How The 2017 NFL Draft Ruined The Seattle Seahawks

I was writing about something else, when as a lark, I jumped into the Wiki of the 2017 NFL draft. I will be perfectly honest, I was there because of Patrick Mahomes.

It’s always nagged at me that the Seahawks were scouting Mahomes in the lead-up to that draft. Is that just noise? The Seahawks leaking reports to make John Schneider look smart? Maybe; anything’s possible. But, I don’t know if I would comprehend the endgame of that. Why leak that story at all, if he wasn’t legitimately interested?

If Mahomes was here, maybe Pete Carroll would still be here. Maybe the Seahawks would have more than the one Super Bowl victory. Maybe WE would be the envy of every other NFL fanbase!

The thought process behind the Mahomes-to-Seahawks hoopla was the concept that if he had fallen in the draft, maybe we would’ve taken him anyway, and had him sit behind Wilson until he was ready to ascend (and we could just let Wilson walk, like the Packers did with Favre).

But, he didn’t fall. Kansas City made sure of that. Kansas City moved up in the draft, trading with Buffalo to get the 10th overall pick in 2017, giving them 27 & 91, as well as a first rounder in 2018. For shits and giggles, I looked to see what the Seahawks had coming into that draft. We had 26, AND we had three third rounders, including pick 90.

If that isn’t a kick in the pants, I don’t know what is.

Now, obviously, the Seahawks had Russell Wilson. We signed him to a 4-year extension in July of 2015. You could argue that was the beginning of the end, because even though it wasn’t likely the Seahawks could’ve traded him that summer, if they had gotten a jump and traded him before (or even waited and traded him after the 2015 season), we would’ve gotten a HAUL in return. I know everyone is pleased as punch with what we swindled out of the Broncos after the 2021 season, but just imagine what we could’ve gotten for him in his prime, still on his rookie deal!

Anyway, as that link indicates, I was against trading Wilson in 2015. But, I would’ve gotten over it, especially if it had led to us getting Mahomes in 2017. You take the 2016 draft, rebuild at other spots, then you get Mahomes in 2017 and off you go.

What makes matters worse is what we actually did in the 2017 NFL draft.

We traded down from 26 to 31 (missing out on T.J. Watt in the process). We, then, traded down again, from 31 to 34 (missing out on Ryan Ramczyk in the process). We traded down one more time, from 34 to 35 (missing out on Cam Robinson), all so we could draft Malik McDowell. He was an all-time bust who we spent YEARS trying to recover from (making multiple trades for interior defensive linemen, who all backfired on us in one way or another, while slogging through mediocrity the entire way).

What did we do with the rest of the landslide of draft picks we acquired?

  • Ethan Pocic in the second round: who we dicked around with at guard, before ultimately putting him at the only position he was good at (center), but not before he got bit by he injury bug for multiple years.
  • Shaquill Griffin in the third round: a good, not great, cornerback, who was a pale imitation of Richard Sherman.
  • Lano Hill in the third round: a total bust of a strong safety; not even a pale imitation of Kam Chancellor.
  • Nazair Jones in the third round: a total nobody of a DT.
  • Amara Darboh in the third round: a total nobody of a WR.
  • Tedric Thompson in the fourth round: yet another total bust of a safety, who sure as shit was no Earl Thomas; we also suffer the further indignity of knowing that George Kittle was on our radar and could’ve been had in this spot.
  • Michael Tyson in the sixth round: not the boxer.
  • Justin Senior in the sixth round: who?
  • David Moore in the seventh round: one of the best players we drafted in this class, who was little more than a possession receiver in the vein of a poor man’s Jermaine Kearse.
  • Chris Carson in the seventh round: probably the most talented player in our draft class, who fell to the seventh round because of injury concerns, and did not disappoint on that count in the pros.

In short, we overpaid Russell Wilson for dwindling production, we missed out on Patrick Mahomes – a guy who might end up surpassing Tom Brady as the greatest player of all time – AND we not only stockpiled a shitload of crap, but had to account for our mistakes by making more mistakes in the future, all in hopes of clinging to playoff relevance that never panned out into championships.

You know, it’s entirely possible that the fans would’ve rioted if we’d traded Russell Wilson back in 2015 or 2016. But, I would argue, what we’ve had to endure since has been remarkably worse. Forever Mediocre, as I’ve taken to coining it.

Pete Carroll has two legacies when it comes to his time in Seattle. The first one is obviously terrific: he blessed us with our first NFL championship, he built up an exciting roster of young, ferocious players who were the most fun team to watch in the entire league for a good half-decade or more. Ultimately, that will overshadow everything else, and become The One True Legacy.

But, his other legacy is always going to linger, a Barry Bonds’ head-sized asterisk (minus the rampant doping). Because Pete Carroll shoulders the blame for having amassed such a splendid collection of players and ONLY winning one Super Bowl. He gets the blame for costing us XLIX (along with the OC for calling a dumb play, along with Russell Wilson for his decision-making in that instant, along with our receivers for not properly executing the play). He also gets the blame for the various personnel moves that backfired throughout the years (along with John Schneider, but obviously Carroll had total authority and final say). And, he gets the blame for the back-half of the decade he was here, when he lost control of the team, when his defense failed us, and when his franchise quarterback demanded more control of the offense.

What should’ve been a dynasty, was instead one dominant Super Bowl victory, one of the most regrettable moments in Super Bowl history, and a whole lotta “What Could’ve Been”.

There are any number of inflection points you can point to. Trading for Percy Harvin and giving him a dumptruck full of cash (over keeping your homegrown Golden Tate); the whole debacle that was the Jimmy Graham deal (both losing our Pro Bowl center, as well as changing an offense entirely to force-feeding a soft, slow tight end); giving in to the Let Russ Cook crowd as opposed to cutting ties a year earlier and trading him to the Bears like we should’ve. But, really, it was the 2017 draft, and all the decisions made before (that prevented us from moving up to grab Mahomes) and since (in the fallout of Malik McDowell), that ultimately proved to be this franchise’s downfall.

We’re still, 7 years later, trying to recover, with seemingly no end in sight.

The Seahawks Cut Diggs, Adams, Dissly

While these are some obvious moves the Seahawks needed to make to free up some much-needed cash ahead of the 2024 offseason, go ahead and disregard a lot of the financial numbers I referenced in this post.

The good news for the Seahawks when it comes to the NFL raising the salary cap to a record $255.4 million is that it helped us greatly when it comes to our financial woes. The last however many years, the Seahawks have been right up against the cap limit every single year. Not much – if any – carry-over from one season to the next. That’s the price you pay when you’re doing everything you possibly can to cling to contention, without any resets.

The bad news for the Seahawks when it comes to the NFL raising the salary cap to a record $255.4 million is that it helps everyone else by the same amount. And, pretty much everyone else was already in a better salary cap situation, so that’s neat.

The three moves combined apparently save a little over $25 million. As for the dead money? Don’t even go there! One cool element of this is that we’re NOT making Jamal Adams a post-June 1st cut, which means we eat all the dead money now, but then in 2025 and beyond, we’re no longer obligated.

I like that. We’ve got a new coaching staff, we’ve got a front office with a new lease on life now that Pete Carroll is no longer where the buck stops. Let’s try to give the Seahawks some semblance of a fresh start. For all intents and purposes, should the Seahawks look to clean house in 2025, there isn’t a TON of dead money to have to endure. Dead money on Geno, Tyler, and even D.K. is all pretty reasonable. There wouldn’t be a lot left for Dre’Mont Jones, and you could even get out from under Nwosu if you really wanted to. Beyond those guys (and, presumably, any duds we sign in this offseason to multi-year deals), there isn’t a lot of fat on this roster going forward.

The toughest hit in this group is Quandre Diggs. He’s been nothing but a pro’s pro since joining the Seahawks. Indeed, either we got him at his very best, or we were able to make the best use of his talents. He spent 4.5 years with Detroit and 4.5 years with Seattle. All three of his Pro Bowls happened when he was here, and 18 of his 24 career interceptions came here.

There’s a lot of lamenting how much money the Seahawks have had tied up in the safety position in recent years. But, people also forget how TRULY awful we were at that position from 2018 (when Earl Thomas went down after 4 games) until Diggs joined the team halfway through 2019. Don’t forget, we also lost Kam Chancellor halfway through 2017, and had to suffer the likes of Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, and Marquise Blair for that whole stretch. The point being: lack of quality safety play can really set your defense back.

That being said, you just can’t afford to have Safety as your most expensive position on the team. That’s no way to build a great roster. The impact you get from even the best of the best isn’t enough to counterbalance the negatives you’re getting from a nothing defensive line.

