The Seahawks Haven’t Changed One Bit

When it’s all said and done, when Pete Carroll and John Schneider move on and Russell Wilson is retired or clinging to life with another franchise, it’ll be interesting to look back on this era of Seahawks football. We’re heading into the tenth season with the same regime – the eighth with Wilson at quarterback – and already it feels like forever in NFL terms.

So long, in fact, that it feels like there have been multiple phases within this one overarching Seahawks Cinematic Universe under Carroll & Schneider.

  • 2010-2012 – Building A Champion
  • 2013-2016 – Championship Contenders
  • 2017-Present – The Great Re-Build

But, in reality, we’re talking about one long, sustained period of greatness. Sure, in 2010 we were coming off of one of the worst years in franchise history, and that team (as well as 2011) only won 7 games. But, it was good enough for a division title and a playoff victory. Indeed, in the last nine years, the Seahawks have made the playoffs seven times and won the division three times (to go along with the two Super Bowl appearances and the one title). It’s actually pretty remarkable how quickly Schneider and Carroll were able to turn things around. The 2010 team was far from great, but it was leaps and bounds better than 2009; and while we failed to make the playoffs in 2011, I would argue that team was even better.

As this is a time of year, generally, where we focus on the draft that was, it’s interesting to take a look back at that as well. The 2010 draft was a real anomaly for this team. We had two high first round draft picks and actually used them on PLAYERS, as opposed to trading down and racking up a bunch of bites at the apple. While the year-to-year strategies have evolved, the overall vision for the team has never wavered: Build Through The Draft.

What’s the best way to build a championship contender? That’s the question we keep asking ourselves, to be answered in wordy, meandering thinkpieces such as this one you’re reading right now. There are lots of different answers, but they all harken back to the same thing: the draft. You gotta get lucky in the draft and hit upon a bunch of stars at a variety of positions (almost always including quarterback). Having a cheap, cost-controlled core, supplemented with a smattering of talented, expensive veterans, is generally the way to go.

You could argue that the Seahawks got away from that ethos a little bit from 2013-2016, with a number of questionable trades and free agent signings that we don’t need to rehash again here. But, I would argue that the ethos never changed, but our luck in the draft ultimately failed us.

You could also argue that the Seahawks have changed in what they prioritize. In the last couple years, as Bevell and Cable were fired after not being able to properly utilize the talent they were given (Bevell, in his use of Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham) and not being able to formulate a competent offensive line on the cheap (Cable, with his struggles from 2015-2017), there’s been a clear shift in where the money has been spent. This is the NFL, so what do I always say? There’s only so much money to go around, and you can’t pay everyone. That was ultimately Seattle’s downfall following the 2014 season. But, what probably doesn’t get said enough about the NFL is that you have to constantly strive to get younger. This team was stacked with world-beaters from 2012-2014 and we looked like an unstoppable juggernaut; less than a decade later, maybe three guys remain? With the snap of a finger, this team got old, this team got injured, and this team desperately needed an infusion of young blood.

But, the strategy all along, starting in 2010, was to save money where you felt you were strongest, from a coaching and scouting perspective. In Tom Cable’s tenure here, that meant going cheap on the O-Line (relatively speaking). Sure, Max Unger got himself a second contract, and Russell Okung was making high first round draft pick money (pre-CBA, where the money was good and inflated), but around them the Seahawks filled in with young guys and castoffs from other teams. Converted defensive tackles, converted tight ends, and the like. As those talented (and expensive) linemen started to move on, the Seahawks tried doubling down on that strategy by going even younger, even cheaper, even more castoffy. Culminating in a 2017 team where the leading rusher was the quarterback and the team had only one touchdown by a designated running back. That followed a 2016 season where Wilson played injured throughout because that same O-Line couldn’t protect him for shit.

Of course, we justified that form of team building by pointing to all the other areas making money at the top of the market. Quarterback, cornerback, safety, linebacker, defensive line, even running back for a spell while Lynch was still here. Something had to give. We trusted Cable, and it turned out to be a mistake.

In learning from that mistake, Cable is gone, and now the Seahawks are paying significant money on the O-Line again. Duane Brown, for an aging veteran, is making a pretty penny. Justin Britt was among the top centers in the game from a salary perspective when he signed his second deal. Ifedi is a first rounder entering the final year of his rookie deal and looks like a contender for a big contract (elsewhere, most likely). Fluker got a nice bump in pay after a 2018 prove-it performance. And, more draft picks have been utilized on this group than any other during Schneider’s time here.

But, things haven’t necessarily gotten much better from a salary cap perspective. Russell Wilson is the top of the quarterback market. Bobby Wagner is looking to reclaim the top middle linebacker spot. There’s a smattering of highly paid guys here and there, except for one group that ranks among the cheapest in the league: the secondary.

This jives with the team’s M.O. all along. Instead of banking on a supposed guru of an O-Line coach, the team is relying on their ability to draft and coach up cornerbacks and safeties. I would argue the gambit is just as risky. Especially in a year where, as I noted yesterday, the pass rush isn’t really up to snuff.

Back when the team was cheaping out on the O-Line, I could defend the logic because our quarterback was one of the better runners in the league, and proved that his elusiveness was an asset as he’s one of the better passers outside the pocket. But, over time, Wilson has shown to be an even more lethal pocket passer, and so creating an actual POCKET became more important. Having him play through a number of injuries in 2016 was the final nail in the coffin, and when the line still struggled in 2017, something drastic needed to be done.

Now, with Wilson entering his 30’s, priorities change. It makes zero sense to cheap out on the O-Line because he’s only going to get slower and easier to tackle as he gets older. But, even if he was his younger, spry self, my thinking on this topic has evolved once again.

The three areas where I would argue you not only SHOULD go with younger, cheaper options, but it would be criminally negligent for you to spend significant dollars, are linebacker, running back, and tight end. Which is why I’m loathe to make Bobby Wagner the highest paid inside linebacker in football (the counter to my reservations is that he’s Bobby Fucking Wagner and he literally IS the best inside linebacker in football, and the drop-off from him to a younger guy would decimate this defense). After those three spots, I would argue the next place a team should go cheap is the secondary.

I know that’s sacrilege, what with the Legion of Boom’s popularity around these parts, but it’s true. And it makes sense, if you think about it, more than it does the O-Line. With the way the college game is going, fewer and fewer offensive linemen are coming straight to the league and being productive starters right away. Those guys need to be coached up (as you’ve seen from the litany of ex-Seahawks who’ve gotten paid elsewhere, from Carpenter to Sweezy to Glowinski to soon-to-be Ifedi). With apologies to the L.O.B., however, with the secondary you need better athletes and a quality scheme. Offensive linemen tend to age like a fine wine; cornerbacks and safeties tend to start losing a step as they approach their Age 30 seasons. By the time they get to their second and third contracts, they’re already not really worth it. Unless they’re bona fide Hall of Famers like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. But, those guys don’t grow on trees.

My point is, I’d rather have a reliable offensive line and a huge question mark in the secondary, than the other way around. Now, ideally, you’d find a way to mask your team’s weakness (by, for instance, getting after the opposing team’s quarterback on a regular basis), but if there’ one area on the Seahawks I’d put my money on it improving dramatically from year to year, it would be with the secondary. Because of that track record with drafting and coaching guys up.

The secondary is young, it’s hungry, and maybe most importantly, it’s healthy. Flowers and Griffin look like solid starters. McDougald has already proven himself capable at either safety spot. Thompson and Hill are in their third years (second seasons as regular players on defense) and the team brought in a couple more defensive backs in this last draft to battle for jobs. It’s not out of the question for this weakness to actually be a strength when it’s all said and done.

