The Seahawks Drafted Their Left Tackle Of The Future In Charles Cross

I’ll admit, I was much more excited about this last night than I am today.

“Excited” might be a strong word. I was pleased. I was vehemently against drafting a quarterback, and it didn’t seem like we were set up well to get an elite defensive end. The top two cornerbacks were off the board, and the NFL seems adamantly against drafting a run-stuffing DT in the top 10, so I wasn’t going to get Jordan Davis in here (he fell to the Eagles at 13).

So, we got Charles Cross from Mississippi State. He was a two year starter and is leaving college after his redshirt sophomore season. He’s only 21 years old, and is widely regarded as one of the best – if not THE best – pass protecting left tackles in the entire draft.

That’s great, right? Sure, it was an Air Raid offense, but that just further bolsters his pass protecting bona fides.

Now, obviously, that means his run blocking is probably a little lacking. But, people are saying it’s not horrible. In my book, I’d rather have a left tackle who’s great at pass blocking, and coach him up into being a competent run blocker.

I know what you’re thinking: these are the Seahawks we’re talking about. They value running more than most teams. He’s going to have his work cut out for him if this is going to work. I would say that even if we reach some mythical 50/50 split of run/pass, that still means he’s going to need to keep the quarterback upright half the time, especially on all-important third downs.

Here’s what’s giving me pause: for starters, this guy at Field Gulls doesn’t sound very high at all on Cross. Also, I can’t help but be at least a little skeptical when the consensus all agrees that this was the best and safest option for the Seahawks; what the hell do they know? Really, how inspired can you be when you know the consensus ALSO says that we got the third-best left tackle in the draft. What remains to be seen is whether this was a true Top 3 situation, and then there was a cliff before #4 and the rest … or if this was actually a Top 2 situation, and Cross is in a significantly lower tier.

It got me to wondering: what’s the history in the NFL look like for the third left tackle taken?

Russell Okung is the lazy comp, because he was the last left tackle the Seahawks drafted in the first round. He also represents the start of that generation of Seahawks football, so we’re all projecting this onto Cross. The Seahawks brought in Okung, and four seasons later we were in the Super Bowl! Well, when is anything ever that simple?

Russell Okung, if you’ll recall, was the second LT in the 2010 draft. Trent Williams went two picks earlier, and he was the consensus #1 (who was the better talent and had the better career). The third LT? Anthony Davis, who the 49ers took at 11. He was … okay, but not an elite tackle in this league.

2011 was a poor year for left tackles. Tyron Smith was the first one taken at 9 and he was great. Nate Solder was the next one drafted at 17; he’s been competent. After that? Anthony Castonzo for the Colts at 22. He was a competent starter who earned a second contract, but injuries derailed him at the end.

I now realize I went back too far in my sample size, so I’ll be quick with the rest.

The third left tackle in 2012 was fine; the third LT in 2013 (Lane Johnson) was arguably the best of the entire draft that year; the third LT in 2014 (Taylor Lewan) was also arguably the best of the entire draft; the third LT taken in 2015 is better left unsaid; the third LT in 2016 was Laremy Tunsil but that was a weird gas mask weed situation involving the best talent in the draft; 2017 was another bad year for tackles, the first not taken until 20; 2018 was another terrible year for tackles; and 2019 has yet to bear any fruit at the position. It’s probably too soon to look at the last couple of drafts with any certainty.

So, I dunno. We’ll wait and see, I guess.

What I will say is that the Seahawks can’t fuck this up. It’s not a matter of whether or not they made the right choice. I would argue the Seahawks HAD no other choice. Failing a trade down and drafting Jordan Davis, the Seahawks were stuck with Cross. Cross was the clear-cut best LT available, which – other than quarterback – was our biggest need.

There’s nothing wrong with the Cross pick. There’s nothing wrong with Cross the prospect. He has all the tools and all the athleticism and all the body type you need for a good left tackle in this league. Now, it’s up to the coaching staff. They need to get the best out of him. They need to build up his pass protection skills, while at the same time significantly bolstering his run blocking skills. He’s not going to be the next Walter Jones; that man doesn’t exist. But, they need to develop Cross into AT LEAST the next Russell Okung. If they don’t do that, then this rebuild is totally fucked.

Left tackle is the first and most important domino in this whole thing. Cross solidifies the offensive line. With that out of the way, we continue to tinker with the skill position players. Simultaneously, we go H.A.M. on the defense to get it back to where it can carry this team.

With all that in place, THEN we get the quarterback of the future. But, that only works if the O-Line is there to keep the quarterback from getting killed.

Should The Seahawks Extend Duane Brown?

This isn’t a topic I really wanted to address at this juncture, but this is the reality of the NFL today. If you’re still a great player heading into the final year of your deal (or “couple of years” if you’re especially great and underpaid), you’re going to want to snap up an extension while the snapping’s good. If Duane Brown had spent the majority of his 2020 season injured or underperforming, he might be more than happy to play out his deal (then again, if that were the case, the Seahawks might’ve been more proactive in finding his replacement and would either come to him with a restructured deal or an outright release).

The NFL is ruthless, in other words. One slip-up and you could find your pink slip waiting in your locker. So, it only makes sense for players to try to leverage as much power as they can into getting as much money as they can.

It was reported recently that Duane Brown was in minicamp, but not participating. From there, reports diverge. Pete Carroll says there’s no need for Brown to practice because he’s a veteran and they’re taking care of him ahead of the regular season. People whose jobs are to actually comment on the news have said Brown wants an extension. He’s heading into the 2021 season on the final year of his deal, set to earn $10 million, plus up to another $1 million in active gameday bonuses. This will also be his Age 36 season.

Obviously, that’s a solid chunk of change, but for all the reasons stated above, it makes sense for Brown to want to capitalize on his high-quality play. He’s played the better part of four seasons in Seattle, and has been our rock on an offensive line that has otherwise been varying degrees of shaky. He played in every game for us in 2018 and 2020, and he’s heading into this season in just as good of shape.

But, let’s face it, as I’ve been saying all along: he’s one major leg injury away from calling it a career. At his age, at his size, at the length of his football career (14 years and counting), you don’t just bounce back from a catastrophic injury like you would have in your 20’s.

The plus side to this argument is that his most recent contract with the Seahawks was a 3-year extension worth just over $34 million. Meaning he was 3 years younger then, making that pretty much the cap of what a new deal would look like. The $8 million signing bonus and his $8 million 2019 salary was all that was guaranteed.

I’m guessing any extension would probably only tack on 2 more years, with a similar $16 million guarantee. Maybe his 2021 salary converts to signing bonus, we guarantee a portion of his 2022 base salary, and there’s a similar non-guaranteed base salary for 2023 that’s otherwise attainable if he continues to stay healthy and play at a high level. You can play around with the non-guaranteed salary however you want to make it look better than it actually is, while maybe even freeing up some extra cash in case the 2021 Seahawks want to add another star player to the mix.

I’m just spit-balling here; I actually have no idea.

The opposing viewpoint is: the Seahawks can force Brown to honor his existing deal. Of course, he’s already proven to be someone who’s all too happy to hold out – doing the same down in Houston, before getting the trade to Seattle that he wanted – so don’t be shocked if he calls that bluff. The Seahawks are usually reluctant to let things go to those extremes – unless you’re Kam Chancellor and you’re trying to re-up your deal with more than one year remaining – so that’s not something I would expect here. Brown has not only been a great player for us, but he’s been a leader and an important figurehead among the players (especially for the O-Line). As an organization, you don’t shit on those guys unless you’re fully prepared to move on from them.

And the Seahawks are in NO position to do that. We’ve got Stone Forsythe – 6th round draft pick this year – who is absolutely not even close to being ready to start in this league. We’ve got Jamarco Jones, who can’t stay healthy. We’ve got Brandon Shell, who is a right tackle and isn’t even guaranteed to keep THAT job, with swingman Cedric Ogbuehi breathing down his neck. There isn’t a viable starting left tackle in the bunch! And, while I haven’t done a deep dive (or ANY sort of dive), I’m assuming there aren’t any in the free agent scrap heap, or on the trade block.

This is what happens when you fail to develop a viable backup. You’re stuck, more or less, kowtowing to the demands of the entrenched starter.

