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 Re-Sign Jeremy Lane, Jermaine Kearse, and Jon Ryan

I want to say the coolest news of them all dropped on Friday, after all the signings I just mentioned in the title of this post.  That’s when we found out the Seahawks received 3 extra draft picks in this year’s draft:  a third rounder, a fifth rounder, and a sixth rounder.  These compensatory picks are my favorite things in the world, because they reward smart teams (who are smart because they build through the draft) for other teams’ stupidity (who are stupid because they build through free agency).  Last year, the Seahawks let Byron Maxwell explore free agency, and the Philadelphia Eagles made one of the more mind-boggling signings in recent memory (made all the worse on their part by Maxwell having his worst season ever as a starter).  Similarly, the Seahawks let James Carpenter go to the Jets, and Malcolm Smith to the Raiders.  We got the third round pick for losing Maxwell, the fifth rounder for Carpenter, and the sixth rounder for Smith; these are determined by the size of the contract.  All told, this brings the Seahawks up to 9 total draft picks:  a first, a second, 2 thirds, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth, and 2 sevenths; four of those draft picks are in the Top 100.  Here’s to hoping we don’t trade them away for any suck-ass veterans.

I was under something of a time crunch last week, so I couldn’t really comment on everything as it was happening.  Last week, of course, was the start of Free Agency, and news was flying around like crazy.  I’ve already written about the Seahawks re-signing Rubin and losing Irvin, Sweezy, and Mebane.  Now, we’re on to happier posts:  the Seahawks retaining bigtime contributors.

You’ll notice that the first week of free agency has seen the Seahawks only sign guys who were on the team last year, and no guys from outside the organization.  That’s by design.  For starters, every time you sign a guy from outside the organization, it nullifies all the players from your team that others have signed away (when it comes to those compensatory draft picks I was writing about up top).  Right now, we’re looking at something like a 4th rounder for Irvin, maybe a 5th rounder for Sweezy, and maybe a 6th rounder for Mebane.  If we were to sign a guy from outside the organization for big money, it would take away that draft pick we’re getting for Irvin.  If we sign a guy to a medium deal, it likely cancels out Sweezy’s draft pick, and so on.

The other reasons why the Seahawks haven’t signed anyone from outside of the organization include the fact that we really don’t have a lot of extra money to throw around like the Raiders, Giants, and Jaguars.  Also, it’s just not a smart model for NFL success.  Like I said before, you build your foundation with the draft, and you supplement that team through free agency.  But, once you start over-paying for your building blocks on the free market, that’s how you get into cap hell.  Free agents tend to be older, and more prone to breaking down or declining in their skillsets; draft picks have nowhere to go but up!

But, finally, probably the biggest reason why the Seahawks haven’t signed anyone from outside the organization yet is simply because we need to re-sign our own guys, who tend to be better than anything else that’s on the market (and if not better, then at least they know our system better).

Jeremy Lane, for me, is probably the most important signing the Seahawks will make in this offseason.  He came in at 4 years, $23 million, which is FANTASTIC.  The first two years are beyond reasonable for a guy with his skillset, who can play outside in our base defense, and who can shift inside when we go nickel.  If he proves to be as indispensable as I think he’ll be, then the last two years are still at a reasonable cost to the team (especially when you consider the salary cap overall should still be going up at that point).  But, if he plays poorly or is injury prone, we can cut him after two years with relatively little damage.

You may recall that Lane was one of my 12 priorities for this offseason (scroll to the very bottom for the TL;DR version of that post).  I thought 4 years, $30 million was reasonable, so this deal is even better in my book.

In looking at the rest of my wishlist, it really hasn’t gone down the way I had it, but that’s not the worst thing in the world.  Sweezy is gone, but Okung is still in play.  Considering Okung is the better lineman, if we can get him back at a reasonable cost, I’d be for it.  If he leaves, I wouldn’t be depressed.  We haven’t signed any of the stud left guards out there, but there’s still a chance to draft one.  We re-signed Rubin and let Mebane go, instead of the other way around; but it does look like we’re both going to sign a cheap DT and draft one high.  Given Irvin’s contract, we couldn’t have brought him back on a reasonable deal, so we’re using the savings in other areas.

And, if you look at #9 on my list, one of those areas just might be re-signing Jermaine Kearse.  I predicted 3 years, $13 million, which was based on the extension we gave Baldwin before.  Kearse ended up getting 3 years, $13.5 million, which I guess accounts for inflation (for what it’s worth, I still think the Seahawks are going to work on extending Baldwin this year, if he’ll go for it).

I love the Kearse deal for all the reasons I wrote about here.  He solidifies our WR corps as a whole, meaning we don’t necessarily have to count on Kevin Smith and/or Kasen Williams to make a huge leap in production; or count on Richardson and/or Lockette (if he makes it back) to stay healthy.  He knows the system, he works well with Russell Wilson, he’s a reliable pass-catcher, route runner, and blocker on the edge.  He’s got big play ability, obviously.  And, this means we’re less likely to trade away draft picks for receivers on other teams.  I like any move that will save this front office from itself, and while John Schneider and Company have a lot of great strengths, one of their weaknesses is certainly how they value low-end first round draft picks (and how they give away multiple draft picks for other teams’ star receivers).  Likewise, this buys us at least a year when it comes to drafting a receiver in the upper rounds.  This draft is heavy along the O-Line and D-Line.  It’s not so great at receiver.  So, what say we fill up on beef in 2016, and maybe look at the 2017 draft for a top-notch receiver, huh?

A wide receiver unit that goes Baldwin, Kearse, Lockett, and Richardson inspires a LOT more confidence in me than one that goes Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, and Smith.  For that price?  $13.5 million, with the option to cut him after two years for relatively little dead money?  That, my friends, is what I am talking about.

Finally, the MVP is back!  I don’t think I want to live in a world where Jon Ryan isn’t our punter.  He signed a 4-year, $10 million deal that gives him a $2.4 million signing bonus and only 2016’s base salary is guaranteed ($1 million).  We could cut him after this year and have less than $2 million in dead money (very unlikely, if you ask me), and his cap hits don’t go over $3 million until the third year of the deal (at which point, it’s probably the going rate for MVP-quality punters anyway).