The easiest and most obvious cut to swallow was Jamal Adams. It’s going down as one of the worst trades in Seahawks history, and maybe even one of the worst trades in NFL history! We gave them a first and third rounder in 2021 (which they used to trade up in the first round that year, only to draft a journeyman guard/tackle who’s hit the IR twice out of three years), a first rounder in 2022 (which they used to take Garrett Wilson at 10th overall), and Bradley McDougald (who was pretty much cooked by the time we got rid of him). In return, we got a fourth round pick in 2021 (which we used to take Coby Bryant) and one great season (in 2020) where Adams had 9.5 sacks in 12 games. He would go on to have 0 more sacks in a combined 22 more games across the next three seasons, somehow catching 2 INTs (while dropping countless others), and making little-to-no impact whatsoever amidst an injury-plagued career. And, to top it all off, he was both delusional and an ass on the Internet, with one foot out the door pretty much since the moment he got here.

I would put Will Dissly somewhere in the middle. I definitely don’t dislike Dissly; honestly, he’s always been a joy to watch, dating back to his days as a Washington Husky. Every time he catches a ball, or contributes in any way, I light up like a Christmas tree! But also, like, what are we doing paying a – primarily blocking – tight end that much money? He averages a hair over 2 touchdowns, 21 receptions, and 236 yards per season; you’re giving THAT guy an average salary of $8 million per year? Again, what are we doing?

I wouldn’t be against paying him the minimum to come back. But, I’m guessing if we wanted to do that – and he wanted to accept that – he’d be here on a modified deal. As it stands, I’m assuming he can earn more elsewhere, and if so, God bless him.

All in all, kind of a weird day, but not totally shocking. The first of many, many moves to come in a pretty exciting offseason for the Seahawks.

The Top 20 Seahawks Of 2021

The theme of this offseason – which I alluded to last Friday, but don’t think I properly answered – is: How Quick Can The Seahawks Get Back To Contending For Championships? Turning things around can be a little nebulous; if by “turning around” you mean getting back to the playoffs, as I’ve said before, we can pretty much run the same team back and hope variance takes care of everything else (on top of a second year with the same coordinator, and a little better injury luck). But, I don’t think very many of us are satisfied with “just making the playoffs”. We’ve been “just making the playoffs” pretty much the entire time Russell Wilson has been in the league! After getting a taste of back-to-back Super Bowls, I think the more hardcore fans are now rabid animals, desperate to get back no matter the cost.

The 2021 Seahawks were a collosal disappointment, no doubt about it. We started the season 3-8, it doesn’t get a whole lot worse than that. We lost to a lot of teams we had no business losing to (the Titans, the Vikings, the Steelers, the Saints, the Football Team, the Bears). Flip half of those games and we’re at 10 wins and in the playoffs. It’s not like we were TERRIBLE though. We finished 7-10 – a record we absolutely deserved – but we’re not in such bad shape that the roster MUST be completely turned over.

I have a list of 20 Seahawks from the 2021 team. I’ve split them into three categories: young rising stars, good guys who would find regular work on other teams, and the cream of the crop established superstars. So, let’s go in that order.

Young, Rising Stars

  • Jake Curhan (RT)
  • Tre Brown (CB)

Most every year, you stumble upon at least a guy or two who comes out of nowhere to really make an impact. Tre Brown was the first one this past season. As a 4th round draft pick, I didn’t expect a whole lot – if anything – from Tre Brown, as a rookie, or really throughout his career. The odds are stacked so far against you as a Day 3 draft pick. You could argue the Seahawks have had a lot of success drafting DBs late, but you could also argue we haven’t done so since 2012 (unless you’re a big Ugo Amadi fan; he’s okay, I guess, but I wouldn’t call him a rousing success). Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson, Michael Tyson, Tye Smith, etc. are all the Day 3 busts we’ve accumulated since the L.O.B. heyday; I think we’ve proven that we’re not capable of just throwing any ol’ draft pick out there and turning them into studs.

So, yes, Tre Brown was a breath of fresh air! He was aggressive, without being reckless. He fit into the system without giving up huge cushions of yardage pre-snap. And, most importantly, he supplanted Tre Flowers once and for all, allowing us to cut him when he finally ran out of chances to make it in this defense. Which made his injury in November that much more demoralizing, because Brown looked like he’d be a 4-year starter with this team right away. Now, he’s gotta recover from knee surgery, and who knows how long it’ll be until he returns to form, if ever? I’m still holding out hope, though not for a 2022 return.

Jake Curhan, on the other hand, looks like he’s here to stay. He was an undrafted rookie in 2021 who slipped in the draft due to medicals. Those medicals don’t project to be as serious as once thought, and it appears he’ll be able to have a long and fruitful NFL career. He was able to slide into the right tackle spot when Brandon Shell went down with injury, and he really impressed! His pass protection isn’t quite there yet, but it’s not as dire from a tackle as it is with a guard; Russ was able to work with it and get away from a lot of the pressure coming from that side. Curhan’s run blocking proved to be top notch though, so at least he does SOMETHING well! That’s more than we could say for the revolving door that’s been the right tackle spot since Breno Giacomini manned the position. Making it through his rookie season injury-free gives me even more hope as we head into 2022, when he’ll project to take a step forward in his development.

Better Than Replacement-Level Players

  • Gerald Everett (TE) *
  • Damien Lewis (G)
  • Alton Robinson (DE)
  • Poona Ford (DT)
  • Al Woods (DT) *
  • Carlos Dunlap (DE)
  • Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Sidney Jones (CB) *
  • D.J. Reed (CB) *
  • Rasheem Green (DE) *

I didn’t put these in any particular order, but if I’m being honest, D.J. Reed was the one I was most on the fence about; he might be an elite player, I’d just like to see more than 2 interceptions a year out of an elite corner.

These are all guys who aren’t quite studs, but if we cut them (or they’re free agents, which is what the * represents), I would expect all of these guys to find jobs on other teams. Anyone I didn’t list here, or in the upcoming elite category, are guys who may or may not find work elsewhere, but don’t have a ton of value to an NFL team outside of depth.

These guys, however, are productive enough, but I could probably take ’em or leave ’em. They all have flaws. Everett is a weird headcase who cost us too many yards in stupid fucking penalties (not to mention all the drops). Lewis has run into a string of injuries and doesn’t feel quite as irreplaceable as he was as a promising rookie. Robinson just didn’t take that next step in his second year, finishing with a disappointing number of sacks. Poona and Woods are run-stuffing tackles, there’s a ceiling for what those guys are (and it’s in this category). Dunlap has only showed up for half-a-season in each of his two years here. Wagner’s just flat out lost a step and doesn’t make the same number of impact plays as he did as a young buck. Jones and Reed need to generate more turnovers. And Green is taking his sweet-ass time to really bust out as a force in this league.

Elite Seahawks Studs

  • Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Rashaad Penny (RB) *
  • D.K. Metcalf (WR)
  • Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Darrell Taylor (LB/DE)
  • Jordyn Brooks (LB)
  • Jamal Adams (S)
  • Quandre Diggs (S) *

Again, no particular order, but Brooks is the one I was most on the fence about. He might just be another guy. But, he led the team in tackles in his second season (his first as a starter), and all the smart football wonks have been praising his play since he started getting in there. There haven’t been a ton of impact plays, but he’s making all the regular ones, and he’s another guy who should continue to improve over the next year or two.

Diggs and Penny both feel like guys who need to be re-signed. It’s tantalizing to envision a scenario where Penny can stay healthy and dominate the league (I’ll be FASCINATED to see where he goes on fantasy football draft boards heading into next year).

Seeing the offensive players on this list, it’s all the more frustrating that we weren’t able to move the football and score as much as we’d like. So many NFL teams would KILL for the type of talent we have at the skill positions. Let’s hope – if things do carry over into 2022 – that it was just an adjustment period to the new offensive coordinator, and we’re now over the hump.

As for the defense, those were some nice players for us (particularly encouraging to see Taylor here, considering this was his first full year, after being injured his entire rookie season), but in order for Taylor to remain on this list, he’s going to have to really turn it up in 2022, and be a kind of Von Miller-like talent off the edge. The Seahawks have been in dire need of that kind of pass rushing monster for years now; if they don’t get it this offseason, then I’d expect more of the same middling finishes for years to come.

We’re not bereft of talent, but obviously you’d like to see more than 8 players in that elite category. I don’t know what it’s going to take to get there, but that feels like a tall ask to do in one offseason.