I’ve been more than happy to ride the Duane Brown train as far as he’ll go, but that’s the thing: with these types of guys, you usually can’t see where the endpoint is. The Seahawks rode Walter Jones until his knees were like a jelly. Then, they had to suffer the consequences of a year (or, really, a couple years) of scrambling to back-fill the position. Jones went down in the middle of the 2008 season, and we ended up needing a high first round pick to bring in Russell Okung in 2010. I will expect nothing less when Brown is ultimately carted off the field.

As a football fan, you want to see your stars retire with the team you love. As smart organizations, though, you want to maximize the value of those stars, and get out of there just ahead of the inevitable downfall. Let some other team overpay for a washed up veteran. My hunch is, we’ll continue to see solid play out of Brown in 2021, but it wouldn’t shock me to see him fall apart in 2022. MAYBE 2023, if he’s lucky. Even the seemingly-immortal Andrew Whitworth was limited to 9 games in 2020, his age 39 season. Does Brown have what it takes to play into his 40’s? He might, but this is Seattle. We have obnoxiously-bad injury luck around these parts. So, I wouldn’t count on it.

So, get that short-term extension done, with no guarantees beyond the 2022 season, and then get to work ASAP trying to find Brown’s long-term replacement.

This Will Not Be Bobby Wagner’s Last Season With The Seahawks

Contrary to my theory last October, it looks like Bobby Wagner will be here to stay, at least for a little while longer.

Funny thing about these contracts signed by future Hall of Famers: sometimes they come with roster bonuses you don’t see coming (unless you read the fine print).

Effective February 12, 2021, Bobby Wagner’s contract saw an additional $5 million become guaranteed money, raising his “dead cap” figure from $7.5 million to an untenable $12.5 million. What was – at one time – a possible savings of around $10 million (had we cut him timely), has now morphed into a relatively meaningless potential savings of $4.65 million. It’s not happening.

Not that I REALLY believed it would, but now here we are. While the salary cap probably won’t be in a dreaded $170-$175 million range, it’s probably not going to be significantly higher than $180 million, which is a far cry from the $198.2 million it was in 2020. The Seahawks – as I’ve belabored over and over again – are pretty much right up against that $180 million figure (when you factor in draft picks, practice squad, and Injured Reserve replacements) thanks to a number of high-money veterans currently under contract (including one Bobby Wagner). In order to do all the things we need to do (like extend Jamal Adams, or … you know, field a 53-man roster), the Seahawks need to do SOMETHING.

Instead of cutting Wagner – which again, was ALWAYS a long shot at best – we might be in a spot where we have no choice but to rework his deal (taking his base salary – of $13.15 million – and converting it into a signing bonus spread out over the remaining years of his deal). Without extending him, that means a savings of $6.575 million, which is a start (we could save even more if we tack on another year or two to his current deal, which would make him a Seahawks mainstay until the age of 35 potentially (if it’s a 2-year extension).

Everything I’ve been told about the NFL and its salary cap is: the worst thing you can do is continually kick the can down the road. Because, eventually, shit hits the fan and you’re stuck in Cap Hell for a year or two. It’s how you get these crazy swings from teams like the Dallas Cowboys (who go from 12 wins to 4 wins at the drop of a hat). Now, obviously, the pandemic changes things, as a lot of teams are going to have to kick the can in this fashion – extending their veterans, converting base salary into bonuses – just to make ends meet for the time being. But, now everything I’m reading is telling me that this is suddenly okay? That “creative financing” in the NFL happens all the time, and teams are pretty much free to do whatever they want as long as they cook their books accordingly?

I dunno, seems sketchy. Seems like a great way to run into some REALLY lean years sooner or later. I like a good escape hatch. When things get bad, I like to know I have an easy out, without a lot of repercussions. Getting stuck with aging veterans past their prime, who you can’t cut because they’re guaranteed too much money, isn’t my idea of a great Sunday afternoon in front of the television.

The janky-ass thing about all of this is that it’s not likely to stop with Bobby. I don’t know about you, but I’m not super stoked about seeing Carlos Dunlap walk; not after I watched this defense before and after he arrived this past season! Gotta extend him! And, I don’t know if you heard, but the Seahawks haven’t developed a competent, in-house left tackle since Russell Okung in 2010; so that probably means extending Duane Brown until he’s 40! I mean, I could go on and on, but there are a bunch of guys I’d like to have back on this team in 2021, who are free agents; but, just running back the same dudes doesn’t figure to see much in the way of improvement over a team that lost in the Wild Card round last season! Not when you KNOW this team needs to trim some fat – guys like Chris Carson or K.J. Wright, who play non-premium positions, yet will be asking for premium dollars – and could conceivably be worse at running back and linebacker heading into this season as a result.

I dunno. I don’t know what the Seahawks are going to do. What I DO know is: whatever that ends up being, it’s going to include Bobby Wagner in the middle of that defense.

Seahawks Death Week: Guys To Cut Or Let Walk

I’ve ranted and raved (mostly just ranted, while offending poor Shrimpy), and I’ve talked about why the Seahawks are not likely to be blown up (but probably should be). Now, let’s get down to brass tacks and talk specific guys I never want to see again in a Seahawks uniform (unless it’s as a civilian raising the 12th Man Flag one day).

So, here’s the deal: the 2021 NFL salary cap is projected to be approximately $176 million. The 2020 cap was an all-time high of approximately $198 million. It had been going up – since 2013 – $10 million to $12 million per year, with no end in sight given how profitable the league is in the United States and increasingly around the world. It’s the top-rated program on television, generating tons of ad revenue, which makes the rights deals with networks astronomical, and all teams share in the profits (making the NFL, essentially, a socialist entity, and a large percentage of its fans supporters of socialism in a way; but that’s neither here nor there). However, given the pandemic (and the lack of fans allowed to attend games in person), a serious chunk of revenue was lost for the 2020 season (and possibly part of the 2021 season, depending on how the vaccine rollout goes). As such, every team lost approximately $22 million dollars to spend on players.

This hurts a team like the Seahawks more than most. Ever since, probably, 2015 or so, the Seahawks have been up against the salary cap limit every single year. NFL teams can roll over any unspent cap money into the following year; we haven’t been able to do that, since we’re paying our existing players (and a small number of former players) all of that money. With our superstar players – Russell Wilson, obviously, at the top – accounting for such a high percentage of our salary cap, the Seahawks have had to make due by filling out the bottom two thirds of our roster with rookies and veterans making the minimum.

At the time of this writing, the Seahawks’ salary cap figure for 2021 already sits at approximately $162 million of our projected $176 million. That accounts for 35 players under contract, when we have to fill out a regular season roster of 53 players, plus a practice squad (somewhere between 10-16 players, depending on what the league decides in the offseason), plus money left over for replacement players making the league minimum when our regular roster guys hit the Injured Reserve.

Clearly, moves will need to be made. Players will need to be cut. And, 2020 guys whose contracts have expired will be thanked for their services and allowed to sign elsewhere. The following are the guys I hope – as I said before – to never see again on a playing field with the Seattle Seahawks.

I don’t have a lot of cuts. Really, it’s probably just one guy: Bobby Wagner. So, let’s start there.

Wagner is set to count over $17 million against our cap in 2021. He also just earned his sixth First Team All Pro honor. So, why would you cut a guy playing at such a high level? Well, I would argue the eye test says he’s on the downside of his career, and he’s only going to get worse from here. If we cut him now, it’s only $7.5 million in dead money we have to endure, which is nearly $10 million in savings (minus whatever minimal amount we’d pay to whoever replaces him on the roster). I would argue, given how cash-strapped we are, we HAVE to cut Wagner, just to fill out our roster! But, I would also argue that the difference between Wagner and a replacement-level player (or Wagner and Jordyn Brooks, if he happens to slide over to the middle linebacker spot) is not as great as you’d think. It’s certainly not worth the extra $10 million we’d be paying a 31 year old Wagner.

Unfortunately, what with him being a surefire NFL Hall of Famer and a guy whose jersey number the Seahawks will surely retire one day, I don’t see that happening. Maybe AFTER the 2021 season – when the dead cap figure is only $3.75 million – but even then, who knows? It could get REALLY frustrating trying to root for this guy the next couple years; here’s to hoping that the Seahawks do the smart thing – the unemotional thing – and let us all go out on a high note, rather than letting the relationship sour like so many others before (Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril – the last two due to career-ending injuries, but still a financial drain to this organization).