Seahawks Death Week: Getting Defensive

Yesterday, I took a look at the positives, what went right in the 2015 season for the Seahawks.  It ended up sprawling out of control and only covered the offense, so I decided to split it up and talk about the defense today.

Part of me feels like I’ve been a little hard on the defense – a defense that finished tops in the league in fewest points allowed for the fourth straight year, a feat never accomplished in the Super Bowl Era of the NFL – but part of me also feels that it’s warranted.  The stars are plenty on that side of the ball, which is why it gets the lion’s share of the salary cap devoted to it.  Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, and Bobby Wagner are among the best at their respective positions.  K.J. Wright, Cliff Avril, Brandon Mebane, Ahtyba Rubin, Bruce Irvin, Jeremy Lane, and Kam Chancellor are also pretty great and probably don’t get the type of recognition they deserve.  That is, literally, the entire starting base defense, 1-11; any team would be lucky to have even a few of those guys!  And here we are, with a murderer’s row of who’s who.

My response to the season this unit has had is more of a gut reaction, or an eyeball test, than anything I’m going to sit here and try to express with numbers.  I went into it a little bit on Monday, but I’ll say it again:  there were four games – including the loss to Carolina last week – where this defense gave up 30 points or more.  There were four such instances TOTAL (including playoffs) from 2012-2014.  So, that’s a little upsetting.  While the offense took a big leap forward in 2015, it wasn’t quite able to account for all of the defense’s shortcomings when we talk about some of these losses we had this season.  In most of those defeats where we blew the lead late, all it would have taken was a little extra clock-killing on offense to render those comebacks moot.  But, no dice.  Maybe, going forward, the offense will gain that killer instinct; instead of just trying to run out some clock, we’ll actively be trying to play add-on with the score late in some of these games.  I know it’s not necessarily in Pete Carroll’s nature, as a run-first guy, but we might have to adapt as the defense comes back down to Earth.

A lot of breakdowns in our pass defense as well, which used to be the belle of the ball.  Part of that was shored up with the combo of Jeremy Lane (returning from injury) and DeShawn Shead combining to take the place of Cary Williams, who was never all that impressive, but who I think also takes an unfair share of the burden for this team’s harrowing start to the season.  As you can see in some of these games towards the end of the season where breakdowns remained.  Not just against Carolina, but we can’t forget the Pittsburgh game, which was just a blitzkrieg of deep passes.  And I’ll never understand how we lost to the Rams a SECOND time, but there were a few critical lapses there as well.

I like a Seahawks defense that’s able to get by with a 4-man pass rush.  I like a Seahawks defense that prevents the big play from hurting us.  But, we gotta figure out what we’re doing on these intermediate-range plays, and we’ve GOT to fix whatever’s going on with our coverage on tight ends.  That Carolina playoff game wasn’t a microcosm of our season, Greg Olsen standing wide open at the line to gain as they convert yet another clock-wasting first down is a microcosm of our season.  We need to cut that shit out, but soon.

But, this post is meant to be more positive than negative, so let’s get to the 2015 accolades!

It’s been repeated ad nauseam, but it’s still remarkably cool:  4 straight years leading the league in fewest points allowed.  Unbelievable!  The Seahawks were also 2nd in fewest total yards allowed, 2nd in fewest passing yards allowed, and best in the league in fewest rushing yards allowed.  We managed all of this while being pretty middle-of-the-road when it comes to sacks, interceptions, and fumble recoveries.  As we all know, a lot of turnovers is luck-based.  Carolina and Arizona led the league in takeaways and, not surprisingly, they had the two best records in the NFL.  When you combine a lot of takeaways with an already-strong defense, amazing things tend to happen with your win/loss record.  The fact that the Seahawks could be so good in yards and points allowed, while being tied for 18th in takeaways, says a lot about the talent on that side of the ball.

So, maybe that’s it.  Maybe that explains my gut reaction to this defense.  Big plays – like sacks and turnovers – tend to stand out.  A high volume of big plays leaves a better impression on you.  In years past – especially in 2012 & 2013 – the Seahawks were dominating the league in getting turnovers.  The past couple years, not so much.  Which is obviously a reflection of the rest of the league going hyper conservative (for the most part) against the Seahawks, settling for quick, short throws in the passing game.  And, not for nothing, but when it’s so difficult to run on us, we’re probably seeing fewer rushing attempts.  Combine that with the increase in quick throws, and you’ve got fewer opportunities to force fumbles, either by strip-sacking the quarterback, or punching it out of a runner’s hands.

Is there a way to increase turnover production, without changing everything that you’ve ever been about on defense?  Or, is it all just blind, stinking luck, bound to turn around with no rhyme or reason?  That’ll be something interesting to look at for 2016.

Anyway, back to the kudos, gotta start with Michael Bennett.  10 more sacks this year to lead the team.  He now has 25.5 sacks over his 3-year Seahawks career, which is a pretty great clip.  He was more disruptive overall in 2015 than I think I’ve ever seen, with just getting pressure, stopping the run game, and all the rest.  Glad to have him on our side, hope he stays on our side, without any disgruntled contract issues this offseason.

Sticking with the line, Cliff Avril was second on the team with 9 sacks, giving him 22 sacks in his 3-year Seahawks career.  These guys are the best 1-2 punch we’ve had on this team since Jacob Green and Jeff Bryant.  Always love to have an awesome pass rush.

Earl Thomas led the defense with 5 more interceptions, giving him 21 in his 6-year career.  He’s got a ways to go to get up around the career leaders in NFL history, but he’s also got a ways to go in his own career.  Here’s to hoping he makes a big push in the next few years to move up the rankings.

Richard Sherman had the fewest interceptions of his career, with only 2, but I can vividly remember a handful of uncharacteristic drops that would’ve had him around his career norms.  Regardless of numbers, Sherm was his usual amazing self, locking down his side of the field, and sometimes even following the opposing team’s #1 all around the field.  It was exciting to see, and to be quite honest, I wouldn’t mind seeing more of it.  We’re just so lucky to have him on our team; I pinch myself every time I watch him play to make sure I’m not dreaming.

