rookie safety to the mix who looks like a valuable depth piece. The secondary is fucking LOADED. It might eventually be better than it ever was, and that’s saying something.

What don’t I like?

I’m going to single out the linebackers here, but specifically I’m talking about the inside linebackers. We were already one of the worst units last year; we might be worse this year. Bobby Wagner gets a lot of credit for what he did with the Rams last year, especially with everything crumbling around him thanks to injuries and the team losing. But, how good was he really? I think a lot of Seahawks fans saw what he did in those two games against Seattle – where he was hyper-motivated to rub it in our faces – but are ignoring the rest. And are ignoring how he’s looked the last few seasons, when he’s been in unquestionable decline compared to his prime. Eventually, it’s going to come crashing down for Bobby; maybe that’s 2023. But, for the sake of argument, let’s pretend we get his exact 2022 production; is that better than what a healthy Jordyn Brooks gave us? I dunno. There’s also a lot of doubt about Bush, and some second thoughts about Cody Barton (especially with Barton getting a multi-year deal with the erstwhile Washington Football Team). If Bobby’s worse than Brooks, and Bush is worse than Barton, YE GODS! That’s a nightmare scenario.

Then, there’s just the blanket Defensive Line, but it’s really broken down into Pass Rush and Run Defense.

I thought the pass rush last year was good, not great. It took a while before the team understood how to properly utilize Darrell Taylor (he’s not an every-down outside linebacker/defensive end; he’s more strictly a guy you want to save for obvious pass rushing situations). Uchenna Nwosu was our best performer all year. Boye Mafe was just okay as a rookie, but I’m not expecting much from him ever. Derick Hall gets the honor of being this year’s Boye Mafe – and he’s getting rave reviews so far in OTAs – but I’m not expecting anything here either. Mario Edwards was just signed as a low-priced veteran defensive end, but he’s never done much in pass rush in his career.

What should we expect from our pass rush? At best, probably what we saw last year. Dre’Mont Jones is a wild card here; if he can consistently blow things up in the middle, that’s going to make everyone’s jobs on the outside a lot easier. But, I wouldn’t hold my breath. At worst, the pass rush takes a step back, and this is still our #1 priority next offseason (just like it was this offseason).

I thought – as does literally everyone – the run defense last year was total and complete shit. We lopped off a lot of dead weight: gone are Al Woods, Poona Ford, Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson, and L.J. Collier, among others. And we brought in Jones, Reed, Edwards, and rookies Cameron Young and Mike Morris. We retained Bryan Mone, but he’s injured and it’s not clear when he’s going to be ready to play again. We could’ve had Jalen Carter, so that’ll forever be a major What If. We also could’ve held onto Al Woods for not much more money than what his dead cap figure amounts to, but we’re up against the salary cap and already had to convert some Tyler Lockett money into signing bonus proration, just to sign our rookies.

Could the run defense be worse this year? It was so bad last year, I find that hard to believe, but I guess I have to admit it’s possible. I’m hoping that continuity among the coaching staff will lead to a better understanding of the scheme by the players, as well as a better understanding by the personnel people as to who needs to be on this roster, to fit in with that scheme. Is there a run-plugging diamond in the rough, either among the rookies or the back-of-the-roster holdovers from last year? Poona Ford and Bryan Mone both came from out of nowhere to be major contributors for this team, so anything’s possible.

All told, where does that put us compared to last year?

If we get modest improvements out of the run defense and pass rush, we should see tremendous value from our secondary and enough explosiveness from our offense to be improved over last year. I could see the Seahawks winning anywhere from 9-12 games, as long as we don’t suffer too many major injuries. I’ve got the 49ers at 11-13 wins, so what I’ll say is I think the Seahawks have given themselves a chance. I think we’ve done enough to compete on their level. That doesn’t mean I’m expecting us to blow them out ever; I think we can eke out one victory in the regular season, and be within a game of them by season’s end.

Gun to my head, if I have to make a definitive prediction, I would say the Seahawks finish a game back. Or, maybe tied in record, but losing to them via tiebreakers. Bottom line, I’m still predicting the 49ers win the NFC West; but I do think we’ll have a better wild card spot than we did a year ago, and hopefully that means we won’t have to play them in the first round again.

So, no, I don’t think the Seahawks have done enough to overtake the 49ers in 2023. But, at this rate, 2024 is ON THE TABLE.

