Seahawks Position Breakdown 2021: Running Backs

If the quarterback room gets an A+ based on the starter alone – weighing depth in any sort of significant way brings the overall grade down considerably – then I think I have to go A- or even B+ for the running back room.

For starters, you definitely have to consider the depth much more here. When was the last time we saw a running back play all 16 games? Marshawn Lynch in 2013/2014 is your answer there (and, don’t forget, we’re up to an inane 17 games in 2021!). And also, to be perfectly honest, I’m not as high on any of these guys as I used to be.

I think it’s fair to say Chris Carson has A+ talent. But, to belabor a dead horse, you always have to add “when he’s healthy” to any blanket statement regarding Carson. After a flukey rookie year where he only appeared in four games, he’s gone 14, 15, and 12 games. Not great, but not terrible, I guess. Nevertheless, you KNOW you’re going to need to have another guy on the roster to start a few games, which has to reduce Carson’s overall grade.

And, I would argue we started to see Carson avoid some contact for the first time in his career in 2020. ESPECIALLY after he missed a month to injury in the middle of the season, and it became clear he was trying to preserve his body with his impending free agency looming this past offseason. He averaged 4.83 yards per attmept last year on the whole; you saw a pretty steep drop-off in the final three regular season games, averaging 4.19 yards per attempt. Now, he might’ve been trying to play through something, and so he really NEEDED to preserve his body just to stay on the field.

Also, by the way, he has every right to avoid bone-crunching hits and maybe take a few carries out of bounds instead of needlessly pounding his body into defenders every single time. The career-expectancy for a running back in the NFL is akin to the life-expectancy of a soldier in the Vietnam War; you just get chewed up and spit out. But, my contention is a lot of Carson’s value is in those extra yards he gets after contact, as well as the intimidation he instills in defenders who have to take him on for 15-20 carries per game. If latter-day Chris Carson is going to turn into Shaun Alexander, I don’t think you can even give him an A grade of any kind at that point, because he doesn’t have Alexander’s skillset (I always thought Alexander got a bad rap, but he was a great back for us, different than how Marshawn Lynch was a great back for us; but both were nevertheless great!).

Behind Carson, the drop-off has the potential to be pretty significant, though there is breakout potential from any number of guys.

Rashaad Penny is in the final year of his rookie deal. He’s briefly flashed A+ ability, but more often than not he’s been hurt, to even a more significant degree than Carson (who is the poster child for Injury Prone around these parts). He was lost for the season late in 2019, which left him out of commission for most of 2020 as well. When he returned in late December, he got a few touches here and there, but really made no impact whatsoever.

On the plus side, between doing most of his rehab in 2020, and having all of this past offseason to fully recover and get his body into “the best shape of his life”, we’re looking at a guy who’s motivated and hungry to show the NFL what he’s made of, as he heads into free agency after this season. It’s also fair to wonder how the new system will support his talents; I’m hearing a lot about the team being more under center than ever before in Wilson’s tenure. If that’s true, that definitely plays to Penny’s strengths more than working out of a shotgun set. If he’s indeed faster and stronger than ever before, it might finally be time to take advantage of his skillset in the passing game out of the backfield.

While the top-line talent in the running back room is suspect, the depth is pretty solid.

DeeJay Dallas got some run as a rookie last year. He wasn’t prepared to shoulder a starting running back load, but that was never supposed to be his fate in the NFL to begin with. He’s more of a third down back who can provide some value out of the passing game; but he’s not really a between-the-tackles runner like Carson or Penny. Having survived his rookie year, and hopefully pouring all his efforts into getting faster and stronger in 2021, I have high hopes that he’ll look a lot better. If that comes to fruition, he’ll be everything I could ever want out of a #3 running back.

Travis Homer largely held that role in his two years in the NFL, but he’s been a disappointment. I guess you could say he blocks well, but that’s not going to win you a ton of casual fans. I see a guy who’s slow and easily stuffed at the line of scrimmage on goalline plays. In other words, I see a guy who constantly elicits the phrase, “Why are they giving the ball to Travis Homer here?!” On top of that, he’s hurt and on the PUP. I would say: don’t hurry back. Get completely well and we’ll see you in six weeks.

But, to make up for that, we brought back Alex Collins last year! He’ll only be 27 in a couple weeks, even though he feels a lot older. That shouldn’t be over-the-hill for someone who didn’t even play in 2019, and only appeared in a handful of games with us last year. I would hope he continued to work on his fitness to make it as this team’s fourth or fifth running back, especially with Homer needing some time to get well. I think he’s got … enough to offer. He’s not great, but in a pinch if you needed him to start a game or two, I wouldn’t hate it. Which, by the way, happens with the running back room more often than I care to admit! Why do you think he was brought back last year in the first place?! Because all we had was DeeJay Dallas and he clearly wasn’t ready to take on a full time running back load! Shit, why do you think we’ve had Marshawn Lynch on speed dial the last two years?

The depth of this room really supports the B+ grade I’m giving it (with potential to raise to an A-, but I doubt it’s ever a top 10 unit in the league), but we’ll see how it goes. The big question on everyone’s mind is how Shane Waldron will balance the need to make Pete Carroll (run) and Russell Wilson (pass) happy. Obviously, you want balance. Obviously, a great rushing attack opens things up all over the place in the passing game. But, as Seahawks fans, it’s hard to not have PTSD with the play sequence of Run-Run-Pass-Punt that we’ve seen all too many times. That forces Russell Wilson – and an inferior defense – to be perfect, and that’s been too much to ask for a lot of years now.

There’s nothing really dynamic about the running backs on this team. As guys age and continue to deal with injuries, what is there to look forward to? What is there to count on? It’s not a matter of “if” guys get injured, but “when”. In that sense, all I can really do is spend the early part of the season worrying about injuries every time a guy steps awkwardly or gets hit hard; then I spend the rest of the season wondering when guys will return and if they’ll be the same as before. For what? Fleeting joy when Carson or somebody trucks a guy? Only to then think to myself, “What’s the cumulative effect of THAT hit? How many more before his shoulder snaps in half?”

When guys are consistently getting injured, there’s no joy in consistency. I’d almost rather they flush the entire running back room down the toilet and start over with the draft next year. Part of me is annoyed Chris Carson got that extension this offseason, even though it’s at most a 2-year deal for just over $10 million, with an out after this season that only costs us $3 million next year in dead cap space (and I think you could spread that out over two years, depending on when you cut him; regardless there’s $1.5 million of dead cap built into his contract with the void year of 2023). I feel like the Seahawks should just draft a running back every other year and make due with those guys and veterans making the minimum. Is Carlos Hyde – making just over $2 million this year with the Jags – really that much of a drop-off compared to Carson? Not really. And Carlos Hydes are ALWAYS available in free agency! You can’t walk ten feet without finding another Carlos Hyde – a durable veteran who will average 4 yards per carry – so why not just settle for them, and hope you hit the lottery every few years with a rookie who pops? Carson was a 7th rounder, you can’t tell me this isn’t a sound strategy!

Honestly, my favorite running back on this team is probably Nick Bellore, the fullback. Dude almost NEVER plays on offense – so he never has an opportunity to disappoint – he crushes it on special teams – making the Pro Bowl in 2020 for his efforts – and I’m reading about him moonlighting as a linebacker in training camp! Get out of here, that’s amazing!

Finally, I’ve never heard of … Cameron Scarlett or Josh Johnson. If they make the 53-man roster, I’ll eat my hat.

This Might Be Bobby Wagner’s Last Year With The Seahawks

I keep seeing trades happen for defensive ends and the Seahawks aren’t involved. I hear about free agents still out on the scrap heap, but no calls from our end. Coming into this year, the pass rush was assumed to be a disaster, and through six games that’s been proven accurate.

Now, the Seahawks have the least amount of extra cap space in all of football. That’s not hyperbole, that’s just a fact. The coffers are bare. But, there are ways to re-work contracts to free up some extra space. That’s why you hear about the Seahawks being “in” on a lot of guys, even if they don’t manage to land them. We’re just waiting for the right deal, the one that hurts us the least in the long term.

We’re getting to the point, though, where the lack of pass rush is a real emergency. Say what you will about how difficult it can be to bring down someone like Kyler Murray, this team had two weeks to prepare. It’s not just that we couldn’t get him on his ass, we couldn’t even get close enough to SEE his ass! For as difficult as it is to bring in guys with COVID happening all around us, we’re at a crisis point, and they’re going to have to do something soon, or else risk throwing away a real, legitimate chance at a Super Bowl. If we falter to another Wild Card finish, I’m afraid heads might roll.