I think I might have the most sheer respect for K.J. Wright over anyone else on this team.  He’s only missed 4 regular season games in his career, he comes to work every day, is CONSTANTLY overshadowed by a bunch of guys on this defense, and yet he’s one of the smartest, most talented, and athletically gifted players on this team, who simply gets better each and every season.  I didn’t think he had a better season in him than his 2014, when he finally got over the hump of making 100 tackles, but his 2015 blew me out of the water.  He led the team in tackles for the second straight season, with 116, he was a force in stopping the run, and he played sideline to sideline, really strong coverage.  If he ever got beat down the field, I don’t remember it.  Just a consummate pro, without whom this defense’s effectiveness would be drastically reduced.

Bobby Wagner wasn’t far behind, with 114 tackles, in a very workmanlike season.  He posted a career low in sacks, with 0.5, and this is the second straight year he’s been held without an interception, which again probably accounts for my gut reaction to his having a “down” season.  I’m not sitting here watching hours of tape, so I can’t say for sure if it was down, but from a fan’s perspective, I hope for something more.  When I compare Wagner to anyone, it’s Lofa Tatupu, the best middle linebacker in Seahawks history, and when I think of Tatupu, I think of all the great interceptions early in his career.  Fair or unfair, when your defense by its nature forces other teams to throw lots of underneath routes, you hope to have more of a visible impact out of your middle linebacker when it comes to knocking passes down and picking passes off.

I’d like to throw out a combo shout-out to a few guys who are free agents in 2016:  Mebane, Rubin, Lane, Shead, Mike Morgan, and Bruce Irvin.  All of them except for Shead are unrestricted free agents (meaning they can sign with anyone, with no penalty to the team that signs them).  Shead, I believe, will just get a tender to sign, so we can count on him being back in the fold.  All of these guys had great seasons, with big impacts either on defense, special teams, or both.  Bruce Irvin probably has the biggest market for his services; it’ll be interesting to see how many teams are interested, how much they’re willing to spend, and how interested the Seahawks are in bringing him back (for the record, I’ll believe Irvin takes a discount to return to the Seahawks when I see it; everyone says that on the last day of the season; it’s emotional, you’re seeing your friends for the last time in a while, you say shit you don’t necessarily mean when you’re staring at a contract offer two months later).  Mebane is probably the guy I’d want to have back the most, for sentimental reasons alone.  But, he also proved he’s got a lot left in the tank after missing a lot of 2015 with injury.  I’ll also be interested in seeing what happens with Lane.  He was injured for most of 2015, but also kinda helped save our season with his return and insertion into the starting lineup.  Will that, and the reputation of the Seahawks churning out amazing cornerbacks, be enough to build up his value across the NFL?  Or, will teams be a little more gunshy after the disaster that was the Byron Maxwell deal in year 1 with Philly?

Honestly, I’d like to have all of those guys back, but this is a business, so it’s not likely going to happen.  Gotta work on that offensive line, which probably means dipping our toes into free agency, which means less money to go around on defensive free agents.  I’m also curious to see what happens with Mike Morgan.  He’s a special teams standout, he’s a capable fill-in guy on defense if/when guys go down with injury.  Does he have enough tape to prove to teams he’s a starting-calibre guy a la Malcolm Smith?  OR, might he be – to the Seahawks – a cheaper alternative to replace Bruce Irvin, if he maxes out his deal elsewhere?

Part of me thinks we’re only scratching the surface of Bruce Irvin’s potential, in spite of his being in the league for four years already.  But, the rest of me knows the danger in over-paying for all three linebackers on the same defense, as there’s only so much salary cap to go around.

Interesting times for this team.  2015 might be a transition year for the defense as well as the offense.  I’ll close with some thoughts on some of the younger guys.

Frank Clark flashed some of that great potential we all saw in the pre-season.  I think his rookie season was wildly successful!  More than anything, he stayed healthy.  That’s huge for a guy who’s obviously developing, both his skills and his body.  What’s he going to look like when he comes back for Training Camp, with a full offseason to work out and get comfortable with the NFL life (now that he’s no longer a rookie, with everything going a thousand miles a minute)?  He could truly be a beast in 2016, and a candidate to make a big jump in overall production.

Kelcie McCray was a real find for this team.  The Seahawks traded a 5th round pick to Kansas City to bring him in at the end of the pre-season, which appeared to be – at the time – something of a panic move, with Kam Chancellor’s hold-out dragging on into the regular season.  Without any time to gel with the defense, he wasn’t anything more than a depth guy (with credentials as a fantastic Special Teams player).  But, over the course of the season, he got comfortable with our scheme, and looked every bit the part in his time taking over for Kam, who missed some games with injury late in the season.  McCray is signed through 2016, which could be a good bargaining chip for this team, as we head into another offseason of uncertainty regarding Kam’s happiness with his contract.  It’s reasonable to assume Kam isn’t any happier with his deal than he was at this time last year.  But, you know, he didn’t have the greatest 2015 by any stretch of the imagination.  Perhaps the team opts to rid itself of the headache and looks to insert McCray into the starting lineup.  At the very least, the team has that move in its back pocket, should another holdout be on the horizon.

Finally, because I somehow managed to blow out this post more than yesterday’s, shout out to Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill for making it to the end of the season relatively injury-free.  Marsh, as a rookie in 2014, was shut down REAL early in the season.  But, he came back quicker and stronger in 2015 and made it the whole season.  Granted, he’s still a role player, behind a couple of studs in Bennett and Avril, but you need those guys in your rotation to keep everyone fresh.  And, not for nothing, but Marsh might have been our best coverage guy on kickoffs; he seemed to always be around the ball making tackles inside the 20.  As for Hill, he’s yet to play a full season in his 3-year career, but he played out the last three games for the Seahawks, and will hopefully be able to use his offseason to get stronger as opposed to simply rehabbing another injury.  I look forward to both of these guys making a bigger impact next year, with Hill possibly even starting.