Seahawks Death Week: The Case For Blowing It Up

With yesterday’s tantrum out of the way, now we can – with somewhat cooler heads – try to talk about this team rationally, and with less emotion.

This post is going to be totally useless, FYI. Total waste of time. While there absolutely IS a case to blow this team up and start anew, that’s not what’s going to happen. No one in charge of this organization wants that to happen (this team is too financially successful as is, Super Bowl or no Super Bowl). Really, no one in his right mind would look at a 12-4 team and say, “Let’s hit the reset button.” But, I’m not in my right mind! I’m mourning the end of yet another football season without a national championship. I’m angry and sad and starting to get numb to these early playoff exits. I may be spoiled, but it’s this team that’s spoiled me, so who’s more at fault?

With that in mind, I have to say that you can’t totally blow this team up. You have to pick a side: either you think we have the nucleus of players in place and it’s a matter of having a new coaching staff in there to properly guide this team to where we want it to go, or you don’t. And, if you don’t, then you want to keep the GM and coaches and have them get to work trading this nucleus (including Russell Wilson) for parts so we can rebuild from the ground up.

Both arguments are compelling. If we were dividing the fanbase up into a pie chart, my guess is the tiniest of slivers would be in favor of trading Russell Wilson and starting over on that side of the organization, probably for good reason (it’s REALLY fucking hard to find a franchise quarterback). A significant slice would be in favor of the unsatisfying status quo (keep the nucleus AND the coaches), filling in around the margins as best we can, and taking another run at it next season. And, probably the biggest slice (but it would be pretty close to the status quo slice, I bet) would be in favor of firing Pete Carroll and our offensive and defensive coordinators (and, who knows, maybe even general manager John Schneider to boot).

That having been said, the pie chart of things that are actually likely to happen would be an entire circle of the status quo, but that’s neither here nor there.

Let’s start with the coaches: why won’t they be fired? For starters, Pete Carroll just signed a big-money contract extension this year. The offense just set a franchise record for most points in a season. The defense was one of the best in all of football over the final eight games. The team went 12-4 and won the NFC West. Also, Pete Carroll is notoriously loyal to his guys; it takes quite a significant faceplant for him to want to fire anyone. This is a no-brainer; other than maybe an unimportant assistant/position coach here and there, no one is going anywhere.

EDIT: whoops.

Why should they be fired? Well, for all the reasons fans have been bitching about this team for the last six years! Play-calling is lacking on offense. The defensive scheme seems to be nonexistent. The 2020 Seahawks only REALLY performed against inferior units (the offense was elite in the first half against the league’s worst defenses; the defense only turned things around when going against the league’s worst offenses). Pete Carroll’s game-management has been atrocious the entire time he’s been here (wasted time outs, taking forever to get the plays called into our offense, hyper-conservative decisions on fourth downs and in plays called in general when behind the sticks), and he has failed to adjust to a changing NFL when it comes to scheme on both sides of the ball.

It would be nice to have a head coach that hewed closer to more of an analyical mindset. It’s imperative that we set up our offense to take advantage of the skillset of our best players (our quarterback and top two receivers), which also coincides with building our offensive line to be better at pass protection (when we seemingly always go after guys who are better run blockers).

As for the defense, yes we need a smarter coordinator to set us up better for success, but I think here is where our personnel department has severely failed us. The last outside pass rusher we drafted and successfully developed was Frank Clark, and he was a guy we let walk. We continually over-draft and over-pay the linebacker position (dating back to the Mike Holmgren days), when those guys are a dime a dozen. And, too often we’ve relied on homegrown secondary players (Tre Flowers, Tedric Thompson, Lano Hill, etc.) and stuck with them too long in hoping they’d figure it out, to the detriment of our pass defense. And, assuming we overpay Shaquill Griffin to be just an okay cornerback (who almost never generates turnovers), that’ll be another move that ultimately backfires and hampers our salary cap.

Cap management has been abysmal ever since the L.O.B. era graduated to second (and third) contracts. Overpaying linebackers and running backs, underpaying linemen (on both sides of the ball), and ultimately being stuck with a quarterback at the top of the market who can’t do it all himself (because, news flash: NO quarterback can do it all himself; the Chiefs will learn once the talent level around Mahomes dips, particularly on the defensive side of the ball). It’s left us cash-strapped every year, unable to do much of anything with the few million dollars we manage to open up, and what we do spend it on tends to be terribly-overpriced veterans (Greg Olsen, Luke Joeckel). That forces our hand into trading away valuable high draft picks for truly impactful stars (Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap), which kicks the can down the road. Remember how the Houston Texans under Bill O’Brien totally fucked themselves playing for the short-term by mortgaging their future? That’s the road we’re headed down. The more years that pass between the present and the last time we made the Super Bowl (or even the NFC Championship Game, since it was the same year), the more desperate Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be. Which will lead them to make more and more panic deals to try to win now, ultimately resulting in a long period of mediocrity if we’re not careful.

No one “wins forever” in the NFL, I don’t care who you are. It’s a fine motto, but it’s an unrealistic expectation. The chickens come home to roost at some point.

Here’s what we do know: Pete Carroll and John Schneider were at their best when they took a franchise at its nadir and turned it into the best team in the NFL (and one of the best teams of all time). The Seahawks were largely good under Mike Holmgren (with one season of relative greatness), then they fell off in 2008 and 2009. Carroll & Schneider came in prior to the 2010 season and the Seahawks won a Super Bowl in 2013.

Here’s also what we know: we haven’t won a damn thing since.

Do these guys know how to run a successful team long term? Or, are they just expert house-flippers who can only turn garbage dumps into mansions?

OR, did they just get super lucky and are actually just mediocre-at-best when they’re not continually hitting the lottery with draft picks and free agent signings?

If you believe in these guys and their ability to spot young (or underappreciated veteran) talent and cultivate it into a championship squad, then maybe you’d be in favor of a fresh start among the nucleus? Trade Russell Wilson to the Jets, get our draft picks back (plus the #2 overall selection), dump Bobby Wagner and anyone else who is old and overpaid, and start off with a fresh slate from a salary cap perspective effective 2022!

This obviously comes with the most risk. First and foremost, you have to hit on a rookie quarterback either in the 2021 or 2022 draft and hope they’re able to start immediately and produce at a high level. Then, you have to do what we did from 2010-2012: hit on elite young talent on the defensive side of the ball at key positions so that we’re ready to dominate the conference in 2-3 years. You have to hire a smart defensive coordinator and have the coaching staff in place to build these guys into winners. All while being second-guessed by the entirety of the football-following public; it’s a tall order!

As I’ll get into later this week (and, as I’ve said before), I think the Seahawks SHOULD drop Bobby Wagner and some of these other aging vets. I could also buy an argument to trade Wilson, if the return was right! Sure, he’s got another ten years in the league. Sure, he’s a proven winner and one of the best quarterbacks alive. Yes, I know what it’s like trying to 8-8 my way with a league-average guy under center. But, I also know that Wilson isn’t getting any younger. More importantly, he’s not getting any FASTER. You’ve seen what I’ve seen: he’s not escaping the breaking-down pocket as easily; these defensive linemen are catching up to him and bringing him down more often than he’s getting away and making magical things happen on the run. And, over the last few weeks, even when he HAS managed to avoid a sack, he’s converting a painfully small percentage of these sandlot throws into completions deep down field (certainly a much smaller percentage than he used to complete). Wilson is also not getting any TALLER. I never complained about his height when he was fast enough to elude defenders; but if he can’t run, and he can’t see over the crowd of linemen around him in the pocket, then how are we going to sustain drives against the league’s best defenses? How are we going to improve our third down conversions when opposing teams know we have to throw and can tee off on a turtling Wilson who succumbs to an avalanche of bodies?

Look, I’m not saying the Seahawks MUST trade Wilson. I’m not even saying I think they should. But, if they did, and the return was right, I could at least understand the argument. What is more likely: the Seahawks win a championship with the status quo, the Seahawks win a championship with Russell Wilson and a different front office, or the Seahawks win a championship with the same front office and a different quarterback?

Honestly, I don’t know the answer to that, but I’ll tell you what I believe: the REAL answer is D. None of the Above.

I don’t think the Seahawks will win a championship again with the organization as is. I think ultimately Russell Wilson will outlast Pete Carroll and John Schneider (and, obviously, the coordinators set in place), but I also don’t think Wilson will ever win another title in a Seahawks uniform. I think the Seahawks will make the playoffs plenty of times over the next decade, and our seasons will continue to end just as they have since 2015: disappointing and underachieving.

