The 2016 Seahawks Have A 53-Man Roster

Labor Day weekend was spent, by me, watching college football, going to parts of Bumbershoot, and constantly refreshing Twitter to check out the cuts, the signings, the trades, and the practice squad picks.

I won’t get into the whole 53-man here, but I’ll talk a little bit about some of the noteworthy choices.  You can see how everything compares to my lone roster prediction here.

Scrolling from top to bottom, the first thing that sticks out is how the Seahawks waived Will Tukuafu, to eventually be replaced by Tani Tupou (who plays both fullback and defensive tackle).  For a while there, it looked like the Seahawks weren’t going to have ANY fullback, and people predictably lost their shit for some reason.  Beat writers spent most of the weekend reassuring people that this was all a cost-cutting effort by the team to avoid having a full season’s worth of salary guaranteed to the veteran Tukuafu; and that by having him sign AFTER week 1, the team would reach that goal.  Even though the Seahawks brought Tupou back, I think nothing has changed in that regard.  There was a reason why the team originally cut Tupou, and there’s a reason why he was still readily available all this time later.  Tupou will still be there in the coming weeks, if Tukuafu ever gets injured.  For one week, Tupou gets to show if he’s worth bringing back, should disaster strike the fullback position.

The next shocker comes in the form of Tanner McEvoy cracking the roster as the team’s fifth wide receiver.  I don’t know what this means for his prospects as a tight end.  I don’t even know if he’s healthy enough to practice after missing a couple weeks with a nagging injury.  I do know this speaks volumes about his potential, and that he was rightly sought after by other teams, and never would’ve made it to the Practice Squad.  What this means for him long term is anyone’s guess.  I’d wager we’ll see him as a healthy scratch more often than not, and he’s REALLY going to have to make strides in practice to not get passed over.

Regarding the O-Line, I had that unit nailed except for one guy.  Will Pericak indeed made it back onto the Practice Squad, while rookie George Fant – a tackle prospect – gets that 9th and final roster spot.  The ends justifies the means, I suppose.  I still like Pericak as a talented prospect, but it probably wouldn’t hurt this team to hang onto four tackles.  Sowell is no sure thing, Webb was beat out by Gilliam when he got the most guaranteed money of any of our free agent offensive lineman this offseason, and Gilliam has already failed in his charge of converting over to the left side, when that’s all he was working towards this offseason.  Fant will most certainly be a healthy scratch for most of the season, but hopefully he can learn the left tackle position and win the starting job in 2017.

On the D-Line, I rightly predicted Jordan Hill’s release, but I didn’t quite nail this team keeping the 5th D-Tackle.  Garrison Smith was claimed after the 49ers released him and hopefully he’ll help provide some of that interior pass rush Hill brought.  Either that, or let’s hope Quinton Jefferson as a rookie will make a big leap in the early going of his career.

For the rest of the defense, I see we let Pinkins go, which I probably should’ve seen coming.  Wishful thinking, I guess, but it’s no shocker considering the team has let him go before.  I also see that we kept 11 DBs when I thought that was too many initially.  Of course, my prediction differed GREATLY from what the team ultimately decided upon.

I had Marcus Burley, Tye Smith, and Brandon Browner all sticking.  Instead, we opted to hang onto Steven Terrell, DeAndre Elliott, and trade for Dewey McDonald from Oakland.  We had also traded for the 49ers’ L.J. McCray, but he has since failed his physical (hence the re-signing of Tupou above).  Burley’s a tough one to swallow, especially when it was rumored that the Seahawks made all of these moves in the secondary – in large part – to shore up our special teams coverage.  But, I guess the team likes Tharold Simon’s play on the outside more than keeping a third nickel guy.  Brandon Browner’s release wasn’t all that shocking, considering we never really saw him play much in the pre-season.  For all we like to think about this coaching staff trying to pull one over on the league, hiding players until the games matter, they actually do the opposite more times than not.  They don’t mind giving the league tape on our guys, because they also want to evaluate how these guys look in real game situations.

The biggest disappointment is Tye Smith.  He was a draft pick last year who the team kept on its 53-man roster the whole season, and he was a guy the team had high expectations for coming into 2016.  Hell, from the sounds of things, Tye Smith had high expectations about Tye Smith coming into 2016.  But, from what I saw, he never really flashed, never really made many impact plays, and was never really called out for excellent coverage skills by the broadcast team.  Not only was Tye Smith cut, but he wasn’t even brought back onto the Practice Squad!  He could still be out there on the ghost roster, ready to be picked up during the season should a need arise, or try out for the 90-man next offseason, but that’s a pretty big blow.  DeAndre Elliott, an undrafted rookie with a similar build to Smith, DID flash this pre-season.  I remember seeing him mix it up quite a bit.  He very well could be the next DeShawn Shead if he keeps at it, so that’s nice to see.

On the special teams, still no movement on the long snapper position.  Nolan Frese, you may be safe for another week!

Seahawks/Raiders Preseason Game 4 Takeaways

For starters, no, I don’t really give a shit about Jeremy Lane sitting for the national anthem.  And for the record, I don’t even get why we sing the national anthem before every game anyway; save it for the fucking Olympics.

From a football perspective, the greatest takeaway is that no important Seahawks got hurt.  No one who figures to make the 53-man roster, anyway.  Seems like a small thing, but the last thing you want to see is a key player get hurt in the most meaningless of the meaningless pre-season games.

This one was a real barker, too.  I mean, seriously, woof!  2-0 at halftime, 5-3 after three quarters; we were so bored, my dad and I spent more time playing Yahtzee than watching the actual game.  The Raiders’ D-Line is no joke, and I’m not even sure all of their starters were ever in there!  The Seahawks really couldn’t do a damn thing for most of the first three quarters, thanks to their sheer dominance.

Then, the game turned on a dime, and became the most fun fourth quarter of a pre-season game that I can remember.  The Raiders extended their lead to 8-3 to kick things off.  A few minutes later – after getting the ball back – we pressured them into a pick-six to take the lead 9-8.  After stuffing them again, we got the ball back and drove – mostly on the back of Troymaine Pope’s slashing running style – to extend our lead to 16-8.  The Raiders drove down for a score of their own, but botched the 2-point conversion, to make it 16-14.  After we recovered the on-side kick, Pope busted out another long run to get us down near the goalline.  From there, Alex Collins officially sealed the deal with a goalline plunge to make it 23-14.

And yet, if that wasn’t enough, the Raiders ran back the kickoff to make it 23-21.  Thankfully, they didn’t try to on-side kick it again, and the game mercifully came to a close.  Still, pretty fun quarter when both teams had a combined eight points going in.

Getting back, I thought Pope was amazing, not just on Thursday, but this entire pre-season.  I know he’s in a battle with Alex Collins, and I know Alex Collins has certain physical attributes that Pope doesn’t, but it would just be a shame to see Pope go.  I just know he’s going to go off and be another Justin Forsett type, if he ever gets a serious opportunity to start.

After Pope, I didn’t really see many positives out of the offense.  I was REALLY disappointed that Tanner McEvoy wasn’t able to play, because I feel like this was EXACTLY the type of game he would’ve shined in.  None of the receivers really stood out – with no one catching more than 2 balls all game – but that was hardly their fault.  Our offensive line was manhandled from the get-go (with Jahri Evans and J’Marcus Webb looking particularly overwhelmed on the right side), and Trevone Boykin was not up to the task of dealing with it all that well.

I don’t think Boykin cost himself the job or anything; I think he’s still young, cheap, and has lots of team control.  I think keeping him on the 53-man roster – as opposed to the practice squad, while bringing in a veteran to backup Wilson – would be much more important to his development.  Plus, I still contend that if Wilson gets injured, the team will simply sign Tarvaris Jackson and keep Boykin as the #2 until Wilson’s healthy again.

That having been said, the kid is raw, but I thought he dealt with things okay.  You want a kid to know what it’s like to struggle like that, so next time he knows how to deal with it better.  Russell Wilson didn’t come out of the womb an All Pro (in spite of his robot-like qualities); I think Boykin will be okay.  Give him time to throw, give him lanes to run, he’ll be okay.  Also, think of it this way:  if he ever has to come in for Wilson, he’ll get the luxury of our starting O-Line, which is starting to come together pretty good.

I will say this though:  Boykin better take better advantage of his opportunities to run in the future.  He left A LOT of yards on the table by handing the ball off instead of tucking and running.

On defense, the guy who stood out the most was Keenan Lambert, who was just all over the place making plays.  I thought Brock Coyle had a great game too, showing why the team likes him so much as Bobby Wagner’s backup.  I thought KPL looked good, and I thought Marcus Burley continued his dominant pre-season with another great game.  If he doesn’t make the team, I just don’t know anymore, because he’s easily the 3rd or 4th best corner going right now.

I thought Tharold Simon looked pretty bad.  He was often caught not looking for the ball, and when he wasn’t penalized for it, it looked like he SHOULD’VE been.  I still haven’t seen anything out of Tye Smith.  And none of the young guys along the D-Line really stood out all that much, except for Ryan Robinson, obviously, who caught that pick-six, but I don’t expect him to make the team.  I seem to remember Eric Pinkins making a great play at some point!  Don’t know if it’s enough to save his job, but it was something, I’m sure of that.

Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner

You thought this wouldn’t be important, huh???  (for the record, “you” is just my natural insecurities coming out, so don’t take it personal)  Well, Nolan Frese has just been cut in favor of Tyler Ott.  I didn’t notice any bad snaps on Thursday – making it arguably his first clean game of the pre-season – but reports indicate he’s been dealing with a shoulder injury, and I wonder if he was gutting it out more than he was letting on.  Okay, I have no idea what’s going on, but it sounds like the Seahawks may be working guys out?  Either way, no Gresham this year, as I guess he’s moving back to Texas or some damn thing.  I think it’s a mistake, but we’ll see when I’m proven right and a botched snap costs us a game.