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?

The Seahawks Blew All Of Our Minds; Traded Max Unger For Jimmy Graham*

* – plus gave up a 1st round draft pick for a 4th round draft pick

Not gonna lie to you, it was going to take a lot for me to be interested in these offseason moves the Seahawks were making.  Anthony McCoy re-signed?  Will Blackmon brought back?  Cary Williams as our Byron Maxwell replacement?  Marshawn Lynch extended?  Yeah, that’s all fine, but it’s not moving the needle of my own personal interest.

I thought FOR SURE there wouldn’t be any big splashes this offseason.  You know, aside from extending our own guys (Lynch, Wagner, Wilson, etc.).  I watched as Suh signed with Miami, Julius Thomas went to Jacksonville.  Hell, even the Jets managed to bring in Brandon Marshall for a song!  The Eagles were making their moves, the Colts look to be making their moves, the 49ers are falling apart, the Cardinals are making middling deals, the bottom-feeders with all the money will throw it around like it’s raining titties in their faces.  And meanwhile, the Seahawks would bide their time, collect as many compensatory draft picks as possible, and rummage through the scraps when all was said and done.  It wouldn’t be flashy, it wouldn’t even be all that pretty, but we’d cross our fingers, hold our breath, and hope for the best.

And then yesterday happened.  There was, like, a 1-2 hour window where everything on Twitter was a clusterfuck of adventure.  You know what everyone was talking about before noon yesterday?  How there’s going to be a Zoolander 2; DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER THAT NOW???  Then, look at what happened after noon:

  • Patrick Willis officially announces his retirement
  • The Bills & Browns going after Charles Clay
  • Various reports of the Saints shopping players, including Jimmy Graham
  • Speculation on where Reggie Bush might end up
  • Then, Jay Glazer brings the hammer down with Seahawks talking about Jimmy Graham with Saints
  • Then, almost immediately after, the deal is all but official
  • Then, almost immediately after that, Haloti Ngata goes to Detroit
  • Then, the Rams trade Bradford to Eagles for Foles (and picks traded also)
  • Then, the Pats let Browner walk
  • Then, Denver signs Owen Daniels
  • The Raiders sign Malcolm Smith
  • Frank Gore & Andre Johnson visit Colts

And, that doesn’t even get into Jake Locker RETIRING.  And everything else that happened afterward.  Just, absolutely, INsane.

My first coherent thought was:  there are no half measures with the Seahawks.  They’re not making blockbuster trades for scrubs.  It’s hard to ask for much more – talentwise – than Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham (I know these aren’t the only trades we’ve made, but these are the trades that cost us the most).  On paper, there’s not much to dislike about Jimmy Graham.  He’s been in the league five years and in four of those years he’s caught over 80 balls, at least 9 touchdowns, and over 800 yards.  And that’s on a Saints team with some really talented pass catchers through the years.

But, you know, it’s not even really about ALL of that.  We didn’t trade for a guy who’s going to catch 100 balls or 1,000 yards per season.  Just like we didn’t trade for that guy when we brought in Harvin.  Bottom line:  what we did was secure a dominant force in the red zone.  And he doesn’t even need to necessarily be who he’s been!  Granted, if we line him out wide, and he’s guarded one-on-one by a cornerback, we’re probably going to exploit that matchup more often than not.  But, just having him out there is going to draw the lion’s share of the red zone coverage (and in ways it never would have been with Harvin in the fold).

Speed is nice and everything, but it doesn’t make up for size when you’re down inside the 20.

The flipside of all of this is:  we lose Max Unger and we lose our first round draft pick.  Again.  Did you know Bruce Irvin was our most recent first round draft pick?  That was in 2012 for Christ’s sake!

Now, to be fair, trading for Jimmy Graham – as opposed to signing Julius Thomas for a comparable amount of money – means we retain a likely 3rd round draft pick in 2016 (a compensatory pick for losing Byron Maxwell in free agency).  So, in fairness, yes we lose the #31 overall pick this year, but we gain an extra 4th rounder from the Saints, AND we preserve our 3rd rounder next year.  So, that mitigates things a bit.

But, I dunno, I guess it’s just annoying.  There’s value in drafting in the first round, even if it is in the low 30s.  Maybe we do like we did last year and trade it back to gain a 2nd & a 4th.  Maybe we flip it for a first rounder next year!  Or, shit, maybe we keep that pick and draft a guy who starts for us immediately!  Maybe it’s not an all-world tight end or wide receiver, but I bet that hypothetical player would’ve been someone good!

All I’m saying is – when this blows up in our faces – you’re going to be reading many a blog post about how the Seahawks could’ve drafted So-And-So if they kept their first rounder.  Happens ALL THE TIME.

I’m less upset about losing Unger, because let’s face it, that guy is breaking down like nobody’s business.  When he’s healthy, he’s as good as it gets – especially in the run game – but each year he’s getting more and more dinged up.  We blew through four centers last year!  And, I know it wasn’t always pretty, but we managed.  The reason we struggled for so long wasn’t just because Unger was out.

I’ve been saying all along that the Seahawks need to draft a Center Of The Future this year, and that was when I still factored Unger in as our starter!  You have to think that guy’s out of football within two years; better to unload him now and save a bit of money with all that we’re taking on with Graham’s contract.

My concern about Jimmy Graham – outside of everything that we gave up – is twofold.  The first reason is more abstract:  the Seahawks traded away a first round draft pick for a receiver (and make no mistake, Graham is more wide receiver than tight end); teams that trade away first rounders for receivers almost ALWAYS see that shit blow up in their faces.  The Seahawks don’t have to look any further than Deion Branch and Percy Harvin.  Shit, everyone creamed in their pants over Harvin, and look at how that ended!

Now, the good thing about this one is that Graham doesn’t appear to be quite the hothead or mental case that Harvin was and is.  While there might be some hurt fee-fees after some of the jawing the Seahawks defense did with him a couple years ago, I doubt that’s going to single-handedly dismantle the locker room chemistry like Harvin managed.  That’s the kind of lightning you DON’T want to see strike twice!  That’s, like, actual lightning striking you twice.