Minor Seahawks-Related News While I Was Losing My Shirt In Reno, Part 1

Every year, for the first weekend of March Madness, my friends and I congregate in Reno to gamble on basketball and drink all the alcohol our special bracelets will allow. It’s a great time to be alive.

But, it’s a pain in the ass when it comes to sports blogging, because it also generally coincides with the start of NFL free agency. A lot of shit goes down during these four days, and I don’t have the time or the willingness to drop everything and shoot off a blog post as they happen.

Instead, other than the really big stories, I compile them all here in a post-trip post. Here’s all the bullshit that didn’t deserve its own headline.

Gabe Jackson Released

This actually happened way before I left for Reno, but it was so unimportant that … I can’t even properly finish this sentence; farts? We save $6.5 million, which is considerable what with the nearly $5 million in dead money we’re eating. He was going to cost us a pretty penny if he remained on the roster, and that’s too much to spend for someone who was a rotational guy at guard with Phil Haynes (who was previously re-signed on a one-year deal). I’m not so sure Haynes’ $4 million contract means he’s a lock to start for us; we could (and probably should) draft a guard of the future. But, he’s probably going to start for us – at least at first – and it’s better that way. Haynes has proven capable; Gabe Jackson has proven to be over the hill and expensive.

Shelby Harris Released

We saved another $9 million by making this move (though, we still had to eat a little over $3 million on dead money). Figure a lot of that will be going to Dre’Mont Jones, in our big splash on the first day of free agency. Harris was a quality interior player that we got back in the Russell Wilson deal, but he’s getting up there in age and you can’t afford to pay that kind of money to a guy who’s just okay. There’s no denying that the Seahawks were absolutely atrocious on the front seven in 2022, and especially in the interior defensive line. Harris was fine, but he clearly wasn’t making up for how deficient this team was, and it was imperative to make a big move at this position, considering our dire need.

Cody Barton Signed With The Washington Commanders

One of the other biggest needs is interior linebacker, where we really need a couple guys to fill the void until Jordyn Brooks is able to return from injury. One of my biggest worries, as a result, was the Seahawks shrugging their shoulders and re-signing Barton because he’s “familiar with the system” and “is better than everyone insists based on our 2022 results”. I don’t know who I’m quoting there, but in my head that’s word for word what some know-it-all has to say about Cody Barton. Has there ever been a good football player named Cody? I don’t think so! Prove me wrong. Anyway, Washington saved me from a lot of unnecessary worry by signing him on Day One, so he’s their problem now. Enjoy ankle tackles and a complete dearth of impact plays!

Quinton Jefferson Released

This came after the Dre’Mont Jones signing, which saves us around $5 million. He’s always been a quality rotation body – who can slide inside and outside – but nothing really special. That being said, he was one of the few players who flashed any semblance of competence along the line in 2022, so it was nice having him back while it lasted. I don’t know if this is a move we made to help pay for Jones’ new deal, or if it will lead to another move, but we’ll have to wait and see.

Rashaad Penny Signed With The Philadelphia Eagles

You know, the more you think about it, the more you realize Rashaad Penny is the most Eaglesy running back on the market. Mix him in that backfield with three other guys and watch them all tantalize – fantasywise – but ultimately let you down when you actually have to start one of them on your team. Penny leaving the Seahawks seemed like a foregone conclusion after returning on a 1-year deal, only to get hurt early in the season. It was time for a fresh start, and it’s time for the Seahawks to look elsewhere to back up Kenneth Walker.

Travis Homer Signed With The Chicago Bears

It’s a 2-year, $4.5 million deal, which granted isn’t a lot of money, but also Travis Homer isn’t worth spending money on. He’s just a guy, and that’s all he’s been. He also hasn’t been remotely durable since his rookie season. I’m happy to move on and hope the Seahawks look to draft a running back to fill out the ranks.

It Would Be Weird If Bobby Wagner Returned To The Seahawks

I don’t totally get what just happened between the Rams and Bobby Wagner. It was my understanding that they were on the hook for much more money than what he ended up getting. I don’t know how you go from a 5 year $50 million deal with $20 million in guarantees, but only end up paying a little over $7 million for one season.