Of course, even top notch secondaries can get burned by a lack of a pass rush.

The Most Indefensibly Bad Seahawks Draft Pick Of The John Schneider Era

In the wake of the 2019 NFL Draft, the world at large has run through just about everything you can talk about, so we ultimately turn to manufactured arguments. On the Brock & Salk show recently, they were talking about (I don’t remember specifically) the worst Seahawks draft picks of the Schneider/Carroll era. It might have actually been the worst first player selected in each draft, but my mind immediately went to one player.

Before we get to that, I should back up and mention that every team has bad draft picks under their belts. I’m not picking on the Seahawks because I think they’re bad drafters; on the contrary, I think this crew is very GOOD at drafting. Yes, they often find themselves “reaching” in the eyes of the experts, and they go out of their way to trade down (and even out of the first round) to acquire extra picks later on. But, I believe this front office more than any other (except maybe the Patriots) finds the best value in later rounds to round out its roster with quality players.

Beyond that, the Seahawks do an excellent job of blending Best Player Available with Team Needs. You’re not going to see this team draft a quarterback in the top half of the draft because that would be a waste; if you ever do see that, you’d know that player is probably someone who fell further than they should and bank on him being destined for greatness. Those players experts cite as a “reach” are more often than not guys the coaches are able to build up into effective starters. There’s a method to the Seahawks’ madness that keeps this train a rollin’.

If you had to narrow down the absolute WORST pick this group has made, I think you have to start with guys who’ve never played a single down in the NFL. There have been a handful (certainly more than I remembered before I started writing this post), with the worst of the bunch being the guys who cost us the highest draft capital:

  • Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
  • Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
  • Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
  • Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
  • Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)
  • Terry Poole (2015, 4th round)
  • Zac Brooks (2016, 7th round)
  • Kenny Lawler (2016, 7th round)
  • Justin Senior (2017, 7th round)
  • Malik McDowell (2017, 2nd round)

It’s not fair to go beyond the 2017 draft, although Alex McGough spent all of 2018 on the Practice Squad before jumping ship to the Jags, where you have to believe he’ll at least get a shot at some serious playing time as a backup (that Brett Hundley deal continuing to pay whatever the opposite of dividends are). Of that ignominious group I listed above, I completely understand the urge to say, “Malik McDowell is the worst Seahawks draft pick of all time,” and call this post a day.

There is a GREAT argument behind that sentiment. He was a 2nd round pick, and the first pick of our 2017 draft (after trading out of the first round). He was brought in with the thought process that he’d play right away in a rotation that featured Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, and Jarran Reed, among others. You could play McDowell on the outside on base downs, and bring him inside on passing downs, while allowing him to learn behind some all-time greats. Then, presumably, when the season was up, the team could move on from the likes of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell would’ve had a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to move into one of the starting roles.

We all know what happened instead: McDowell got injured before Training Camp even started, Avril was out of fooball a month into the season, Bennett was still in peak form (though just starting his slide; he’d be traded after the season), and we had to make that awful trade for Sheldon Richardson (who had very little impact on the field, and cost us yet ANOTHER second round pick, this time in the 2018 draft). So, not only did McDowell not produce for us, but he actively crippled this franchise for the next three years (we’re still being hurt by this deal, as we’ve had to spend high picks in the last two drafts – and probably another one next year – to fill the pass rushing void).

But, that’s not the premise of this post. Yes, the selection of McDowell was atrocious, but it is wholly defensible.

The argument against that has to do with him being a knucklehead who crashed on an ATV and broke his skull, but I mean, come on. Who could reasonably predict that? The knock against him heading into the 2017 draft was that he wasn’t necessarily the hardest worker in college. He took downs/games off. The talent was there, when he wanted it to be, and that’s why a high first round talent fell into the second round. If you want to be mad at anything, be mad at the fact that the team traded out of the first round in the first place; that’s the REAL crime here. But, there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe the defensive lineman we liked was already taken, so it made sense to trade down and get more picks. You also have to factor in the players we were able to draft because of those trades, of which there are a number of contributors (including Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Chris Carson).

Regardless, the reasoning behind taking McDowell was sound. And, for that reason, I have a hard time placing too much blame on a front office that was struck by some of the worst luck you can imagine. If he wasn’t an idiot, we might be talking about an integral part of this year’s defense right now. We were able to turn Frank Clark around after a suspect college career, it’s not crazy to imagine we could’ve turned McDowell around if we’d actually gotten him into the program.

If you wanted to go away from these types of players who made zero positive impact on the club, you could talk about guys who the Seahawks DID play, and who were actively terrible (arguably providing a net-negative value by virture of their performances on the field). This would include guys like:

  • James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
  • John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
  • Mark Glowinski (2015, 4th round)
  • Germain Ifedi (2016, 1st round)
  • Rees Odhiambo (2016, 3rd round)
  • Ethan Pocic (2017, 2nd round)

Some of these aren’t totally fair. Carpenter was a first round reach, no doubt about it, and it took this team a couple years before they finally figured out where his best fit was on the line. But, once he got past some injury issues and settled in, he’s made a nice career for himself (his last year in Seattle was pretty good, but mostly he’s been a workhorse elsewhere). Glowinski also was a dud in Seattle, though he’s been pretty solid in Indy (and just earned a nice little raise this offseason). Moffitt was an outright bust, in every sense of the word, and a total misfire of a 3rd rounder. Odhiambo has been pretty awful (though, again, I’d argue he’s been thrust into roles he’s not suited for, like left tackle – before we brought in Duane Brown – thanks to injuries and poor planning). Ifedi has been this fanbase’s whipping boy from day one, though his 2018 season was a huge step in the right direction (I would bet some other team pays him a pretty penny once he leaves after the 2019 season); and Pocic has been my own personal whipping boy nearly every time he’s seen the field in his short professional career.

I don’t think these guys really qualify as the most indefensibly bad pick of this era, so much as it simply being indefensible that this team left Tom Cable in charge for as long as they did, when he was better at molding crappy players into eventual quality starters for OTHER teams. A guy like Cable is fine if you have all the time in the world to develop diamonds in the rough; but this team was going cheap on its O-Line (to pay stars at other positions) and needed guys to step in RIGHT AWAY; in that sense, you get what you pay for. The defense behind picking these guys is simple: there’s always a need for offensive linemen, and the Seahawks took more swings at this than anyone else in football. The sad fact is that we simply swung and MISSED more than anyone else, which is why this team fell apart after its Super Bowl run.

All of this is preamble for what I’m going to tell you is, without a doubt, the worst and most indefensible draft pick of the John Schneider era:

  • Christine Michael

We were coming off of an all-time great run of drafts, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in NFL history. You can’t rehash this enough, and I’m more than happy to go over it with you:

  • Russell Okung – 2010
  • Earl Thomas – 2010
  • Golden Tate – 2010
  • Walter Thurmond – 2010
  • Kam Chancellor – 2010
  • James Carpenter – 2011
  • K.J. Wright – 2011
  • Richard Sherman – 2011
  • Byron Maxwell – 2011
  • Malcolm Smith – 2011
  • Doug Baldwin – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Brandon Browner – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Bruce Irvin – 2012
  • Bobby Wagner – 2012
  • Russell Wilson – 2012
  • Robert Turbin – 2012
  • Jaye Howard – 2012
  • Jeremy Lane – 2012
  • J.R. Sweezy – 2012
  • Jermaine Kearse – 2012 (undrafted)

That’s just clinically insane. So many All Pros and Pro Bowlers and starters and role players just in that group alone, who contributed to this team’s championship run in 2013. You could easily say this group was playing with house money.