Another Pointless Mid-Pre-Season Seahawks Roster Prediction

I’m not immune!  I rail against these things (particularly the regularity with which they’re produced) and laugh at people who take them too seriously.  That having been said, it’s Monday.  We’ve seen two pre-season games so far, and I don’t know any more than anyone else covering this team.  But, that also means I really don’t know that much less than anyone else, particularly when it comes to predicting the season-opening 53-man roster.

These things are, like, 85% duh, with another 13% educated guesses, and 2% batshit insanity so you can look back in a couple weeks and say, “See, I was crazy, but I was right!”  Or, with a laugh, go, “Hoo boy, what was I thinking, right folks?”  Sad!  Fun!  Sad!

Without further ado, feel free to pick it apart:

QB (2)

Russell Wilson
Trevone Boykin

Put this in the ol’ Duh category.  I think the ship has sailed on Tarvaris Jackson.  I mean, if we cut Clint Gresham to save a few sheckles at long snapper, there’s no reason to expect this team to shell out a million bucks just to have Tarvar calling the coin toss for us in overtime games.  They’ve given Boykin every opportunity to win the job, and so far he hasn’t really disappointed.  You don’t want him starting for you anytime this year (or next, or ever, really), and he doesn’t look like he could win you any games if you needed him in an emergency basis.  But, he’s the kind of guy who could grow into the role, learn behind Wilson, and build value over the next 3-4 years.  Plus, if Wilson ever was severely injured, guess what?  Nobody’s signing Tarvaris Jackson anytime soon, so you could very well see him back with the club if it came to that!  Win-win, everyone!

RB (5)

Thomas Rawls
Christine Michael
C.J. Prosise
Alex Collins
Will Tukuafu

I am … not confident at all in this grouping.  Prosise has yet to do much of anything since we drafted him; I keep getting an IR vibe off of him.  Collins has looked pretty bad in the first pre-season games, but I’m hard pressed to judge the kid based off of running with the reserve O-Linemen.  Tukuafu was just re-signed, so that seems like a no-brainer.  He knows the system and they obviously like what he brings to the table.  On my cut list, that ices out Brooks & Pope.  It’s a numbers game at this point, and I think one of these guys makes it on the practice squad.  With a VERY outside chance of Pope weaseling his way onto the roster outright, if he keeps looking amazing, and the team doesn’t want to risk losing him to another team.

TE (4)

Jimmy Graham
Luke Willson
Nick Vannett
Brandon Williams

Pretty easy, this one.  I guess you could consider me buying into all the Brandon Williams hype, as the best blocking tight end on the team.  His spot gets cemented even further the longer Graham sits out of practice.  And, this ankle sprain from Vannett is another nail in the coffin … of Williams’ continued good fortune!  Were the top three guys fully healthy, I could easily see the team only keeping three tight ends, but with each guy bringing something different to the table, I like going with the four.  For now.

WR (5)

Doug Baldwin
Jermaine Kearse
Tyler Lockett
Paul Richardson
Kenny Lawler

Here’s where I’m going to stick one of my batshit insane picks.  Receivers 1-4 are obvious no-brainers.  But, I get a sense everyone is jumping off of the Lawler bandwagon.  I see what you all see:  a VERY skinny kid who looks like he’s about to snap into a million pieces with the next stiff breeze that crosses his path.  But, he’s looked pretty resilient so far in the first couple games.  He definitely looks like one of those receivers who’s ahead of the game, compared to where he’s at in his career (rookie 7th rounder).  If he plays smart, avoids excessive contact, and stays healthy, I think he has as good a shot as anyone of making that 5th WR spot.  I also think that if he’s released, he won’t make it onto the practice squad; I bet some other team snaps him up in a heartbeat.  Kevin Smith is doing himself no favors by being injured all this time.  Kasen Williams has been out with injury for a while too (and already has experience being passed through to the practice squad).  4th quarter hero Tanner McEvoy is someone you’d think would be in the mix, but I don’t think he’s all that refined in his route running.  I do think teams are looking at him, but I also think he’s a year or two away from making any sort of impact at the NFL level.

OL (9)

Bradley Sowell
Mark Glowinski
Justin Britt
Germain Ifedi
Garry Gilliam
J’Marcus Webb
Joey Hunt
Rees Odhiambo
Will Pericak

The surprises here land in who gets left out.  No Patrick Lewis:  I think the team feels he’ll be available if/when they need him; and I think Hunt has the higher upside (with being more likely to be picked up by another team, and thus not on our practice squad).  Also, no Jahri Evans:  I think he came a little too late to the party, and I think the team likes the guards it has.  That having been said, not all the veterans are set for dispatch.  I think Sowell and Webb both stick, as this team is pretty thin at Tackle and needs all the quality depth it can get (I also think the younger tackles just aren’t ready yet, and have a higher likelihood of making the practice squad since they suck so bad).  I think Odhiambo will prove he’s able to play multiple spots on the line, as a rookie, which gives him HUGE value.  And, I think Pericak is one of those developmental guys the team keeps on the 53-man roster all year, but never plays.  Seems like there’s always one – too valuable to sneak onto the practice squad, but not quite ready to even be a 2nd stringer just yet – and this year, my money is on Pericak (just don’t ask me to pronounce his name … W-ill?).

That puts us at an even 25 for the offense, which is about what you should expect.  Save a wide receiver spot by having Graham (who is already a quasi-receiver), and hope at least one of those young running backs makes it onto the practice squad.

DE (4)

Michael Bennett
Cliff Avril
Frank Clark
Cassius Marsh

This part is tough sledding, because 3/4 of these guys play multiple spots (Bennett as end & tackle; Clark as end, tackle, and linebacker; Marsh as end & linebacker), but I’m going to put them here and call them “primary pass rushers”, and if you don’t like it, tough titty.

DT (4)

Jarran Reed
Ahtyba Rubin
Quinton Jefferson
Tony McDaniel

Reed and Rubin are both locks, barring injury.  Jefferson sure looks like a guy who can fit into our rotation right away.  Which leaves newly-signed McDaniel, who looks as good as ever, providing that veteran leadership.  If I’m off-base anywhere in this list, the number one spot is probably leaving off Jordan Hill.  As you’ll see, I ended up keeping 6 linebackers, which is probably a mistake.  But, I haven’t seen anything from Hill this pre-season, or at any point last year for that matter, that would justify he HAS to be a guy this team keeps.  I think Jefferson takes over his role, and he’s left either stashed on the IR-to-return list, or he’s just cut and replaced.

LB (6)

Bobby Wagner
K.J. Wright
Mike Morgan
Kevin Pierre-Lewis
Brock Coyle
Eric Pinkins

Again, if I’m off-base, it’s here.  Pinkins feels like a stretch.  I think it’s going to take a monster final couple of games for him to win a spot, but I also think he has it in him.  He provides value on special teams and as a backup to Mike Morgan.  It just feels like it’s time to give him a shot and see what he can do in certain situations.

CB (6)

Richard Sherman
Jeremy Lane
DeShawn Shead
Tharold Simon
Marcus Burley
Tye Smith

If there’s anyone I’m not sold on, it’s Tye Smith.  Now, maybe we haven’t seen his name called much in the pre-season because he’s being quietly effective in pass coverage.  All I know is, he hasn’t stood out like you’d expect a young member of the L.O.B. to do.  Who HAS stood out is Marcus Burley.  He looked as good as I’ve ever seen him last week!  I know, I might be making too much out of a 2nd pre-season game, but he’s been with us a long time, he knows the system, and he’s probably the second-best nickel corner on the team (if we just keep Sherm on the outside and don’t have him following around the other team’s best receiver).

S (5)

Earl Thomas
Kam Chancellor
Kelcie McCray
Brandon Browner
Tyvis Powell

Is 11 DBs too many?  Feels like it’s too many.  Feels like I’m short 1 DE and 1 DT.  Anyway, Kam, Earl, and McCray are all locks.  I’m hopeful Browner makes the team, but could easily see the Seahawks walking away if it comes to a numbers game (injuries at other positions might dictate we need to keep extra resources elsewhere).  Powell has been the hotshot of camp and pre-season so far; I think the team figures out a way to keep him.  Since both he and Browner can play CB, maybe the team skimps there?  Or, maybe it comes down to Browner vs. Powell, at which point I bet the team goes younger and cheaper.  We’ll see.

That puts us at 25 defenders.  Again, I’m not married to this, but it’s just my feeling for today.  Obviously, a lot is going to change.  Up to and including:

Special Teams (3)

Steven Hauschka
Jon Ryan
Clint Gresham

You’re damn right!  I think Nolan Frese’s days are numbered!  I think the flaws in his young career become too many to overcome in these last couple pre-season games, when the pressure is increased.  I think the Seahawks figure out a way to find the money to pay a pro like Gresh, and I think we move on from this nightmare once and for all.

That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

A List Of The Seahawks’ Pre-Season Storylines

Making us all wait until Saturday before we get to watch the first Seahawks pre-season game seems a little masochistic by the NFL, but what are you gonna do?  Tomorrow, FINALLY, the pre-season starts.  All we’ve had so far are beat writer accounts of practice and sports radio interviews of coaches and athletes.  But, now we get to see the team in action.  It might be pretend action, but that doesn’t mean you can’t learn a whole lot about what these 2016 Seahawks are going to look like.

From this point forward, there will be a lot more writing on the Seahawks on this site, so get ready!  I’ve jotted down a list of the major storylines, with a little blurb on each one, that I could very well expand upon in longer posts sometime in the next month or so.  Without further ado, and in no particular order:

The Offensive Line

Yeah, you better believe I’m going to be focusing on the O-Line more than any other unit when the Seahawks take the field this pre-season.  I read good things about various guys so far in Training Camp, but is that relative to last year’s abomination?  We’ll find out.

