Why Mel Kiper’s Seahawks plan makes sense

January 25th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

Mel Kiper published his first 2023 mock draft (and you can see my reaction to it above). He has the Seahawks taking Will Levis at #5 then adding a defensive lineman at #20 — Tennessee’s Byron Young.

I think that’s way too early for Young, who I have as a day three pick on my soon-to-be published updated horizontal board. I also don’t think getting a 245lbs edge is necessarily the pressing need for Seattle. They need big, disruptive bodies up front and ideally a linebacker who can make more plays than the current crop.

Nevertheless, as a plan it makes a lot of sense and I want to explain why.

Firstly — it’s extremely plausible that the Bears will trade the #1 pick to the Colts in order to maintain a top-five pick themselves. This would likely take Will Anderson and Jalen Carter off the board, leaving the Seahawks to pick between a quarterback and the third best defensive lineman at #5.

I think there’s a considerable defensive drop-off after Anderson and Carter but I don’t think there’s a big difference between the top four quarterbacks.

Levis makes a lot of sense for two reasons — his experience in Seattle’s offense and the fact he’s nowhere near as bad as some people are making out.

It’s realistic to imagine he could start quite quickly for the Seahawks. He spent a year playing for Liam Coen at Kentucky — a Sean McVay disciple who acted as LA’s offensive coordinator this season (before recently agreeing to return to Kentucky).

Levis excelled in the offense and looked terrific within it. He likely knows all of the terminology used by Shane Waldron and it wouldn’t be a massive task to adjust to Seattle’s system. Unlike most college quarterbacks, he’s been playing in a pro-style offense. It’s a bonus that the offense he has played in is also Waldron’s.

For that reason, Levis is almost tailor-made for the Seahawks. If you really wanted to max-out the financial benefit of starting a quarterback on a cheap rookie contract, Levis gives you that opportunity. You could do what the Bengals have done — invest major resource into the trenches in the veteran market (Trey Hendrickson, D.J. Reader, O-line) and pad out your roster with proven quality.

Because you also have picks #20, #38, #53 and #84 — you would still have ample opportunity to add good, young defensive players.

Even Micah Parsons is highlighting the benefits…

Let’s also not forget — Mahomes and the Chiefs won their Super Bowl when he was on a rookie contract. They’ve been able to add talent (Joe Thuney, Orlando Brown, Frank Clark, Jordan Reid) due to the benefits of the rookie wage scale, before Mahomes’ deal kicks in to the max. The same can be said for the Eagles, who’ve turned their roster around very quickly.

In terms of installing phase two of a big rebuild — this is the kind of plan I imagine most people expected the Seahawks to go with 12 months ago.

Secondly, Levis continues to get a bad rap in the media but there’s a serious lack of context being expressed.

For any regular to the blog this is going over old ground so apologies — but it’s worth repeating.

Kentucky were not a good football team a year ago. They were, actually, quite dreadful at times. New offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello struggled. The offensive line lost Darian Kinnard and Luke Fortner and was completely unable to pass-protect. There were no weapons on offense and the star running back had to serve a suspension.

Just look, once again, at the ‘sacks per game’ stats for a collection of teams featuring big-name quarterbacks in 2022:

Oregon — 4 sacks in 12 games (0.33 per game)
Georgia — 7 sacks in 13 games (0.54 per game)
Washington — 7 sacks in 12 games (0.58 per game)
Ohio State — 8 sacks in 12 games (0.67 per game)
Florida — 12 sacks in 12 games (1.00 per game)
Alabama — 20 sacks in 12 games (1.67 per game)
Tennessee — 23 sacks in 12 games (1.92 per game)
Kentucky — 42 sacks in 12 games (3.50 per game)

Is it any surprise that the quarterbacks who were getting all the hype and praise — Michael Penix Jr, Bo Nix etc — were playing for teams who barely gave up any sacks?

Further to that, the Washington, Oregon, Tennessee and Ohio State offensive systems are spread open, hand-holding schemes with a history of mass-production. Three of the teams listed in the previous sentence had an arsenal of fantastic weapons. The likes of the Huskies and Ducks were playing in the PAC-12, not the SEC.

I would suggest that if you put Penix Jr behind center for Kentucky, he would’ve struggled in 2022. Ditto Hooker, Nix, C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young. I watched every game UK played and at no point was the situation conducive with success.

I wonder how Levis would’ve looked playing for Kalen DeBoer in the PAC-12? Or for Ohio State, sauntering through their BIG-10 schedule with Marvin Harrison Jr to throw to and an O-line featuring three top-50 picks?

Levis made Kentucky more competitive than they had any right to be. One of his best performances, as it happens, came against Georgia in a close loss.

This doesn’t excuse some of the clear issues within his game. I would also argue, however, that you cannot compare his situation to Stroud’s or Young’s and make an apples for apples comparison.

We’ve been speaking about PFF’s statistic this week that lists ‘turnover worthy plays’. As we can see, there’s not that much difference between Levis and every other top quarterback in college football. Perhaps his number of picks speaks to the impact his environment had on him, compared to the better environment experienced by other QB’s?

Turnover worthy plays (2022)

Dorian Thompson-Robinson — 19
CJ Stroud — 16
Drake Maye — 16
Max Duggan — 15
Will Levis — 13
Anthony Richardson — 13
Quinn Ewers — 12
Caleb Williams — 11
Bryce Young — 9
Bo Nix — 8
Michael Penix Jr — 8
Tanner McKee — 8
Hendon Hooker — 5

When you look at what he did in Seattle’s/McVay’s offense in 2021, you can clearly see what he is capable of:

Levis has a lot of potential. As much potential as any of the other quarterbacks in the draft. I think he can execute the system and provide X-factor ability with his athleticism and his arm. He’s a million miles away from a Joe Burrow level player but we need to accept you’re not likely to find another one of those for a long, long time.

On a contract that would be worth an average of $7.8m with a year-one cap-hit of $5.6m — you could begin to build a better roster. You could look at the trade market for a player like DeForest Buckner, as we discussed last week. You can pursue Da’Ron Payne, Dalvin Tomlinson and/or Javon Hargrave. On offense, there’s a chance Mecole Hardman reaches the market and you could maybe reinforce your O-line with an experienced guard.

Then at #20 — you can go and add a top defensive prospect.

That could be Keion White — the Georgia Tech defensive lineman who has none of the character or conditioning baggage of Jalen Carter, plays his heart out every game, has outstanding physical traits and is expected to be one of the stars of the combine and Senior Bowl.

It could be Drew Sanders — a big, physical, quick linebacker who constantly plays in attack mode and has shown an ability to rush the passer on third down, tallying 9.5 sacks in 2022.

It could be Calijah Kancey — the closest thing to Aaron Donald since Aaron Donald, with his sensational pass-rushing ability and outstanding physical profile. Kancey is finally getting some national media attention but as regulars know, we’ve been talking about him for a long time.

There’s depth on the D-line and the #20-60 range will provide options and value. It’s not #5 or bust for the defensive front seven in this class. It certainly will be at quarterback, short of a mid-round flier on Dorian Thompson-Robinson (who I like).

The alternative plan — based on Kiper’s mock — is probably to pay Geno Smith a handsome contract, then be forced to rely on draft picks to improve the defense. You might end up taking a chance on Tyree Wilson at #5.

The thing is — it’s funny how Wilson is celebrated for his physical traits and his inconsistent play, age and injury situation is forgotten. With Levis — the opposite is true. Hardly anyone talks about his positives or upside.

Which, incidentally, is exactly what happened with Mahomes, Josh Allen, DeShaun Watson and Justin Herbert during their pre-draft processes. A lot of focus on the issues, not enough focus on what they could be.

I’m glad Kiper brought this conversation to the table. His plan for the Seahawks makes sense and it’s something we should take seriously as a possibility throughout this process.

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Breaking down Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft

January 25th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

 

Why it’s OK to debate Geno Smith’s contract situation

January 23rd, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

What does the future hold for Geno Smith?

I wanted to write about Geno Smith’s contract situation today, inspired by a couple of conversations I had on Twitter.

One was a productive bounce-around involving Joe Fann, Lance Zierlein, Adam Nathan and Corbin Smith. Views were exchanged, disagreements aired and nobody fell out. Rumour has it this is the first time this has happened on Twitter since 2017…

The other was a typical exchange. A Seahawks fan saw someone challenge the idea that Smith should be paid handsomely without a second thought to any alternative. He went through the typical Twitter playbook. First stage, undermine your opponent and try to portray them as irrational for having a different view. Secondly — when that’s called out — suggest they’re being overly sensitive. Finally, when that doesn’t work, suggest the person you disagree with has mental health problems.

Oh Twitter, what did we do to deserve you?

For some reason a large section of the fan base takes personal offence to the idea of not paying Smith a hefty contract.

A community member called ‘Tatupu Time’ posted the following in the comments section earlier, discussing how the discourse usually goes:

The conversation starter…

We might be able to get a QB that is as good as (or better than) Geno with an annual cost savings of over $20M a year that we can invest in the trenches. The Seahawks should consider that if they feel they can draft a QB that fits that criteria.

The response:

“I’ve determined none of the rookie QB’s fit that mould based on what we are reading in the media and based on the two games we actually watched of the QB”

“You have mental health issues if you think they should consider that”

“Geno was great in 2022. Let’s invest 4x as much in him per year and not consider the potential for some slight or severe regression.”

“The Seahawks may take a minor step back in 2023 if they replace Geno. I think they can contend in 2023 if they cut existing players, pay Geno and replace with draft picks. I don’t care about what’s best for 2024-2025.”

“Jalen Carter will instantly upgrade our defence on his own starting in week one.”

I’m sure many will say this is an unfair portrayal of a lot of arguments. Perhaps so. I have to say though, this isn’t a million miles away from what I’ve experienced.

My position hasn’t changed since writing this article on December 30th. I’m very open to going quarterback or D-line at #5. If John Schneider thinks a quarterback is worthy of the fifth pick, he should take him. We should have some faith in a GM who appears to have a good eye for the position.

For that same reason — if he passes over the quarterbacks and takes a defensive lineman — Schneider equally warrants some faith for making that choice.

Let’s at least talk about the options though. Some people don’t even want to consider the possibility of not paying Geno Smith a $30m contract.

While watching Dak Prescott yesterday I couldn’t help but feel like this was a big old warning sign for the Seahawks.

Fourth-round rookie Prescott was a revelation. The Cowboys had struck gold — finding a viable starter at the most important position on day three of the draft.

Expectations were low, excitement high and most importantly — the price was non-existent. The scouts look like geniuses. Other teams are jealous. It’s a great place to be — we know, because we lived through it with Russell Wilson.

Yet as we see — the moment you go from fairytale ‘against the odds’ story to ‘incredibly expensive franchise quarterback’ — everything changes. The conversation today is all about whether Prescott is good enough to lead the Cowboys to a Championship. His contract, worth $40m a year, includes a 2023 cap hit of $49m — with no escape for the team.

Dallas are paying a kings ransom for a player who looks average — at least when compared to someone like Joe Burrow who is clearly the real deal and will likely justify whatever massive salary is coming his way in the next 6-12 months.

The Cowboys aren’t alone. Kirk Cousins and Derek Carr are among the highest paid quarterbacks in the league. Ryan Tannehill isn’t far behind.

Indeed Tannehill is a relevant talking point for the Seahawks.