Two other candidates are Carlos Dunlap and Duane Brown. Dunlap has zero dead money counting against our cap if we cut him; otherwise, if his contract remains as is, he would be worth a hair over $14 million. That, obviously, isn’t happening. Not to say he isn’t worth it! He really changed the face of this defense when he came over from the Bengals! But, that price is too high for our cap. What I think will happen – given that Dunlap will only be 32 and still highly productive – is that the Seahawks will tear up the contract and sign him to a 3-year deal that’s team-friendly in the first year, with a significant guarantee for 2022, and a signing bonus that can be spread out over the life of the deal (maybe tacking on a non-guaranteed 4th year to make the salary cap right).

As for Brown, he’ll be entering the final year of his extension that would count $13 million against us (with only $2 million in dead money if we cut him). This is another guy I don’t think we can afford to leave as is and let his contract play out. He’ll be 36 years old next year. Now, he too played at a pretty high level in 2020, but if you saw what I saw in that playoff game – with how much difficulty he had in just getting up off the turf and moving around – you’d see a guy who’s not long for this league. At the very least, he’s not someone who will be playing at a high level for very much longer. He’s one knee injury away from his career being over, and that injury could come at any time. The problem is, we have no viable replacement on our roster. Anyone we do have is either injury prone or terrible (particularly as a left tackle). We could sign someone for cheap, but we’ve done that before (in the period post-Russell Okung to pre-Duane Brown, most recently) and it never works out. We could draft someone, but considering we hardly have any draft picks at all – and the ones we do have are QUITE low – anyone we ended up bringing in would be worse than the crappy veterans at our disposal.

Quite frankly, from a talent standpoint, we’re at least a year away from replacing Brown (and that’s assuming we manage to draft his replacement THIS year and hope that guy develops in a hurry). I don’t know what the plan with him was heading into 2020, but I don’t think it was to make him a cap casualty by 2021. On the contrary, I think the Seahawks are setting up to give him yet another extension, for a year or two beyond 2021, which I am absolutely dreading. But, if we want any hope whatsoever to contend next season, we’ll need to pray he can hang on.

***

I’ll close this post with a list of the no-brainers, but first here are some of the … brainers, I guess.

K.J. Wright had a fantastic 2020 season. He’s had a fabulous Seahawks career since we drafted him in 2011! But, he counted $10 million against us this year and that’s just not anywhere near a figure we can approach in 2021. Since I have no belief that the Seahawks will do the right thing with Wagner, then they MUST cut the cord with Wright and make Brooks a full-time linebacker in his second season out of college. Otherwise, why the fuck did you draft him so high in the first place?

Chris Carson’s rookie deal just expired. I won’t say he’s shot, but he’s never NOT going to be injury-prone! Considering how great he’s been when healthy, he’s going to demand a high salary; but since he can’t stay healthy, it makes no sense to pay him that, when we can get similar production from a cheaper guy (who hopefully will be able to stay on the field). I would also say that Carson – while building his reputation as a guy who sought out contact – spent the majority of his time (when he returned from injury this past season) avoiding contact and running out of bounds. Not that I blame him, mind you! He’s gotta get his! But, he’s obviously not the same type of guy when he’s avoiding defenders.

Ethan Pocic earned a little over $1 million as this team’s starting center in the final year of his rookie deal. Presumably, he’ll be looking for a raise if he re-signs. Since he STUNK against the Rams – and since he was average-at-best in all the other games – I see no reason why we couldn’t draft a guy (or even bring in an undrafted free agent) to be our starting center next year.

Shaquill Griffin’s final season under his own rookie deal just expired. He’s a good-not-great coverage corner with little-to-no ball skills and hardly any interceptions on his resume. Nevertheless, he’s going to be looking for a contract near the top of the market (not in the top tier, but definitely in the one right below it). That hypothetically could work under our cap – since the first year of any extension is relatively cheap, with most of the money being back-loaded – but considering the guys we have to pay, and also factoring in an extension for Jamal Adams, I don’t see how the Seahawks fit him in. We have D.J. Reed at less than $1 million, plus Tre Flowers if we have to start him again. I think we’ll get by.

David Moore just earned $1 million in 2020, and that was money well spent. I could see him commanding more money on the open market, and I don’t see why we should be the team to give it to him, since we have Freddie Swain on a rookie contract. For a third/fourth receiver? There are other ways to go.

This probably should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway because I feel like it needs to be said: LET GREG OSLEN GO INTO BROADCASTING! Fucking $7 million dollars (*shaking head*).

Jacob Hollister was tendered and kept on at over $3 million. That was unnecessary, and will be even MORE unnecessary in 2021. We have Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson (who we drafted relatively highly in 2020), and any number of youngish guys, as well as Luke Willson (who is always partying on the scrap heap, just waiting for us to bring him back). We don’t use the tight end enough to justify paying as much money as we do on it, not when we mostly need it for blocking purposes. Blocking tight ends are – like linebackers and running backs – another dime-a-dozen position group.

Finally, here are the guys who it should go without saying that we should let walk:

Mike Iupati – great career, but you’re done.

Quinton Dunbar – bust of a trade acquisition, bust of a player, bust of a human being (even if he wasn’t convicted of anything, he still probably did something sketchy).

Lano Hill – please, no more.

Neiko Thorpe – a once-great special teams ace who can’t stay healthy. Salud.

Phillip Dorsett – a nice idea as a free agent, but he never played a down. Wide receivers need healthy feet to be worth a damn.

How Many Starters Have The Seahawks Drafted In The Previous Ten Years?

On the Brock & Salk podcast this week, they were talking to Daniel Jeremiah who made an interesting point about the NFL Draft. He said that every team’s goal should be to select three starters in every draft, ideally with one of those players being true blue chippers. You can define “starter” and “blue chipper” in any number of ways; I think as you’ll see, I’m pretty generous.

For example, I would count Nickel Corner among the “starters” because they play such a high percentage of snaps (usually). I would also count #2 tight ends, because the Seahawks value that position so highly (I would not, however, count #2 running backs, oddly enough; so you won’t see Robert Turbin on here). I’m also not counting players the Seahawks drafted who would go on to have more successful careers elsewhere (so, no Mark Glowinski or Spencer Ware among my picks); if they weren’t starters for the Seahawks, then I’m not interested. I don’t care about “hit rate” unless it applies to the team I love.

The discussion, of course, centers around how GREAT the Seahawks were at drafting from 2010-2012, contrasted with how TERRIBLE they’ve been from 2013 onward. So, without further ado, let’s a-DO this!

2010-2012: The Good Years

2010

  • Russell Okung (LT)
  • Earl Thomas (FS)
  • Golden Tate (WR)
  • Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Kam Chancellor (SS)

2011

  • James Carpenter (LG)
  • K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Malcolm Smith (LB)

2012

  • Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • J.R. Sweezy (RG)

What a murderer’s row! That’s not even factoring in such quality starters/blue chippers as undrafted free agents Doug Baldwin, DeShawn Shead, and Jermaine Kearse! You can see why this team went to back-to-back Super Bowls; those are three drafts that produced 15 starters, with 8 of them being real blue chippers (Okung, Earl, Tate, Kam, K.J., Sherm, BWagz, and Russ) on top of, again, blue chipper Doug and two more starting-calibre players.

Now, you can nitpick, of course. Malcolm Smith might be the biggest stretch, but in base defense as a strongside linebacker he made some impact plays (and, of course, was MVP of the Super Bowl, so give me a break!). Lane and Thurmond were both nickel corners. And, some of these guys took a couple years before they developed into starters. Nevertheless, all of these guys made significant impacts on the Seahawks’ success for our glory years.

2013-2016: The Bad Years

2013

  • Luke Willson (TE)

2014

  • Justin Britt (C)

2015

  • Frank Clark (DE)
  • Tyler Lockett (WR)

2016

  • Germain Ifedi (RT)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)

That’s truly NOT GREAT! Frank Clark is arguably the best player on this list, and he’s not even on the team anymore because we didn’t see him as worthy of a contract at the top of the market. Lockett is probably the guy who panned out the best for us, given that we were able to extend him to a reasonable second contract (that he continues to out-play every time he steps on the field). Luke Willson is a HUGE stretch, because he’s only been a de facto #1 tight end when the guys ahead of him got injured; otherwise he’s at-best a #2. Britt and Ifedi you could argue were overpaid busts. Reed is still around, but obviously wasn’t able to capitalize on his one great year due to being suspended for domestic violence.