What I’m wondering is: are they reluctant to take on any more money because they know Bobby Wagner is going to be cut after this season?

The Seahawks committed one of the cardinal sins when it comes to football contracts: you do NOT pay top dollar for running backs or linebackers. We paid marginally-top dollar with Marshawn Lynch back in the day, but the way his contracts were structured made it so we could get out from under them pretty easily. Bobby Wagner was another story, though. Not only did we extend him with a year already left on his deal, but we made him the highest-paid linebacker in the game. 3 years, $54 million, a little over $40 million of that guaranteed. If he sees it through to the end, he’ll be here through the 2022 season, when he’s 32 years old.

Now, at the time, we figured, “Okay, he’s worth it.” He was – more or less – the last remaining star from our glory days on defense. He was squarely in the prime of his career as the best middle linebacker in the game, and based on history, middle linebackers can play well into their 30’s if they stay healthy. But, from a value standpoint, to be worth the money he’s making, he has to continue to be THE best middle linebacker in football, and that clearly isn’t the case. Blame it on the team around him, and I agree with you: they ARE mediocre. But, he’s not elevating his game, nor does he seem to be elevating the people around him.

So, look at his contract status. There’s an out after this season. His cap hit next year is set to be over $17 million; we can get out from under his contract by eating $7.5 million. That is a SPICY meatball to have to eat, but you can’t pay him what he’s set to earn for what he’s bringing to the table now (saying nothing of the amount of decline he’ll see being another year older). At this point, he’s NOT the best middle linebacker in the game. Is he in the Top 10? Maybe. But, he’s still making Top Dog Middle Linebacker money, and that’s unacceptable. When you figure he’s much too proud to take a pay cut, that points to one alternative: the Seahawks have been eyeballing his exit all along.

There is money that could be better spent at other positions. For instance, Jamal Adams will be looking for a new deal after this season. Shaquill Griffin as well. And, of course, we’re still going to be in need of a pass rushing defensive end. Jordyn Brooks will probably be ready to take over one of the linebacker spots from K.J. Wright after this year, and the Seahawks can just as easily dip their toe into the second round of the draft next year to find Bobby’s replacement. Even if we have to slog through a season with Cody Barton; I know he’s not great, but is he SO MUCH of a drop-off at middle linebacker, relative to the money he’s making? What is Bobby Wagner bringing to the table with this defense that’s elevating things for the team?

All of that being said, I’m sure the team could rework Russell Wilson’s contract to free up money. I think I even read a headline talking about extending Tyler Lockett to tinker with the salary cap. There are options.

One of those options doesn’t appear to be – and frankly CANNOT be – shuffling money around on Bobby Wagner’s deal (moving future base salary to signing bonus, thereby increasing the amount of dead money we’d have to eat by cutting him next season). If we do that, we’re essentially guaranteeing his 2021 season at that inflated cap number.

Until now, I would’ve been 100% convinced Wagner would still be here at least for one more season. But, in looking at the numbers, and the situation as it’s laid out in front of us, it’s feeling remarkably slim.

There Will Always Be A Reason To Not Vote For Russell Wilson For MVP

Russell Wilson has famously never received an MVP vote, even though he’s been one of the best in the game since his rookie season in 2012. There’s always been a reason for that. There are two ways to take that sort of sentiment: there’s the magnanimous side of there simply being a lot of other, worthy candidates, and not everyone gets a trophy in the real world. And, there’s the bitter Seahawks fan in me, who can’t help but see it as my guy getting slighted.

Et tu, Trey Wingo?! I actually think he’s one of the more reasonable ESPN personalities, but in this week’s Slow News Day, he was all over Aaron Rodgers as MVP. Magnanimous Steven can hear that and say, “Sure, he’s having a fantastic season! Over 1,200 yards in four games, with 13 touchdowns and 0 interceptions; what’s not to love?” But, all Bitter Steven hears is Trey’s rationale: look at Rodgers’ weapons and compare them to Wilson’s.

Okay. First of all, we’re not ACTUALLY going to get bent out of shape about the MVP race five weeks into the season. So, let’s all take a deep breath and relax. I COULD tell you that – while Rodgers’ numbers are great – his numbers aren’t quite up to Wilson’s over 1,500 yards and 19 touchdowns in five games. If we’re talking weapons, yeah, D.K. Metcalf looks like a monster, and we’ve been singing Tyler Lockett’s praises since he joined the league. But, Rodgers still has Aaron Jones, one of the best dual-threat running backs in all of football (third in rushing yards per game), with a combined 6 touchdowns rushing and receiving. And, Davante Adams has only missed a couple games due to injury. On top of which, let’s face it, the Packers haven’t had to play very many elite teams. On top of the Vikings and Falcons (who we also beat), they’ve gone up against a one-win Lions team and a Saints team that looks like it’s on its last legs with Drew Brees. Also, just because you don’t know who some of these Packers are at tight end and behind Adams in the receivers room, doesn’t mean they’re not just as good as some of these other Seahawks; that Robert Tonyan (with five TDs so far) could be the next Greg Olsen for all we know!

The point isn’t the weapons, the point is the EXCUSE. The title of the post says there will always be a reason to not vote for Russell Wilson for MVP, but actually I should’ve put “excuse”, because that’s what we’re talking about. Everyone seemingly ALWAYS has a reason to poo-poo what Wilson is doing. Early in his career, he wasn’t an MVP because we had Marshawn Lynch, and that #1 defense, and a conservative play-calling scheme. Forget about Wilson’s efficiency – doing more with fewer attempts – or his touchdown numbers; it was always about the team around him. Then, as Lynch left, and the defense crumbled, this team clearly became all about Russell Wilson; he was dragging this roster bereft of talent into the playoffs kicking and screaming (he’s STILL never had a losing record, in spite of some REALLY lean rosters that would’ve been contending for a top draft pick had Wilson not been around). If you think about Most Valuable Player, you think about the guy who adds the most value to his team (obviously, this being football, there is that pesky “team” aspect that constantly skews things). Take Russell Wilson off of any of these Seahawks teams from 2016 to 2020, and you’re looking at one of the very worst teams in all of football. Can you imagine what Nick Foles or Ryan Fitzpatrick (the dictionary definition of Replacement Level Quarterbacks) would’ve done with these guys?

But, no one who votes actually sees the game in these hypotheticals. The MVP almost always goes to the best quarterback on the best team, period. If you take Lamar Jackson off of that Ravens team last year and put a replacement level guy in there, they probably still win 9-10 games, because the rest of the roster was so good. But, Jackson won the MVP because the Ravens went 14-2 and he was a hot, new story.

Story plays into it too. Is it a guy who’s never won it before? Well that’s interesting! (hence why momentum for Wilson is so high this year) Is it a guy doing something extra-special? (Patrick Mahomes as a 23-year old throwing for 50 touchdowns in his first full season as a starter explains what happened in 2018)

In a sense, blaming Wilson for the weapons around him is idiotic, because you NEED the team to win a lot of games, and you need SOMEONE to catch all those balls! But, it cuts both ways, because you watch the Seahawks and you have to see how bad this defense has been.

Remember a year ago, when the Seahawks played in 14 games decided by one score (including playoffs) and went 11-3 in those games? Remember how unsustainable that was, and how likely it was that the 2020 Seahawks would come crashing down to Earth? Already, four of our five games have been decided by one score, and we’re 4-0 in those games (including that near-miraculous come-from-behind performance against the Vikings last week). This is no longer a fluke. This is Russell Wilson. He is your MVP for 2020. You can make all the arguments you want – because otherwise, what else are you going to talk about on the various football chat shows; we all have content to produce – but in the end, when the Seahawks have the best record in football, and Russell Wilson has the best stats of all the quarterbacks, you’re going to have to make him unanimous.

And yet, even if all of that comes to pass, I bet there are still a few a-holes out there who will throw a bone to the Aaron Rodgers’ of the league. Because they just can’t live in a world where a 5’11 quarterback is the best player alive.

Are The 2020 Seahawks Better Than The 2019 Seahawks?

I’m having difficulty getting a read from the fanbase when it comes to their overall thoughts on the 2019 Seahawks; is that team considered a disappointment, or did they make the most of what they had? It’s easy to forget – knowing that was a Wild Card team who was ultimately thrust from the playoffs in the Divisional Round – but the 2019 Seahawks started out 10-2, among the best teams in all of football by record at the time. We lost three of our last four regular season games (all to divisional opponents) to lose our handle on the divisional title and a chance at a top two seed in the NFC, then we beat a decimated Eagles team before losing like we usually do on the road in the Divisional Round (by falling into a deep hole early and not having enough in the tank to come all the way back late). When you factor in a generational talent like Russell Wilson being in his prime, once again falling short of the Super Bowl, that feels disappointing to me. Maybe I’m spoiled, but I don’t know what to tell you.

