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Why the Seahawks are being sent a message

Tuesday, January 19th, 2021

On Monday, Brandon Marshall said the Saints should trade for Russell Wilson.

A day later, they picked back up on the topic of a possible split between Wilson and the Seahawks.

Marshall states early in the piece: “This is a bigger story than we think.”

I have been saying

This is yet another person in the media — and someone else with connections to the Seahawks/Wilson — talking about a possible trade.

How many more of these segments have to occur before people start taking this subject seriously?

In particular, watch from 3:38 in the video above. Can it be made any clearer what the noise and the feeling is behind closed doors?

This is a very public warning being presented through the media about the direction the Seahawks want to take.

A quick reminder. Three days after Carroll’s final press conference where he spoke of his willingness to win 17-14, stay in the game and keep it tight — Wilson shared a very different vision…

“We’ve got to put our foot down on the gas… I think we should score 24 points before the half, get ahead. We can do that — no matter how we do it. Let’s go win. Let’s start early.”

He went on to discuss game-to-game planning, adjustments and being adaptable.

He reiterated his desire to set passing touchdown records and wanting to try and score 50 (or 60) times next season.

He countered a lot of what Carroll said about needing to run their way out of facing two-deep safety looks. He spoke a lot about the passing game:

“We have to do everything extremely well… if you really want to be a great offense… we have to be able to throw it down the field. We have to have great concepts conceptually in the middle of the field, get the ball out quick… our screen game… up tempo and change the pace.”

If Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer weren’t philosophically aligned, what do you call this? There’s a reason why people like Brandon Marshall are saying what they are saying. Whether you want to embrace it or not — this is probably what Wilson thinks about Carroll’s vision for the offense too.

Wilson also made it very clear he expected to be involved in the hiring of a new offensive coordinator:

“The next 10 years are super critical… and the legacy I want to be able to create and do. It’s vital, critical, super significant that I’m part of this process”

A week on from Schottenheimer’s departure and the Seahawks are being linked with every big name candidate you can imagine. Whether they are capable of landing any of them is debatable to say the least.

Are they paying lip service before a more predictable appointment such as Dave Canales? We’ll see. This is a big call coming up. A lot is at stake here. It’s easier to justify an underwhelming hire if you say to the quarterback — ‘we tried’.

There’s a lot of hope that a Doug Pederson or Mike Kafka type will be coming in. Was it ever realistic? I don’t think so.

My guess is that a lot of the reported ‘talks’ that have been conveniently leaked to the NFL’s in-house media team are an attempt to create the illusion of an exhaustive search. I want to be proven wrong — and will happily write about that if it proves to be the case.

How Wilson would react to an underwhelming appointment, even if the Seahawks claim they tried their best, will be interesting.

I don’t think he’s going anywhere this year. The more I’ve studied the 2021 quarterback class, the less likely I think the Seahawks are to entertain a trade. It’s not that there aren’t talented players available. I’m just not convinced any of them will excite John Schneider.

Unless they have their hand forced and the two parties simply can’t work together any more, I think the status quo will remain. That said — when I see clips like the one above and reflect on all of the noise — I certainly wouldn’t rule anything out. Especially if the Seahawks bring in a coordinator Wilson isn’t impressed with.

The clock is ticking now if they don’t get this appointment right.

And a little media intervention — days after Wilson held his own press conference from Mexico — almost feels like pressure is being applied.

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Curtis Allen’s off-season positional reviews: OL

Monday, January 18th, 2021

This is the second part of a guest-post series written by Curtis Allen

#2 Offensive line

Roster Notes

Players under contract for 2021:

T (2) Duane Brown, Brandon Shell
G (4) Jamarco Jones, Damien Lewis, Phil Haynes, Chance Warmack
C (0)

Players under contract for 2022: Damien Lewis, Phil Haynes

Restricted Free Agents: Will Fuller

Unrestricted Free Agents: Ethan Pocic, Mike Iupati, Cedric Ogbuehi, Chad Wheeler, Alex Boone

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: Jordan Simmons

Futures Contract Signings: Tommy Champion, Brad Lundblade

Salary Cap Notes

2021 Cap Commitment: $22.4 million (12.51% of $178m cap)

Duane Brown has $11m non-guaranteed on his 2021 contract

Brandon Shell has $3.5m non-guaranteed on his 2021 contract

Available Free Agents

2020 Season Overview

The offensive line turned in a solid effort in 2020 all things considered.

Pass pro: They practically duplicated their 2019 stats for sacks, pocket time, and pressures allowed in 2020. However, they maintained those stats while experiencing an 8% increase in pass plays. Add in the frequent factor that the defense knew they are going pass-heavy and they have something to mark up as an accomplishment this season. But they still have a lot of room for improvement, particularly in the interior.

Run game: The team experienced a slight uptick in yards per rush over 2019, from 4.6 to 4.8. That is also laudable given the near-constant rotation of running backs this year due to injuries.

Penalties: The league-wide change in the way holding is called helped this group, no doubt. Still, it’s amazing to think that Duane Brown, Jordan Simmons and Ethan Pocic only recorded one penalty each in the regular season. The most troublesome of the unit was rookie Damien Lewis with nine flags. But even then, he was called six times in the first six games as he adjusted to the NFL. He only had three flags in his last ten games (two of those as emergency center vs Arizona), a nice improvement to list among his many accomplishments.

LT: Duane Brown is still a franchise Left Tackle. He put in a fantastic year for a player of any age. The program the Seahawks put in place to monitor his practice reps seems to both have helped maintain his health and have not negatively affected his play.

LG: Mike Iupati and Jordan Simmons split the majority of snaps in this role. Both played competently, but that is about the best we can say of these two. Iupati was frequently hurt and Simmons was a downgrade when filling in.

C: Ethan Pocic, a pleasant surprise. In the fourth year of a checkered NFL career, he grabbed a hold of the starting job and would not let it go. It is a shame that this is the last season of cost-effective team control but it is rewarding to have a degree of your draft evaluation validated by seeing a high draft pick make good after struggling so hard for so long to get healthy. Only one penalty in 14 full games of work speaks to his play, as does the fact that he rarely got any attention. He made BJ Finney expendable, which in turn allowed the Seahawks to make the defensive line better by shipping him to Cincinnati in exchange for Carlos Dunlap.
The excitement of the surprise should not overshadow the fact that he did not have an exceptional season. At times he struggled with the physicality of the opposition and that has always been a challenge for him.

RG: Damien Lewis has locked down the right guard job for the next few years. A sterling draft pick and a great example of a quality player you can get beyond the first round. The somewhat surprise cut of DJ Fluker was quickly forgotten once training camp started in earnest. Lewis claimed the job and there was no question he would be the guy at RG.

RT: Brandon Shell might be the best free agent pickup of 2020 for the Seahawks. As a replacement for Germain Ifedi he dramatically improved the right tackle spot — far exceeding low expectations after a dreary season in New York. He will be 29 in 2021 and on the last year of his contract.

Depth: Cedric Ogbuehi turned in a couple of very solid starting performances filling in for Shell at RT, particularly in the Washington game against one of the NFL’s best defensive lines. Oddly enough considering his athletic abilities, the team rarely used him as a jumbo TE in the package they employed frequently with George Fant in 2019. Perhaps they have phased it out of the offense, or perhaps they wanted to protect his health.

Jamarco Jones filled in at various spots around the line and while he is not a ‘super sub’ that can walk in and immediately maintain the level of the starters, the drop off is not of such magnitude that the Seahawks would not want to enjoy a versatile player that is both experienced and cost-controlled some more.