I won’t say the Seahawks will never again make another Super Bowl (I’ve learned my lesson making that guarantee), but I will say the team will look TOTALLY different from the top to the bottom the next time they do. And, if I’m ultimately proven right, then why not blow it all up now and get a jumpstart on things? What are we waiting for? To age another ten-plus years while being in the same place we are now? What’s the point of that?

The Seahawks Cut Some Dead Weight

We all expected the Ed Dickson release, so this was the less-surprising of the two transactions the Seahawks made yesterday. He was signed to a 3-year deal, and throughout most of the first TWO years, he’s been injured (including the entirety of 2019). One might assume he’s finally healthy – of course, how long can THAT be expected to continue – but we’ve already gone out and stocked our Tight End room to overflowing, so this was beyond necessary.

As a reward, the Seahawks save $3 million this year. Neither here nor there: that’s less than half of what we’ve promised Greg Olsen, but what are you gonna do? The Seahawks have needs just like any other red-blooded American football franchise!

The other big move was something that became obvious in recent weeks, but isn’t necessarily something I would’ve expected coming out of 2019: they ALSO released Tedric Thompson. I’ll be the first to admit, though, that I didn’t realize he was set to earn over $2 million in 2020, the final year of his rookie deal. He must’ve hit some escalator clauses in his contract due to all the increased playing time the last couple seasons, which is just unreal because what benefit was all that to the Seahawks? Blown coverages, dropped interceptions, bad tackling and poor tackling routes. The flaws in his game are neverending! Of course, it’s hardly fair to him – being the safety to replace future Hall of Famer Earl Thomas – but you’re given the hand you’re dealt and you’ve gotta do the best with what you’ve got. The bottom line is: he was apparently a practice darling, but could never translate that into game success.

Obviously, the combination of the two releases saves the Seahawks $5 million in 2020. I don’t know if it’s necessarily enough to bridge the salary cap divide to get us into a Clowney contract (particularly if he’s looking to settle on a short-term deal, where we don’t get nearly the help with his signing bonus proration), but I think it was beat writer Bob Condotta on Twitter who wondered if these moves were made with something bigger in mind happening in the near future.

There are, of course, other expected moves the Seahawks will make to free up more cash. I’ve been on the bandwagon that’s calling for the release of Justin Britt pretty much since the moment he was lost for 2019 to injury (he’ll be fine, he’s made plenty of money in his career, with the opportunity to make plenty more elsewhere). Also, since we know Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner aren’t going anywhere, we can apparently turn their 2020 salaries into signing bonuses – thus spreading out the cap burden to future seasons – but obviously you don’t love to do that too often, as it kicks the can down the road until you’re in Salary Cap Hell by 2022.

There was a report yesterday that veteran defensive end Everson Griffen has interest in joining the Seahawks – he did play for Pete Carroll at USC – and the feeling is apparently mutual … with a catch: only if we can’t sign Clowney. Mike Salk relayed a similar sentiment on Twitter last night and I agree: WHY THE FUCK NOT BOTH?!

Are we REALLY banking on a defensive line that’s anchored by JUST Clowney and Irvin? Or JUST Griffen and Irvin? That sounds FUCKING insane to me! For starters, there’s ZERO depth there – who are we going to have left to rely on when one or both of them inevitably get injured (because Clowney’s always been banged up, his entire career, either playing through it or flat-out sitting on the sidelines; and Griffen and Irvin are both 32 years old) – and secondly, we had Clowney last year and were among the worst at rushing the passer in the entire league! I love Bruce Irvin as much as the next guy, but come on! He’s not going to single-handedly turn this ship around!

I’m also getting more and more agitated by the fact that it’s taking so long to make a formal decision on Clowney. The longer we wait – or, rather, the longer he holds out hope of some miracle deal from some mystery team who’s yet to throw their hat in the ring – the more other possible replacements get snapped up on team-friendly contracts by other clubs. At this point, I’d be looking to set a firm deadline for Clowney to either hop aboard or find employment elsewhere; at which point I’d grab Griffen and another guy or two to fill out the veteran presence in that Defensive Line Room. Because it’s going to fucking suck when he waits until the last minute, then signs a short-term deal with someone else anyway. At that point, we’re going to be scrambling to trade for one of these franchise tag guys, which will likely cost us a first round draft pick (at a minimum) PLUS probably more money than we wanted to pay Clowney in the first place!

It’s all annoying with this situation right now, so let’s go back to the feel-good vibes of releasing two guys who brought next-to-nothing to the table for the Seahawks the last two seasons. Good riddance! See you never!

The Seahawks Brought Back Bruce Irvin (And Yes, Other Stuff Happened Too)

So far we’ve seen a lot of little moves to fill in the cracks on this roster, so if you’re waiting for your needle to move one way or the other, settle in, because it could be a while.

Bruce Irvin is moderately interesting, because he’s a former Seahawk returning to the team that drafted him (then refused to extend him to a big-money deal when he became a free agent, but that’s neither here nor there). Also, he’s a guy who’s proven to be able to get to the quarterback, albeit again, moderately. Last year was his career-best in sacks, and it was still only 8.5 (which would’ve easily led the Seahawks last year, but that’s not saying much; I damn near led the Seahawks in sacks last year!). He’s a complementary piece. In theory, you could play him every down, but at his age and size, he’s probably more of a rotational guy. I would anticipate him seeing a lot of time at the LEO end spot where Cliff Avril made his living.

If we’re rolling with the assumption that the Seahawks are just going to re-sign Clowney (which is where it looks like things are trending, as he wasn’t among the first wave of free agents to snap up huge gobs of money), as they also re-signed Reed the other day, then Bruce Irvin is the first REAL addition to this defensive line. How does that make you feel? I’m pretty happy with it, because he’s leaps and bounds better than 2019 Ziggy Ansah; but so is a corpse. 6 extra sacks is nothing to sneeze at, though, so I’ll take it.

Of course, if the Seahawks fail (or just opt NOT) to re-sign Clowney, then obviously we’re in trouble. Again, we just have to wait and see how the full picture presents itself.

***

The most entertaining bit of news was the Tweet that read, “Tedric Thompson has been given permission to seek a trade.” Oh REALLY?! I actually heard that he’s been given permission to go and fuck the hell off of this team! I would die if the Seahawks actually managed to snag ANYTHING in return for someone who has been one of the bigger busts in recent Seahawks draft history (Malik McDowell notwithstanding). Anyway, it’s exciting knowing that T2 will be out of my life relatively soon.

After the Irvin signing, it was announced the Seahawks signed Brandon Shell for 2 years and $11 million. He’s presumably here to take over for Germain Ifedi, which makes sense because giving Ifedi a large contract can NOT be within our budget this year. While I’ll miss all the false starts and holding penalties, I won’t … uhh, yeah. Ifedi, you were always there. That’s something, I guess.

Shell was a fifth round pick in 2016 and has pretty much been a starter for the Jets since 2017. He’s had a few injury issues, but it doesn’t look like a chronic problem. With the dearth of offensive line talent, it’s curious that the Seahawks were able to sign him so cheap. Feels like a bad sign to me (especially since the Jets clearly valued George Fant over him). Then again, you could easily make the argument that damn near anyone would be an improvement over Ifedi (even though I thought he made a lot of progress the last two years).

On the heels of the Shell signing, the Seahawks also picked up Cedric Ogbuehi (a name I’m going to dread having to look up how to spell every fucking time I write about him). He was a first round pick in 2015 and absolutely flamed out of Cincinnati after two terrible years as a starter. He was a backup for the Jags last year and seems likelier to just compete for a roster spot rather than the starting right tackle job. At 1 year and a little over $3 million, I guess you have to like the potential of a first-round talent (the Seahawks sure do!), but I’m not holding my breath on this guy.

One bit of interesting news was that the Seahawks opted to not tender Jordan Simmons (an exclusive-rights free agent, meaning no team could’ve signed him away from us had we tendered him). So, he reverts to a full-blown free agent now. Word on the street is that the Seahawks could still try to bring him back, at a lower salary (likely more incentive-laden, given his myriad injury issues); but, I mean exclusive-rights free agents aren’t all that expensive in the first place, so he’s probably gone. Which is a bummer, because when he’s healthy, he’s got REAL potential to start at either guard spot.

Finally, in non-Seahawks news, Todd Gurley was cut by the Rams! They’ve made a mockery of their salary cap situation for a couple years now, with that Gurley contract a prime instigator. He’s clearly not worth all the money they gave him (which was a deal obviously based on past performance), he’s apparently got some sort of degenerative knee issue that’s going to blow up on him at any time now … but he’s still really talented. The Rams really worked him like a dog his first four years, but they scaled him way back in 2019, so at the very least he should be fairly fresh in the short term. I would expect at least two really good years out of him before you’re white-knuckling it.