The 2020 Seahawks are 4-0 right now. With the way our schedule is shaping up – among the easiest in football – not only do I see a reasonable path to at least matching our 10-2 start from a season ago, unless things take a dramatically dark turn, I’d be shocked if we’re not 12-2 as we head into the final two weeks of the season. 13-3 is not only on the table at this point, but should be the FLOOR. I don’t think a perfect season is happening, but one or two losses? I’m not throwing that out of bed for eating crackers!

When you think about how much we’ve obsessed over the quality of the defense to date – rightfully so, I might add – I can’t help but question whether or not this team is actually better than the one we saw a year ago. Are we better, or is our schedule just easier?

Well, let’s get the simple question out of the way: the schedule is unquestionably easier. The 2019 AFC North was much more difficult than the 2020 AFC East; give me those Ravens over these Bills, those Steelers (when we played them, with a healthy Big Ben) over these Patriots, those Browns over these Dolphins, and even those Bengals over these Jets. The 2019 NFC South was much more difficult than the 2020 NFC East; there’s no point in even going through the teams (we’ve seen this NFC East for many seasons continue to underwhelm at every turn). The 2019 Eagles and Vikings were superior to the 2020 Falcons and Vikings, no contest. And, I would argue the 2019 NFC West was much more difficult than the 2020 version, based on the 49ers being decimated by injuries and clearly not living up to the standard they set last year. We might’ve overrated the Cardinals in Year 2 of the Kyler Murray regime, and I think the Rams are about equal to what they were a season ago (Jared Goff will never take the next step as an elite quarterback, I’m sorry).

So, let’s look at the first question: are the Seahawks better?

On paper, just looking at the roster alone, the offense doesn’t look a whole lot different. Same quarterback, mostly same receivers, same starting running back, many of the same tight ends and offensive linemen, and even the same offensive coordinator. Obviously, everything is being made about Letting Russ Cook, but what is so remarkable to me is that there doesn’t seem to be any drop in efficiency. That was the knock against letting Russ cook in the past: we were winning games, mostly because he was the most efficient quarterback in football. He did more with less (attempts), and the only reason why he wasn’t among the MVP finalists is because he didn’t have those attempts, or total yardage numbers, that dazzle the eye and cloud the brain. Russell Wilson has always had high passer ratings, low interception numbers, and high yards per attempt averages. And, obviously, we’re looking at a quarter of the normal sample size in any given year, but he’s blowing all of those numbers out of the water so far!

You would think more attempts = more opportunities for mistakes. Or, more attempts = more short passes, for a lower yards per attempt average. Again, it’s the opposite! Last year, his passer rating was 106.3 (his career high in any season was 110.9 in 2018); this year his rating is 136.7 (out of a possible 158.3). Last year, his yards per attempt were an even 8.0 (his career high in any season was 8.3 in 2015); this year it’s 9.4. He’s not just dinking and dunking and checking down to running backs and tight ends; he’s throwing deep as he always has and still connecting on these beautiful arcing rainbow balls!

In short (no pun intended), I think many of us (myself included) thought we’d seen the best of what Russell Wilson has to offer, but he’s continuing to soar to new heights (ditto) and it’s incredible to witness.

There’s also a very credible argument to be made that these are the best weapons he’s ever had. That is a BOLD statement! Remember, he’s had guys like Marshawn Lynch, Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, Sidney Rice, Zach Miller … and sure, Jimmy Graham and Percy Harvin. But, would you rather have those guys, or Chris Carson, Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf, Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, David Moore, Carlos Hyde, Jacob Hollister, and Freddie Swain? They’ve all come up big in the early going, and we still have Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, and Rashaad Penny waiting in the wings! Even when you just compare the 2020 group to 2019, I think you have to factor in the improved development of guys like Metcalf and Moore, as well as the rookie Swain who is already better than any fourth/fifth receiver we had last year.

Even though so many of the pieces are similar to what they were a season ago, this offense is unquestionably leaps & bounds better than it was (and better than it’s ever been, in the history of this franchise).

That brings us back to the defense.

So … yeah, the pass defense isn’t great. The pass rush was never thought to be anything above the bottom quarter in football, but the secondary has been atrocious as well. We’re still giving up over 400 yards passing per game, which is easily worst in the NFL. However! The run defense is only giving up 75.8 yards per game (third best); in 2019, the Seahawks gave up 117.7 rushing yards per game (11th worst). In a way, that makes sense, because our offense is so good, teams have to throw more to keep up and/or catch up with what we’re doing. But, it’s not like our 2019 offense was a turd sandwich or anything; we were in the top ten in yards and points. I do believe there is a drastic improvement in the quality of our run defense, which is further helping us force opposing offenses into being one-dimensional. Think of it this way: don’t you think every single team that faces the Seahawks wants to do whatever it takes to keep Russell Wilson on the sideline? Wouldn’t you think – that being the case – that teams would do their best to get a running game going against us? The fact that they’ve mostly failed in that endeavor is pretty telling.

I also want to look at turnovers, because I like what I’ve seen from this part of our defense so far and I don’t think it’s getting enough credit. The Seahawks are +5 in turnover ratio right now, tied for second (and, as we all know, one of those Wilson interceptions went right off of Greg Olsen’s hands, so we really should be tied for first at +6). The offense should always limit turnovers based on our quarterback and our coaching staff’s emphasis on taking care of the rock, so that ratio is always going to be in our favor. But, the defense alone has generated 8 turnovers, good for a tie for second (the Browns lead the NFL with 10). Of those 8 turnovers, 6 are via the interception, which I think is huge (the Browns, by contrast, only have 4 interceptions). Fumbles are largely a byproduct of luck. Most fumbles are 50/50 propositions; it’s an anomaly if one team is particularly good or bad at recovering them. Sure, teams can be good at FORCING them, but the name of this particular game I’m talking about is turnovers. Getting the ball back. If we’re not going to sack the opposing quarterback (six in four games, tied for sixth-worst), then we better be good at generating turnovers if we’re going to contend for a Super Bowl.

Last year, the Seahawks were tied for third in turnover differential at +12. We had 32 takeaways, also good for third in the NFL. Of those 32, it was an even 16/16 split between interceptions and fumble recoveries; 16 interceptions is pretty good (tied for fifth in the NFL last year), but the 16 fumble recoveries were tied for second most, which is a pretty remarkable feat and difficult to match from year to year. However, if you project a decrease in the number of fumbles our defense can recover in 2020 (which I do), while acknowledging that even a moderate increase in interceptions MIGHT be in play, can we really expect to have a drastically improved turnover differential? I would say absolutely! Because remember, that factors in the number of times our offense gave away the football. The Seahawks in 2019 were tied for the third-most lost fumbles (many of them thanks to Chris Carson’s butter fingers, which improved dramatically as the season went on); the odds of the Seahawks losing that many fumbles on offense in 2020 seem low to me. Partly because of regression in fumble luck, partly because we’re just not running the ball as much, and partly because Chris Carson is in a contract year (and fumblers don’t get max-money deals).

I don’t see a path where our sack numbers improve from where they were a season ago (we were tied for second-worst in 2019, which feels about right for 2020), but I do very much see a path to an increase in interceptions, given the level of talent in our secondary (which will get better as they get used to playing with one another; those communication breakdowns will be eliminated, I’m sure of it) as well as the fact that most teams will be forced into throwing the ball more than they’re used to (thanks to our offense putting up tons of points, and our run defense stuffing the everloving shit out of the line of scrimmage).

All of that combined, I think, points to this 2020 Seahawks team being much improved over the 2019 incarnation. Tack on the easy schedule, and the top seed in the NFC is very much in our sights.

We just need the Packers to lose a few games and we’ll be all set!

Chicken Or Egg: Can A Dominant Secondary Prop Up A Middling Pass Rush?

The consensus opinion is that the most important aspect of a dominant defense is its pass rush. Boiling it down to its root: the goal of a defense is to give the ball back to its offense without allowing the other team to score. The best way to do that is to force a turnover; otherwise, forcing them to punt or turn it over on downs will suffice. When it comes to defending the pass, harassing the quarterback seems to be the best way to either generate turnovers or put opposing offenses behind the chains, usually resulting in punts. The sack is obviously ideal; it’s a negative play for the offense that can sometimes result in fumbles. But, just getting in the quarterback’s face – forcing him “off his spot” or otherwise messing with his timing – can lead to interceptions, incompletions, or harmless check-downs that gain little-to-no yards on that play.