Phil Haynes once again could not stay healthy in 2020. He will try again in 2021.
Chance Warmack opted out and his contract rolled forward to 2021. Who knows if he can contribute anything. Alex Boone unretired and was on the practice squad for a cup of coffee at the end of the season.

Offseason Questions to Address

1. Who will start at Center and Left Guard?

The two tackle spots and one guard spot are locked for 2021 and that is a great place to start but the interior of the line needs addressing.

Starters Ethan Pocic and Mike Iupati are unrestricted free agents. The Seahawks have in-house options at LG in Phil Haynes. Jordan Simmons is an exclusive rights free agent and an easy choice to re-sign. He can play either guard position, has continuity with this team and has started at times. Cheap experienced depth is never a bad thing. But is he starter quality? He has shown some good play at times, but he must improve in order to break through.

They also have a minor option at center. They could tender RFA Will Fuller and lock in some depth immediately so they can explore the draft and the free agent market and then either release him or negotiate his contract down when they have a clearer picture of the line’s makeup.

Placing faith that all three of those players can be starters in 2021 is not a realistic option. Haynes and Simmons have complicated injury histories and Fuller lacks experience. They could start in 2021 but they would need to be mighty impressive and win the job in camp. The Seahawks will not go all offseason without adding depth and competition at these spots.

Pocic is a very intriguing situation. Making good in the final year of his rookie deal, with 14 starts, he could be a very attractive option for an enterprising team with some cap room. What is his value on the market? Is there potential for more improvement? Would a one-year deal with a nice raise for a decent season work for both sides? Or will the team go in another direction?

Carroll did hint near the end of the year that Damien Lewis could play center for them in the future. Lewis apparently made that good of an impression spot starting in the Arizona game with zero career center experience at any level. But do they really want to disrupt Lewis’ progress in 2021?

What about old friend Justin Britt? He came in for a workout last year after being cut. Would he be willing to come back in 2021?

Iupati will be 34 and with his injury history is probably looking at affordable one-year contracts from here on out if he wants to keep playing. The Seahawks had a $2.5m cap hit on him in 2020 but protected themselves quite a bit with roster incentives, per game bonuses and only $200k in guaranteed money. If he wants to keep playing it is very likely the Seahawks would sign him for another 1-year deal at similar or less money for depth. They value the toughness and experience he brings to the line. He pairs well with Brown and could be helpful breaking in a new center.

It would not be a stretch given their budget constraints to imagine Iupati, Simmons and Haynes all in competition for the job and rotated in as needed again in 2021.
However, Pete Carroll expressed in his end of year press conference that left guard is an area for improvement next year. Whether that is seeking options in the draft or spending some money in free agency remains to be seen.

But they do have depth in house.

2. How much does Duane Brown have left?

He has been outstanding since he arrived in Seattle. Any fan will tell you — the gap after Russell Okung and before Duane Brown was not pretty. It was hard to imagine Russell Wilson staying healthy long-term. Enter the ‘water buffalo’ as the coaching staff perfectly styled him. The Seahawks paid a high price in trade but the return has been outstanding. With Brown, they have been able to consider the left side locked down.

The Seahawks have tailored a specialized training and practice regimen just for him and it has kept him fresh. But he will be 36 when the season starts. It is fair to ask how much longer he wants to play.

The contract — he has just 2021 left at a $13.35 million cap number. $11m of that is non-guaranteed salary, so they have options. If he were to retire right now, they would just eat the $2.35m or so on the cap and that would free up the $11m.

But if he signals to the team that he would like to continue playing, an extension would be beneficial for both parties. The Seahawks could adjust his deal to free up some 2021 cap room and lock in a cornerstone piece of their offense.

What would an extension look like? Likely it would be a three-year deal that takes him to his age 39 season. The third year would be completely non-guaranteed salary and would allow both parties to have a mutual conversation after two seasons.

Andrew Whitworth signed a 3 year $30m deal with $12.5m guaranteed at age 38 earlier this year. That is probably the starting point in discussions for a possible extension.

3. The Seahawks need to address the future of the tackle position. Soon.

It is a great feeling to go into a season with successful bookend tackles slotted into your starting roles and the Seahawks will have that good feeling going into 2021. But as of this moment, both of those players are out of contract in 2022.

It is time to start thinking about the long-term future of the position. One of the great benefits of addressing it while you have starters in place is you are not forced to negotiate in trade from a position of need, nor be tempted to reach in the draft when you know there are better players at other positions available.

Some felt like the 2020 offseason matched up very well with the Seahawks in this area. In a draft considered well stocked with quality tackle prospects, the Seahawks had a nice stable of picks to take advantage and set themselves up for the future. But they chose to address other positions.

They can ignore the position again in 2021 if they like but the price will very likely be jeopardizing future offensive functionality and risking the health of their star quarterback, followed by another expensive trade to bring in a player to get the offense back on schedule.

Would they consider extending Shell after a very nice season?

Does Cedric Ogbuehi have a future at a starting position? Pete Carroll has raved about his athleticism. They gave him a healthy raise to play for them on a one-year contract in 2020. Was that an audition for a bigger role? Extending him needs to be seriously considered.

Is there another diamond in the rough Brandon Shell type free agent out there to be had?

Rob’s Draft Position Overview and Potential Seahawks Targets

Alex Leatherwood is a tough, physical player who shares some similarities to Duane Brown. He’s not going to test brilliantly but his physique and attitude make up for it. Tony Pauline thinks he’s a top-20 pick, others like Todd McShay grade him in round three. If he’s available he could start at left guard and eventually move to tackle.

Aaron Banks is a terrific left guard with fantastic size, mobility and he fits what the Seahawks look for at the position. I think he’s a top-50 talent but I also said that about Damien Lewis and he lasted into round three.

Landon Dickerson could’ve been a top-50 pick if it wasn’t for the injuries. He’s had a long list of issues dating back to his time at Florida State and he injured his knee in the SEC Championship this season. Nevertheless, this could simply provide the Seahawks with an opportunity to get value. He’s a heart-and-soul player with great athleticism and tenacity.

Creed Humphrey is a tenacious center, loves to drive defenders to the turf, is adept at progressing to the second level and he easily passes off players to combo block. Wyatt Davis and Josh Myers at Ohio State are highly talented but should be off the board in the top-40.

For more on the draft please check out my interview with NC State’s Alim McNeill:

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What I think the Seahawks’ off-season plan should be

Sunday, January 17th, 2021

This feels like a make or break off-season for Pete Carroll & John Schneider

One of the confounding things about the Seahawks is their complete clarity on what they want to be and the confusing way they go about constructing their team.

Last off-season was a classic example, when the primary desire to ‘fix the pass rush’ was inadequately addressed.

It goes further than that though. The Seahawks have needed a franchise runner since Marshawn Lynch moved on. They desperately want to run the ball well.

Due to the regression in value at the position, they’ve been well placed to tap into a rich pool of talent over the years. Many of the leagues top current running backs were right there for them in the draft, ready to provide great value.

Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Dalvin Cook, Jonathan Taylor, Alvin Kamara…

Yet the one they’ve taken early, the one they drafted in the first round, is Rashaad Penny. Of all the names they’ve passed on, he was the person they pulled the trigger on. A one-year starter at San Diego State who hasn’t once looked like a feature runner, even when healthy.

They’re also so inconsistent. They overpay some players and lowball others.