2017-2019: The We’ll See Years

2017

  • Shaquill Griffin (CB)
  • Chris Carson (RB)

2018

  • Will Dissly (TE)
  • Tre Flowers (CB)
  • Michael Dickson (P)

2019

  • D.K. Metcalf

Before we talk about these guys, I have one holdover from the 2016 draft – Joey Hunt – who became a starter for a large chunk of the 2019 season, but I’m hesitant to want to elevate him on my list unless he wins the center job out of camp in 2020. That might make the 2016 draft look marginally better, but still I don’t know if anyone expects Hunt to be here long-term.

Anyway, it’s pretty early to make definitive proclamations about the 2017-2019 drafts, but it’s encouraging that I’ve listed the same number of players here that I did for the FOUR drafts preceeding them. Griffin and Dickson have already made Pro Bowls (though, Dickson almost feels like cheating since he’s a punter). Dissly looks as good as any tight end in football when he’s healthy, as does Carson among running backs. And, D.K. really broke out as a rookie last year, looking like a stud for many years to come.

You can probably close the book on the rest of the 2017 draft; none of the guys I left off look like they’ll be anything of note for the Seahawks. There’s marginal hope for a couple others from 2018. Rasheem Green has the highest upside, and figures to get a lot of playing time this year along the defensive line. He’s sort of a default starter for the Seahawks; we’ll see if he’s able to do anything with the opportunity. Tre Flowers – while it looks like he’ll lose his starting job to newcomer Quinton Dunbar (assuming he’s formally acquitted of robbery charges, AND isn’t suspended by the team/league) – still figures to be well involved in the defense. Also, if he can stay healthy and play well, Jamarco Jones has a higher ceiling than we might’ve originally expected.

As for 2019, there are a lot of hopefuls. L.J. Collier will get a long look this season. Marquise Blair hopes to win one of the starting safety jobs (and could also figure in the Big Nickel package, against the more difficult tight ends on our schedule). Cody Barton could eventually start at one of the outside linebacker spots if he plays his cards right (looking less likely, of course, with who the Seahawks drafted last month). Phil Haynes might win a starting spot on the offensive line in his second season. And, with a VERY outside chance, who knows? Maybe John Ursua takes over as this offense’s primary slot receiver!

As for the 2020 draft, all we can do is speculate. Jordyn Brooks figures to be a starter one day soon. Damien Lewis might be a starter from day one. And, everyone hopes Darrell Taylor gets a lot of play early at defensive end. Also, Colby Parkinson will have every opportunity to be this team’s #2 tight end as early as 2021.

So, it’s been a real rollercoaster over the last decade! Here’s hoping things are finally trending back in the right direction over the last 3-4 drafts. The one thing that worries me is the lack of blue chippers since 2013. From The Bad Years, I count only two from those four drafts (Clark & Lockett). From The We’ll See Years … again, we’ll see. D.K. seems like the safest bet. Griffin, I guess, you have to put in there (though, compared to blue chippers of seasons past, he doesn’t quite live up). Dickson, again, feels like cheating, but okay he counts. Carson and Dissly are definite blue chippers when healthy, but they both feel like incompletes.

The argument from 2013-2016 was that the Seahawks had so many great players from the previous three years that it was exceedingly difficult for younger guys to break through. That has, decidedly, not been as much of a problem over the last three seasons, particularly on defense where it’s been trending downward for half a decade. 2020 will be VERY interesting, because I don’t see too many sacred cows on this roster (again, particularly on defense). What I think is interesting is that the Seahawks don’t seem to be NEARLY as concerned with the defensive line as the fans are, which leads me to wonder what they know that we don’t. We have lots of stats and anecdotal information at our disposal, but they’re obviously embedded with these players fairly intimately. They get to see what these guys are capable of in practice, as well as talk to them and get into their heads.

Long story short: the team almost always knows more than the fans and “experts” do. So, maybe they’ll be right. Maybe we don’t need someone like Clowney because guys like Green, Collier, and Taylor will take huge steps forward! I remember fans being similarly up in arms in the early years of this regime, when a lot of the younger guys in the secondary won their jobs over established veterans. We were freaking out, but the Legion Of Boom proved us all to be pretty foolish. I hope we’re in for something like that again!

Where Will L.J. Collier Rank Among All-Time Seahawks First Round Draft Busts?

If this sounds like I’m giving up on L.J. Collier … I kind of am.

The Seahawks, as you well know, don’t tend to pick in the first round of drafts very often under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. Since 2010, they’ve made exactly seven first round picks in six NFL drafts, and after that first year, it’s a real Who’s Who of Utter Crap.

That’s not totally fair, but I’d say “underwhelming” is the general theme once you go past Russell Okung and Earl Thomas:

  • 2011 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • 2012 – Bruce Irvin (LB/DE)
  • 2016 – Germain Ifedi (OL)
  • 2018 – Rashaad Penny (RB)
  • 2019 – L.J. Collier (DE)

Woof. Bruce Irvin is clearly the best of THAT pitiful bunch, but even he hasn’t lived up to what you might expect from a pass rusher taken with the 15th overall pick.

There aren’t enough bad things to say about everyone else. James Carpenter was supposed to be a right tackle, but he struggled, had to move inside to guard, still struggled (though not as much), and ended up leaving after his rookie deal expired. Germain Ifedi was ALSO supposed to be a right tackle, but he too struggled, moved inside briefly before returning to tackle, and made moderate improvement (but, based on his overall body of work, it has since been determined that not only is he not worth a high-money contract, but he’s also not good enough to remain on the outside of the line) before leaving after his rookie deal expired. And, just the fact that the Seahawks took a running back AT ALL in the first round is enough for most fans to write off Rashaad Penny, though I would argue he has looked pretty good when healthy and in shape.

But, there’s no legitimate defense whatsoever for Collier. There are EXCUSES, sure. He sprained his ankle as a rookie and missed all of Training Camp last year. That set him back for the entire season, as he never fully got acclimated to the defense. Pro Football Reference has him at 152 snaps on the season; by comparison, Bobby Wagner led the entire defense with 1,054 snaps, and Jadeveon Clowney led the D-Line with 605 (and he missed three games).

I don’t care that Collier was such a low first round pick, he’s a first rounder and it’s inexcusable that he either wasn’t prepared enough or just plain wasn’t good enough to see the field more. This is on a defense, mind you, that was as bad as it gets in its pass rush. The sack leader on the 2019 Seahawks was Rasheem Green with 4.0. I mean, I don’t know what more to tell you; Collier was a first rounder and he couldn’t crack THAT rotation?! What a joke!

A lot of people want to write off his rookie campaign and believe he’ll be better in 2020. Well, he’d almost HAVE to be, right? How could you be any worse than that? Collier had three tackles and that’s it; that’s the entirety of his stat line. But, I can’t say I have any reasonable expectations of improvement. If you’re effectively healthy for the majority of the regular season – even as a rookie, even if you missed all of Training Camp – as a first round draft pick, there should be enough God-given ability for you to do LITERALLY ANYTHING.

Any hopes that Collier is going to be a future Pro Bowler or even a quality starter should probably be thrown out the window at this point. Obviously, I hope I’m wrong here, but I don’t think I am. The only reason this came to mind at all is because of what’s going on with this coronavirus ordeal. Collier’s struggles last year are largely attributed to his missing Training Camp; you know what he’s likely to also miss in 2020? Training Camp! EVERYONE is likely to miss Training Camp because we probably won’t be in any sort of condition as a country to allow for Training Camp, or any other large gatherings of people. Call it bad luck all you want – indeed, it’s quite unfortunate – but that doesn’t change the fact that Collier is likely to head into Season Two just as behind the 8-ball as he was in Season One.

So, in case you think I haven’t laid out a good-enough case for why Collier has really legitimate potential to be the worst first round draft pick of the Carroll/Schneider era, let me summarize:

  • Russell Okung – Great
  • Earl Thomas – Hall of Famer
  • James Carpenter – Competent Guard, mostly with the Jets
  • Bruce Irvin – Good
  • Germain Ifedi – Semi-Competent Tackle
  • Rashaad Penny – Okay
  • L.J. Collier – Probably Terrible

With that out of the way, how does my vision for Collier potentially rank among the all-time Seahawks first round draft busts? I won’t go through every single guy, but let’s talk about the worst of the worst (that I have at least limited knowledge about).