So much of it, in fact, that we traded the farm (including our 2013 first rounder) to acquire Percy Harvin.

You could also argue that the 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst of all time. Bust after bust after bust among this group; teams even in the top third of the FIRST round couldn’t count on drafting anyone worth a damn; so why am I all up in arms about a second rounder?

Because, motherfucker!

We as Seahawks fans are used to saying, “HUH?” whenever we see who this team ends up picking. In the early going – particularly in 2012 – we were made to look the fool at this way of thinking, as those guys ended up being some of the best players we’ve ever seen. We have that reaction because the guys the Seahawks take aren’t the guys the national pundits spend all offseason talking about. We don’t KNOW those guys; we know other guys who we think are better, but they might not necessarily be good fits for this team. But, at the very least, we could always rationalize WHY the Seahawks took the guys they’ve taken. There are always clear needs, and the Seahawks tend to focus in on those needs just like the rest of us.

As I mentioned before, the 2013 Seahawks were playing with house money. This was a team – in 2012, particularly in the last month of the regular season, on into the postseason – that was already a Super Bowl contender, as is. A bad start in Atlanta in the Divisional Round prevented us from what could’ve been back-to-back-to-back NFC Championship Games and even possibly back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. No team in December 2012 was playing as well as the Seattle Seahawks – including the eventual NFL Champion 49ers, who we clobbered in that closing stretch – so that 2013 NFL Draft was wide open to do what this team has never been able to do: really go after the Best Player Available.

Think about it, that team had NO HOLES. We were stacked from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the league has ever been. We CUT guys who would go on to Pro Bowls for other teams, simply because there wasn’t room for them on our 53-man roster!

And yet, as we all know, no team is without holes. We could’ve filled in around the margins; maybe gone after Travis Kelce (taken with the very next pick; can you imagine? Never having to endure the Jimmy Graham debacle?), or the Honey Badger, or Keenan Allen, or any number of third rounders in that draft who are still kicking around the league. Instead, we picked Christine Michael.

And, for the first – and really only time that I can remember – Seahawks fans all said, “HUH?” not because we didn’t know the guy, but because we didn’t know WHY in the FUCK the Seahawks – with inarguably the best running back in all of football – drafted a third running back.

Remember, this team had Robert Turbin from the 2012 draft. While he never developed into a superstar, he was more than fine as a backup. A nice change of pace, someone who took care of the ball and could spell our starter, someone with good hands out in space and fit our zone blocking scheme to a T. Maybe in a different universe, Turbin could’ve been a 1,000-yard back somewhere! When he left Seattle, he succumbed to injuries that kept him from really breaking out, but you never know.

What we DO know is that Marshawn Lynch was Beastmode, and 2012/2013 was right smack dab in the middle of his PRIME! I mean, this seriously made no sense. It was as if the team was trying to push out the best player on its offense for no good God damned reason!

And maybe that was the plan. All I know was that there wasn’t any serious inkling of Lynch retiring, or otherwise leaving the organization at that time. In an ideal universe, maybe Michael sits as the third stringer his rookie year, then takes over in Year Two. But, obviously, we know how things really shook out. Lynch had two of this three best seasons in 2013 & 2014; he was FAR from done! So far, in fact, that the team signed him to an extension in 2015 (which, of course, immediately preceeded him getting injured, then retiring, then being traded to the Raiders for a nice Oakland swan song).

Meanwhile, Michael was terrible, both on and off the field. He didn’t work on his craft, he didn’t have that will to be great; I guess the best thing you can say is that he didn’t get into trouble off the field. But, even in college people questioned his work ethic, hence (again) why a first round talent fell to the bottom of the second round.

Christine Michael was the total antithesis of what the Seahawks sought out in their players under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. And yet, here we were, blowing our first pick on this guy, where there was absolutely no need whatsoever.

There’s no defending the Christine Michael pick, which makes it the most indefensibly bad pick of the John Schneider era.

A Special Seahawks Post About Guards

Earlier this morning, it was reported that the Seahawks are bringing in familiar name Mike Iupati on a 1-year deal. Terms are yet to be disclosed, but given his injury history of late …

  • 12 games in 2013
  • 15 games in 2014
  • 13 games in 2015
  • 15 games in 2016
  • 1 game in 2017
  • 10 games in 2018

… you’d think the guarantees are minimal and the incentives are extensive. Iupati – when he’s healthy – is a tremendous left guard in this league. He’s a 4-time Pro Bowler (from 2012-2015), he’s got experience playing under coach Mike Solari, and he’s EXACTLY what this team looks for in an offensive lineman. More run blocker than pass protector, but I would argue he’s probably better at both than J.R. Sweezy and he’s only 2 years older.

That’s what I like most about this. He’s better than Sweezy and he’s cheaper than Sweezy. The fact that they flip-flop teams (Sweezy to Arizona, Iupati from Arizona) is a nice little bonus. The Cardinals are run by morons, so doing the OPPOSITE of the Cardinals is always a good thing.

My concern after hearing about it was that the Seahawks would stop there. When Sweezy signed with another team, the thought was the Seahawks could still sign Fluker, but they’d likely go young with the other guard spot. Ethan Pocic has a high pedigree as an interior lineman, and while he’s looked like a bust in his first couple years, you never know when someone is going to put it all together. We thought Ifedi should be thrown off a bridge, and look at how much better he got in his third year! Jordan Simmons was obviously the more exciting name for Seahawks fans, as he played tremendously in his couple of starts last year. But, he too has been injury prone in his career dating back through college, so trusting him to be a 16-game starter in 2019 didn’t feel too realistic.

Iupati brings some insurance to this spot. I certainly won’t believe he’s a 16-game starter either, until I see it, but maybe Iupati AND Simmons combined could be that stopgap. Either way, it was looking like a good possibility that we’d still see plenty of Pocic … that is, until later this same morning when it was reported that the Seahawks brought back Fluker on a 2-year deal.

Now, don’t get me wrong, all three of these guys – Fluker, Iupati, and Simmons – have had their share of injuries, so avoiding Pocic is far from guaranteed. But, the DEPTH at this position is staggering!

Guards in the NFL get short shrift compared to tackles, and even centers. But, I would argue they’re pretty vital, especially in a division like the NFC West, which houses so many superstar defensive tackles. Russell Wilson has proven to be pretty elusive in his tenure thus far, but he doesn’t stand a chance when guys are allowed to run free up the middle. He at least stands a chance at avoiding a defensive end – particularly as most teams scheme the Seahawks to keeping him in the pocket, and not over-pursuing around the edge – but the shortest distance between two points is a straight line between wherever Aaron Donald lines up and wherever Russell Wilson lands on his ass. So, stocking this position group is of utmost importance! I’m happy that the Seahawks are taking this as seriously as they are.

With Fant in the fold as a third tackle, the Seahawks are as strong across the offensive line as they’ve ever been. I would argue the Seahawks are as good as any team in the league at this spot! Who would’ve thunk it even a year ago?

Keeping An Eye On Seahawks-Related Free Agents

The moves are coming fast and furiously, so here’s a quick breakdown of any Seahawks-related signings to date, as well as where certain ex-Seahawks are now calling home.

Mike Davis just signed a 2-year, $6 million deal with the Bears, which feels like a great move for him, a great move for that team, and a solid fantasy football sleeper for anyone who needs a quality all-around back to stash on their bench. The RB room in Seattle was too crowded as it is, and that’s money that can be better spent elsewhere, as far as I’m concerned.