The Seahawks – as has been the lament all off-season – are projected to have one of the worst – if not THE worst – pass rushes in the NFL. This is a travesty because as it stood in 2019, the defense was already pretty mediocre; this is also a travesty because we have Russell Wilson in his prime and we seem to be wasting those years by losing in the Wild Card or Divisional rounds of the playoffs.

But, the thing is, the Seahawks clearly haven’t done NOTHING. They’ve tried to mitigate the loss of Jadeveon Clowney by picking up multiple lesser individuals – in free agency and the draft – and they’re hoping that young holdovers from previous seasons make a leap in their development. They’ve also done a remarkable job shoring things up at the linebacker and secondary levels over the last two years, picking up multiple speedy linebackers in the draft, as well as trading for two phenomenal safeties and one troubled-but-excellent cornerback. We’ll see if it plays out as such, but an argument could be made that the Seahawks have the best secondary and the best group of linebackers from top to bottom in the entire league. They certainly have the highest-rated linebacker in Bobby Wagner, and a total superstar in Jamal Adams.

So, my question is: can all of that compensate for a sub-par (or even flat-out BAD) pass rush?

We always talk about how great pass rushes make up for mediocre secondaries; guys don’t have to cover wide receivers as long, because the quarterback has to make his decisions much quicker. But, whenever we talk about the opposite – great secondaries blanketing receivers, allowing the D-Line time to get home – we just dismiss it as a “coverage sack”. As if, A) they don’t count as much as a regular sack, and B) it’s some sort of fluke that never happens. I’d love to know the numbers, but I would argue if coverage sacks are so rare, maybe that’s because teams spend all their resources focused so much on the D-Line and hardly any of their resources on their secondaries.

Around Seattle, we love to talk about the Legion of Boom, and for good reason. That collection of individuals was freaky talented, and from top to bottom the best I’ve ever seen. The Seahawks went to back-to-back Super Bowls with that group leading the way, winning one. Yes, that group also had a pretty great D-Line – helmed by Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril – but they were VASTLY overshadowed by the L.O.B. And, not for nothing, but the main reason why we lost that second Super Bowl isn’t because Russell Wilson tried to throw a slant in heavy traffic at the goalline, but rather because the ENTIRE Legion of Boom suffered catastrophic injuries either in the lead-up to or in the middle of that game. Don’t forget the Seahawks had a 10-point lead heading into the fourth quarter, before Tom Brady & Co. marched up and down the field at will. Had we rushed Marshawn Lynch and scored a touchdown on that second down play, they still would’ve had somewhere around 20 seconds or so to get into field goal range (which, the way the Patriots were moving, seemed inevitable).

Which leads me to ask: where was our supposedly-dominant pass rush THEN?! Why weren’t they able to pick up the slack when the L.O.B. was out of commission?!

Now, obviously it’s a stretch to say this seconary is as good as the L.O.B. But, for this incarnation of the NFL, it’s pretty fucking elite. With a couple of lockdown cornerbacks, and a couple of playmaking safeties, I think the Seahawks can provide enough pressure on the back-end of the defense to allow the front-line workers an opportunity to get in the quarterback’s face and do some real damage, regardless of who we’ve got up there.

I don’t know how to do a lot of this research, so a lot of what I’m about to say is pretty anecdotal. But, how many passing plays result in a sack? Not a very high percentage, I’d say. How many plays result in pressure on the quarterback? Obviously, a little higher, but there’s a lot of variables at play: how good is the O-Line? How good is the quarterback? How quick can the quarterback make a decision to get rid of the football? Is the offense set up for the quarterback to make quick, short throws, rendering even the BEST defensive lines inadequate? There’s a reason why more offenses are turning into some version of the college spread offense, and it’s to neutralize the opposing pass rush! Aaron Donald is the best defensive lineman since Reggie White; he’ll be an automatic first-ballot hall of famer. And yet, it’s not like he’s getting to the quarterback on every single play, no matter how it may seem (especially as a Seahawks fan, watching this miserable offensive line over the years).

The Seahawks, in the early days of this era, were lauded for zagging while the rest of the league zigged. We targeted tall, bruising players in the secondary before everyone else, essentially starting that trend by proving the tactic is viable. We opted to hand the offense to a short quarterback who runs a lot when the VAST majority of teams still thought they had to be 6’5 white statues in the Peyton Manning/Tom Brady mold. We’ve featured a punishing running game when the league was clearly going towards a pass-first model, and have won the second-most games in all of football, behind only the New England Patriots.

So, why are we automatically dismissive of the Seahawks zagging once again?

If the rest of football is moving towards a quick passing game to neutralize the pass rush aspect, then doesn’t it make sense to bolster your secondary, so you can get up on those receivers, and force the quarterback to hold onto the ball longer? Everyone talks about how difficult that is, and how much strain it puts on a coverage to follow those receivers around, but it also puts a lot of strain on an offensive line! I don’t care how great you are, it’s hard to block ANY defensive line for 5+ seconds per play!

And even if you discount the quick-passing game, the very best quarterbacks – those same guys you see year-in and year-out in the playoffs – are almost always able to get rid of the football and make plays in the face of even the very best stampeding pass rush. BUT, if you show those guys a mediocre defensive front, they might relax a bit more, and in trying to wait out a hole appearing in the secondary, and that’s when guys like Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin are able to shine. Because, they’ll get there eventually. They might not take over games like Clowney or Donald, but they’re not so incompetent that they’re totally worthless.

There’s no single blueprint to build a champion. Often, it’s the teams doing things a little differently who manage to make the leap, leading a very reactionary NFL to follow their example, instead of setting out on their own courses. Yes, it’s a copycat league, but those ALWAYS come with diminishing returns. Because, while everyone is trying to copy the hot, new trend, everyone ELSE is trying to figure out how to stifle that hot new trend! First it was offenses throwing more than rushing, which led to the meteoric rise in bolstering pass rush as a counter-measure. Then, offenses morphed into throwing quick, short passes, and getting the ball out to playmakers in space, hoping they make plays. I would argue the only natural counter to this method is to have VERY fast linebackers and VERY elite secondary players, to limit that open space as much as possible. This should lead to either the quarterback holding the ball longer than intended, or following through on their game plans, with those plays resulting in short gains or incompletions.

I’m ready to believe in this tactic. If it works, the Seahawks might once again be at the forefront of a new trend the rest of the league chooses to copy in 2021 and beyond.

Of course, if it doesn’t work, everyone will get to say, “I told you so,” and the Seahawks will be made to look the FOOLS! You know what? We’re all just trying to do our best with what we have, and I’m okay with that.

The Top Ten Biggest Seattle Sports Disappointments

It’s a cloudy-ass day in July and we haven’t had any sports that I give a shit about in over three months, so why not kick off the month with a big ball of negativity?!

Once again, in the absence of any decent sports news, I take inspiration from the Brock & Salk podcast, where one of the listeners asked the question of who is on your Seattle sports Mount Rushmore for biggest disappointments? I’m clearly unable to limit my disgust to just four individuals, so you get a Top Ten from me (with an extra Honorable Mention – FREE OF CHARGE – because these disappointments are like my babies, I can’t leave any of them out!).

Being a Sports Disappointment is obviously a nebulous concept with lots of different definitions, so here’s mine (for the sake of today’s argument): these are people who we expected to be great when they came here, and ultimately totally sucked. How they got here is irrelevant, so I’m not factoring in (as heavily) if it was a lopsided trade, a high draft pick, or an inflated contract (with the basis that all of these players were terrible for their respective Seattle sports teams, one would assume a poor trade, draft slot, or contract is a given anyway). Similarly, this can’t be based on someone else that our team passed on in the draft, because there would be inherent disappointment already built into that selection.

Malik McDowell, for instance, doesn’t qualify for this list. He’s certainly one of the most damaging draft picks of the last decade for the Seahawks, but as a second rounder, I don’t think expectations were astronomical that he’d be anything truly amazing. Likewise, trading away Scottie Pippen for Olden Polynice doesn’t qualify, because I would like to think most people noted that right away to be a terrible deal, and as such I can’t imagine there were great expectations for ol’ #0.

Without further ado, let’s get to our Honorable Mention: Jesus Montero. The Mariners traded for the former #1 overall baseball prospect early in 2012 from the Yankees. Given Michael Pineda’s career since he left Seattle, this is one of those infamous Lose/Lose deals. Nevertheless, the next ten guys I talk about must’ve been REALLY bad, because Montero was as mediocre as it gets. The main reason why he’s on the outside looking in is because by the time he came to Seattle, there was already a building consensus that he wasn’t long for the catcher position. He just didn’t have the build, the skills, nor the presence with the pitching staff for his defense to measure up. The hope was that maybe he could land at first base with some practice, but ultimately I think most saw him as a future DH. Regardless of that, there was NO QUESTION that his bat would be what provided the bulk of his value, and when you’re talking about those Mariners squads from 2008-2013, a hulking power bat from the right side of the plate was our white whale. Montero was SUPPOSED to be our cleanup hitter for the next decade; instead he hasn’t been in the Majors since 2015, and is more known for his ice cream sandwich fight than his “prowess” on the baseball diamond.