Aaron Curry and Lawrence Jackson always come immediately to mind when Seahawks fans talk about first round busts, but I would argue both of those guys are at least more competent than you remember. Lo-Jack had 19.5 sacks in his career! Is there any indication whatsoever that Collier could reach that level? Curry’s main problem is that he was – for some reason – taken with the fourth overall pick, so high expectations really tarnish his reputation in this scenario.

I’ll gloss over a lot of players before those guys, until we get to Chris McIntosh and Lamar King. King was famously Mike Holmgren’s first-ever pick as General Manager of the Seahawks when he came over from Green Bay. He was killed then, and continues to be killed now for taking King, but … 12.0 sacks in 57 games. Obviously not great, or even good, but not the absolute worst either. McIntosh, on the other hand, might give Collier a run for his money. He was taken 22nd overall and only played in 24 games across two seasons on the O-line before flaming out of the league.

Dan McGwire will always be on my shit list – through no fault of his own, really – for being the guy we selected ahead of Brett Favre in 1991. First-ever Seahawks draft pick – Steve Niehaus – also deserves recognition, for only making it into 39 games in his 4-year career (thee with the Seahawks) and accumulating exactly zero sacks (hard to say if they were counting that stat back then, but clearly he didn’t make much of an impact as the second-overall selection in 1976).

And, if you want to count Supplemental Draft first rounders, you’ve gotta throw The Boz in there, as well as someone named Gordon Hudson (who was a tight end taken in 1984, who only played one season, in 1986, but at least he caught 13 balls for 131 yards and a TD).

I’m throwing Collier into the Top 3 Worst Seahawks First Round Draft Picks with Dan McGwire and Chris McIntosh. Obviously, we’re only one season in, so he can EASILY get his name off of this list with just a minimal amount of production. But, you know what? Consider the challenge thrown down! Let’s turn this career around!

The Seahawks Haven’t Changed One Bit

When it’s all said and done, when Pete Carroll and John Schneider move on and Russell Wilson is retired or clinging to life with another franchise, it’ll be interesting to look back on this era of Seahawks football. We’re heading into the tenth season with the same regime – the eighth with Wilson at quarterback – and already it feels like forever in NFL terms.

So long, in fact, that it feels like there have been multiple phases within this one overarching Seahawks Cinematic Universe under Carroll & Schneider.

  • 2010-2012 – Building A Champion
  • 2013-2016 – Championship Contenders
  • 2017-Present – The Great Re-Build

But, in reality, we’re talking about one long, sustained period of greatness. Sure, in 2010 we were coming off of one of the worst years in franchise history, and that team (as well as 2011) only won 7 games. But, it was good enough for a division title and a playoff victory. Indeed, in the last nine years, the Seahawks have made the playoffs seven times and won the division three times (to go along with the two Super Bowl appearances and the one title). It’s actually pretty remarkable how quickly Schneider and Carroll were able to turn things around. The 2010 team was far from great, but it was leaps and bounds better than 2009; and while we failed to make the playoffs in 2011, I would argue that team was even better.

As this is a time of year, generally, where we focus on the draft that was, it’s interesting to take a look back at that as well. The 2010 draft was a real anomaly for this team. We had two high first round draft picks and actually used them on PLAYERS, as opposed to trading down and racking up a bunch of bites at the apple. While the year-to-year strategies have evolved, the overall vision for the team has never wavered: Build Through The Draft.

What’s the best way to build a championship contender? That’s the question we keep asking ourselves, to be answered in wordy, meandering thinkpieces such as this one you’re reading right now. There are lots of different answers, but they all harken back to the same thing: the draft. You gotta get lucky in the draft and hit upon a bunch of stars at a variety of positions (almost always including quarterback). Having a cheap, cost-controlled core, supplemented with a smattering of talented, expensive veterans, is generally the way to go.

You could argue that the Seahawks got away from that ethos a little bit from 2013-2016, with a number of questionable trades and free agent signings that we don’t need to rehash again here. But, I would argue that the ethos never changed, but our luck in the draft ultimately failed us.

You could also argue that the Seahawks have changed in what they prioritize. In the last couple years, as Bevell and Cable were fired after not being able to properly utilize the talent they were given (Bevell, in his use of Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham) and not being able to formulate a competent offensive line on the cheap (Cable, with his struggles from 2015-2017), there’s been a clear shift in where the money has been spent. This is the NFL, so what do I always say? There’s only so much money to go around, and you can’t pay everyone. That was ultimately Seattle’s downfall following the 2014 season. But, what probably doesn’t get said enough about the NFL is that you have to constantly strive to get younger. This team was stacked with world-beaters from 2012-2014 and we looked like an unstoppable juggernaut; less than a decade later, maybe three guys remain? With the snap of a finger, this team got old, this team got injured, and this team desperately needed an infusion of young blood.

But, the strategy all along, starting in 2010, was to save money where you felt you were strongest, from a coaching and scouting perspective. In Tom Cable’s tenure here, that meant going cheap on the O-Line (relatively speaking). Sure, Max Unger got himself a second contract, and Russell Okung was making high first round draft pick money (pre-CBA, where the money was good and inflated), but around them the Seahawks filled in with young guys and castoffs from other teams. Converted defensive tackles, converted tight ends, and the like. As those talented (and expensive) linemen started to move on, the Seahawks tried doubling down on that strategy by going even younger, even cheaper, even more castoffy. Culminating in a 2017 team where the leading rusher was the quarterback and the team had only one touchdown by a designated running back. That followed a 2016 season where Wilson played injured throughout because that same O-Line couldn’t protect him for shit.

Of course, we justified that form of team building by pointing to all the other areas making money at the top of the market. Quarterback, cornerback, safety, linebacker, defensive line, even running back for a spell while Lynch was still here. Something had to give. We trusted Cable, and it turned out to be a mistake.

In learning from that mistake, Cable is gone, and now the Seahawks are paying significant money on the O-Line again. Duane Brown, for an aging veteran, is making a pretty penny. Justin Britt was among the top centers in the game from a salary perspective when he signed his second deal. Ifedi is a first rounder entering the final year of his rookie deal and looks like a contender for a big contract (elsewhere, most likely). Fluker got a nice bump in pay after a 2018 prove-it performance. And, more draft picks have been utilized on this group than any other during Schneider’s time here.

But, things haven’t necessarily gotten much better from a salary cap perspective. Russell Wilson is the top of the quarterback market. Bobby Wagner is looking to reclaim the top middle linebacker spot. There’s a smattering of highly paid guys here and there, except for one group that ranks among the cheapest in the league: the secondary.

This jives with the team’s M.O. all along. Instead of banking on a supposed guru of an O-Line coach, the team is relying on their ability to draft and coach up cornerbacks and safeties. I would argue the gambit is just as risky. Especially in a year where, as I noted yesterday, the pass rush isn’t really up to snuff.

Back when the team was cheaping out on the O-Line, I could defend the logic because our quarterback was one of the better runners in the league, and proved that his elusiveness was an asset as he’s one of the better passers outside the pocket. But, over time, Wilson has shown to be an even more lethal pocket passer, and so creating an actual POCKET became more important. Having him play through a number of injuries in 2016 was the final nail in the coffin, and when the line still struggled in 2017, something drastic needed to be done.

Now, with Wilson entering his 30’s, priorities change. It makes zero sense to cheap out on the O-Line because he’s only going to get slower and easier to tackle as he gets older. But, even if he was his younger, spry self, my thinking on this topic has evolved once again.

The three areas where I would argue you not only SHOULD go with younger, cheaper options, but it would be criminally negligent for you to spend significant dollars, are linebacker, running back, and tight end. Which is why I’m loathe to make Bobby Wagner the highest paid inside linebacker in football (the counter to my reservations is that he’s Bobby Fucking Wagner and he literally IS the best inside linebacker in football, and the drop-off from him to a younger guy would decimate this defense). After those three spots, I would argue the next place a team should go cheap is the secondary.

I know that’s sacrilege, what with the Legion of Boom’s popularity around these parts, but it’s true. And it makes sense, if you think about it, more than it does the O-Line. With the way the college game is going, fewer and fewer offensive linemen are coming straight to the league and being productive starters right away. Those guys need to be coached up (as you’ve seen from the litany of ex-Seahawks who’ve gotten paid elsewhere, from Carpenter to Sweezy to Glowinski to soon-to-be Ifedi). With apologies to the L.O.B., however, with the secondary you need better athletes and a quality scheme. Offensive linemen tend to age like a fine wine; cornerbacks and safeties tend to start losing a step as they approach their Age 30 seasons. By the time they get to their second and third contracts, they’re already not really worth it. Unless they’re bona fide Hall of Famers like Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman. But, those guys don’t grow on trees.

