Are You Ready For Some XFL?!

When I first heard that the XFL was coming back (my fingers keep wanting to type XLF, which sounds like the 2020 reboot of ALF, starring his derelict, estranged son he didn’t know about until later in life), of course I immediately dismissed it. The XFL was dumb in 2001, and surely it would be dumb now!

Then, when I heard Seattle was getting one of the inaugural eight teams, I don’t know if there’s a word to describe my feelings, so I just came up with one: bewildertained. I’m bewildered that this is happening in the first place, but I’m thoroughly entertained that the Seattle Dragons are a thing, and that I get to write about them on a weekly basis for the next however many weeks!

The XFL figures to be the most bewildertaining thing in my life through the end of April!

I’m also loving the fact that the Dragons might be legitimately the worst team in the league (at least, in the eyes of Vegas, as we head into the start of the season on Saturday). Of course we finally get included in something everyone’s going to take seriously for a while, and OF COURSE we’re going to be the laughingstock of it all!

Here’s what I know about the Seattle Dragons:

  1. I know Jim Zorn is the head coach. He had a 12-20 record with the Redskins over two seasons. We never could be sure if that’s because he’s bad at coaching, or if that team is bad at everything, but why can’t it be both?
  2. I know that Mike Riley is the offensive coordinator, and that every time he’s left Oregon State, he’s fallen on his ass, so that doesn’t inspire a ton of confidence.
  3. I know someone named Brandon Silvers is the quarterback. He was at Troy in college, then played one season in the Alliance of American Football. He played some, but ultimately never distinguished himself against the likes of Johnny Manziel, Christian Hackenberg, and Zach Mettenberger.
  4. I know that B.J. Daniels is the backup quarterback, he’s only 30 years old, and will almost certainly be starting for this team by week 3.
  5. I know that Kasen Williams is the big draw, and that there’s a non-zero number of Seahawks fans who wish he was still with the team.
  6. I know other ex-Seahawks are also on the team, like Keenan Reynolds, Isaiah Battle, and Mohammed Seisay (among others, probably). Don’t remember those guys? I DON’T BLAME YOU!

That’s about all of the Seattle Dragons Wikipedia page I care to go through.

I don’t totally understand why Seattle has a team, other than to pad out the western half of the United States. Granted, Seahawks fans are pretty fervent, and Sounders fans are maniacal about their team, but the Seahawks are 40+ years old, and there was already a solid base of soccer fans in the area when the MLS came to town. I feel like, while Seattle certainly has an influx of young, intelligent professionals (exactly the type of people you want to cater to if you’re a new business), if the product is terrible and/or boring, I could easily see this market fizzle out in a hurry.

You can certainly be bad and entertaining, and that’s obviously what the XFL is doing with all their rule changes (quicker pace, shorter play clock, encouraging kickoff/punt returns as well as going for it on 4th downs), but other than having the stadium in place, Seattle seems like a terrible spot for this. Why wouldn’t you go after smaller markets with the potential for a stronger attachment? Seattle has sports up the wazoo. Los Angeles has even more. If I were running the XFL, I would’ve planted the bulk of the league east of the Mississippi, and probably wouldn’t have ventured any further west than Texas.

I think they got it right with the two teams in Texas, as well as St. Louis, D.C., and Tampa. I think you have to have one in Atlanta or New Orleans, one in Pittsburgh, and shit man, why not Green Bay? Or Milwaukee or something. Hit the old-school football towns. Even if you go with Chicago, you’re going to get devoted Chicagoans to buy in early and often!

I think most football fans will avoid it altogether. Bigger football fans will tune in the first week or two, but I fully expect the ratings to fall off in a big way by week 3, regardless of how good or bad the product is. I just don’t think there’s a market for second-rate football in the springtime. We have 32 NFL teams, each with 53-man rosters and 10-man practice squads. That’s over 2,000 players, not counting guys on IR and the proverbial Ghost Rosters out there, who aren’t signed, stay in shape, and join up with a team in need as injuries mount. The XFL is essentially made up of those Ghost Rosters. In other words: the football players not good enough to crack the Top 2,000 in America.

We’re probably heading in the right direction, but I think at some point the NFL has to relax its standards on having players stay in college for two years and allow high school players go directly to the pros. I also think that instead of an XFL, the NFL should just set up a minor league system a la baseball, and not allow any of those high school players into the NFL proper until they’ve played 2 years in the minor league system they’ve set up (or college, if that’s their choice). This way, the players who want to get paid CAN get paid, and the players who want to go to college can do that instead.

Why is this so difficult?

Anyway, I’m ready for the Seattle Dragons to STINK, and I’m ready to watch them stink every single week. I’ll be watching, if for nothing else, than to bone up on who to bet AGAINST when I go to Reno in mid-March. Here’s a hint: their team colors are navy, green, and orange, and they’re THE FUCKING DRAGONS!

What is this, the football league from Any Given Sunday?

Looking Forward To A Robust Seahawks Secondary

Dare I say, after a year wandering in the wilderness of mediocrity, the Legion of Boom will be back with a vengeance in 2016?