Mark Glowinski isn’t really a RECENT ex-Seahawk, but he did just get extended for 3 years and $18 million with the Colts, which sort of sets part of the market for guards. Might that be something close to what Sweezy and/or Fluker will get? We’ll see.

Frank Clark was obviously franchise tagged recently, and now we play the waiting game. Will he be signed to an extension? Will he be traded? Will he play it out on a 1-year deal? Will he hold out of OTA’s and/or Training Camp and/or the pre-season and/or the regular season? Boy howdy, do I dread the rest of this nonsense.

Sheldon Richardson played a year with the Vikings, and now has signed a 3-year deal with the Browns, so his career is going great.

Shamar Stephen just signed to return to the Vikings on a 3-year, $12.45 million deal. At best, he made no real positive impact last year; at worst, he helped drag down this team’s run defense to its lowest depths in the Pete Carroll era. Nothing about his signing makes any sense, but more power to the Vikings, I guess.

The inside linebacker market has exploded this year, which doesn’t DIRECTLY involve any Seahawks-adjacent players, but indirectly sets the market for what Bobby Wagner will be demanding next year. So, that’s fantastic.

Justin Coleman made the biggest splash so far among the ex-Seahawks, signing in Detroit for 4 years and $36 million, in becoming the highest-paid nickel corner in football. The Lions are in the process of signing literally anyone who has ever even looked at a Patriots jersey, so it should only be a matter of time before they’re in the market for a new rub n’ tug joint in the Miami area.

No word on Earl Thomas yet (other than some rumors he’s headed to Cleveland), but a couple safeties have already signed their big-money deals, and there are plenty more available safeties where that came from. I’m seriously beginning to wonder if ET will get even close to the money he was banking on.

James Carpenter signed on with the Falcons for 4 years and $21 million. He’s made a nice chunk of change for himself after his rookie deal with the Seahawks expired lo those many years ago.

Much more closer to home is the news last night that J.R. Sweezy signed a 2-year deal with the Cardinals, so that’s a bummer. Money’s looking a little tigher around Seahawksland than once thought! I also guess this means one of the younger guys will be slated to step up into a starting role. This could get dicey.

Finally, before anything else happens, Brett Hundley signed a 1-year deal with the Cardinals to be their backup. He got $2 million for his trouble, which is obviously more than the Seahawks should be willing to pay (especially considering they already brought in Paxton Lynch). The fact that the Seahawks traded a 6th round pick for a guy who never played a snap for us is pretty galling to most fans out there. It’s not that we don’t understand the logic behind the move; it’s that we disagree with the logic employed. I’m with most other Seahawks fans out there: if Russell Wilson goes down for the season, then I want to tank AS HARD AS POSSIBLE. The fact that the people in charge don’t agree is troubling to say the least.

Should The Seahawks Trade Frank Clark?

It kinda hit me not too long ago. On paper, it looks like the Seahawks have a lot of cap room to wheel and deal, but in reality they’ve got a lot of money tied up in players currently on the roster, and a lot of the free money we’ve got is earmarked to re-sign or extend players – again – currently on the roster. Sweezy and Fluker. Justin Coleman. An early extension for Jarran Reed before it costs us a mint to keep him around. And, of course, our all-world quarterback, among others. For a 10-6 wild card team that lost in the first round of the playoffs and never seriously contended for a division title, how exactly are the Seahawks supposed to better themselves? Particularly when there’s only 4 draft picks to play with, one of which will need to be traded down multiple times to hopefully get a normal allotment of choices.

Heading into this offseason, the Seahawks’ number 1 priority – and my number 1 priority FOR the Seahawks – was to extend Frank Clark. But, considering we’re going into the final year of Russell Wilson’s latest deal, and considering what the going rate is for a premiere defensive end, is it smart to have two guys taking up such a large percentage of the team’s cap? Wilson’s going to be angling for $35-$40 million per year as it is; should we also have a second guy getting $20 million per year? Even with the salary cap going up every year, that seems like a ridiculous figure.

At the same time, unless this team is sold on some rookie who’s the second coming of Patrick Mahomes, I don’t see any way this team can rid itself of Russell Wilson without setting the franchise back a decade or more. So, that leaves us with the option of trading away Frank Clark.

As things stand now, he’s already been franchised. That’s over $17 million for this one year alone. A second tag comes with, what, a 10% raise? Then, a third tag is a prohibitive amount of money beyond that. So, that’s sort of the baseline, and you’ve got to try to find a way to pay off his sense of security. Frank Clark doesn’t seem like he’s going to be afraid of the injury bug shortening his career; he’s willing to take this thing to the mat like more and more players are doing nowadays. Which is obviously well within his rights and probably a smart thing to do. He wants to get to real free agency, where his ultimate value is open to the highest bidder, because the lifespan of a professional football player is so short, and you’ve got to get yours while the getting’s good.

My question is: is he worth it?

Don’t get me wrong, Frank Clark is great. He started off his career pretty good, and he’s gotten better every year. I think he’s also got a lot of great years to come. I think we’ll see tremendous production out of him for at least the next 4-5 years. But, is he one of the 5 best defensive ends in the game? Is he 17-times better than someone we could select in this year’s draft?

I would argue it’s in the Seahawks’ best interests to trade him for a bevy of draft picks – ideally two first rounders, but at least a first, a third, and a sixth or something – and use that money and those picks to re-stock the team. Try to fill the Frank Clark-sized void with two or three guys.

More and more, I’m coming around to the thinking: is this something the Patriots would do? I think, without question, the Patriots never would’ve franchise tagged Clark, or if they did, it would be for the express purposes of trading him to a willing sucker for more draft picks. Or, at the very least, they’d find a way to pay him under the table like they’re doing for Tom Brady.

The point is, you have to keep emotions out of it when you’re making personnel decisions. And you can’t have too much money tied into too few guys. The Patriots would never give a guy like Frank Clark a max contract; instead they’d wait for someone like Michael Bennett to become available, trade a low-round draft pick for him, and pay him significantly less to get pretty close to the same production.

Now, of course, all that being said, it looks like the Seahawks are going to do whatever it takes to make Clark happy. It’s not the first time they’ve done something I thought was a mistake, and they’ve consistently proven me wrong time and time again. So, I’ll be curious to see how the dumpster diving goes for the rest of this off-season, as the team tries to improve over last year’s surprisingly positive record.

Then again, the Rams have already made a few moves to better themselves in what we thought would be an impossible cap situation. So, maybe it’ll all be pointless and we’ll be fighting for yet another wild card spot.

The Seahawks Need More Stars

Brock and Salk had an interesting conversation recently about the Seahawks and how close they are to contending for another Super Bowl. My takeaway (I tend to agree with Salk here) is that the Seahawks are short on stars. There are a lot of good players on this team, but not necessarily a lot of GREAT players. So, I decided to quickly do a comparison between the 2018/2019 Seahawks against the 2013 Super Bowl Champs.

Offensive (and Special Teams) Stars

Now

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Chris Carson – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Duane Brown – LT
  • Michael Dickson – P

Then

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Marshawn Lynch – RB
  • Golden Tate – WR
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Russell Okung – LT
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jon Ryan – P

Right there, you’d have to say pretty comparable. Beastmode is better than Carson, the receivers are pretty close to the same, and 2018 Russell is better than 2013 Russell. Where we start to see some breakaway is on the other side of the ball.

Defensive Stars

Now

  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Jarran Reed – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • (K.J. Wright – LB)

Then

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Earl Thomas – FS
  • Kam Chancellor – SS
  • Richard Sherman – CB

I’d say the Seahawks have a good start here, but I’d also say the combo of Bennett & Avril were better than the combo of Clark & Reed. Now, there’s obviously still room for both of the younger guys to grow, so in theory they could be even more dominant than they were in 2018, but as it stands right now that’s where we’re at. 2018 Bobby is better than 2013 Bobby, and while 2018 K.J. is better than 2013 K.J., the 2018 version was also injury prone, and is far from a lock to be re-signed to this team in 2019.