My point is, I’d rather have a reliable offensive line and a huge question mark in the secondary, than the other way around. Now, ideally, you’d find a way to mask your team’s weakness (by, for instance, getting after the opposing team’s quarterback on a regular basis), but if there’ one area on the Seahawks I’d put my money on it improving dramatically from year to year, it would be with the secondary. Because of that track record with drafting and coaching guys up.

The secondary is young, it’s hungry, and maybe most importantly, it’s healthy. Flowers and Griffin look like solid starters. McDougald has already proven himself capable at either safety spot. Thompson and Hill are in their third years (second seasons as regular players on defense) and the team brought in a couple more defensive backs in this last draft to battle for jobs. It’s not out of the question for this weakness to actually be a strength when it’s all said and done.

Of course, even top notch secondaries can get burned by a lack of a pass rush.

The Most Indefensibly Bad Seahawks Draft Pick Of The John Schneider Era

In the wake of the 2019 NFL Draft, the world at large has run through just about everything you can talk about, so we ultimately turn to manufactured arguments. On the Brock & Salk show recently, they were talking about (I don’t remember specifically) the worst Seahawks draft picks of the Schneider/Carroll era. It might have actually been the worst first player selected in each draft, but my mind immediately went to one player.

Before we get to that, I should back up and mention that every team has bad draft picks under their belts. I’m not picking on the Seahawks because I think they’re bad drafters; on the contrary, I think this crew is very GOOD at drafting. Yes, they often find themselves “reaching” in the eyes of the experts, and they go out of their way to trade down (and even out of the first round) to acquire extra picks later on. But, I believe this front office more than any other (except maybe the Patriots) finds the best value in later rounds to round out its roster with quality players.

Beyond that, the Seahawks do an excellent job of blending Best Player Available with Team Needs. You’re not going to see this team draft a quarterback in the top half of the draft because that would be a waste; if you ever do see that, you’d know that player is probably someone who fell further than they should and bank on him being destined for greatness. Those players experts cite as a “reach” are more often than not guys the coaches are able to build up into effective starters. There’s a method to the Seahawks’ madness that keeps this train a rollin’.

If you had to narrow down the absolute WORST pick this group has made, I think you have to start with guys who’ve never played a single down in the NFL. There have been a handful (certainly more than I remembered before I started writing this post), with the worst of the bunch being the guys who cost us the highest draft capital:

  • Mark LeGree (2011, 5th round)
  • Jared Smith (2013, 7th round)
  • Jesse Williams (2013, 5th round)
  • Jimmy Staten (2014, 5th round)
  • Garrett Scott (2014, 6th round)
  • Terry Poole (2015, 4th round)
  • Zac Brooks (2016, 7th round)
  • Kenny Lawler (2016, 7th round)
  • Justin Senior (2017, 7th round)
  • Malik McDowell (2017, 2nd round)

It’s not fair to go beyond the 2017 draft, although Alex McGough spent all of 2018 on the Practice Squad before jumping ship to the Jags, where you have to believe he’ll at least get a shot at some serious playing time as a backup (that Brett Hundley deal continuing to pay whatever the opposite of dividends are). Of that ignominious group I listed above, I completely understand the urge to say, “Malik McDowell is the worst Seahawks draft pick of all time,” and call this post a day.

There is a GREAT argument behind that sentiment. He was a 2nd round pick, and the first pick of our 2017 draft (after trading out of the first round). He was brought in with the thought process that he’d play right away in a rotation that featured Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Cliff Avril, and Jarran Reed, among others. You could play McDowell on the outside on base downs, and bring him inside on passing downs, while allowing him to learn behind some all-time greats. Then, presumably, when the season was up, the team could move on from the likes of Avril and Bennett, and McDowell would’ve had a full year’s worth of experience under his belt to move into one of the starting roles.

We all know what happened instead: McDowell got injured before Training Camp even started, Avril was out of fooball a month into the season, Bennett was still in peak form (though just starting his slide; he’d be traded after the season), and we had to make that awful trade for Sheldon Richardson (who had very little impact on the field, and cost us yet ANOTHER second round pick, this time in the 2018 draft). So, not only did McDowell not produce for us, but he actively crippled this franchise for the next three years (we’re still being hurt by this deal, as we’ve had to spend high picks in the last two drafts – and probably another one next year – to fill the pass rushing void).

But, that’s not the premise of this post. Yes, the selection of McDowell was atrocious, but it is wholly defensible.

The argument against that has to do with him being a knucklehead who crashed on an ATV and broke his skull, but I mean, come on. Who could reasonably predict that? The knock against him heading into the 2017 draft was that he wasn’t necessarily the hardest worker in college. He took downs/games off. The talent was there, when he wanted it to be, and that’s why a high first round talent fell into the second round. If you want to be mad at anything, be mad at the fact that the team traded out of the first round in the first place; that’s the REAL crime here. But, there’s a lot we don’t know. Maybe the defensive lineman we liked was already taken, so it made sense to trade down and get more picks. You also have to factor in the players we were able to draft because of those trades, of which there are a number of contributors (including Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, and Chris Carson).

Regardless, the reasoning behind taking McDowell was sound. And, for that reason, I have a hard time placing too much blame on a front office that was struck by some of the worst luck you can imagine. If he wasn’t an idiot, we might be talking about an integral part of this year’s defense right now. We were able to turn Frank Clark around after a suspect college career, it’s not crazy to imagine we could’ve turned McDowell around if we’d actually gotten him into the program.

If you wanted to go away from these types of players who made zero positive impact on the club, you could talk about guys who the Seahawks DID play, and who were actively terrible (arguably providing a net-negative value by virture of their performances on the field). This would include guys like:

  • James Carpenter (2011, 1st round)
  • John Moffitt (2011, 3rd round)
  • Mark Glowinski (2015, 4th round)
  • Germain Ifedi (2016, 1st round)
  • Rees Odhiambo (2016, 3rd round)
  • Ethan Pocic (2017, 2nd round)

Some of these aren’t totally fair. Carpenter was a first round reach, no doubt about it, and it took this team a couple years before they finally figured out where his best fit was on the line. But, once he got past some injury issues and settled in, he’s made a nice career for himself (his last year in Seattle was pretty good, but mostly he’s been a workhorse elsewhere). Glowinski also was a dud in Seattle, though he’s been pretty solid in Indy (and just earned a nice little raise this offseason). Moffitt was an outright bust, in every sense of the word, and a total misfire of a 3rd rounder. Odhiambo has been pretty awful (though, again, I’d argue he’s been thrust into roles he’s not suited for, like left tackle – before we brought in Duane Brown – thanks to injuries and poor planning). Ifedi has been this fanbase’s whipping boy from day one, though his 2018 season was a huge step in the right direction (I would bet some other team pays him a pretty penny once he leaves after the 2019 season); and Pocic has been my own personal whipping boy nearly every time he’s seen the field in his short professional career.

I don’t think these guys really qualify as the most indefensibly bad pick of this era, so much as it simply being indefensible that this team left Tom Cable in charge for as long as they did, when he was better at molding crappy players into eventual quality starters for OTHER teams. A guy like Cable is fine if you have all the time in the world to develop diamonds in the rough; but this team was going cheap on its O-Line (to pay stars at other positions) and needed guys to step in RIGHT AWAY; in that sense, you get what you pay for. The defense behind picking these guys is simple: there’s always a need for offensive linemen, and the Seahawks took more swings at this than anyone else in football. The sad fact is that we simply swung and MISSED more than anyone else, which is why this team fell apart after its Super Bowl run.

All of this is preamble for what I’m going to tell you is, without a doubt, the worst and most indefensible draft pick of the John Schneider era:

  • Christine Michael

We were coming off of an all-time great run of drafts, not just for the Seahawks, but for any team in NFL history. You can’t rehash this enough, and I’m more than happy to go over it with you:

  • Russell Okung – 2010
  • Earl Thomas – 2010
  • Golden Tate – 2010
  • Walter Thurmond – 2010
  • Kam Chancellor – 2010
  • James Carpenter – 2011
  • K.J. Wright – 2011
  • Richard Sherman – 2011
  • Byron Maxwell – 2011
  • Malcolm Smith – 2011
  • Doug Baldwin – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Brandon Browner – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Ricardo Lockette – 2011 (undrafted)
  • Bruce Irvin – 2012
  • Bobby Wagner – 2012
  • Russell Wilson – 2012
  • Robert Turbin – 2012
  • Jaye Howard – 2012
  • Jeremy Lane – 2012
  • J.R. Sweezy – 2012
  • Jermaine Kearse – 2012 (undrafted)

That’s just clinically insane. So many All Pros and Pro Bowlers and starters and role players just in that group alone, who contributed to this team’s championship run in 2013. You could easily say this group was playing with house money.