Look, nothing is ever going to compare to that 2013 defense.  From top to bottom, it’s a Once In A Generation feat of youth, talent, depth, and achievement.  You can have all the youth, talent, and depth that you want, but if they don’t go out there and produce, then you’ve just got a lot of potential that failed to make good.  That 2013 defense MADE good, and then some.

If we just focus on the secondary of that team, a lot of the usual suspects show up:  Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman.  We had Brandon Browner still in his prime, before the emergence of Byron Maxwell at season’s end.  We had Walter Thurmond as our primary nickel corner, with Jeremy Lane so far down the depth chart you could barely see him outside of special teams.  Chris Maragos was a backup safety and special teams standout.  Jeron Johnson also filled out our depth, with DeShawn Shead but a lowly rookie.  When you talk about murderer’s rows, the 2013 version of the L.O.B. is the epitome.  It’s never been as good, and might not ever be again.

Losing Thurmond, Browner, and Maragos deprived us of that good, good depth in 2014, but with Maxwell as a full time starter, the talent was still there, and there really wasn’t much of a dropoff at all in achievement.  The 2014 defense still led this team to the Super Bowl, and still led the league in most important categories.

In 2015, there was a significant set-back in achievement, as Maxwell got a max deal with the Eagles, Jeron Johnson found a home in Washington D.C., and the likes of Cary Williams came in to start opposite Richard Sherman (with the likes of Dion Bailey, Steven Terrell, and Kelcie McCray trying to hold the fort).  Ultimately, Williams was replaced by Shead, and then Lane upon his return from significant injury, and the defense somewhat stabilized for the stretch run.  It ultimately wasn’t enough to get us back to a third straight Super Bowl, but one could argue the team was sufficiently set back at the start of the season, when Lane was out, Williams was a big part of the plan, and Kam’s holdout cost us at least one if not two games in the first two weeks of the regular season.  Win those games, and a couple others along the way (where secondary breakdowns led to comeback victories for Seahawks opponents), and maybe the Seahawks play host in those NFC playoff games instead of road warriors who would be cut down by the eventual NFC champs.

I don’t remember what I deemed to be the primary reason for this team’s shortcomings in 2015, but the more I think about it, the more I think that this team is nothing without its dominant secondary.  And, the more I look at this roster as it’s currently constructed, the more I like what we have on paper going into 2016.

Again, we have the usual suspects:  Earl, Kam, Sherm.  Presumably, the Seahawks will figure out a way to keep Kam happy and motivated, so until I hear otherwise, let’s just accept that as a given.  The re-signing of Jeremy Lane solidifies what was a significant weakness for this team last year.  Paired with him, we have the return of Shead, both of whom are interchangeable in that they can play outside or inside.  And, back from injury, and in a contract year, we have Tharold Simon.  I know what you’re saying, how can we count on the guy?  He’s been injured every year of his professional career!  Granted, but the kid still has talent.  And, more importantly, we’re not counting on him to be a starter.  If he comes in and wows us in the pre-season, then great!  I’m sure that will translate into getting him some more playing time, allowing us to push Lane into the nickel corner spot when the opposing offense dictates.  A healthy Simon makes this secondary quite formidable; but even without him, it’s still really good.

More importantly, the depth we’ve been missing since 2013 has returned!  Those three I mentioned – Lane, Simon, and Shead – could all be starters for a bunch of teams in the league, at least as far as talent is concerned.  For the Seahawks, one will be a starter and the other two will be regular contributors.  Beyond THAT, we’re looking at the return of Marcus Burley, who’s a solid nickel corner.  We’ve also got some holdovers like Stanley Jean-Baptiste, Mohammed Seisay, George Farmer, and Douglas McNeil who all provide the prototypical size you look for in a cornerback in a Pete Carroll defense (each of them range from 6’1 to 6’3).  And, that’s not even factoring in Tye Smith, a rookie from last year who was kept on the 53-man roster all along, for fear of someone snatching him from our practice squad.  Obviously, if the team was willing to keep him on the 53-man, he must have the type of skills to make a huge impact for this team going forward.  He looks like a prototypical nickel corner, but if you recall, he played a lot on the outside in the pre-season last year.  He could be someone special, if given the chance.

And all of those guys are just corners!  Don’t forget the safety position, where we have two of the best in Earl and Kam as our starters.  Behind them, Kelcie McCray looked a lot better as the season went on and he got more comfortable in our scheme.  Remember, we traded for him near the end of the pre-season, so now he will have had a full year and a full offseason to get acclimated to what we’re doing.  Match him up with Steven Terrell – who now has two full years in our system backing up Earl – and there’s a lot to like about what we’ve got heading into this season.

A lot of these guys will be special teamers, some of these guys won’t even make the roster, but I’m pretty secure in my opinion that this will be the best secondary as a unit we will have had since the 2013 season.  If we can manage to get the pass rush up to snuff, to help these guys out a little more, we could be looking at a year of huge turnover numbers out of these guys.  And, let us not forget, we’ve still got the NFL draft coming up at the end of April.  Who knows if some stud will fall to us, or if we pluck another diamond from the later rounds?  I could be writing an even more glowing post about the secondary the closer we get to the regular season!