They’ll conservatively address some key positions (often the D-line and O-line) then spend two first round picks, a third rounder and a veteran player on a safety.

In 2020 they spent $25m of their cap on two linebackers, then drafted a third with their first round pick.

So will the Seahawks finally this year just do what they need to do? Set a priority and go for it? Do what appears to be the obvious thing?

Here’s my outline of a plan…

1. Prioritise the offensive line

It’s fair to say they want to run an offense similar to the Cleveland Browns. Physical up front, prolific running, point guard quarterback and explosive plays.

One of the big reasons why the Browns can do this is because they’ve invested in their O-line.

They brought in Jack Conklin at right tackle (there’s a thought). They paid decent money to Joel Bitonio and J.C. Tretter. They spent a high pick on Jedrick Wills.

They are big, tough, physical and brilliant. They are the first team in PFF’s history to grade #1 in pass and run blocking.

Seattle’s approach to the offensive line has been wildly inconsistent. Pete Carroll’s first draft pick in Seattle was Russell Okung, taken #6 overall. Their first round pick in 2011 was also an offensive lineman (James Carpenter).

When they won the Super Bowl in 2013 they had the most expensive line in the NFL.

Then they went in the opposite direction as they tried to save money in order to pay a cluster of star players at other positions. Okung was eventually replaced by the likes of Bradley Sowell and George Fant. Players like Drew Nowak and Lemuel Jeanpierre took turns to replace Max Unger.

They had to make a saving somewhere and the approach was understandable even if it didn’t work.

But when they started to re-invest in the line, they squandered money on Luke Joeckel and J’Marcus Webb. They failed to develop Germain Ifedi, who cost a first round pick.

The arrival of Mike Solari steadied the ship — as did the Duane Brown trade (one of John Schneider’s best deals). The line play has improved without ever being dominant.

It’s time to try and achieve ‘dominant’.

That means adding real quality, experience, size and toughness.

Brown has one more year left on his contract (and they’ll be praying he continues into 2022, given they don’t have a first round pick for two years). Damien Lewis had a positive first year and Brandon Shell tied down the right hand side of the line before his ankle injury.

The stop-gap signings at guard of Mike Iupati, D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy were fine for the time and Jordan Simmons is OK as a backup.

However, Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney are reaching free agency. Both will command a lot of interest. They are quality players — the type that would fit in perfectly next to Brown and make Seattle’s O-line a real plus point on the roster.

Scherff was PFF’s #4 ranked guard this year (86.3) behind only Zack Martin, Quenton Nelson and Wyatt Teller.

He’s listed as PFF’s #9 best free agent for 2021 with a projected salary of $15m a year:

One of the most dependable guards in the league, Scherff has never posted a PFF grade below 72.5 in his six-year NFL career. Over the last three seasons, Scherff ranks among the league’s best guards in nearly every key metric, including a 97th percentile ranking on true pass sets and 90th percentile ranking in percentage of positively graded plays. Both numbers are among the most important when projecting interior offensive linemen from year to year. In the run game, Scherff can do it all, showing the power at the point of attack and the quickness to make any block in space. He’s also one of the most polished pass protectors in the league

Joe Thuney was ranked 10th (74.2) by PFF and is their #14 overall free agent, estimated to earn $14.25m a year:

Thuney has yet to miss a game in his five-year career while showing continual improvement. He transitioned smoothly from college offensive tackle to left guard, showing well in New England’s versatile run scheme. In pass protection, Thuney struggled with power players early in his career, but he’s improved every season and his 88.0 pass-blocking grade ranked third among guards in 2019. Thuney ranks in the 83rd percentile in overall pass-blocking grade since entering the league, though that drops to the 70th percentile when isolated to true pass sets, showing that there has been some protection for him in the New England scheme. Regardless, Thuney has developed into one of the best guards in the game and should fit in well in any system.

Other cheaper options include Trai Turner and Gabe Jackson (expected to be cut by the Chargers and Raiders respectively).

But the Seahawks need quality — and quality costs money.

At center, they stumbled into Ethan Pocic starting after free agent addition B.J. Finney underwhelmed. Pocic received a 59.8 PFF grade for the reason — ranked 26th among centers. He played at a below average level and there’s an opportunity to upgrade at the position.

Alex Mack is 35-years-old now but for years he’s been a quality starting center. Imagine a Brown-Scherff-Mack-Lewis-Shell combo. That’d go some way to creating the kind of platform needed to run Seattle’s desired offense. New England’s David Andrews and Green Bay’s Corey Linsley are alternative options.

It won’t be cheap but look — if you want to run this offense, that’s where you need to invest. If it means having to find cheaper solutions at cornerback and not being able to re-sign K.J. Wright — so be it. If they need to create funds, get it done.

The Seahawks need to prioritise where they’re spending their money.

They also need to keep adding talent and competition via the draft.

Notre Dame’s Aaron Banks would be a great option at left guard and could be available in round two. Alex Leatherwood — who recently accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl — is very capable of being a superb left guard and could switch back to left tackle down the line. Some think he’s a first round lock, others see him in round three. It’ll be interesting to see where he lands.

Ohio State duo Josh Myers and Wyatt Davis will, unfortunately, likely be long gone by Seattle’s picks. Oklahoma center Creed Humphrey could be in range — he plays with great physicality, violent hands and he finishes blocks. He’s adept at reaching up to the second level and passing off blocks too.

Why not invest in an experienced center like Mack and then monitor the stock of Alabama center Landon Dickerson? If he drops due to injury issues, he could be worth a shot as a long-term heir apparent.

Either way — the key to progress will largely depend on their ability to play far better on both sides of the line. If they want to do what the Rams did in the Wildcard round, they need to pump their resources here, not elsewhere.

2. Draft a lead runner

Chris Carson has the talent to be a top five running back. Unfortunately, he just can’t stay healthy.

The Seahawks can’t afford to pay him starter money to manage his snaps. The only way he can return is as part of a two-headed monster — where he’s at best an equal partner. Kareem Hunt is much more durable and he’s on $6m a year in Cleveland in a similar role. Carson, if he returns, shouldn’t expect that.

If he does come back, you still need someone to carry the bulk of the load.

There are options in the draft where you could address the needs on the O-line and at running back. Yet with only one pick in the first three rounds, you’re going to need to combine free agency and the draft to get everything done.

To me, that means proven quality and experience up front and freshness and talent at running back. More Duane Brown and Carson instead of Germain Ifedi and Eddie Lacy.

There aren’t a ton of running backs who look like they ‘fit’ what Seattle needs and they’re not going to be in range for the two big name runners (Najee Harris, Travis Etienne).

That doesn’t matter because North Carolina’s Javonte Williams is exactly what they need, in a range where he could be available.

PFF gave him a 95.9 rushing grade — the highest of the 2020 season and the best they’ve ever recorded at the running back position.

He ranked #1 in the NCAA for broken tackle rate (46.5%).

Williams is an easy assessment from a Seahawks perspective. He has the exact style they crave and the talent and toughness to lead this offense.

You don’t need to be an expert to see him rip through tackles, finish runs, run over defenders and provide options in the passing game to know this is a highly talented player who Carroll will love.

Williams and Carson (at the right price) running behind a line with a couple of big name additions would give the Seahawks a chance to achieve the offense they crave.

If Carson moves on, they should try and bring back Mike Davis. He was superb filling in during his last spell in Seattle. He did an excellent job carrying the load for the Panthers in Christian McCaffrey’s absence. Davis is a great option to be RB2.