My more concrete fear is the softness of Jimmy Graham.  He’s the same delicate little flower that would disappear for weeks at a time, while padding his stats against the bottom-feeders of the league.  Now, like I said before, I don’t necessarily need him to take over the entire offense between the 20’s.  But, I’m going to need a manly man in that endzone when we’re trying to convert drives into touchdowns!

Luckily, he only has to face the Seahawks’ defense in practice and not in games.  But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  you put a body on Graham and he’s going to crumple!

Now, factor that in with the fact that he’s a bigger, taller gentleman.  6’7, 265.  These guys tend to break down on a football field.  He’s already not all that fast, but he’s going to slow down to Antonio Gates levels in a hurry.  That might not mean a whole lot on the goalline, but he also can’t be TOTALLY anonymous between the 20s either.  2015 will be his sixth year in the NFL.  I feel pretty safe to say that it’s going to be the last year of his “prime” and it’s all downhill starting in 2016.

Meaning?  We better not lose him for a season like we fucking did with Harvin.  Because, if he goes down with a hip or an ACL or some damn season-ending thing, I don’t think there’s any recovery.  And, not only that, but we blew yet another first round pick, while all of our core gets another year older.

A lot is riding on this deal working out.  MUCH more than with the Harvin trade.  At the time, you could argue that Harvin was the cherry on top of an already championship-level sundae.  This time, we’re talking about the difference between maintaining a championship level vs. falling back to the pack.

Cards on the table:  before the Graham trade, the Seahawks were well on their way to being just another playoff team.  You could’ve argued that the Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals, and even the Giants were making waves in the NFC.  We were no longer the clear leaders of the pack; we were just part of that pack.

Now?  Now, I think this is a move you can safely say makes the rest of the NFC cringe a little bit.  The Seahawks WERE a team without much talent in the receiving game.  We were going to have to hit the draft hard and hope someone popped, but more likely, it would’ve meant a receiver popping in the next year or two.  Jimmy Graham is an influx of elite-level talent that makes us much more balanced on offense.  He bumps Baldwin, Kearse, and everyone else down a level, back down where they belong.

Sure, we’re stuck now replacing 40% of our offensive line, but I would argue that we needed to do that anyway.  Letting James Carpenter sign elsewhere is a boon.  He’s always getting dinged up, and now we get another compensatory pick for him.  Getting rid of Unger helps mitigate some of the cost we’re taking on, plus it throws a little more urgency in our search for his replacement.  A search – I’ve argued before – needed to happen regardless.

Overall, I feel much more at ease than I did before this all went down.  Yes, there’s risk.  Yes, there’s ALWAYS risk, in anything you do.  But, in the short term, it brings a lot of things into focus.  The Seahawks can be a little more choosy in their drafting and in their signing of low-level free agents.  One MAJOR hole has been filled.  Doesn’t mean you stop building, or thinking about the future.  But, at least this way, if the Seahawks run across a top-level player in the second round who isn’t necessarily our most-pressing need, we can still pick him up and bolster our roster.

Now, if we can just encase Jimmy Graham in carbonite until September, I’ll be much more at ease.

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.

The Horrifying Return Of Seahawks Death Week

Well, it’s been two weeks.  I think I can finally bring myself to talk openly and frankly about The Thing That Happened At The End Of That Game.  And, because Seahawks Death Week is sort of a tradition of mine – whenever the season officially ends for my beloved Seahawks in a losing fashion – and because it’s mid-February, with nothing else going on locally, I figure what better time to get a week’s worth of posts out of the way.

The last time I wrote about the Seahawks losing in the playoffs, we came off of a heartbreaking defeat to the Falcons where we sucked for the entire first half, came roaring back to take a brief lead with well under a minute to play, only to let them go right down the field to kick the game-ending field goal.  I bet you didn’t think there was a more soul-crushing way to lose, did you?

Someone might point to the three post-Super Bowl posts I wrote as a quasi-Seahawks Death Week epitaph, but those were just raw, visceral chunks of reaction to one play in one game.  The spirit of Seahawks Death Week is to celebrate the season as a whole, lament where we went wrong, try to figure out what we need to do to improve, and put everything to bed so we can all move on with our lives.  So, after today, I’m going to drop The Thing That Happened At The End Of That Game.

It sucks, because the 2014 Seahawks are always – until the end of time – going to be defined by the decision to throw on the one yard line in the Super Bowl.  That’s just the way it is, though.  It’s not fair, and a lot of fans will spend the rest of their lives pissing into the wind trying to get people to think of all the great things about this season.  But, in the end, the blurb in history books can only be so long, and no amount of people coming to Pete Carroll’s defense will ever change how that was the stupidest call in the history of sports.

As I’ve alluded to before, not only were there countless amazing things that happened in this season to make it worth more than just one play in one game, but there were countless amazing things in the very same game!  I mean, how did we overcome all the injuries in the secondary, from Jeremy Lane to Kam Chancellor to Earl Thomas to Richard Sherman all having major injuries (most of which required surgery).  In spite of Cliff Avril going down with a concussion, in spite of no quarterback pressure on Tom Brady whatsoever, we still had a chance to win that game.

Then, take a look at what we were bringing to the table on offense.  Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse as your #1 and #2 receivers?  The relative scrubbery of our tight ends.  The ragtag group of offensive linemen getting the job done.  In spite of the throw getting picked off at the end, this game is still another feather in the cap of Russell Wilson’s genius.  Who else is willing this team to be in a position to win it at the end?

I mean, shit, Chris Matthews was almost your Super Bowl MVP!  I know Malcolm Smith came out of left field last year, but Matthews would’ve taken the cake!  And yet, without him, are we even in it at the end?  Do we lose by double-digits?  I’m not saying that would’ve been worse than what ended up happening, but it certainly shines a different light on things.