Then, there’s the secondary. The 2013 Seahawks not only had 3 superstars in the secondary, they had 3 ALL TIMERS. The 2018/2019 Seahawks don’t have anything CLOSE, and that’s ultimately their biggest hole to overcome (I won’t say “fill”, because I think we’re pretty much stuck with the guys we’ve got, which means we have to compensate in other ways defensively and as a team as a whole).

So, digging down further, let’s list the players who are just good starters/role players.

Now

  • Mike Davis – RB
  • Rashaad Penny – RB
  • All our Tight Ends
  • Justin Britt – C
  • Both starting Guards
  • Poona Ford – DT
  • Mychal Kendricks – LB
  • Justin Coleman – CB
  • Tre Flowers – CB
  • Shaq Griffin – CB
  • Bradley McDougald – SS

Then

  • All our Tight Ends
  • Sidney Rice – WR
  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Chris Clemons – DE
  • Tony McDaniel – DT
  • Clinton McDonald – DT
  • Brandon Mebane – DT
  • Bruce Irvin – LB
  • Byron Maxwell – CB
  • Walter Thurmond – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB

I think our running back room now is stronger than it was then (but it didn’t matter in 2013 when Beastmode was all you needed). I think our offensive line as a whole is better now than it was then, even though the 2013 version was more top-heavy (Sweezy in 2018 is MUCH better than Sweezy in 2013, for instance; Fluker is better than Carpenter; and I would argue Ifedi is on par with Giacomini). I think both tight end rooms are a wash. But, as you can see, while the Seahawks of today have a so-so secondary, the BACKUPS in 2013 were on par with what we have now (and, I would argue, probably a little better). And, the other big difference is up front. Look at all the beef we had on the D-Line in 2013 compared to today! It’s no contest!

Also, not for nothing, but a few of those guys I listed might not be back in 2019, which is yet more work for the Seahawks to do this offseason.

As you can see, the talent disparity is pretty big. I wouldn’t say it’s insurmountable, but you have to wonder where we’re going to pick up the slack. With 4 draft picks and a bunch of our own stars we need to extend, it’s not like we have unlimited resources.

The good news is, the Seahawks of 2019 don’t need to beat the Seahawks of 2013. I would argue the 2013 Seahawks were one of the most talented teams of all time (especially on defense); we won’t see anyone like that in the NFL in 2019. We just have to get past the Rams and the rest of the NFC, then let the chips fall where they may.

It would HELP if we could develop a couple of those good starters into superstars, but this draft and free agency period will be pretty big. No whiffing, lest we middle our way to another Wild Card finish.

Seahawks Death Week: Ranking The Holes To Fill

It’s not all sunshine and puppydog noses in Seahawksland after an unexpected playoff berth in 2018. True, the floor was not as far down as we all thought coming off a disappointing 2017, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of work to do. Here’s my ranking of the holes the Seahawks need to fill heading into the 2019 season, from most important to least.

#1 – Safety

Bradley McDougald is locked up through 2020, at a relative bargain for what he brought to the table when he was healthy the last couple years. The best part about B McD is he can play either strong or free safety, which is crucial because I’m making this position not only the most important to shore up in the offseason, but the biggest priority for the upcoming NFL Draft. That doesn’t NECESSARILY mean I need the Seahawks to use a first round pick on one; but I need for whoever they do end up drafting to hit and hit big for this defense to work. Ideally, we’d find a more capable Earl Thomas replacement at free safety, and slide McDougald over to strong safety, where he’s probably better suited to play. Sure, keep Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill around as depth/competition, but we can’t be counting on them longterm, not with what little improvement we saw over the course of the 2018 season.

#2 – Defensive End 2

DE 1 is obviously Frank Clark, and he’s coming back one way or another (either via a longterm extension, or a franchise tag). The real need is at that end spot opposite Clark. I like Jacob Martin an awful lot based on what he was able to do as a rookie, but at this point in his career he’s more of a rotational guy, and this team needs veteran stability at the other pass rusher spot. Ideally, there will be a stud free agent or two out on the open market, like in 2013 when we were able to sign Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. I don’t know who the 2018 equivalent is, but that’s my idea.

#3 – Guards

This is most easily remedied by re-signing Fluker & Sweezy. I could see one of them maybe moving on, but losing both feels unrealistic. Behind them, we have Pocic and Simmons, a bust and an injury waiting to happen. I like Pocic and Simmons as depth right now more than I like handing them the job out of Training Camp, even though both are younger and with higher ceilings. Could the Seahawks get by with those two? Sure, but I don’t want to know what kind of growing pains this offense needs to go through to make it happen. Just bring back Fluker & Sweezy.

#4 – Weakside Linebacker

K.J. Wright is as good as gone, so this spot could certainly use some shoring up. At this point, we don’t know if Kendricks slots better at this spot or the strong side, but that’s certainly an option. Austin Calitro, I thought, acquitted himself well in his fill-in duty. The draft could also be an option, though obviously not with a high pick. Regardless, there’s going to be an immediate drop-off from the longtime quality we got from Wright; the idea is to not fall too far off his level.

#5 – Kicker

It’s time to do it up right. Ideally, we would’ve solved this puzzle in 2018 with Jason Myers, but we opted to go for the old man, which was fine for the short term, but a disaster overall. Kicker is a tricky thing to fix, as they’re so varied from year to year. Is there an elite leg coming out of college like Michael Dickson last year? God, I hope so.

#6 – Defensive Tackle 2 (or 3)

Jarran Reed has distinguished himself as a bona fide every-down DT in this league. Given his pass rush ability, he has certainly proven he’s more than just a widebody nose tackle. And, with the emergence of Poona Ford as a run stopping machine (and ostensibly the only one on the entire line), you could easily slide him into the starting nose tackle spot, meaning we need a third guy who can sort of do both, stop the run and maybe rush the passer a little. Really, we’re looking for a cheap, veteran, Tony McDaniel type, but GOD DAMMIT we need to fix the run defense from day 1!

#7 – Wide Receiver 3 (or 4)

David Moore could assert himself into this role, but he really disappeared toward the end of 2018 after a delightful start, so everything is up in the air with him right now. Jaron Brown picked things up in his place, but honestly he finished the year with 14 receptions on 19 targets, and his cap hit goes up to nearly $4 million in 2019, which is too much for what he’s bringing to the table. Better to get out from under that and bring in someone cheaper and better if we can.

#8 – Strongside Linebacker

Barkevious Mingo is signed through 2019, at a cap hit of $4.4 million, which isn’t outrageous, but he was another guy who disappeared toward the end of the season. I feel like his spot could be better filled by someone younger and cheaper, probably in the draft.

#9 – Cornerback 3 (or 4)

You’d think I’d have this higher, since I’m essentially begging the team to re-sign Justin Coleman. But, the Seahawks always seem to find a way to get by with whoever they put over there. Ideally, Coleman is extended while they also draft (late) his future replacement. Akeem King should be back too, which gives us nice depth, as I thought he played pretty well down the stretch.

#10 – Running Back 3

Figure Carson is your RB 1 and Penny will elevate to RB 2, this is your Mike Davis spot, only probably younger and cheaper.

#11 – Quarterback 2

Don’t go breaking the bank on Brett Hundley, that’s all I’m saying. Really, don’t break the bank on anyone. In any scenario where Russell Wilson goes down, it’s tank-city.