Last year there were a whole bunch of quality running backs available from pick #32 to #66. We spent considerable time discussing all of the names — knowing full well Carson’s contract was expiring (not to mention he was coming off a serious hip injury).

The Seahawks passed on the lot — saying no to Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor, D’Andre Swift, J.K. Dobbins, Cam Akers, Antonio Gibson and AJ Dillon.

Think of all the other players they’ve passed on over the years too — Nick Chubb, Derrick Henry, Alvin Kamara.

It’s quite incredible, really, that for a team who values the position so much — they’ve missed on so many good runners only to spend their high picks at the position on Rashaad Penny and Christine Michael.

They’ve put themselves in a bind as a consequence because there’s absolutely no way they can ‘get by’ with Carlos Hyde types again in 2021, then needing to roll out Alex Collins and Bo Scaraborough off the street because they don’t trust Deejay Dallas and Travis Homer to carry the load.

If any team needs talent and depth at this position it’s Seattle. So they need to get a quality lead back this off-season.

3. Add someone who can help you convert third downs

Pete Carroll rightly identified third downs as a problem in 2020. The Seahawks didn’t get anywhere near enough production out of their tight ends (especially for the price they were paying) and they badly lacked a dynamic third receiver.

One of these areas needs to be addressed. It’s hard because the draft could provide solutions at the skill positions and the O-line. With only one pick in the first couple of days, however, they are painfully limited.

That’s why I think they need to make some difficult decisions this off-season, rather than kid themselves that a few cheap additions will be enough. I’ll come onto that in a moment.

If they had their first round pick they might’ve had a shot at Jaylen Waddle — who could last due to his ankle injury. Failing that, Elijah Moore and Tutu Atwell are both dynamic players perfectly suited to the slot.

I’m not sure Tylan Wallace or Chris Olave will run fast enough for the Seahawks (4.4 threshold) but they have move-the-chains ability.

There are a handful of appealing tight ends. I think Pat Freiermuth is a top-40 pick with the potential to be one of the NFL’s most dynamic TE’s. His size, mobility, body control to contort and make difficult grabs and the way he glides into holes in coverage make him a player to seriously covet. Tony Pauline currently grades him in the late 50’s on his big board. If he’s there, I think you have to consider him. Whether the Seahawks do or not will depend on his agility testing and what else they get done in free agency.

Brevin Jordan has great athleticism and pass-catching ability. He can be a mismatch weapon and red zone dynamo. Ole Miss’ Kenny Yeboah also had an impressive season and is a seam-busting big target.

The problem is the Seahawks have never truly worked out how to get the best out of a tight end in the Carroll era. Whoever comes in as the new coordinator should be challenged to change that.

If only they had the picks to be able to come out of this draft selecting from the likes of Leatherwood, Banks, Freiermuth, Williams, Waddle, Moore, and others.

In terms of free agents, Hunter Henry will likely be costly and the Seahawks can’t afford to squander another $10m like they did with Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister.

At receiver there are intriguing names but it seems improbable they’ll be in Seattle’s price range. Will Fuller stands out but should get handsomely paid. JuJu Smith-Schuster will also have a strong market. Allen Robinson will get paid too.

Sammy Watkins and Curtis Samuel could be more affordable but will still warrant a reasonable price tag.

John Ross might be the best combination of speed, price range and upside. He’d be a nice reclamation project if they need to use their resources elsewhere.

4. Have uncomfortable conversations about where you’re investing your money

The Seahawks don’t have a lot of cap space. Over the Cap says they have about $6.3m in effective cap space. That would rise if the cap doesn’t drop as low as their estimated $176m.

The entire NFL is going through a financial crunch. While the Seahawks aren’t $99m in the red like the Saints, they’re going to have to adjust and work within a new Covid-impacted economy.

For what it’s worth, I think the NFL needs a contingency plan for the next two years. Half the league is facing a cap crisis and unless they want the veteran market to collapse, they’ll have to act.

Even so, the Seahawks are already paying Russell Wilson $35m a year and Bobby Wagner $18m a year. Realistically, it’s going to cost between $18-20m a year to extend Jamal Adams.

Personally, I don’t think you can afford to pay those three players $70-75m of your cap space. If it was Patrick Mahomes, Aaron Donald and Myles Garrett — it’d be a different story.

The Seahawks need to be honest with themselves and ask some difficult questions:

— Is Jamal Adams worth extending?

Nobody is saying Adams is a bad player. This is purely about value. You could argue no safety is worth $18-20m a year. But the fact is Adams was ranked as PFF’s 45th best safety in 2020. His coverage grade was a miserable 52.5. The Seahawks had to blitz him 98 times in 12 games to manufacture production to justify the deal.

People often mention the sacks to promote Adams’ play. Watch this clip from Hugh Millen. It explains why the sack numbers are such a red herring:

I’ve never been a fan of this trade and I don’t think a huge new contract, negotiated with the player having all the leverage, is the best investment for the Seahawks long term. For me, they would be better off trading him and trying to get some draft stock back — then exploring the market for free agents Keanu Neal, Malik Hooker and Marcus Maye. Failing that, they should just start Marquise Blair (who Carroll raves about and who they already spent a second round pick on).

The alternative is you pay him a mega-deal this off-season.

A lot of people think he’ll be happy to play on the fifth year of his rookie contract in 2021. My answer to that is — I have some magic beans to sell you. Hold-out city will be the next stop with no new contract.

Pay him or trade him. They have the same choice the Jets had last year.

The Rams just whipped the Seahawks on both sides of the line because their O-line played better and their D-line could rush consistently with four. Seattle would be better off using that $18-20m a year on the trenches. Personally, I’d rather pay Leonard Williams than Jamal Adams. I’d rather pay Brandon Scherff and bring in Keanu Neal for $20m combined. And you’d have your draft stock.

If they’re hell bent on keeping Adams (I fear that they are) — then they need to consider savings elsewhere. There’s no room for pride here though. They made the trade and took a shot — that’s absolutely fine. Sometimes you need to know when to fold and cut your losses. They should trade Jamal Adams.

— Is Bobby Wagner still worth the money?

He was named an All-pro this season and he was still Seattle’s highest graded defender according to PFF. Wagner remains a quality middle linebacker. He isn’t worth $18m a year though.

Here are the leading linebacker contracts in the NFL:

Bobby Wagner — $18m
C.J. Mosley — $17m
Zach Cunningham — $14.5m
Myles Jack — $14.25m
Deion Jones — $14.25m
Shaq Thompson — $13.6m
Corey Littleton — $11.75m
Jaylon Smith — $11.4m

There’s a reasonable chance the Jets will dispense of Mosley. They’d get out of that contract tomorrow if they could. Wagner is currently earning millions more than the other highly paid players at his position.

He reset the market and seems to have created a ceiling for the position too.

Wagner’s qualities remain his athleticism, instinct and knowledge. There weren’t many times when he laid anyone out with a booming hit in 2020 though. Neither did he produce a high number of sacks or turnovers.

For $18m a year it’s not unfair to expect more. That’s game-winner money. Wagner is more of a quality, steady, reliable leader these days.

The only real option for the Seahawks is to extend his contract — but that will only push the problem further down the line. Unfortunately I think they’re more or less stuck for now, carrying his mega-deal. Yet at least you know he’s going to be consistent and will be available. That’s why, given the choice, they’re probably better off biting the bullet on Adams if they need to move someone.

Plus, Adams is more likely to have a trade market due to his age.

— Can you justify Russell Wilson’s contract?