Anyway, he’s once again a free agent. And, just as he was following his final year here in Seattle, he’s a free agent coming off of a season where he was 2nd team All Pro. I don’t know if that speaks to his level of play, or the lack of impact middle linebackers outside of the NFC West, but either way, it feels like the Rams had a bargain on their hands, and squandered one of his last great years in the NFL.

But, maybe I have to stop thinking about Bobby Wagner in those terms. Ray Lewis played until he was 37 years old. And he was still playing at an All Pro level at age 35. I’m always reluctant to compare guys to the all time greats – and regardless of what kind of person he was off the field, Ray Lewis was the best middle linebacker of the last 30 years – but Bobby Wagner might actually be in that conversation. He’ll be 33 this year. If he continues to take care of himself, and finds himself in the right situation, there’s no reason why he couldn’t play at a high level for another 3-4 years.

Which brings us to the topic of conversation for today. The Seahawks have a history with Bobby Wagner. The Seahawks also have a need to improve the linebacker spot. It’s under debate how important this need is, largely hinging on how serious the injury to Jordyn Brooks was to close out our 2022 season. Will he be back in time for the start of the 2023 season? How effective will he be when he does return? Is this one of those things where he’s not back to normal until 2024, but struggles through this year and wastes everyone’s time with his limited abilities?

The debate part comes in because the NFL defense is an ecosystem. For everything to work as it’s supposed to, all the pieces need to be doing their jobs in harmony with one another. I think a lot of people would argue that the interior of the defensive line was a major culprit in our inability to stop anyone with any sort of regularity. With improved defensive tackle play, they would free up the linebackers to be more impactful. But, since our first line of defense was continuously bulldozed, opposing offenses were able to swallow up our linebackers.

That being said, I don’t think anyone would be happy with another season of Cody Barton, Starting Linebacker for the Seahawks. But, his isn’t really the same position as what Bobby Wagner plays. Indeed, as we transition to a 3-4 defense, it’s fair to wonder why Bobby would be interested in returning at all. It seems drastically different to what he’s used to.

But, let’s disgard that for a moment. Let’s say he’s a savvy veteran who fits into any system. It would still be weird if he returned to the Seahawks.

You can’t deny Wagner had some hurt feelings when the Seahawks released him, so right off the bat it seems like his return would be a non-starter. Then again, maybe you consider his 2022 season the big Fuck You to his former team, proving he’s still got what it takes to be elite in this league.

The market dictated his value last year, and it will continue to show that if he wants to continue playing, it’s going to be at a reduced rate compared to what he would’ve gotten had the Seahawks not cut him in the first place. If he could be had for the right price, I don’t think anyone would say no. But, by all accounts, Wagner wants an opportunity to win a Super Bowl. Maybe beggars can’t be choosers in this regard. I don’t know how the Super Bowl contenders are fixed at middle linebacker at the moment, but if I were Wagner, I don’t know if I would wait around too long after free agency opens in mid-March. If he wants to maximize his dollars, he’ll probably want to jump at what the first tier offers are. The longer he waits, the more teams are going to look elsewhere for their solutions at his position. If he has to wait closer to training camp – or even into the regular season – you can bet he’ll be settling for whatever minimum deal some needy team has available within their cap.

As for the Seahawks, I would wonder if that’s how they’d want to spend their free agent dollars. How many times have we been burned by L.O.B. era players ending their careers here due to premature injury? Also, is that the position we want to use our money on, when we’re probably in need of drafting for our linebacking future?

I know, I know, teams can always find a way to make these things work under the cap. But, we’re looking at putting down a significant chunk of change on Geno Smith. We need to maximize the value of lesser positions like linebacker. Sure, we could always sign Bobby, still draft his replacement, and have that guy learn at his feet. But, we did that already with Brooks. I’d much rather draft someone and play him immediately. Take advantage of a quality linebacker on his rookie deal. Get four full years of value out of him.

Every outside free agent signing that doesn’t address our most pressing need – the defensive line – is going to be a signing that annoys the shit out of me. Even if Bobby goes on to play at a high level for the next 3-4 years, I’d rather look back on his career here with fondness, rather than see how it comes crumbling to a depressing end. Let’s leave the past in the past, and move forward with a group that will hopefully make a whole new set of fond memories.

Seahawks Death Week 2022: What Moves Should Be Made

I got into what I want the Seahawks to do at quarterback yesterday, so we’ll get into the rest of the roster here.