Improved Secondary

I think it’s funny to hear these national writers talk about the Vikings, or some other team, having the league’s best and deepest secondary, TOTALLY sleeping on the Seahawks.  Motherfuckers act like they forgot about Dre the L.O.B.  Earl is still Earl, Sherm is still Sherm, Kam is still the most destructive force in the strong safety game today.  Beyond that, you want to talk about depth?  I’m looking at Lane, Shead, and Simon all playing at high levels when healthy.  I’m looking at a 2nd year pro in Tye Smith with a chip on his shoulder who had a healthy rookie year where all he had to do was learn the system.  I’m looking at safety Kelcie McCray who could be starting on a lot of teams right now.  I’m looking at a special role for Brandon Browner, matching up exclusively with other teams’ big receivers and tight ends.  Then, there’s Tyvis Powell, an undrafted rookie, who’s making a big impression these first couple weeks.  They’re sleeping on the L.O.B. now, but the league will be quick to learn who the real O.G.’s are.

The Defensive Line

I keep reading reports about how this is – or could be – the greatest pass rush we’ve had since 2013, but I’ve got my doubts.  We lost Bruce Irvin and replaced him with Frank Clark; is that a good move or not?  Last year, we had BOTH guys, so how does losing Irvin help us, exactly?  And, aside from Bennett, where are we getting our interior pass rush?  Is there someone I’m not familiar with who will step up as a 4th pass rush option from the defensive end position?  Believe you me, that’s going to be a huge part of my pre-season focus.

New Look Running Game

Obviously, the scheme will be the same, but the players are new.  Will Thomas Rawls return to last year’s record-breaking form?  Will the resurgence of Christine Michael translate into increased opportunities?  Will ANY of the rookies be able to stay healthy?

Passing Game Stability

I love the fact that the Seahawks brought Jermaine Kearse back, and that for the most part, our entire receiving corps is back for another run.  They may not be household names across the league (although, I don’t know how you can ignore Doug Baldwin’s contributions to our success any longer), but these guys continue to get the job done.  As they continue to mesh with Russell Wilson, in conjunction with the question marks surrounding the running game, I do think we’ll see an increase in this team’s passing numbers.

Backup Quarterback

For at LEAST the next two weeks, as the backups tend to play more than the starter in those games, this will be a constant point of focus, in the games and in the media between games.  Trevone Boykin vs. Jake Heaps vs. some possible third option not currently on the roster vs. Tarvaris Jackson perhaps?  Boykin appears to be more mobile, more Russell Wilson-esque; Heaps appears to be the better pocket passer and more accurate.  We know what Tarvar can do, so he could probably roll in here the day before the regular season starts and get his job back if he wants it.  But, I’ll tell ya, if the backups shit the bed against the Chiefs tomorrow, don’t be surprised if you see a flurry of tryouts by Monday.

Long Snapper

Scoff all you want!  You won’t be scoffing the moment one of these new long snappers sails a football over Jon Ryan’s head, or costs us a game-winning field goal attempt!  Don’t say I didn’t warn you chickenfuckers, because I’m going to have a little blurb about the long snappers after every pre-season game this year!  “Steven A. Taylor’s Long Snapper Corner” I’ll call it, and it’s going to be all anyone ever talks about!

Michael Bennett’s Contract

Things have sort of quieted down in this arena, which is nice, because no one really wants to hear about it anyway.  But, you know it’s going to come up again.  If Bennett continues to kill it, you’re going to hear (from him, and media types alike) that he deserves bigtime money.  But, the fear is:  what if he goes the other way?  What if the production dips?  Surely, they’ll look to point out that he’s not content with the money he’s making.  Now, a lot of that is likely a bunch of bullshit; but if there’s any element of truth to it, and he does slack off because he’s not making the money he thinks he’s earned, then we could be in for a long, frustrating season.  He is key in so many ways to this team’s defensive success.

Bobby Wagner Bounce Back Year

It’s not in the numbers he put up last year, so much as the eyeball test.  I just want to see more of an impact, in the obvious, fan sense.  Big run stuffs, big sacks, big interceptions, big forced fumbles.  Let’s get Bobby Wagner back on the map and in the same arena as Luke Kuechly.

Brandon Browner’s Return

This guy was a Pro Bowler for us.  This guy’s tenacity and strength and attitude was a HUGE reason why this secondary was so good back in the day.  I want to see if he’s as bad as he was in New Orleans, or if he was just used improperly.  I want to see if he’s still got something in the tank to be an enforcer this team needs.  I want to see him knock some tight ends on their asses!  Remember all those games we blew late last year?  Cincy, Carolina, Green Bay, St. Louis?  All of them had big days out of their tight ends.  Here’s to hoping Browner can put a stop to that shit once and for all.

Russell Wilson’s Eliteness

There’s nothing fans love more than to tout their quarterbacks as the best.  New England fans have had a stranglehold on this type of douche-baggery for far too long.  Wilson showed he can be an elite pocket passer for much of the second half of last season.  Let’s see him pick it up where he left off (especially since we’re breaking in this all-new offensive line).  Let’s see him make Pete Prisco look more and more like the know-nothing jackass that he is.

Tyler Lockett’s Impending Breakout

He was excellent as a rookie.  So, what can this kid do now?  He made it through the whole year healthy, has had a full offseason to absorb the playbook and work with Wilson away from the practice setting.  He’s going to be on the field more than any other receiver except for Baldwin; he’s going to get PLENTY of chances to make some big plays.  I, for one, can’t wait to see him unlock his full potential.

Frank Clark’s Expanded Role

He was pretty solid as a rookie.  He didn’t have to play a lot, but he showed flashes.  I’m curious to see how he’ll do as more of a primary pass rusher (really, as this team’s third option behind Bennett and Avril).  I don’t generally have a ton of confidence in young pass rushers, so I hope he’s able to take a HUGE step forward.  Otherwise, as I mentioned up top, this team’s pass rush could be in real trouble.

The SAM Linebacker

Or, Replacing Bruce Irvin in Base Defense.  So far, it’s been a 3-man race between Mike Morgan, Cassius Marsh, and Eric Pinkins.  Morgan has the experience, knows the system, and feels like the sensible choice.  Marsh dropped weight to get to this point, has always been good against the run, and seems athletic enough.  Even if he doesn’t win the starting job, you don’t have to worry about him, because he’s one of this team’s best Special Teamers.  Pinkins has been coming on strong of late, from what I’ve read.  He appears to have the highest upside of the three, from a playmaking perspective.  He’ll need to play mistake-free, assignment-correct football (or pretty close to it) in the pre-season games to win the job.  I hope he does; this team could always use another young, cheap playmaking force.

Jimmy Graham & Thomas Rawls

Their returns from graphic injuries will continue to be stories until they’re not.  Until they get back on the field, in a game setting, and knock it around with the pros.  Rawls came off the PUP list first, and could be practicing with the team as early as next week.  Graham just came off the PUP list a day or two ago, has the more-serious of the two devastating injuries, and will need to be brought along more slowly.  As such, and given his star status, his every movement will continue to be news for the next month straight.  I eagerly await his return, but I’d be just as happy to see him held back as long as possible, to avoid re-injury, and ESPECIALLY to avoid injuring other body parts in compensation for protecting the knee.

Ranking The Seahawks By How Much I’d Freak The Fudge Out If They Got Significantly Injured

There’s never really a GOOD time to get news about a player being injured.  No matter who it is, no matter when it happens, it’s cutting into your team’s depth, and that’s always going to be bad.  I suppose if I HAD to pick a “good” time, it would be sometime before the season starts.  With the hopes that they’ll either recover in time for the games that count, or that they can be put on IR-Designated To Return, with the idea that they’ll show up for a good second half of the season stretch run.

But, even then, I can’t help but simmer at a low boil right now, in constant fear of the first major injury to befall my favorite team.

So far, it’s just been a couple of reserves with Achilles injuries, as far as MAJOR injuries are concerned.  I guess you could lump Rawls and Graham in there, but those guys were hurt last year, and they’re reportedly on the mend and set to come back for the regular season.  But, there really aren’t any significant NEW injuries to speak of (knock on all the wood you’ve got), so my low boil remains.

As there have been the usual reports of a lot of minor strains and such, with the start of Training Camp – pretty normal, as guys get back into football playing shape – I started thinking about the unthinkable.  So, let’s dig in!  I love nothing more than to be wildly inappropriate, so let’s put it all on the table.  Let’s talk about the guys the Seahawks can ill afford to lose.  The illest, as it were.