For me, it comes down to this. If you want Russell Wilson to be the focal point of your entire team — then you can easily justify his salary. But you should also be investing all of your resources in a quality O-line and a wide variety of weapons.

You need to appoint an offensive coordinator whose vision chimes with Wilson’s and then you should let them both get on with it. You should be seeking your own version of the Reid/Mahomes partnership.

The thing is, the Seahawks don’t appear to be doing that. They appear to be set on Pete Carroll determining what the offense is and appointing a coordinator who will do whatever Carroll wants.

We’ve seen a decade of football under this regime with three different coordinators. The offense has never been particularly creative or unique. It was at its best when Marshawn Lynch, a legendary player, was leading the way. Demanding attention, dictating to opponents. Creating opportunities.

Since he moved on, they’ve only ever played in fits and starts. They’ve often relied on Wilson magic rather than intricate game-planning. When’s the last time the Seahawks out-schemed a division rival?

Listening to Carroll and Wilson’s end-of-season press conferences, it’s clear they are in no way philosophically aligned.

Neither have they been particularly successful since Wilson moved away from his rookie contract. They’ve won plenty of games but they’ve been playoff also-rans for the last six years.

Now is the time to commit to Wilson being the focal point, or consider a change of direction. Not next year — they need to make that call right now.

You’re just about to appoint a new coordinator. This is the make or break moment. Are you going to get the man who connects everyone together — coach, quarterback, schemer — or are you going to ignore Wilson’s wants and wishes and force him to play in an offense he seemingly doesn’t believe in?

The quarterback mentioned how significant this appointment was for the future of the franchise. He was being deadly serious.

If you don’t want to bring in someone with that connecting ability — there’s little point keeping a disillusioned $35m quarterback. You might as well invest that money elsewhere and go in a different direction.

Reportedly plenty of folk in Miami aren’t convinced by Tua Tagovailoa. The Dolphins are ready to compete but are missing a quality, proven quarterback.

Trading him to Miami could appeal to both parties. It’s a big market. They’re not a basket case. They have the draft stock. You could net #3 and #18 plus something in 2022.

There are some rookie quarterbacks in this class with talent who might be able to run what is essentially a not altogether complex offensive vision. You’ve got Zach Wilson and Justin Fields early, then the likes of Davis Mills, Mac Jones and Kellen Mond later.

Alternatively, you go out and trade for Marcus Mariota or sign Alex Smith.

You eat the cap hit in 2021 and structure your new contracts with lower year-one hits. You invest that $35m in your O-line and defense. You have a much cheaper, point-guard quarterback and you beat teams up in the running game and with your defense.

If the Seahawks are going to have a $35m a year quarterback, they should be building around him and bringing in an offensive coordinator specifically to get the best of Wilson for the next few years. The target should be a similar impact to what we’re seeing with Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers.

The best solution is to find common ground with the quarterback, get everyone on the same page and build something. If that means Carroll taking a step back, he should do it.

If they’re going to appoint a Pete Carroll ‘yes-man’ offensive coordinator, they need to ask whether that $35m is best spent on one player to continue getting the same results year after year, or whether it’s better spread across other areas of the roster.

Of the three options I think trading Jamal Adams for whatever they can get — even if it’s a discount of one first round pick and maybe a mid-rounder in 2022 — would be wise. They cannot afford to pay him $18-20m a year and plug their holes with $2m one-year bargain bin signings.

5. Be honest regarding your own players

There’s no doubt that Shaquill Griffin is well liked by the Seahawks. He’s also a reasonable player — but nothing more.

In March 2017, prior to Seattle’s reset, Michael Lombardi touted the possibility of Richard Sherman departing a year before he was cut:

“I think Seattle really thought twice about paying Richard Sherman. They felt they had to when they won the Super Bowl. Now their cap’s kind of a mess and they need to fix it so I think the reason they need to fix it is because they put all that money in the corner position in a defense where, we feel you can draft players that fit that scheme. Seattle did it, they’ve done it over and over again.

“…the scheme in Seattle allows you to find corners especially size/speed corners of which there’s a bundle of them in this draft that can play deep third of the defense, they’ll tackle and they can play within the scheme.”

It speaks to where the Seahawks once were — believing they could drop cornerbacks into their system and draft to develop. For years that was the case, until they hit a wall.

Yet the recent success stories of D.J. Reed and Jeremy Lane suggest all is not completely lost. They’ve also turned Ugo Amadi into a useful nickel.

Griffin is the kind of player who was perfectly adequate starting as a third round rookie on a cheap contract. He’s also not the kind of player who deserves a big salary going forward to be a core member of the team.

Griffin’s PFF grade in 2019 was a 77.0 with a 76.0 coverage grade. He slid to 64.1 and 63.6 respectively in 2020. He just hasn’t ever really developed into a consistently above average player.

Reed’s emergence is a god send really. Moving on from Griffin a few weeks ago likely would’ve meant needing to find two new cornerbacks. Now, they can sit on Reed’s $920,000 for 2021 and see where they are in 12 months.

With Griffin, they have to be willing to let the market dictate his future. If someone is willing to pay him millions — you have to let him walk. The Seahawks need be as strict with Griffin as they have been with other free agents in recent years.

In terms of a replacement, I wrote in November that it’s time to bring back Richard Sherman. That deal likely won’t be cheap either. However, Sherman is simply a better player. He knows the scheme. He would provide toughness and quality to the secondary. Reuniting with him would give everyone a needed lift.

They could then try to develop a replacement behind him. And who better to teach the intricacies of the scheme and the position than Sherm?

Admittedly, they’d need to free up resources for this. That’s why they have to make some tough decisions.

Being ruthless with their own free agents needs to stretch further than Griffin, too. A year ago they wasted so much money on average restricted free agents. It was a complete waste to commit $4.2m to Branden Jackson and Joey Hunt, only to cut the pair to save money weeks later. It wasn’t necessary to pay Greg Olsen $7m and then commit $3.2m to Jacob Hollister.

It’s time to let some of these depth players hit the market. If you can get them for a veteran minimum, great. They are not worth $2-3m on RFA contracts though.

If they want to create great depth and competition — use the draft and don’t toss away your draft picks with a short-term mindset.

Sadly, they also need to be realistic on K.J. Wright. He’s a legendary Seahawk who deserves to be remembered among the all-time greats — he had a superb 2020 season. Yet he’s already making noises to Josina Anderson that he expects a good contract to match his efforts.

The simple fact is the Seahawks used a first round pick on a linebacker a year ago and they’re already paying Bobby Wagner $18m a year. They can ill-afford to pay Wright anything close to his $10m 2020 salary if they want to fill other holes.

Concluding thoughts

I think this piece highlights how far away the Seahawks truly are and how little resource they have left. A 12-4 record looks good on paper — but the Seahawks only beat two playoff teams in 2020 (7-9 Washington and the LA Rams, who then dumped them out of the post season). If you’re willing to be honest about the situation, the Seahawks are a long way off the Packers, Bills, Chiefs and Saints teams this year.

It’s also concerning to hear a lot of contentment about this season rather than some honesty about where they are. That’s before we even get into the fact that this team simply isn’t creative enough schematically — and hasn’t been for years under Carroll’s leadership. They don’t game plan properly game-to-game and sticking with a ‘we are who we are’ mentality means they become predictable as the season goes on.

An aggressive off-season is required — with tough decisions made on who to keep, who to sacrifice and the ways to create more flexibility in terms of picks and salary.