If you look at the Seahawks’ salary cap for 2023, you’re going to find some REAL annoying shit at the top. Two safeties – Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs – sitting #1 and #2 with our biggest cap hits, both over $18 million. It’s fucking asinine! You might be able to talk me into one safety at that kind of figure, if he’s far-and-away the best in the game. But, one guy can’t stay on the field, and the other clearly lost a step in 2022 (and even at his best he wasn’t the best).

The next two players on the list – Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf – are more appropriately ranked. They’re your best wide receivers (a premium position) and they play among the best receivers in the game. Even though they’re taking up a significant portion of the salary cap, they’re still good value.

Then, you’ve got Uchenna Nwosu at around $13 million; that’s a good number for what he gave us in 2022. Figure he’ll pretty easily replicate those numbers if he stays healthy.

So, out of the top five highest paid players currently under contract for 2023, I’m happy with three of them. Not a great percentage.

They say the NFL’s middle class is dead, but I think the Seahawks are trying to remedy that in a big way. We have six guys making between $5 million and just over $12 million. This is a significant chunk of change for players who you could probably replace for minimum salaries and get production that’s just as good. Shelby Harris tops that list at just over $12 million. He was a bright spot on a very bad defensive line. But, I don’t know if he’s giving you $12 million worth of production.

Gabe Jackson is set to count just over $11 million, but he could be cut for $6.5 million in savings. That might be the way to go, considering how he is on the downside of his career. Then, you’ve got Dissly and Fant, who count for a combined $16 million against the cap. Yikes. But, we’re already committed to them, so there’s not much we can do there. Then, there’s Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods making a combined $12 million … I dunno.

It all boils down to there being around $34 million in cap space next year (and I don’t know if that counts the new contract for our kicker). Which would be entirely used up if Geno Smith returns on the franchise tag. How did we get here? We got rid of Russell Wilson, we shed a lot of dead weight, we played a lot of rookies and cheap guys … and yet we have practically nothing to work with because we’re going to have to pay Geno’s ass the bulk of it.

There are SO MANY problems with this team! I can’t even begin to comprehend how much of the defensive line needs to be replaced. The off-ball linebackers are trash, and we likely can’t even count on Jordyn Brooks to be healthy with his significant knee injury/surgery (not that I’m crazy-enamored with Brooks anyway, considering the lack of impact plays he makes in the backfield). That’s really two entire position groups that need significant revamping, but of course no money to work with (while we’re sickeningly over-paying for our two starting safeties).

I’m already on record as saying the Seahawks should cheap-out on quarterback and use every available dollar to fix the defense and the interior of the offensive line. So, asked and answered, that’s what I want the Seahawks to do in 2023.

But, since we live in the real world – where Geno Smith will most definitely be back on a 3-4 year deal – I have to come to grips with what we have to offer.

Maybe there’s ONE mid-tier free agent defensive starter we can bring in. Then, there will be the requisite dumpster diving, with all our trust falling on the draft.

My hunch is: the Seahawks will ignore the quarterback position entirely in the draft. So, high-end pass rusher at the top, maybe a trade-back or two, then pick up the following:

  • Guard/Center – somewhere in the low first, upper second round, who can step in right away and start for the next four years. Ideally, this will be the first competent center we’ve had since Max Unger
  • Safety – because we’re going to need someone to step in to start in 2024, when we likely cut both Adams and Diggs
  • Wide Receiver – we need a quality #3 receiver who isn’t Dee Eskridge, so I wouldn’t mind this guy being a second or third rounder with upside as a possession receiver
  • Defensive Tackle – a real big, burly dude to clog up the middle in this 3-4 defense
  • Inside Linebacker – probably a couple of ’em – one on day 2, one in the early part of day 3 – with good speed and play-making ability
  • Another Guard/Center – to further bolster our depth
  • The Next Brock Purdy In The 7th Round – a guy can dream, right?

Honestly, as long as we don’t bring back Cody Barton, I don’t care what else the Seahawks do with their offseason.

Seahawks Death Week: Throw All The Free Agents In A Fucking Dumpster

I have chosen to just base this blog post on the list compiled over at Field Gulls, because I’m a lazy, lazy man. At least I linked over there; credit where it’s due and all that.