#12 – Tight End

Vannett is still on his rookie deal through 2019 and he’s fine. Dissly should be back to 100% by Training Camp, so he’s also fine. Ed Dickson, however, sees his cap hit triple over the next two years. He’s ostensibly TE 1, but he had only 12 catches on 13 targets, so I’m not convinced that’s worthy of over $4 million per year, regardless of what he brings to the table with his blocking. Seems like we could get by with the other two and bring in another cheap vet.

Seahawks Death Week: The Free Agents

The Seahawks have a bunch of money opening up heading into 2019, which leads many to believe there’s going to be a feeding frenzy of free agents heading onto this team. However, there are guys on the Seahawks RIGHT NOW whose contracts are expiring, so that’s who we’re going to talk about today. Who should the Seahawks retain, and who should they let go?

The Big Names

Earl Thomas – There isn’t even a question; we can want Earl to come back until we’re blue in the face, but it ain’t happenin’. Even if HE wanted to come back, though, I don’t think it would be a good idea. I mean, yeah, he’s elite. When he’s healthy, he’s the best in the game. But, 2018 was his third consecutive season cut short due to injuries. It’s just not a smart investment. He needs to move on.

K.J. Wright – All year, I’ve been under the impression that 2018 would be the last we’d see of K.J. Wright, but towards the end you could’ve talked me into a 1-year, prove-it deal with a lot of incentives instead of guarantees. I still think I’d be okay with that, but let’s get real, that knee isn’t getting any healthier. He’s great when he’s on the field, but how many games can we count on him for? Also, how soon will his decline start? I’d put good money he’s not the same in 2019. I think he also needs to move on.

Frank Clark – Gotta keep him. I’m not gonna say you pay him whatever it takes – I wouldn’t give him Ndamukong Suh or Aaron Donald money – but pay him what he’s worth. If that makes him the second-highest cap figure on the team, so be it, because he’s worth it.

Sebastian Janikowski – He’s gotta go. If he hadn’t injured himself in the playoff game, you MAYBE could’ve talked me into another year. He wasn’t THAT bad in 2018; he wasn’t anywhere near as awful as Blair Walsh. I essentially got what I expected out of Janikowski; he’s not perfect and he never was. But, he’s steady. He made 48/51 extra points and 22/27 field goals (including 3/5 from 50+ which is pretty good). Was I turned off by that kickoff return he gave up, where he didn’t even try to touch the runner blowing past him? Yeah, but again, I know who this guy is. I know what to expect. But, that leg injury – combined with the fact that he already missed 2017 due to injury – just makes it untenable. If anything, bring him back in a kicking competition, but instead of having him as the lead dog like he was this season, make him the underdog and give the advantage to a younger guy. Or, shit, just draft a kicker in the 6th round and be done with it!

The Semi-Big Names

Dion Jordan – I like the idea. I like the idea of buying low on a super-stud athlete with a HUGE upside whose career was derailed by injuries and knuckleheadery. But, the dude just can’t stay on the field and even when he’s on the field it doesn’t seem like he makes much of an impact. Time to cut ties and give his spot to someone else.

D.J. Fluker & J.R. Sweezy – I’m lumping these two together because I want them both back! These guys were difference-makers for our offensive line (and therefore our entire offense). Now, obviously, they’re injury-prone, so you have to get some value for that. And you HAVE TO build in protections in case we have to cut and run after 2019. But, I wouldn’t mind giving both of these guys 3-year deals (that are really 2-year deals, but can easily be cut down to 1-year deals without a ton of dead money). Never change your contract structure, NFL! It’s the only thing keeping me sane!

Mike Davis – He made $1.35 million in 2018, which is right in the ballpark of what I don’t mind spending on a running back insurance policy. Anything significantly higher than $1.5 million is probably too much. He was a guy we just got off the street; I’m sure there are others just like him who will give us just as much. He’s not a priority, but I’d like him back at the right price.

Mychal Kendricks – I absolutely want him back! Give him K.J.’s spot if you have to! This guy is a difference-maker, and (God forbid) if Bobby were to go down, he’s a guy who can slide into the middle and allow our defense to not miss much of a beat. Given his 2018, you have to figure his value is pretty low. And, given our loyalty, you have to figure we have an inside shot if we present a good deal for him. This is a no-brainer.

Justin Coleman – He earned just a shade under $3 million in 2018, which is tremendous value. Considering this team really hasn’t developed anyone behind him to take over in that nickel role, I think the Seahawks have to do almost whatever it takes to extend him for another 3-4 years. Remember that old Jeremy Lane deal? Something like that would sit just fine with me.

Shamar Stephen – Ehh, no thanks. He was on a 1-year veteran deal and our rush defense was as bad as I’ve ever seen it! Isn’t that what he was brought in for? Wasn’t that his one selling point? I’m beginning to wonder if we didn’t get rid of the wrong ex-Viking defensive tackle; there’s no way Tom Johnson could’ve been worse, right?

Maurice Alexander – Why? Did he do ANYTHING this year? Maybe as camp fodder, but he’s not necessary.

Brett Hundley – Why did we trade a 2019 sixth round pick for this guy? NO! Go away Brett Hundley!

The Restricted Free Agents

I’m pretty sure these are the guys who you put a value on (first round, second round, or original round tender) and if some other team swoops in with a Godfather deal, you get either a first, second, or original round draft pick in the upcoming draft. So, let’s get to it! I’m not going to talk about all the guys, because I don’t KNOW all the guys, but I’ll throw a nod to the no-names at the end.

George Fant – Fant went undrafted, so you gotta tag him with either a first or second round value. A first rounder is a hair under $4.5 million; a second rounder is just over $3 million. I think the Seahawks should absolutely try to extend him, but failing that, I think you saddle him with a first round tender. The NFL is in desperate need of capable offensive linemen, and say what you will about the Seahawks, but they’ve developed A LOT of guys for other teams. Tender him and see what happens, but try to bring him back.

J.D. McKissic – He also went undrafted, but I don’t think I’m tendering him at all. He’s another dime-a-dozen guy at a dime-a-dozen position. He earned pennies in 2018, so if you want to bring him back for pennies, fine. But, it’s not necessary.

Tyler Ott – The ol’ long snapper! Don’t tender him, but yes try to bring him back.

Joey Hunt – An original round tender is interesting, because he was selected in the 6th round, and you could see someone else signing him to be their starting center. But, the risk there is that no one signs him, and his salary leaps from $630,000 to a little over $2 million. For a guy who might be 3rd on the depth chart at center, assuming Pocic is still in line to play behind Britt, that’s not money well spent. Forgetting the tender, I don’t think his services are really needed, but he’s not bad as camp fodder if no one else wants him.

Quinton Jefferson – Now, this is interesting, because I thought he took a step forward in 2018. Not huge; he’s not a guy you HAVE to have. But, considering he used to be a guy I thought of as a bust, it’s nice that he’s built up some value. He was originally a 5th round pick, and I would have no problem giving him an original round tender. I might even go as high as a 2nd rounder, though that feels like pushing it. I’d do that and give him another year to prove if he’s worth a longer-term deal.

Branden Jackson – He was a guy I had a lot of hopes for heading into 2018, but he finished the season as a healthy scratch most weeks. He went undrafted and doesn’t seem to be worth tendering. Another camp guy on a minimum deal at best.

Tre Madden – He’s a fullback, he’s not worth tendering. Minimum 1-year deal.

The Rest of the Restricted Free Agents – Kalan Reed (CB), T.J. Green (S). Who? Exactly.