When the Titans brought him to Tennessee via trade, it was a shot to nothing. Merely competition for Marcus Mariota. He won the job and excelled — helping the Titans make an improbable playoff run and earning a big new contract.

Nobody quibbled about the contract because it was said to be ‘well earned’. Yet it wasn’t really considered whether it could cause issues if Tannehill was unable to continue performing at his pre-extension level.

In the years that followed, Tennessee had to restructure Tannehill’s deal twice because the cost became prohibitive, even though he’s ‘only’ earning $29.5m per year. As a consequence, his three-year deal evolved into a four-year contract. Meanwhile, the Titans haven’t won a single playoff game since he re-signed.

There are two problems at play here. One is the quarterback market, which has exploded. The other is more troublesome. It’s the comfort teams find in mediocrity versus risk.

For example, why do the Vikings keep paying to extend Cousins’ contract?

He puts up decent regular season numbers. His PFF grade in 2022 (79.3) is identical to Geno Smith’s. Last season, he even recorded a brilliant 88.2 grade.

We all know what he is though. He’s incapable of leading a team to the promise land. He’s a neat and tidy player and nothing more.

Minnesota keeps him — now on a $35m salary — because the alternative is the unknown. Could be better, could be worse. Better to be middling and comfortable, while hoping somehow a better situation falls into your lap (eg drafting Kellen Mond in round three). Or you never know, maybe Cousins will eventually do something he’s shown in an 11-year career he’s unable to do?

The Vikings don’t want to take a risk. They don’t want to trade up for a rookie or try and find an upgrade through a calculated trade or free agent addition.

So they settle for average and expensive, never getting any closer to actually winning anything that matters.

It’s somewhat understandable because they never pick early enough to get within touching distance of the top quarterbacks.

The Seahawks are different though. They have the #5 pick.

I suspect, in a similar situation, Minnesota would think long and hard about dumping Cousins to go the rookie route. Seattle should think the same way.

This is the point where someone will no doubt point out that Geno Smith is superior to Cousins. It’s hard to make that argument off the back of one decent season in an otherwise journeyman career. Admittedly at times Smith flashed physical tools that Cousins simply doesn’t have. He made throws that sparkled during Seattle’s 9-8 regular season run.

There are still issues though that both players suffer from.

Cousins had 29 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2022, while Smith had 30 touchdowns and 11 picks.

Hugh Millen raised an interesting point on KJR on Friday. He pointed to a stat provided by PFF listing ‘turnover worthy plays’ by each quarterback. Smith had the second most in the NFL, just behind Josh Allen. Millen also pointed out that Allen had far more ‘explosive’ passing plays and a lot more rushing yards to compensate for his erraticism.

Building on the point, he then noted that when looking at the top-10 quarterbacks — on average 80.6% of their turnover worthy plays had resulted in actual turnovers. In comparison, Geno Smith saw only 48% of his turnover worthy plays actually result in an interception.

That’s staggering.

If he’d thrown the 80.6% average like the rest of the QB’s in the top-10, he would’ve had 25 picks. Even if he’d had a still well below average 65% — he would’ve led the league in turnovers.

I’m not even sure if this accounts for stuff like the pick-six against San Francisco in Seattle which was called back for a fortuitous penalty. That play was blown dead, after all. So it could be even worse than these numbers suggest.

Regardless, Smith had incredible luck when it came to turnovers this season.

The Seahawks had by far one of the easiest schedules in 2022 (just look at the comparison to teams like the Lions, Giants and Commanders). Next year, the schedule looks trickier — especially on the road.

If those turnover worthy plays result in a more predictable number of actual turnovers, what then?

How will people react if Smith is earning as much as $30-35m a year instead of the $7m he earned in 2022, if he’s throwing 15-20 interceptions?

With the QB market going through the roof recently, the second tier of quarterbacks have gone along for the ride. Everyone is being a paid a lot more at that position. A contract of $30m is now seen as par for the course. It’s viewed as the going rate.

The problem is, that’s still a lot of money. It’s just not a lot of money compared to the contracts being paid to Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson — both of which are nearer $50m. Compared to very good players at other positions, it’s a princely sum. Trent Williams earns $23m a year as a top-paid left tackle. Jalen Ramsey gets $20m a year from the Rams.

Teams pay these QB contracts because the fear of being ‘bad’ outweighs the fear of being ‘mediocre and expensive’. If the Seahawks pay Smith a big extension, they run the risk of being another team who can be good but not great.

I appreciate there’s another side of the argument though. Smith was the least of Seattle’s worries in 2022. The defense was truly awful and they didn’t beat anyone up in the trenches on either side of the ball.

Some people say that if you spend your draft picks properly this year, you might start to close the gap — creating an environment where Smith can thrive.

I still think you need to be able to blend smart drafting with dynamic free agent additions. For that, you need money.

Look at the Bengals. Their defense is able to perform to the level it has been because they wisely invested $28m a year in two free agent defensive linemen — Trey Hendrickson and D.J. Reader.

Those two players cost the same as Geno Smith, essentially.

Makes you think, right?

I need to keep stressing that the Seahawks don’t have as much cap space as people think. The current projection from OverTheCap is they only have $19.3m in effective cap space. They don’t have the money to re-sign Smith, fill out their roster and then add some key free agents. Bold decisions are required here.

The Bengals can sign Hendrickson and Reader because they’re paying Joe Burrow $9m a year on his rookie contract. Not only that, they were able to go out and sign a whole new offensive line a year ago — splurging to improve the trenches.

The minute the Seahawks commit to Smith — they take away the opportunity to do what the Bengals have done. I accept that Burrow is also a big factor and his presence likely elevates everyone playing for Cincinnati. I don’t think it’s improbable, however, that the young quarterbacks in this draft can’t be good starters even if they don’t reach Burrow’s level.

Extend Smith and you’re left to rely on the draft to upgrade your roster alone. That’s fine but with growing pains and the unpredictable nature of rookies coming into the league, this might deliver an unsatisfactory outcome.

Above all else — I’m just not sure keeping Smith is worth losing out on such an opportunity to build up your roster. Even those who want him back seem unable to state, clearly, that they think he can win you a Super Bowl. And that’s the point of this, right?

I was listening to Brock & Salk today and this is an exchange (brilliantly handled by Mike Salk, by the way) with a caller called Austin who rang in to argue why the Seahawks should pay Smith:

Salk: “Can you win a Super Bowl with Geno Smith?”

Austin: “I think you have a better shot at it than with Drew Lock”

Salk: “Let me ask you the question again… don’t answer a different question, answer my question”

Austin: “Ok”

Salk: “Can you win a Super Bowl, paying Geno Smith over $30m?”

Austin: *Five seconds of silence*

Salk: “Your silence speaks volumes”

Again this is the point right? It’s to build a roster to win a Super Bowl. Perhaps that won’t happen this year or next. But the objective is to set it up. It isn’t to just retain players at great cost who arguably won’t get you there, simply because the alternative is less appealing on paper or carries a greater unknown.

The ideal scenario — which I’ve spoken about a lot — is to re-create the Alex Smith/Patrick Mahomes situation. The Chiefs used Smith as a bridge, got their quarterback of the future and passed the torch when Mahomes was ready.

Smith helped Kansas City win as a starter and when it was time to move on, eventually got the Chiefs a third round pick and a good cornerback via a trade to Washington.

It would be win-win for the Seahawks to set-up a similar situation. However, that would require Smith taking a ‘bridge’ salary. I don’t believe $30m is the right price for a bridge. Therefore, you have to set your bar low and stick to it. If Smith wants more — and if he’s actually offered more — you need to be prepared to move on.

If that means Drew Lock has to be your bridge instead for a fraction of the price, so be it.

Again though, it comes down to how you judge the quarterbacks in the draft. Admittedly I believe there are four really good ones who, with the information we have today, will go in the top-10.

If the Seahawks simply disagree with that — or if the player they really like isn’t available — it possibly changes things. Even then, I wouldn’t advocate paying Smith so much that it prevents you properly delivering phase two of what many considered to be a significant rebuild a year ago.

Is he capable of leading you to the promise land? If not, are you better off saving money and investing it in your overall roster? Is the 2023 equivalent of adding Hendrickson and Reader to your D-line a better bet than keeping Geno Smith?

It’s at least worthy of a conversation, isn’t it?

I still think the bridge plan has to be considered. Perhaps it’s a Dorian Thompson-Robinson (who I like a lot) in the middle rounds instead? It could be you trust the scheme you keep saying is ‘QB friendly’ and see if Lock can be the answer (a bit of advice though — sign him to a two-year deal just in case he has a Smith-esque 2023 season). There are options. It’s not Geno Smith or we riot. At least it shouldn’t be.

A final point. Let’s not forget how ruthless the Seahawks have been recently.

Trading Russell Wilson. Cutting Bobby Wagner to save money.

They then set up a plan that appeared to be teeing up a cheap quarterback (rookie?) contract in 2023. Otherwise they wouldn’t have used up so much of their 2023 cap space, going from around $50-60m available to just $19m before the 2022 season has even ended.

Nobody expected to be talking about paying Geno Smith $30m a year. If the Seahawks thought that was likely, they wouldn’t have signed him to just a one-year contract worth $3.5m with incentives.

Is a good season of Geno Smith — or, more accurately, a great half-season and a so-so half-season — worth throwing out whatever grand plan they had when they dealt Wilson? There’s no way they weren’t acutely aware of the 2023 quarterback class when they made that deal.

We need to have these conversations and it’s good to see many different people in the media are having them.

It was a bit bizarre, though, to see people comparing Smith’s performance against San Francisco to Dak Prescott’s and trying to form an argument it ‘made him money’. After all — he had the same number of turnovers as Prescott and lost three times to the 49ers (all convincing defeats).

A quick reminder that even Wilson and the Broncos beat the Niners this season. So did the Bears. Seattle never came close and I doubt any team — including the Seahawks — are going to see anything in the Prescott comparison and think they need to pay Geno for what he showed against the NFC’s most talented defense.

That’s what this might come down to frankly. Smith’s best fit is in Seattle. I’m not sure other teams will be busting a gut to lure him away. I don’t think he’s going to have the market some people think.

The deadline to use the franchise tag is March 7th. The NFL combine finishes the day before, on March 6th.

Teams use the combine as a place to tamper on the down-low, establish free agent markets and set up deals. The Seahawks will know by the tag deadline what Smith’s market is. They will have all the information they need to determine whether he’s going to get anywhere close to the $32.4m guaranteed the tag promises him.

They’ll then be able to make a call on whether to walk away, play the long game or use the tag.

My guess is there’s a contract to be done. I don’t think the market will be great. A bridge contract will be signed. The Seahawks will have the flexibility to add some free agents if the right opportunity emerges (I hope they ‘make’ it emerge to be honest) and they’ll have the freedom to go quarterback or D-line at #5.

I also think they’ll be prepared to move on if needs be — and rightly so.

Until then, let’s keep the debate flowing. It’s not an insult or disloyal to Geno Smith to discuss the pro’s and con’s of a contract extension. It’s simply football.

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Breaking down Daniel Jeremiah’s mock draft

January 22nd, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

 

The third mock draft: End of regular season edition

January 20th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

This mock is heavily influenced by three things.