I want to say I read this in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport the day after the Seahawks’ season ended, hungover as all get-out after a Saturday night wedding that lasted until the wee hours of the very day we were supposed to return home to SeaTac. So, off the top of my head, I couldn’t possibly recount all the names from memory, but I remember my thoughts at the time revolved around: what a collection of trash!

Are any of these guys worth keeping or bringing back? I dunno, man. I guess you gotta have 53 guys on your roster – and 90 heading into Training Camp – so we’re bound to see some return names. But, I didn’t see a lot of tremendous impact from these players (save one very big and obvious name) that couldn’t be replaced with superior draft picks, free agents, and other guys from the scrap heaps of other teams.

Myles Adams is the only SOMEWHAT interesting name from the Exclusive Rights Free Agents list; that seems like a paltry amount to pay to bring back a depth/rotation defensive tackle. He always seems to flash in the pre season, anyway.

There’s usually more meat on the bone among the Restricted Free Agents, but I only see one guy worth bringing back – likely on a 2nd round tender – and that’s Ryan Neal. He played at a pretty high level at safety this year. He’s a quality backup at a position of need. Assuming Jamal Adams returns (as crazy as it sounds, we’re financially stuck with him through 2023 in all likelihood), safety is GOING to be a position of need. Because there’s no point in wondering IF Jamal Adams is going to get injured, but WHEN. Can he beat going down in the very first regular season game? Has anyone babyproofed his house lately?

Beyond that, I guess you could make a case for Mike Jackson, but I wouldn’t offer him anything higher than an original round tender. He’s not a surefire starter, in spite of all the starting he did in 2022; I’d take a 5th round draft pick for him, absolutely. No one else needs to be bothered with. Penny Hart and Tanner Muse are both fine special teams guys, but they can be had without going through the whole tender rigmarole.

Most of the guys you know and “love” are unrestricted free agents. I’ll save the quarterbacks for a separate post.

Rashaad Penny and Travis Homer are both up for contracts. Penny got a nice little payday before this past season, but clearly he’s not over his injury issues. Kenneth Walker has proven to be a starting running back in this league, and while every team needs backups, I don’t see the point in making Penny one of them. For a handful of games? Let him take his talents elsewhere. As for Homer, I thought he came into 2022 in much better shape, but he’s still Just A Guy; we could draft someone in the last couple rounds and more than make up for his lost production. We still have DeeJay Dallas, and I’d take him over Homer anyday.

Marquise Goodwin and Laquon Treadwell combine to just be okay (Goodwin is solid when healthy; Treadwell is a bust). We can do better, in spite of the fact that wide receiver is very much a position of need heading into 2023.

Austin Blythe, Kyle Fuller, and Phil Haynes are the offensive linemen we’re set to lose. I’d be fine bringing none of them back, though I do see Haynes as a solid rotational guy/backup. He might want to test the waters elsewhere. Blythe and Fuller can suck it, though. Go out in the draft and pick up a bona fide starting center!

Poona Ford, L.J. Collier, and Bruce Irvin are the defensive linemen on this list. I never thought I’d see the day where I’d be okay losing Poona Ford, but he in no way, shape, or form lived up to his contract, having a particularly anonymous 2022 season. I don’t know if he’s cut out for the 3-4 defensive scheme. I also don’t know if Collier is cut out for the NFL period! Now that we have the XFL and the USFL, he should have no shortage of suitors. As for Bruce Irvin, I’d be okay bringing him back late in the pre-season as a depth piece. He shouldn’t be starting – like he was towards the end of 2022 – but as a rotational veteran, you could do a lot worse.

Fuck right off with Nick Bellore, Cody Barton, and BBK. I want upgrades at all linebacker spots on this roster – ideally through the draft – and if I never see these guys play defense for the Seahawks again, it’ll be too soon. Bring Bellore back as a special teamer if you must, but spare me this fullback playing linebacker.

Artie Burns, Justin Coleman, Josh Jones … Teez Tabor? What the fuck’s a Teez Tabor? They can all go.

Jason Myers is quite an interesting topic of conversation, actually. He came here on a 4 year, $15+ million deal and saw it through to the end. It’s kind of absurd how up and down he’s been in his career. In 2018, he was a Pro Bowler with the Jets. He signed with the Seahawks and wasn’t super great, hitting 82% of his field goals and 90% of his PATs. But, in 2020, he hit all of his field goals and 92% of his PATs. In 2021, he was downright bad, hitting only 74% of his field goals. At that point, I think every Seahawks fan was ready to wash their hands of him. However, in 2022, he jumped back up to 92% field goals made, with a high of 97% of his PATs made.

