A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Seahawks Death Week: Looking At The Free Agents

Started talking about this a bit yesterday, but here’s the full dive.

First, we’ll start with the unrestricted free agents.  These are the guys who are free to sign with whatever team they want, with no draft pick penalties.  On offense, we have, in no particular order:

  • Russell Okung – left tackle
  • Jermaine Kearse – wide receiver
  • J.R. Sweezy – right guard
  • Tarvaris Jackson – quarterback
  • Will Tukuafu – fullback
  • Ricardo Lockette – wide receiver
  • Fred Jackson – running back
  • Lemuel Jeanpierre – center
  • Anthony McCoy – tight end
  • Chase Coffman – tight end
  • Bryce Brown – running back

I could take or leave the last five guys on that list.  I feel like Jackson was a 1-year deal, but we’ll probably look to get younger at our 3rd down back spot on the roster.  I like Jeanpierre as depth, so it probably wouldn’t hurt to have him come into camp, but I could easily see the team looking to move on.  McCoy and Coffman are probably both camp fodder, desperately trying to make it as a 3rd tight end, but probably won’t make it here unless we have a bunch of injuries.  Brown might be a good guy to have around, if the team looks to move on from Lynch, but I think we can do better.

As far as Lockette is concerned, he’ll need to fully recover from his injury.  If that works out, I wouldn’t mind having him back as a low-end receiver/special teams guy.  I like Tukuafu a lot; if he’ll come back for the right price, I wouldn’t mind having him around.  And, it probably wouldn’t hurt to have Tarvaris Jackson around for another year, but at some point, I think the team might want to look to the draft for a backup quarterback.

There’s really just three primary unrestricted free agents on offense this year:  Okung, Sweezy, and Kearse.  I could see the team bringing all three back, I could see the team moving on from all three, or any combination in between.  Okung looks to be the priciest of the three, since he was originally a draft pick under the old CBA, and he’s a noted Pro Bowl left tackle (and also, not for nothing, our best offensive lineman by a thousand miles).  Given his injury history, and the fact that he’s nobody’s Walter Jones clone, I’m less inclined to do whatever it takes to bring him back.  If he opts to return under something of a team-friendly deal (i.e. not a ton of dead money lurking, if we decide it’s time to move on), I’d be cool with his coming back.  But, considering he’s acting as his own agent, I feel like he’s going to use these negotiations to make a point, and try to get the best possible deal he can.  Don’t be shocked if that comes from another team.

I had high hopes for a higher ceiling out of Sweezy, but I think what we’ve seen is what we’re going to get.  He flashes a lot of toughness and agility, but he also flashes complete ineptitude at letting our quarterback get killed.  Again, I’d be okay with the team bringing him back on a team-friendly deal; but, I’d also be okay with the team punting on this whole issue of converting defensive linemen into guards and rebuilding the interior of the line through the draft (of high picks) and/or free agency.  It might be difficult to replace 3-4 spots on the line, so if Sweezy is able to return on a moderate deal, maybe we can devote resources elsewhere (like shoring up the left guard position and selling Britt down the river).

Kearse, as I’ve said before, I’d like to have back.  While he’s not a #1 receiver, he does all the little things you like out of someone who plays the position.  He blocks well, he has good hands, he has a decent catch radius.  He plays his role on this team perfectly.  The pragmatist in me would say that we have a guy like that in Kevin Smith, who’s cheaper and under team control already, so in that sense, I wouldn’t be totally devastated if Kearse moves on.  But, as a pure fan, I’d be disappointed to see him go.

In other offensive free agent news, the following players are restricted free agents and will almost assuredly be back with the team, so long as the team wants them to be back:

  • Cooper Helfet – tight end
  • Derrick Coleman – fullback
  • Patrick Lewis – center
  • Alvin Bailey – guard/tackle
  • Christine Michael – running back

My guess is, Helfet and Coleman will be back for sure, and most likely under a very minor deal.  I like the idea of drafting a center relatively high this year and letting him learn behind Patrick Lewis on a 1-year deal, then having him take over in 2017.  Bailey is a quality backup and should be worth keeping around for his versatility alone.  Michael is an interesting case; he would’ve been under team control had we not waived him earlier in the season.  I imagine the team will tender him a pretty low offer too and we’ll see what happens.  If Lynch goes, this is probably his best opportunity to compete for a job with Thomas Rawls.

On defense, here are the unrestricted free agents, again in no particular order:

  • Brandon Mebane – defensive tackle
  • Bruce Irvin – outside linebacker
  • Ahtyba Rubin – defensive tackle
  • Mike Morgan – outside linebacker
  • Jeremy Lane – cornerback
  • Demarcus Dobbs – defensive tackle/end

From what I’m reading, it sounds like the team likely wouldn’t be able to bring back both Mebane and Rubin, so we’d have to choose.  The fan side of me wants Mebane back, and to retire as a Seahawk.  Rubin is slightly younger, and had a really breakout year for us.  I’d honestly like to have both back, but again, you can’t pay everyone.  My gut tells me Mebane stays and Rubin goes, but what do I know?

I’m less inclined to believe Irvin will be back.  I’d pay more heed to his words during last year’s offseason, where he was talking about practically being out the door.  Maybe Atlanta brings him in, with Dan Quinn?  Maybe Oakland, with Ken Norton as their defensive coordinator?  Maybe some other team with deep pockets who could use an athletic pass rusher?  I’d put the chances on Irvin being a Seahawk next season at less than 30%.

In which case, as I noted yesterday, Morgan is an interesting option to replace him, as he figures to be cheaper, and HAS to know the system.  The thing is, I’m not totally sure if he plays the same position, or if he’s more of a weakside linebacker.  I seem to remember him spelling Irvin this year, but whatever.

Jeremy Lane should be our highest priority, but again, if some team over-values Seahawks cornerbacks, I could see him taking a lot of money to play elsewhere.

As for Dobbs … we like Dobbs.  More training camp depth!

Our restricted free agents include:

  • DeShawn Shead – cornerback
  • Steven Terrell – cornerback/safety
  • Marcus Burley – cornerback
  • Nick Moody – linebacker
  • Jesse Williams – defensive tackle
  • Mohammed Seisay – cornerback
  • Eric Pinkins – linebacker
  • A.J. Francis – defensive tackle

Shead will definitely be back.  Terrell, Burley, and Seisay will all most likely be back, in the hunt for a couple of those backup cornerback spots on the roster.  I don’t see why the team would let Moody and Pinkins go, or for that matter, Francis (whoever that is).  I keep thinking every year is the last chance for Jesse Williams, but I would think 2016 is the for real, very VERY last chance.  Given his injury history, consider him the longest of long shots.

So, yeah, that’s sort of an overview of all the Seahawks who could potentially be gone (I’m not going to get into the guys under contract for next year who might be cap casualties).  Tomorrow, I’ll dig into what I think the plan should be for the Seahawks, as we wrap up Death Week for another year.

Taking A Mid-Season Look At The Seahawks, Part 2

Well, we’ve made it through the weekend, and no new complaints!  No one died, no one got arrested, no one got fired; you can’t ask much more out of a BYE weekend.

So, we continue on.  Last week, we took a look at The Good about the Seahawks’ 2015 season to date.  Today, we take a look at the rest, in a season where we’re coming off back-to-back Super Bowl appearances, where we were once favored to make it three in a row; now sitting at 4-4, tied for second in the NFC West, two games behind the surprisingly healthy Cardinals (and, at the moment, decidedly on the outside looking in at any Wild Card spot).  God, where do I even begin?

The Bad

How about the ol’ standby, right at the top of the list with a bullet:  4 blown 4th quarter leads in all 4 defeats.  Need a refresher?  Of course not, no one does; but here it is anyway:

  • At St. Louis – up by 7 points with less than 5 minutes to go; lost in overtime
  • At Green Bay – up by 1 point at the turn of the quarter; lost in regulation
  • At Cincinnati – up by 17 points at the turn of the quarter; lost in overtime
  • Vs. Carolina – up by 9 points with 8 minutes to go; lost in regulation

It comes as no comfort that two of those teams are still undefeated at 8-0, with a third still leading its division – and it should be of no comfort to you either.  If you’re willing to settle for, Aww Shucks, At Least We Got Beat By The Best, then you’re a loser and I’ve got no time for you.  To be the best, you need to beat the best, and so far the Seahawks haven’t beaten anyone REMOTELY even competent.  Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, and Dallas are all bottom-feeders.  If we’re only barely better than some of these bottom-feeders, then what does it say about the state of the Seahawks’ football team?  We need to rise up and beat a good team, and we need to do it this week.

Going down to the player level, you can’t look anywhere else until you look squarely at the offensive line.  It just hasn’t been good enough, and that’s all there is to it.  While you can’t blame them for every single sack against Russell Wilson, you have to blame them for most, because there’s a huge spike in sacks and hits this year compared to last.  And, I’ll give you they’ve showed improvement as the season as gone along – which should give all Seahawks fans at least some hope that this will be a somewhat useful unit by season’s end – but you have to wonder if it won’t be too late by that point.

For allowing this liability to get to this drastic level, there’s no one you can point to but the front office.  Pete Carroll and John Schneider have totally and completely dropped the ball here when it comes to the offensive line.  You could argue it starts with the 2011 draft.  People believe that Pete & John have held that draft against Tom Cable – because they went Carpenter in the 1st and Moffitt in the 3rd, and neither panned out – but that’s juvenile and ridiculous.  They’re not going to actively harm their franchise just to make a point to an assistant coach.  The fact of the matter is, James Carpenter probably wasn’t worth the first round grade, and John Moffitt was a total wash-out.  The Seahawks subsequently spent the 2012 & 2013 drafts selecting offensive linemen no higher than the 7th round, then followed THAT up by putting a second round grade on Justin Britt – a wash-out at right tackle who looks no better at guard.  All the while, they let Carpenter and Giacomini walk, they traded Unger to the Saints, and they traded away multiple first round picks for offensive skill players while ignoring the meat & potatoes guys.

John Schneider has shown to be a savvy scout of college talent, but there have been some real draft busts in recent years.  The aforementioned Britt hurts the most – he’s our starting left guard now, but who knows how long that’ll last?  Kevin Norwood is a 4th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Jimmy Staten is a 5th rounder from last year who’s already gone.  Christine Michael is a 2nd rounder from 2013 who was traded for next-to-nothing.  Chris Harper & Jesse Williams – 4th & 5th rounders respectively – from 2013 are gone.  Tharold Simon – 5th rounder from 2013 – can’t stay healthy.  Any of those picks could’ve been devoted to an offensive lineman or two – to pad out our ranks if nothing else – and for the most part they’ve been squandered.