#10 – Danny Hultzen (Mariners)

This is the only real draft bust on the list (not to say there aren’t some REALLY BAD draft picks going forward, but at least those guys played a little bit!). Hultzen was a #2 overall draft pick, considered to be the safest starting pitcher prospect of the 2011 draft, and appeared to be on the fast track to make it to the Major Leagues within 2-3 years. Even if there was a question of his stuff – and his high-ceiling/ace potential – if his arm injuries didn’t totally derail him, we WOULD HAVE seen him pitch for the Mariners relatively early in his career. We’ll never know how disappointing that might’ve been, but I remember being really high on this guy when we got him, and it’s one of the great What If’s in recent Mariners history.

#9 – Justin Smoak (Mariners)

He’s sort of in that Jesus Montero realm, in that he was formerly a very highly-rated prospect, with the bloom starting to come off the rose by the time the M’s were able to acquire him. Oddly enough, when we made the deal in 2010, it’s reported that the Mariners turned down a proposed offer from the Yankees which would’ve included Montero! What did we do to get so lucky as to end up with BOTH when all was said and done?! Again, we’re talking about the Dead Ball Mariners of 2008-2013 or so; Smoak was really the first bite at the apple of trying to turn around our moribund offense. Switch-hitter with power, elite first base defense, good eye at the plate, and a proven minor league track record to hit for average, get on base at a high clip, and impress with his power to all fields. That ended up translating to the Bigs as Warning Track Power, someone who couldn’t really hit from the right side at all, a very LOW batting average, and someone who would consistently roll over on pitches instead of hitting to all fields as advertised. While his defense played, and he had an okay eye for taking walks, he also struck out a ton and didn’t start figuring out how to play at this level until he left for Toronto, where he was an All Star in 2017 (with 22+ homers in the last three seasons, the high being 38 in that aforementioned All Star season).

#8 – Aaron Curry (Seahawks)

As a #4 overall draft pick in 2009, you can certainly point to any number of linebackers taken after him and lament Tim Ruskell’s poor decision-making. BUT! I said we’re not doing that here! So, instead let’s just look at the situation at the time: the Seahawks were coming off of a pretty abysmal 2008 season where the defense just had NOTHING going for it. The offense looked like it MIGHT be salvagable with our aging veterans, but the defense needed an injection of youth and explosiveness. Curry was famously the “safest” pick off the board, as someone who could come in, play right away, and play at a high level. Even then, though, his game started getting picked apart pretty quickly. We soon learned there wasn’t much of a pass-rushing threat to his game, which made him ostensibly a coverage linebacker. The Seahawks have long prided themselves on quality linebacker play, so that checks out. Except, as it turned out, Curry couldn’t even do THAT well! He did, in fact, nothing well, and two years later we traded him to the Raiders in the middle of the 2011 season for draft picks (one of which would turn out to be J.R. Sweezy, which wasn’t too shabby of a return, all things considered).

#7 – Dustin Ackley (Mariners)

Speaking of #2 overall draft picks, welcome to the first pick of the Jack Zduriencik Era in 2009! I wrote pretty extensively on the topic of Dustin Ackley over the years, to the point where the rest of my list today SERIOUSLY conflicts with that post I just linked to. But, I would argue the parameters of the argument today are a little different. I’m trying to eliminate all outside factors and just focus on the players themselves. Yes, Ackley was VERY disappointing! He was supposed to be a guy who hit for a very high average, with enough pop/speed/defense to make him a regular All Star for his Major League career. Instead, he was middling at best and hasn’t cracked a Major League roster since 2016. I would also put part of the blame on the Mariners’ front office, as they continuously dicked around with him. He was a primo first baseman in college, with some experience in the outfield. What did we do? We made him a second baseman, which almost certainly stunted his development. Then, when that failed, we tried to make him a centerfielder, even though he really didn’t have the range or ability to cover that much ground (especially in Safeco Field at the time). And yet, the bat never showed up in Seattle, so that’s ultimately why he’s such a disappointment.

#6 – Chone Figgins (Mariners)

You really, REALLY hate to see it! This was the first big free agent bust of the Jack Zduriencik Era: four years, $36 million in December of 2009. I can’t even begin to tell you how excited I was for this signing! By this point, we’d long realized that Safeco Field – with its configuration, and with our Marine Layer in Seattle – would be death to home run hitters. Guys like Adrian Beltre, Richie Sexson, among others, tried and ultimately failed to replicate their prior glories in Seattle. But, Figgins was the opposite of that! He was an undersized Jack-Of-All-Trades type of Swiss Army Knife you could plug in at nearly EVERY position on the field, with zero power hype to speak of whatsoever! And, most importantly, he’d hit for the Angels in a big way (.291 average & .363 on-base percentage in Anaheim across 8 seasons before signing with the Mariners). Slot him in at third base (his preferred position) and at the top of your batting lineup, and watch him hit .300 and steal 40+ bases! He somehow reached that stolen base plateau in his first year here, but his average dropped about 40 points overnight. He couldn’t get along with the Mariners’ management (and, presumably, some of the players) and was deemed the very worst signing of Jack Zduriencik’s career. Smarter baseball people than myself probably saw all this coming, but I’ll admit it was a rude awakening for me.

#5 – Percy Harvin (Seahawks)

If this were a list of my own personal Most Loathed Seattle Sports Athletes, Harvin would probably rank higher. I have no problem invoking his name among the greatest all-time Seahawks blunders because he is SO unlikable (the peak being him punching out Golden Tate before our Super Bowl victory in the 2013 season). Why he doesn’t rank higher here is the fact that we DID win that Super Bowl (mostly in spite of him), on top of the fact that I think most of us realized – when the deal was made – that it was too high a price to pay for ANYONE, even with his ability (at the time). Still, he had proven in his career with the Vikings to be a lethal gadget player on offense, and one of the best return men in the Special Teams department. While we could see the cost in draft picks and contract compensation was stratospheric, it was hard not to dream big about what this offense could be with Harvin in the fold. Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch, Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, AND Percy Harvin?! Come on! And, then he immediately got injured upon arrival, and didn’t really end up making any impact whatsoever until we reached the Super Bowl. The highlight of his Seahawks career was the kickoff return for a touchdown against the Broncos. Some thought he deserved consideration for the Super Bowl MVP, but we were already up 22-0 at the time, so I mean. The bottom line is, Harvin dogged it in 2014 – taking himself out of games, refusing to play through anything more than a hangnail – and was traded in the middle of the season for whatever we could get. So much wasted money and potential.

#4 – Erik Bedard (Mariners)

Everyone points to the lopsided deal – that sent the Orioles a ton of quality baseball players – but the true crime is just how bad Bedard became as soon as he got here! He was a bona fide Ace-type pitcher for Baltimore – so much so that he was deemed to be the #1 over Felix Hernandez in his first year here – and the expectation was that our rotation would lead us back to the playoffs with Bedard in the fold. Instead, he was a consummate Five-And-Dive artist who both stunk AND couldn’t stay healthy. Why he’s not higher on this list is because all of those Mariners teams were VERY terrible and would have been regardless, with our without Bedard. Still a bitter pill to swallow.

#3 – Rick Mirer (Seahawks)

The bigger disappointment here is the fact that the Seahawks had the #2 pick at all, and not the #1 (which would’ve guaranteed us Drew Bledsoe). In that Dustin Ackley piece, I had Dan McGwire among the biggest draft pick disappointments in Seattle sports history, but that largely hinged on who we DIDN’T get in that draft – namely: Brett Favre – but I don’t think anyone REALLY expected greatness out of McGwire (except for the inept Seahawks ownership group at the time). Rick Mirer, on the other hand, was very highly regarded. Even if he wasn’t the ideal QB of that draft, he wasn’t supposed to be a bad fall-back option. But, he was worse than anyone could’ve possibly imagined. He nearly destroyed my standing as a Seahawks fan for the rest of the 1990’s! The saving grace for Mirer is the fact that we were able to flip him for a first round draft pick in 1997.