1. Pete Carroll speaking honestly about the need to improve the defensive front seven

2. My conversation with Jim Nagy on Tuesday

3. An interview John Schneider gave to 710 Seattle Sports this week

Everyone can see the Seahawks need to upgrade on the defensive line and at linebacker. The fact Carroll spent considerable time publicly stating it has influenced me in this latest projection.

Jim Nagy made me consider a couple of things after our conversation. The key one was his point about the Manning Passing Academy, which he attended last year. He says all the big names were there barring C.J. Stroud and the two players who stood out physically way beyond everyone else were Will Levis and Anthony Richardson.

We are about to embark on a series of events where Levis and Richardson will be able to show-off their physical prowess. Don’t underestimate the impact this will have.

The other thing was the players he mentioned when I asked for a 2023 answer to Tariq Woolen. He suggested Army’s Andre Carter and Georgia Tech’s Keion White — both defensive linemen. Although Woolen lasted well into day three, I wonder if the Seahawks will draft either of these two to try and find a unique difference maker — an X-factor — for their pass rush.

Then there was Schneider saying their approach to the draft last year was to ignore need and focus on adding talent. It produced an excellent 2022 class and you’d have to think they’ll create a similar plan this year.

This is just one proposal, one mock draft. I will do several before April. This isn’t definitively what I think is going to happen. It’s a conversation starter. In a week where the Head Coach spoke openly and honestly about the dramatic improvement needed in the defensive front seven — I wanted to show what that could mean.

Here’s the mock, it’s a two-rounder with thoughts below…

The mock draft

The big trade at #1 overall

I have Carolina trading from #9 in a deal with Chicago for the #1 pick. In return the Bears get the 61st overall pick plus the Panthers’ first round picks in 2024 and 2025.

First round

#1 Carolina (v/CHI) — CJ Stroud (QB, Ohio State)
Why might the Panthers out-bid teams here and tempt the Bears to drop out of the top-five? David Tepper is not an inactive owner. They’ve been chasing a quarterback splash for years. I think Chicago would ideally stay in the top-five but if the Panthers offer their first round picks in 2024 and 2025, plus additional compensation, I’m not sure the Colts will match that. It would depend on how much Indy values one specific quarterback over the others. Why Stroud? Tepper has been seeking special for some time and if he watched Stroud against Georgia, the best team in college football, he would’ve seen what special looks like. The Panthers have a better roster than we think and play in a weak division. A quality QB could make them a serious threat, so expect a bold strategy to try and get the top pick.

#2 Houston — Will Levis (QB, Kentucky)
There’s been a lot of nonsense spoken about Levis — a player handed a hospital-pass of a situation in Kentucky. He played behind a shocking offensive line, with few weapons in a loaded SEC. In 2021 when he played for Liam Coen and had a second round receiver, he looked fantastic. He has everything pro-teams are looking for in a signal caller, has excellent upside and is a prototype passer.

#3 Arizona — Will Anderson (EDGE, Alabama)
Many will have dreamed of having Anderson in Seattle and there’s now a very real chance he’ll be playing at Lumen Field every season, only for the Cardinals.

#4 Indianapolis — Anthony Richardson (QB, Florida)
As with Levis, there’s been far too much focus on the negatives with Richardson. Here’s what he offers — incredible physical tools, superstar potential and good character. It’s a winning formula. Yes he’s inexperienced and will need time but his upside is through the roof. Someone is going to take a chance on Richardson and if he’s managed properly he could be a special talent.

#5 Seattle — Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
I am worried about the reported character concerns surrounding Carter, which I think are connected to the issues with his conditioning that surfaced against LSU and Ohio State. However, we know the Carroll Seahawks. We know they’re willing to roll the dice and back themselves. We know they’re attracted to blue-chip players. Carter carries a big question mark but he also might be the most talented player in the draft. However much concern I have, he is exactly what they need up front. They’d have to get his conditioning on point otherwise he’ll be stuck playing 40% of the snaps but if you can get him going, watch out. If they want a player who can be a factor, he’s a factor. One thing I will say — Fletcher Cox’s scouting report from 2012 is quite similar to the way we’re talking about Carter. The top three physically impressive QB’s being off the board makes this an easier call for John Schneider but I think he’ll have a lot of interest in Stroud, Levis and Richardson.

#6 Detroit (v/LA) — Tyree Wilson (DE, Texas Tech)
I was reviewing Wilson’s tape recently and it hit me. We all know he has great length and size. I just focused on his frame for one whole game and I’ve not seen a body type like his before. He is unique. His testing will be key because he won’t go sixth overall purely due to long arms and a great body. If he can show quickness, agility and explosive traits, he will be seen as special.

#7 Las Vegas — Bryce Young (QB, Alabama)
This will be the suggestion that has everyone howling because the mainstream media have convinced everyone that Young is destined to go first overall. Let’s be clear — Young is a brilliant talent. Putting him seventh overall is hardly a damning review. I think people are underestimating how teams will view his size. He’s supposedly up into the 190lbs range and after downing a couple of jugs of water, I’m sure he’ll sneak above 200lbs at the combine. The reality is though that he’s smaller than anyone who has ever been talked about going this early in the draft and teams will worry about durability. Especially when there are three other ‘prototype’ quarterbacks who will also receive high grades. This would be a good spot for Young in this offense with Davante Adams, Hunter Renfrow and Darren Waller to throw to.

#8 Atlanta — Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
Terry Fontenot has shown he’s the type of GM who likes to go BPA. I’m not sure you can pass up arguably the best player in the draft just because Tyler Allgeier had a decent rookie season. Imagine Robinson, Kyle Pitts and Drake London on the same field. Whew.

#9 Chicago (v/CAR) — Myles Murphy (DE, Clemson)
He’s a pussycat in the running game, he lacks college production despite playing on a loaded D-line, his pressure rate in 2022 was only 10% and I fear he’s an athlete who ‘gets by’ rather than someone who is pissed off to be great. That said, his size and athleticism will have coaches believing they can get him going and deliver on his potential.

#10 Philadelphia (v/NO) — Brian Branch (S, Alabama)
A Rolls Royce of a defender who is so versatile and can do a bit of everything. He is going to rise and rise throughout this process.

#11 Tennessee — Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
This would be a perfect pick for the Titans. Mayer is one of the best prospects in the draft and will be a very good player early in his career.

#12 Houston v/CLE) — Quentin Johnston (WR, TCU)
Mayer would be an ideal fit for the Texans but failing that, Johnston has the physical profile to dominate the combine and go this early.

#13 NY Jets — Darnell Wright (T, Tennessee)
So underrated. He shut down Will Anderson. Enough said.

#14 New England — Christian Gonzalez (CB, Oregon)
He’s such an intelligent player with great physical tools and he could be a really good NFL corner.

#15 Green Bay — Mazi Smith (DT, Michigan)
When he blows up the combine he’ll finally be taken seriously.

#16 Washington — Joey Porter Jr (CB, Penn State)
A highly competitive player with a great personality and maturity.

#17 Pittsburgh — Jordan Addison (WR, USC)
In an attempt to make life easier for Kenny Pickett, why not add a receiver he helped to win the Biletnikoff in 2021?

#18 Detroit — Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois)
Hits like a hammer and gives absolutely everything as a competitor in coverage. A very typical Detroit-type pick.

#19 Tampa Bay — Cam Smith (CB, South Carolina)
A long, lean and competitive cornerback. I think teams will really like him.

#20 Seattle — Drew Sanders (LB, Arkansas)
The Seahawks need players in their front seven who can play in attack-mode — players with physical traits who have shown they can impact games. Sanders played most of his snaps at Arkansas as a conventional linebacker but was also used to rush the edge — registering 9.5 sacks. He has excellent size at 6-5 and 230lbs (with room to add more bulk) and he’s a former big-time recruit who initially played for Alabama before transferring. He jumped a 35 inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a 4.31 short shuttle. He is aggressive, hits hard, has an old-school mentality, flies to the ball-carrier and most importantly he plays forwards and attacks. He might end up being a ‘must-have’ for Seattle, given the way they’re talking.

#21 Miami — forfeited
They needed this pick.

#22 LA Chargers — Zay Flowers (WR, Boston College)
Flowers is an incredibly talented player who could go earlier than this. His ability to change direction and accelerate is the best I’ve seen since starting the blog in 2008.

#23 Baltimore — Jalin Hyatt (WR, Tennessee)
He has a sixth gear that allows him to create late separation and it can be deadly on downfield shots.

#24 Minnesota — B.J. Ojulari (EDGE, LSU)
A very athletic, long and lean edge rusher who is comfortable dropping into coverage as a 3-4 OLB.

#25 Jacksonville — Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
Reminds me a lot of Tyler Lockett.

#26 NY Giants — Jaxson Smith-Njigba (WR, Ohio State)
JSN’s stock could be impacted by a lost season to injury and question marks about his speed.

#27 Dallas — Peter Skoronski (G, Northwestern)
Skoronski is difficult to assess. He has to kick inside due to a lack of length and he can be out-leveraged due to his short arms. Is he powerful enough? There are things to like though — he’s a natural lineman with reasonable technique and he has NFL bloodlines.

#28 Cincinnati — Dawand Jones (T, Ohio State)
An absolute mountain of a man who has quickly become one of my favourite players in the draft. For his size, his mobility is out of this world. I love him as a prospect.

#29 Denver (v/SF) — Lukas Van Ness (DE, Iowa)
Looks like he could play the lead in a Super Hero movie and has good, powerful reps on tape against the better blockers in this class.

#30 Buffalo — Bryan Bresee (DT, Clemson)
Too many injury and health issues, not enough consistency. Bresee is a great athlete but there are a lot of question marks.

#31 Kansas City — Calijah Kancey (DT, Pittsburgh)
An extremely underrated player and the closest thing to Aaron Donald since 2013. A smart team will not be put off by his lack of size and length and will take a shot on his talent.

#32 Philadelphia — Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
Gibbs warrants consideration here as a major X-factor talent. He’s a tremendous receiver and could be reliably used in the passing game and during two-minute drills. At times he carried Alabama last season and was a threat to score every time he touched the ball. If he doesn’t run in the 4.2’s or 4.3’s it’ll be a surprise.

Second round

#33 Pittsburgh (v/CHI) — JL Skinner (S, Boise State)
The closest thing to Kam since Kam.

#34 Houston — Luke Musgrave (TE, Oregon State)
A brilliant athlete and a complete tight end — teams will love him.

#35 Arizona — Tuli Tuipulotu (DE, USC)
The Cardinals continue to build up their defensive front with a player who may be unorthodox but finished the season with 13.5 sacks.

#36 Indianapolis — Dalton Kincaid (TE, Utah)
He’s just such a dynamic playmaker and I think a team like Houston will view him as a (new) QB’s best friend.

#37 LA Rams — Broderick Jones (G, Georgia)
A player who can step in and help secure LA’s interior offensive line. Needs to sort his technique out.

#38 Seattle — Keion White (DE, Georgia Tech)
An incredible athlete at 290lbs who blew up so many plays in 2022 and could be a star at the Senior Bowl. He carried Kenny McIntosh downfield on a wheel route in coverage at his size which is staggering. He plays with great intensity and physicality and his motor (and conditioning) is on the opposite end of the scale to Jalen Carter’s. It’s enticing to imagine what he could become in time — White legitimately has the upside and potential to become a star. If you want to get impact players with size, disruption and athleticism up front — pairing Carter and White together could set you up for years to come.