Then, in 2015, we were back at it.  A couple guys taken in the 4th round are supposed to fix things?  They remain projects at this point, as they’re nowhere near reaching the point where they’ll see any playing time.  If the Seahawks don’t go offensive line hard and heavy in the first three rounds of the 2016 draft, then it’s going to be a long, hard few years for our beleaguered quarterback.

Moving on, we have to shout out Kam Chancellor in this section, for holding out the entirety of the pre-season, and the first two games of the regular season.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Rams squarely on his shoulders.

Shout out to Michael Bennett – one of my co-MVPs in last week’s Good section – for being an unstoppable Falling For The Hard Count machine.  Right or wrong, I put that loss to the Packers on him for giving Aaron Rodgers every conceivable advantage with all those free plays.

Shout out to the offensive coordinator for not using Jimmy Graham properly down near the goalline, aside from any number of baffling decisions in his career calling plays for the Seahawks.

Shout out to everyone affiliated with the offense in our four losses.  Where’s that killer instinct?  You can’t leave it on the defense to do EVERYTHING!  Sometimes, a defense is going to give up a lead; it’s your job as the offense to make those leads insurmountable.  On four attempts, you failed to either extend a drive to kill more clock, or play add-on with the score.  Those defeats are just as much in your hands.

Shout out to Chris Matthews who, for whatever reason, can’t seem to ingratiate himself with the coaching staff enough to get on the field and get some long-bomb plays called for him.  After a Super Bowl like that, being 6’5, with a crazy-insane catch radius, how is it you only have 4 receptions on 6 targets for a measly 54 yards?  Don’t blame the offense!  Don’t blame it on how conservative we are, because there are opportunities for down-field throws in this offense!  There are PLENTY of opportunities.  Instead of watching Russell Wilson try helplessly to throw to a double-covered Jermaine Kearse, I should be watching him throw to a double-covered Chris Matthews as he makes yet another sick catch for a long gain!  Instead, nothing.  Silence.  All the promise in the world and what does it mean?  You’ll almost certainly be playing elsewhere next year, and it won’t be long until you’re out of the game entirely.  Have some pride!  Step it up in practice and force your way out onto the field!

Shout out to Bobby Wagner for not really having much of an impact.  Outside of that fumble recovery in Cincinnati, when was the last time you marvelled at something Bobby Wagner did?

Shout out to Cassius Marsh and Frank Clark for doing their best impressions of Guys Who Don’t Show Up On The Stat Sheet.  We don’t need you guys to do your jobs, we need you guys to make an impact!  To step it up and let us scale back the snaps on Bennett and Avril so they can stay fresh all year.  And, not for nothing, but eventually we need you to replace those guys when they either get too old or expensive, so hop to it, huh?

Shout out to Cary Williams who is who we thought he was:  the weak link by a million miles in the Legion of Boom.  Shout out to injuries to Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, and Marcus Burley that continue to hold this unit back.

Shout out to the Ricardo Lockette injury that drastically reduces the effectiveness of our coverage units on special teams.

Shout out to Dion Bailey for whiffing hard on that touchdown pass in St. Louis.

Shout out to the entire Seahawks defense for making Nick Foles look like a God damn world-beater when the rest of the time he has looked like a sack of dribbling shit.

Shout out to Bruce Irvin who’s on pace to be a serious Contract Year Cautionary Tale.

Shout out to whoever was at fault on those two Tyler Eifert touchdowns up the seam.

Ditto to whoever was at fault on that Greg Olsen touchdown.

The second half is here.  No more lip service.  A lot of this bad shit needs to be corrected, or else 2015 will go down as one of the great lost seasons in our generation.

Ranking All The Draft Picks of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider Era

Has this been done to death?  I have no concept of what’s been done and what hasn’t.  I feel like it has, but I also don’t care.  There’s probably a larger blog post at play here – Ranking All The Draft Picks In Seahawks History – but I’ll be damned if I’m the man to grapple with that nonsense!  Hell, I wasn’t even alive for the first 70 picks the Seahawks ever made!

Best Front Office In Football ...

Best Front Office In Football …

But, that’s neither here nor there.  I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on the last five drafts this team has made, so I’m going to throw in my two cents and you’re either going to read it or not.  Of note:  I’m only talking draft picks here.  You undrafted free agents all hold a special place in my heart, but you don’t hold shit on this list.

Also of note:  the plan is to update this yearly, as long as Pete Carroll and John Schneider work together for the Seahawks.  So, look for there to be a page under the Best of Seattle heading up top.

To date, there have been 48 draft picks in the Carroll/Schneider Era, across 5 drafts, from 2010-2014.  For this exercise, I’m going to break these players up into four groups:  Great, Good, Too Soon To Tell, and Bad.  Simple, right?  I’m basing these rankings mostly on my gut, so take that for what it’s worth.  I’m going to try to weight this towards what these players have done for the Seattle Seahawks (as opposed to what they’ve done for other teams), but I’m not going to totally discount what they’ve done elsewhere (after all, it’s quite the numbers game in Seattle, and a few of these guys were cut loose after hard-fought battles).  Let’s begin:

Great Draft Picks By Carroll/Schneider

1.  Russell Wilson (2012, 3rd round)
2.  Earl Thomas (2010, 1st round)
3.  Richard Sherman (2011, 5th round)
4.  Bobby Wagner (2012, 2nd round)
5.  Kam Chancellor (2010, 5th round)
6.  Russell Okung (2010, 1st round)
7.  Golden Tate (2010, 2nd round)
8.  K.J. Wright (2011, 4th round)
9.  Byron Maxwell (2011, 6th round)
10.  J.R. Sweezy (2012, 7th round)

This is a massively tough list to rank at the top.  You could easily interchange any in the top three and you wouldn’t be wrong.  I don’t want to make this all about “value picks” but you also can’t discount the fact that the Seahawks have one of the best quarterbacks in football and they plucked him out of the third round.  I mean, every team had multiple chances at taking him!  But, we’ve got him, and I promise you, we wouldn’t have been as successful as we’ve been without him.

I’ve got Earl Thomas in the 2-hole because he’s the man.  I gotta figure he’s the best player on an elite defense, which is pretty amazing when you think about it.  Sherm, Wagz, and Kam round out the Top 5, with Kam narrowly edging out Okung for his spot.  You can’t do what we’re doing without a solid left tackle, but what keeps Okung out of the Top 5 is the fact that he’s been injured so often that we actually HAVE done what we’ve done without him a lot of the time.  Tate makes my Top 10 because he’s awesome and easily the best receiver we’ve drafted in this era.  Wright has been a mainstay on our defense since he was a rookie.  Maxwell rose through the ranks to get to a near-elite level by the time Philly graced him with a bank-breaking contract.  And, you know what?  Scoff at Sweezy all you want, but he’s a 7th round pick who has started for us at right guard since day 1 and has been getting better every year (without any significant injury, I might add).

I didn’t mean to only pick 10 players to put in the “Great” category, but that’s just sort of the way it went.  What you’ll notice is that it’s quite heavy on the first three drafts of the era.  4 from 2010, 3 from 2011, 3 from 2012.  Want to know how to go from one of the oldest and worst teams in football to a Super Bowl champion in four years?  Draft your quarterback, your entire starting secondary, 2/3 of your linebackers, 2/5 of your offensive linemen, and your #1 receiver in your first three years.  I’d say that’s a rock solid foundation if I’ve ever seen one.  7 out of 10 of these guys have made at least one Pro Bowl in their careers.  I could go on and on, but you know how great these guys are.

Good Draft Picks by Carroll/Schneider

11.  Bruce Irvin (2012, 1st round)
12.  Malcolm Smith (2011, 7th round)
13.  James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
14.  Robert Turbin (2012, 4th round)
15.  Luke Willson (2013, 5th round)
16.  Walter Thurmond (2010, 4th round)
17.  Jeremy Lane (2012, 6th round)
18.  Anthony McCoy (2010, 6th round)
19.  Jordan Hill (2013, 3rd round)
20.  Tharold Simon (2013, 5th round)
21.  Christine Michael (2013, 2nd round)
22.  Jaye Howard (2012, 4th round)
23.  Michael Bowie (2013, 7th round)
24.  Greg Scruggs (2012, 7th round)
25.  Winston Guy (2012, 6th round)

None of these guys were really all that close to making it into the “Great” category, and the only ones I can see with a realistic shot at potentially getting there would be Irvin, Willson, Hill, Simon, and Michael if he ever gets a crack at starting somewhere.  Irvin certainly leads the pack in the “Good” column though.  He’s been a significant role player since he entered the league, and has become a steady starter at strongside linebacker after the conversion in his second year.  Malcolm Smith – even though his Seahawks career ended poorly – still played a significant role as a backup weakside linebacker who got some injury starts late in the 2013 season and on through the playoffs.  Hell, he’s our Super Bowl MVP, and that wasn’t the only game where he made big plays.

Carpenter was held out of the “Great” pile due to injuries and inconsistent pass protection.  No one can question his run blocking abilities, and once he moved over to left guard, he really helped solidify our line (again, when healthy).  Turbin gets the nod over the three guys below him simply because he’s been a solid backup running back since day 1.  He spells our superstar and we don’t see too big of a drop-off.  He might be a marginal starter for another team, but he’s one of the better backups in football.  Luke Willson has made a moderate impact as a pass-catching tight end on a team that doesn’t throw the ball too much.  Drops (and being iced out by the likes of Jimmy Graham) will prevent him from ever being truly great.  But, he’s been solid, and drops can be fixed.

Thurmond and Lane are close.  Thurmond ultimately has made the bigger impact on this team, even with all of his injuries and suspension.  Lane – if he ever recovers from his devastating Super Bowl injuries – figures to pass Thurmond eventually, who hasn’t been as good as an ex-Seahawk.  McCoy was fine when healthy.  He could’ve been so much better as a great blocking tight end with surprisingly soft hands.  Hopefully, he can pull his career together.  Hill and Simon are hard to place, as both got their first big breaks in the 2014 season.  Hill started to come on as an interior pass rusher until he was knocked out for the year.  Simon was forced to take over for Maxwell at times and was so-so, as he was continuously picked on by opposing quarterbacks.  C-Mike can’t catch a break as the team’s third string running back.  He supposedly has all the talent in the world, but then again, you’d think with all that talent, he would’ve forced his way into more playing time than he’s had in his first two years in the league.  Jaye Howard is no longer with the team, but he’s a rotational guy for the Chiefs and was playing some serious minutes as of last year.  One that got away, it might seem.  Bowie was an okay spot-starter on the line who could play both tackle and guard spots; he was released due to injury and concerns with his weight.  He was quickly picked up though, and figures to be solid depth on another team.  Scruggs hasn’t been able to stay healthy enough to prove he belongs.  Both he and Guy are fringe “good” players who are oh so close to landing in the “Bad” category.  They’re still kicking around the league with better-than-decent chances at making a final 53, so I’m keeping them here for now.