Speaking of how we lost:  is that the worst way to lose?  I feel like 95% of Seahawks fans are saying emphatically, “YES!” and would be willing to fist fight me on the subject for even questioning it.  But, I keep going back to that NFC Championship Game; is what happened to us any worse than what happened to Green Bay?  For us, it was more sudden.  Thunk, intercepted, game over.  For the Packers, it was a long, slow bleed.  And, I know there was some blood-loss in our own game, considering the Seahawks had a double-digit lead over the Patriots in the fourth quarter and let them score on back-to-back drives.  But, in the end, we had the ball in our hands along with our own destiny.  The Packers had their “Oh Shit” moment with the onside kick.  Then, it was just a painful crawl to the finish line as we took the lead, let them kick it into overtime, and then they had to watch us drive for the game winning touchdown.  Their misery was drawn out; ours was a sucker punch that also gave us cancer.  Plus, for what it’s worth, Packers fans also had our Super Bowl misery to help them get over their own.

Given the circumstances and the meaning of it all, I objectively believe there is no worse way to lose in sports.  Football is the most popular sport in America, the Super Bowl is the pinnacle of football, it’s the most-watched television event of the year, and so to lose on that stage, with the Lombardi Trophy right there for the taking, makes any conference championship game defeat a walk in the park in comparison.

As the week continues, I’ll touch on the following topics:

The time for mourning is over.  It’s time to celebrate and look forward.  Let Seahawks Death Week wash over you like an opium-induced haze.

Your Seattle Seahawks Super Bowl XLIX Roster

I did this last year, albeit in a different format.  It’s nothing fancy, no real analysis or anything, but it’s just something I’d like to look at (and later, look back on and reflect).

Last year, it was more a reflection of how we crafted our Super Bowl roster (mostly via draft & undrafted free agents).  This year, I thought I’d take a gander at who’s on the team now as it compares to last year’s Super Bowl roster.  As with last year’s post, I’m not including guys who are on IR, or who were on the team earlier in the year and were released or traded.  I’m specifically looking at the guys on the 53-man roster RIGHT NOW.

I reserve the right to come back and adjust this if the Seahawks make any minor moves between now and February 1st.

Let’s start with the offense:

2014 2015
Quarterback 1 Russell Wilson Russell Wilson
Quarterback 2 Tarvaris Jackson Tarvaris Jackson
Quarterback 3 B.J. Daniels
Running Back 1 Marshawn Lynch Marshawn Lynch
Running Back 2 Robert Turbin Robert Turbin
Running Back 3 Christine Michael * Christine Michael
Fullback 1 Michael Robinson Will Tukuafu
Fullback 2 Derrick Coleman
Wide Receiver 1 Golden Tate Doug Baldwin
Wide Receiver 2 Percy Harvin Jermaine Kearse
Wide Receiver 3 Doug Baldwin Ricardo Lockette
Wide Receiver 4 Jermaine Kearse Bryan Walters
Wide Receiver 5 Ricardo Lockette Chris Matthews
Wide Receiver 6 Bryan Walters * Kevin Norwood
Tight End 1 Zach Miller Luke Willson
Tight End 2 Luke Willson Tony Moeaki
Tight End 3 Kellen Davis * Cooper Helfet
Left Tackle Russell Okung Russell Okung
Left Guard James Carpenter James Carpenter
Center Max Unger Max Unger
Right Guard J.R. Sweezy J.R. Sweezy
Right Tackle Breno Giacomini Justin Britt
Guard/Tackle Alvin Bailey Alvin Bailey
Tackle Michael Bowie * Garry Gilliam
Center Lemuel Jeanpierre Lemuel Jeanpierre
Offensive Line Paul McQuistan Patrick Lewis
Offensive Line Caylin Hauptmann * Keavon Milton

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, from a roster standpoint, we’re carrying the third quarterback for some reason (even though he was inactive for the NFC Championship Game, and will most likely be inactive again for the Super Bowl), whereas last year we carried the extra fullback.  Obviously, Robinson is retired and Coleman is injured, so that’s what happened there.

What stands out the most is the drop-off in quality in the wide receiver department.  The 2015 Seahawks are essentially chopped off at the knees at this position, with Golden Tate and Percy Harvin playing elsewhere.  Baldwin, Kearse, Lockette, and Walters each move up two spots respectively, severely weakening our passing game.  Rookie Norwood was active for the NFCCG, but I would expect him to be inactive if Helfet is healthy.

Speaking of tight ends, another big blow is the loss of Miller.  I like Willson a lot and think he’s taken a big step forward this year (in spite of some infamous drops), but it’s pretty clear we’re hurting.  Moeaki is a fine stand-in, but he’s no Zach Miller.  I’ll be looking forward to all three tight ends as being active – again – if Helfet is healthy.  I think this can be a real mismatch in our favor against the Patriots.

The offensive line is largely the same as last year.  Britt sat out against the Packers with an injury, but I have to figure he’ll be back with the two weeks off to recover.  I think Britt is more-or-less a wash compared to Giacomini (MAYBE a slight downgrade, but in the long run will be a big improvement).  Our depth is pretty solid as well, as four of our reserves have played significant minutes this year.  I’ve still never heard of this Milton guy, so expect him to be inactive.

Now, let’s go with the defense:

2014 2015
Defensive End 1 Chris Clemons Michael Bennett
Defensive End 2 Red Bryant Cliff Avril
Defensive End 3 Michael Bennett O’Brien Schofield
Defensive End 4 Cliff Avril Demarcus Dobbs
Defensive End 5 O’Brien Schofield David King
Defensive End 6 Benson Mayowa *
Defensive Tackle 1 Brandon Mebane Kevin Williams
Defensive Tackle 2 Tony McDaniel Tony McDaniel
Defensive Tackle 3 Clinton McDonald Landon Cohen
Defensive Tackle 4 Jordan Hill *
Outside Linebacker K.J. Wright K.J. Wright
Middle Linebacker Bobby Wagner Bobby Wagner
Outside Linebacker Bruce Irvin Bruce Irvin
Linebacker 4 Malcolm Smith Malcolm Smith
Linebacker 5 Mike Morgan Mike Morgan
Linebacker 6 Heath Farwell Brock Coyle
Cornerback 1 Richard Sherman Richard Sherman
Cornerback 2 Byron Maxwell Byron Maxwell
Cornerback 3 Walter Thurmond Jeremy Lane
Cornerback 4 Jeremy Lane DeShawn Shead
Cornerback 5 DeShawn Shead Tharold Simon
Cornerback 6 Marcus Burley
Free Safety 1 Earl Thomas Earl Thomas
Free Safety 2 Chris Maragos Steven Terrell
Strong Safety 1 Kam Chancellor Kam Chancellor
Strong Safety 2 Jeron Johnson
Long Snapper Clint Gresham Clint Gresham
Punter Jon Ryan Jon Ryan
Kicker Steven Hauschka Steven Hauschka