#39 Las Vegas — Kelee Ringo (CB, Georgia)
Ringo is a great athlete with amazing size but he gets beat far too often — on both deep routes and shorter inside slants.

#40 Carolina — Rasheed Rice (WR, SMU)
I’m looking forward to seeing how he tests because the tape gets you going.

#41 New Orleans — Chris Smith (S, Georgia)
He had such a good season for the Bulldogs — flying around as a free safety, running up to the line and hitting with a powerful punch. I think someone will fall in love with him.

#42 Tennessee — Luke Wypler (C, Ohio State)
I’ve always thought he was just steady but the Georgia game suggested he might be ‘steady’ even against top opponents and that has some appeal.

#43 Cleveland — Cedric Tillman (WR, Tennessee)
He’s had a few injury issues and now that he’s missing the Senior Bowl it makes me wonder if he might last a bit longer than originally thought.

#44 NY Jets — Trenton Simpson (LB, Clemson)
Simpson did not have a good 2022 season and will rely on good testing numbers to stick in round two.

#45 Atlanta — K.J. Henry (EDGE, Clemson)
Of all Clemson’s D-liners, he was the most disruptive in 2022.

#46 Green Bay — Zach Harrison (DE, Ohio State)
Harrison will go to the combine, put on a show and some teams will throw out the lack of production and inconsistent play and believe they can make him a starter.

#47 New England — Jonathan Mingo (WR, Ole Miss)
He’s such an underrated player with great size, athleticism and soft hands. He can play outside or as a big slot. The Giants double-dip at receiver and add a big target to their offense here.

#48 Washington — Paris Johnson Jr (T, Ohio State)
I’ve always felt underwhelmed watching him.

#49 Detroit — Nolan Smith (LB, Georgia)
An elite athlete and a great character but he’s the definition of a ‘tweener’.

#50 Pittsburgh — John Michael Schmitz (C, Minnesota)
He’s a good player but he is what he is — a big powerful center.

#51 Tampa Bay — O’Cyrus Torrence (G, Florida)
This is a bit early for my liking but Torrence will fit certain schemes and this is one of them (or at least it has been).

#52 Miami — Siaki Ika (DT, Baylor)
On some plays you absolutely love him. On others you think, ‘how is he such a liability vs the run at that size?’

#53 Seattle — Tucker Kraft (TE, South Dakota State)
This is not an immediate need. However, two of Seattle’s tight ends are free agents after the 2023 season and Will Dissly has just picked up another injury. They might invest in someone for the future and there are good TE’s in this draft. Teams are going to love Kraft. He has great size, surprising speed, elusiveness and he has fantastic athletic bloodlines. His blocking is on point and it won’t be a surprise if he goes on to have a very productive NFL career. John Schneider said a year ago they didn’t feel any pressure to reach for need and in this range they might think Kraft is too good to pass up.

#54 Chicago (v/BAL) — Kenny McIntosh (RB, Georgia)
Kirby Smart called McIntosh a bad MF so that’s good enough for me.

#55 LA Chargers — Byron Young (DE, Alabama)
Young is another underrated player who just created so much disruption up front. He can anchor and play the run but he also bursts into the backfield and impacts the pocket.

#56 Detroit (v/MIN) — Steve Avila (G, TCU)
I thought he had a fantastic season and thoroughly deserves to go to a team that loves to kick your arse.

#57 Jacksonville — Isaiah Foskey (EDGE, Notre Dame)
I can’t get that excited about Foskey and his 9.9% pressure rate in 2022 is very ‘meh’.

#58 NY Giants — D.J. Turner (CB, Michigan)
He will test brilliantly at the combine and that’ll give his stock a bump. Doesn’t have great size though.

#59 Dallas — Zach Charbonnet (RB, UCLA)
Ideal size, explosive traits, good in the passing game — Charbonnet is the real deal and would be a good replacement for Zeke Elliott if he moves on.

#60 Cincinnati — Ji’Ayir Brown (S, Penn State)
The vocal and emotional leader at Penn State — Brown is also a great athlete with a knack for interceptions.

#61 Chicago (v/CAR) — Keeanu Benton (DT, Wisconsin)
He can anchor the line but also provide some much needed interior rush.

#62 Buffalo — Anton Harrison (T, Oklahoma)
I was underwhelmed watching him but plenty of people have him graded higher than I do. He plays a premium position I guess.

#63 Kansas City — Andre Carter (EDGE, Army)
He has such enticing length, size and agility but he needs technical work and some patience to reach his maximum potential. That could keep him on the board into this range.

#64 Philadelphia — Will McDonald (EDGE, Iowa State)
He’s a praying mantis with his length and athleticism but he had a poor 2022 season and he needs work. If it clicks into place, he can be really good.

Seattle’s picks

Jalen Carter (DT, Georgia)
Drew Sanders (LB, Arkansas)
Keion White (DE, Georgia Tech)
Tucker Kraft (TE, South Dakota State)

Thoughts on the Seahawks’ picks

Personally it would be frustrating to come out of the Russell Wilson trade without a big investment in the future at the quarterback position and I’m not convinced Geno Smith will ever be able to take this team to the promise land. However, with Stroud, Levis and Richardson off the board your hand might be forced, although I do really like Bryce Young as well.

There’s a serious risk/reward factor with Jalen Carter. People assumed Todd McShay’s report over character concerns implied that Carter was a bad person. I don’t think it’s that. It’s more a case of effort, attitude, commitment. He was telling the media last April his priority was improving conditioning so he could increase his snap percentage. Yet in the biggest games of his season, he looked absolutely exhausted. Embarrassingly so, he admitted. If he isn’t getting in shape when there’s millions on the line — despite stating it was his key focus last year — teams will be wary about how motivated he’ll to improve that situation with a big fat guaranteed contract.

Schneider mentioned in his interview yesterday that they spend considerable time now assessing how a player speaks — even citing press conference interviews online (which was reassuring given it’s something we’ve done for a while to try and get intel on who a player is). This is an area where Carter does not excel.

For more on this, watch this video.

If you’re going to draft Carter your staff are going to need a game-plan to get the best out of him and get him working on his stamina. You are also going to need tone-setters in the position group. You don’t want to draft Carter and have him be the big man on campus. You want seasoned vets pushing him. You need to create an environment where he won’t want to let his guys down. That’s a key reason why I would consider trading for or signing someone like Da’Ron Payne. He’s been a presence at Alabama and Washington and along with Al Woods and potentially Shelby Harris, you have a leadership core in place.

A defensive front three of Woods, Payne and Carter would be impactful and can be a factor in games — just as Carroll wants.

Put Drew Sanders at linebacker with his 6-5 and 230lbs frame (with the potential to get up to 240lbs) and let him fly to the ball carrier. He is an attack-minded, move-forwards player with legit speed and agility. He can hit with impact, he can be a playmaker and on key downs he can rush the edge.

Keion White has the outstanding athleticism, size and motor to get into the mix too. You would, in one off-season, create a very exciting looking defensive front. With this much potential disruption from the interior and with Sanders at linebacker, it can only help the likes of Uchenna Nwosu, Darrell Taylor and Boye Mafe working the edge.

Is it too much focus on defense? Listen to Carroll speak. Watch the defense play. This unit needs serious investment. These moves at least create a plan where you can imagine the front seven becoming a much greater factor in games. Why not go all-in to improve the unit if the top quarterbacks are out of reach?

I wanted one of the two second round picks to be similar to the Ken Walker pick a year ago. An offensive player who isn’t a desperate need but is too good to pass-up. Schneider specifically talked about not reaching for need. I was torn between the running back, receiver and tight end for this selection but there’s enough depth at receiver and running back to wait until rounds 3-5. Tucker Kraft is flying under the radar and is as good as any of the TE’s in this class not named Michael Mayer. I can well imagine him being drafted with 2024 in mind — when you might’ve lost or moved on from pending free agents Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson and potentially Will Dissly.

I think a mock like this shows why nobody should be uncomfortable taking a quarterback at #5. You could still add defensive players like Sanders, White then another such as Andre Carter. If you were able to sign someone like Da’Ron Payne as well, that’d be a decent haul.

Fans might question the lack of interior offensive linemen included in the mock but I’ll highlight again that the Rams have a way of doing things on the O-line. Seattle is copying their scheme. They’ve taken college tackles and kicked them inside to guard and they’ve used a certain type of cost-effective center. I’m not convinced there’ll be a big splash on the O-line this year but we’ll see.

It’s worth noting blog favourite Sedrick Van Pran opted to return to Georgia for the 2023 season. He would’ve been a top-40 pick.

It might be that the Seahawks look later in the draft for O-line options. Jim Nagy suggested there will be some good players at the Senior Bowl to monitor, including Old Dominion’s Nick Saldiveri — who sounds just like the kind of tackle convert the Rams love to kick inside to guard.

Anyway — let me know your thoughts in the comments section.

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Should the Seahawks consider another big trade?

January 19th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

This week Pete Carroll talked about impact players and the need for a defensive line that can be a factor in games.

There’s no doubt the Seahawks have ample draft stock to try and rectify this issue. However, it’s unlikely that a couple of rookies are going to transform the unit alone.

We’ve seen it numerous times, not just in Seattle either. Quinnen Williams had one of the best seasons in recent memory at Alabama before turning pro. It’s taken him three years to find that same level in the NFL.

Closer to home — Boye Mafe’s physical talent warranted spending the #40 pick on him a year ago. Despite being an older player (24) he still spent most of his rookie season watching Bruce Irvin take the bulk of the snaps.

The Seahawks will be able to add young talent to develop on defense in this draft. Yet if they’re looking for immediate results, they’ll need to go further.

If the Seahawks want players who can be a factor, do they have to consider the veteran market and a potential trade to complement what they do in the draft?

There are a few reasons to consider it.

Firstly, this is a very top-heavy draft. The difference in talent between the players taken at #20 and #45 is going to be marginal. It means at pick #20 and #38, you might be settling on a player rather than feeling like you’re getting amazing value.

Secondly, if the Seahawks really like one of the quarterbacks at #5 — it’s going to make it harder to get an ‘impact’ defensive lineman in this draft who won’t require a lot of patience and seasoning like Mafe.

Thirdly, even if you do draft a top defender at #5, you can’t just place them in a rotation with Al Woods and Shelby Harris and think that’s job done. Neither can you continue to just sign mid-range or cheap veterans and think that’ll cut it. The talent difference between Seattle and San Francisco was highlighted by Carroll as problematic. To close the gap they’re going to need a mix of proven quality and exciting youth.

I think there are two potential targets for the Seahawks.

The first is Washington’s Da’Ron Payne.

Practically every fan base in the league is calling for their team to try and sign the pending free agent. However, after a career year, the Commanders’ GM Martin Mayhew said last week he can’t imagine letting him walk.

Carson Wentz will be cut at some point, freeing up $26m. Most of this money will likely go towards franchising Payne at a projected amount of $18.9m.

If you want him, you’re likely going to have to trade for him.

I suspect Washington will be open to offers. They’ve already paid locally born Jonathan Allen and will need to consider second contracts for Montez Sweat and Chase Young. They can’t pay everyone on the D-line. Getting something in return for Payne is a lot more acceptable than simply letting him walk. They would also recoup the $18.9m in a trade, freeing up cap space to potentially pursue a new quarterback like Derek Carr.