  1. Russell Wilson – It’s so obvious it’s hardly even worth mentioning.  Russell Wilson makes this offense go.  Without Russell Wilson, we’re toast; you might as well call us the Denver Broncos.  That’s on an ordinary year.  But THIS year, where Tarvaris Jackson remains unsigned, and we’re looking at a couple of undrafted rookies as potential #2’s, it’s even more obvious.  This list is “Russell Wilson” in the first 550 spots, and then we get to someone different.
  2. Doug Baldwin – Threw you a curveball!  I bet you thought I was going to say any number of elite defenders!  But, this isn’t a list of “Best Seahawks”, this is a list of Most Important Seahawks To Keep Healthy.  Or, in other words, it’s a ranking of where I feel this team is strongest and weakest.  And I’ll tell you right now, I like our depth along the D-Line, and I LOVE our depth in the secondary.  But, the drop-off from Doug Baldwin to Jermaine Kearse, or Doug Baldwin to Tyler Lockett, is pretty significant.  I still like Kearse to make the tough catches, and I still like Lockett to make the big plays, but Baldwin does it all.  He’s a security blanket on third down, he’s a big-play machine in the open field, and most importantly of all, he scores them TDs.  With the running game to be a big fat question mark until either Rawls returns from injury, or someone else proves himself fit to carry the load, this team is going to need to rely on the passing game.  And Baldwin is the biggest non-QB component of that passing game, hands down.
  3. Michael Bennett – I like the D-Line, but I don’t love it.  A lot of what makes this unit passable is the fact that Michael Bennett is so versatile.  We need him wreaking havoc on the outside, containing the run game; but we need him even more on the inside, slashing through the line and making the opposing quarterback’s life a living hell.  He allows you to play less versatile guys on the outside in obvious passing downs, which gives this team three viable pass rushing options to get the job done.  Without Bennett, the Seahawks have absolutely zero interior push (unless they blitz up the middle, which they rarely do), so losing him would completely change the defense.
  4. Cliff Avril – This more or less speaks to the lack of depth we have in our pass rush.  I’ve narrowed it down to three guys:  Bennett, Avril, and Frank Clark.  The drop-off, from a defensive end standpoint, is pretty stark.  Cassius Marsh?  He’s never proven to be anything more than a solid special teams guy, and someone surprisingly good against the run.  But, Marsh has never really been a pass rush specialist.  With Bruce Irvin now on the Raiders, and Chris Clemons having retired, this team REALLY needs someone to shock the world in the pre-season.
  5. Earl Thomas – I tried to fend it off as long as I could.  Kelcie McCray appears to be the backup, though, and I thought he looked pretty good last year!  Nevertheless, there’s only one Earl Thomas, and after making it through last year, able to prepare for this season from a standpoint of health, I would expect him to be a scud missile this season.  He allows this defense to get away with so much, because he can cover so much ground.  Combined with Sherm, and a solid triad of Lane, Shead, and Simon on the other side/in the nickel, it allows Kam and/or Browner to play closer to the box and be the enforcer this defense thrives off of.
  6. Bobby Wagner – Because no one wants to see Brock Coyle in there.
  7. Richard Sherman – Because while I like the depth of our secondary as it stands now, we all know it’s only a matter of time before Tharold Simon is lost for the year, and at THAT point, we’d be proper fucked.
  8. Frank Clark – Because I really want to see this nickel defense at full strength, to see how well we do in replacing Bruce Irvin.
  9. Thomas Rawls – Because I don’t know if I trust Christine Michael, and I don’t want to go into this season with nothing but rookies at running back.
  10. Germain Ifedi – Because I hate losing highly-rated draft picks in their rookie seasons.  I want him to get all the experience he can, then go into the offseason completely healthy, so instead of rehabbing, he can focus on getting stronger and working on technique (in hopes of being our starting right tackle of the future).

That’s all I got.  I could probably drag this out some more, but the whole 12 thing is played out.

Taking A Hard Look At The Seahawks’ Roster

On Twitter, I heard Pro Football Focus ranked the Seahawks as having the 13th-best roster in the NFL, which on the one hand is absurd, because seriously?  Worse than Philly, Oakland, and Dallas?  And on the other hand, is a missed opportunity, because that’s the perfect opportunity to take an extra dig at this fanbase by ranking the Seahawks 12th (or, at least tied for 12th).

I don’t subscribe to PFF, nor am I an ESPN Insider, because I have enough shit to read on the free Internet, I don’t need to go spending money to read more shit for which I just don’t have the time.  So, I can’t tell you the context or the rationale behind it, but knowing the Seahawks, I think you can look squarely at the offensive line, the loss of Marshawn Lynch, and the questionable pass rush.  If you factor in a couple of key injuries here and there, then who knows?  Maybe the 2016 Seahawks take a large tumble.

So, just how dire is it?

I’ve gone on at length about the O-Line, and I’m sure I’ll continue to do so as we get into the pre-season, so I’ll just say this:  it’ll look bad early, it’ll get better as the season goes along, but it’ll always be a source of dismay for the fans.  The question we need answered is:  how bad is it RIGHT NOW (i.e. what is the floor for this unit?), and how much better can it get as it gels over the weeks (i.e. what is the ceiling?)?  Last year, the floor was pretty low.  But, I’m hard-pressed to cite it as the overwhelming reason why we started off the season so poorly (if anything, I’d blame the O-Line for why the season ended the way it did, with a late home loss to the Rams, followed by a first-half dismantling in Carolina in the playoffs).  If the ceiling isn’t going to be any better than it was last year, then we’re either screwed, or we’re going to need to get lucky in our matchups down the stretch and in the post-season.

As for the pass rush, it’s too early to make any definitive statements, which is both exciting and scary.  Assuming Avril and Bennett are back and healthy (and not holding out), that’s a terrific pass rushing base.  The loss of Bruce Irvin certainly hurts, but that opens up a role for Frank Clark, so it’s not all bad.  Can Clark be a percentage of what Irvin gave us?  Will his ceiling be higher?  Let’s not forget, Bruce Irvin wasn’t some Tasmanian Devil; if he was some elite, All Pro pass rusher, the Seahawks would’ve done more to hang onto him.  So, you know, it’s entirely possible that Clark can be exactly what Irvin was, at least from a pass rush standpoint.  And, regardless, we’ve also got Chris Clemons back in the fold, as a veteran LEO end we can use in spots, who should have enough in the tank to give us a little extra something we didn’t have last year.

Barring injury, I’m okay with what our pass rush looks like going into the season.  If we can get what we got last year – which wasn’t Top 5 by any stretch, but was probably closer to league average – I’m entirely fine with that.

Because I think our secondary is going to take a HUGE step forward.  Having Jeremy Lane to start the season is an immediate upgrade over the likes of Cary Williams.  Having some combo of Tharold Simon, Brandon Browner, Tye Smith, and DeShawn Shead, will make us MUCH deeper than we were last year.  And, the inclusion of Browner in more of a safety role – to target the bigger tight ends we were getting beaten by so often last year – should help reduce some of those late-game let-downs we gave up last year.

An outstanding pass rush can – and often will – make up for a lacking secondary.  On the flipside, an outstanding secondary can – and often will – give the pass rush a little extra time to get home.

You can argue that some guys on defense last year didn’t appear to be their usual, dominant selves.  For instance, I didn’t see a lot popping off the screen when I watched Bobby Wagner or Kam Chancellor.  But, I would argue that K.J. Wright took a huge step forward, Richard Sherman was as good as he’s ever been, and you’re going to struggle to convince me Earl Thomas has lost a step.  Just because the guys weren’t making good on a lot of turnover opportunities, doesn’t mean this unit has all of a sudden fallen off the cliff.  If anything, turnovers are random, and could just as easily be this team’s defining characteristic in 2016.

Yes, injuries would kill our depth, but you can say that with any team.  But, I would argue the Seahawks made great strides in free agency to at least shore up some of that depth.  Clemons, as I mentioned above.  Siliga is a great option at tackle behind our draft pick, as well as re-signing Rubin for the 3-Tech.  Mike Morgan is back to compete at SAM in the base defense.  Lane and Browner, as I mentioned above, are upgrades over guys we were starting early last year.  I have high hopes for this defense – as is – to be better than it was in 2015, and to have enough depth to get us through the tough times, should guys go down with nagging complaints that keep them out a few weeks.

Which brings us to the offense.

You don’t go anywhere until you talk about Russell Wilson’s great leap forward over the last half of last season.  That’s hard, real-world evidence of a guy hitting the next level.  That’s important.  It’s also something that needs to be furthered if this offense doesn’t want to take a step back in 2016.

Like it or lump it, the running game is in jeopardy.  The O-Line is, obviously, built to run the ball, so that’s fine.  But, who carries the rock?  Will Rawls be ready?  If he’s ready, will he be the same guy he was in 2015?  If he’s not, or if he’s supplanted, will his replacement have what it takes to carry the load, and at least approach what Beastmode gave us in his healthy years?

Just as there will certainly be some growing pains in our pass protection to start the season, there could very well be similar growing pains in our run game, only the O-Line likely won’t be at fault.  Nevertheless, we’re going to need Wilson to be an elite, Top 5 QB just to MAINTAIN what we were able to do.  Then, once the running game gets going, the sky is the limit for this offense.  But, how long will that take?  And, how many games will it cost us in the early going?

In the passing game, there’s a lot of carry-over, which is nice.  The wide receiver group is pretty much the same, especially at the top-end of the group with Baldwin, Kearse, and Lockett.  While it’s reasonable to question whether Graham will be ready or not, he’ll be back eventually, and in the meantime there’s a lot to like about the guys behind him, with Willson and draft pick Vannett.

I suppose, you could argue that outside of Russell Wilson, and a healthy Graham, there isn’t a lot of dynamic game-changers on offense (like there is on defense).  So, if you’re ranking teams from top to bottom at this arbitrary point in the offseason, you can look at the Seahawks and shrug your shoulders at the running backs, and the overall depth in the receiving game.  While Baldwin was legitimately great in 2016, he’s still seen as a possession receiver.  While Kearse has made some of the biggest, most important catches in franchise history, he’s still seen as Just Another Guy.  Lockett has yet to really prove himself on offense.  And, beyond those guys, you’ve got a bunch of receivers no one has ever heard of before (outside of Seattle, anyway).  And, until someone plays himself into a starting role, the running back group is essentially anonymous, with guys like Prosise and Rawls having the upside you like, while at the same time having the question marks you hate to need to count on.