Of course, to bring it back to the Seahawks, there’s obviously rumors flying that we’d be interested in taking a flier on Gurley. I would anticipate a lot of other teams have similar interest as well, and I just can’t support signing ANY running back to a hefty contract (even if it’s not as insane as the one the Rams gave him). That being said, a backfield with Gurley, Carson, Penny (eventually) and Homer? I would NOT throw that running back room out of bed for eating crackers!

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

So, unless things have gone horribly wrong, by now I’ve written about the last Seahawks game of the season, I’ve written about the things that have gone right, and the things that have gone wrong. Now, it’s time to get to work on that all-important roster building.

To start, here are a list of free agents, in some particular order:

Defense

  • Jadeveon Clowney (DE)
  • Jarran Reed (DT)
  • Mychal Kendricks (LB)
  • Ziggy Ansah (DE)
  • Quinton Jefferson (DL)
  • Al Woods (DT)
  • Akeem King (DB)
  • Neiko Thorpe (DB)
  • Branden Jackson (DL)

That’s a lot of our regular defensive line rotation, including starters in Clowney and Reed, as well as significant 2019 role players like Ansah, Woods, Q-Jeff, and Jackson.

Obviously, Clowney is the big name here. He will be 27 years old in 2020, and he’ll be looking for his first real BIG payday. We’re talking $20+ million per season on average, one of the five highest paid defensive people in the league. With his injury and impending surgery, you have to wonder if that’ll scare teams off a little bit. Not a lot; I think he’ll still see a huge payday, but I wonder if extra protections for the team will be built in.

Is he worth it? That’s the ultimate question. This is a guy who had 3 sacks all regular season. Is that a $20+ million a year guy? I’ll tell you this much, SOMEONE will pay him that much, because he’s obviously more than a straight-up sacks guy. He’s elite against the run, and he has one of the highest pressure rates. Also, even though we’re talking about a second contract – and you rarely see the value over the duration of the deal – defensive linemen tend to age pretty well. It’s not inconceivable that he’d live up to the money over the next four years. But, this core injury isn’t the only thing that’s ever happened to him. Coming out of college and through his first couple years, he missed quite a bit of time. On the one hand, fresher legs; on the other hand, there’s a risk of re-injury.

I’m not going to sit here and say the Seahawks HAVE to pay him whatever he wants; I’m sure they’ll make the decision they want to make. If that means we back up the Brinks truck, so be it, I’ll be fine with it. If we let some other team over-pay for an injury risk, I can easily talk myself into that as well.

But, the bottom line is: the Seahawks need to do SOMETHING. I don’t know what the free agent landscape looks like for pass rushers in 2020, but the cupboard is bare here in Seattle. It’s as bare as it gets, and when you consider how horrible we were in 2019 (WITH Clowney), trying to imagine an even WORSE pass rush makes me sick to my stomach.

This brings us to Jarran Reed, who looked like he was on pace for a huge payday as well. 10.5 sacks in 2018, as an interior lineman, is a remarkable achievement. So, we know he has that in him anyway (at least, when the conditions are right). But, then he was suspended for 6 games in 2019, and when he came back he wasn’t quite his old self. He fell all the way down to 2.0 sacks, and with the prior suspension, he now holds the risk of an even bigger punishment if he gets in trouble a second time. So, his value fell pretty far.

I don’t know what he’s looking for, but if we could bring him back on a team-friendly 3-4 year deal, I wouldn’t hate it. I also wouldn’t mind a 1-year prove-it deal, though obviously that’s not as good for our salary cap (unless it’s an insanely low figure with lots of incentives he’s not expected to reach based on his 2019 production). But, it would be asinine to get in a bidding war for his services, considering what he was able to bring to this team in his 10 games plus the playoffs. Ultimately, Reed made next-to-zero impact for this team, when we REALLY needed him to step up and take on more of the pass rushing load.

Ziggy Ansah needs to go. That’s all I need to say about him; he’s finished in this league.

Al Woods is a fine player, and I would assume we could bring him back cheaply if we wanted. He’s also Just A Guy, so whatever.

Q-Jeff is a nice player, and it’s unfortunate he got injured in our game in Green Bay. I would expect maybe a moderate raise, but he obviously doesn’t bring a ton to the table from a pass rushing perspective. So, breaking the bank isn’t necessary here.

Next up is Mychal Kendricks, who ended 2019 on IR. He was fine, but again I don’t really know what he brought to the table. It feels like Cody Barton (or pretty much anyone else) could do what he did and we’d be fine.

Finally, King and Thorpe are also just regular dudes. Thorpe obviously has value on special teams, but he’ll be 30 years old and in his 8th season in the league. I feel like we’ve successfully replaced what he brought to this team and maybe can move on with younger guys. King won’t be contending for a starting job anywhere, but maybe he’ll want more of a chance to at least compete for a spot. It feels like he’s hit his ceiling in our defense, and he might want a change of scenery.

***

As for the guys who are already under contract, I don’t see a lot of dead weight that we NEED to get rid of for salary cap purposes.

K.J. Wright will be 31 years old and on the final year of his deal. He’s set to count about $10 million against the salary cap, with only $2.5 million in dead money, for $7.5 million in savings. That’s not nothing, especially when we might be paying a lot for Clowney, plus another pass rusher or two.

If we move on from Wright, it probably means he didn’t want to take a pay cut. He was second in tackles on the team with 132 (not significantly fewer than league leader Bobby Wagner’s 159), he played in every game, and he played a high percentage of this team’s overall snaps. If you cut him, it means you believe Cody Barton is ready to start this year (or you draft someone who you can’t afford to sit because he’s too talented). But, also if you cut him then you have to fill two linebacker spots (one, presumably, with Barton, and the other TBD).

Ultimately, I don’t think the Seahawks will release Wright, based on shared history and what he’s meant to the success of this defense since 2011. But, you can’t totally dismiss it given his high salary figure, and the need to improve across the entire D-Line.

The other possible decision the Seahawks need to make is whether they want to give Shaquill Griffin a long-term extension. Do they believe he’s the guy to build around in that secondary? He’s set to earn less than $1 million in 2020, so there would be a considerable discount to be had to make it worth our while in the long term. Think about what we did by extending Tyler Lockett a year early; he’s on a VERY team-friendly deal now, and it’s paying significant dividends.

I thought Griffin really took a big leap forward in his development in 2019. I don’t know where he ranks among all cornerbacks, but I feel like he’s right there in the 2nd or 3rd tier. He’s not a lockdown guy; he’s not among the best of the very best. But, he’s a solid starter, he doesn’t give up a ton of catches or yards, and more often than not teams go away from his side (it helps that Tre Flowers is the guy opposite him, and he gives up practically everything). If there’s a reasonable figure the team can get to with Griffin, I think I’d like to see them do a Lockett-type deal. Something that gives the young player a nice raise, while showing him he’s part of the long term plan and affords the team some future flexibility in their cap from 2020-2022.

***

Big picture for 2020, the defensive line is in shambles, and the secondary needs a huge infusion of talent.

As things stand today, L.J. Collier and Rasheem Green would be your starting defensive ends. Collier was a healthy scratch most of the season (including both playoff games) and Green was our leading sacker with a whopping 4.

Collier can be considered nothing but a huge disappointment. You expect your first round picks – even your late first rounders – to contribute in some way, if not be a starter from day one. Obviously, the starting jobs were taken on this team, but he brought NOTHING to this team as a rookie. That doesn’t mean he’s a bust, necessarily – he’s still got three more years to prove that he’s worth a 5th year option – but he better work his fucking ass off in the offseason and come into camp like a man possessed.

As for Green, as I’ve written about before, he took a moderate step forward. But, as I point out all the time, unless you’re uber-talented, it’s hard for young defensive linemen to make big impacts; it usually takes a few years to grow into your body, bulk up, and learn the nuances of how to play in this league. For so many players who go on to be drafted in the first couple days, the college game is simple. The offensive linemen stink, the schemes are dumbed down, and you can just go out there and kick ass. In the NFL, you need to smarten up quite a bit, or you’ll be left behind.

Along the interior, we’ve got Poona Ford and some scrubs. This team needs to improve its pass rush, but also get better at defending the run. Ultimately, the Seahawks need a whole makeover at D-Line, so there’s work to be done.