Payne is a good age (he only turns 26 in May) and recorded 11.5 sacks and 18 TFL’s (third most in the league) in 2022. This is the kind of player Seattle needs. Someone who can get into the backfield and impact games.

If you make the trade you could potentially sign him to a four-year extension worth about $20m per year. It’s expensive but given you’re willing to give Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams $18m each in 2023, it feels reasonable.

You’d be entering a sellers market and Washington would expect a big offer. It would probably take #20 or #38, which will set off alarm bells given Seattle’s history with expensive trades. The Seahawks have not found joy trading away first round picks for veteran players in the past. It’d be a lot more palatable if the Commanders were willing to accept one of the two second rounders than #20.

It’s worth noting Washington are without their third round pick this year due to the Wentz trade so they might be open to adding more stock — especially if they want to try and trade up from #16 to draft a young quarterback.

Nevertheless, trading for Payne immediately upgrades your line. When the league year opens, six weeks before the draft, one of the biggest needs would be addressed. You would also have plenty of draft stock remaining to add youth to your D-line, seriously addressing a massive need.

Imagine Payne teaming up with Jalen Carter, with Al Woods in the middle. Suddenly that looks like a serious defensive front. Alternatively if the Seahawks take a quarterback at #5, trading for Payne means you’re not going to be left relying on developmental defensive tackles later on. You would be able to get your quarterback of the future and add a stud D-liner.

Sounds attractive, right?

The other potential trade target is DeForest Buckner with the Colts.

Chicago’s media are speculating Matt Eberflus could go back in for his former D-liner for as little as a day two pick.

Indianapolis currently only has $5.7m in effective cap space. They’ll save $17.2m by cutting Matt Ryan but there aren’t many other levers to save money.

Trading Buckner would net them a cool $19.75m.

Based on his performance there’s little motivation for the Colts to give Buckner away. He’s been one of the most consistent and best interior defenders for multiple seasons. He had nine sacks in 2022 and received an 82.3 PFF grade.

There is one thing to consider though.

General Manager Chris Ballard is under a lot of pressure to land a top quarterback and drive the franchise forward, having had to settle for a series of ageing veterans over the last few seasons. The local Indianapolis media are already quizzing him about trading up from #4 to get the top pick and guarantee the QB he really wants — to make a statement of intent at the position.

They have no additional picks in the draft and are actually picking later in round three after spending their native selection on Matt Ryan, before acquiring #80 from Washington in the Wentz trade. If they intend to move up, trading Buckner for another pick or two might be helpful to create some extra stock.

Of course if Eberflus and Chicago are interested — the Colts could simply include Buckner in a package to move from #4 to #1.

We’ve seen trades like this before for players performing well. Calais Campbell might’ve been 33 when the Jaguars moved him to Baltimore for a fifth round pick but he was coming off a 10.5 sack season, having recorded 25 sacks in his final two years in Jacksonville.

Being four years younger will no doubt make Buckner a more expensive trade but few people thought Campbell would be available for merely a fifth rounder when he was dealt, so is it that unrealistic that Buckner could be had for a late second?

You’d be trading for proven quality but on a shorter term scale. There are two years left on his current contract which is worth about $20m per season.

If the Seahawks are serious about improving their defensive front they have to consider these types of moves. They can’t rely purely on rookies and depth. They need quality, not just a younger guy or another journeyman on a $5m deal.

Most of the top teams in the NFL have forked out for blue-chippers in recent years.

The Bills paid a handsome sum to sign Von Miller and traded for Stefon Diggs. The 49ers struck a deal for Trent Williams then paid him a king’s ransom and more recently acquired Christian McCaffrey. Philadelphia traded for A.J. Brown and Darius Slay. The Bengals spent big money a year ago to upgrade their O-line and the year prior spent a lot to add Trey Hendrickson and D. J. Reader. Kansas City traded for Orlando Brown and Frank Clark before signing Joe Thuney at guard. The Chargers invested in center Corey Linsley and traded for Khalil Mack. The Dolphins are a better team after trading for Tyreek Hill and Bradley Chubb. Back in the day the Giants acquired Leonard Williams for a third rounder.

You need to be prepared to make a splash when the right opportunity arises. Two first round picks on a box safety isn’t advised. Using a solitary first rounder to acquire 25-year-old A.J. Brown instead of relying on a rookie is a smart move, though, by the Eagles.

Having a lot of picks creates flexibility. Essentially you have to avoid treading water. There’s a difference between having some good players and some potential and having enough legit difference makers to trouble good teams.

The only way to avoid needing to do this is to find an elite quarterback of the level of Patrick Mahomes, who can cover a number of warts. Without that player on your roster, you simply have to add top-end talent — not just middling talent or developmental potential.

I’m wary of making a big trade because it’s been such a failure for Seattle in the past. But look at the opportunity. Add a defensive stud six weeks before the draft when the league year opens and you can put your feet up and let the #5 pick come to you. Jalen Carter or Will Anderson? You add even more to your defensive front. Want to go quarterback? You’ve already brought in a D-line stud to address that need.

And you’d still have plenty of draft stock to add an infusion of youth.

Like I said, watching a D-line next season where you’ve got Jalen Carter and Da’Ron Payne/DeForest Buckner lining up next to each other feels like a genuine step in the right direction. Simply adding Carter and hoping he can be the cure-all isn’t going to be enough. Or if you find that quarterback who can be the future of your franchise with your top pick, adding Payne or Buckner enables you to still upgrade in the trenches.

It’s food for thought and I’m not arguing the Seahawks should definitely do this. It’s probably something that warrants a conversation, though.

I’ll be posting my new mock draft tomorrow. In the meantime if you haven’t checked it out already, please watch my interview with the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy. Also, check out the off-season preview video with Jeff Simmons.

If you enjoy the blog and appreciate what we do — why not consider supporting the site via Patreon — (click here)

 

Seahawks off-season preview with Jeff Simmons

January 18th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

 

An interview with the Senior Bowl’s Jim Nagy

January 17th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

Time for one of my favourite conversations of the year — an interview with Reese’s Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy. We discuss numerous players attending Mobile this year in a 30 minute conversation.

Check it out and if you haven’t already, please subscribe to my YouTube channel. Tomorrow I’m hosting a live stream with Jeff Simmons at 2pm PT.

The interview with Jim is also available via ‘The Rebuild’ podcast streams.

 

Takeaways from Pete Carroll’s press day & C.J. Stroud declares

January 16th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

The Seahawks’ Head Coach Pete Carroll spoke to the media today

Pete Carroll’s end of season press conferences are typically quite revealing and provide a roadmap to the off-season. That was especially so today.

It started with the usual conversation with Brock Huard & Mike Salk on Seattle Sports, in what was a good interview where several of the more pressing questions for the future were put to Carroll.

Things started strangely though with the following exchange:

Salk: “For the final time this year, good morning Coach, how are we?”

Carroll: “It’s the last time you’re going to say something like that to me.”

Salk: “I know, maybe ever, who knows?”

I had a few people reach out about what this means and listening back, I don’t really know. For all the speculation that Carroll was considering retirement, I doubt he would’ve done two long press conferences today if he intended to call it quits in a few days.

I can only guess this is something to do with the Pete Carroll show itself? It was a bit confusing to hear this back-and-forth at the start.

I thought Carroll struck a good tone in his interview and that continued into his press conference later on. There was no rhetoric about being ‘close’ as we’ve heard in the past when it felt forced. This was as honest as a coach could be without upsetting anyone.

Carroll acknowledged the ‘distance’ between Seattle’s roster and San Francisco’s and stated the need to have great players up front. He didn’t sugarcoat anything with the defense and highlighted the clear areas that need to be improved.

This was refreshing to hear.

Carroll repeatedly referenced how badly they need to have better players up front. He hammered that point home in both media appearances. In previous years he’s dropped subtle hints towards off-season priorities. There was no subtlety here. It was shouted from the rooftops that the Seahawks need to add D-line talent.

He mentioned needing impact players and “guys who are a factor“. He declared, “we have to become more dynamic up front.”

I had two thoughts as I was listening.

The first was to jump to the immediate conclusion that this means they’ll be drafting a defensive player with their top pick. That thought was reinforced when Carroll said, “we’ve got our guy” in reference to Geno Smith.

I’ve seen media members already tweeting that this means D-line all the way in the draft but I’d caution against that. Carroll is very generous in his final press conference and he gives bits of information to provide talking points over the next few weeks.

However, it feels a bit too obvious to think he just laid out Seattle’s specific off-season approach in a public announcement.

Thus, my second thought was to consider some of the other things he said. Carroll went to great lengths to emphasise the excitement of the draft was as much about their other picks in the first three rounds, not just the fifth overall pick.

Then later on he said:

“The QB’s in this draft are extraordinary players. You don’t get opportunities like this.”

He also left the door open for talks over trading down.

When you add all this together, he’s dipped his toe in every pond. Clearly upgrading the front seven is a massive priority and we can all see that. However, they could easily spend four high picks on the front seven and still save #5 for a quarterback.

On top of that, they’d be foolish not to listen to any trade offers for #5. Any team will listen — but it doesn’t mean they necessarily plan to accept the offer unless it’s truly beneficial.

After reflecting on everything that’s been said — I don’t think we can say with any greater certainty what Seattle intends to do at #5. What I do think we can say with absolute certainty, though, is that one way or another there’s going to be a big investment in the D-line.

That could also be with a free agent splash, for once, money permitting. They haven’t been a team that typically goes big in the market but they did in 2011 to accelerate building their roster. I wonder if that’ll be the plan again to help fix what has been stated as a major issue?

The name that could really appeal is Da’Ron Payne from Washington.

As comparisons were being made to San Francisco, it’s worth noting they hit a home run acquiring Trent Williams and then paying him in free agency. Perhaps the Seahawks will themselves consider a splurge for someone like Payne who would immediately upgrade the defensive front? He’s a good age and only turns 26 in May.

That would take the pressure off the draft and keep all options open at #5 — quarterback, trading down or another defensive lineman.

Of course, Washington aren’t likely to let him go without a fight. They will surely free up $26m by cutting Carson Wentz — creating ample room to retain Payne one way or another.

Regardless, the way Carroll spoke means my next mock draft will feature an array of defensive front seven talent being added. They sound like they’re going to really attack that area, with or without the fifth pick being part of it.

I’ve seen it implied that Carroll’s praise of the quarterbacks is in some way an attempt to build a trade-market for Seattle’s pick.

This feels like a reach. For starters, no team is being influenced by something another coach says in a press conference. They have their own scouts, GM’s and Head Coaches to analyse talent and need. It’s hardly like the Carolina Panthers watched that presser today and then called an emergency meeting to plot their move up the board for a QB.

Secondly, I’ve watched every game the top-four quarterbacks in this draft ever played (such is my social life). They are really good, as Carroll says. What’s more, at least three of them perfectly align with what John Schneider has found attractive at the position in the past.

Nothing about today compels me to avoid pairing a quarterback with the Seahawks at #5 in future mocks. As Carroll points out, it’s a rare opportunity to pick that early.

Very few people are prepared to consider the ‘best of both worlds’ scenario. This is re-signing Geno Smith and drafting a quarterback. It creates a replica of what happened in Kansas City, who had a bridge quarterback (Alex Smith) and the future of the franchise (Patrick Mahomes).