Seahawks Death Week: A Wishlist For 2016

OK, so I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy over here, so a lot of this stuff is going to be pretty general, based off of numbers I’m pulling from Over The Cap.  Anecdotally, the 2016 salary cap figures to be closer to $154 million, so that’s the number I’m going to play with when discussing the Seahawks.

Per Over The Cap, including all Dead Money, the Seahawks have $123 million already on the books for 2016, leaving around $31 million to play with.  This is a pretty decent amount of money, but as we looked into yesterday, there are a lot of contracts coming off the books, and a lot of decisions to make regarding our own free agents.  If we just take, for example, a few core starters who are free agents:  Okung, Sweezy, Kearse, Mebane, Irvin, Rubin, and Lane, you could see that $31 million disappear pretty damn quick.

Okung was already a high salary guy to begin with, earning around $8 million a year; in spite of his injury concerns, he’s proven to be a pretty talented left tackle in a league DESPERATE for left tackles.  He’s also got a pretty good amount of leverage against the Seahawks because he’s easily the best offensive lineman on this roster, and with the Seahawks drafting in the mid-20s, it’s not likely there will be a left tackle in the draft who’s as capable, who would fall to them.  So, the Seahawks would either need to meet his demands, or probably risk losing him to another team.  Believe you me, there ARE teams out there who will drive up the bidding for a guy like Okung.  There are LOTS of teams in the NFL with offensive line issues, and a short supply of proven left tackles.  So, if you were thinking the Seahawks would force Okung into less money because of all his maladies, think again.

At this point, I’d let Okung walk, and I’ll tell you why.  I think Garry Gilliam is a more natural left tackle than he is a right tackle.  He may not be Walter Jones either, but at this point, with the way we run our offense, and ESPECIALLY with the way other teams try to defend Russell Wilson, I think our primary objective for 2016 needs to be boosting our talent level at the interior spots of the line.  Call it the Aaron Donald Conundrum.  When Russell Wilson struggles most is when he’s got interior linemen pushing the pocket straight back into him (or, of course, when guys just flat out run past Justin Britt without him even touching them).  I would MUCH rather have three beasts at the guard & center positions, while sacrificing a little bit at our tackle spots, than the other way around.  Why?  Because more and more, teams are looking to keep Wilson in the pocket.  So, their outside rushers aren’t doing much more than trying to contain Wilson and prevent him from spinning outside the pocket and making plays with his legs out in space.  If they’re going to just give us a pocket to play with, then why not take advantage of that by making damn sure our interior linemen don’t continually fuck it up by allowing pressure straight up the middle every God damn other play?!  He’s not Peyton Manning.  This isn’t the movie The Blind Side.  The left tackle is kind of overrated in this type of offense, with this type of mobile quarterback.  And, as we’ve talked about a lot these last couple months, as Wilson improves as a pocket passer, he’s going to be running less as a result.

So, my first wish:  let Okung walk, spend the money we’re saving on interior linemen.

Next on the list of core starting free agents:  J.R. Sweezy.  He’s a 4-year starter and has held up pretty well for the most part.  No injury concerns here.  He’s generally better than he gets credit for, but he’s also not without his faults.  He was a net asset for this team because he was a 7th round pick, so he was earning next to nothing.  Only in 2015 did he FINALLY get over the million dollar hump in salary, at $1.5 million, so obviously he’s due for a pretty significant raise (respective to what he’d been earning, of course).  Again, I’m not Joe Salary Cap Guy, so I don’t necessarily have a good idea of what a guy like him would be worth on the open market, and I’m really grasping at straws when I throw out numbers.  I’d say YES to bringing him back, with the caveat that it’s under a reasonable deal.  What’s reasonable?  Again, I have no idea.  $4-$5 million per year?  That feels right, but what do I know?  I’ll say this:  it would probably be foolish to blow up the entire offensive line; I don’t think you can find 4 other guys to come in here and dominate for you, without spending your entire cap space and/or trading away a bunch of draft picks.  For the right price, Sweezy is worth keeping around.  He knows the system, so if nothing else, he’d be an asset if the team moves on from Okung and moves Gilliam to the other side.

Second wish:  bring Sweezy back on a friendly deal.

Let’s stick with the O-Line theme, since it’s the biggest issue facing this team in 2016.  We need a new left guard, full stop.  Justin Britt isn’t the man for the job.  In an ideal world, the second coming of Steve Hutchinson will be out there as an unrestricted free agent for us to poach away from some unsuspecting team, but I don’t know who all the other free agents are.  Obviously, you like building through the draft, but that doesn’t happen until the last week of April, and probably all the good free agents will be gone by then.  Nevertheless, I’m prepared to spend whatever it takes:  $8 million per year or more, if there’s an absolute superstar out there, to really lock down this spot.

Third wish:  superstar free agent left guard.

Fourth wish:  failing that, draft a superstar-in-waiting with our first round draft pick.

At center, I’m content to go with Patrick Lewis for another year.  I can’t imagine his stock is all that high, and even so, he’s a restricted free agent, so odds are we’ll at least get him back on a 1-year deal.  As I mentioned in a prior post this week, let’s bring Lewis back, make him our starter from Day 1 (assuming, of course, that he comes into camp healthy and in shape), but at the same time, draft the center of the future in one of the first four rounds (I hear this is a great draft class for centers, so we could be in good shape waiting a few rounds if need be).