#2 – Jeff Cirillo (Mariners)

I just remember LOVING this deal so much! In December of 2001 – coming off of the Mariners’ 116-win campaign – we were looking at one of the most complete teams in the Major Leagues. One of our main weak spots was third base, where we employed the pedestrian David Bell. Cirillo, on the other hand, had a remarkable 10-year career to that point with the Milwaukee Brewers and Colorado Rockies, where he hit over .300, had an on-base percentage over .450, hardly ever struck out, and played a quality third base! I mean, on a team with Ichiro, Boone, Olerud, Edgar, Cameron, Wilson, Guillen, McLemore, and the rest, Cirillo was only going to put us MORE over the top! That’s when we got our first big taste of what happens when guys come over from Colorado: the thin air they play in made hitting at home a breeze. Meanwhile, in Seattle, even for someone like Cirillo – who wasn’t a natural power hitter by any means – it seems like Safeco just got in everyone’s heads if nothing else. He hit for a miserable .234 across two partial seasons, and his on-base percentage plummeted to a ridiculous .295! To add insult to injury, those two seasons coincided with two of the most frustrating years to be a Mariners fan, where both teams won 93 games, yet failed to make the playoffs because baseball is dumb and only had one Wild Card team at the time. To add even more insult to even more injury, we traded him away in early 2004 and got essentially nothing back in return.

#1 – Vin Baker (Supersonics)

You don’t see a lot of Sonics on this list, because for the most part – until the bitter end – we were a pretty well-run organization. Sure, you can point to the litany of failed centers we drafted in the 2000’s, but I would argue most fans saw through those duds the minute their names were called. Similarly, everyone wondered why someone like Jim McIlvaine was given such a high-money contract, so to be “disappointed” would mean you’d have to have high expectations for someone who had hardly done anything in his career to that point! Vin Baker, on the other hand, was a multi-year All Star in the NBA for the Milwaukee Bucks. I almost didn’t want to include Baker on this list, because for some reason I have memories of more good times than actually existed. The truth of the matter is – upon trading for him when Shawn Kemp forced his way out in a 3-team deal, justifiably, because McIlvaine – the Sonics only enjoyed ONE quality year out of Baker. The first year here, the 1997/1998 season, when he maintained his All Star streak and led the Sonics to a semifinals appearance in George Karl’s last go-around in Seattle.

He then immediately fell off the cliff. The strike-shortened season saw Baker’s alcoholism creep in, resulting in a ballooning of his weight that drastically reduced his effectiveness on the court. For some reason, in spite of his fall-off, the Sonics rewarded him with a 7-year, $86 million deal. Yet, he was never the same, with three increasingly-mediocre seasons to follow before we were able to trade him to the Celtics for a bunch of role players. There’s a lot of unfair resentment towards Baker for tanking his career the way he did, but I think mostly people just feel sorry for him. No one in Seattle wanted to see Shawn Kemp leave; indeed Wally Walker & Co. did a remarkable job of destroying a championship-calibre squad. But, I can’t tell you how happy I was that we were able to get Baker here initially! His game – if maybe not his personality – fit this team PERFECTLY! He had a better post-up game than Kemp, could shoot from long range better than Kemp, and overall you didn’t have to worry about the ups & downs. Baker was a steady 20/10 type of guy when he got here, night-in and night-out. Which makes his post-1998 years SO disappointing! His wasn’t the type of game that should’ve deteriorated so quickly. Kemp’s game was more raw athleticism; Baker’s game was fundamental basketball prowess. Yet, when it’s all said and done, two of the great basketball tragedies to come out of that lockout season were Baker and Kemp, both succumbing to being out of shape and never ultimately recovering.

The Seahawks Signed Carlos Hyde Instead

I wrote about not wanting the Seahawks to sign Devonta Freeman last week, so you could say this one-year deal for Carlos Hyde is a good thing. Forgetting money for a moment, practically speaking, signing Freeman probably would’ve been a disaster. After two very productive seasons in 2015 and 2016, it looks pretty clearly like Freeman is breaking down. He hasn’t been able to play in more than 14 games in any single season since then (with a 2-game campaign in 2018 really crushing his value), and last year he averaged a career-worst 3.6 yards per carry. It’s hard not to like his dual-threat capabilites as a pass-catcher out of the backfield – when he’s healthy – but once you start seeing this type of slide in a running back’s career, it’s pretty rare that they ever turn it around in any sort of significant way.

When you’re looking at the Seahawks, they have certain needs at the running back position that Freeman just doesn’t fit in his current condition. Chris Carson – as I’ve mentioned repeatedly – is our #1 running back. He’s set to earn the lion’s share of carries as an elite-level back in the league. But, he and our previous #2 – Rashaad Penny – are both injury-prone. The man we brought in to fill out the running back room needs to NOT be injury-prone; that, quite frankly, rules out Freeman.

Now, obviously, Carlos Hyde isn’t ideal here either. He’s missed some games. He’s also a lower-ceiling guy compared to Freeman. In a vacuum, when both players are in peak physical condition, Freeman is the better back. But, I see Hyde as the more-reliable, more-durable player. Hyde can play through injury and be more productive doing so. It’s a long season, guys get banged up and have to withstand nagging bruises and strains and whatnot. Hyde seems like a guy who will still give you everything he’s got; Freeman seems like more of a diva who’s more likely to sit out or otherwise dog it on the field if the conditions aren’t perfect.

Hyde also, not for nothing, has a similar hard-nosed running style to Carson, so if our starter goes down, I don’t expect we’ll miss a beat at all.

I’ve always really liked Hyde. I don’t think he’s gotten a fair shake in this league. The 49ers, for some reason, never seemed to want to commit to him, opting to bring in a bevy of mediocre running backs. They often tried to feature those mediocre guys when Hyde was clearly out-playing them, which made no sense to me! It’s even more mind-boggling to me that he’s bounced around so much; the Seahawks will be his fourth team in three seasons. He’s such a Seahawky-type of guy it’s unbelievable we didn’t bring him in sooner!

I don’t know all the contract details, but it sounds like a 1-year contract that will be worth UP TO $4 million. Which means, there’s likely a base deal between $2-3 million, with incentives that would elevate it based on playing time and production. That’s probably a fair deal for a guy like Hyde. You don’t necessarily WANT him to see all of those incentives reached – because that probably means Carson will have gotten hurt again – but it’s comforting to know he’s here just in case.

In an ideal world, of course, Hyde wouldn’t be here at all. You’d roll with Carson, Homer, and Dallas and utilize those salary cap savings elsewhere. For as much as the Seahawks love to get young players involved early, they seem to be hyper-cautious about trusting young running backs. I thought Homer looked pretty good in limited playing time last year as a rookie. From what it sounds like, Dallas is supposedly the best blocking running back in this year’s draft. Rashaad Penny is SUPPOSED to return from injury at some point during the regular season, so there’s another set of fresh legs to help us in the stretch run!

But, that’s a lot of if’s. At this point, no one should count on Carson playing in every single game. Homer probably tops out as a backup running back in any prospect projection. And, Dallas is a rookie; unless he’s taken in the top 15, I don’t know if I’d EVER trust a rookie completely. Plus, Penny’s injury is very serious, and a lot of times guys returning from ACL tears don’t look the same the next season (it often takes two years to return to normal again), with a high rate of re-injury to that or another body part in their rush to return to game action.

So, figure Hyde is a $4 million insurance policy. With the added bonus of being someone who can step onto the field at any point this season and help this offense move the ball. He’s a veteran who will be another positive leader for the younger guys to emulate, but he’s not so old that it feels like a novelty (which, let’s face it, is what Marshawn Lynch would be at this point).

Plus, I mean, it’s not like Lynch is going anywhere. If he continues to stay in shape, there’s nothing stopping us – at any point during the regular season – from re-signing him and throwing him back into the fire like we did in 2019.

Seahawks, Please DO NOT Sign Devonta Freeman

I’ll say it: at ANY price!

Look, I get it (I guess). Rashaad Penny is injured and likely to start the season on the PUP list. Our current running back room looks like: Chris Carson, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and the rest. Carson, obviously, has never met a football season that didn’t kick him in the testicles with some injury or another. Homer is heading into his second season and in a brief tryout late in 2019 as the starter, didn’t appear to be anything special. Dallas is obviously an incoming rookie without the aid of a Training Camp to get any sort of look at him within the confines of our offensive scheme. We (sort of) need a veteran backup to plug in there, just in case Carson goes down.

Marshawn Lynch’s name was bandied about recently (which is always fun, because Beastmode rules), and he would certainly fit what we (the fans) are looking for: cool dude, inexpensive, great in goalline situations, good teammate, and willing to play backup to someone like Carson who – at this point in their respective careers – is clearly the better of the two. I don’t see ONE good reason not to go with Lynch and call it a day.