Imagine a scenario where a rookie drafted by the Seahawks can take his time to learn the scheme for a year or two, while Smith leads the way? Then, when the time is right, the baton can be passed. If handled properly, as it was in Kansas City, there are no issues. Alex Smith was traded to Washington for a player and a third round pick in the end. There’s no reason why the Seahawks couldn’t try to copy this plan.

It would mean no defensive player drafted at #5 but it’s too readily assumed a great option will present itself.

It’s very like Arizona will draft one of the top two defenders at #3. I would suggest they are likely to take Will Anderson after losing edge defenders Chandler Jones and J.J. Watt in back-to-back years.

Jalen Carter is brilliantly talented but as we’ve discussed a lot recently, there are some concerns. We highlighted a recent video where he expressed multiple times last April that improving his conditioning was a priority. Yet at the end of the season, we could see he was exhausted to such an extent he admitted he was ’embarrassed’.

On top of that, Todd McShay has reported teams do have some character concerns with Carter.

It’s not as simple, therefore, as thinking there’s a ready-made solution at #5 for the defensive line. Carroll also stressed today that it had taken the 49ers many years to build their great defense.

I also need to keep stressing, having watched all of his 2022 games, that Clemson defender Myles Murphy did not have a good season and is more raw athlete than anything polished at this stage. He in particular struggles against the run despite being 275lbs (I’ve called him a pussycat) and this was an area today highlighted by Carroll as a big problem. I’d go as far to say that if defending the run better is key for the Seahawks, drafting Murphy would be counter-productive based on his time at Clemson. Watch the way Notre Dame ran all over him for an illustration of what I’m talking about. He also only had 6.5 sacks and didn’t start at least two games due to poor play.

Tyree Wilson is someone who could end up really interesting Seattle. His frame is ridiculous and unique — 6-6, 270lbs and a wingspan stretching 7-feet in length. If he tests well I can imagine the Seahawks showing major interest — even if there’s a fair bit of inconsistency on tape (and the record of BIG-12 defenders coming into the league hasn’t been great recently).

The top quarterbacks — C.J. Stroud (who I’ll talk about in a bit), Will Levis, Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young — are excellent players with fantastic character. They are all good or great athletes with the potential to be franchise QB’s.

Many of the people knocking this quartet were the same people suggesting Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder should be first round picks a year ago. The 2022 quarterback class was poor. The 2023 quarterback class is top-heavy but is a lot better.

Back to Carroll’s words and I did notice this line when talking about the defense:

“It’s stuff that we can really fix, it’s right there in front of us”

This is a line that is often used during the season but it is wearing a bit thin. Seattle’s defense has had, to be fair, ‘things that they can really fix’ for a number of years. And yet they never are fixed.

‘Fixing the pass rush’ was declared as a big priority four years ago. It’s now 2023 and Carroll is saying the same thing.

In 2019, ‘fixing the pass rush’ equated to trading Frank Clark, drafting L.J. Collier, signing an injured Ziggy Ansah and then trading for Jadeveon Clowney right before the season. I hope the 2023 plan is better than this.

In 2020, ‘fixing the pass rush’ equated to retaining Clowney as a priority and adding more. They couldn’t agree terms with Clowney and instead added Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin, before drafting an injured Darrell Taylor and trading for an expensive pass-rushing safety. At the trade deadline, they added Carlos Dunlap. I hope the 2023 plan is better than this.

In 2021, ‘fixing the pass rush’ equated to bringing back Dunlap on a deal they ripped up at the end of the season, signing Kerry Hyder and having Taylor available for the first time. I hope the 2023 plan is better than this.

You get the picture.

The thing is, Carroll is right. They can fix this. But they have to be prepared to spend a bit more. If Da’Ron Payne does reach the market then why not be willing to pay a little bit more than maybe you’re initially comfortable with to get him? Signing replaceable players has simply led to a lack of quality. They haven’t been able to re-create the magic of the Bennett and Avril contracts and now it’s probably time to just go out and get someone who, on day one, can be a difference maker.

On a different topic — during the interview on Brock & Salk, Carroll was given an opportunity to bask in a 9-8 season when many people expected a far worse record. He rejected that opportunity and I liked that.

Undoubtedly Seattle’s win record and playoff qualification was unexpected. There’s no need for victory laps though and Carroll acknowledged that. The Seahawks did benefit from one of the weakest schedules in the league, played badly on defense for most of the season and were carried at times by a journeyman quarterback who excelled against the odds.

This is still a team with a lot of holes, not enough star players and a ton of work to do. Carroll, quite rightly, is viewing it that way and wasn’t in the mood to accept a pat on the back. That was encouraging and again, was a very different tone to the talk of being ‘close’ a year ago when they clearly weren’t.

Other notable quotes included Carroll’s praise of Austin Blythe:

“He was a real factor for us… terrific leader, solidified it”

A lot of fans won’t like that because many feel an upgrade at center is needed. I don’t disagree and think Sedrick Van Pran, if he declares following a very traumatic last few days, could be a home-run pick. However, it’s worth stating again that the Rams blocking scheme, which Seattle is using, has typically ‘got by’ at center with a specific body type and skill-set that Blythe does fit.

It doesn’t mean they won’t go for a Van Pran or a Luke Wypler or someone of that ilk but it’s entirely possible they re-sign Blythe and perhaps add some competition later in the draft or in the veteran market. Joey Hunt, who is just like Blythe, has also been on the practise squad all year. Don’t be surprised if he ends up being the backup to Blythe — or even a cheap competition to start.

On the defense again, Carroll spoke about the scheme change:

“We might’ve shot a little too high… need to be fundamentally better up front”

He also spoke about being able to split double teams and rush the passer better. He constantly talked about being a factor up front and how much they miss not having that X-factor player (which is very, very difficult to find).

The one player I think has been best at splitting double teams is Tyree Wilson. I am not that excited about him being ‘the guy’ at #5. Neither am I that convinced he’ll prove to be a difference maker given how inconsistent his tape is. There aren’t many humans with his size and length though and again — if he tests well at the combine or pro-day, he could emerge as a real option for Seattle (even ahead of Jalen Carter).

Carroll mentioned they adjusted their scheme during the season and made a four-week turn where results improved. This certainly did happen but it would also be useful to acknowledge that, from Germany onwards, opponents found a way to attack the Seahawks in the running game and that fleeting run of positivity completely evaporated very quickly.

They can’t spend the off-season tweaking things, only to find a month into the season their opponents have found a similar way to tear them apart. Talent may be a big issue here and rectifying that should help — yet it’s still something that warrants pointing out. Plus — they can’t afford to start the season as badly on defense as they have the last few years. For once, can they at least just be average to begin a season?

Carroll backed the scheme overall and said they wouldn’t change. I was hoping they would but it’s possible the tweaks and adjustments will be significant and he’s just not spelling it out here.

This video highlights how badly teams are struggling running Vic Fangio concepts without the man himself working the controls. Seattle and Minnesota are two of the biggest culprits in how this scheme has been exploited. The Vikings poached defensive coordinator Ed Donatell from the Seahawks just as he was set to join the team and it’s been a mess for Minnesota in 2022.

I really hope the Seahawks aren’t going to draft players for this scheme only to need to replace all of those players in 2-3 years if it doesn’t work. I’d rather be adding talent and copying the 49ers and Cowboys personally. They seem like the models to mimic, not the Fangio system. It helps having Nick Bosa and Micah Parsons — yet the Chargers have not faired well with Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack operating in a similar scheme to the Seahawks.

I’m not convinced Jordyn Brooks is as good as Carroll suggested today — naming him as a player opponents consistently have to account for and talking up his quality.

I think you can count the number of ‘big plays’ by Brooks on one hand since he cost the Seahawks a first round pick. He’s very good at collecting tackles but doesn’t do enough to truly impact games. He had a 52.8 PFF grade this year which is dreadful. A year ago he graded at 58.4. He has two career sacks, zero career interceptions and only 15 career TFL’s. To date he’s been underwhelming and yet he’s often talked up like a key contributor. I’m not seeing it.

Overall though I thought it was a good media session. No cracks were papered over and it’s evident they know how important this draft is for the franchise and how much work is required to improve. Now they have to deliver. I hope they are bolder in free agency than previous years and try not to add a lot of very average (or below average) players to fill things out as they have done in the past. Adding quality must be the key — even if it comes at a hefty free agent price.

But please, no more big trades.

I also hope they view this 2023 draft as phase two of a rebuild not phase one of ‘go for it next season’. The way Carroll talked today gave me confidence because he wasn’t saying anything about drafting players to seriously contend in 2023. It feels like a longer term approach is being taken while acknowledging pressing, immediate needs that have to be addressed.

C.J. Stroud declares for the draft

This was very welcome news and is particularly beneficial to the Seahawks.

Stroud is a potential #1 overall pick. He is extremely accurate and throws with wonderful touch to all areas of the field. He’s a good athlete with a strong arm. He has excellent character, ideal size and the potential to be a real difference maker at the next level.

The one criticism was about his ability to play outside of the constraints of the Buckeyes offense. He showed he can do that in glorious fashion against Georgia with a masterful performance.

For me, Stroud or Will Levis will be the #1 pick with Indianapolis (#4) or Carolina (#9) trading up to get them.

Either way, I’ll be surprised if Stroud lasts to #5. He would be a great option for the Seahawks to draft and develop. If he isn’t available though, his presence in the top-four pushes another player down to Seattle that otherwise might be gone.

If the Seahawks stick at #5 I think the decision will ultimately come down to whoever is left between Stroud, Levis, Anthony Richardson and Bryce Young, the two defensive linemen Will Anderson and Jalen Carter, or a potential surge-prospect such as Tyree Wilson.

These are all great options for Seattle. The benefit of being in the top-five versus the #8-15 range is enormous. It’ll probably take a kings ransom to get Seattle to move down because the opportunity to draft someone at #5 versus later on will be huge.

Stroud, Levis and Richardson all scream John Schneider. That shouldn’t be ignored. They are exactly the types I would expect Schneider to be very excited about. Big arm, great athlete, creative, elusive, playmakers.

Let’s also remember Levis played a year in Seattle’s exact offense under Liam Coen and excelled massively. I’ve felt for a long time that Schneider would be very interested in Levis — I think many other teams will be too.

The quarterbacks are not less risky than the defensive linemen named above — that’s a fallacy that has gained too much traction. As someone who has studied this class to the absolute max, this has bizarrely become an under-rated group. They’re not flawless, far from it, but neither were Mahomes, Allen and Herbert.

That said, there’s also clear talent with Anderson and Carter, while Wilson has such an enticing physical profile. There are also some concerns that aren’t highlighted as much as the flaws shown by the quarterbacks.

Now that Stroud has declared and Carroll has spoken — I will plan to publish a mock draft this week.

First though, I will be conducting my annual interview with Jim Nagy tomorrow discussing the Senior Bowl and on Wednesday I will be joined by Jeff Simmons on a live stream. I hope you’ll check out both.

And if you missed it yesterday, don’t forget to read Curtis Allen’s outstanding piece reviewing Seattle’s cap situation.

If you enjoy the blog and appreciate what we do — why not consider supporting the site via Patreon — (click here)

 

Curtis Allen: A critical off-season from a financial perspective

January 15th, 2023 | Written by Rob Staton

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen…

In anticipation of a very intriguing offseason, we have covered the Seahawks’ salary cap situation from the summer to the fall.    