Fifth wish:  bring back Lewis on a 1-year deal, draft our center of the future & have him learn under Lewis.

At right tackle, if we’re moving Gilliam over to left, then I suppose I could be okay with moving Justin Britt back over to right, and having him compete with whoever.  Low-end draft pick, guys on the practice squad, whatever.  Again, I’m not too picky on who our tackles are, as long as we shore up the interior.

Sixth wish:  Britt or whoever at right tackle; no need to work too hard to replace this spot.

***

With the O-Line set, let’s look at the rest of the offense.  The biggest story, from a national perspective, is obviously:  will Marshawn Lynch be back?  I’m sure I’ll have more to say on this subject, as it’ll be a sad day when he’s finally out of here, but for now the question isn’t “will Marshawn Lynch be back”, but rather “WHEN will Marshawn Lynch be GONE?”

His release pushes $5 million into our Dead Money column, but as he was going to count $11.5 million against our cap, that’s a net savings of $6.5 million (if the Seahawks cut him after June 1st, which for the record, I doubt they’d do, we’d be able to spread that $5 million in dead money over the 2016 and 2017 seasons, meaning we’d have an extra $2.5 million – or $9 million total – to play around with for 2016 … something to keep in mind with him or any potential cuts).  Let’s just say, we decide to pay homage to all the great service he’s done for us while in a Seahawks uniform, and we cut him sooner rather than later, to give him the biggest opportunity to maximize his contract with another team; that still gives us the $6.5 million I mentioned, pushing our over all cap room up to around $37.5 million or so.  That’s not nothing.

While we’re talking about potential roster cuts, I’d just like to put my two cents in that I believe Lynch will be the only major casualty.  Of our big money contracts in 2016 (besides Lynch), we’re looking at Wilson, Sherm, Earl, Graham, Bennett, Avril, Wright, Kam, Bobby, and Doug.  In other words, our core guys.  If you really wanted to grasp at straws, you could look at Graham and Kam.  Graham is coming off of an injury, and poses no Dead Money issues if we let him go, so he’d save us a cool $9 million.  But, I just don’t see it.  We only had slightly more than half a season with him, he seemed to be getting more and more comfortable with the offense as the season progressed, and assuming he makes a full recovery, he’s still one of the best weapons we have and one of the top tight ends in the league.  The only way I see us dropping Graham is if there’s another free agent receiver out there we want to try to overpay for, but I kinda doubt that’s going to happen.

As for Kam, the only way I see us cutting him is if we don’t want to deal with the potential headache of him holding out again, and/or he demands too much money in re-working his deal.  For what it’s worth, I think the team will try to do a little something to juice his deal (maybe a million or two), but I could just as easily see the team dropping the hammer.  Letting Kam go would free up $4.1 million, which is nice, but if it were up to me, I’d rather have Bam Bam back and happy again.

So, getting back to Lynch, with him gone we’re looking at $37.5 million in free money, some of which would ideally go towards re-signing Sweezy and bringing in a stud free agent left guard (among many other moves).

That leaves us with Thomas Rawls and his penny contract starting for us at running back.  I wouldn’t mind the Seahawks using one of their later-round picks on a 3rd down, shifty scat-back in the Darren Sproles mold to pair with him.  As for our #2 running back, I think it’d be awfully cool to bring Christine Michael back and let him get those old Robert Turbin carries (or, shit, if Turbin’s a free agent, maybe we look into bringing him back on a low-end deal, although I think that’s highly unlikely).

Seventh wish:  cut Lynch (frowny face), make Rawls the starter, draft the next Sproles, re-sign Michael to be the #2.

At receiver, we’ve got Doug Baldwin going into the last year of his deal.  I would be SUPER stoked if the Seahawks took this opportunity to lock him up to a long-term deal.  His last deal was 3 years, $13 million, which I felt was great, but obviously he’s due a raise.  Co-leading the league in touchdown receptions will automatically raise your stock (weird!).  If I had to guess, I’d put him in the range of $6+ million per year, but under $8 million, or the Eric Decker range ($7.25 million per year).  MAYBE you talk Baldwin into a bit of a discount, as he’s still got a year left under his current deal (set to earn $4 million in base salary), but I’d venture a guess that he gets Decker money regardless.

Eighth wish:  extend Doug Baldwin for another 4-5 years.

Beyond that, we’re in good shape with cheap deals on Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, Kevin Smith, and Kasen Williams.  The only other decision is:  do we re-sign Jermaine Kearse?  Oddly enough, a good comp for him is that time we re-signed Doug Baldwin.  Would you pay 3 years, $13 million for more Kearse?  I think I would.

Ninth wish:  bring back Kearse on a smallish deal.

No need to do anything fancy with the tight ends.  Keep Graham, Willson, and whoever as our third guy.