Too Soon To Tell

26.  Justin Britt (2014, 2nd round)
27.  Cassius Marsh (2014, 4th round)
28.  Paul Richardson (2014, 2nd round)
29.  Kevin Pierre-Louis (2014, 4th round)
30.  Kevin Norwood (2014, 4th round)
31.  Eric Pinkins (2014, 6th round)
32.  Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
33.  Kiero Small (2014, 7th round)
34.  Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)

Obviously, this is the entire 2014 draft class.  And, obviously, this is a total cop-out, but I have a hard time saying if someone is good or not based on a single season.  If I were to eliminate the “Too Soon To Tell” category, I’d put Britt high on the Good list; I’d put Marsh, Richardson, and KPL low on the Good list; and I’d put the rest on the Bad list.  But, is it fair to call Kevin Norwood “bad” because he wasn’t all that productive as a rookie?  Who knows if he’ll make a huge leap in his second year?!  For him, it’s truly too soon to tell.  By the same measure, what if Britt takes a big step back in his second year and either gets hurt or gets beat on the reg?  That’s going to affect his ranking for sure.  So, to work around this, I gotta see what you do after two years in the league.  Even if one year is spent on the IR, at least I’ll have two different seasons to compare.  For the record, Garrett Scott – waived soon after he was drafted due to medical concerns – is a lock to be pretty low on the Bad list just as soon as the 2015 season ends.

Bad Draft Picks by Carroll/Schneider

35.  Kris Durham (2011, 4th round)
36.  John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
37.  Ty Powell (2013, 7th round)
38.  Ryan Seymour (2013, 7th round)
39.  Korey Toomer (2012, 5th round)
40.  Chris Harper (2013, 4th round)
41.  Dexter Davis (2010, 7th round)
42.  Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
43.  Spencer Ware (2013, 6th round)
44.  Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
45.  Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
46.  Jameson Konz (2010, 7th round)
47.  Lazarius Levingston (2011, 7th round)
48.  E.J. Wilson (2010, 4th round)

Ahh, does the fun ever START?  Kris Durham leads the pack of the “Bad” picks as he somehow made a career for himself after the Seahawks waived him prior to his 2nd season.  Keep in mind, it’s not a GOOD career, but he’s still kicking.  John Moffitt ended up playing in 17 games for the Seahawks (mostly as a starter) after being drafted in 2011.  Alongside Carpenter, Moffitt was an injury-plagued disappointment who ended up getting traded to Denver before retiring early.  Ty Powell ended up jumpstarting his career in Buffalo last season; he’s racked up all of 19 games in his career thus far.

Those are the BEST of the worst, mind you.  It’s a steep drop-off from there.  Seymour has had 3 starts in his career – none in Seattle.  Toomer has always had talent, but has never stayed healthy.  He’s a pre-season dandy who’s still kicking around the league, but I’ll be damned if I know where he is now (the Rams still?).  Harper was cut before his rookie season could even begin.  I think he’s still kicking around, but he’s unlikely to even make a practice squad at this point.  Dexter Davis and Mark LeGree are in the CFL now, so at least they’re playing football!  Spencer Ware played in 2 games and is on a Futures Contract right now.  Jesse Williams is 2 for 2 on IR appearances.  He’s still with the Seahawks – hoping to somehow crack the roster – but his odds are beyond long.  Jared Smith has played in 0 games, but is on Atlanta’s roster for the moment.  Konz was an athletic freak who never really had a set position (he was drafted as a wide receiver, though he’s also played tight end, defensive end, and linebacker in his pre-season career); he might be on a practice squad right now, but who knows?  Levingston is OOF (out of football) having only played 7 games.  Wilson is also OOF, having played in only 2 games.

And that’s it!  The draft starts tomorrow, though the Seahawks have no picks in the first round, so who really cares?

Seahawks Death Week: It Ain’t Over Til It’s Over

If we win that Super Bowl, all conversation right now is focused on The New Dynasty.  For anyone who’s not a Seahawks fan, it’s pretty miserable to have to listen to, so in that sense the world is probably happier that the Patriots won.

For us, though – the tortured souls forced to relive that moment in every highlight package about last season – the only thing worse than an offseason focused on why Tom Brady Is The Greatest Quarterback Of All Time will be all the articles burying the Seahawks.

Yeah, it started with Keith Olbermann’s lunacy, but don’t think that’s going to be the end of it.  After all, the 2013 Seahawks were champions and looked stronger than every other team in the league by a million miles, and last year people STILL endlessly picked us apart, trying to degrade the quality of our roster as they made their convoluted predictions about why we wouldn’t get back to the Super Bowl.

The fact of the matter is – as I said yesterday – the Championship Window is still wide open for this team.  Even if Marshawn Lynch is 50/50 to return next year, take a look at the players we’ll have returning:

  • Russell Wilson
  • Doug Baldwin
  • Earl Thomas
  • Kam Chancellor
  • Richard Sherman
  • Bobby Wagner
  • Michael Bennett
  • Cliff Avril
  • K.J. Wright
  • Bruce Irvin
  • Jeremy Lane
  • Jordan Hill

That doesn’t factor in an offensive line that gets the job done more often than not, a deep running back group, and some veterans I left off who SHOULD be back (like Zach Miller, Brandon Mebane, and Tony McDaniel).

This is still a deep roster.  And it’s a quality roster in all the right places.  Our quarterback will be entering his fourth year, and he’s already shown that he belongs in the upper third or upper quarter of franchise quarterbacks in the league.  With Russell Wilson, we’re ALWAYS going to be somewhere on the “Good” spectrum.  We’re always going to at least contend for division titles and playoff spots.

It’s the players around Russell Wilson that make us championship-calibre.  The great thing about this team is that everyone plays off of everyone else.  Russell Wilson gets help from an elite running game.  The receivers get help from other defenses focusing on our running game, and from Wilson’s scrambling ability that gives them time to get open.  Defensively, our cornerbacks are allowed to be more aggressive thanks to the great play of our safeties.  Everyone in the secondary is helped out by our pass rush and our line’s ability to stop the run.  It’s all one terrific unit that only works when everyone is playing in unison.

Now, obviously our coaching staff took a bit of a hit with Dan Quinn moving on to coach the Falcons, but I don’t think any team has ever been totally devastated by the loss of a coordinator.  Kris Richard gets a deserved promotion, which is good for coaching continuity, as well as good for the message it sends to the guys.  Just as our greatest players are rewarded with contract extensions, our greatest coaches are rewarded with promotions.  Although, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, how hard can it really be to coach this defense with all the talent we’ve got on the roster?  Are Gus Bradley & Dan Quinn really that amazing?  Or, did they just luck into a roster for the ages?

I wouldn’t expect much of a drop-off because this is still Pete Carroll’s team.  It’s still his vision.  And, in spite of certain decisions that were made at the end of certain ballgames, Pete Carroll is still one of the best head coaches in the league.  And John Schneider is still one of the best general managers in the league.  The organization is still in good hands.

The only thing that could possibly derail things would be injuries, and those are impossible to predict, so it’s not even worth trying.

It’s hard to tell when the Championship Window might close.  It obviously opened in 2012, when we made that great season-ending run.  From a roster-quality standpoint, we probably peaked in 2013.  We dipped a bit in 2014, but if you focus on where this team ended up – after all the early-season strife in coming off of our first championship – you can see a team that peaked at right around where it was in 2012 (or maybe a little better still).  How long the window remains open depends on how well our recent draft picks of the last couple years – on into this year – pan out.  We had a great run of drafts from 2010-2012 that made us into what we are today.  It’s the drafts from 2013-2015 that will determine if we stay on this championship run, or if we fade back into the status of mere playoff contenders.

Here are the players we still have from our 2013 draft group:

  • Christine Michael (RB)
  • Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • Alvin Bailey (OL) – undrafted free agent

Williams has finished his first two seasons on the IR and might not be on the roster come September.  Bailey is depth along our offensive line who can play four positions.  Michael has been a third string running back who has been inactive more often than not; it doesn’t appear he’ll ever get a chance to be a starter with this team as long as Lynch is around.  Hill came on in the second half of 2014 as a strong part of our defensive tackle rotation, so hopes are high that can continue.  Simon has made some spot-starts and looked okay – though he’s been picked on quite a bit, and hasn’t come away as well as Maxwell did when he took over the starting spot opposite Sherman.  Willson spent most of 2014 as our #1 tight end and for the most part did pretty well.  I’m not convinced yet that he can be a #1 tight end forever, but he’s a great #2 or #3 tight end.

Here’s our 2014 draft class that remains:

  • Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Justin Britt (OT)
  • Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Eric Pinkins (DB)
  • Garry Gilliam (OL) – undrafted free agent
  • Brock Coyle (LB) – undrafted free agent

While there’s not really a prize jewel of the 2013, there are enough role players in that group to make it “good enough”, with the potential for greatness if either Michael or Simon somehow pans out.  The 2014 class has a higher upside, in spite of the fact that only four guys managed to make it all the way to the end without being put on IR.

Britt is obviously the biggest “get” in the group, as he started right away at right tackle – a position of need going into the season.  He played nearly every game and was good enough to be considered a starter going forward.  He’s not perfect, but you have to like all the experience he got.  He’ll heal up from his nagging injuries, get stronger going into next year, and we should see a nice boost out of him in year two.

I’m really high on Cassius Marsh.  He tops out as a starting defensive end opposite Michael Bennett (while eventually replacing him when Bennett retires or is let go at/near the end of his deal).  His floor, though, is what makes me happy, as I think at worst he’s still a rotational guy who can play both inside (on passing downs) and outside (on any down).  Considering we still have Bennett, Avril, and Irvin going into next season, if Marsh can stay healthy, I don’t think we have to invest a whole lot in our outside pass rush (the interior rush is another story, of course).