So, I don’t know what to tell ya. Based on this, he’s due to suck again in 2023. Does he deserve a raise for having another great year in a contract season? Does he deserve a reduction in pay thanks to how bad his 2021 was? Does he deserve the exact same deal? You like to think field goal kickers are easy to find, but they’re really not. Ask any team that’s struggled in this area. They’d probably back the Brinks truck up to bring in Jason Myers. I would say he’s probably worth the going rate of kickers in the top 10 in the league, but I also wouldn’t be broken up about losing him and finding a cheaper option elsewhere.

If I’m being honest, heading into this post, I was ready to declare Tyler Ott the most important Seahawks free agent of the bunch. But, I just remembered he was injured this year and didn’t play a regular season snap. So, maybe Carson Tinker is the way to go? Or maybe any ol’ fucking guy because long-snappers are a dime a dozen. Sign me to be your long-snapper! I’ve got flag football experience, I’m ready to go!

The Seahawks Struggled To Take Down A Bad Rams Team

Pretty standard Seahawks game, all things considered. Lots of turnovers and flukey plays, controversial referee decisions, with a generous portion of Playing Down To The Level Of Your Opponent. In the end, talent overcame whatever the football gods have for us when it comes to the Seahawks playing the Rams, in a 27-23 victory.

It’s hard to come away too impressed, though there were some impressive elements. You have to start with Geno Smith, who finally got the monkey off his back when it comes to leading his team on a 2-minute drive to come from behind and win it. We had every opportunity to blow it at the end. We also had every opportunity – once we got into field goal range – to sit on the ball and play for overtime. But, Geno rared back and won this game with his arm, and it was refreshing to see.

I also gotta say I was impressed we were able to do it while getting absolutely nothing from our running game. Kenneth Walker left the game early with an ankle injury, as he was limited to 3.6 fantasy points 36 rushing yards. We’re obviously down Rashaad Penny from his injury weeks ago, not to mention Travis Homer, who failed to suit up for this one. That left us with DeeJay Dallas – who came into the second half “doubtful” to return, only to gut it out until the end – and someone named Tony Jones, who I’d never heard of before. All told, the running game got us 90 yards on 22 carries and zero scores.

On paper, the defense seemed to have a good game – 5/14 on 3rd/4th downs, 319 total yards (5.1 yards per play), 148 yards passing, 4 sacks, and two interceptions – but it’s infuriating that the Rams were able to score 23 points with no one but backups all across their offense. No Matthew Stafford, no Cooper Kupp, no Darrell Henderson; we should’ve held them to single digits.

That being said, it was cool to see Tariq Woolen get another pick, and have a beautiful tipped pass on what would’ve been a huge gain. Nwosu had a couple more sacks, and Jordyn Brooks had a great game. Even Cody Barton got another late pick to shut it down.

The wide receivers showed up and balled hard in this one. Tyler Lockett had 128 on 9 receptions, with a TD, and D.K. Metcalf had 127 on 8 receptions, with a TD. Noah Fant also had a nice game with 4 catches for 42 yards and a TD.

There was a point here – when this game was still a 50/50 deal – where it kinda felt like maybe losing would be the better result. Look, a 7-5 Seahawks team led by Geno Smith is a nice story and all. But, the 49ers just played the bulk of their last game against a very good Dolphins team without Jimmy G and they HANDLED them. We’re not winning the division. At best, we’re playing for a wild card spot, but now even our victory over the Giants is meaningless since they have a tie on their record. Even if we do sneak into the playoffs, it’s hard for me to see us getting to the Divisional Round, and impossible for us to make it beyond that point. In spite of how great a lot of younger guys are playing, there are still MANY holes left to fill before we can consider ourselves to be a championship-contending team.

Now, obviously, the good news is that the Broncos lost again. The more we win, the more we NEED that pick to land in the top 5, and ideally in the top 3. They’re having a true Season From Hell, with everything that CAN go wrong actually going wrong. I don’t know how many more weeks we’ll be able to depend on them choking these games away.

We get back-to-back home games on the horizon, with a weird 4-8 Panthers team that’s still somehow playing for the division, followed by a Thursday night showdown against the 49ers. That’s two very good defenses, with the Seahawks heading into these games sorely banged up.