In the secondary, Griffin and Flowers figure to return as starters. One can only hope Flowers takes a similar leap in his development between Year 2 & 3 as Griffin did this past season. Diggs and McDougald figure to be your starters at safety, though I would hope Marquise Blair gets a legitimate opportunity to compete and start. It would also be helpful if Ugo Amadi works on his craft quite a bit this offseason to be this team’s nickel corner.

I would LOVE it if we drafted yet another safety, and cut Lano Hill and Tedric Thompson, those wastes of fucking (roster) space. I’d also love it if we maybe made a low-level trade for another nickel corner, if Amadi doesn’t work out. See if we can find the next Justin Coleman.

More than anything, I guess we just need the secondary to improve on their own, because I can’t envision the Seahawks making wholesale changes or putting too many resources into this area, when there are other more-pressing concerns.

Tomorrow, we’ll look at all the holes on offense, where I’m concerned a lot of our free salary cap space will end up going.

Seahawks Death Week: Where the 2019 Season Went Wrong

Well, you can start by the Seahawks losing to Green Bay in the playoffs, but let’s dig a little deeper.

The talking points among the veterans on this team (well, at least the vets who are under contract beyond 2019) have revolved around there being a lot of hope for the future. We’ll get around to that tomorrow, but for now I’m still in a bit of a mood, and that mood subsists on a diet of negativity and self-loathing.

I’ve got a list of players to rant about today, split into two groups. Before we get to the truly egregious offenders of our misery, let’s start with the mediocre players who didn’t totally kill our hopes and dreams, but also did very little in helping us achieve them.

Where It All Went Meh

I could talk about pretty much everyone in the back quarter of the roster/practice squad/scrap heap, but here are a few names worth mentioning.

Jarran Reed was suspended for the first six games of the season. Why it took the league so long to get around to this – when the incident apparently happened years ago – is beyond me, but the conspiracy nut in me feels it’s a plot against my beloved Seahawks. Regardless, it was a hefty punishment, but in the grand scheme of things it arguably only cost us a single game. Nevertheless, missing out on that time must’ve done something to negatively impact the rest of his season, because he ended the year with a whopping 2 sacks. That’s 8.5 fewer than 2018. Was he out of shape? Did the layoff force him to take longer to ramp back up, as if he needed a second “pre-season” to get going again? Whatever it was, he hardly made an impact.

Sticking with the theme, our other starting DT, Al Woods, ended the season with a suspension. That cost him the last two regular season games (both losses) as well as our two post-season games. Had we prevailed in Green Bay, we would’ve had him back for next week, but obviously that’s down the shitter, and now he’s a free agent. At the most crucial time – when we were at our most injured – we could absolutely not afford to lose another important player, particularly on defense.

Tre Flowers took a lot of heat after our loss to the Packers and I know a lot of fans are killing him in the fallout, but over the course of the season he was … whatever. With him, it always feels like two steps forward, two steps back. I think we were all quite impressed with him as a rookie, especially since he was converting from his safety spot in college, but the total lack of growth this year was pretty grim. I guess we were saying the same thing about Shaquill Griffin this time last year, and he really showed out in his third season, so that’s the only reason why I’m not completely off the bandwagon. But, I’ve got one foot out the door; I’m going to be very suspicious until I see real improvement on the field.

The tough part about rooting for the Seahawks is that so many of our hopes are tied into the younger guys, and if they’re not coming out right away and blowing our minds, it feels like our tires are going to continue to spin in the mud. With so much of our salary cap tied into Wilson, the O-Line, and our linebackers, we really need cost-effective younger guys to step into major roles on this team earlier and earlier. Which makes the rookie seasons of Ugo Amadi and Marquise Blair so frustrating. The fact of the matter is, we don’t know what those guys can bring to the table, because they spent so much of the season buried behind inferior veterans (who I’ll talk about later). Particularly with Blair, who actually looked decent in his appearances this season; why wouldn’t this coaching staff go with the higher-upside talent over the veterans who have proven time and time again that they stink?

Finally, a few words on Rasheem Green. He was as disappointing as it gets as a rookie in 2018. Going from that to leading the Seahawks in sacks in 2019 sounds fucking phenomenal! You’re telling me this team had Jadeveon Clowney, Ziggy Ansah, and Jarran Reed, and second-year prospect Rasheem Green led the team in sacks?! Wahoo! Except, oh yeah, he had exactly 4 sacks, and this unit was absolutely abysmal at getting to the quarterback. Steady progress is still progress, but from the looks of things, we’re going to need Green to make a bigger leap in 2020.

Where It All Went Completely Fucking FUBAR

Let’s get this out of the way now (speaking of the D-Line): Ziggy Ansah was a total fucking atrocity. 2.5 sacks in 11 games. Of course, he was never going to be a sure thing, coming off of injury and settling for a prove-it deal to build his value back. And, the Seahawks (as beggars) weren’t in a position to be choosers when it came to building a pass rush on the fly. We were cash-strapped and still dealing with the fallout of losing Cliff Avril and Malik McDowell to career-ending injuries. It’s taken 2018 & 2019 just to get things right again (moneywise), but in that time we failed to develop any semblance of a competent defensive line on our own, so we had to go dumpster diving, and in walks Ansah. While it was always a risk, given his track record, the HOPE was that at some point he’d return to maybe 75% of his old, dominant self. Instead, we got a washed-up 30 year old who really doesn’t seem to be all that invested in his football career. Ansah sounds like he’s not really passionate about the game, and on this team, that’s just not gonna fly.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, L.J. Collier was a first round pick this season. He got hurt in August, missed the pre-season, and was only active for 11 games this year (being declared a healthy scratch more times than I can count on one hand, on a team that – as I’ve mentioned repeatedly – was one of the worst in the league at getting to the quarterback. He was deemed to be a reach by most experts at the time of the selection, and he’s looking like a bust now. We’ll see where he goes from here.

Normally, I wouldn’t even bother to mention someone like Ed Dickson in a post like this. He’s a veteran tight end who has been out with injury more than he’s played in his two seasons in Seattle. But, considering all the turnover we had to endure at the tight end position (including yet another tragic injury to Will Dissly, this time after only 6 games; as well as trading Nick Vannett to the Steelers), there were times we REALLY could’ve used Dickson. I remember a couple weeks there where we might not have had as many as TWO healthy tight ends on the roster, which is big for a team like the Seahawks, who feature the position immensely. Look for Dickson to be cut, saving us $3 million in the process.

Sticking with the offense for a bit, David Moore sure disappointed. He missed the early part of the season with an injury, then came back but could never get in sync with Wilson, in spite of what appeared to be WAY too many attempts. Moore was targeted 34 times and only managed to catch half of them, for all of 2 touchdowns. Sure, a lot of those were contested, but Moore was simply incapable of making a play on the ball when the team needed him.

So, we brought in Josh Gordon, and right away he made a difference. He only caught 7 passes for 139 yards in his 5 games here, but it seemed like all of them were either for significant yardage or to convert third downs. Then, he was suspended again, and that shining light was taken away from us. The ramifications were pretty great. For starters, we clearly could’ve used him down the stretch in the regular season (where we lost our last two games), and we DEFINITELY could’ve used him in Green Bay (where we were stuck with Malik Turner dropping a critical pass in our final possession of the season). On top of that, when we first picked up Gordon, he was our 8th wide receiver, meaning someone had to go. We eventually waived our rookie draft pick Greg Jennings. We were unable to sneak him onto our practice squad, as Miami ended up grabbing him. He hasn’t done anything yet, but if he turns into a stud, it’ll look really bad for us.

Finally, let’s talk about where it went the MOST wrong: the secondary.

The Seahawks could never get the nickel corner spot figured out. Justin Coleman had it locked down previously, but with our cap situation – and his considerable value on the open market – we couldn’t dream of matching his 4-year, $36 million deal with the Lions. So, we cheaped out. A slew of veterans – including notoriously-terrible Jamar Taylor – stunk up the joint so bad, we were hands down the team to spend the most time in base defense. It was okay for the most part, but it still meant seeing our linebackers getting beat on a regular basis.

Ultimately, the biggest downfall of this team came at the safety position (once our very strongest spot, only a few short years ago), specifically Tedric Thompson and Lano Hill. I can’t say enough terrible things about those guys. Aside from Ansah, the 2017 draft picks were far and away the biggest disappointments of this season. The worst part is, they’re under contract for 2020. The second-worst part is, this coaching staff keeps giving them ample opportunities over younger guys who almost certainly have higher upsides. I can’t stand how devoted this staff is to these two terrible players; someone please put me out of my misery by taking their jobs permanently!