Richardson and Norwood are the wild cards of this class.  If they both pan out, we could be talking about this group in ways we talk about the draft classes of 2010-2012.  If just one sticks, I still think we’re happy.  If they both flame out, then we wasted two draft picks in an area of great need for this team.  I thought Richardson really started to come on at the end of the year, but obviously his torn ACL makes him a question mark going forward.  If he returns (and yes, it’s an “if” in this scenario), will he be the same guy?  Will he have the speed required to make it in the league?  Will he inevitably injure it again?  Remember, he had the same injury in college, to the same knee.  As for Norwood, it might be unfair, but I think we all expected a little more out of him.  The phrase “security blanket” has been used quite a bit with him.  Hopefully, being healthy and having a year’s experience under his belt will help him grow in year two.  We’ll need it, that’s for sure.

The other guys are longshots.  KPL figures to be a depth guy and a special teams standout if he can stay healthy.  Staten probably tops out as a rotational tackle on our defensive line, and probably one who isn’t active very often.  Pinkins was drafted to be another tall cornerback, but it doesn’t look like he has the ability and will probably be moved back to safety (where, obviously, we’re pretty well stocked).  Either Pinkins sticks as a backup to Kam, or he gets cut.  Gilliam is more offensive line depth.  And Coyle is a special teams guy and an okay backup to Bobby Wagner.  It wouldn’t shock me to see any of these guys get the ax at the end of Training Camp this year, if the right people come along to replace them.

There are certainly guys you like out of the 2013 & 2014 draft classes – even guys who project to be starters – but there aren’t many (if any) superstars in the bunch.  I know it’s hard, when you’re consistently drafting near the end of the first round every year, but then again, this is the team that has managed to make 4th & 5th rounders into superstars.  Here’s to hoping we get another diamond in the rough in this year’s class to keep the good vibes rolling.

Seahawks Death Week Reloaded

a.k.a. What The Seahawks Need To Do To Get Back To The Super Bowl & Win It All This Time, Again

“Rebuilding” is a word people use to talk about bad teams who are trying to get good again.  Eventually.  In a couple, two, three years.  “Reloading” is a word people use to talk about good teams who are trying to stay good in a hurry.  I’ve seen that word “reload” used to describe what the Seahawks are doing this offseason, but I’ve always read that with a negative connotation.  Teams that need to “reload” are teams that have been good in recent years (plural), but in the most recent season, the quality of their team dipped.  Like, a team that’s made the playoffs a bunch of years in a row, then had one down season where they missed the cut.  And, instead of blowing things up, they’re just going to reload for another run at a championship.

The 49ers are a PERFECT example of this.  Great team, had a rough 2014.  They weren’t terrible; they weren’t bad enough to warrant a complete rebuild.  They just need to reload.  Add some pieces to the core they’ve got now and they’ll be all set for another post-season run.

“Reload” is also a word you use when you talk about teams that are desperately trying to cling to relevance when they’re WELL past their prime.  Think about what the Seahawks were doing in the offseason between 2007 & 2008.  They PROBABLY should have blown it all up and done a total rebuild.  Instead, they tried to keep the team together, reloaded with a couple of ill-advised signings in Julius Jones & T.J. Duckett (among others), to give it one more go with Hasselbeck, Jones, and Co.  What happened?  They bottomed out in 2008, and bottomed out again in 2009 when they had the same strategy (T.J. Houshmandzadeh, anyone?).

These Seahawks, right now, this year, aren’t “reloading”, because these Seahawks are already loaded!  Regardless of what happens, we’re still going to be one of the youngest and most talented rosters in the league next year.  Losing a Super Bowl doesn’t mean you “reload” for next year.  You don’t re-anything!  You do a little tweaking and you continue to build up the depth of your squad.  It would be no different had we won the Super Bowl, or ended up losing in the NFC Championship Game.

***

The primary storyline this offseason will be the extension of Russell Wilson.  The secondary storyline this offseason will be the extension of Bobby Wagner.  Considering they were drafted into the new CBA, this is the first opportunity the Seahawks have had to extend these two (and to give them raises commensurate to the output they’ve given this team on the field).  We’re actually in really good shape right now, thanks to the in-season extensions the team gave K.J. Wright and Cliff Avril; those are two fewer deals the team has to worry about now that the offseason is ramping up.

How Wilson’s deal is structured will dictate a lot of the other moves this team makes, so it’ll be important to get that squared away pretty quickly.  I would argue Wagner’s deal – by virture of him not being a quarterback in the NFL – will be much simpler and easier to plan for (though, I doubt the team will wait to get him done either).

Those two guys are a given, and will get done, likely sometime around the Draft.  There are other, lesser guys up for new deals that the team will have to think about.

James Carpenter is a free agent.  After a rocky start to his career – one that has been pretty injury-plagued – it wouldn’t shock me to see the team let him walk away.  I can’t imagine he’s going to command a king’s ransom on the open market, but I’ve been surprised before.  Considering he’s more of a run-first blocker, with suspect pass-protection skills, I can’t imagine he’s a great fit for most teams who are pass-first.  If the Seahawks can bring him back on the cheap, I’d be all for it.  If they can’t, I’m not going to shed too many tears.  Either way, I would expect this team to draft hard for interior linemen this year.  Perhaps a guard/center type who could replace Carpenter now, and replace Unger when he’s no longer fit to handle the center duties.

Byron Maxwell is another biggie, and one we’ve all along said is not long for this team.  I can’t imagine the market is going to low-ball him; he’s going to get serious starter’s money.  Maybe not All Pro money, but it’ll likely be enough to price out the Seahawks.  I believe John Schneider when he says that Maxwell is a high priority, but I don’t think that’s at any price.  Here’s to hoping Tharold Simon grows up in a hurry between last season and this season.

Malcolm Smith is another free agent, but you can kiss him goodbye.  He hardly played at all outside of special teams when our core linebackers were healthy.  We’ve already extended Wright, we’re in the process of extending Wagner, and Irvin appears to be a coveted piece of our future that we’re keen on keeping around long term.  There’s just no room for Smith, who could likely be an effective starter on another team.  Let him go, replace him with a guy making the minimum, and we’ll be just fine.

Beyond that, the only other free agents we could potentially lose would be depth guys.  Tarvar, Schofield, Shead, Jeron Johnson.  None of these guys are “must keeps”.  I would argue extending our long snapper is of more value to the team than any of these other guys I’ve mentioned in this paragraph.

***

So, where does this team need help?

Our obvious starting point is Wide Receiver.  We need a couple, and we’re probably going to have to draft them to get them.  Let’s face it, trying to attract a free agent wide receiver into this offense is about as easy as the Seattle Mariners trying to attract a slugging right-handed power bat; nobody wants to sign here and watch their numbers plummet!  And, I don’t know if this has hit you yet, but we’re about to have a quarterback who is one of the top two or three highest-paid players in the NFL, so it’s not like we can afford to over-pay for Larry Fitzgerald or whoever else may or may not be available on the open market.  There will be no Percy Harvin-esque deals this offseason, or for the foreseeable future.

Draft.  Draft is the way to go for this position.  Lock them in pretty much against their wills and try to squeeze as much as you can out of them.

One route to take is what the Falcons did a few years ago:  sell out and trade up to draft a sure thing.  While it’s enticing – since this team is already at a championship-level – it’s never going to happen.  But, we do need to draft a receiver high.  In the first round, ideally, but no later than the third.  And, we probably need to draft a couple (one early, one late) just to get our numbers up and create some really good competition in camp this summer.

Doug Baldin is locked in thru 2016.  Jermaine Kearse is a restricted free agent who will be tendered at a high rate, meaning he’s pretty much a lock to be here at least in 2015.  These are two fine receivers, who both probably need to be bumped down a peg or two.  Ricardo Lockette is another restricted free agent who SHOULD be back, but he’s less of a lock than Kearse.  Paul Richardson had that devastating injury and is probably a strong candidate to start the season on the PUP list (meaning he will miss at least the first six weeks of the season; so it’s pretty safe to consider him a non-factor for 2015, considering the rate of re-injury when players try to rush back into playing shape mid-season).  Kevin Norwood had quite the underwhelming rookie campaign, so who knows if he’ll even be on the team when we eventually cut the roster back down to 53?  Then, there’s Chris Matthews, Bryan Walters, and some other fringe guys to think about.  I know Matthews was a revalation in the Super Bowl, but there’s a reason why he wasn’t playing the whole game – he was only in a small package of plays, because he’s not really that good.

I mean, yeah, Matthews is tall and athletic, and that accounts for something, but a lot of being a wide receiver is being in the right place at the right time and doing the right things when you get there.  He might not be the best route runner, he might not be adept enough at shedding defenders or creating separation.  I dunno, but there’s a reason why that guy kicks around on the fringes of the NFL all his career.  If he was better at all the things BESIDES height, he’d be making millions of dollars instead of hundreds of thousands.

Really, what this all boils down to is:  get ready for another crapshoot.  Maybe we’ll get lucky and find a top-notch receiver in the draft.  But, we took two cracks at it last year – with Richardson and Norwood – in one of the all time deepest drafts for the position, and we likely came away with a couple duds.  This year doesn’t look to be nearly as promising, so hopefully we find that diamond in the rough.

Because if we don’t, I hate to break it to you, but the overall makeup of our wide receiver group doesn’t figure to be all that remarkably improved in 2015.  Yes, the team needs to keep trying to get it right, but unless you get that Odell Beckham, you’ve likely got a project on your hands that will require a couple years to get up to speed.  Remember, Golden Tate wasn’t a star the minute he stepped into the NFL.  This shit takes time.

***

After receiver, things look a little more reasonable on offense.  I would expect the Seahawks to go hard after a free agent tight end.  That may or may not spell the end of Zach Miller’s Seahawks career, but considering he’s making a relatively low figure of $4 million, I would suspect he’ll be back (he may also agree to a pay cut, which would be all the better).  If we could pair Miller with a high-quality free agent tight end, and let Luke Willson continue to develop (i.e. stop dropping the ball so much), we may not NEED a bona fide #1 wide receiver.  Hell, Luke Willson by himself is already matchup hell for defenses; imagine if we’re able to sign another studly threat at tight end to go with him!  At a reasonable cost, that’d be the way I’d go.