As has been stated several times, the Seahawks do not have as much cap space for 2023 as has been discussed in the general media.  In fact, some difficult decisions are going to need to be carefully considered by the Seahawks.  Every option should be thoroughly explored.

With the season over, it is now time to take a serious look at what the team is facing.  Decisions made this year will have a ripple effect into 2024 and 2025, which will be crucial years for the franchise.  Particularly given the young, talented and inexpensive base the team is currently building.  They could set themselves up in a timely manner for much bigger things or handcuff themselves badly.

We will get into that shortly.  For now, where do the Seahawks stand as far as cap space is concerned?  Get out your knife and fork and let’s dig in.  

Here is a brief snapshot to get started with:

There is a lot there.  Let’s start from the top and work our way down.

Overthecap (OTC) projects the salary cap and deducts the known information of contracts already on the books for 2023.  They have the Seahawks with 36 players on their roster and have $48 million of cap room available to spend on 15 players to fill the roster out to 51.

Before we get into any player transaction discussion, we need to update that cap number with a couple of contract adjustments that OTC has yet to account for.

Damien Lewis gets a Proven Performance Escalator for 2023 for his playing time on his rookie contract.  Lewis has earned the RFA tender amount of $2.629 million plus $250,000 for his playing time, for a total salary of approximately $2.879 million.  Add that to his bonus proration and Lewis’ cap hit in 2023 is approximately $3.16 million, an increase of $1.6 million on the cap.

Geno Smith has $3.5 million on the cap for incentive money earned in 2022.  Where did that come from?  If you recall, Smith signed a one-year contract with the Seahawks last year for $7 million.  We found out later that $3.5 million of that was salary and the other half was earnable through incentives.  These incentives are classed as Not Likely To Be Earned (NLTBE) incentives and as such are charged to the 2023 salary cap.

Bob Condotta confirmed Geno earned all the incentive money.

Moving on, we have the draft picks.  This year, with the quantity and quality of their picks, the Seahawks need more cap room than normal for their draft pool.  OTC projects their nine current draft picks as costing them $16 million on the cap.

Ryan Neal is a Restricted Free Agent and with his excellent year is a lock to be tendered this offseason with a contract to keep him a Seahawk in 2023. I chose to give him the Second-Round tender of $4.3 million instead of the Right of First Refusal tender of $2.629 million, given his excellent play and the extent of Jamal Adams’ injury. They will want to protect their interests should Neal get a healthy offer from another team.

That brings us to a subtotal of $23 million in cap room with 46 players under contract.  They need 5 more players to fill out the 51-man roster.

I set aside $10 million for a contingency fund.  The Seahawks need to keep some money on the books during the season for practice squad players and to replace players that go on Injured Reserve.  There is also some churn at the bottom of the roster during the season – an $800k player replacing a $775k player in the top 51 that count towards the cap, etc.  

It is also beneficial to have a little bit of a slush fund to cover some incentive bonuses and acquire some players through trade or as street free agents during the season.

Next, we come to what I am calling ‘Key Players’.  Those five spots on the roster are important, if not critical.  I put in $18 million spent on those guys.  Where did I get that number from?  I took it from the 2022 cap hit of players and positions not currently on the 2023 roster but had key roles on the team:  Jason Myers ($5m), Rashaad Penny ($5.6m), Nick Bellore ($2.75m), Cody Barton, Tyler Ott and Travis Homer ($1m each) and rounded up for inflation.

All those players will need to be re-signed or replaced.  It is a reasonable expectation that the Seahawks can do that for a cumulative total of $18 million.

That leaves us over our cap limit by $4.9 million.

Are All These Numbers Carved in Stone?

Absolutely not.  For one, the cap is always fluid.  We are just working with what we have at this moment in time.  There’s also some fat built into the projection.  I will also never claim to have every single inch of the ins and outs of the cap covered perfectly.

There are some areas where I am likely overestimating the impact.  The league might provide a salary cap number higher than what OTC is projecting.  The Seahawks’ cap rollover from 2022 might be more due to some incentives not being reached (the prelim number is $1.59 million).  The team might trade down in the draft, reducing the cap impact.  Having $10 million in the contingency funds might be too excessive.

Maybe they feel Ryan Neal’s market will only merit the $2.629 million tender?

And those Key Players?  Perhaps the Seahawks can use some rookie players in those roles – costs which are already accounted for in the draft pool money.  Maybe they offer Penny a contract for far less and he accepts it.

You get the idea.

When we are looking at the big picture though, overestimating is a healthy exercise.  Having some cushion for expenses is always wise. As is building team depth. 

For instance, the Seahawks could not have possibly budgeted their 2022 season in January on starting a fifth-round rookie, a fourth-round rookie and a street free agent at cornerback.  They put $5 million into the position by getting Sidney Jones, Justin Coleman and Artie Burns.  All of them ended up being mostly unnecessary but it was wise to have some depth on the roster for coverage.

So, a little sandbagging is in order.  Budgeting on the razor’s edge is not a fruitful exercise.  

Also, in most instances, a million saved here and there is beneficial but in the big picture it does not tip the scales and turn a team into a Super Bowl contender.  

In fact, it pales in comparison when you consider…

The Seahawks Need a Quarterback on Their Roster

That’s right.  You probably have noticed the Seahawks do not have a veteran quarterback on the roster or in this plan yet.

They have already overextended themselves in this projection and they will need to find some money to bring in a veteran.  That is where the challenge lies and some tough decisions need to be considered.

Geno Smith.  His best play might be to stay in Seattle.  The system, the talent on the roster and the coaching staff presents him with the best option for success.

The Seahawks’ best play might be to bring Geno back for at least another year.  He has demonstrated chemistry with the receivers and the tight ends and knows the system.  Even if and when the Seahawks draft a top quarterback this spring, having Smith on the roster benefits them in a number of obvious ways.

The question is then:  Can the Seahawks craft a contract he would consider that pays him market value, does not cause too much damage on the 2023 cap and has some options in 2024 for the Seahawks to move on?

Yes they can.  

We have worked up a contract that can meet all those requirements.  Granted, it is bold and very aggressive.  But the framework of the deal presents a workable path forward for both sides.

Let’s select the 3-year, $75 million option and put Geno Smith down for a $9 million cap hit in 2023 (we will address the big cap hit in 2024 shortly).

With our earlier deficit, that means the Seahawks now need to find $13.9 million of cap room on the roster in order to get their heads above water.

Where can they get that kind of cap room?  Let’s go to work.

The Options Available to Them

The first option to gain cap room is by cutting Gabe Jackson.  He has an $11.2 million cap hit in 2023 and $6.5 million of that can be reclaimed by cutting him loose.  

This appears to be an easy choice.  He has struggled to stay on the field this year, frequently splitting reps with Phil Haynes.  In fact, he was only able to play 100% of the snaps in five games in 2022.  His PFF grade (54.8), his age and his large cap hit all make for some low-hanging fruit.

The second option is in a similar boat but is a harder choice to cut:  Shelby Harris.  I personally like Harris but he will count for $12.27 million on the cap in 2023 and the Seahawks can gain $8.9 million by cutting him before March 22, when a $2 million roster bonus is due.  They likely would do it well before then in order to give Harris a chance to get a jump on the new league year that starts March 15th.

Between those two players the Seahawks will have created $15.4 million of cap room, enough to handle Geno Smith’s cap hit, cover the deficit and give the team about a $1.5 million surplus.

The concern though:  Cutting players to save cap dollars is an obvious option but it should not be taken lightly.  There is a downside, in that you now must replace those players on the roster.  Which usually means more cap outlay.  

If there is one lesson we all must understand about the salary cap more clearly, it is this:  when you pull on one lever oftentimes that moves another lever.  Actions and reactions.  Rarely is anything done with just one simple motion.

Perhaps both Jackson and Harris’ spots can be covered by draft picks.  Perhaps Jake Curhan is ready to step in as the starting Right Guard? Perhaps the Seahawks can bring Exclusive Rights Free Agent Myles Adams back for less than a million dollars and he can step up in a major way and take most of the 55% of defensive line snaps that Harris’ exit has created and provide consistent play?

As we discussed above though, it can be a very dicey proposition to plan on young players making big, big leaps in the upcoming season.  Even more so when you figure that the Seahawks’ biggest weaknesses in 2022 were the interior lines of both sides of the ball.

Planning to weaken the lines and then fill them with mostly untested players would very likely result in the same kind of play in 2023 we have witnessed the last few seasons.  The Seahawks need more.  Particularly when you consider the potential of 2024 and 2025.

They would be very wise to explore all the options available to them for improving both lines and thus the team.

Which brings us to our two favorite punching bags.  The Seahawks have 100 million reasons to strongly consider their future with the team right now.

The Options with Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs

Adams and Diggs will account for $36.2 million on the cap in 2023 and $38.7 million in 2024.  Adams also has an additional $24.61 million commitment for 2025, making it a staggering $99.51 million of cap space for these two players.

Considering recent performances, injury history and the Seahawks’ lack of resources for other positions, it would be negligent if we did not work through what the options are going forward.

We covered the options for Adams extensively in this post:

Cut Adams outright.  That means all $23.89 million hits their cap in 2023 and they are clean going forward.  There is no cap saving in 2023.  In fact, that is about a $5.8 million extra hit on the cap.  Doable — but that restricts your available room.

Cut Adams with a June 1st designation.  This would split the dead cap between the next two years, with approximately $9.69 million hitting in 2023 and $14.2 million hitting in 2024.  This would open up $8.44 million for the team to spend in 2023 after June 1st.

Contact Adams and initiate talks to renegotiate his contract.

Cutting him outright is not advisable at this point.  It would cost them extra money on the cap in 2023.

The other two options have potential.  Cutting him with the June 1 designation and splitting up the dead cap is doable.  If the Seahawks choose to make a move this year, they could easily reason that they have given Adams three seasons to reward their faith in him and made the hard choice to move on.

Renegotiating could be a way to give Adams another chance to stay on the roster and rehabilitate his value with a good season free of major injury.

For instance, the Seahawks could tell Adams that he will have to play on his guaranteed $2.56 million salary if he wants to stay on the team this year.  For 2023 that would create the same $8.44 million in savings as if Adams was cut June 1.  In fact, it might be a better option since it would free the cap space immediately, whereas the June 1 cut space would not be available until June 2, after the draft and the bulk of the free agency season is completed.   Even better if Adams rewards them with a good season.

Admittedly, getting Adams to agree to that amount is a whole other conversation though.

Again, I cannot emphasize this enough:  the Seahawks must address Adams’ contract in one way or another this offseason.  There is no justification for not considering all the options, no matter what Pete Carroll says about looking forward to having Adams back this fall.

What about Quandre Diggs?

He will count $18.1 million against the cap in 2023.  Given his performance this year – even accounting for plenty of time to recover from a leg injury and that crucial interception in the Rams game – that big cap number bears a close examination.  

Pete Carroll made a little Freudian slip two weeks ago when commenting about Diggs’ interception and his celebration during live play in the Jets game when he said Diggs ‘has come alive with his playmaking’ – a tacit admission that the Seahawks had long stretches with pedestrian play from their star free safety.  Indeed, the number of missed tackles and the lack of sparky plays add up to make 2022 not one of his better seasons, despite the Pro Bowl nod.

Spotrac has a note on Diggs’ contract: his 2023 salary becomes fully guaranteed on the fifth day after the waiver period begins (after the Super Bowl).  OTC usually has these kinds of notes but does not for Diggs.