* denotes Inactive for Super Bowl

As you can see, we’re carrying two fewer linemen and two more defensive backs.  Injuries have hurt us bigtime in the defensive line department, but depth has been an issue all year with our DBs, as it seems like we’re dealing with nagging injuries on a weekly basis in our secondary.

Along the line, we’re hurting bad.  Clemons and Bryant are obviously gone, so Bennett and Avril moved up into their places.  From a quality of play standpoint, this is an improvement.  But, from a depth standpoint, it’s not pretty.  Jordan Hill was a positive contributor this year until he got hurt.  Kevin Williams has been a godsend with Mebane going down.  McDaniel is as steady as they come.  And, Cohen is a widebody who played some key snaps against the Packers in our goalline package.  It’s our pass rush that I’m most concerned about, with Schofield essentially replacing Clemons from last year, which is indeed a step down.  Bruce Irvin will be key in this regard, as he’s looking a lot better when he rushes the passer.

Our linebackers are largely intact, as our top 5 are all holdovers from last year.  Coyle replaces Farwell, and from my naked eye, I haven’t seen a huge downturn in our special teams coverage.

Our secondary is still our strongest unit.  The only real change is Simon for Thurmond.  Thurmond was more versatile, but Simon is cheaper, under team control for longer, and is better on the outside.

I would argue we’re actually stronger in the secondary this year compared to last year.  Linebacking, offensive line, running backs, quarterbacks, and specialists (kicker/punter/long snapper) are all a wash.  We’re a bit worse in our tight ends and at fullback.  And, we’re A LOT worse along the defensive line and in our wide receiver group.  I may come back to this when the season is over, to compare & contrast 2013’s overall roster to 2014’s, but suffice it to say, we’re not as good of a team as we were last year.  That was to be expected, so it’s not like I’m telling you anything that’s untrue or shocking.  How much worse, I guess, depends on how the Super Bowl turns out.

Either way, as the years go on, we’re REALLY going to marvel at how good that 2013 team was.  To run out a squad with that amount of talent and depth is about as awe-inspiring as it gets.

For the Super Bowl, unless injuries are a factor, here’s my prediction for the seven inactives:

  1. B.J. Daniels – QB
  2. Christine Michael – RB
  3. Kevin Norwood – WR
  4. Keavon Milton – OL
  5. Patrick Lewis – C
  6. David King – DE
  7. Marcus Burley – CB

It was a struggle down there at the bottom.  In theory, you’d want to keep King active to give yourself another pass rusher, but really, how many can you have on the field at once?  I think Cohen gives you more value, especially if the Patriots make a concerted effort to run the ball with Blount.  I thought about keeping Burley active as well – what with Sherman and Thomas playing through injury, you may want more depth in the secondary – but he seems to be the low man on the totem pole right now.

Obviously, this changes as the injury reports start coming out.  Guys to watch out for here are obviously Britt and Helfet, as well as Terrell and Johnson in the secondary.  But, for now, my official guess at the inactives is what I’ve listed above.

K.J. Wright Is Still A Seahawk

I don’t like writing more than one post in a single day, because I’m lazy like that.  But, I don’t like to let these types of signings sit in limbo for a few days without comment, because then I’ll never get around to it (again, because I’m lazy like that).  So, welcome to my nightmare lesser of two evils.

K.J. Wright signed a 4-year extension, for $27 million.  Seems like a reasonable amount of money and a reasonable amount of years for a good player who was looking at being a free agent at season’s end.  This secures a core defensive player, helps set a baseline for what we can expect to re-sign Bobby Wagner for, and quite honestly has to be good for morale.  I’m assuming, of course, that K.J. Wright is a well-liked, well-respected player on that team.  The more of our core guys we’re able to reward with extensions, the better it is for team chemistry going forward.  The Seahawks take care of their own.  The leaders on this team who’ve already been extended have to like this, but more importantly, it sets a nice precedent for the players yet to be dealt with.

I’m not usually a fan of in-season signings, because you can probably expect in the next week or two to see K.J. Wright get blown up with an ACL tear or some damn thing (see:  Palmer, Carson).  I mean, was Wright’s value really going to go up all that higher if he played two more regular season games and however many playoff games?  Unlikely.  What he got today is probably what he would’ve gotten six months from now.

Then again, what the hell do I know?  He’s a versatile linebacker who can play inside & out.  He’s got range and speed to cover just about any tight end.  He’s not the biggest play-maker in the world, but he’s sound fundamentally and really that’s all I’m looking for in a defense riddled with play-makers.  Maybe some other team blows him away with some amazing offer.  Either way, we’ll never know now.  I just hope we don’t live to regret this.  Seems unlikely, but again, see:  Palmer, Carson.

We won’t know until the whole thing plays out, but I see this move as a net-positive.  We locked down 3/4 of the L.O.B., we locked down Michael Bennett.  We’re a few months away from locking down Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson.  Throw K.J. Wright into the mix, and without Percy Harvin’s albatross deal looming over us, we might just have enough to keep Cliff Avril and (fingers crossed) Byron Maxwell.  Keeping both might be a stretch, especially if we look to make an additional defensive-line splash in the offseason, but I’m just thinking off the top of my head here.

We were looking at upwards of $30 million in salary cap room going into next year before the Wright deal.  He cuts into that some, but not a lot considering the first year is almost always a very small base with a larger signing bonus (spread out over the life of the contract, in this case, split up in quarters over four years).  The two highest priority players are obviously Wilson and Wagner, but again, there should still be room in the 2015 cap for a little something extra, if the right guy comes along and tickles our fancy.

