The Seahawks Signed Linebackers

With lots of big-name potential targets signing elsewhere (Bobby Wagner with the Commanders, Jordyn Brooks with the Dolphins, Patrick Queen with the Steelers), linebacker (particularly “inside” or “off-ball” linebacker) was suddenly a position of tremendous need! Heading into last week, we had three undrafted free agents on our roster at the position, the most experienced one being Special Teamer Jon Rhattigan.

So, YEAH, I’d say it was imperative for the Seahawks to start doing something here.

We’re going to find out how important inside linebackers are in this league, real damn quick. The devalued positions in the NFL are starting to make a bit of a comeback. Safety, of course, was one of our most overpaid positions of recent years. Running back still seems to be hitting a floor – though you’ll see an occasional shockingly-high contract every now and then. But, more and more, we’re seeing linebackers start to earn their keep in a bigger way.

That isn’t to say I think we NEED to be giving big bucks to these guys. I still feel like this is a position where we can save a few pennies.

Tyrel Dodson was the first of two linebackers we signed. He was, apparently, the highest-graded linebacker according to PFF last year. Last year was also the first time he’d ever started (for the Bills), after three years of being a reserve (he was also an undrafted free agent signing originally). He’s apparently great at stopping the run as well as in coverage, which is exactly what the Seahawks needed.

Then, the Seahawks went and signed Jerome Baker away from the Dolphins. 1 year, $7 million (the terms of Dodson’s contract still haven’t been released, but it’s also apparently a 1 year deal). Baker is a 6-year vet (all with Miami) who was drafted in the third round. He was also apparently a cap casualty (and effectively replaced by Jordyn Brooks) which makes me wonder who got the short end of the stick in this swap.

Baker sounds like Just A Guy. He’ll be fine. The hope is, together, both of these guys will be a drastic improvement in pass coverage compared to Wagner and Brooks, at a fraction of the cost. Regardless, they figure to be better than the nobodies we had currently on our roster.

Also regardless: linebacker is going to be a great need for us in this upcoming draft. Perfect timing for this to be a weak linebacker class!

The Seahawks Have Been Very Seahawky In Free Agency

There was a great post on Formerly Twitter this week that had something to do with the top 10 or whatever free agent signings of 2022. There were precious few (maybe only 1?) that are still with the team they signed with AND haven’t taken a pay cut. That’s … two seasons. And already, most of them have moved on.

I don’t know if that’s necessarily par for the course, or an outlier, but I would venture to say it’s closer to the former than the latter. While I wouldn’t go so far as to say free agents – by and large – are busts, I will say they are – by and large – not worth the money they receive. We all know why; this isn’t our first rodeo: you’re paying for past production.

That isn’t to say there aren’t diamonds in the rough here and there. Some of my best friends are free agents! Where would the Seahawks have been without Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril? Where would the Saints have been without Drew Brees, or the Broncos without Peyton Manning? Every once in a while, they exceed expectations, but more often than not, they disappoint.

It’s not even remotely a hot take to say that teams are best served building through the draft. It’s also not even remotely a hot take to say that teams will always prioritize re-signing their very best players. Regardless of how good they end up becoming, free agents who actually make it to market are always deemed to be expendable for one reason or another. Maybe that reason is due to chronic mismanagement by the team letting them walk, and they simply can’t afford to hang onto a guy they would otherwise prefer to keep.

Or maybe those free agents are flawed in some way, and their former teams understand those players aren’t worth what they’re destined to command after a bidding war.

I like the fact that the Seahawks generally stay out of the big-spending free agency fray. That being said, I also understand the fan angst, especially THIS year.

We’re not overburdened with draft picks, for starters. Now, maybe that means we’re looking to trade down a bunch of times; wouldn’t shock me in the slightest. But, there are a lot of open roster spots on this team, and we can’t fill them all via the draft. If we don’t start making some free agent moves eventually, then we’ll have to back-fill via any undrafted free agents coming out of college, or other cast-offs literally nobody else wants.

But, honestly? I don’t have a big problem with what the Seahawks have been doing. Like, I don’t have a problem with saying goodbye to everyone from our 2020 draft class except for Darrell Taylor. If they’re not worth the second contract, then don’t force it just because you drafted them. Sometimes, guys don’t pan out. Sometimes, other players are going to be better fits. Especially when you’ve got a brand new coaching staff and a brand new offensive and defensive scheme.

The latest signings seem to be more of that line of thinking. They’re all kinda fringey.