Don’t expect the Seahawks to wade in the free agent waters for a lineman.  Carpenter is a wild card.  J.R. Sweezy might be looking at an extension this year, at a relatively reasonable cost.  We’ve still got Alvin Bailey, Garry Gilliam, and Patrick Lewis as quality depth pieces.  Okung is signed thru 2015, Unger is signed thru 2016, and Britt is signed thru 2017, so really the bulk of our offensive line will remain at least through next year.  I would still expect some late round finds by Tom Cable, but this probably isn’t the year where the Seahawks look high in the draft for replacements, unless someone TOO good falls to them.

Another big storyline is what’s going to happen to Marshawn Lynch.  Good God, is this something I don’t want to have to worry about.  The Seahawks are already on record as wanting to extend him, to keep him happy and well paid.  But, rumors are floating around hot and heavy that Lynch is thinking about retiring, which depresses me to no end.  I’ve been as vocal as anyone about not keeping running backs past their expiration dates, but Lynch is as crucial as they come.  I agree with the Seahawks in their desire to extend him another couple years, and I hope Lynch takes the deal.  If he were to happily retire as a Seahawk, I don’t know if I could be any more pleased.

Failing that, if he does leave the game this year, the Seahawks are obviously going to have to look to the draft.  Turbin is signed thru 2015 and will be the likely starter.  But, I imagine there’d be a big time share between him, Michael (signed thru 2016), and any rookie we bring in who wins that third RB job.  Our running game will take a noticeable hit, but I’m hopeful we’d be able to find our running back of the future out of that mix.

***

On defense, the immediate need is in the interior defensive line.  Kevin Williams was on a 1-year deal and probably won’t be back (he may retire, or he may take another small deal to try to get that ring, but I think the team will end up moving on).  Mebane and Tony McDaniel are both signed thru 2015.  I have a hard time seeing the team moving on from either of these guys before the ends of their deals, but I do think we’ll look to draft a defensive tackle pretty early.

What we’ve got that we can count on is Jordan Hill.  He’s probably not a starter, but he’s certainly a quality depth piece who has found a role in our pass rush packages.  Beyond that, it’s a lot of slim pickin’s.  Filler guys like Dobbs, Scruggs, Jesse Williams, and a bunch of other names who are THIS close to trading in their jobs in the NFL for jobs as nightclub bouncers and with private security firms.  Ideally, we’d be able to pick up someone high in the draft who will go into the rotation immediately and eventually replace Mebane or McDaniel, with another guy drafted late who could hopefully develop into a replacement next year or the year after.

This is also a position the team could look to bolster in free agency, if the price is right.  Ndamukong Suh is an interesting name people are talking about as a potential target for the Seahawks, but I’m not buying it.  He’s about to be one of the top two highest paid defensive linemen in the NFL; 1) he’s not taking a discount to be here, and 2) we’re not going to blow up our entire salary cap for the next three years just to bring him in.  Yes, it would be AMAZING if Suh played on this line next to Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril; we’d probably have the single greatest pass rush the world has ever seen.  I could also win the Mega Millions lottery tonight and be a wealthy unemployed person tomorrow.  Let’s not waste the time or brain cells giving this too much thought.

More likely, the team goes after a lower tier free agent.  Cost effective, helpful, hopefully younger with a longer shelf life than a Kevin Williams.  Someone equally as effective at stopping he run and rushing the passer.  I don’t have any specific names for you right now, but they’re out there.  It’s just a matter of if they want to play for a winner or not.

***

Elsewhere on the defense, I think there’s a lot of clamoring for another defensive end, but I’m actually pretty happy with what we’ve got.  Bennett on one side, Avril on the other.  When Bennett moves inside, we’ve got Irvin along with Avril on the same line going after the quarterback.  Even our depth is okay, with Cassius Marsh looking like a good prospect last season before he went out with injury.  Hopefully this is the year we let Schofield go and find a quality replacement in the draft.  Maybe somewhere in the 2nd round to 4th round range.  Get some freak athlete who does one thing and one thing extremely well.  Probably not a spot we’ll look in free agency, unless it’s as a depth guy to help out in camp.

Our linebackers are solid.  As I mentioned before, we’ll have Wagner, Wright, and Irvin all back.  We’ve still got Kevin Pierre-Louis and Brock Coyle who are signed long term as quality depth guys and special teamers.  Malcolm Smith should be pretty easy to replace with another low-round draft pick or undrafted free agent.

In the secondary, I’m assuming Maxwell will be gone.  Lane is signed thru 2015, Simon is here thru 2016.  Beyond that, I would expect the team to go after another corner or possibly two in the draft.  Unlikely you’ll see this team get a free agent unless it’s another depth guy for camp.

***

As per usual, this is a team that’s built through the draft, with strategic forays into free agency.  I would expect more of the same.  With Russell Wilson’s contract expected to be pretty reasonable in 2015 (most of his money will be in the form of a signing bonus; his cap number this year will be manageable because we can spread out his bonus across five years of salary cap), there may be opportunities to get free agents on bigger 1-year deals.  But, unless Lynch retires, or something unexpected happens, I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go out of their way to bring in a big money free agent from another team.  The most we spend – aside from extending our own guys – will likely be for a quality tight end.  Otherwise, it’s all draft, all the time.

Part 1, Defense – Which Seahawks Players Can Get Even Better?

Coming into a season, analysts look at a variety of factors to determine whether a team is going to be good or not (or improved or not).  They look at which players leave for other teams (or retirement), they look at which players are brought in (either via trade, free agency, or draft), they look at the strength of schedule and that of the teams in their division, they look at the injury situation and the potential injury situation based on player histories, and they look at which players are over the hill and due to start their slide into mediocrity.

There’s one aspect that’s often overlooked:  which players are still at the point in their careers where they’re getting better?

All too often, we look at rookies – whether good or bad – and think we’re looking at those players as they’ll be for the rest of their careers.  But, no one enters the league as a finished product.  Yes, some flame out, but even the really good ones still have room for improvement.

Take Golden Tate, for instance.  He didn’t really get a handle on all the intricacies of the wide receiver position until his third year in the league.  On the downside, that meant we only had two good years with Golden Tate before he left for richer pastures.  But, on the upside, it means there’s still hope for players who haven’t done a whole lot yet in their careers.

Secondary

How long did it take Byron Maxwell before he was able to make an impact on the Seahawks outside of special teams?  Try a little over 2.5 years.  He was one of our most important players when he was thrust into the starting cornerback spot across from Richard Sherman; now he’s entering a contract year where he could get even BETTER.  You have to think Maxwell has dollar signs in his eyes after seeing the deals Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman got this past offseason.  Granted, it probably won’t be with the Seahawks – as who can afford to pay four studs in one secondary? – but at least we’ll have this last year of greatness before he moves on.

In keeping with this section of the team, what about Jeremy Lane?  He was taken late in the 2012 draft, so we’ve got two more years of his services.  He’s always been a special teams standout, but this year he’s going to get his first real shot at the nickel cornerback spot.  He had some time in that position late last season and seemed to do all right.  If he manages to take a step forward and help us all forget about Walter Thurmond, it could be a boon for an already-outstanding secondary.

I’d also like to shine some light on Tharold Simon.  He spent the entirety of his rookie season injured last year.  In the spring camps, he apparently looked really good.  No one is expecting him to start, or take over anyone else’s job in 2014, but it’s nice knowing we’ve got some quality depth.  As mentioned before, we lost Thurmond.  We also lost Browner.  Maxwell took over that job, but he’ll be gone after this year.  If Simon can keep our momentum going in the secondary, there’s no reason why we shouldn’t have the best secondary in the league for many years to come.

Now, before I move on, I’ll talk briefly about the rest of the L.O.B.  Normally, when people write about the Legion, these are the first names they talk about.  But, when you’re talking about players improving, it’s hard to see a lot of room for improvement in guys like Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, and Richard Sherman.  Nevertheless, I think all three of these players have another gear in them.  This is the fun part about having such a young team – even the All Pros have room to grow!  Earl Thomas, before all is said and done, will win a Defensive MVP award.  Chancellor – already an enforcer – can still be a better all-around safety.  And, at this point, I have to imagine the only way Richard Sherman can get better is to completely eliminate the number of attempts to his side of the field.  I didn’t say there was a TON of improvement in these guys, but what if they’re able to squeeze just a little bit more?

Linebackers

I’ve heard people talking about K.J. Wright taking it up another notch, but I have my doubts.  I’ll be the first one to admit, however, that I know very little about the linebacking position outside of:  tackle the guy with the football.  I think Malcolm Smith is probably at the height of his powers.  I still like him as our weakside linebacker, and think he’s a quality playmaker on the outside, but I don’t see a lot of room for growth.  He’ll probably parlay his Super Bowl MVP (and whatever he does for us in 2014) into a nice little long-term deal with another team.  Like I’ve said many times:  you can’t keep everyone.

Bobby Wagner looks like he’s got another level in him, however.  I expect GREAT things in his third year as a starting middle linebacker.  I think 2014 is the year he finally gets his due as a Pro Bowler in a very tough conference for linebackers.  Also, keep an eye on Korey Toomer.  Along with Simon, Toomer was singled out as having an amazing spring camp.  He’s always had the athleticism and the speed, but he hasn’t been able to stay healthy.  This year, he could be a real terror on special teams (perhaps helping us ease the blow of inevitably waiving Heath Farwell to save some money on our cap).

Bruce Irvin is one of the biggest question marks on the team.  Yes, he certainly has ROOM to improve, but is it safe to EXPECT improvement?  If he does reach his full potential, he could be a wrecking ball on opposing quarterbacks.  Suffice it to say, I’ll be watching him closely in pre-season games, to see how he’s used, and to see how he bounces back from his hip surgery.  Obviously, if that hip is giving him problems, I won’t be watching him at all in pre-season games, so let’s hope that’s not the case.

Finally, a couple more under-the-radar fellas.  Mike Morgan will be entering his fourth season with the Seahawks.  He has primarily been a little-used depth guy and a full-time special teamer.  I never really had a lot of expectations out of him – especially when Malcolm Smith passed him on the depth chart – so it’ll be interesting if he’s even able to hold down a spot on this team in 2014.  The Seahawks just drafted Kevin Pierre-Louis, who looks like an absolute freak of nature.  The safe bets on this team are:  Wagner, Wright, Smith, and Irvin.  The bubble guys are:  Toomer, Morgan, Farwell, and KPL (among lesser-known guys).  You can forget about stashing KPL on the practice squad, as that’s just a non-starter.  Not only will he get snapped up by another team immediately, but putting him on there would actively reduce the talent level of this team’s special teams.  Morgan is in the fight of his life right now with those other bubble guys.  I’ve heard good things about his spring as well, so it’ll be interesting to see who shakes out.  Obviously, injuries would settle this thing real quick, but that’s neither here nor there.