So much of it, in fact, that we traded the farm (including our 2013 first rounder) to acquire Percy Harvin.

You could also argue that the 2013 NFL Draft was one of the worst of all time. Bust after bust after bust among this group; teams even in the top third of the FIRST round couldn’t count on drafting anyone worth a damn; so why am I all up in arms about a second rounder?

Because, motherfucker!

We as Seahawks fans are used to saying, “HUH?” whenever we see who this team ends up picking. In the early going – particularly in 2012 – we were made to look the fool at this way of thinking, as those guys ended up being some of the best players we’ve ever seen. We have that reaction because the guys the Seahawks take aren’t the guys the national pundits spend all offseason talking about. We don’t KNOW those guys; we know other guys who we think are better, but they might not necessarily be good fits for this team. But, at the very least, we could always rationalize WHY the Seahawks took the guys they’ve taken. There are always clear needs, and the Seahawks tend to focus in on those needs just like the rest of us.

As I mentioned before, the 2013 Seahawks were playing with house money. This was a team – in 2012, particularly in the last month of the regular season, on into the postseason – that was already a Super Bowl contender, as is. A bad start in Atlanta in the Divisional Round prevented us from what could’ve been back-to-back-to-back NFC Championship Games and even possibly back-to-back-to-back Super Bowl appearances. No team in December 2012 was playing as well as the Seattle Seahawks – including the eventual NFL Champion 49ers, who we clobbered in that closing stretch – so that 2013 NFL Draft was wide open to do what this team has never been able to do: really go after the Best Player Available.

Think about it, that team had NO HOLES. We were stacked from top to bottom, and as deep as any team in the league has ever been. We CUT guys who would go on to Pro Bowls for other teams, simply because there wasn’t room for them on our 53-man roster!

And yet, as we all know, no team is without holes. We could’ve filled in around the margins; maybe gone after Travis Kelce (taken with the very next pick; can you imagine? Never having to endure the Jimmy Graham debacle?), or the Honey Badger, or Keenan Allen, or any number of third rounders in that draft who are still kicking around the league. Instead, we picked Christine Michael.

And, for the first – and really only time that I can remember – Seahawks fans all said, “HUH?” not because we didn’t know the guy, but because we didn’t know WHY in the FUCK the Seahawks – with inarguably the best running back in all of football – drafted a third running back.

Remember, this team had Robert Turbin from the 2012 draft. While he never developed into a superstar, he was more than fine as a backup. A nice change of pace, someone who took care of the ball and could spell our starter, someone with good hands out in space and fit our zone blocking scheme to a T. Maybe in a different universe, Turbin could’ve been a 1,000-yard back somewhere! When he left Seattle, he succumbed to injuries that kept him from really breaking out, but you never know.

What we DO know is that Marshawn Lynch was Beastmode, and 2012/2013 was right smack dab in the middle of his PRIME! I mean, this seriously made no sense. It was as if the team was trying to push out the best player on its offense for no good God damned reason!

And maybe that was the plan. All I know was that there wasn’t any serious inkling of Lynch retiring, or otherwise leaving the organization at that time. In an ideal universe, maybe Michael sits as the third stringer his rookie year, then takes over in Year Two. But, obviously, we know how things really shook out. Lynch had two of this three best seasons in 2013 & 2014; he was FAR from done! So far, in fact, that the team signed him to an extension in 2015 (which, of course, immediately preceeded him getting injured, then retiring, then being traded to the Raiders for a nice Oakland swan song).

Meanwhile, Michael was terrible, both on and off the field. He didn’t work on his craft, he didn’t have that will to be great; I guess the best thing you can say is that he didn’t get into trouble off the field. But, even in college people questioned his work ethic, hence (again) why a first round talent fell to the bottom of the second round.

Christine Michael was the total antithesis of what the Seahawks sought out in their players under Pete Carroll and John Schneider. And yet, here we were, blowing our first pick on this guy, where there was absolutely no need whatsoever.

There’s no defending the Christine Michael pick, which makes it the most indefensibly bad pick of the John Schneider era.

The Seahawks Need More Stars

Brock and Salk had an interesting conversation recently about the Seahawks and how close they are to contending for another Super Bowl. My takeaway (I tend to agree with Salk here) is that the Seahawks are short on stars. There are a lot of good players on this team, but not necessarily a lot of GREAT players. So, I decided to quickly do a comparison between the 2018/2019 Seahawks against the 2013 Super Bowl Champs.

Offensive (and Special Teams) Stars

Now

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Chris Carson – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Duane Brown – LT
  • Michael Dickson – P

Then

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Marshawn Lynch – RB
  • Golden Tate – WR
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Russell Okung – LT
  • Max Unger – C
  • Jon Ryan – P

Right there, you’d have to say pretty comparable. Beastmode is better than Carson, the receivers are pretty close to the same, and 2018 Russell is better than 2013 Russell. Where we start to see some breakaway is on the other side of the ball.

Defensive Stars

Now

  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Jarran Reed – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • (K.J. Wright – LB)

Then

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DT
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Earl Thomas – FS
  • Kam Chancellor – SS
  • Richard Sherman – CB

I’d say the Seahawks have a good start here, but I’d also say the combo of Bennett & Avril were better than the combo of Clark & Reed. Now, there’s obviously still room for both of the younger guys to grow, so in theory they could be even more dominant than they were in 2018, but as it stands right now that’s where we’re at. 2018 Bobby is better than 2013 Bobby, and while 2018 K.J. is better than 2013 K.J., the 2018 version was also injury prone, and is far from a lock to be re-signed to this team in 2019.

Then, there’s the secondary. The 2013 Seahawks not only had 3 superstars in the secondary, they had 3 ALL TIMERS. The 2018/2019 Seahawks don’t have anything CLOSE, and that’s ultimately their biggest hole to overcome (I won’t say “fill”, because I think we’re pretty much stuck with the guys we’ve got, which means we have to compensate in other ways defensively and as a team as a whole).

So, digging down further, let’s list the players who are just good starters/role players.

Now

  • Mike Davis – RB
  • Rashaad Penny – RB
  • All our Tight Ends
  • Justin Britt – C
  • Both starting Guards
  • Poona Ford – DT
  • Mychal Kendricks – LB
  • Justin Coleman – CB
  • Tre Flowers – CB
  • Shaq Griffin – CB
  • Bradley McDougald – SS

Then

  • All our Tight Ends
  • Sidney Rice – WR
  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Chris Clemons – DE
  • Tony McDaniel – DT
  • Clinton McDonald – DT
  • Brandon Mebane – DT
  • Bruce Irvin – LB
  • Byron Maxwell – CB
  • Walter Thurmond – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB

I think our running back room now is stronger than it was then (but it didn’t matter in 2013 when Beastmode was all you needed). I think our offensive line as a whole is better now than it was then, even though the 2013 version was more top-heavy (Sweezy in 2018 is MUCH better than Sweezy in 2013, for instance; Fluker is better than Carpenter; and I would argue Ifedi is on par with Giacomini). I think both tight end rooms are a wash. But, as you can see, while the Seahawks of today have a so-so secondary, the BACKUPS in 2013 were on par with what we have now (and, I would argue, probably a little better). And, the other big difference is up front. Look at all the beef we had on the D-Line in 2013 compared to today! It’s no contest!

Also, not for nothing, but a few of those guys I listed might not be back in 2019, which is yet more work for the Seahawks to do this offseason.

As you can see, the talent disparity is pretty big. I wouldn’t say it’s insurmountable, but you have to wonder where we’re going to pick up the slack. With 4 draft picks and a bunch of our own stars we need to extend, it’s not like we have unlimited resources.

The good news is, the Seahawks of 2019 don’t need to beat the Seahawks of 2013. I would argue the 2013 Seahawks were one of the most talented teams of all time (especially on defense); we won’t see anyone like that in the NFL in 2019. We just have to get past the Rams and the rest of the NFC, then let the chips fall where they may.