We signed a second tight end, Pharaoh Brown, to a 1-year, $4 million deal. He hasn’t done a whole lot since being an undrafted free agent in 2017, but he’s very tall and allegedly more of a pass catcher than a blocker. So, really, he’s Colby Parkinson, only a lot cheaper.

Then, we went out and got ex-Husky center Nick Harris for a year and two and a half million. He gives us competition at all of the interior line spots, for cheaper than an Evan Brown type (which means that if we want to go young across the O-Line, we can do that, as Harris is by no means guaranteed a starting spot).

Then, we brought back Artie Burns. Great! He was a valuable contributor last year to our secondary and provides much-needed depth. We also tendered RFAs Michael Jackson and Jon Rhattigan (with Jackson being an original-round tender, meaning if he signs elsewhere, we get an additional 5th round pick). I’m all for it, more solid depth pieces.

Maybe the biggest news of the last day or so was the re-signing of Darrell Taylor. We could’ve gone to the trouble of also tendering him, but given how productive he’s been as a pass rusher the last three seasons (21.5 sacks), it’s fair to wonder if we would’ve lost him. We don’t know what this deal looks like, so I’ll just say it’s nice to have him back. Obviously, he’s got some flaws to his game – in his utter inability to set an edge or stop the run – but the way he flashes to the quarterback isn’t ordinary. You’re not finding that in any ol’ free agent pass rusher.

The Seahawks resumed adding outside players by picking up Rayshawn Jenkins on a 2-year, $12 million deal. He was a cap casualty by the Jags, but he was also extremely productive in limiting receptions. A defensive backfield with Jenkins and Julian Love should be just as great – if not moreso – than the one we had with Diggs and Adams, for considerably cheaper.

The final big move (so far) was bringing back George Fant, on what’s reportedly a 2-year deal worth up to $14 million. As has been noted, this is more than just offensive tackle insurance. This appears to speak to the delicate nature of Abe Lucas’ chronic knee condition. I think it’s fair to wonder: is he going in for surgery that’s going to cost him the 2024 season? Is he going to be a frequent inactive due to health issues? That’s a tremendous shame, as he looked like a unique talent and value as a 2022 third round draft pick. Regardless, the odds of Lucas seeing a second contract with the Seahawks seems pretty slim at the moment.

Finally, in outgoing player news, Bobby Wagner signed a 1-year deal with Dan Quinn in Washington for $8.5 million. That’s certainly more than I’d want to spend on a run-stuffing middle linebacker who can’t cover anyone in space. Also, among the RFA players NOT tendered was Jake Curhan, who has been dealing with injury issues of his own throughout his young career. Can’t be saddled with too many offensive linemen who can’t stay upright; best to move on.

I still think there’s potential for one more splash signing at some point, though obviously the best of the best free agents are already off the board. So, we’ll see.

Let’s Talk About The Seahawks’ 53-Man Roster 2023

The Seahawks cut their roster down to 53 players yesterday, following the end of the pre-season. That’s always mildly interesting to talk about, right?

We should probably get the big caveat out of the way now: this isn’t the be-all, end-all of the Seahawks roster. As early as later today, we should start seeing changes. Guys hitting the IR (because if they went on the IR prior to roster cutdown, they’d be lost for the season; whereas after, they only miss a few games), guys getting cut for other players we claim off of waivers or whatnot, possible trades for back-end draft picks/roster spots. Mildly interesting. Let’s get to it.

Quarterback

  • Geno Smith
  • Drew Lock

High floor, medium ceiling. There are certainly worse backups to have than Lock, but you can argue there are plenty of better starters than Geno. We’ll see, though. I would argue Geno’s in that 10-15 range among NFL quarterbacks; for him to take it to a higher level, he’s going to need improved offensive line play.

Running Back

  • Kenneth Walker
  • Zach Charbonnet
  • DeeJay Dallas
  • Kenny McIntosh

Strong group, if they can stay healthy. I get the feeling Walker is being criminally overlooked, and I’m not sure I totally understand why. He’s got big play potential, he’s shifty, he can break tackles, he has a nose for the endzone, he’s not bad with his hands; he seems like the whole package. Yet, we draft Charbonnet in the second round, and everyone’s already On To The Next. I’m not sold on Charbonnet; I think he’s a solid #2, but I don’t know if he’s necessarily a starting-calibre, workhorse-type back. Dallas is the perfect #3/passing down back, good blocker, great hands, good route runner. McIntosh – if he isn’t already placed on the IR – figures to be inactive until the need arises for him to be called up.