Defensive Line

Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril are veterans.  They’re as good as they’re going to be.  You could see incremental improvements (particularly with Avril, who is going into a contract season), but I wouldn’t expect huge steps forward.  Same goes for Mebane, McDaniel, and recently-acquired Kevin Williams.  You’d be safer in assuming that these three tackles are closer to getting worse than they are getting better.  You just hope they have another year in the tank.

The room for improvement is ALL dedicated to the very young and unproven.  Jordan Hill, Jesse Williams, Benson Mayowa – none of whom played all that much at all in their rookie years.  Greg Scruggs, who was okay in his rookie year, but was injured all of last year.  He has apparently been spending all of his free time bulking up and becoming more beastly, so I’ll be VERY interested to see how he looks, and if he’s ready for a tough rotation.  Then, we’ve got the rookies:  Jackson Jeffcoat, Cassius Marsh, and Jimmy Staten (among others, presumably).  Hard to expect much out of any of these three, unless we’re decimated by injuries and they’re thrust into more minutes.

Very volatile group, this defensive line.  We’ve got enough sure things (so long as they stay healthy) to be able to maintain at least a high percentage of our effectiveness of last year, and a good number of wild cards who will duke it out in Training Camp and the pre-season, to see if we can somehow BEST last year.

In any given year, THAT’S what I’m most looking forward to when it comes to this time of the football season.  Tomorrow, I’ll look at the offense.

How The Seahawks Ranked Their Needs In The 2014 Draft

Last week, I ranked the needs in order of importance for the Seattle Seahawks in this year’s NFL Draft.  It looked like this:

  1. Get More Draft Picks
  2. Cornerback
  3. Pass Rushing Defensive End
  4. Defensive Tackle
  5. Linebacker
  6. Wide Receiver
  7. Offensive Line
  8. Tight End

With an honorable mention for the safety position, but that’s neither here nor there.  Based on how the draft shaked out, here’s what appears to be the rankings of how the Seahawks saw their most pressing needs.

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  2. Wide Receiver
  3. Offensive Line
  4. Pass Rushing Defensive End
  5. Linebacker
  6. Defensive Tackle
  7. Cornerback
  8. Fullback

The top need was the most obvious.  Of course, when you’re knee-deep in the shit of the NFL Draft, maybe your more-impulsive side takes over.  Maybe you see a guy at 32 that you just HAVE TO HAVE, regardless of your intent to move down and collect more draft picks.

Tough to say without being in the room with those guys, but I thought the Seahawks did a great job trading down and picking up an extra three players, considering their starting draft position, and the fact that they didn’t have any compensatory picks to bolster their numbers.  Next year will be different, as we should get some good picks coming back our way after losing a number of guys in free agency.  But, this year was a real trial, and I think the Seahawks knocked it out of the park, considering the circumstances.

Obviously, the Seahawks considered wide receiver MUCH more of a pressing need than I did.  I still think, if you can extend Doug Baldwin, it probably wouldn’t take much to extend Jermaine Kearse either.  But, you can’t argue with what they brought in.  When you look at the combo of Harvin & Richardson, you’ve got game-breaking speed; players who can score at any time.  With Baldwin and Norwood, you’ve got a couple of reliable pass-catchers who should be awesome third down targets to move the chains.  When you lump in Kearse, you’ve got three guys who play bigger than their bodies.  In the red zone, the Seahawks shouldn’t have any trouble getting the ball in to Baldwin, Norwood, or Kearse.

I’m of the belief that the Seahawks will extend Baldwin, but beyond that, you like to have young, inexpensive talent.  Kearse, if also extended, won’t make a ton of money, but it’s still more than a rookie.  Maybe the Seahawks see an opportunity to replace Kearse once his contract runs out.

In a wide receiver-rich draft, the Seahawks picked two receivers in their first four picks.  If you consider the first four rounds to be kind of the sweet spot (and the last three to be mostly uneven as far as finding NFL-ready talent), then 40% of the Seahawks’ sweet spot picks were receiver.  Clearly, this was a huge target of theirs.

Beyond that, they obviously felt O-Line was way more important than I did.  You can see it in the numbers (drafting two guys, both who look to be tackles at the pro level) and you can see it in where they were taken.  Justin Britt was believed to be a reach when he was first taken, and nothing that has been said since has changed my mind.  Tom Cable noted that there were teams right after the Seahawks who were looking to select Britt, but the Seahawks still made the decision to draft a position of need over a “best player available, regardless of position”.

Now, in the Pete Carroll / John Schneider era, the Seahawks have been a little hit-or-miss on their offensive linemen.  They hit with Okung, but that’s an obvious, high first rounder we’re dealing with.  They’ve drafted other linemen, from Carpenter (late first round) to Moffitt (third round) to a number of late round & undrafted rookie selections.  As the line currently projects, we’ve got the aforementioned Okung, with Carpenter (middling at best in his tenure here), Unger (drafted before this current regime), Sweezy (a late draft pick, converted from D-Line), and Bowie (another late-round pick).

The Seahawks obviously felt a burning need to pick a lineman from a pool of Talent over a pool of Potential.  When you think about it, it’s probably for the best.  Obviously, you can’t have enough talented players on the offensive line.  But, also, if we’re preaching “Competition” as our credo, then that means you should bring in guys who you think are BETTER than the ones you have now.  Bowie was a 7th rounder.  Bailey was undrafted.  These two guys are going to battle it out for a couple spots on the line with a bunch of other guys.  If the Seahawks went out in this year’s draft and waited until the 7th round or later to pick up linemen (in other words, foregoing the sweet spot of the draft), then you’re not necessarily bringing in guys who would be BETTER than Bowie & Bailey.  Because those two guys – while unheralded out of college – have a year’s worth of professional experience.

No, the only way you’re going to find someone to compete with those guys is to bring in someone from a higher talent pool.  Britt fits that mold.  He might not actually be better than Bowie or Bailey; he might not even amount to a damn thing in this league.  But, the CHANCE that he is better is increased by his being worthy of an upper-round draft pick.

The Seahawks and myself both had “pass rushing defensive end” in pretty much the same spot as far as needs are concerned.  I would’ve liked to have seen one picked a little bit higher, but if they didn’t see a guy they liked before the fourth round, who am I to judge?  Cassius Marsh was picked pretty high in the fourth, and considering we didn’t have a third round pick, I suppose beggars can’t be choosers.

You gotta pick this kind of guy in the first four rounds if you have ANY hopes of him contributing at all in the first year of his deal.  Ideally, you’d like to see one picked in the first two rounds, but again, beggars.  Defensive end – except for the rare minority who comes out of the womb harassing quarterbacks – is all about development at the pro level.  Learning the tricks of the trade, playing under quality veterans, being placed into a scheme that will best fit their natural talents.  Your average rush end out of college might have one good move he can use to rush the passer.  He’ll need to develop at least two or three others if he has any hope of even playing in a rotation!  Just be glad the Seahawks didn’t let this draft go by completely without picking up another rusher to throw onto the pile.

I rated defensive tackle much higher than Seattle did, which is interesting.  Maybe it’s a byproduct of how the board shook out for them, or maybe it speaks to a confidence level in the players we have on the roster right now.  Those two guys – Jordan Hill & Jesse Williams – who we’ve all been hedging our bets on, considering their underwhelming rookie seasons, might just be good enough to take over prominent roles of their own.  As a bit of insurance, the Seahawks did draft a tackle in Jimmy Staten – in the fifth round, which for this team is nothing to sneeze at – but they picked a guy from a small school that nobody’s heard of.  Probably a project who gets stashed in the practice squad.  Just as likely he doesn’t make the team at all and gets cut.

It’s very telling that there were some highly rated defensive tackles the Seahawks could’ve taken in the early part of the second round if they so wished.  Maybe our desire to bolster this position was a little overzealous.  I still contend that Mebane will need an heir apparent sooner rather than later.

We both ranked linebacker as the fifth-highest need, and that’s for the best.  If there’s any position you can get in the later portion of the round (in this case, towards the very end of the fourth round), it’s linebacker.  Doesn’t mean the position isn’t important; just means that you can fill that position with quality talent at a lower cost.

I suppose you can say that I mis-read the need for cornerback in this draft, but you have to understand the frame of reference I had when I came up with my rankings.  For starters, I didn’t know how many times the Seahawks would be able to trade back.  I had no idea how many total players they’d pick, or if they’d opt to double-up at certain positions.  The simple fact that they drafted a guy who they’re projecting to be an outside cornerback would indicate that they at least felt it was SOMEWHAT important to draft for this position.

But, they didn’t feel it was important enough to select one in the top rounds.  If you look at the draft as a whole, there were TONS of secondary guys being selected in the early going.  That’s the NFL doing their copycat thing after seeing the Seahawks dismantle the Broncos in the Super Bowl.  What we have that the rest of the league doesn’t is a development system in place to turn young corners into superstars.

Yes, if you have a high draft pick and you see an Earl Thomas sitting there, it’s sort of a no-brainer to take that guy.  But, the odds are pretty slim that the Seahawks would find an Earl Thomas (or his cornerback equivalent) in the upper second round.  So, with that the case, and with our development team intact, what’s the point of reaching for a corner in the upper rounds when you can get someone who will be just as good – if not insanely better – in the later rounds?

So, the Seahawks took a tall, athletic safety in the 6th round, and are looking to convert him to corner.  You wouldn’t see this with just any team, but obviously the Seahawks aren’t just any team.  It might not be a 100% lock that the Seahawks succeed with Eric Pinkins, but that opportunity for success is WAY higher in our camp than it would be in anyone else’s.

So, it’s tough to say exactly how highly the Seahawks rated “cornerback” as a need coming into the draft.  It might have been up there with defensive end or offensive line, but they knew they could get away with taking a guy later just because they’ve done it so many times before with fantastic results.

Now, the Seahawks have Pinkins to go with last year’s fifth round pick Tharold Simon.  You’d have to think that ONE of those two will be a solid replacement for Byron Maxwell once he leaves us after the 2014 season.

Finally, the Seahawks picked up a fullback.  I would’ve been happier to see another tight end thrown onto the pile, to at least push Anthony McCoy for that third tight end spot, but it looks like they got one among their undrafted rookies.  When you think of seventh round draft picks as potential undrafted rookies who you don’t think you’ll be able to sign (because maybe you have a position – like running back/fullback – that scares the premium undrafted rookies away, because it’s so loaded), then I guess it’s easy to see the Seahawks going after Kiero Small.