If I step back and look at this team honestly, you know what I see?  In many ways, it could be a transition year just like 2015.  That’s hard to swallow, as a fan, when you’ve seen this unit – by and large – go to back-to-back Super Bowls.  You’d like to think, for a team this stacked, you wouldn’t need more than a year off before going back to another title game.  But, there were a number of missteps on many fronts that led to this.  Not taking Kam’s holdout seriously and working to build depth at the safety position was something that cost us a couple games last year.  Trying to get by with smoke & mirrors on the O-Line for another year, when you knew you were likely going to lose Okung and Sweezy at season’s end and have to start all over.  And, quite honestly, the severity of the injuries to Rawls and Graham have us in a bind.  It dictated how we drafted – taking an absurd three running backs, hoping that at least two of them will stick – and it’s ultimately going to dictate how high our upside is as we enter the regular season.  Regardless, 2015 was a transition year no one really saw coming, which could very well carry over into a 2-year hangover of sorts from the disasterous end of Super Bowl XLIX.

I go back to floors and ceilings when I think of the 2016 Seahawks.  We’re going to get a clear view of this team’s floor come September, when guys are still getting used to playing (and playing together) on both sides of the ball.  Any injuries on top of that will only delay our potential rise to prominence.  If we can get off to a quality start to the season, while playing at our relative floor, it’ll make all the difference.  Because, in spite of what I see as a team in transition in 2016, I still see a team poised to make a big jump over the second half of the season.  The O-Line should improve with more games played together; the running game should sort itself out as guys get healthy (and rookies get used to the speed of the NFL).  The defense as a whole should be improved over what it was in 2015, so as long as we can keep it patched up and running smoothly (particularly early in the season), there’s a good chance that this “transition year” could morph into another championship year.  Either by overcoming a slow start – and improving our play on the road, particularly through the playoffs – or by overcoming our early-season shortcomings, WINNING in the first half more than our primary NFC rivals, and gelling in time for a quality finish to the season and another high seed in the playoffs.

So, while the roster might indeed be something the rest of the league (and the analyzing public at large) sleeps on, none of that really matters.  All that matters is how the schedule shapes up.  Can a so-so Seahawks squad get through the early weeks before they turn into a butterfly and lay to waste the rest of the league in the later weeks?

The Dolphins, Rams, 49ers, and Jets await us in the first four weeks.  Can we go 3-1 or stay perfect in that stretch?  It’ll be important, because then we get the BYE before hosting the Falcons.  That leads us into our first really important game, in Arizona, before games against the Saints and Bills take us to the midway point in the season.  One would hope, after 8 weeks (if not sooner), the Seahawks can get through their growing pains and start to gel, as I mentioned above.  If the Seahawks can figure out a way to go 6-2 or better in the first half, we’ve got a good chance to be really special, even if the second half is full of teams that are – on paper – super good (Pats, Packers, Panthers, Cards again, not to mention the Bucs and Rams again).

But, if we struggle early, end up 4-4 at the midway point, with all those tough teams yet to play, then yeah, I could see this being another year where we flame out as a Wild Card team, or even miss the playoffs altogether.

The point in all this is while the roster might not be championship level now, or to start the season, it has potential to get there by season’s end, or going into 2017 after a year’s worth of experience for some of these young guys.

A Look Back at the Impressive Draft History of the John Schneider Era

With the draft coming up in a couple days, it’s always fun to look back at all the success the Seahawks have had in their current regime, overhauling a franchise in the toilet and propping it up as world champions.  You don’t get this good, this fast, without some remarkable drafting and some remarkable coaching.  Who can say if all of these guys would have been just as good under the tutelage of lesser men?  What we know is that a lot of these guys panned out in a big way, thanks to the system we have in place.

To give the full picture, you actually have to go back to the 2009 draft, when we had Jim Mora Jr. as our head coach and Tim Ruskell calling the shots on the personnel side.

Like all of Ruskell’s drafts after his first one back in 2005 – where he nabbed Lofa Tatupu and Leroy Hill, to solidify the middle of our defense – his 2009 class was a huge disaster.  The Seahawks had the #4 pick and wasted it on a bust of a player in Aaron Curry.  Given the downward trajectory of the franchise at that point, you had to wonder where Ruskell found his erroneous sense of job security, as he traded away Seattle’s second round pick (37th overall) to the Denver Broncos for a 2010 first round pick (to further confuse matters, the Seahawks ended up trading 3rd & 4th rounders to get back into the second round – 49th overall – to select Max Unger, the last bit of good from the Ruskell regime).

With that 2010 first round pick, however, the Seahawks would build their dynasty.  As we’re all well aware, the 2009 Seahawks ended up being a trainwreck just like the 2008 variety, leading the franchise to earn the #6 draft pick in 2010.  The 2009 Broncos did their part by going 8-8 and failing to make the playoffs, which meant that their first round draft pick (which was now ours) was 14th overall.

While the 2010 draft wasn’t quite up to the elite level of the 2012 class, it seriously jumpstarted things in a big way.

  • First Round, #6 – Russell Okung (LT)
  • First Round, #14 – Earl Thomas (S)
  • Second Round, #60 – Golden Tate (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #111 – Walter Thurmond (CB)
  • Fourth Round, #127 – E.J. Wilson (DE)
  • Fifth Round, #133 – Kam Chancellor (S)
  • Sixth Round, #185 – Anthony McCoy (TE)
  • Seventh Round, #236 – Dexter Davis (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #245 – Jameson Konz (WR/TE/DE/FB)

Of note is that the Seahawks were originally slated to draft much earlier in the second round, but ended up swapping picks with San Diego (along with giving them a third rounder in 2011) to trade for Charlie Whitehurst.  So, you can’t tell me there weren’t some roadblocks in the early going of the John Schneider era.

Also, it wasn’t all peaches and cream out of Tim Ruskell in the 2009 draft, as he sold off our 2010 third round pick to get Deon Butler in that 2009 class.  The Seahawks also ended up trading back in the 4th & 6th rounds with Tennessee to grab LenDale White and Kevin Vickerson.  Vickerson proved to be an adequate defensive tackle; White never made the roster.

In a much happier deal, the Seahawks acquired their extra fourth round pick (which they used on E.J. Wilson, who didn’t pan out) and managed to get Chris Clemons from the Eagles (who very much DID pan out), and all we had to give up was Darryl Tapp.

More deals to come.  The Seahawks traded away their original fifth round pick to the Jets for Leon Washington and the Jets’ 7th round pick.  But, the Seahawks got back into the fifth round (ahead of their original pick) in a deal with Detroit where we also received some defensive end, where we only gave up Rob Sims (a guard who was never all that good with the Seahawks) and a seventh round pick.  The Seahawks would use that pick to draft Kam Chancellor, locking down their two starting safeties in the same class.

As far as I can tell, the Seahawks didn’t really get much from the undrafted free agent class of 2010, though Lemuel Jeanpierre and Breno Giacomini were both brought in that year.  And, obviously, the Seahawks would bring in Marshawn Lynch via trade during the season.  But, when you look at that draft class, you’ve got 6 key contributors, including 4 starters (Okung, Thomas, Tate, and Chancellor) and great ones at that.

That brings us to 2011, or the mule of the John Schneider draft classes.  It gets a lot of flack for being mediocre, but upon further review was pretty underrated.

To kick things off, the 7-9 Seahawks of 2010 were stupidly allowed into the playoffs by way of winning one of the worst divisions in recorded NFL history.  Even though that team had literally no chance of winning the Super Bowl, it still made some noise with the Beastquake run and the unlikely upset of the previous year’s Super Bowl champion Saints.  Of course, the Seahawks would go on to lose the very next week in Chicago, meaning that for all the hubbub, the Seahawks would end up picking 25th overall in the 2011 draft.

If you were like me, you saw this as a sign of doom.  The 2010 Seahawks were not good.  Not by a longshot.  And, to be hampered with drafting so low in the first round (and in subsequent rounds) would only set things back that much further.  Apparently unable to find a partner with which to trade back, the Seahawks made that selection James Carpenter, who started as our right tackle before getting bumped inside to guard.  Everyone thought this was a reach, and history has proven this to be true; Carpenter was adequate at best, but not a true impact player you’d hope to get in the first round.  Nevertheless, he was a starter all four years, so he wasn’t quite the crime against humanity everyone makes him out to be (indeed, his current salary with the Jets would speak to how other teams have come to value his strong run blocking abilities).

  • First Round, #25 – James Carpenter (OL)
  • Third Round, #75 – John Moffitt (G)
  • Fourth Round, #99 – K.J. Wright (LB)
  • Fourth Round, #107 – Kris Durham (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Richard Sherman (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #156 – Mark LeGree (S)
  • Sixth Round, #173 – Byron Maxwell (CB)
  • Seventh Round, #205 – Lazarius Levingston (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Malcolm Smith (LB)

The Seahawks ended up trading away their second round pick to the Lions to pick up an extra third & fourth round picks (used on Moffitt and Durham).  Recall they gave away their original third round pick in 2010 to get Charlie Whitehurst.  All in all, nothing too impressive with any of these moves, as Whitehurst was a bust, Moffitt ended up getting traded to Denver after a mediocre rookie season, and Durham never panned out with Seattle.  In that same Lions trade, the Seahawks moved up in the fifth and seventh rounds, which they used to grab Richard Sherman (GREAT!) and Lazarius Levingston (WHO?).

The Seahawks gave up their original fourth round pick in the Marshawn Lynch trade (as well as a conditional 2012 pick that ended up being a fifth rounder).  However, the Seahawks got back into the fourth round by trading Deion Branch back to the Patriots.  Branch was a turd sandwich in Seattle, and we used the pick we got from the Pats to grab K.J. Wright, who has been a stalwart for our linebacking corps.

That above trade wasn’t the last time we’d deal with the Lions.  In a spectacular move, the Seahawks traded away former bust under the Ruskell regime, Lawrence Jackson, to get the Lions’ sixth round pick, which we used to grab Byron Maxwell, a huge part of our success in his final two years here (and a great special teamer and backup overall).  That made up for giving away our original sixth round pick to the 49ers for Kentwan Balmer, who would go on to be cut prior to the 2011 season.