They should be asking internally whether they’re better off paying Jamal Adams $18-20m a year and having no first round pick in 2021 or 2022 — or are they better off cutting their losses and paying Keanu Neal (arguably a better scheme fit) $5m (his projected salary by PFF) to start as a free agent.

They need to determine that they are better off making a significant addition to the offensive line rather than trying to fill holes with a rookie or another B.J. Finney type.

It’s been eight years since the Seahawks under Carroll and Schneider had a fantastic off-season. They’ve become a mix of overly conservative and overly aggressive — when making the seemingly obvious moves over the years would’ve produced better results.

There shouldn’t be any Darrell Taylor or Jamal Adams-esque desperation trades. They shouldn’t be entering a bidding war for a 35-year-old tight end who is considering retirement. They shouldn’t be penny pinching on the O-line rather than making firm investments in players with proven quality, such as Jack Conklin.

The last off-season was a mess frankly — leading to a predictable outcome. The 2021 off-season will be an indicator on whether they learnt from that experience — or whether they are doomed to continue making the same mistakes.

You want to believe in this team to address their issues and take a step forward. Unfortunately, there have just been too many Eddie Lacy’s, Luke Joeckel’s, Rashaad Penny’s and L.J. Collier’s, botched attempts to fix the pass rush and squandering of resources to have much confidence that 2021 will be any different.

The Seahawks have become a team that makes up the numbers in the post-season — with one victory in four years. There’s a growing apathy among a section of fans and a diminishing belief that they can return to serious contention for a Super Bowl.

This is a franchise that has sought to excite and get people dreaming in the Carroll era. That fire is dying, currently. For the first time in a long time, there’s a serious discussion about whether the right people are running the team.

They need to reignite things with an off-season that simply makes sense. An off-season that is pro-active to fix the issues in the trenches. An off-season that reconnects the quarterback and the coaching staff on the offensive vision — and justifies the massive investment in Russell Wilson. An off-season that avoids waste.

You can quickly get things back on track. Just ask the Packers. But you have to make things happen, make tough decisions and go for it.

Over to you, Carroll and Schneider…

Please check out my interview with NC State’s Alim McNeill if you get a chance:

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Curtis Allen’s off-season positional reviews: QB

Saturday, January 16th, 2021

This is the start of a guest-post series written by Curtis Allen

#1 Quarterback

Players under contract for 2021: Russell Wilson

Players under contract for 2022: Russell Wilson

2021 Cap Commitment: $32,000,000 (18% of $178m cap)

Restricted Free Agents: none

Unrestricted Free Agents: Geno Smith

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: none

Futures Contract Signings: Danny Etling, Alex McGough

Salary Cap Notes:

Russell Wilson signed through 2023 season

-Currently $7m cap hit if cut or traded before 2021 ($39m dead money)

-$11m savings if cut or traded before 2022 ($26m dead money)

-$26m savings if cut or traded before 2023 ($13m dead money)

He has been amenable to a contract restructure to acquire other players in the past

Available Free Agents

2020 Season Overview

The basics:

-He started all 16 games for the ninth season in a row. He’s been incredibly durable.

-Wilson had career-highs in passing attempts, touchdowns, first downs and QBR.

-His completion percentage of 68.8 was also a career high.

-He was not supported by his teammates all that well. The team had 27 dropped passes this year — a big increase from the 18 in 2019 and the 17 in 2018. Catch six of those 27 drops and Russell hits the magic 70% completion rate number.

-He also had a career-high in interceptions.

-He was sacked 47 times, his third-worst season to date.

-His rushing and passing yards accounted for 75% of the Seahawks’ offensive yardage in 2020 – about the same as 2019 (74.3%).

The numbers on the whole do not look all that bad but a deeper dive reveals how bewildering a season it was for Russell:

After only three games, he had fourteen touchdowns and only one interception. In the final eight games, he recorded twelve touchdowns and had five interceptions.

What happened?

Weeks nine and ten might be the worst two game stretch of Russell’s career. In those demoralizing losses the Bills and Rams, Russell was fighting the scoreboard the whole game. The opposing offense ran up 17 points in each game very quickly to put a lot of pressure on the offense.

As a consequence he was sacked eleven times, had an incredible seven turnovers and only two touchdown passes. It was clear that Russell was pressing, constantly hearing pass rush footsteps and trying to do too much. It appeared that defenses had figured out ways to limit this explosive offense.

After those two weeks, Pete Carroll took over the offense and the passing game was significantly reined in.

The offensive play calling and game strategy from then on did not give Russell the best chance for success but even so he constantly seemed to have trouble executing the plays called. He was obviously struggling to find a middle ground between ball security and aggression.

Another factor was the running backs once again missed large chunks of games. Russell was the leading rusher in a full quarter of the games this season and in many others the defense knew they could key on him and not worry about the running game.

In summary, Russell’s year was exhilarating, frustrating and when times were both good and bad, it was far more difficult than it should have been.

The Seahawks have one of the biggest roster assets in the modern game — a franchise quarterback, locked into a contract and in his prime.

One of the strongest points of emphasis for this offseason needs to be, how does he fit this team? And if they deem he is still a fit, how do they assure his continued success?

Offseason Questions to Address

1. Can Pete Carroll and Russell Wilson get on the same page?

It was credibly reported that Russell made a near-ultimatum in the 2020 offseason to let him be more aggressive passing the ball early in the game. The Seahawks apparently heeded the request and the results were amazing to watch early on.

But as the season wore on, the team came back to the more conservative approach that Pete Carroll favors. Carroll then in his season ending press conference dropped two big pieces of information — that he had reined in the offense to limit turnovers and had no problem with low scoring wins. Then he stated his main offensive goal for 2021 was to run the ball more.

The next day Brian Schottenheimer and the Seahawks parted ways, citing ‘philosophical differences’.

It seems evident those differences were in play during the season and Russell was caught in the middle, trying to reconcile them in real time on the field. Absent a consistent running game and above-average pass protection, the results were a seriously mixed bag.

He was trying to run the offense, protect a porous defense and keep two coaches with unaligned principles unified. That is just too many fronts to be fighting a war on. His play evidenced a mental fatigue.

There must be a meeting of the minds some time this offseason. Can Russell and Pete find a middle ground in their choice of offensive coordinator? Can they agree on core concepts that can both inform their personnel choices and get the offense working properly?

When Pete was pontificating about his run heavy philosophy in the end of season conference, he tossed in an offhanded “..and Russ knows this” comment. Pete has definitely thrown the gauntlet down — between his conference and the parting of ways with an offensive coordinator who helped Russell have his best years as a pro.

Russell then had his own press conference, where he expressed (very positively and diplomatically) a different vision for the offense.

Does Russell really understand the depth of Pete’s conviction? He said they’ve talked extensively but have they really had a heart to heart and come to an understanding about the way to offensive success with this team?

If they cannot come to a middle ground, will Russell still want to play within the bounds of Pete Carroll’s coaching?

Stay tuned.

2. What kind of roster support will the team give Russ?

Let’s assume that Russ is on the team in 2021.

They have several decisions to make at the running back position, and obviously they will affect the play of the quarterback.

Chris Carson is an unrestricted free agent. Do they bring him back? He actually proved to be a weapon in the passing game in 2020 as well. He caught four touchdown passes.

How about the center and left guard positions? They were adequate in 2020 but not sparkling. Would some cap dollars spent there give him better protection against the tough interior defensive lineman in the division and allow them to rein back the insane amount of pressure to be a one-man offense he felt this season?