Also, from what I’m hearing, he’d be the team’s only true fullback on the roster.  Coleman and Ware both have extensive running back backgrounds, but Small is all fullback all the time.  Could be a unique talent at a position you wouldn’t expect to need a unique talent.  For a seventh rounder?  Who’s going to complain about that?

Ranking The Seahawks’ Needs In The 2014 NFL Draft

You know, at some point, people are going to realize it’s going to require more than two dudes and a pair of handcuffs to escort Jack Bauer into any prison/interrogation room.  I’d bring along about five or six trigger-happy ex-Marines and hope for the best.  GOD I’m glad 24 is back!

The better your team is, the less excitement surrounds that team once it comes time to draft.  For bad teams (like the 2008 & 2009 Seahawks, for instance), the draft means everything.  It’s a chance to dream.  The NFL is the Great Parity Hope!  One amazing draft can flip your franchise from a bottom-feeder to a champion!  Well, maybe not JUST one, but it can certainly send you down the right path.

When you’re great – and especially when you ARE a champion, which is what we’re dealing with here – the draft isn’t so special anymore.  You’re not looking for that sparkplug to jumpstart your franchise; you’re just looking to maintain your level of dominance and hope to pluck some quality, inexpensive starters for down the road when it’s time to reload.  What this draft means for 2014, however, is merely to add to our depth.

The foundation is here, and it’s spectacular.  The bulk of the starters are set, and they’re elite at the most important positions.  That might lead one to believe that the draft doesn’t matter all that much, but don’t fall into that trap.  Bad, useless drafts start to pile up and stink like a mountain of dirty diapers in the sun.  If you take enough dumps on draft day, you can go from among the youngest to among the oldest teams in the league in the blink of an eye.

So, while this draft isn’t necessarily make-or-break for our immediate future, it’s still important in the Big Picture.  And, as you well know, the Seahawks are all about the Big Picture.

There are always needs in any draft, so here I’m going to rank the Seahawks’ needs in order of importance.

#1 – Get More Draft Picks

The Seahawks, right now, have six picks.  They received no compensatory picks, traded away their third-rounder to the Vikings for Percy Harvin, and traded away their seventh-rounder for Terrelle Pryor (the Seahawks received an extra fifth-rounder from Oakland in the Matt Flynn deal).  On top of that, they draft last in rounds 1, 2, 4, 5, and 6 (not counting compensatory picks, of course).  Essentially, it’s like the Seahawks have a high 2nd, a high 3rd, two high 5ths, a high 6th and a high 7th.  I’m not necessarily dismissing their chances to find diamonds in the rough – after all, they’ve made careers in their last four drafts by doing just that – but it always helps to have more chances.

You can’t predict draft-day trades (which is why all mock drafts have very little predictive value), but you have to anticipate the Seahawks at least TRYING to be big players in the trade market.  I wouldn’t mind seeing a couple of move-downs (like those 32nd & 64th picks) to net more 4’s, 5’s, and/or 6’s.  If we can bump that number to around eight or nine total draft picks, I’d be more comfortable.

Of course, failing that, the Seahawks should be a major factor in the undrafted free agent market.

#2 – Cornerback

Did I just blow your mind or DID. I. JUST. BLOW. YOUR. MIND?

Yes, yes, yes, there are plenty of other needs on this team.  Offensive line comes immediately to mind.  So does wide receiver, so does the pass rush, so does the interior defensive line.  But, I’m here to tell you that if I had my druthers, I’d like to see the Seahawks go for a cornerback with one of their top two picks.

You like the Legion of Boom?  So do I.  They might be my favorite unit of any sports team I’ve ever rooted for ever.  The safeties are locked up, and a deal with Richard Sherman could be imminent.  So, where do I come off listing cornerback as the #2 draft need?

Well, I’ll tell you:  the talk of this draft is far and away its wide receiver class.  Everyone expects a record number of receivers going in the first round.  Beyond that, there’s the usual inane quarterback chatter, and all of the linemen who will be plucked by the more sensible teams.  With the rising importance of safety, you have to figure there’s at least one or two pretty good ones.  Ditto cornerbacks; I don’t see the Seahawks getting the cream of the crop here.

But, if there’s a prototypical “Seahawks Cornerback” still on the board late in the first or early in the second round (depending on whether or not we’re able to trade back), I could totally see this team going in that direction.  An homage to last year’s drafting of Christine Michael out of nowhere when we still had Marshawn Lynch in his prime and a hungry young runner in Robert Turbin.

Here’s the deal:  Byron Maxwell is only signed through the end of 2014.  I fully expect him to continue starting across from Richard Sherman, and I fully expect him to be as good – if not better – than he was in the last few weeks of 2013.  And, when that happens, I fully expect him to sign a lucrative contract with another team (please not the 49ers).  So, in looking long-term (and really, not THAT long, just one season after this one), the Seahawks are going to need another starter to play across from Sherman.

And, not for nothing, but the depth at nickel & dime cornerback could use a boost as well.  In that area, we’ve got Jeremy Lane and a lot of question marks in 2014.

Don’t sleep on the cornerback position.  Just because we’ll have the best corner and the best safety combo in the league, it’s still a position of need and a pretty big one at that.

#3 – Pass Rushing Defensive End

Also known as the LEO defensive end.  It’s where Chris Clemons called his home the last few years.

The pass rush isn’t in total shambles – thanks to Michael Bennett’s 4-year deal – but it could use an infusion of young talent.  A big question going into the 2015 season will be:  can the Seahawks afford to extend Cliff Avril?  If he has a repeat of his 2013 season – or improves – then I would wager that we can’t afford him.  If he regresses, or gets injured for a big chunk, then I’d have to ask if we even WANT to bring him back, but that’s neither here nor there.

Elite pass rushers are at a premium in the NFL.  Recruiting these guys in free agency requires blowing a big chunk of your salary cap.  It would be nice to have a young, cost-controlled option from the draft.

The only problem with this is:  it’s hard to find a pass rushing end who is capable of starting right away.  The best guys are usually picked high in the first round.  I’m not saying it’s impossible for the Seahawks to find a worthy guy at this position, given their crappy draft picks at the bottoms of nearly every round; but I am saying it might take more time for that guy to develop.

Unlike offensive linemen, running backs, and linebackers – who tend to start and succeed right away – defensive ends tend to need a little more seasoning.  If we get lucky, then great, we’ve got a guy who can start at the end opposite Michael Bennett.  If we’re not so lucky, then maybe we just drafted a guy who, in a few years, will develop into Michael Bennett’s replacement.  Either way, it’s something that needs to be addressed this year.

#4 – Defensive Tackle

Because Brandon Mebane won’t be around forever.  And last year’s picks at the position – Jordan Hill & Jesse Williams – didn’t necessarily inspire a whole lot of confidence with their rookie campaigns.

Yes, it’s always possible to find this position on the cheap in free agency, but if you go that route, you’re opening yourself up for a lot of injury risk (if they’re cheap and seeing free agency, they’re either not very good, or they’ve been injured in the recent past).  Brandon Mebane is so important to this line because he’s so durable.  Finding someone like him, who’s just as durable, is a huge need for this D-Line going forward (and would obviously save us a few bucks to boot).

#5 – Linebacker

Like cornerback, linebacker appears to be a position of strength with no holes outside of some back-end depth spots.  But, take a look at where these guys are in their rookie deals:

  • Bobby Wagner is signed thru 2015
  • Malcolm Smith is signed thru 2014
  • K.J. Wright is signed thru 2014
  • Bruce Irvin is signed thru 2015 (but is converted from defensive end and will be entering his second season as a strong-side linebacker)

I feel like we might be able to re-sign Wright to a reasonable deal.  I think Wagner will be the bigger priority, but his cost might be a little prohibitive.  Malcolm Smith is the biggest wild card of the bunch.  If he continues this opportunistic roll he’s been on since the midway point of 2013, he very well could find himself on another team with a big, fat contract.

Either way, I don’t expect the Seahawks will be able to extend all of these guys to long-term deals, so a starting replacement will likely be necessary as soon as 2015.  I don’t think that replacement is currently on the Seahawks’ roster, which means they’re going to want to draft someone.  Maybe in the fifth round or thereabouts.  I wouldn’t expect the Seahawks to go any higher than a fourth rounder, but I’ve been surprised before.

#6 – Wide Receiver

This spot was pretty high on my list before the Seahawks re-signed Sidney Rice.  For the record, I expect Rice to make the team and be among its top four receivers.  So, anyone drafted at this position will have to be a special teams ace or ride the pine until someone above him gets injured.

Like defensive end, I don’t expect this spot to get a whole lotta play in 2014.  Nevertheless, when looking at the future, it would be nice to have someone at a reasonable salary, especially when we’ve got Harvin taking up so much cap room.

Doug Baldwin is with us through at least 2014.  If we can’t work out a long-term deal with him, then we’ll be hurting.  Jermaine Kearse is also with us thru 2014, but he may be a restricted free agent for 2015 (in a sense, getting a similar tender that Baldwin has this year).  I don’t expect Kearse’s value to skyrocket, but you never know.  If there are injuries, and he ends up picking up the slack, catching a bunch of touchdowns and whatnot, he very well could price himself out of this market.

It’s just a nice luxury to have a home-grown receiver on a small deal.  Golden Tate used to be that luxury for the last couple years of his deal before moving on.  Finding that kind of value – even if it takes a year or two for him to grow into the position – is huge in this league.

#7 – Offensive Line

You ask most Seahawks fans who they want to see with our first draft pick, and I bet a big majority says, “An offensive lineman”.  I wouldn’t be among them.

Right now, pre-draft, the Seahawks have six guys with SOME starting experience.  That’s not counting Alvin Bailey, who filled in nicely at times as a rookie last year.  If push comes to shove, I think the O-Line looks like this in week 1:

  • Russell Okung – LT
  • James Carpenter – LG
  • Max Unger – C
  • J.R. Sweezy – RG
  • Michael Bowie – RT

That still leaves this team with enough depth to fill in, as well as another rookie or two to fight for a roster spot.

Frankly, I’m more interested in this Caylin Hauptmann guy who we kept on our roster all year last year than I am in anyone we might draft on the line this weekend.  Either way, I’m not as concerned about the line as most people.  Sure, our guards were sub-par last year, but I don’t think that necessarily means you have to go and get one in the first couple of rounds.  Now, if some great guy falls and we’re looking at a high first round grade on someone who slipped for no apparent reason, then fine.  But, I feel like the best guards are going to be snapped up well before we get to pick 32.