Wide Receiver

  • D.K. Metcalf
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Jaxon Smith-Njigba
  • Jake Bobo
  • Cody Thompson
  • Dareke Young

Elite! I think Smith-Njigba – right now – would be the very best receiver on a good number of teams, and at worse most teams’ #2. That’s as a rookie, and WITH the broken wrist! The fact that he’s our #3? It’s crazy. Also, count me in on the Bobo Hype Train 100%! All four of these guys are so different, so skilled, and bring something unique to the table, it’s going to be impossible for someone to not be open on every play. The last two guys are special teamers and/or injured, so we’ll see how that shakes out in the coming hours/days.

Tight End

  • Noah Fant
  • Will Dissly
  • Colby Parkinson

How cool is this? Two home grown guys on reasonable contracts, building their way up in this league, in this system. And Noah Fant – the big player prize in the Russell Wilson deal – who might get overlooked more than anyone on this team. Just solid studs who are good-to-great blockers, and valuable contributors in the receiving game. This is my ideal tight end room; lots of talent, with not a lot of dollars spent. Just some grinders putting in the work.

Offensive Line

  • Charles Cross (LT)
  • Damien Lewis (LG)
  • Evan Brown (C)
  • Phil Haynes (RG)
  • Abe Lucas (RT)
  • Stone Forsythe (T)
  • Jake Curhan (G/T)
  • Olu Oluwatimi (C)
  • Anthony Bradford (G)

Also, probably my ideal offensive line group. Everyone except for Brown is a homegrown guy, and he’s kind of a solid, cheap free agent center. We have the bookend tackles with the potential to be great in the years ahead, solid guards on the last year of their respective deals (so you know they’re looking to show out and get paid), and the two rookies who are ready to start pushing for playing time as early as this season. There are definitely questions about how good this group is right now, but I’m hopeful we’ll see some growth if not this year, then in the years ahead. Just, you know, let’s not see any injuries on the outside if we can avoid it.

Defensive Line

  • Dre’Mont Jones
  • Jarran Reed
  • Mario Edwards
  • Mike Morris
  • Myles Adams
  • Cameron Young

This, uhh, looks less than impressive when you list them all together. We’re REALLY relying on Jones and Reed to carry the mail in this group. Edwards is just a guy. Adams is just a guy. Morris and Young are both rookies, but also injured I think? I don’t know WHAT we’re getting from this group, but it doesn’t look amazing. I, for one, can’t wait for Bryan Mone to come back.

Outside Linebacker

  • Uchenna Nwosu
  • Darrell Taylor
  • Boye Mafe
  • Derick Hall
  • Tyreke Smith

This feels a little more impressive, but also maybe a little top-heavy. We know what we’ve got with Nwosu. We think we know what we’ve got with Taylor. The rest still have to prove it on the football field, in regular season games, against opposing #1 offenses. Now, I think we’re all very high on Mafe and Hall, based on their bodies and what we’ve heard said about them in training camp and what we’ve seen in pre-season games. But, we all know how that goes. Whatever happened to Alton Robinson and Nick Reed?

Inside Linebacker

  • Bobby Wagner
  • Jordyn Brooks
  • Devin Bush
  • Jon Rhattigan

This looks 1,000% better with Brooks back and playing. Is he fully healthy? We’ll find out. But, that takes pressure off of Bush to be superman, and that relieves all of us of watching Rhattigan make ankle tackles all game long. None of these units I’ve listed on the defensive side of the ball – by themselves – look all that great. But, with Bobby Wagner’s leadership and ability, he might be the glue that holds everything together and wills this group to great things. It’s our only hope, if I’m being honest!

Safety

  • Quandre Diggs
  • Julian Love
  • Jamal Adams
  • Jerrick Reed
  • Coby Bryant

Lots of versatility in this group; might be the most versatile we’ve ever seen. Adams figures to play more linebacker than actual safety. Bryant has shown an adeptness at both safety and nickel corner. I get the feeling that Love can play down in the box, but also isn’t a slouch in coverage. And Reed looked MIGHTY impressive in the pre-season; I’m happy with this group as a whole.

Cornerback

  • Riq Woolen
  • Devon Witherspoon
  • Michael Jackson
  • Tre Brown
  • Artie Burns

Pound for pound, maybe the most talented group on the team. Still, I can’t help but question Jackson’s level of play in the last two pre-season games. I thought Tre Brown looked much flashier, with bigger play potential. And you could do A LOT worse than either Burns or Bryant as your fifth corner. Teams have to be jealous of this unit.