It would HELP if we could develop a couple of those good starters into superstars, but this draft and free agency period will be pretty big. No whiffing, lest we middle our way to another Wild Card finish.

I’m Getting Excited About The Seahawks Again

Boy, I’ll tell ya, last week’s game is EXACTLY what I needed.  Up until they lost, all my football season excitement level revolved around the Washington Huskies for obvious reasons.  That dwindled pretty significantly, particularly because of the opponent (ASU) that we lost to.  There was a good 2-week period there where I was just in a football haze, going through the motions, watching the games but not really feeling invested.

The vast majority of that had to do with my relative indifference toward the Seahawks.  I mean, there’s no better way to kill the buzz around a season than to lose in Week 1 to the Packers, and ultimately start your season 1-2, where you REALLY had to scratch and claw your way to that lone victory, over the 49ers, who STILL haven’t won a football game.  The home win over the Colts was nothing special (especially when we went into halftime trailing, and I opted to go to bed and watch the rest the next day on DVR rather than interfere with my work sleep).  The road win over the Rams looked like a lot of fun, but I was out of town and unable to do anything more than read updates on Twitter.  Then, you had the run-of-the-mill road victory over the 1-win Giants.

Ho hum, right?

Then last week happened!  One of, if not THE greatest game of the season!  And then the trade deadline happened, and our biggest weakness (left tackle) turned into one of our biggest strengths overnight!  And now the struggling Redskins are in town?  Bring ’em on!  They’ve got injuries galore and should be PUSHOVERS, with the way we’re capable of playing!

I’m all in, baby!  I am dialed in, I’m loving the parity throughout the NFL, and I indeed smell blood in the water.  The Seahawks have been “championship contenders” since 2012, but this year is starting to feel different.  Like 2013 different.

I attribute it to the fact that it feels like the offense is further along in its progression than it has been in years past.  The defense has always been great (when the key parts have been healthy), but most years it’s taken a while for the offense to get rolling.  In 2012, there was a definite evolution.  Russell Wilson was a rookie, and he struggled early like most rookies do.  There were some close, hard-fought defeats and victories.  There was a major step forward in the You Mad Bro victory over the Pats, but an immediate step back with losses to the 49ers and Lions.  It wasn’t until the overtime victory over the Bears where things started to lock into place.  The Seahawks averaged 50 points per game over the next three victories (including a dominant one over the eventual NFC champion 49ers), and away we went.

2013 is the anomaly, because the offense more or less started out the year in okay shape and never really faltered too much, except against the really good defenses, which’ll happen to anyone.  It’s the reason why that year was so special, because when you pit a high-functioning offense with one of the greatest defenses of all time, you’ve got an unstoppable juggernaut.

But, in 2014, even though that was another Super Bowl year, there were some growing pains.  The offense was still good, but not great, and I attribute all of that to Percy Harvin’s presence, and Darrell Bevell going above and beyond to try to get him involved when he just didn’t fit with what we were doing.  Then, after we got rid of him, and we got our embarrassing Rams defeat out of the way, the offense was free to run wild once again.  The Seahawks finished the season 9-1, and while the closing schedule wasn’t as tough as we thought it might be heading into the season, there was still an impressive 35-6 road victory over the Cardinals towards the end.

In 2015, we had the start of our significant offensive line woes.  It was Okung’s final year, Britt was moved from right tackle to left guard (and struggled).  Drew Nowak was the opening day center (which was the source of most of our problems).  J.R. Sweezy was our whipping boy of a right guard (who was okay, but never really blossomed in a Seahawks uniform the way we’d hoped).  And Garry Gilliam was flipped over to right tackle and making his first starts there ever.  We struggled with this O-Line for a full half season!  We started out 4-4, had a BYE, then lost to the Cards out of the BYE (on one of the worst gambling nights of my life, that seriously had me considering whether or not I should ever gamble again).  But, in that Cards game, Patrick Lewis took over for Drew Nowak, we scored a ton in a 39-32 defeat, and from there the offense looked like its usual self again.  We closed out the year 6-1 to make the playoffs, including that famously high-scoring game against the Steelers (where Jimmy Graham injured his knee, but we won 39-30).  We averaged 32 points per game over the final 8, while averaging just a fraction under 21 points per game in the first 8.

In 2016, we had more of the same type of troubles with the offensive line (Okung gone, Sweezy gone, Britt converted to center in his third year as the lone bright spot), with the added bonus of all our running backs sucking (Christine Michael was our leading rusher with 469 yards, in only 9 games, finishing his season in Green Bay) and our quarterback getting injured in the first game and never really getting back to 100% with all the subsequent injuries he’d go on to suffer.  Last year, I’d be hard pressed to say the offense ever REALLY got going.  There wasn’t a game or a moment that jumpstarted things; we just kind of looked good in fits and starts.  The offense was pretty good against the Falcons, but we followed that up with the 6-6 tie game in Arizona.  Our best 3-game stretch of the season was when everyone was at their healthiest:  Week 9 vs. Buffalo on Monday Night, Week 10 at New England, Week 11 vs. Philadelphia.  Wilson played great, C.J. Prosise made the biggest impact of his rookie season (and career, if we’re being honest), and it really did feel like FINALLY things were snapping into place.  Then, we fell 14-5 to the Bucs and it was right back to “Where’s The Offense?” again.  I mean, maybe you can blame Britt being injured in that one, as Tampa’s interior linemen really feasted on our guards and backup center (it holds some water, as we would go on the very next week to score 40 on the Panthers), but then after that we were embarrassed on the road in Green Bay (being held to 10 points, as Wilson threw a grip of interceptions), and at that point it didn’t really matter.  With Earl Thomas gone, that team never had a chance.

And, make no mistake, we’re not out of the woods in 2017.  Injuries could decimate this team just as they did last year.  But, if they don’t, I think we’re in great shape.

It’s not just last week’s game against the Texans, though that certainly doesn’t hurt.  Here are the yardage and points totals for our offense, starting in Week 1:

  1. 225 yards, 9 points at Green Bay
  2. 312 yards, 12 points vs. San Francisco
  3. 433 yards, 27 points at Tennessee
  4. 477 yards, 46 points vs. Indianapolis
  5. 241 yards, 16 points at L.A. Rams
  6. BYE
  7. 425 yards, 24 points at N.Y. Giants
  8. 479 yards, 41 points vs. Houston

That’s an offense generating over 400 yards of offense in 4 of its last 5 games, and an offense that’s been good enough to win 4 of its last 5 games.  We’re moving the ball, we’re converting third downs.  Granted, it’s still somewhat of a struggle early – particularly on the first drive, where the Seahawks haven’t scored a first-drive regular season touchdown since early in 2016 – but it’s not as bad as it was last year.

The offensive line IS making improvements (and that’s before the addition of Duane Brown).  Granted, the running game is in shambles, but that just means Russell Wilson has been given an opportunity to step up, and he’s taken full advantage.  He was a man possessed in the back-half of 2015, and we all thought we’d get more of the same in 2016 until he injured his ankle and knee and later his pec (I think?).  Now that he’s 100%, and had a good off-season getting back into shape, we’re starting to see that MVP-calibre player we’ve all been waiting for.

The only thing we’ve been waiting on is the red zone offense to start turning those field goals into touchdowns, and if last week is any indication, we could be in for a big turnaround in that category.  I mean, let’s face it, does the Redskins’ defense really scare you?  This Sunday could be a massacre!

From there, we have a Thursday Night game in Arizona, a Monday Night game vs. the Falcons, and a road game against the 49ers before the showdown against the Eagles on Sunday Night, December 3rd.  There’s no excuse whatsoever for the Seahawks to not be 9-2 heading into that game.  And, if we can sneak out of there with a victory?  The sky is the limit on this season.  #1 seed, Super Bowl, parade in February.

The defense is the foundation upon which this team is built (and, I’ll reiterate, I’m not worried about last week’s performance; I chalk that up to an elite quarterback and a couple of elite receivers making incredibly accurate and efficient plays; talk to me if the Redskins put up those kinds of numbers, then I’ll say we have something to worry about on our hands), but this team will only go as far as the offense takes it.  The amazing defense will keep us in any and all ballgames, but the offense will put us over the top and win us another championship.  Even in 2013, it’s not like we shut out every team we played; we still needed to score when the games were on the line.  Same here.

I’m officially out of my funk!  These games mean something again!  Let’s go out there and kick some ass!