And what about the defense? It could be argued that with Lockett, Metcalf, Penny, Dissly, and Parkinson and then in adding a top running back like Carson, Russ has weapons on offense, and a more consistent vision and game plan that utilizes the talent already in-house could have just as big an effect as adding new personnel.

Therefore, fortifying the defense could in fact be the most sound roster avenue to pursue when considering how to make your quarterback more successful. A stronger defense would give Russ better field position and not put the offense in giant holes to dig out of.

3. What does Russ want?

As a rookie his focus was clear, his intentions were direct and obvious. Success at whatever cost. The only phrase he uttered more often than ‘go hawks’ was ‘no time to sleep’ and ‘the separation is in the preparation.’

It is not easy to reconcile that mindset with what he presents now. The public parts of his life outside of football have grown higher and higher in profile and he seems enamored with them.

There is no questioning he is entitled to a personal life, as we all are. But it’s not unfair to wonder out loud if the volume of content he shows the public is affecting his focus on football.

He recently commented that ‘every minute of his life is scheduled during the regular season.’ Is that healthy and productive?

In 2020 the phrases he talked about changed. He wants to be the ‘best ever’, he wants to be ‘Montana and Rice’ with D.K. Metcalf and there definitely is a desire to be recognized as an MVP.

Let’s take that comparison and run with it a little.

Does Russ understand that Joe Montana only led the league in touchdown passes twice in his career?

The Niners also frequently ran out a top-10 defense during Montana’s prime.

Montana’s most revered quality isn’t his volume of numbers but his ability to marshal his team down the field and consistently be able to make winning plays in the face of massive pressure – does Russell get that?

Where is this all leading? He wants to win, there’s no doubt about that. He named his newborn son ‘Win’ this year. Does he really want to stay in Seattle and make a legacy here?

Will his preference to run a more up-tempo offense that produces huge numbers outweigh his trust in Pete Carroll to win championships with his chosen style?

He is at the peak of his sport. He speaks of having the ‘most touchdowns passes ever’ and winning the ‘most championships ever’. While lofty goals and ambition are highly desirable qualities to have, he may have to one day soon choose between stats and championships. Which will he choose?

4. How big a factor is Russell’s contract?

The guaranteed salary portion of his contract has completed but the balance of the $65million signing bonus still needs to be accounted for.

If the team were to trade Russell, there would be a balance of $39million in dead money that would hit the 2021 salary cap (or put another way, a $7m cap hit over and above what he is planned for in 2021). This would cut the team’s available cap room down significantly, as well as create a huge roster hole at quarterback.

If Russell decides he cannot play in Seattle in 2021 and requests a trade, the Seahawks would likely have little choice but to honor his request and take the cap hit in order to get max value in return. This would require getting very creative to open the cap room for the hit as well as the salary for his replacement.

What about the Seahawks? How deep is Pete Carroll’s commitment to restoring his vision? Would they be so bold as to take the initiative and trade Russell Wilson away?

Paying a quarterback top wages to run a ball control offense predicated on establishing the run has never made logical sense to many. But Pete has found someone that combines skill with grasping his positive-mentality approach, perhaps more closely than any other player he has ever coached.

Couple that with the fact he has had so much success with Russell, it would appear unlikely that he would initiate such a radical change to the roster at this stage.
But then, trading two first-round picks for a strong safety appeared very unlikely last year, and here we are.

Rob’s thoughts on this draft class and potential Seahawks targets

I think this is a reasonable class of quarterbacks. Trevor Lawrence will go first overall and Zach Wilson and Justin Fields will also go shortly after.

The second tier has talent but question marks. Stanford’s Davis Mills has the big recruiting reputation from a few years ago. Everyone wanted him and his physical profile is seriously underrated. Not many quarterbacks with his frame run a 4.32 short shuttle and jump a 32 inch vertical.

He’s exactly the type of player pro teams covet. Accurate, can make every throw and poised. Don’t be surprised if he goes a lot earlier than people are currently projecting.

Trey Lance had a great 2019 season and has the movement skills and the ability to thrown downfield on the run that is very popular in the NFL these days. Yet his only game in 2020 was a clunker and teams will have to balance out his potential vs reality.

Kellen Mond has fantastic arm strength and can flick the ball downfield with great velocity and little back-lift. There’s a bit of Colin Kaepernick to his frame — although he’s nowhere near as fast as Kaepernick when running. He was a much more consistent player in 2020 and took a big step forward. He has talent.

Mac Jones was prolific for Alabama but he was also surrounded by elite college talent. Whether he has the physical upside to go as early a some are suggesting remains to be seen. He doesn’t have a huge arm and throwing into tighter windows will be a chore at the next level. Yet he can manage an offense and distribute the ball with timing.

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An interview with NC State’s Alim McNeill

Friday, January 15th, 2021

Time for the second instalment of my draft interview series. The first was with Milton Williams at LA Tech. The latest one is with NC State defensive tackle Alim McNeill.

He’s one of my favourite players in this draft class — uniquely athletic for his size, productive and flying under the radar.

My third interview was recorded with Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo yesterday and will be published next week.

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Russell Wilson sends a message

Thursday, January 14th, 2021

Seattle’s quarterback just delivered a timely and quite masterful press conference.

Russell Wilson was his usual self. Ultra-positive. Ambitious. Talking about his desire to be the best at practically everything.

Yet subtly within his words were some seemingly deliberate statements — right when the Seahawks are preparing to appoint a new offensive coordinator.

“Coach Carroll and I, we have to be on the same wave length”

“…For me and coach to hopefully partner on the thought process of the next person”

“The next 10 years are super critical… and the legacy I want to be able to create and do. It’s vital, critical, super significant that I’m part of this process”

That’s just a flavour of what he said. This was Wilson letting everyone know what his expectations are. Firstly, to be involved in the process of identifying the next coordinator. Secondly, to be lock-step with the Head Coach on the offensive direction.

Three days after Carroll spoke of his willingness to win 17-14, stay in the game and keep it tight — Wilson shared a very different vision…

“We’ve got to put our foot down on the gas… I think we should score 24 points before the half, get ahead. We can do that — no matter how we do it. Let’s go win. Let’s start early.”

He talked, quite rightly, about game planning game-to-game and being adaptable.

He reiterated his desire to set passing touchdown records and wanting to try and score 50 (or 60) times next season.

He countered a lot of what Carroll said about needing to run their way out of facing two-deep safety looks. He spoke a lot about the passing game…

“We have to do everything extremely well… if you really want to be a great offense… we have to be able to throw it down the field. We have to have great concepts conceptually in the middle of the field, get the ball out quick… our screen game… up tempo and change the pace.”

“We can’t settle for anything less than winning it all” he exclaimed, while also discussing the importance of ‘winning’ free agency and the upcoming draft too (a sequel, perhaps, to his call for ‘superstars’ to be added a year ago).

Wilson never said anything in a pointed, angry, controversial manner. He was affable, jovial and apologised for a bad wifi connection after virtually every question.

When pressed on whether there was any disconnect with Carroll on offensive vision, he said no. But then I don’t think anyone expects Carroll and Wilson to be at each others throats. There is clearly a mutual respect between the pair.

This is purely and simply about Wilson having expectations for his career and whether they mesh with Carroll’s ideas for the Seahawks.

The message landed, I thought.

If the plan was to appoint a yes-man willing to do whatever Carroll wants — then that’s not going to cut it. Wilson wants to help pick the man responsible for the offense and he wants to agree with the plan.

He talked about this being a critical appointment for the future of the organisation. The next step could dictate the next decade for the Seahawks. For his career.