How Did The Seahawks Rookies Do In 2019?

Teams who do it the right way tend to acquire their best pieces through the draft, and fill in where they have to through trades and free agency. The trades and signings can be flashy and exciting, but we’ve been burned by those enough times to be wary. If the hopes of a fanbase could be dished out in a pie chart, I’d argue the bigger slice of our hope lies in the team’s draft picks. Sure, it’d be nice if that free agent signing panned out, but more often than not the Seahawks are picking guys from the fringes, so the names are less sexy and the chances of them really blowing us away are reduced. We NEED these draft picks to turn into something useful, because we know that’s the way the Seahawks roll.

The trouble with draft picks is pretty obvious. They’re young. They’re inexperienced. They’re often overwhelmed by the size and speed and talent disparity between the pros and college. And, the main pitfall – when it comes to the fans – is projecting newly made draft picks into significant roles. High profile home runs tend to skew our thinking. Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson came in right away and played HUGE roles in turning this franchise around! Ergo, every rookie picked in the first three rounds should start right away and light the league on fire! And, particularly with the Seahawks, and their success rate with guys picked on the final day of the draft, we see some names and hear some stories from mini camp, and we automatically start penciling guys in for Pro Bowls and All Pros before they’ve played a real down in anger.

I don’t have a great read on how Seahawks fans feel about the 2019 class. On the one hand, you could paint a very rosy picture based on D.K. Metcalf alone. He was selected at the very end of the second round, he came in and started right away, and he was a hit! 900 yards on 58 receptions, with 7 touchdowns. Hell, he was the second-most targeted receiver on this team with 100 (Lockett had more targets, but only by 10)! There were obviously some tough games for Metcalf this year, but the good FAR outweighs the bad, and his arrow is pointed straight up going forward. The sky is the limit for this kid; he’s been the young, big receiver we’ve been looking for since Pete Carroll got here in 2010.

So, that’s fantastic, right? Particularly in a season where we had to learn to live without Doug Baldwin. But, what about the rest of the class?

I don’t know about you, but the first thing I think of when I think of a rookie draft class is the first round pick. For this one, that’s L.J. Collier, and he’s brought absolutely nothing to the table. He’s officially listed as having played in 11 games this year, but even that number feels high. He hasn’t had any significant injuries during the regular season (that I can recall, anyway), but he did have an ankle injury in the pre-season that cost him a considerable amount of practice time. Which effectively cost him his entire rookie year, because when he hasn’t been a healthy scratch on gameday, he’s been so buried on the depth chart that he hasn’t made any impact whatsoever. 3 tackles. That’s his 2019 stat sheet.

I won’t call Collier a disaster, because quite frankly we don’t know what he is yet. He wasn’t particularly lauded for his pass rushing ability out of college – noted more for his run defense – but it’s discouraging that he still wasn’t able to do anything with even the few opportunities he was given. That’s not a good sign for things to come! Also, this Seahawks defense has really struggled against the run – especially towards the end of the season, when you might have expected someone like Collier to make a jump in his development – so the fact that he’s not helping in this area is ALSO not a good sign for things to come.

The one caveat I’ll pull out here is that Pete Carroll and Co. tend to have a blind spot when it comes to some of the younger guys. Remember in 2018, when the team was slow to realize that Chris Carson should be the bellcow back for this team? And it took some time to make the shift in their scheme? I would argue that Carroll is like most coaches, he’s going to go with the known quantity all things being equal. Yes, “Always Compete” and all that, but sometimes you can’t see what’s right in front of you if you’re not expecting anything to be there.

Even that, though, falls somewhat on the player. Collier obviously isn’t flashing. He’s not making any huge impact plays in practice, so he’s not as involved in games, and it’s a continuous cycle of disappointment. These same points could be made for the rest of the guys I’m going to write about below.

Let’s move on to Marquise Blair, the second round safety picked ahead of Metcalf. He might go down as one of the more frustrating aspects of the 2019 season. The fact that he hasn’t played more – he was originally behind Tedric Thompson, and of late has been bafflingly sat in favor of Lano Hill – is particularly galling. It’s not even an argument that Blair has the brighter future and higher upside than either of those two draft busts from 2017, but I would also argue that he’s better than them RIGHT NOW. Or, at the very least, he couldn’t be any worse, while actually having the capability to make real impactful plays on the field (rather than giving up huge chunks of yardage to opposing receivers). I know the best two safeties on this roster are McDougald and Diggs, but Blair should be #3 on that list and it’s ridiculous the longer he’s not.

Cody Barton was a third round pick. As a linebacker, he was brought into a situation where the Seahawks were arguably strongest on paper. Three quality veterans sat ahead of him, and we always knew it was going to be a challenge to get him on the field. It’s not a bad consolation prize to sit, learn from the best, and get your feet wet on special teams. Considering the age at the position, we all had him pegged as someone to compete for a starting job in 2020. And, with the talk out of camp being nothing but glowing praise for this kid, I think we all expected to get someone really special in Barton. Every time I turned around in August, I was reading about Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright talking about how smart and instinctual Barton is; they made it sound like if he were on any other team, he’d be starting immediately.

In recent weeks, as some of our starters have worn down, we’ve seen Barton in there on defense. And … ehh, he’s been all right, I guess. I dunno, I haven’t seen any quality plays out of him yet. To be fair, he’s effectively had to be the understudy for all three linebacker spots – as opposed to specializing at his best spot, which is probably weak-side – so I could see how that might stunt one’s growth. But, again, not a great sign. Also, not for nothing, but I remember in 2018 hearing nothing but good things out of the mouths of Wright and Wagner when it came to Tedric Thompson in training camp, and look at how he turned out. Either these guys will say they love everyone, or they have no concept of who is actually going to pan out.

Fourth round receiver Gary Jennings was one of three receivers we drafted in 2019; he was a healthy scratch for a number of weeks, until we signed Josh Gordon and had to waive one of them. Jennings was the odd man out. We were hoping to sneak him onto the practice squad, but the Dolphins swooped in and claimed him. It doesn’t look like he ever made it into a game, and ended up getting placed on IR.

Fourth round guard Phil Haynes hasn’t played either, to my knowledge. He’s had injury issues to get over, and now looks to be a backup at an oft-injured O-Line spot. So, he gets an incomplete, but to be fair, no one was expecting him to play a lot as a rookie lineman.

Fourth round DB Ugo Amadi is another guy where it’s frustrating how little he’s played, especially when you consider how lights out he’s been on special teams. And ESPECIALLY when you consider how poor our pass defense has been at times this year. To be honest, I still don’t have a good handle on whether he’s a safety or a nickel corner or both. He was SUPPOSED to be converted to a nickel corner from safety, and that just so happened to be an area of need for this team heading into the season. But, instead we opted to play an unsustainably high percentage of plays in base defense, with Kendricks over anyone else. And, when we HAVE played nickel, we’ve opted for duds like Jamar Taylor over Amadi. Again, I don’t know what that says about Amadi’s skill vs. the coaching staff’s blind spot, but it’s not encouraging.

Ben Burr-Kirven was pegged coming in as a special teamer, so in that sense he’s lived up to his billing. When we already drafted a similar linebacker in the third round, you had to figure Barton always had a leg-up to be the next guy on the field in base defense, so there’s nothing surprising or really noteworthy here. Also, not for nothing, but Demarcus Christmas was always pegged as a longshot project as a sixth round defensive tackle. He’s been hurt most of the year and ended up on IR, so we’ll see if he has anything in the tank for 2020.

Travis Homer was another sixth round pick, and someone I had kind of hoped we’d see more of. But, the Seahawks had room on their roster to house C.J. Prosise (who, to his credit, stayed relatively healthy for MOST of the season, before going out in that Arizona game), and when you’re talking about a team like the Seahawks (where offensive possessions are at a premium), you’re not going to find many opportunities to get a fourth-string running back any snaps.

However, as the top three guys all went down, Week 17 ended up being the Travis Homer Show! Against the 49ers, he had 10 carries for 62 yards and another 5 receptions for 30 yards. He’s also been – as expected – another standout on special teams. I don’t think he’ll ever be a bellcow type back for this team, but as a #2, and a 3rd down/2-minute back, he would seem to fit right in. Honestly, behind Metcalf, Homer has been the second-best 2019 draft pick so far and it’s not particularly close. I can legitimately envision a role for Homer going forward; I don’t know if I can say that about anyone else besides Metcalf.