To wrap things up, the Seahawks traded their original seventh rounder to Philly for an offensive lineman who did nothing.  However, the Seahawks were granted a compensatory pick, which we used on Super Bowl MVP Malcolm Smith.

Among the 2011 undrafted free agents, we have Doug Baldwin (WR), Ricardo Lockette (WR), Jeron Johnson (S), and Mike Morgan (LB).  This would also be the year the Seahawks took a flyer on Brandon Browner from the CFL, among many other free agent acquisitions.

When you look at the haul of just the rookies, though, you’re talking about 10 contributors, including 5 starters (Carpenter, Wright, Sherman, Maxwell (eventually), and Baldwin).

That brings us to 2012, or one of the greatest draft classes you’ll ever see.  The 2011 were again 7-9, but thankfully weren’t saddled with a futile playoff appearance.  As such, they were granted the 12th overall selection, which they promptly traded to Philly to move back to 15.  The Seahawks were granted picks in the fourth (Jaye Howard, DT) and sixth round (Jeremy Lane, CB), and away we go!

  • First Round, #15 – Bruce Irvin (DE/LB)
  • Second Round, #47 – Bobby Wagner (LB)
  • Third Round, #75 – Russell Wilson (QB)
  • Fourth Round, #106 – Robert Turbin (RB)
  • Fourth Round, #114 – Jaye Howard (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #154 – Korey Toomer (LB)
  • Sixth Round, #172 – Jeremy Lane (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #181 – Winston Guy (S)
  • Seventh Round, #225 – J.R. Sweezy (G)
  • Seventh Round, #232 – Greg Scruggs (DE)

Not to be stopped, the Seahawks traded back in the second round as well, this time with the Jets.  We would pick up extra picks in the fifth and seventh rounds (Toomer & Scruggs, respectively).  That one didn’t totally pan out, though I would argue injuries to both players hampered their ability to make a significant impact early in their careers.  Nevertheless, you can sense a theme:  the Seahawks wanted as many picks in this draft as possible, as it was laden with talent.

No more trades until the seventh round, where the Seahawks got the pick they’d use to nab Sweezy from the Raiders, in addition to a conditional 2013 pick (which ended up being in the fifth round) for the privilege of jettisoning Aaron Curry (who would only last with the Raiders for a little over a year before being waived).  The Seahawks did trade away their original seventh rounder for Tyler Polumbus (from the Lions), who was a starter here, but wasn’t any good.

The Seahawks also got Jermaine Kearse (WR) and DeShawn Shead (CB) from the ranks of the undrafted free agents.  All told, this class netted the Seahawks 9 contributors, with 5 starters (Irvin, Wagner, Wilson, Sweezy, and Kearse), with Lane expected to start this year, given the big money he made this offseason to re-sign with the Seahawks.

Obviously, the 2012 squad made a huge leap, thanks to the Seahawks’ tremendous draft success.  In those three classes alone, you’re talking about 14 starters, and 25 contributors overall.  The 11-5 record, and first round victory against the Redskins, meant the Seahawks would draft 25th again in the first round in 2013 (as they did back in 2011).  In something of a stunner of a move, the Seahawks would trade away this pick, as well as its seventh rounder, and a 2014 third rounder, for the right to get Percy Harvin and sign him to an ill-advised huge free agent deal.

  • Second Round, #62 – Christine Michael (RB)
  • Third Round, #87 – Jordan Hill (DT)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Chris Harper (WR)
  • Fifth Round, #137 – Jesse Williams (DT)
  • Fifth Round, #138 – Tharold Simon (CB)
  • Fifth Round, #158 – Luke Willson (TE)
  • Sixth Round, #194 – Spencer Ware (RB)
  • Seventh Round, #220 – Ryan Seymour (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #231 – Ty Powell (DE)
  • Seventh Round, #241 – Jared Smith (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #242 – Michael Bowie (OL)

The 2013 draft has proven to be the real dog of the John Schneider classes.  Nevertheless, let’s run through the moves that got it to where it was.  As a volume drafter, Schneider found multiple ways to recoup draft picks after spending so much on Percy Harvin.

To start, the Seahawks moved back in the second round, from 56 to 62, and received from the Ravens a fifth and a sixth (165 & 199).  As you can see from above, the Seahawks didn’t draft at either of those positions.  That’s because the Seahawks traded both of those picks to the Lions to get pick #137 (Williams) at the top of the fifth round.  The very next selection came from the Raiders in the Aaron Curry deal, which we used on Simon (who has been good, but has never been healthy).

The flurry of seventh rounders (none of whom were worth a damn) came from the Saints (pick 220, for some linebacker we gave them), and a couple of compensatory picks (#241 & #242).

Alvin Bailey was the only notable undrafted free agent in this class; he was a quality reserve along the offensive line, but nothing more.  All told, the Seahawks only managed to get one eventual starter in this class (Luke Willson, who has only been a starter thanks to injuries to Zach Miller and Jimmy Graham), and three other contributors (Michael, Hill, and Simon), though Spencer Ware got a crack at a job with the Chiefs and seems to be pretty good.

We all know what happened with that 2013 team, built on a rock solid foundation of draft picks.  Following that year, the team started to get picked apart a little bit, with free agents going to other teams.  With the 2013 class already looking like a bummer, the pressure was on John Schneider to right the ship with a banner 2014 draft.  He started it off by trading away our first round pick to the Vikings for a second straight year.  The Vikings would select Teddy Bridgewater with the 32nd pick in the class; the Seahawks would get Minnesota’s second and fourth round selections (40 & 108 overall).

Before Seattle could make a pick, we traded back again, this time with the Lions.  The Lions picked at 40, and also received our fifth round pick at 146 (which we got from the Raiders for Matt Flynn) in exchange for second, fourth, and seventh rounders from Detroit (45, 111, & 227).  At 45, the Seahawks finally made their first pick, selecting Paul Richardson.

  • Second Round, #45 – Paul Richardson (WR)
  • Second Round, #64 – Justin Britt (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #108 – Cassius Marsh (DE)
  • Fourth Round, #123 – Kevin Norwood (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #132 – Kevin Pierre-Louis (LB)
  • Fifth Round, #172 – Jimmy Staten (DT)
  • Sixth Round, #199 – Garrett Scott (OL)
  • Sixth Round, #208 – Eric Pinkins (DB/LB)
  • Seventh Round, #227 – Kiero Small (FB)

To make up for the loss of our third rounder (to the Vikings, in the Harvin deal the previous year), you can see why the Seahawks wanted to trade back so many times to start the draft.  They were able to pick up two extra fourth rounders.  That pick we got from the Vikings would go to Marsh, who has been a quality reserve and special teamer.  The Seahawks would use that 111th pick to trade with the Bengals to get pick 123 (Norwood) and an extra sixth rounder (Scott, who never made the team due to health concerns).  That seventh rounder from Detroit ended up being Kiero Small, who also didn’t make the team (the Seahawks would trade away their original seventh round pick to the Raiders for Terrelle Pryor, who never amounted to much of anything).

Among the undrafted free agents, we grabbed Garry Gilliam (OL), Brock Coyle (LB), and Dion Bailey (S).  At first glance, this class doesn’t look any more impressive than the 2013 class, but there are a number of under-the-radar players in there.  Right now, we’re looking at 2 starters (Britt and Gilliam), with four other contributors (Richardson, Marsh, KPL, and Coyle).  Depth guys, special teams guys, people to round out the roster.  When you figure so many of this team’s starters were already on the team ahead of this class, it’s not like you’re talking about a huge number of available openings.  Granted, a lot of this class hinges on Britt and Gilliam improving, and Richardson remaining healthy for a full season.  Should they fail, then you could make an argument that THIS is indeed the worst class of the John Schneider era.  But, until another couple years pass, it’s still TBD.

A second Super Bowl appearance for the 2014 squad meant that the 2015 Seahawks would be drafting quite low again.  With the obvious disaster of the Harvin trade looming over the franchise, the Seahawks opted to take another swing for the fences, trading away their first rounder (along with Max Unger) to the Saints for Jimmy Graham (and their fourth round pick, #112 overall).  We kick off the 2015 draft DEEP into the second round, with a controversial pick in Frank Clark (with domestic abuse allegations swirling around him, yet with an obvious cliff after him with regards to pass rushers in this draft class).

  • Second Round, #63 – Frank Clark (DE)
  • Third Round, #69 – Tyler Lockett (WR)
  • Fourth Round, #130 – Terry Poole (OL)
  • Fourth Round, #134 – Mark Glowinski (G)
  • Fifth Round, #170 – Tye Smith (CB)
  • Sixth Round, #209 – Obum Gwacham (DE)
  • Sixth Round, #214 – Kristjan Sokoli (OL)
  • Seventh Round, #248 – Ryan Murphy (DB)

The Seahawks had a ton of extra picks in this draft, which I’ll get to below.  They used a package of third (95), fourth (112), fifth (167), and sixth (181) round picks to move up to #69 from the Redskins.  That pick at 95 was our original third rounder.  That fourth rounder at 112 came from the Saints in the Jimmy Graham deal.  That fifth rounder at 167 was our original fifth rounder.  And that sixth rounder at 181 came from the Jets when we gave them Percy Harvin.  So, obviously, we sent away two picks that we got in deals, and two original picks.  We were more than happy to do so because 1) Tyler Lockett is a special player, and 2) we had extra picks throughout.

Poole was from our original fourth round pick; Glowinski was from a compensatory pick.  Tye Smith was also a compensatory pick, as were both of our sixth round guys (Gwacham and Sokoli).  That’s what you get when you don’t over-pay to keep your own players who aren’t necessarily worth big-money deals.