I have to like our chances against the Panthers – because their offense looks so bad – but that’s a team that can easily nip us in a close one. I’m officially predicting a 19-16 Seahawks victory, but I’m not super confident about it.

The Seahawks Lost In Germany To The Bucs

I’m conditioned to not really like these games being played in another country. It seems like undue stress on the two teams who have to go all the way over there, change around their whole body clocks, play on VASTLY inferior fields, and then have to turn right around and play the next week (if you choose to not have your BYE follow it). If every single team in the league had to do it every single year, I guess that’s one thing. But, either it’s on a rotation of teams, or it’s just random selection. Then, there’s the whole thing about losing one of your home games because of a blatant cash grab by the league.

And, I’ll just add – for a team like the Seahawks, who has to travel the most air miles in the league by a considerable margin almost every single year – you’re even further hampering our competitive balance.

That being said, it was kind of fun waking up at 6:30am with my dad and brother, having a big breakfast, and watching a football game before all the other football games of the day got going.

What wasn’t fun was watching how the Seahawks played through three quarters.

I won’t say the defense completely reverted back to the way things were in the first month of the season – they weren’t the worst I’ve ever seen – but this was a clear and obvious step back from our recent efficiency. The Bucs were able to move the ball kinda sorta at will. They rarely hurt themselves with penalties or negative plays (aside from the two big interceptions, obviously), so they were able to stay ahead of the chains and keep their offense moving in one direction. Lots of third downs were converted (10 of 15 in total), thanks mostly to them being in 3rd & short situations.

That meant, obviously, the Bucs were able to run the ball exceedingly well. 44 for 161, which isn’t a great average, but is more than enough when your quarterback (one Tom Brady) goes 22 for 29 for 258. You could argue if it weren’t for a Brady pick thrown right at Cody Barton for some reason, and that asinine trick play where Leonard Fournette tried to toss one to Brady lined up out wide, the Bucs would’ve won in a laugher.

As it stands, the Seahawks pulled it to 21-16, before the Bucs ran the last four minutes off the clock.

All of our points came in the second half, with 13 of them coming in the fourth quarter. Discounting the two picks by the Bucs, the play of the game was an incredibly stupid Geno Smith fumble on what was apparently a designed quarterback run of some kind on 2nd & goal. If the design of that play was to look like a blackout drunk trying to find a potted plant to piss in, then mission accomplished.

The Bucs defense was exactly what I thought it was: very stout against the run, while potentially beatable through the air. Kenneth Walker was limited to 17 rushing yards on 10 carries. But, when we started throwing to him (mostly in the second half), he came alive for 55 yards on 6 receptions. D.K. Metcalf was able to get his and probably deserved to be targeted more (6 for 71), and Tyler Lockett and Marquise Goodwin both caught TDs late.

It was cool to see Tariq Woolen deke the Bucs into throwing a pass towards Tom Brady, who slipped and fell as the ball was severely underthrown. I’m told that Cody Barton had a good game, even though it seemed like he got swallowed up every time someone went to block him. It was REALLY unfortunate that we spent all week working on stopping the pass, then proceeded to not only get run all over, but also generate zero pressure on Brady whatsoever.

This game feels like a missed opportunity. It’s also pretty galling that we’re 0-3 against the NFC South, considering their record against everyone else. On the one hand, that’s a significant tie-breaker we just cost ourselves, if indeed we proceed to win our division, as the Bucs look like a shoo-in to win theirs. On the other hand, that’s a significant tie-breaker we just earned ourselves in the form of potential draft position for next year. I don’t know what to root for anymore! My brain is broken!

Where that leaves us is we’re 6-4 heading into our BYE week. One can fairly safely assume the 49ers will be 6-4 after they beat the Cardinals next week. That puts us in a dead heat for the division lead with 7 games to play. We come out playing the hapless Raiders, Rams, and Panthers, before that showdown with the 49ers on Thursday night. 5-2 feels like a safe estimate if we play up to our abilities. I would say 4-3 is the absolute minimum, which still puts us at 10-7, and a very good shot at the post-season. But, we could go as high as 7-0 or 6-1 if we catch some breaks.

I’m more than fine with the timing of this BYE week. Let’s rest up and get healthy and come back to sprint towards the finish with everyone else.