***

Now, let’s look at the defense.  Recall, the major defensive free agents are Mebane, Rubin, Irvin, and Lane.  Mebane has made a healthy $4-$5.5 million per year over the last few years.  While his 2014 was cut short by injury, he played in every game in 2015, and showed no signs of slowing down (albeit to my semi-untrained eye).  He’s 31 years old, so odds are we’re not talking about a long term deal.  I’d be okay with something in the range of 2 years and $10 million, with maybe a $5 million base salary in 2016 and a $2 million signing bonus (something like that, where his cap hit reduces as we go forward, in hopes of keeping him until he decides to retire).  Rubin, meanwhile, is coming off of a year that saw him count less than $3 million against our cap, so he’ll be due a raise.  How big remains to be seen.  All the talk that I’ve heard is that we can’t afford to bring them both back, so if I can only have one, I choose Bane.

Tenth wish:  re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace Rubin with another cheap free agent, draft another run-stuffing defensive tackle in the early or middle rounds.

Next up is Bruce Irvin, and I honestly have no idea.  He accounted for a little over $9 million total over the four years of his contract as a first round draft pick in the new CBA era.  Given his production, he’s due a big, fat raise too.  I couldn’t even begin to tell you what a guy like him earns on the open market.  He’s not Von Miller (yet), so you’d be hard pressed to see him get top-of-the-line money.  Nevertheless, pass rusher is a premium position in this league, and he’s accounted for 22 sacks over 4 years.  But, he had 8 sacks in his rookie year, when he was exclusively a pass-rushing defensive end.  Obviously, his skill set limits him in run defense, which limits his overall value, but it’s only natural to look at those 8 sacks in somewhat limited duty as a rookie, and start to drool at the potential of him as an every-down pass rusher.  I’m generally in favor of keeping Irvin, as I’ve said repeatedly, I think his best days as a pass rusher are still in front of him, but I’m not in favor of keeping him at any price.  Not when we’re paying Bobby Wagner among the top middle linebackers in the game, while at the same time paying K.J. Wright a good chunk of change too (he’ll be accounting for over $6 million in cap space going forward for the next three seasons).

Eleventh wish:  re-sign Irvin, at a somewhat cost-effective price.  Otherwise, replace him with someone like Mike Morgan, or a draft pick.

Then, there’s Jeremy Lane.  So, let’s take this opportunity to talk about the secondary in general.  We’ve got most of it locked down in Sherm, Earl, and Kam.  Obviously, if the team parts with Kam (who didn’t do himself or the team any favors with his semi-down year in 2015; I can’t imagine his trade value has gone up all that much, if the team felt that to be an option), we need to replace him.  Is that Kelcie McCray?  Probably, but I’d also look to draft at that position just in case.  As for Lane, I think he’ll be looking for starter’s money.  And, to be quite honest, I think he’s earned it.  That injury in the Super Bowl was the flukiest thing I’ve ever heard of.  I mean, how do you do so much damage to so many body parts all on the same play?  The fact that he recovered, returned in 2015, and played as well as he did, shows that he’s capable and ready to be an everyday player.  Hopefully, what the Seahawks have figured out – in the wake of the Cary Williams debacle – is that we CAN’T just bring in any guy from the street and expect him to play like the Legion of Boom.  Speaking of the devil, Williams signed a 3-year, $18 million deal to come to Seattle, with $7 million guaranteed ($3.5 million as a signing bonus, $3.5 million in base salary in 2015).  Of our current dead money, he’s the primary reason for what we’re dealing with in 2016.  Would 3 years and $18 million be enough to retain Jeremy Lane?  Probably not.  But, he’s also not going to command 4 years and $56 million like what Richard Sherman got; he’s obviously somewhere in the middle.  What about 4 years and $30 million?  Is Jeremy Lane worth $7.5 million per year?

I’m KINDA leaning towards Yes on this one.  Let’s look at it this way:  we don’t want another Cary Williams situation, so pretty much eliminate any big name (or semi-big name) on the free agent market.  But, if Lane walks, we’re tangling with another pretty big hole in our secondary for the second straight year.  We can assume DeShawn Shead returns, and would be the likely starter opposite Sherman, but then you gotta take a look at who’s behind Shead.  Tharold Simon is an interesting name.  He’s going into the final season of his rookie deal.  Obviously, you like that, because you know he’s going to be super motivated.  But, he’s proven in his first three years in the league, that he absolutely cannot stay healthy, at all.  IDEALLY, if the team opts to let Lane walk, you’d start Shead, but then bump Shead inside to the slot receiver and have Simon play outside when we’re in our nickel defense.  In this world, you have to feel pretty confident in Simon’s ability – when healthy – to give us the type of production we’ve come to expect out of the Legion of Boom.

When you go from there to look at our backups, you’re talking about guys like Burley, Terrell, and Seisay, who are all restricted free agents, and who all will most likely be back (at least through training camp and the pre-season).  But, none of them are all that impressive, and none of them project to be starters.  Then, there’s our rookie from 2015, Tye Smith, who the Seahawks managed to stash on the 53-man roster for the full year (because we didn’t want to risk losing him by putting him on the practice squad), but who essentially red shirted as a professional.  So, obviously, the team likes him A LOT.  I mean, to not even put him on the IR feels like a pretty rare thing for a championship-calibre team like the Seahawks, with as many issues as we had with injuries this season (at times, just BARELY filling out our 46-man gameday roster with healthy guys).  Tye Smith figures to be a slot corner (with his size, at 6’0), but if he’s as talented as I think he MIGHT be, the sky could be the limit for him.  It’s still unrealistic to see him starting in Game 1 of the 2016 season.  But, if he pans out, that mitigates the damage of letting Jeremy Lane go.  It also helps us going forward, if we happen to lose Shead and/or Simon going into the 2017 season.