The only notable undrafted free agent from 2015 was Thomas Rawls, who very well may be our starting running back in 2016.  Combine him with Lockett (a Pro Bowl returner, and #3 wide receiver), Clark (valued rotation guy on the D-Line), Glowinski (projected starter at right guard in 2016), and Tye Smith (someone who will battle for minutes this pre-season) and you’ve got the makings of a very good draft class, that could be great if some of these players turn into elite starters.

With the 2016 draft class supposedly dripping with talent throughout, it wouldn’t be crazy to see the best Seahawks draft class since 2012.  Obviously, we’re drafting pretty low again, this year at #26, but with compenatory selections, the Seahawks already have 9 picks to select from, with a real opportunity to trade down in the first round to pick up some more (and gain some flexibility within the draft, in case we want to move up later).

I’m pretty excited for this year’s draft.  I’m sure I won’t know who these players are when I hear their names, but over the ensuing months, I look forward to getting to know them.

Knowing What We Know Now: Who Should The Seahawks Draft?

In the days following the end of the Seahawks’ season, a lot of bloggers like myself took to their keyboards to concoct plans for what the Seahawks should do this offseason.  I was no different, and I think it’s fun to go back and look at how things in real life differed from my Seahawks Vision Board (for the TL;DR crowd:  scroll to the very bottom for my concise list).

Part of what made my list so impractical is that I really didn’t have a handle on how much cap room the Seahawks really had.  Nor could I have seen how much money some guys – like Irvin and Sweezy – would end up commanding on the open market.  But, let’s quickly go one by one down the list to see how my vision differs from reality:

  1. The Seahawks did, in fact, let Okung go and move Gilliam to LT – CHECK!
  2. Couldn’t bring back Sweezy, cost too much (probably for the best anyway)
  3. Instead of “stud free agent guard”, the Seahawks went for a so-so guard and opted to move him to right tackle (Webb)
  4. (draft stud left guard in 1st round – draft hasn’t happened yet, but might be unlikely to see a stud fall to 26th overall)
  5. Seahawks brought back Lewis at center – CHECK! – and may indeed draft one as well
  6. Seahawks seem set at leaving Britt at left guard, and have already named Webb the starting right tackle, so this prediction looks like a bust
  7. Lynch retired, Rawls looks good to be the team’s #1, team re-signed Michael to be the #2, and still could draft a third down back late – ALMOST CHECK!
  8. Have yet to extend Baldwin, but still have time to do so
  9. Re-signed Kearse to 3-year, $13.5 million – CHECK!
  10. Kept Rubin, let Mebane go, replaced Mebane with cheap FA option (Siliga), and still could draft another – ALMOST CHECK!
  11. Seahawks didn’t re-sign Irvin (too expensive), looking to spread savings elsewhere – EITHER WAY I COULDN’T LOSE THIS CHECK!
  12. Re-signed Lane to 4-year, $23 million – CHECK!  (even better because I projected more money in my prediction)

So, I’m well on my way to getting 7 of these things right, with potential to get to 9 by the time the draft passes and we get closer to Training Camp.

Anyway, we’ve got a good idea of what most of the roster looks like right now.  In all likelihood, the Seahawks already have at least 39 of 53 players on their roster right now, and possibly as many as 49 of 53, depending on how the pre-season shakes out.  Let me run a quick list of my thoughts on the roster right now.  Guys listed I feel are locks, guys in parentheses () are potential roster guys, and if he’s not on the list, he’s a longshot in my eyes:

  • Russell Wilson – QB
  • Thomas Rawls – RB
  • Christine Michael – RB
  • Doug Baldwin – WR
  • Jermaine Kearse – WR
  • Tyler Lockett – WR
  • Paul Richardson – WR
  • (Kevin Smith – WR)
  • (Kasen Williams – WR)
  • Jimmy Graham – TE
  • Luke Willson – TE
  • (Cooper Helfet – TE)
  • Garry Gilliam – LT
  • Justin Britt – LG
  • Patrick Lewis – C
  • Mark Glowinski – RG
  • J’Marcus Webb – RT
  • (Kristjan Sokoli – C)
  • (Drew Nowak – C)
  • (Terry Poole – T)
  • (Bradley Sowell – T)

I ranked these guys in order (by position), so I think it’s more likely Kevin Smith makes it over Kasen Williams, but neither is a sure thing.  I think Helfet is here for insurance, but it wouldn’t shock me for the team to draft another tight end, or sign a guy off the free agent scrap heap who’s a quality blocker.  I think the team likely keeps one of Sokoli/Nowak and one of Poole/Sowell, depending on who looks best in the pre-season.  Anyway, that’s the offense.  I think we have a minimum of 16 offensive players already under contract, with the potential (though unlikely) of up to 21 players.  The Seahawks will need around 24-25 offensive players by the time the regular season starts.

  • Cliff Avril – DE
  • Michael Bennett – DE
  • Frank Clark – DE
  • Cassius Marsh – DE
  • (Chris Clemons – DE)
  • Ahtyba Rubin – DT
  • Sealver Siliga – DT
  • Jordan Hill – DT
  • (A.J. Francis – DT)
  • Bobby Wagner – LB
  • K.J. Wright – LB
  • Mike Morgan – LB
  • Brock Coyle – LB
  • Kevin Pierre-Lewis – LB
  • (Eric Pinkins – LB)
  • Richard Sherman – CB
  • Jeremy Lane – CB
  • DeShawn Shead – CB
  • Tharold Simon – CB
  • (Tye Smith – CB)
  • (Marcus Burley – CB)
  • Earl Thomas – S
  • Kam Chancellor – S
  • Kelcie McCray – S
  • Steven Terrell – S

As we learned recently, there’s relatively little guaranteed money in the Clemons signing, which means he’s going to have to earn his spot in the pre-season.  As the team is likely to draft a defensive end relatively high, it could be a tough roster spot to win.  I think the team likes Francis a lot, so his spot largely comes down to how high another defensive tackle is drafted, and how well that player performs.  Pinkins has always been a bubble guy, but he’s stuck around for the most part.  Smith and Burley might have a lot to prove, as I feel like the team will be in the market for another tall, outside corner, meaning there might not be many nickel corner spots to go around.  I have it as at least 20 defensive players already on the roster, with potential for up to 25.  Considering the max is probably 25-26 defensive players, I wouldn’t bank on me having all 25 predicted right now.

  • Steven Hauschka – K
  • Jon Ryan – P
  • (Drew Ferris – LS)

I don’t know where the Seahawks are going with their long snapper position, and I don’t want to know.  Just make it a guy who won’t fuck up, ever.

That exercise more or less gives us an idea of what the Seahawks need heading into the draft.  A backup quarterback, probably two more running backs and a fullback, maybe a wide receiver and/or a tight end.  Maybe 2-3 offensive linemen (particularly a Center of the Future who can sit and watch and bulk up in his first year).  You always like to create competition among the pass rush – so probably one of each as far as end and tackle are concerned.  Probably not a linebacker, unless you find an undrafted guy or a late-round guy you like a lot.  Maybe a corner and maybe a safety to add to the depth there.

At the moment, the Seahawks have 9 draft picks.  It wouldn’t shock me to see the Seahawks move down once or twice, build up to 11 or 12 draft picks if they can.  But, assuming we’ve just got the 9, let’s take a look at where they are:

  • First round – 26th
  • Second round – 56th
  • Third round – 91st
  • Third round – 97th
  • Fourth round – 124th
  • Fifth round – 171st
  • Sixth round – 215th
  • Seventh round – 225th
  • Seventh round – 247th

The great thing about this draft is how strong it is along both the offensive and defensive lines.  So, that Center of the Future I’m talking about?  You can probably find him in the third or fourth round.  And, unless a real dominant pass-rushing force of a defensive tackle falls to you at 26, you can probably get an all-around good guy/run stuffer in the third or fourth round.  So, while you could argue those are the two biggest needs (C and DT), you probably don’t need to draft either of those in the first two rounds, unless you find someone really special.

Among the other highly-pressing needs this team has, we’re talking about the guard/tackle position on the offensive line, and a pass-rushing end on the defensive side.  While you like to find starters for your team in the first two rounds, the Seahawks have so few holes on their roster that it seems pretty improbable they’re going to draft either of these positions and find guys who will start right away.  Gilliam seems pretty entrenched as the team’s left tackle (and looks pretty studly, from the videos I’ve seen of his workout routines), and Britt is probably locked in at guard, considering he’s been a starter since day 1, he has experience, and he’ll be going into the second straight year as this team’s left guard (that consistency – not jerking him around from spot to spot – will hopefully help him to improve his overall technique).  Likewise, when you’re talking about the team’s defensive ends, Avril and Bennett are the guys.  Clark has a leg up over everyone, and Marsh has experience to probably fend off any defensive end we pick at either of the first two draft spots.

Nightmares of Lawrence Jackson notwithstanding, you hope to at least find a rotation guy at 26, if you go the defensive end route.

Since we’re talking about the Seahawks – a team that had Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin securely under contract, then went out and drafted Christine Michael in the 2nd round anyway – you have to talk about the possibility of John Schneider and Pete Carroll going rogue in the first two rounds.  Ultimately, I think the Seahawks draft Best Player Available with their first pick, if not their first two picks (though, it’s hard to see them not taking a pass rusher with either one).  So, if a quality cornerback or tight end falls to them late in the first round – even though those are two positions I believe the Seahawks are particularly strong in, and therefore should be among the last positions the team targets in the draft – it wouldn’t shock me in the slightest.  Even running back has to be on the table here.  I like Rawls as much as the next guy, and while I think they could go so far as to ignore the running back position altogether in the draft (and pick up someone like Arian Foster after the draft, to be in the RB rotation), it wouldn’t shock me if they saw Beastmode 2.0 fall to them at 26 and take him.  For as important as the running game is to Pete Carroll, don’t rule it out.