Finally, we have John Ursua. The seventh round wide receiver out of Hawaii where we actually traded a 2020 draft pick to get back into the 2019 draft and get him. He was never going anywhere; when we had that receiver crunch (at one point, rostering 8 of our 53 players at the position, which is insane), I knew it would be Ursua over Jennings. You can’t give up that much and let the guy go to another team. Anyway, he’s been a healthy scratch for 15/16 games. Due to attrition, he finally made it into a game against the 49ers, catching his only target for 11 yards. It’s kind of a shame he hasn’t gotten more play than he has, especially when we’ve seen plenty of targets go to David Moore, Jaron Brown, and Malik Turner; but Ursua doesn’t play special teams, so it’s honestly surprising he made it onto this roster in the first place.

That would lead me to believe we have someone potentially special in Ursua. Here’s to hoping he gets more of a shot in 2020.

When you lay it all out like that, the 2019 Draft Class feels like a bust … when you ONLY count the 2019 season. There’s obviously limitless potential in the future for any number of these guys, and we’ll all be pegging our hopes and dreams on significant leaps in development in Years 2, 3, & 4. But, as far as the impact they’ve had AS rookies, it’s been D.K. Metcalf and that’s about it.

Which is why, in recent seasons, I’ve drastically reduced my expectations for incoming rookies, and I’d suggest everyone else do the same. It’s just too hard to make that jump in a vacuum. Then, add into it where the Seahawks usually draft (toward the ends of rounds, because we usually make the playoffs), and the fact that we’re always in contention for playoff spots (meaning we don’t have a lot of opportunities to showcase our rookies, because we don’t have very many holes on our roster), and it’s a tough situation to break into. The fact of the matter is – regardless of team – most rookies won’t out-play healthy veterans. The bad teams tend to play a higher percentage of rookies right away because they’re looking to rebuild, and they don’t have any expectations to make the playoffs right away. The Seahawks aren’t one of those bad teams, which is a very good thing.

The final question I have to ask myself is: where do I see this class going in 2020-2022?

It’ll certainly be known as the D.K. Metcalf class, but will anyone else step up? I have no real expectations for Collier. They tried to put a Michael Bennett comp on him coming out of college, but that sounds as far-fetched as it gets. Even Frank Clark is too high a bar to place on him. Could he be the next Quinton Jefferson? Maybe, but even that might be too good; and remember, Q-Jeff was selected in the fifth round, not the first. Lawrence Jackson is probably the floor here, and it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest if Collier is Lo-Jack 2.0.

I’m still pretty high on Blair; I’d like to see him get a legitimate shot to start in 2020. I’m less high (but still fairly high) on Barton; I’d like to see what he looks like when we stick him at just one linebacker spot and let him work on his craft there. I think Homer can be a very solid #2 running back for this team (what that means for Penny and Carson, I have no idea, but both are coming off significant injuries, so the opportunity should be there regardless). And, I still like Ursua as a dark-horse #3 receiver in the near future; here’s hoping he hits it off with Russell Wilson in the offseason.

Beyond those guys, I have no real expectations. Ugo Amadi should fight for a nickel cornerback spot. The rest feel like depth pieces.

Thankfully, your fate isn’t determined by your rookie season alone. A lot can change in the next three years. It’ll be fun to see who steps up. Sometimes it takes three full years of fighting before you bust through in your final season on the rookie deal! Those scenarios aren’t ideal, of course, as you’re really only getting one season of cheap production before you either have to pay them a lot of money or watch them walk to another franchise. But, it’s better than nothing I guess.

It’s Literally Impossible To (Not) Get It Up For This Week’s Seahawks Game

Look, man, we’ve been talking about this Week 17 matchup since the 49ers improbably became the last undefeated team of 2019 and the Seahawks – in defiance of all that is holy – started the season by winning an unsustainable number of close games. We’ve CERTAINLY been talking about the Week 17 game since the Seahawks went into Santa Clara and knocked off the 49ers, giving them their first loss of the season and putting us ever-so-briefly in the driver’s seat for the NFC West. And, that fervor has only intensified as the Seahawks have scrambled into the inside track for the NFC’s #1 seed, while the 49ers have (somewhat) come down to Earth.

In between that MONUMENTAL showdown and today is a home game against the Arizona Cardinals, a 4-9-1 team in rebuild mode, working in a rookie phenom at quarterback, just trying to make it through the season without any further injuries while maybe playing a little spoiler along the way. This game could not mean any less.

And yet, if you believe the Seahawks have a chance to compete for the Super Bowl, it still obviously means a great deal.

As I outlined earlier in the week, if the Seahawks, Saints, and Packers all win out, the Seahawks get the #1 seed by virtue of a 3-way tiebreaker. The iffiest team in that group is probably the Packers, who have to go to Minnesota this week, while the Vikings still harbor delusions of winning the NFC North. The strongest team in that group is probably the Saints, who go on the road twice, but face a couple of very beatable teams in the Titans and Panthers. Stuck in the middle (with you) are the Seahawks, where it’s not hard to imagine a scenario where they go 2-0, 1-1, or even 0-2 the next two weeks. Hell, throw any number of ties into that list of possible outcomes and I wouldn’t be VERY shocked!

The Seahawks NEED this game! But, how do you blame them not looking ahead to the game that REALLY matters? The game that decides hosting at least one – if not two – playoff games, vs. being a 5-seed and going on the road throughout the post-season. I mean, THAT’S your season right there. I know the Seahawks are 7-1 on the road this year, and that will DEFINITELY be the main talking point heading into the playoffs when the Seahawks have to go to Dallas before probably facing the 49ers in a rubber-match down in Santa Clara again; but do you really want to roll those dice? The playoffs are already stressful enough; wouldn’t you feel at least a little more at ease with a first round BYE followed by back-to-back home games?

Winning this game is vital. And, frankly, the Seahawks SHOULD win this game easily. The Cards – before beating the up-and-down Browns last week – were on a 6-game losing streak where they only sometimes looked competitive.

But, the Seahawks are banged up, especially on defense. Quandre Diggs – the guy who is certainly the most important mid-season addition anyone in the NFL has made this year – won’t play, leaving us with one of the scrubs we were trying our damnedest to forget about (at least Tedric Thompson is out for the year, so the lure of starting him won’t doom our season). On top of that, Shaquill Griffin has a hamstring and could probably use another week to rest; even if he plays, he’ll be at less than 100%, and could risk re-aggravating it. Then, there’s Bobby Wagner – the heart & soul of the defense – who is apparently going to play with a sprained ankle; the chances of him either sucking or making the injury worse far outweigh him actually playing to his usual abilities. On top of all that, whither Clowney and Ansah? If our pass coverage is this weakened, we better figure out some sort of pass rush!

Offensively, the hammer fell a little earlier than we expected with Josh Gordon. He wasn’t a HUGE part of our offense, but you could point to pretty much every game where he made at least one big play. A third down conversion here; one of the best diving, fingertip catches of the season there. The drop-off is Jaron Brown or Malik Turner or David Moore; enough said. Getting Luke Willson back this week is a fairly big deal, but come on.

Look, I’m having a hard-enough time believing that all of this is REALLY for real. Gun to my head: I don’t think we beat the 49ers next week. I think we’re definitely going on the road for the playoffs, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the Cowboys or Eagles found a way to take us out in the Wild Card round. I keep coming back to the point differential (+26, equal to the Rams, who just murdered us btw), but also just the eye test. We’re BARELY beating these teams. The 49ers and Saints CLEARLY look like the class of the NFC and we’re these pretenders who have the best quarterback and that’s about it. Sometimes, teams like the Seahawks can come from nowhere and delight the world, but most of the time water finds its level.

The Seahawks are hanging on by a THREAD with all of these injuries. The depth just isn’t there at the most important posititons. If you asked me before the Carolina game where we could LEAST afford to downgrade, I would’ve said the safety position. Not far behind that: middle linebacker (I say this, of course knowing that quarterback is the most important position, so let’s just take that for granted and move the fuck on with our lives). Downgrading at probably both spots, with all the questions around our defensive line, brings our odds down to zero that we’re actually going to make an impact this post-season.

I hope I’m wrong! But, at this point I want to continue with the illusion as long as possible. Just having these conversations, and dreaming about scenarios where the Seahawks could shock the world and earn a first round BYE is truly giving me joy this holiday season. Beating the Cardinals – by any means necessary, even if it’s the ugliest game we’ve ever seen – will at least afford us the opportunity to keep this wild ride going another week.

Losing, on the other hand, will only serve to bring REALITY crashing down on top of our heads. This close to Christmas? Let’s not be a Grinch this Sunday, Seahawks. Grow that heart three sizes and let’s enjoy some roast beast!