BUT, if the Seahawks can find it in their budget to re-sign Lane (even at the seemingly excessive deal of $30 million over 4 years), just imagine what that does for us, depth-wise.  We’d have the greatest collection of secondary depth since the 2013 season, for starters.  Sherm, Lane, and Shead are all starting-quality players.  Simon is too, when healthy, and if Tye pans out, you’re talking about five guys we can throw out there at any given point (giving us plenty of wiggle room for when Simon inevitably has to sit out).

So, I’m going to make my twelfth (!) wish:  re-sign Jeremy Lane for a deal that’s considerably more than Cary Williams’, but considerably less than what Byron Maxwell got from the fuckin’ Eagles.

The cool thing about this Seahawks team is that it feels more set than ever, so there’s no need to do a lot of crazy things in free agency or trades.  Our biggest need is offensive line, so a high-priced free agent at guard should be our top priority.  Beyond that, it’s a matter of paying our own guys who deserve to return (Lane, Mebane, Kearse, Sweezy, maybe Irvin), letting the guys go who probably don’t deserve huge salaries (Okung, Lynch, Rubin, maybe Irvin), and locking down Baldwin a year early to make him a Seahawk for life.  Again, to reiterate my wishlist:

  1. Let Okung go, move Gilliam to left tackle
  2. Bring back Sweezy
  3. Sign a stud free agent left guard
  4. Or, draft a stud left guard with the first round pick (or, shit, why not both?)
  5. Bring back Lewis, while also drafting a center of the future in the middle rounds
  6. Move Britt back to right tackle, make him compete with other cheap guys
  7. Cut Lynch, make Rawls the starter, bring back Michael for #2, draft a quick, pass-catching 3rd down back
  8. Extend Doug Baldwin on a 4-5 year deal
  9. Re-sign Kearse to a 3-year, $13 million deal
  10. Re-sign Mebane, let Rubin go, replace him with another cheap DT, draft a DT in the early-to-middle rounds
  11. Re-sign Irvin for a reasonable amount, or don’t and spread his savings elsewhere
  12. Re-sign Lane, 4 years, $30 million-ish range

I don’t know if all of this is possible, under salary cap structures in place, so feel free to pick it apart all you want.  While you’re at it, pick apart all my other hare-brained ideas, what do I care?

Seahawks Death Week: Looking At The Free Agents

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our restricted free agents include:

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

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

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

Seahawks Dominated Raiders In Final Pre-Season Game

Granted, it was essentially backups against backups, but our backups kicked the SHIT out of their backups!

But before we get to that, I have to say SOMETHING about the second play from scrimmage for the Seahawks’ offense.  Oh, you were worried about how the #1 offense had yet to score a touchdown?  How about the first pass of the game, 63 yards, from Wilson to Lockett in one of the prettier throws & catches you’re going to see.  Too bad it was wasted on a pre-season game, but I think we can all calm down a little bit about what we’ve witnessed the last four weeks.

Also, not for nothing, but the guys the Raiders had in uniform in this game were THE WORST.  So, you know, don’t get too cocky about all the ass-kicking our third stringers put on ’em.  I’m pretty sure I could’ve suited up and averaged 5.5 yards per carry on the ground.

So, with all of that mess out of the way, HOW ABOUT THAT FRANK CLARK???  He’s the fucking best.  That was a spectacle the likes of which I haven’t seen in quite some time.  On the edge, on the inside, line him up wherever, he is GOING to get through that line.  He’s big, he’s mean, he’s got a keen sense of where the ball is and what it’s going to take to get to that ball.  This is a REAL defensive force!  He’s certainly the most impressive rookie I’ve seen in the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era (with Lockett not too far behind, if I’m being perfectly honest), and that’s really saying something, when you look at guys like Earl, Okung, Wagner, Wright, and of course, Russell Wilson.

This is a terrible thing to say, but I’m going to say it anyway:  thank God for Ray Rice.  If he didn’t do what he did – causing the uproar he did – the NFL landscape wouldn’t have been in such a hyper-aware state when it comes to domestic violence, thereby leading to many multiple teams passing on Frank Clark without a second thought (some even having him off their draft boards entirely).  Without the Ray Rice woman-punching incident (and accompanying damning video footage), there’s no way in Hell Frank Clark falls to the second round.  At the same time, thank God for the Seahawks being strong enough to make that pick, knowing that the details of the case pointed to something much less than our imaginations led us to believe, because Frank Clark is going to be a monster for us for quite a long time.

Beyond that, three fringe receivers really stood out:  Kevin Smith, Kasen Williams, and B.J. Daniels.  A lot of us thought – going in – that this would be the game that would separate one from the pack.  Instead, it just made the pack that much bigger.