What does that mean?  Two things:  the Seahawks will have to decide on Diggs very, very quickly.  In the next few weeks in fact.  Secondly, the June 1st cut is not an option this year.  There is no practical benefit for 2023 to be had with it because his salary locks in as guaranteed.

It does force a decision though — and soon.  The Seahawks can pick up $9.9 million of cap room if they cut Diggs before February 17.  It also gets his dead money handled in 2023 and off the 2024 books.

A trade is not a great possibility, unless the Seahawks can talk a team into trading for a 30-year-old safety and paying him $9.9 million guaranteed.  A renegotiation is possible but hard to visualize with Diggs. 

Cutting or trading Diggs and renegotiating or June 1st cutting Adams would at the most net the Seahawks $18.34 million of cap room for 2023.  With the surplus from the other moves, that would get them about $20 million of cap money that is free and clear.  They could spend it all in the market if they like.

Of course, they would need to dip some money and/or draft picks back into the safety position to replace those players.

Yet with Adams missing so much time and Diggs being invisible for large chunks of 2022, I am compelled to ask – could the Seahawks not get the same level of play or better with Ryan Neal, a mid-level free agent and a draft pick, for far less on the cap?  Particularly when you consider that Sean Desai and Karl Scott have been able to steer Neal to a great season and develop three young corners into starters 2022?  

The question is worth some serious consideration.

Using the cap room gained, they could refocus their resources on both lines by bringing in some strong free agents and drafting young talent to pair with them.

Perhaps they consider pairing a top free agent center or guard with one of the strong centers or guards available in this draft class?

On the defense, perhaps a top free agent defensive tackle paired with a draft pick could have a profound impact in the middle of the defense?

The thought of shifting resources back to the trenches is extremely persuasive.  If the Seahawks can be more effective in those areas, that would provide all kinds of benefits to their whole pattern of play and bolster their core principles of running the ball and stopping the run to a degree they have not experienced in recent seasons.

If they decide to move on from both Diggs and Adams, it opens up all kinds of options to both dramatically increase their competitiveness now and clear the decks for 2024 and beyond.

Investing in the trenches is always wise.  A home run strategy.  Even if that home run strategy does not produce home run results, we have already seen the results of investing heavily in the linebacker and safety spots – year after year of poor defense.  Returning to their roots by utilizing their draft capital and the ability to manufacture some cap space to invest in the lines is an unimpeachable decision.

However, there exists an option within that strategy that is also particularly enticing — adding some low-cost free agents in the trenches for 2023, developing their core young players further, keeping some cap room intact and pushing the surplus into the following season.

Freeing themselves from the two safety contracts and rolling a cap surplus allows the Seahawks to set up a real war chest to make serious moves in 2024.  Let me explain.

The Impact of These Moves on the 2024 Cap

The importance of 2024 cannot be overstated.

The Seahawks can be largely free of their wayward spending on expensive, underperforming veteran players in recent years.  Their biggest free agents will be Jordyn Brooks (I am guessing they will decline the $11m fifth year tender for 2024), Damien Lewis, Noah Fant, Colby Parkinson and Uchenna Nwosu.  Some would be replaced in the draft; some would be let go.

The excellent 2022 draft class will have their training wheels off and be ready to exert some dominance in their third season.  The 2023 class will have cut their teeth and have a year under their belt.  A good portion of their roster will be on rookie contracts and contributing at key positions.  

They have their bookend tackles, a dazzling running back, a corner who has already turned his immense physical gifts into serious production on the field and a pass rusher who has shown in limited stretches he belongs in the NFL.  Imagine the impact of adding two first-round picks and two second-round picks in 2023 and two more high picks in 2024 to that group.

Put another way, they will have some of the most expensive positions in the league covered with quality players on rookie contracts.  If they draft a quarterback with their top pick this year, they will have had him on the roster for a year and ready to take the reins in 2024 and complete the puzzle of matching immense talent to value at the most difficult positions in the NFL.

Take a look at where the Seahawks stand for 2024 using the same chart I had for 2023 and we will do the same exercise to true up their projected cap room:

OTC has the Seahawks with $127 million for 19 rostered players at this moment.  The 2023 Draft Class will take a chunk for the second year of their contracts, and the 2024 Class less so since the Seahawks will most likely not have four high picks in the top two rounds again.  I added $30 million for eight ‘Key Players’ plus two of those lower-cost trench players we discussed, tendered Darrell Taylor at the Second-Round rate and gave the tender a raise and put in another $10 million for the rainy-day fund.

That leaves approximately $52 million of cap room with 47 players rostered.  That is very, very good.

However, if they have cut Adams and Diggs loose in 2023, that adds another $24.49 million to OTC’s number.  Now we are at $77 million of room with 45 players rostered.

We are not done.  If the Seahawks decide to roll over any of the $20 million surplus gained by cutting Jackson, Harris, Diggs and Adams, that adds to the total.

It would not be the whole amount.  Let’s be conservative and roll over just third of that – $6 million – and call that $83 million of cap room for six players.

We do have a wildcard that needs discussing though and that is Geno Smith.  If the Seahawks sign him to the contract with a very cheap $9 million cap hit in 2023, they will have a price to pay in 2024.  His cap hit under that contract for 2024 would be $31 million.

That takes the cap down to $52 million of spending room for only five players.  However, the options we built into the proposed Geno contract give the Seahawks opportunities to reclaim some of that $31 million.

They can tear the contract up and renegotiate.  Or…

  • If they want to keep Geno, they can restructure the roster bonus and gain $9 million
  • If they trade Geno, they can recoup as much as $21 million
  • If they want to cut Geno with a June 1st designation, they gain $17.5 million in June

If I have completely overvalued the Geno Smith contract and the Seahawks get him for much less, there is even more room to operate.  

If they move on from Geno in 2024, they will need six players to get to 51.  But the lowest number in this projection is $52 million to get those six players.

You see where this is going.

With the young and inexpensive talent at critical positions filled already, any available cash can be utilized to shore up any weak spot on the roster or just to add even more talent to the trenches.  Or another offensive weapon.  Or both.

Think this is too pie in the sky?  It very well could be.  Maybe I am too optimistic.  Let’s address that.

Let’s cut that in half and take the available cap room down to just $26 million for the six remaining roster spots.  Call the other $26 million wasted money, inflation or bring back a couple of their own free agents.  

The Seahawks can still add two very good free agents and some key veteran role players to this young talented squad with that much money.  

Remember, we have already accounted for our draft picks, some important veteran spots and the injured reserve contingency fund.  This is money they can spend every dime of.  The beauty of it is, we are not proposing mortgaging the entire future for a shot at a championship run in 2024.  

In 2025, they will still have all those critical players on rookie contracts plus another $24.6 million of cap room from the last year of Jamal Adams’ contract being handled already.

Also, I have just talked about a couple ways to create cap space.  There are others available to the Seahawks if they desire them.

For this discussion though, a great chunk of that flexibility comes from the Seahawks deciding to add $67.44 million to their cap by freeing themselves from the contracts of Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams as soon as possible and using it strategically to benefit the team.  You can draw a straight line from that proposed $26 million of 2024 cap room to the $24.49 million you gain in 2024 by ridding yourselves of these two players.

Considering the great potential of the 2024 team and that precious Super Bowl window opening wide, would a 31-year-old free safety with a $15 million cap hit and a 29-year-old strong safety with a $23 million cap hit and a history of season-ending injuries really fit on this team?  Honestly.

The classic phrase ‘better a year too early than a year too late’ perfectly describes the situation with these two.  Moving on jumpstarts the next phase of this rebuild.  Not doing so could hinder it.

Concluding Thoughts

This is a lot to process, I realize.  If you have made it this far, you deserve a hearty handshake for sticking with me.

I want to be clear about something – this is not what I think the Seahawks will do.  My taste and ambitions for team building have long leaned towards being more aggressive than theirs are.  I am also very good at spending other people’s money.  It’s a gift.

And let’s be right, there is a reason the front office has their jobs and I do not.

It also needs to be acknowledged that there is an assumption that the 2022 draft class continues their ascent and the 2023 class delivers a similar impact.  As well as a desperate hope that Pete Carroll will not block any more young talent with expensive, marginally impactful veteran players in the future.

On the whole, this work-up has been an attempt to show what is possible within the framework of the current cap situation for the Seahawks.  If they make hard choices.  If they draft well.  If they avoid the pattern of overpaying veteran players whose best years are behind them and not developing their young talent more.

There is a lot of dead money involved in this plan.  The Diggs and Adams moves I propose leave over $30 million of cap room as dead and unusable between 2023 and 2024.  Geno Smith will incur some dead cap money at some point if the contract we outlined is signed.

Those are costs that need to be weighed and counted.  

How bad is dead money?

Regularly collecting dead money is never an advisable strategy but we also need to develop a balanced viewpoint about it.  It is not the anchor weight to a franchise that many view it as.  It can actually be an effective tool when utilized properly and young talent is developed.  

The Rams won a Super Bowl with $46 million in dead cap money.  The Eagles this year are carrying $65 million of dead money and are one of the best teams in the NFL.  Our own Seahawks carried $56 million and they squeaked into the playoffs.

My point is dead money on the books does not automatically translate to losses on the field.

I also want to briefly address a narrative that the Seahawks are conservative when it comes to the salary cap.

While that may largely be the case, it should be noted that the Seahawks have leaned toward being more aggressive in their moves the last three seasons.  

In August of 2020, they traded two first-round picks for a pass-rushing safety without securing a long-term extension in the transaction.  That was beyond aggressive.

The following year they gave that safety a market-bending contract.  Aggressive.

They also utilized void contract years in 2021, in order to make up for the salary cap shortfall due to the pandemic’s effect on ticket revenue.  That was a strategic procedure change borne out of a need to adapt.

They bucked their typical structure for the large Diggs and Adams contracts, making them light on the cap in the first year of their deals and heavier later.  Another necessary change.

They removed two franchise icons from the roster in the span of 48 hours in March last spring and committed to eating almost $30 million of dead cap to do it.  After being such a strong point of contention, absolutely no one is upset with the $26 million of dead cap for Russell Wilson 10 months later.

So there is evidence of this organization acting boldly in recent years.  They need to do it again in 2023.

This offseason, the team stands at the threshold of a completely new era of Seahawks football.  More options are open to them than ever before.

Money is not the problem.  Draft capital is not the problem.  Cap room is not the problem.  

In truth it is simply:  Does this organization have both the desire and will to act?  To take bold steps to push this team to the level of being a bona fide Super Bowl contender?

They have a chance to definitively answer that question this offseason.

Fans of all teams absolutely love to speculate about what you can do with a star quarterback on a rookie contract and rightly so.  We should be doing more of that when we talk about Seattle’s future plans.  

If the Seahawks wait until they have had that quarterback on the roster for a couple of seasons and ready to contribute before they start clearing up their finances and planning accordingly, they will not be able to effectively maximize that small window of premium cap room.  

They got a fantastic start in 2022 by making two very tough decisions on popular players and followed it up with a smashing draft class.  I am proposing they do exactly that again this year.

It will take some moves that are very clearly aggressive.  However, the potential reward could be historic:  Completely rebuilding a Championship-worthy roster without the painful experience of several seasons of treading water at the bottom of the NFL hierarchy.