Top that off with guys we won’t necessarily need to extend.  Like, Malcolm Smith for one, who I don’t think has played a single snap on the defensive side of the football in the last month or more.  Remember our Super Bowl MVP?  Yeah, he’s been totally phased out in favor of Bruce Irvin (who we’ll probably hold off until at least the final year of his deal before discussing an extension).  And, while re-signing Maxwell would be pretty amazing, Tharold Simon’s high level of play doesn’t make it a total disaster if we let Maxwell max out his value elsewhere.  In my opinion, extending Avril is probably our third-highest priority going into the offseason, which shouldn’t be a problem unless some other team really blows us out of the water.

But, I suppose those are conversations for another day.  Today, we celebrate K.J. Wright.  Many happy returns and so forth.  Now, let’s go win a championship.

The Seahawks Probably Aren’t Making The Playoffs This Year

As the Arizona Cardinals continue The Most Annoying Football Season Ever (they have a chance to host their own Super Bowl appearance; isn’t that just TOO MUCH?!), it’s time for all of us to admit a hard truth:  the Seahawks aren’t very good.  They’re that clichéd fucking Super Bowl winner who goes on to finish 8-8 the following year.  GOD!  I thought we were better than that!

But, with a 6-4 record, with six difficult games to go, couldn’t you see this team finishing 8-8 right now?

I didn’t write anything last Friday, but if I had, it would’ve been some variation on the theme:  Why the Chiefs are going to beat the Seahawks.  And it would’ve listed all of the most obvious reasons:  the lack of Brandon Mebane, their killer rushing offense, their quarterback who doesn’t make any mistakes, their propensity to convert third downs.  I saw this game as being very similar to the Chargers game, only instead of being 100,000 degrees, it was freezing.

Lo and behold, it was more or less a comfortable victory for the Chiefs.  We didn’t force them to punt until the second half; indeed, it wouldn’t have been as close as it was if we didn’t land on a couple of fumbles.

The Seahawks’ offense is broken.  Last year, when the defense was dominant at forcing turnovers, it was able to mask a lot of the problems with play-calling.  Darrell Bevell is a joke.  He’s always been a joke.  We won the Super Bowl IN SPITE of him, not because of him.  He has no idea what he’s doing in the red zone, that much is clear.  He’s about as creative as a diseased tree stump with his play calling.  Even on our first TD drive, we have first and goal on the 5 yard line; what do we do?  Three straight passes.  We ran for 44 yards on that drive, but when we get to the 5, let’s start throwing a ton.  GENIUS!  Luckily, Wilson was able to buy some time and find Baldwin, but that was starting to look like a real missed opportunity there, and Bevell got lucky.

When you’re inside the 5 yard line, you should be rushing the ball on first and second down.  When you’re outside the 5 yard line, you should be passing to either get to a goalline situation, or to get the touchdown (outside of five yards, you have more room for the receivers to get open).  THIS ISN’T ROCKET SCIENCE!  This is ostensibly Darrell Bevell’s profession and he SUCKS so hard at it!

I mean, a fade to Baldwin on 4th and goal?  In what universe do you think that’s going to work?  MAYBE Toontown.  Maybe if we were all cartoons and could stretch our bodies in hilarious ways to catch that pass in traffic while getting two feet down.  Even if Baldwin was being covered by Kelly Jennings himself, the odds of that play working out are slim!  And you think you’re getting a penalty called in that situation?  Are you high, Doug Baldwin?

The fact of the matter is, we could have Chip Kelly calling the shots on offense, but I’m not so sure this team would be any good.  Doug Baldwin is nobody’s number 1 receiver.  I valued him over Golden Tate because I thought he’d be playing behind Percy Harvin.  Guys like Baldwin ALWAYS need to be playing behind true number 1 receivers in order to be effective.  And, not for nothing, but Jermaine Kearse is nobody’s number 2 receiver.  I can’t wait for Paul Richardson to finally blossom into something elite, because until that happens, we’re going to STRUGGLE throwing the ball.

In the meantime, though, you’d think the Seahawks would be looking to roll the pocket a little bit more.  Russell Wilson is still at his best when he’s throwing on the run, so why are we trying to make him this pocket passer?  And, if the defense is truly playing him to TRY to keep him in the pocket, then it’s time to start moving the pocket.  Get him out on some bootlegs to let receivers do what they have to do to get open.

Defensively, I don’t even know what to say.  Mebane was out and we gave up 190 rushing yards.  That wasn’t the ONLY reason we gave up 190 yards, but it was a big one.  Kam Chancellor was out there running around, but he didn’t look right at all.  He was playing tentatively, trying to avoid taking a big hit, instead of throwing his body right at blockers.  This defense is another animal when Kam is healthy, so it’s pretty easy to assume he’s playing on some busted body part or another.  Malcolm Smith also returned from injury, but he played like complete ass against the run.  I’m thinking the team probably shouldn’t bend over backwards to extend him after this season.

The injuries are piling up.  This time, Max Unger went out with an ankle and a knee.  As soon as he stepped off the field, a team that had racked up 332 yards to that point, would only gain 40 yards the rest of the way (23 of those were on one pass play to Baldwin on our final drive), while giving up a sack and nearly a safety in the process.  Before Max Unger went out, there was minimal pressure on Wilson when he threw the ball.  After he went out, Wilson had no time whatsoever.  Max Unger is probably going to be out a while, so get used to more of that.

My hope is at its nadir with this team.  There isn’t any great miracle waiting for us on the horizon, and guys are only getting more and more injured.  The lone positive you can take away from yesterday’s game was that it was an AFC opponent.  We’re 6-4, but we’re still 4-2 against the NFC.  At the very least, you should be giving up the dream on winning the division and wondering if there’s a way the Seahawks can finish 4-2 and sneak into a Wild Card spot.

Here’s a hint:  it’s going to involve beating the 49ers twice and either Dallas, Philly, and/or Green Bay falling apart down the stretch.