I’m not going to get into the Exclusive Rights Free Agents, because there’s no risk. These guys are essentially ON the team, unless the team opts to not bring them back. Guys like Akeem King, David Moore, Austin Calitro, Jordan Simmons, and Shalom Luani should all be back.

Seahawks Death Week: What Did We Figure Out?

Heading into 2018, there were question marks across the board with the Seahawks. Could we develop a running game outside of Russell Wilson? Could we develop a pass rush? Would our secondary hold together? How would our new coordinators fit in? Could we develop enough young talent to push this team in the right direction for 2019 and beyond?

It felt like at least a 2-year project before we’d see the playoffs again, so to make it back in Year 1 feels like playing with house money at this point. So, let’s take a look at what went right, in no particular order:

Running Backs

In 2018, infamously the leading running back for this team was Russell Wilson with 586 yards. The next-closest back was Mike Davis with 240. The only player to run for a touchdown not named Russell Wilson was J.D. McKissic, who had 1 all year. So, you can understand why the Seahawks put so much into re-emphasizing this part of the game.

In 2019, Russell Wilson was 4th on this team in rushing yards, much more in line with where he SHOULD be. We used a first round draft pick – after trading down to acquire more picks – on Rashaad Penny, who had an underwhelming rookie season with only 419 yards (3rd on the team), but he also had the third-most attempts and actually led the group in yards per carry with 4.9. Penny didn’t come out of the gates guns blazing, as there was more of a learning curve for him as he adjusted to the NFL, but he did show flashes of brilliance and that big-play ability we brought him in here for. I don’t know if he’ll ever be a Pro Bowler, or just a nice role player, but his Sophomore campaign should tell quite a bit about where his pro career is headed.

Returning as this team’s #2 running back was Mike Davis, who showed his usual reliability and professionalism. This is a rock-solid #2 guy that I’d never have any qualms about making the occasional spot start for an injured player; he’s a huge upgrade over Robert Turbin, for instance. He ended up with 514 yards on a 4.6 average. It appears Davis will be a Free Agent next year, so hopefully we can bring him back at the right price. Though, I guess we’ll see; with the money we have in Penny, we might want to spend the minimum at a spot where there’s a 3-headed monster.

Chris Carson returned from an injury in 2018 and should really be in the running for Comeback Player of the Year. He led the Seahawks with 1,151 yards on a 4.7 yard average with a whopping 9 touchdowns. He’s the first 1,000-yard rusher for the Seahawks since Beastmode in 2014, and let me tell you, he looked A LOT like our future Ring of Honor stud. We were a different team with Carson on the field, as he bowled and jumped over opposing players with regularity.

Overall, I’d say the position is set for 2019, though it’ll be ultra-set if we bring back Davis.

Pass Rush

The Seahawks were tied for 13th in 2017 with 39.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh had 56.0), which was okay, but obviously not great. We improved to being tied for 11th in 2018 with 43.0 sacks (league-leading Pittsburgh & Kansas City had 52.0) which is a step in the right direction, though we could always be better.

Frank Clark led the way with 14.0 sacks; he’s also set to be a free agent in 2019. The Seahawks are saying all the right things about bringing him back on a long-term extension, though they’re also looking to re-up Wilson and a few others, so they’ve got their work cut out for them. Regardless, the franchise tag is in our pocket, and Clark’s already on record as saying he’d welcome the challenge of playing on the tag, thereby having his value skyrocket if he stays healthy and performs as he did this year. He also could, theoretically, still improve, particularly with better pieces around him, so we may just be scratching the surface with him. Either way, this was a HUGE step forward for a guy a lot of people wondered about. I don’t know if I ever expected him to perform at this level, so it’s great to see!

Even more shocking was what Jarran Reed was able to do in his third season as an interior lineman. He went from 1.5 sacks in each of his first two years to a whopping 10.5 sacks in 2018, which is just an astronomical leap! That’s Cortez Kennedy-level ball-busting! He’s another guy this team needs to keep around for the long term.

After those two, it drops off considerably. The next-highest guy was Quinton Jefferson with 3, and he’s just a rotation guy at best. Rookie Jacob Martin also had 3 sacks, which is encouraging for a high-motor guy still developing his NFL body. It’ll be interesting to see what strides he’s able to make between Year 1 and Year 2.

Rasheem Green was the other highly-touted rookie who had only 1 sack this year, and often found himself as a healthy scratch by season’s end. He was always going to be something of a project, so it’s not surprising, but it is a little disappointing. He was never going to have as much opportunity as 2018, considering you have to figure the Seahawks are planning on pouring big money into the area for next year.

Overall, we’ve got two studs, one maybe, and a lot of filler. While this area was better than I expected heading into the year – as I expected this team to totally fall off the cliff – our stars stayed healthy and produced. Now, it’s just a matter of filling in with better talent around those stars.

Secondary

This was always going to be a challenge, with Kam essentially forced into retirement, with Earl holding out, then playing disgruntled, then being lost for the year to injury. And, of course, the Seahawks waived Richard Sherman, which pushed Shaquill Griffin over to his side of the field as the team’s primary cornerback. For all the grief I gave him about that playoff game, I thought Griffin was fine. At times he was a solid tackler, but he also appeared to be out of position every so often, and took bad angles on tackles. He also finished with only 2 interceptions, which is pretty weak for the team’s primary corner. He’s not going anywhere in 2019, so let’s hope he makes a major jump in his performance in Year 3.

The other cornerback spot appeared to change hands multiple times heading into the 2018 season. Byron Maxwell looked to have the inside track, but he came in injured and never made the team. Other veterans were vetted, but the job ended up in the hands of rookie Tre Flowers, who took it and ran with it. There were the expected growing pains, but he really picked it up over the second half of the season, and looks to be a solid cog in this secondary. He didn’t get any picks, but you have to figure those will come with experience.

With both of our starting safeties out, Bradley McDougald really held this whole thing together. He’s a solid veteran who was playing at a Pro Bowl level for a while, but appeared to break down by season’s end. With him, Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill got their chances to make their marks on this team in their second seasons, but both of them were pretty hit or miss. You have to think the experience was nothing but a positive for them, but they’ll still have to parlay it into 2019 and make significant jumps if they want to be here long term.

I have to think the Seahawks will be looking in the draft for another primo safety. While we’re not set yet, it’s good to see the secondary playing as well as they did this season. They might not have showed out with the turnovers as the L.O.B. did when they hit the scene, but they limited big plays and kept this team in ballgames, which is all you can ask for. I’d also like to see the team extend Justin Coleman long-term, as he’s still one of the better nickel corners in this league.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham was thankfully sent packing, and in his place the team actually improved. Who knew?

Oh yeah, we all knew.

Will Dissly made a HUGE impact in Week 1, then got hurt and was lost for the season. Considering he was the best blocking tight end in the draft last year, and with his offense being better than anticipated, he looks like he’ll be an awesome weapon next year, assuming he returns from injury okay.

Nick Vannett really stepped up in his absence, in his 3rd season in the NFL. He had career highs in receptions, yards, and touchdowns. They weren’t super-amazing or anything (29, 269, 3), but this team doesn’t NEED a Jimmy Graham-like tight end to be effective offensively. I am perfectly happy with those numbers from our 2016 third round draft pick.

Ed Dickson was a free agent signee, and he didn’t make a huge impact either – actually finishing with fewer yards than Dissly, thanks to his own injury issues to start the season – but he had some big plays here and there, and still chipped in 3 TDs of his own. Combined, the TE position had 8 touchdowns on the season (51 catches for 600 yards, if you count George Fant, which I absolutely do!), which is perfectly fine for what little resources we’ve pumped into the position. You don’t need superstars at tight end to have a winning offense.