Smith had an underrated day compared to the other two, with 4 receptions and a few really nice returns.  We all know Lockett is the primary special teams return man, but it’d be nice having Smith in reserve just in case.  He strikes me as Doug Baldwin 2.0, and I don’t care what anyone says, I’m telling you right now you can’t have enough Doug Baldwins on your team!

Kasen Williams got some nice pub out of his two catches, one being a nifty diving grab at the back corner of the endzone.  In my eyes, I think Smith and Williams both have tremendous value.  But, I also believe the team can’t really afford to keep them both, and if I’m being honest, I have to put Smith just a slight notch ahead of Williams if I’m picking one over the other.

B.J. Daniels didn’t get a whole lot done in the receiving game – missing out on one potential explosive play due to the ball being severely underthrown – nor did he really do a whole helluva lot in the return game.  But, speaking of returns, he made his RETURN to the quarterback position in the second half, leading the team for a couple of touchdown-scoring drives (including that TD throw to Kasen).  I didn’t see a lot of evidence out of Daniels this pre-season that he’s a better receiver than either Smith or Williams, but he’s got athleticism for days, and I think his versatility (another special teams return candidate, as well as a receiver, someone you might be able to line up in the backfield, and of course as a quarterback) is off the charts and too good to pass up.

To be quite honest, I think we’re all looking for a reason for the team to dump Ricardo Lockette, and if it’s EVER going to happen, it’ll happen this weekend.  Lockette has been a mainstay because he’s outstanding on special teams.  But, I think guys like Daniels, Smith, and Williams have all proven they’re quite valuable on special teams in their own right.  Truth be told, I don’t know if I’m ever going to be totally comfortable with Lockette on my team after what happened in the Super Bowl.  Was it a great play by the defense?  That’s what I’m told; but I can’t help shake the feeling that if Lockette made a stronger play for the ball, he might have gotten it (or at least caused an incompletion).  Lockette’s got a lot to redeem in my mind, fair or unfair (of course, not as much as the coaching staff, but I’m going to leave that dead horse alone).

What I’m trying to say is, if I had my druthers, the wide receiving corps would look like this:

  • Doug Baldwin
  • Jermaine Kearse
  • Tyler Lockett
  • Chris Matthews
  • B.J. Daniels
  • Kevin Smith
  • (with Kasen Williams as our 7th, if the team opts to go with 7)

In other areas, Thomas Rawls looked good, but again I’m going to refer you to the fact that the Raiders are fucking terrible, and he got most of his carries against their scrubbiest of scrubs.  In no way shape or form should the Seahawks be thinking about keeping Rawls on the 53-man roster.  They should have no problem sneaking him onto the practice squad, and if some other team snaps him up, then oh-fucking-well.  Not really a big loss, if you ask me.

Mohammed Seisay looked pretty brutalized last night, but I can see why the team likes him.  He needs to clean up some stuff in his game, but he’s got potential.  Might not make a lick of difference, as he apparently suffered a pretty serious shoulder injury.  Looks like an IR candidate with the potential to return to compete for a spot next year.  Not too bad, if you ask me.

A lot of people are writing off Marcus Burley, but I like him, and I think I like him more than Blackmon.  My prediction:  Blackmon will be looking for employment elsewhere after the weekend.

Chris Matthews returned from injury, but didn’t do a whole lot.  Still, I think he solidified his spot in the Super Bowl.  If we don’t keep him, it’ll take about 30 seconds for another team to snatch him up.

OK, that’s it.  Regular season starts on the 13th (which seems like it’s years away).

A Pre-Pre-Season Prediction of the Seahawks’ Opening Week 53-Man Roster

Because now seems to be the time to do these.  “Now” being:  at any and every point before the actual 53-man roster is finally chosen by the coaching staff.  I’m not immune to the type of wild speculation in the early going of a football season!  I’m just as excited as the next rabid NFL fan who’s sick and tired of the Seattle Fucking Mariners already!

Of course, this is just my best estimate, having seen exactly zero of the practices to this point.  I’m sure things will change greatly between now and the final pre-season game against the Raiders on September 3rd.  Will I do more of these as the pre-season goes along?  Maybe one more, right before the end, if I’m in the mood.

For most of these position groups, you’ll see a dashed line (————-).  Anyone listed above that line I consider a lock to make the team.  Anyone listed below that line I still think will make the final 53-man roster, but I’m not as confident.

Quarterback

Russell Wilson
Tarvaris Jackson

Seems pretty cut & dry.  You gotta wonder how long we’re going to be able to keep bringing Tarvar back on 1-year deals, but I’m game to keep him around as long as he’s willing to keep winning championships.

Running Back

Marshawn Lynch
Robert Turbin
Christine Michael
————————
Derrick Coleman

I’m not as sold as some are on Thomas Rawls or Rod Smith.  I think either or both could be kept around on the practice squad (unless, of course, one or both absolutely breaks out in the pre-season games).  I still like Coleman over Will Tukuafu, even though Tukuafu is more versatile.  Coleman is still younger and better on special teams.  If he can stay healthy, I think he’s got it on lock.  I also highly doubt the team keeps five running backs, but if they do, it’ll likely come from one of my offensive line spots.