Special Teams

  • Michael Dickson (P)
  • Jason Myers (K)
  • Chris Stoll (LS)
  • Nick Bellore

I’m tired of listing Bellore as a linebacker; he’s just a special teamer! He sure as shit isn’t a fullback; we never use one! Stoll is an undrafted rookie, so we’ll see how long he lasts. Otherwise, good group, solid all around.

The Seahawks Have A Linebacker Problem

Now, to be fair, the Seahawks probably have more than one problem. They probably have more than one problem on the defensive side of the ball. But, I’m beginning to wonder if their biggest problem isn’t the interior of the defensive line – or even the D-Line as a whole – but the linebacking corps.

You always have to qualify these things nowadays, between interior and outside linebackers. Pass rushers and pass defenders. Sam and Will and Mike. Fuck those guys. Anyway, I’m saying across the board, it’s not looking great.

Starting with the outside, the Seahawks have Uchenna Nwosu and … we’ll see. There’s been a number of years now where we’ve looked to fill this position in the draft, with middling-at-best results. Alton Robinson is a name we’ve become familiar with, since he was taken in the fifth round in 2020. Well, he was cut early on in camp. Darrell Taylor – taken in that same draft, in the second round – figures to be the one playing opposite Nwosu, but he might just be a pass rush specialist, and not necessarily an every-down guy (due to his inability to set an edge and stop the run).

Then, last year, we took Boye Mafe (2nd) and Tyreke Smith (5th) in the hopes of growing into that spot. For good measure, before we signed Nwosu to a big money extension, we drafted Derick Hall in the 2nd round this year. Effectively, we’ve got five guys for two spots, or rather, we’ve got four guys for one spot (since Nwosu figures to have his locked down). Taylor’s only effective in obvious passing situations, Smith spent most of last year injured, Mafe was a so-so presence in limited duty, and Hall is a rookie. Yeesh.

That brings us to the inside linebacker spots. Bobby Wagner came back. Jordyn Brooks is coming off of a massive knee injury and will need some extended time recovering. BBK made a triumphant return to the Seahawks following his own injury, but he’s always been a Special Teamer at best. We took a flyer on Devin Bush, but who knows what he’s got left in the tank; his longterm health is iffy at best, especially considering we’re only on his fifth year and he already needs regular veteran rest days. Nick Bellore is everything you would ever expect of a fullback-turned-linebacker (he’s a Special Teams ace, and nothing more). And that leaves backup Jon Rhattigan, who is this generation’s Isaiah Kacyvenski.

Best case scenario: Bobby Wagner gives you what he gave the Rams last year, and Jordyn Brooks makes a full recovery to play alongside. My expectations are that Brooks never fully recovers, that he eventually gets back on the field, but isn’t nearly the player he was before, and often finds himself with new and old maladies preventing him from really making an impact. In other words, I don’t expect Brooks to be his old self until the 2024 season, if he’s ever his old self again.

As for Bobby, I have no reason to think he won’t be as good as he was last year, but he was also playing behind Aaron Donald for a good chunk of those games; we don’t have that kind of talent here. I think the lack of a superior D-Line, along with a suspect scheme, and a second year defensive coordinator calling plays, might render Wagner’s impact lesser than we want. He could also have lost another step in the last year. The cliff comes for every NFL player, and no one really sees it coming until they’ve already fallen over it. He’s one massive injury away from his career ending. If it happens early enough in the season, that’s going to mean instant death for this defense’s ability to keep us in games.

I’m not going into this year counting on Bush at all. I think whatever positive impact he gives us is gravy, but I also think those moments will be few and far between.

The more we see of Rhattigan, the worse all of our experiences will be in watching this team.

There’s a wildcard in all of this, and his name is Jamal Adams. I know, I know, “but he’s a safety.” The more I hear talk about this team, if and when he returns from injury, he figures to play more of a linebacker role than a deep safety role. We’re not going to count on him in deep pass coverage (where he’s not as effective); instead, we’re going to keep him close to the line of scrimmage, to help with run duties, to rush the passer, and to cover running backs and tight ends off the line. Honestly, I think this is a brilliant move. But, like Bush, I’m not going into this season expecting anything from Adams. If he makes it a full game, he’ll have already outperformed his 2022 season. Nevertheless, limiting his reps and utilizing him where he fits best is the only way to maximize/salvage what we’ve invested in Adams. Having a deep-enough secondary is the only way we can afford to do this. I hope it pays off; the Seahawks could use a win after so many L’s on this guy.

There’s a lot riding on this ragtag group of players. If the first preseason game was any indication of things to come … then we wouldn’t be talking about the preseason, because those games don’t mean shit!