But, this is the Seahawks we’re talking about. They’re incapable of not turning over every single stone in hopes of trying to find the perfect fit.

I’ll be the first to admit I don’t know the names of all the free agent running backs out there, but I’m assuming there are a lot of them. Carlos Hyde was another name referenced yesterday, and again, GREAT! He was a 1,000-yard rusher last year, averaged 4.4 yards per attempt with the Texans, will be heading into his age-30 season, and most importantly doesn’t figure to cost a FUCKING arm and a leg!

To be fair, I could be wrong on that score. Maybe he is looking for upwards of $4-5 million like Devonta Freeman. If so, I’m sorry, but no.

Freeman – of the titular Devonta Freeman from this blog post – is even younger than Hyde. He’s also been significantly worse than Hyde the last three years; he hasn’t had a 1,000-yard season since 2016! Injuries have decimated his value, so the fact that he’s looking for a $5 million deal is hilarious to me. NO! Do NOT do this!

Let me just say this for the record: none of the free agent running backs on the market at the time of this writing are worth ANYTHING over $2 million dollars. You want to know the bar? Chris Carson is set to earn $2.133 million in the final year of his deal this season. He deserves to be the highest-paid running back on this team, because he’ll be the starter heading in and is – when healthy – one of the most talented running backs in football. Veteran or not, none of these other guys deserve to earn one cent more than Carson, period.

There’s clearly a reason why these guys are still available. No one else wants them! So, why would you negotiate against yourselves? It’s a complete waste of money, when – AGAIN – we still need to fill out our roster along the defensive line! HELLO?!?! Is ANYBODY listening?!

I’m gonna go ahead and post this now, before I’m disappointed later to discover that Freeman is the newest member of the Seahawks and I have to start talking myself into why this is a good idea. God help us all.

Making Heads Or Tails Of The Latest Seahawks Media Blitz

General Manager John Schneider has been in the news a lot lately, doing interviews and whatnot. Over the years, it’s hard not to have your ears perk up whenever this happens. It’s obviously not a super-busy time in the football year; once the hullabaloo around the draft is over, things are pretty dead until ramping back up again in August. So, what’s with all the chatter?

The sports media landscape is a lot different nowadays. Players and teams are much more savvy with what they let get out into the world (for the most part). If there’s a news item about a player, it’s generally some bit of information that’s been leaked to a trusted reporter – who is always loathe to reveal his “sources” because he wants to maintain that connect for future stories – for a very specific reason. Depending on the tenor of the story, you can tell if it was the player’s camp or a team camp that leaked it. This is usually done in conjunction with negotiations – the team doesn’t want to pay as much, the player wants to squeeze every last dollar out of his value – so little items are thrown out into the world. It’s the cosmic ballet that is professional sports and … it’s really just a distraction, but ultimately not very important.

It’s all about image. No one wants to be the bad guy in this song and dance. It’s all just business; nothing personal!

You can’t help but start to take notice, though, when instead of leaking messages as an anonymous source, the team sends a prominent representative out into the world to show their hand. Teams don’t have to do any more media appearances than is otherwise necessary to drum up interest in fans and sell season tickets. So, that’s why you tend to see the coach and/or GM in the good times: during/immediately after the draft, and upon signing a quality free agent. These are advertisements – infomercials, if you will – for the Seattle Seahawks Football Club: Catch The Excitement! As draft hysteria has drifted back out to sea, however, we’re still seeing John Schneider pop up to talk about the Seahawks’ offseason plan. With good reason, of course.

There are two universal truths we’ve been harping on since the 2019 season ended: the Seahawks’ pass rush stinks, and Jadeveon Clowney is a free agent. After making a number of moves – signing Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa, re-signing Jarran Reed, drafting Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson – the consensus is: the Seahawks’ pass rush still stinks. Again, I can’t stress this enough: it stunk as bad as could possibly be in 2019 and that was WITH Clowney, one of the most effective defensive linemen in the league (when healthy). As it turns out, that health factor is a lot bigger than we anticipated, as Clowney remains unsigned well into the month of May, with no end in sight.

What has caught a lot of eyes is the fact that the Seahawks – according to Over The Cap – have a little over $16 million in salary cap space at the moment. Of course, it should be noted that this figure doesn’t factor in the rookie salaries we’ll have to pay for our draft picks. Then, you have to set aside some money for minimum-salary guys the team brings in when our regulars get hurt and have to go on Injured Reserve. Also, the Seahawks put a lot of incentives into their deals with players that don’t necessarily show up in cap totals until those players hit those incentives. All these hidden figures ultimately detract from that $16 million. Smart fans know this, but most fans aren’t as into the weeds on these things; so they see a player like Clowney – easily the best-available free agent still on the market – and they see their Seahawks with a need at the very position he fills, and they’re wondering, “What gives?”

I mean, if nothing else, you have to figure that’s what Clowney’s agent is saying in negotiations with the Seahawks!

Beat writers and bloggers can bring up these hidden salary cap expenses until they’re blue in the face, but most fans are only going to sit up and take notice when the team tells them something directly. Enter: John Schneider.

There’s been a definite theme in his recent interviews that Schneider has been trying to get across: the importance of in-season moves.

The Seahawks are no stranger to making roster moves all throughout the year. Why, in 2019 alone, we made a deal for Quandre Diggs in the middle of the season that vastly improved our secondary; on top of taking a flier on Josh Gordon, who had at least one big catch in every game he appeared in. Then, with our rash of running back injuries late in the year, we famously brought back Marshawn Lynch to score us a few TDs in December and January! If I wanted to put in the work, I’m sure I could go back and list a bunch of other in-season moves the Seahawks have made through the years, but just trust me when I tell you that this isn’t a new concept for this organization.

And yet, this is the first time I ever remember the team harping on this fact in interviews. It’s obviously for a reason!

The way I see it, this has everything to do with Clowney, and it can be only one of two things. Either the team truly has moved on from Clowney, and the Seahawks are trying to get fans on board with this decision; or the team actually IS willing to bring Clowney back, but they’re going to remain firm in their lowball offer to him, and he either needs to get on board with it or find employment elsewhere.

This has to be hard for fans AND Clowney to reconcile, because as has been noted repeatedly, the Seahawks have a number of moves they can make to free up some extra money. They can cut certain veterans to free up salary cap space; but, this weakens our depth and probably robs Peter to pay Paul. Sure, our defensive line will be stronger with Clowney, but if that means cutting Bradley McDougald, that likely weakens our secondary and could be a wash in the grand scheme of 2020 things. They can also convert base salaries for guys like Russell Wilson or Bobby Wagner – guys you know aren’t going anywhere – into signing bonuses, to further spread out those figures across the remaining lives of their respective contracts; but, that kicks the can down the road and puts your team’s financial flexibility in jeopardy in a few years. Under normal circumstances, you could argue that’s a no-brainer – especially with Russell Wilson, who isn’t going ANYWHERE, hopefully ever – but with this whole COVID-19 pandemic (and the likelihood of games being played without money from ticket sales/concessions coming in for part or all of 2020), the effects on future salary caps could be dire. The NFL salary cap has gone up by around 10% or so every season since the last CBA went into effect in 2010, but there’s a very legitimate chance that it stays flat or even goes DOWN in the next year or two. Considering Wilson – as is – takes up a considerable percentage of the team’s cap number, boosting that by converting his base into bonus just seems like flirting with disaster.

The thing is, I do believe the Seahawks are being truthful when they talk about the importance of in-season moves. There are always guys being waived, or otherwise floated in trade offers, and it’s nice to have that flexibility to bring on talented players (or at least prevent those talented players from going to your playoff rivals). I also believe that the Seahawks can’t put all their eggs in the Clowney basket. However small it may feel, there’s a non-zero chance that the Seahawks’ pass rush actually manages to IMPROVE (somehow) without him here. It’s going to take a big leap of faith; guys who have never performed at this level are going to have to step up and take some of the load off of mediocre-looking veterans. It’s not IMPOSSIBLE … but, you know, I’ll believe it when I see it, I guess.

The bottom line is: probably don’t count on Clowney being back. Nevertheless, I’d love to see the Seahawks bring SOMEONE in, that’s an actual name who we can count on to give this pass rush a little more zazz.

Seahawks Death Week: We’ve Got Holes To Fill On Offense

Yesterday, we got into it with what the Seahawks should do on defense. In case you couldn’t tell, these last two posts were supposed to be one, but as usual I got a little wordy, so here we are. Maybe someday I’ll do a Kill Bill-style re-imagining and smash these two posts into one big one. Probably not, but you never know.