Wide Receiver

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
————————-
Ricardo Lockette
Chris Matthews
Kevin Norwood

I’m not deaf to all the hype surrounding Kasen Williams right now, but it’s one thing to look impressive in practice and it’s another to do so in game situations.  Norwood still has a year’s worth of experience on him.  Besides that, I think we can also sneak Kasen onto the practice squad.  The other five guys figure to be pretty safe, especially with Douglas McNeil converting to cornerback.  B.J. Daniels is a dark horse candidate to win a job, but to do so, there’d probably have to be a rash of injuries ahead of him.

Tight End

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
———————–
Cooper Helfet

This one will be interesting, though it might go down to who stays healthy.  Should the team keep Helfet, then we’re essentially talking about the team keeping three “move” tight ends.  Anthony McCoy is the obvious other choice to be the team’s third tight end, and you’d have to think he’d have an advantage given his blocking ability.  But, he hasn’t been able to stay healthy through an entire pre-season for I don’t know how long anymore.  I can’t pencil him into my predicted 53-man lineup until I actually see him play in a game again.

Offensive Line

Russell Okung
J.R. Sweezy
Justin Britt
———————
Drew Nowak
Mark Glowinski
Alvin Bailey
Garry Gilliam
Lemuel Jeanpierre
Kristjan Sokoli
Keavon Milton

I’ll be honest with you, offensive line is the biggest crapshoot on this team.  I’ve got three locks, that’s how bad it is right now.  The safe play is to say that Bailey and Jeanpierre will join the other locks in giving us the best chance to win right now.  But, I have a feeling that the team will give our rookies every opportunity to try to steal those jobs away, even if it means taking a hit on our production right now, with the hope that their ceilings will be higher by season’s end.  Terry Poole is a tough one to chop, but to be honest I wouldn’t be shocked to see him or a couple of these other guys I’ve listed make the practice squad.  I can’t imagine the rest of the NFL is all that excited about picking up some of our projects who we’ve converted from being defensive linemen.

Defensive End

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

All locks, all should be productive members of our pass rush this year.  Can’t wait to see how this unit meshes.

Defensive Tackle

Brandon Mebane
Jordan Hill
Ahtyba Rubin
———————–
Jimmy Staten

Really difficult to see who the fourth guy will be.  I think it comes down to Staten and D’Anthony Smith, but it very well could go to a guy who’s not even on the roster right now.  Pre-season games will go a long way in shedding light.

Linebacker

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Bruce Irvin
Brock Coyle
Kevin Pierre-Louis
————————-
Mike Morgan

Probably the most potent unit on the entire defense.  The final spot(s) will come down to special teams.  Mike Morgan has been here forever, which is a plus and a minus in his favor.  He knows the system, he’s versatile, and he’s obviously good otherwise he wouldn’t have lasted as long as he has.  But, I think he’s in the last year of his deal, so you have to wonder if the team will opt to go younger with someone like Eric Pinkins.  The proof is in the pudding, as they say, and I think the nod goes to Morgan when all is said and done.  (Unless, of course, KPL’s injury is worse than expected, in which case, maybe both make it?)

Cornerback

Richard Sherman
Tharold Simon
Cary Williams
————————
Will Blackmon
Mohammed Seisay
Marcus Burley

For what it’s worth, I’m REALLY banking on Simon returning to action at some point this pre-season and not landing on the PUP.  Haven’t seen him yet, so we’ll see.  Jeremy Lane will obviously start on either the PUP or IR Designated To Return.  While he’s a huge loss, it opens up some good competition this month.  I’m THIS close to making Blackmon a lock, simply because – while he’s on the older side at 30 – this team can’t fuck around at a position where it’s so thin.  We’re already committed to Williams and the young & injury-prone Simon, so it’ll be nice to have someone who’s good and knows the system, in spite of his age.  Beyond that, I like Seisay’s height and I hope like Hell that he makes a positive impact this pre-season.  The final spot goes to Burley until I see whether Tye Smith is capable of living up to the high expectations thrust upon the L.O.B.  What I’ve heard about Smith thus far has been pretty underwhelming, so I have to believe Burley has the advantage.  Smith might be a guy we can sneak onto the practice squad, so I wouldn’t consider him a total draft pick bust just yet.

Safety

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
DeShawn Shead
———————–
Steven Terrell
Dion Bailey

MAYBE the team opts to keep only four safeties, in order to stock up on the D-Line, but I don’t think I’m buying it.  I think, at least in the early going, this team will want to have sufficent backups in the event Earl Thomas re-injures himself.  Obviously, Kam is still a concern, considering he still has yet to show up to camp.  I don’t know what’s going to happen there, but I like how the younger guys are getting a lot of run.  I’ve heard a lot of exciting things about Dion Bailey, so I really hope he sticks.  Terrell appears to be pretty safe, as he’s still young, yet has some good experience.  Shead is obviously the glue that’s going to help us hold things together, as he can play both safety spots.  If he needs to step in for Kam, I don’t think we lose all that much (as crazy as that sounds).

Special Teams

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

Not a lot to say here.  The Nate Boyer story is fun, but I can’t see us keeping him unless Gresham gets injured.