What this team needs – if we want to be just a middle-of-the-road defense – is for one of Mafe, Hall, or Smith to be an effective early-down outside linebacker. Then, we put Taylor out there on passing downs, and we’re set. We need Wagner to be the glue guy to hold things together up front. We need Bush or Adams to make the occasional impact play. But, more than anything, we need guys to be assignment sound and just stop the fucking run! Let’s knock a yard per carry off of last year’s per-rush average! Can we do that one small thing?!

I’m not holding my breath. This defense has been swirling down the toilet bowl for almost a decade now. Why should 2023 be any different?

Seahawks Backups Won Their First Preseason Game

I enjoy the preseason, to a point. I’m not going crazy, I’m not living and dying with every play like in the regular season. But, I get a little giddy for that first one. I enjoy seeing our players in uniform. I look forward to who is actually going to play, and lament who’s too hurt to get these valuable reps. I also mostly don’t care when veterans sit these games out, though I would hardly call second-year offensive tackles “veterans”, and wonder why they’re not at least playing a quarter.

I’ve also learned to stop taking these games so seriously. There’s nothing for the average fan like me to learn. It’s all meaningless. Guys who look great in these games might not even play in the regular season. I don’t know what I’m supposed to glean from these things, so I just let it wash over me and try to have a good time.

On a whole, I didn’t think the Seahawks looked very good in their 24-13 victory at home over the Vikings last night. I thought the run defense got gashed up pretty good; I thought a lot of our pressure failed to get home, or have any impact until very late in the game, when we were facing their third-stringers; and I thought our offense – especially our rushing offense – largely stunk up the joint.

But, again, take it all with a grain of salt. Bobby Wagner didn’t play. Jarran Reed and Uchenna Nwosu didn’t play. Darrell Taylor wasn’t out there. Then again, doesn’t that even further prove our lack of depth? We’re going to need at least SOME of these young guys to step up and stop the run, if Wagner is banged up, or we lose Reed, etc. So, I guess, I hope the good players don’t get hurt ever!

I will say that the pass rush wasn’t a total disaster. But, I saw what few blitzes we sent get swallowed up pretty pathetically. But, I’m not as worried about that.

As for the rush offense, yeesh! As I mentioned up top, neither of our starting offensive tackes played – replaced by Stone Forsythe and Jake Curhan, respectively – and while we got both of our center candidates some action, I don’t know who was in there at guard. Nevertheless, it was eye-opening how bad we were at running the ball. There were no holes whatsoever! Either that means the Vikings were selling out to stop the run, or they just flat out dominated us mano a mano.

If they did sell out, it didn’t translate much into receivers being open down field. I don’t have a great sense of the talent on the Vikings’ defense; I know they had a good team last year (record-wise, at least), but I thought that was propelled by the offense. Maybe they’re good! Or maybe our backups need a lot of improvement.

Outside of one terrible interception, I thought Drew Lock was fine. He largely played it safe and checked down. It took him a while to get going, but eventually he started hitting some deeper stuff (not too deep though; none of those long bombs we like). And his first touchdown was rifled in through heavy coverage and was a thing of beauty.

I was VERY excited to see Jaxon Smith-Njigba get a lot of play! He looked awesome! So did Jake Bobo, and the other receiver who caught that first amazing TD (Easop Winston Jr.). It feels like Bobo has a legitimate shot at making it as a 5th or 6th receiver (especially with Dee Eskridge’s impending suspension, and the way other guys are getting hurt), and I thought Winston looked like a prime practice squad candidate.

Getting back to the defense, I thought there were exciting flashes. I thought Boye Mafe and Derick Hall looked good. Mike Morris got some early pressure. Devin Bush had some flash plays, which were encouraging to say the least! And guys all over the secondary were flying around. Mike Jackson, Tre Brown, Coby Bryant, even rookie Jerrick Reed had a pass breakup.

Can’t say a whole lot about the rest of the defense though. Jon Rhattigan led the team in tackles with 9. He should probably make this team as a backup/Special Teamer. Jason Myers made all his kicks. I didn’t notice any issues with the long snapper. And, you know what they say, it’s also the preseason for the punter.

Also, Dee Eskridge got hurt on the opening kickoff (of course). Cade Johnson left the game with a serious concussion (requiring him to go to the hospital at halftime). On the flipside, rookie guard Anthony Bradford had a fucking rad pancake block, so he’s already on the shortlist for my favorite player on the team.

I’m probably going to miss the next two preseason games, but we’ll see if I can find a way to watch on delay.