Here are the offensive free agents-to-be, in some particular order:

Offense

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Joey Hunt (C)
  • Mike Iupati (G)
  • George Fant (T/TE)
  • Jacob Hollister (TE)
  • Luke Willson (TE)
  • David Moore (WR)
  • Jaron Brown (WR)
  • Geno Smith (QB)
  • C.J. Prosise (RB)

That’s a lotta O-Line. Today’s edition is going to be a little different than yesterday’s, as I’m gonna talk about one of our potential cuts right at the top.

The Seahawks have a HUGE decision to make at the center spot. Not a lot of people are talking about it right now, but soon it’s going to be everywhere. Justin Britt – who has been a reliable starter for the last few years – will be heading into the final year of his deal. He’s set to count approximately $11.4 million against the salary cap. He’s also coming off of an ACL injury that ended his season and required surgery.

Joey Hunt – a 6th rounder from 2016 – filled in and did pretty well. He’s obviously undersized, and usually once a game he’d get knocked back on his ass in embarrassing fashion, but other than that I thought he was fine. Also, given his own salary, there was great value there, as I don’t feel like we dropped off much at all compared to Britt. Obviously, starting so many games this season, Hunt is set for a raise, but I have to imagine it’s still less than what Britt is currently earning, meaning this is an opportunity for the team to save some money in the long term. If we cut Britt, he only counts about $2.9 million against the cap, which is about $8.5 million in savings for 2020.

I think the Seahawks should cut Britt, extend Hunt (maybe in the $4-5 million per year range), and draft another center to study under him. Now, Hunt is a restricted free agent, meaning we can slap a 1st round tender (a little over $4.5 million), a 2nd round tender (a little over $3 million), or an original round tender (a little over $2 million) to keep him for another season. That’s also an option. An original round tender seems like a waste, as I could easily see another team willing to sign him long term and give us a 6th rounder. Even a 2nd round tender feels like cheaping out; I’d look to slap a 1st round tender on him and play chicken with the rest of the league; I can’t imagine anyone giving up a 1st round pick for Hunt, and if so, then god bless ’em. And, who knows, if the guy we draft ends up being a stud, then maybe we let Hunt walk after 2020 and go with the draft pick going forward.

Either way, I’d like to have seen Justin Britt make his last start in a Seahawks uniform in 2019.

The next big decision revolves around Ifedi. We all know Ifedi. He’s a 4-year starter who was absolutely the whipping boy of an entire fanbase for his first two years in the league. He took a big step forward in 2018, and continued that work on into 2019. Now, of course, he’s not perfect. He gets penalized a lot, he gives up a good amount of pressure, but you can’t deny he’s made progress. Plus, he’s durable, and most importantly: the NFL simply has a shortage of reliable offensive linemen, so the demand for him on the open market is sure to be high. The Seahawks were already unwilling to give him a 5th-year option (which was a little over $10 million), so you can take that one of two ways: either they were taking a wait-and-see approach, or they just don’t think he’s worth that money on a short-term basis.

The Seahawks COULD use some of the savings by letting Britt go to extend Ifedi. Extending him another 4 years or so would allow the team to spread the signing bonus around, which would help us in the short term (likely resulting in a cap hit less than $10 million in the first year, allowing us to wait for the league-wide salary cap figures to continue to grow, as they have every year since the current CBA was put into place).

Or, the Seahawks could let Ifedi walk, but that comes with great risk, as I don’t believe they have his replacement on our roster just yet. Which brings us to George Fant. He obviously is looking to get a starting job somewhere, and I can’t imagine he’d be willing to stay here unless there are built-in assurances that he’s set to replace Duane Brown when he retires. But, that would still likely require a significant financial investment in a guy who figures to be a hot commodity around the league. Fant has lots of experience, including starting experience at the all-important left tackle position. The way around that quandry is to give Fant the right tackle job right away, then slide him over to the left side when Brown’s contract expires, and hopefully have developed the right tackle of the future in the interim.

The other option is to let Fant and Ifedi walk, and select a right tackle HIGH in this year’s draft. But, that comes with it pretty much the same thing we dealt with in Ifedi’s first two seasons here: lots and lots of growing pains.

If I had to make a decision now, I’d lean towards keeping one of either Ifedi or Fant. Preferably Fant – if the salaries are similar – but if he’s going to break the bank somewhere for a super high deal, then settle for Ifedi and try to develop your next left tackle of the future. I REALLY don’t want to lose them both, but I’d understand if the money is too prohibitive.

As for Iupati, I think we could retain him on the cheap if we needed to. That would allow us to continue bringing Jamarco Jones along slowly, and allowing him to be our backup guard on both sides of the center.

***

Let’s talk about tight ends and receivers now.

Will Dissly should be back for the start of 2020, but he’s pretty much all we got. I would LOVE for the Seahawks to extend Hollister, though he’s a restricted free agent, so I think we could get away with a 2nd round tender on him (it would be pointless to put an original round tender on him, as he went undrafted, and I feel like he’s built up enough value in his time here to be worth more than nothing). If someone signs Hollister and is willing to give us a 2nd round pick, then GREAT! More ammo for the upcoming draft.

As for Luke Willson, I think it’s worth it to bring him back on a minimum deal. I also think the team should invest in another blocking tight end in the mid-to-late rounds of the draft, as we obviously need the depth with Dissly’s injury issues.

I think we should let Jaron Brown walk. He was an okay veteran, but he’s not worth the money. I could see us slapping an original round tender on David Moore, as a little over $2 million isn’t going to break the bank, and quite frankly I’d welcome the 7th rounder if another team signed him.

With Lockett and Metcalf, our top two receiver spots are locked up. The Seahawks obviously kept John Ursua on the roster all year (and traded back into the seventh round of the 2019 draft) for a reason. He was a healthy scratch for all but a small handful of games, but this team sees potential in him as a #3 receiver. I think that starts to take hold in 2020. If he puts in the work this offseason, I could see him making a huge impact in training camp and pre-season, and then sliding right into a regular role on this team.

If David Moore comes back, that’s your top 4 receiver spots right there, leaving us maybe one more for a veteran-minimum guy, or another young gun out on the scrap heap. The Seahawks are fine at receiver; I don’t see a huge need to spend a lot of money here.

***

As for the rest, it’s time to let C.J. Prosise go away and spread his wings. He’s officially spent significant time every season of his NFL career injured. With Carson, Penny, and Homer all returning, there’s no point in bringing Prosise back. Draft another running back if you have to. Or, hell, bring back Turbin or Lynch! Just not Prosise; I can’t take it anymore.

And, yeah, if you want, bring Geno Smith back. I have no problem with that. He should be cheap and hopefully never play, so it’s no skin off my nose. Or, draft a quarterback in the later rounds; who cares?

***

Other than Britt, the only possible cut I see on the offense is Ed Dickson, which should go without saying. He’s played in 10 games (including playoffs) in his two full years here in Seattle. He’s set to count nearly $4 million against the cap; we’d save approximately $3 million by cutting him. It’s a no-brainer.

As for possible early extensions, the only real candidate is Chris Carson, but I would caution strongly against it. 2020 is the final year of his deal and he’s earning less than $1 million. He’s also proven to be injury prone, as well as fumble prone, so I would not pour a ton of money into him. If he’s looking for money in the $5-10 million range, let him seek it elsewhere. If he holds out of training camp and the pre-season in 2020, let him. DRAFT ANOTHER RUNNING BACK. A big one, in the Carson/Lynch mold. Don’t tie your future to Carson, it won’t end well!

***

All in all, I like what the Seahawks have going on offense. I don’t think they really need to shake it up all that much in the skill position area. Little tweaks here and there, plus some depth through the draft should be fine.

The Seahawks have around $68.5 million in cap space, minus around $10 million or so for incidentals (dead money, practice squad, draft picks, IR, incentives, etc.). I feel like most of that needs to go towards the defensive line, with a good chunk set aside for our offensive line (to either keep what we’ve got together, or find quality replacements in free agency). The worst thing we can do is put a bunch of money into bringing in new receivers and running backs; let Russell Wilson carry that burden. Worry more about the lines.

I know I can sound like I’m down on the Seahawks, but it’s not like we’re the Browns or Lions or Dolphins. We’re not a team in total peril. But, we still need to make a lot of moves and hit on those moves if we want to be a legitimate championship contender, and not a wild card team just happy to be playing on the road in the Divisional Round. The only thing more frustrating than that is being 8-8 every year, and quite frankly I don’t think we’re too far off from that either.

Wasting Russell Wilson’s prime should be a crime punishable by death. Let’s hope we get this thing figured out, because it’s not like the NFC West is getting any easier.