If I had my druthers, I’d have the Seahawks pick two of the following three spots in the first two rounds:  offensive guard/offensive tackle and defensive end.

In the third & fourth rounds, where the Seahawks have three picks, I’d like to see a center, a defensive tackle, and either a quality cornerback, or a third down running back.

In the fifth and sixth rounds, I’d like to see whatever they don’t get in that last pairing (either a cornerback or third down running back) and an outside linebacker to push Mike Morgan as we replace Bruce Irvin.

In the seventh round, I think the Seahawks pick up another offensive lineman (whatever they don’t draft – guard or tackle – in the first two rounds), and either another running back, a fullback, or a project at either cornerback, safety, or tight end.

And, if I have to be specific, let’s make it so:

  • First round – Offensive Guard
  • Second round – Defensive End
  • Third round – Center
  • Third round – Defensive Tackle
  • Fourth round – Running Back
  • Fifth round – Cornerback
  • Sixth round – Outside Linebacker
  • Seventh round – Offensive Tackle
  • Seventh round – Fullback

Why The Front Office Deserves Its Share Of The Blame For The Seahawks’ 2015 Failures

File the 2015 Seahawks under “Missed Opportunity”.  Maybe not as frustratingly eyeball-stabbing as the 2014 Seahawks, but it’s impossible to look back on 2015 and not say, “What in the fucking FUCK just happened?”

The general, lazy narrative surrounding the 2015 Seahawks is that the offensive line did them in.  Granted, the O-Line did them few favors, and is certainly in need of some overhauling – especially in the pass protection realm – but the truth is there’s a smattering of reasons, all across the board, for why this team broke down and ultimately fell far short of its goal.

If you want to bring up the December Rams defeat, and the loss in the playoffs, I’ll go along with you on the O-Line argument:  we were absolutely obliterated up the middle for most of those two games.  It was the reason why the Rams were able to slow down our wrecking ball offense, who had been on a run of five straight dominating performances to that point; and it was a big reason why we were shut out in the first half against the Panthers as they steamrolled us to a 31-0 lead.

But, those are just two games.  Furthermore, who knows how the season would’ve gone had the Seahawks not blown those early games?

Yes, the offensive line sucked in the first half of the season, and certainly got better over time as the same five guys were able to – for the most part – play consistent snaps together.  But, the O-Line wasn’t the primary reason why we lost those first four games.  Especially galling was that first Rams loss, where Nick Foles & Co. moved the ball at will; but the defeats to the Packers, Panthers, and Bengals were all pretty bad in their own rights.  In all four of those games, we’re talking about late defensive breakdowns in conjunction with an offense that was unable to play add-on.  The secondary stunk, the pass rush stunk, the offense as a whole stunk, and the coaching stunk.  Furthermore, it could be strongly argued that roster construction played a big factor in torpedoing this season.  I know John Schneider and Co. tend to get saintly praise for all the great they’ve done – and for good reason – but there were some serious flaws heading into this season that I don’t think any of us (myself included) could have seen coming.

The big pre-season moves (not counting extensions) were as follows:

  • Trade Unger for Graham (with swapped draft picks)
  • Sign Cary Williams to replace Byron Maxwell
  • Sign Ahtyba Rubin to replace Kevin Williams
  • Draft Frank Clark
  • Draft Tyler Lockett
  • Sign Thomas Rawls to replace Robert Turbin
  • Sign Fred Jackson to replace Christine Michael
  • Draft/sign various other depth players

That was our offseason in a nutshell.  That’s what a back-to-back Super Bowl team did in hopes of making it three in a row.  Signing Cary Williams was a failure, but I don’t know what other options the team had.  I don’t recall a lot of better options out there on the free agent market, and we really got bitten on the ass by Tharold Simon not playing a down this year.  We did know that we needed SOMEONE, what with Jeremy Lane a lock for the PUP list; and we knew we couldn’t afford Byron Maxwell, so it’s somewhat easy to defend the choice to sign Williams from that standpoint.  But, an argument could be made that this team should have seen this coming and planned accordingly a year in advance.  The 2013 draft class gets a lot of flack for its lack of pizazz, especially compared to the classes of 2010-2012.  But, the 2014 draft class might go down as an all-time dud of duds, and might go a long way towards explaining why the 2015 Seahawks never had enough pieces to get the job done.

Paul Richardson has seemingly spent more time injured than contributing.  Justin Britt has been a starter since Day 1, and has been mostly mediocre the entire time.  Cassius Marsh has been a valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our depth along the D-Line.  Kevin Norwood is just a waste of a God damn draft pick in the middle of the 4th round.  Kevin Pierre-Lewis is another valuable special teamer, but hasn’t done a whole lot for our linebacking depth (then again, it’s not like the guys ahead of him have given him many opportunities to make plays on defense).  After the 4th round, only Eric Pinkins is still on the roster, and he’s played hardly at all.  Among the undrafted rookies, we brought in Brock Coyle (backup middle linebacker, mostly a special teamer); Garry Gilliam (elevated to starting right tackle in 2015, did mostly all right); and Dion Bailey, who you may recall fell down and gave the Rams the game-tying touchdown in Week 1 of 2015 to send that game into overtime, where we’d go on to lose.

Maybe the board didn’t shake out too well when it came time to make draft picks, but there’s a notable lack of youthful talent in that class.  And, there’s a distinct lack of cornerback help which – when you factor in Simon’s injury, Lane’s injury, and the nothing we got out of Cary Williams – is a big reason for a lot of our ills in the secondary for the first half of the 2015 season.

Beyond the Williams debacle, there’s actually a lot to like about our pre-2015 offseason moves.  Rubin played like a stud in helping us dominate against the running game.  Clark didn’t make a huge impact, but he started to come on towards the end of the season (and I tend to give receivers and pass rushers a lot of leeway in their rookie seasons, since it’s so difficult to make an impact as a rookie receiver/pass rusher).  Which makes the Lockett draft pick so essential to our 2015 success and our future success; that’s another starter and Pro Bowler picked in the 3rd round or later for this team; another guy to hang one’s hat on.  Rawls ended up being an upgrade over Turbin, and could be Lynch’s replacement as soon as 2016.  The team didn’t take a step back with Fred Jackson, who had his role and played it well enough (plus, we ended up getting Christine Michael back anyway, along with Dallas’ 7th round draft pick, so bully for us).  And, the various other depth players are just that:  depth.  I won’t nitpick our choices in the back-end of this roster too much; that’s not really the point of this post.

The other major move that came to define the 2015 season was the trade for Jimmy Graham.  I’m on record as being in favor of that trade, even after knowing how the 2015 season ended.  I don’t think Unger is too much longer for this league, and I think there’s a lot we can get out of someone like Graham.  But, his insertion into this roster is endemic of a larger fault of this front office, which ultimately came to ruin this season.

We learned a hard lesson this past year:  the Seahawks have no business being in the market for veteran skill players from other teams.  Percy Harvin was the first strike, and Jimmy Graham was a quasi-second strike (like a foul tip behind the catcher’s outstretched glove).  The rationale SORT OF makes sense – as why would it be a bad thing to add really talented weapons to your offense? – but not when you pair it with this team.

The Seahawks, ever since Pete Carroll took over, have been a run-first operation.  We pound the ball, we take some chances down field, but we more or less only throw when we need to.  So, what’s the point in shuffling around so many resources to bring in guys to improve a part of your offense you don’t use as much as most other teams?

I hate to keep harping on it, but I can’t stop/won’t stop:  the team should have never gone after Percy Harvin and should have just kept Golden Tate instead.  At this point, I’d take Tate over both Harvin AND Jimmy Graham, but that’s not the point.  The point is, this coaching staff didn’t know what it was doing with Harvin and, for most of the first half of this season, didn’t know what it was doing with Graham either.  When teams make personnel decisions, they need to make them with a plan in mind.  The decisions to bring in these elite receivers seemed to have more of a fantasy football focus in mind, rather than a practical focus FOR THIS TEAM in mind.

It’s hard breaking in new, established receivers into a different offensive scheme; you’re almost begging for growing pains.  And doing so, while creating yet another hole along your offensive line – when you were already losing your left guard, and still unsure that your right tackle was the right guy for the position – at a semi-premium position like Center (who is in charge of a lot of the protection calls for the line), was the ultimate in final straws for what broke this team’s back.

Maybe we should have seen the slow start to the season coming.  But, either way, it’s obvious now.  And it starts at the top.  This team didn’t have a clear succession plan in place at its left cornerback spot.  This team let its offensive line completely fall apart, to where they were scrambling three weeks before the regular season, shuffling players around.  This team didn’t make smart use of its new tight end weapon.  And, ultimately, all of this cost the Seahawks four games in the first half it could have easily won (I won’t count that Cardinals defeat, as that was a pretty sound whuppin’, in spite of the close score).

A team with a more talented offensive line/secondary probably wins 14 regular season games and gets the #1 seed in the playoffs for a third straight year.  This Seahawks team with the top seed most likely gets another crack at the Cardinals in the Divisional Round, while the Vikings would go on the road to Carolina (hopefully with their stout defense able to bruise the Panthers up good), then likely hosts the Panthers in the NFC Championship Game (again, I’d like to see how well they would have played coming off of a tough matchup against the Vikings the week before, while also playing on the road, like the actual 2015 Seahawks had to do).

“Missed Opportunity”, from the top of the organization on down.  Here’s to hoping they’ve learned from their mistakes, and have done enough to sufficiently set themselves up for a championship run in 2016.

Seahawks Death Week: A Wishlist For 2016

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

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

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

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

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

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

Second wish:  bring Sweezy back on a friendly deal.

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

Third wish:  superstar free agent left guard.

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

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

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

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

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ninth wish:  bring back Kearse on a smallish deal.

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

***

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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