Do what you’ve been doing.  Find that value later in the draft or among the undrafted free agents.  No sense in reaching for someone when you can mold a nobody into a legitimate starter.

For the record, I don’t think J.R. Sweezy is that bad, and I kind of expect him to make a big jump in 2014.

#8 – Tight End

I’m back-tracking like you would not believe on the prospects of ASJ.  Right after the Super Bowl, I had him in my sights as a possible target with pick #32, but not anymore.  Part of it is the foot issue, but part of it is I just don’t know if he’s going to translate into an elite professional.

He’s not particularly fast.  He’s not freakishly athletic.  He was a valued member of the Washington Huskies and, at times, a dominant force in the red zone, but here’s the thing:  he’s not much of a blocker.  If you’re not a very good blocker on the line, then you better be the type of pass-catcher that they’ve got in New Orleans with Jimmy Graham, or in New England with Gronk.  I don’t think he’s that.  I think linebackers in the NFL will be able to keep up with him no problem.  He might be able to use his size to leverage a career in the Tony Gonzalez mold (not the best line blocker, not the speediest guy), but that’s going to require a work ethic I’m not sure ASJ possesses.

Look, I hope I’m wrong about the guy.  I hope wherever he goes, he terrorizes everyone who let him fall in the draft (again, please don’t go to the 49ers).  I just know that I don’t want the Seahawks to pick him (and no small part of that is because I think he needs to get away from his hometown and away from friends & family to just focus on football).

The Seahawks might want to pick SOMEONE at the position.  If, for nothing else, than some Anthony McCoy insurance.  If they do look for this position, I’d like for them to go low in the draft (or, more likely, in the realm of the undrafted).

We’ll need a replacement for Zach Miller eventually.  Luke Willson impressed me as a rookie, but will he be able to carry the load as a blocking tight end in our run schemes?

If it were up to me, the Seahawks would find a long-term stud of a blocking tight end and pair him with Luke Willson going forward.  Willson in small doses, I’m sure, can block on the line just fine.  But, when we need to beef up, then we bring in our bulldozer.

Anyway, that’s pretty much that.  I guess the Seahawks could consider the safety position, but I’m not sure I see much of a point in that (unless Kam Chancellor’s hip injury is worse than we realize, in which case I think I need to start this post over again).  I’ll be very disappointed if they draft another running back or another quarterback.  I mean, seriously, you can only carry so many on one roster!  We’ve already got too many of both as it is!

Filling The Gaps On The Seahawks’ Roster

For starters, this isn’t going to be the most comprehensive thing you’ve ever read in your lives.  I’m not getting into the 90-man roster so much as the 53-ish man roster.

When I list the “2013 Roster”, I’m talking about the 53-man roster we had for the Super Bowl, with a small handful of extras tacked on who made a somewhat big impact in the 2013 season.  That having been said, let’s take a look at where we are and where we were.

I more-or-less already got into this subject a few weeks ago, but I thought I’d make it a little more visual-friendly (for my own sake, if nothing else).  In essence, this is another call to Seahawks fans out there that this offseason hasn’t been as devastating as it seems.

2013 2014
Def Line Michael Bennett Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril Cliff Avril
Brandon Mebane Brandon Mebane
Chris Clemons
Red Bryant (Jesse Williams)
Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Clinton McDonald (Greg Scruggs)
O’Brien Schofield
Jordan Hill Jordan Hill
Benson Mayowa Benson Mayowa

As you can see, there aren’t a crazy amount of holes here.  Red Bryant’s spot will most likely be filled by Michael Bennett, with a little help coming from Jesse Williams (if he’s recovered from his IR stint as a rookie in 2013), Greg Scruggs (who also found himself on the IR, though has bulked up considerably in anticipation of his return to the playing field), or a rookie/someone from off the scrap heap.  I’m not TOO worried about replacing Red Bryant, because I believe Michael Bennett is a capable run defender, and other big bodies aren’t all that difficult to come by.

Also, I would anticipate Jordan Hill to improve and earn MUCH more playing time in 2014.  He saw almost no action as a rookie in 2013, but with these holes in the line (specifically the Clinton McDonald-sized hole in our D-Tackle rotation), I expect Hill to pick up the slack admirably.

The real thing to worry about is finding that third pass rusher.  I’m not so worried about the O’Brien Schofield spot, as that could be literally anybody at this point.  But, who will replace Chris Clemons?  That’s the most important question of the off-season, if you ask me.  We carried Benson Mayowa for the entirety of 2013; you’d have to think he’s learned all he could and is ready to apply that knowledge.  Mayowa had an impressive pre-season last year; let’s hope he carries that over.  If not, I fully expect the Seahawks to hit the draft for a pass rusher, as well as hit HARD the free agent scrap heap as the season approaches and teams have to cut their rosters down to 53.

2013 2014
Linebackers Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Heath Farwell Heath Farwell
Mike Morgan Mike Morgan

As you can see, we’ve got everybody back from this position group.  That doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going to keep it EXACTLY the same.  My hunch is:  the top four guys come back, and the team pushes HARD for the final two spots to be rookies, or otherwise cheaper replacements.  Maybe not so much Mike Morgan, but certainly Farwell, whose cap number is around $1.67 Million.  For a guy who only plays special teams (albeit, really fucking well), that’s kind of a high number.  And, aside from that, you gotta figure this team will want to groom at least one future starter at this position, as it won’t be able to pay Wagner, Wright, AND Smith the type of money they’d command on an open market.  I don’t see Farwell or Morgan as a starter type, so their jobs are probably in jeopardy.

2013 2014
Secondary Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Brandon Browner (Tharold Simon)
Walter Thurmond (Phillip Adams)
Jeremy Lane Jeremy Lane
Chris Maragos
DeShawn Shead DeShawn Shead
Jeron Johnson Jeron Johnson

As you can see, there aren’t any holes where it counts!  The Legion of Boom (Byron Maxwell Edition) is entirely intact.  We lost Browner, but we lost Browner last year too.  We also lost Thurmond, but you figure that Jeremy Lane (who returns) is still here and did just as well, in my book anyway.  Tharold Simon was a draft pick last year who spent 2013 on the IR.  He COULD be a Browner replacement/depth guy, but that all depends on how seriously he takes his job and how much he’s grown as a player since his lost rookie season.  I’d expect the team to look to the draft for one or two secondary guys.  We lost reserve safety (and special teams whiz) Chris Maragos, but DeShawn Shead and Jeron Johnson both return.  Phillip Adams was also re-signed by the Seahawks this offseason, so at least for 2014 we’ve got another experienced body to play on the inside.

2013 2014
Quarterbacks Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Terrelle Pryor

As you can see, we’re solid at quarterback.

2013 2014
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham

As you can see, we’re solid at kicker, punter, and long snapper.

2013 2014
Receivers Percy Harvin Percy Harvin
Golden Tate
Doug Baldwin Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse Jermaine Kearse
Sidney Rice Sidney Rice
Ricardo Lockette Ricardo Lockette
Bryan Walters Bryan Walters

As you can see, we’ve got just a Golden Tate-sized hole in our receivers unit.  Of course, one could argue that since Harvin only appeared in three games last year, it’s kinda like we replaced Tate with Harvin going into 2014.  Nevertheless, I fully expect a wide receiver to be drafted (and probably pretty high), and I expect a fierce battle among the undrafted free agents and other younger guys already on this roster.  In short, I expect Lockette and Walters to be replaced by two guys not even on our radar right now.  Also, I don’t expect this team to hold onto seven receivers, so disregard the table in that respect.

2013 2014
Backs Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Christine Michael Christine Michael
Michael Robinson
Derrick Coleman Derrick Coleman
Spencer Ware Spencer Ware

As you can see, our running backs are intact.  Michael Robinson is always an option, but probably won’t make the opening day roster unless there are some injuries we’re dealing with.  Expect Lynch, Turbin, Michael, & Coleman to be locks to make the roster.  Ware will probably have to win a job (doesn’t help his cause that he had that DUI last year).  There’s maybe an outside chance that the team trades Turbin for a low-end draft pick, but that’s only if the team is confident in Michael’s ability to block for the quarterback.

2013 2014
Tight Ends Zach Miller Zach Miller
Luke Willson Luke Willson
Kellen Davis (Anthony McCoy)

As you can see, we’re good at tight end.  Anthony McCoy re-signed after being on IR all of last year.  If he’s healthy, he’s a pretty sure bet to be this team’s third tight end and REALLY give us some versatility.  McCoy is probably a better blocking tight end than Willson, and he’ll give us some better hands in the passing game than Kellen Davis.

2013 2014
Off Line Max Unger Max Unger
Russell Okung Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Breno Giacomini
James Carpenter James Carpenter
Paul McQuistan
Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Michael Bowie Michael Bowie
Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Caylin Hauptmann Caylin Hauptmann

As you can see, just a tiny bit of work to do along the offensive line.  Max Unger, Russell Okung, and J.R. Sweezy have all locked down their respective spots (Center, Left Tackle, Right Guard).  Left guard is still up for grabs, but James Carpenter probably has the early lead in that battle.  Right tackle will be brand new, and maybe Michael Bowie or Alvin Bailey wins that job.  Maybe one of them wins the left guard job.  Maybe this Caylin Hauptmann guy who was on the roster for most (if not all) of 2013 will shock the world and steal a spot somewhere.  Regardless, I like our line, and I like our depth.  By my count, I’ve got 6-7 guys in that roster who can start for me and not give me any gray hairs

So, when you look at it, there’s not a lot of places where we have to plug guys in.  Depth might be a little bit of an issue, but that’s what’s going to make this training camp and pre-season so interesting.  Who’s going to fill out in the back-end of the secondary and offensive line?  Who’s going to assume that third pass-rusher role?  With new, bigtime deals for Sherman and Thomas (presumably), one would figure that their roles in special teams will go away; who picks up that slack?

I’ve got, in my head, somewhere around 44-46 players listed above who are locks to make this team (and another handful that are on the bubble).  That means there could be upwards of 7-9 guys on the 2014 opening-day 53-man roster that we’ve never heard of!  On a Super Bowl champion, no less!

Again, these are merely depth positions, but who knows?  You could be talking about the next stars on this team starting with 2015 and beyond.

It’s exciting to be a Seahawks fan right now.  It helps that we’re coming off of a championship, but still.