Tight end is set, assuming Dissly is back to 100%.

Offensive Line

The O-Line was the biggest question mark heading into the season, and thankfully it eventually turned into one of this team’s biggest strengths. Duane Brown was a Second Team All Pro at left tackle, Justin Britt brought his usual solidness at the center position, and Germain Ifedi made a big leap in his third year to finally become a passable right tackle. There were some growing pains at the guard spots – arguably the most important spots on the entire O-Line for a team with a Russell Wilson at quarterback – but after the second game, when J.R. Sweezy took over on the left side and D.J. Fluker took over on the right, they finally morphed into a cohesive, solid unit.

The downside is both Sweezy and Fluker are free agents heading into 2019. They’re also getting up there in age, and seemingly always face a litany of injuries. While that should theoretically keep their costs down, it’s hard to ignore the strides this team made when both of them were healthy. As such, you have to figure they’re in store for raises over the $1.5 million each of them made in 2018.

Beyond those two, Ethan Pocic was a disaster. He started those first two games we lost (when couldn’t do a damn thing offensively), and every time he took the field late in the season, the offense took an immediate step back. I don’t know if he’s undersized, incompetent, or both, but he’s got A LOT of work to do if he’s aiming to return to the starting five. As a second round pick already in his second year, with plenty of experience under his belt already, this is NOT trending well.

Jordan Simmons, however, was a revelation when he stepped in for Fluker! He’s a big ol’ mauler in Fluker’s image, but his season ended prematurely with injury. Combine that with the fact that he spent most of his college career injured, and I don’t think he’s someone we can count on long term. As a fill-in, backup type guy, though, it’s nice to know he’s around.

Joey Hunt is heading into free agency; he’s not someone I’d mind if we kept around or not. He looks undersized, and at this point Pocic might only be able to salvage his career if he backs up Britt at center, so Hunt is probably a luxury this team doesn’t need. He could still develop into a quality starter somewhere, but probably not here.

Finally, the aforementioned George Fant had quite a bit of playing time. He was often a sixth lineman this team implemented when we wanted to pound the rock, and once in a while found himself running routes (with his lone catch being a highlight of the season). He filled in for Ifedi late in the year – with Ifedi sliding over to guard for an injured Fluker – and that didn’t go so great. But, I would still expect him back, as I can’t imagine there’s going to be a huge bidding war for Fant.

Conclusion

With an elite quarterback, an elite middle linebacker, two elite wide receivers, and some nice pieces noted above, this is a team that’s heading in the right direction for another playoff run in 2019. How they spend their money in free agency will ultimately determine if this team’s going to contend for a division title. There are still quite a bit of holes left to fill, so it should be interesting.

The Seahawks Go To Dallas This Saturday For A Wild Card Showdown

In week 3 of the regular season, the Seahawks hosted the Cowboys and beat them 24 to 13. It was the immortal game where the 0-2 Seahawks first started their re-dedication to running the football. Chris Carson carried it a whopping 32 times after being limited to just 6 carries the week prior (where the coaching staff either forgot about him, or doubted his conditioning). That proved to be a mistake, and the Dallas game proved it, as he racked up 102 yards and a touchdown.

That’s not an amazing average, but the Cowboys in 2018 had one of the top defenses in the league against the run (giving up the 5th fewest yards per game and yards per attempt), so you have to figure just having a 100-yard back is pretty amazing.

The thing about this matchup is: these aren’t the same Cowboys. Those Cowboys – after their week 3 defeat – fell to 1-2 (the same record as the Seahawks). The Cowboys would eventually fall to 3-5 at the midway point in the season, which was right around the time they traded a first round pick to the Raiders for Amari Cooper. The Cowboys finished their season 7-1 to win the NFC East and earn this first round home game.

Regardless of the quality of your opponents, 7-1 is nothing to sneeze at. They beat the Eagles twice, and the #1 seed Saints at home; their only loss was a flukey road game against Indy where they were shut out. But, other than that, the Cowboys have been one of the more clutch teams, winning all 7 of those late-season games by 8 points or less. They have the league’s #1 running back in Ezekiel Elliott, they figured out how to unleash Amari Cooper after he’d been floundering in Oakland for the last few seasons, and Dak Prescott has stepped his game back up after a rocky sophomore campaign.

More importantly, their defense is legit, and apparently they have Kris Richard to thank?! They’ve given up the 7th fewest yards and 6th fewest points. They’re middle-of-the-road in sacks, but don’t be fooled, because they can generate a ton of pressure. I already talked about their rush defense being key, but their pass defense is no slouch either, giving up just 234.7 yards per game.

But, here’s the other thing about this matchup: these aren’t the same Seahawks either.

We all know what the Seahawks have done – going 10-4 since week 2, while putting up a fight in each of our losses against tough opponents – and what the Seahawks are good at. So, let’s talk about how it relates to this game on Saturday.

The absolute key of keys will be the offensive line. D.J. Fluker appears to be ready to go, and it sounds like J.R. Sweezy will give it a try and see how he feels on gameday. Having them both back and healthy is going to be critical, not just for this game, but for the rest of this season. I mean, you saw what happened last week, when both of them sat out! The Cardinals almost upset us! You saw what happened against the 49ers when we had to fill some holes; it was a disaster!

If either of them miss time in this game, we’re in trouble. Because if the #1-A key to this game is the O-Line, then #1-B is turnovers. The Cowboys aren’t particularly great – on either side of the ball – at turnovers, so if we give them additional possessions, we’re probably going to be fucked. Their defense is too good for us to overcome a ton of mistakes. On the flipside, if OUR defense can knock the ball out of their hands and recover some of those fumbles, we might be talking about a serious spanking.

On a neutral field, if you played this game 100 times, I think the Seahawks win more than they lose. On this particular field, on this particular day, I think the Seahawks are more than capable of doing what needs to be done. Odds are – if we do prevail – we’ll have to go on the road to play New Orleans, which is a TALL order, and will likely require some of that special Russell Wilson goodness. I’d like to save that – if there is indeed a finite amount of it in the 2018 season – for next week, and just take care of business here against the Cowboys.

On the flipside, I’m worried about Zeke. That dude is a STUD and our defense has been pretty weak at stopping the run this year. Thankfully, we have Bobby Wagner, who is our rock. Maybe even MORE thankfully, K.J. Wright is back and playing like his old self. He’s going to be our defensive #1-A key, because not only will he need to track Elliott, but he’ll likely find himself shading towards Cole Beasley whenever Justin Coleman isn’t on him. We all know what Amari Cooper can do. I’m sure he’ll get his, but I have my doubts that he’ll blow up like he has at times since the trade. I do fear Beasley quite a bit, because he’s shifty, he’s quick, and he tears up those underneath routes (which our defense tends to give up, as we do everything in our power to prevent opposing offense from taking the top off). So, covering him will be critical, but more importantly, SOUND TACKLING will be the name of the game.

We lose this game if we lose the turnover battle, and if we get tore apart on 3rd down. If Dak has a clean pocket, he can easily dink and dunk his way down the field on us, so let’s wrap up, let’s take good angles, and let’s stay healthy out there! I know a lot of our depth is injured, so keeping our able bodies on the field will be super important.

In the end – like with most every Seahawks game – I think it’s a coin flip. I’d give the edge to the good guys, but if we’re all disappointed come Saturday night, I won’t be shocked. If the Seahawks DO win, don’t be surprised if it’s some oddball score, so I’m going to predict something in the realm of 26-12. Don’t ask me how we get to that number, but that’s what I’m going with.