Wilson sounds like he’s desperate for the team to get this right. Nobody should doubt he wants to achieve his goals in Seattle. Yet he also sounds like a man who is making it known what his expectations are. Fail to meet them and the consequences are predictable.

The timing couldn’t be better. A public message that he wants in on the decision making process — both in terms of the offensive plan and who will be installing it.

The serve has been returned to Pete Carroll’s side of the court.

The next shot will be very interesting.

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Podcast, Schotty & Russell Wilson’s future

Wednesday, January 13th, 2021

Today, to coincide with the podcast, I wanted to spend some time discussing Brian Schottenheimer’s departure and the future of Russell Wilson.

I think the mutual nature of the parting with Schottenheimer, as announced by the team and reported by Adam Schefter, isn’t PR or some polite way to mask a firing.

I think it’s genuine.

Pete Carroll made it clear in his final press conference that he intends to run the offense his way.

They tried something different at the start of the season. At the first sign of trouble, Carroll re-took control and there was a marked difference in the approach.

Now, Carroll is doubling down.

Since the reset started in 2018, the man at the top has set out to do things his way. He’s surrounded himself with his men. He moved on any dissenting voices either on the staff or in the locker room.

Carroll’s coming to the end of his coaching career. It’s the final flourish. Rightly or wrongly, he is asserting his authority and dictating everything.

He’s going out on his terms with seemingly no regrets.

I don’t think it appealed to Schottenheimer to continue working in this setup, with a Head Coach dictating so much of the style and vision of the offense. I doubt there was any animosity or crossed words. Just two people deciding a change was best in terms of their own personal priorities.

Schottenheimer will now seek another opportunity. Carroll will go about finding someone willing to run the offense he desires and ultimately controls.

Only one name has been linked so far — Shane Steichen, the LA Chargers offensive coordinator in 2020. I don’t know about you but there’s a sense of inevitability about this.

I’ve seen people suggesting or hoping for a Sean McVay or Kyle Shanahan disciple — such as Mike McDaniels, Mike LaFleur or Shane Waldren.

Let’s be serious here. A candidate from San Francisco or LA is not going to go to division rival Seattle to run Pete Carroll’s offense. They would be coming from highly successful, highly coveted offensive schemes. They will want to run what they want to run. They will want to set the table for Head Coaching opportunities in the future.

They are not coming here to be overruled on fourth and 1 or have the identity and style of the offense dictated to them.

Carroll would arguably be better off ceding control, trusting someone from a diverse, creative and ultimately run-centric system to operate their own scheme. All with the promise that you might be the heir apparent to Carroll.

Throw in a fancy title. Give them a huge salary.

That’s not going to happen though. This will be the offensive version of Ken Norton Jr instead. Someone simply willing to install whatever Carroll wants.

Jason La Canfora reported the following today:

I’m told things finally fell apart between Carroll and his offensive play caller during season-review meetings when it was clear their philosophies as to how to right an offense that went south in the second half of the season were far apart. The mandate was essentially to find ways to keep pounding the rock, and a change that was not originally planned went down quickly.

There is definitely some skepticism in the coaching ranks as to how attractive this job is, even with a talent the likes of Russell Wilson to work with (and those receivers). If I was the Seahawks I would reach out to Chiefs quarterback back Mike Kafka and Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban and Clemson offensive coordinator Tony Elliott. I’d be looking for the most inspired choice to find ways to attack all quadrants of the field through the air and tap into Wilson’s unique skillset. But it’s fair to say there is skepticism within the industry about this search actually playing out in that manner.

So there you have it. If you were wondering if Schottenheimer was simply fired for bad performance, you now have your answer. He didn’t agree with Carroll’s ideas on the way forward. A parting wasn’t expected or planned, it all happened quickly.

This isn’t encouraging. It means the search for a replacement effectively becomes about finding someone willing to do what Schottenheimer wouldn’t. Not about finding someone who is necessarily proven, dynamic or ready to take the NFL by storm.

Ultimately this will lead to more of the same. And let’s appreciate what that truly means. One playoff win in four years, against the Josh McCown-led Eagles.

Look at what Mike Tomlin is saying after a ‘winning’ season in Pittsburgh where his team won a division title and 12 games:

“I understand we better make some changes in what we do — schematics, personnel. I’m committed to doing it.”

Carroll instead called the 2020 season ‘excellent’ and is doubling down, not changing anything other than the people who aren’t interested in doing things his way.

Recently we discussed what this might mean for the future of Russell Wilson. I know I say this a lot — but if you haven’t already, read the article. I don’t want to just repeat everything there and I think there’s a lot of information and reporting from established sources that needs to be noted.

Mike Florio, who as recently as last summer cited sources who believe Wilson will eventually be traded, said the following today:

Florio’s source is Mark Rodgers, Wilson’s agent. Rodgers has appeared on Florio’s show in the past. When he reported the ultimatum at the start of the season, nobody disputed or denied it.

When he says he’s trying to get you ahead of the curve, he’s spelling out what is going on here.

Wilson’s wants and desires do not match Carroll’s for the offense. As I said in the piece recently — the only way to make this work was to win. They didn’t win. They lost, emphatically, in the playoffs.

I’m willing to speculate with confidence that I don’t think Wilson has faith in this brand of football producing different post-season results in the future. Neither do I think he has any love for this style of offense. I sense he sees himself as a peer of Patrick Mahomes and Aaron Rodgers, not Ryan Tannehill and Baker Mayfield.

So I think we’re moving into a very interesting period in Seahawks history.

I don’t know whether anything will happen this year. It’s a very difficult situation for either party to instigate, unless they both — a little like Schotty — decide a mutual parting is best.

I think we might well be witnessing the early stages of a parting though. We’ll see what happens. I think anyone believing Wilson is just going to go along with whatever Carroll decides is being naive. Especially given how legacy-conscious he is and knowing he turns 33 this year. The clock is ticking for Wilson and his peak.

Frankly Carroll might be having similar thoughts. This is a coach who is used to churn. He’s gone through a reset in Seattle. He had to do it every few years at USC.

He may well be more comfortable with a quarterback who is happy to run his offense, just as much as he wants a coach to run his offense.

After all, the Seahawks won a Super Bowl while paying a quarterback $526,217. They invested money elsewhere on a loaded roster — spending more than any other team on their O-line and having so many pass rushers and defensive backs. The quarterback was young and willing to play within the scheme — with no expectations to win MVP awards or play a certain style.

If Carroll wants Russell Wilson to be his guy until he retires — he should be appointing a coordinator who wants to max out the $35m a year you are paying him. Otherwise he might as well get picks, draft a replacement or sign a veteran QB, invest the $35m on the O-line and defense and do things his way.

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Schneider extension & possible draft targets for the Seahawks

Tuesday, January 12th, 2021

The Seahawks needed to be pro-active here — and they have been.

On Sunday I wrote the following:

If the Seahawks want Schneider to stay, why haven’t they committed to him in the form of a big new contract?

Have they tried to?

Is it about money? Is it about control?

Does Schneider genuinely crave the kind of overall power that he would get somewhere else?

The Seahawks can nip this in the bud pretty quickly. They can make him an offer he can’t refuse, just as they seemingly did with Carroll.

Eliminating this as a talking point was vitally important. We couldn’t have weeks of wondering what the future holds.

This is decisive action.

On that note, let’s look at some of the players Schneider might target in the draft.

We now know the Seahawks’ first pick in the 2021 draft will be #56 overall.

Pete Carroll says the priority is to improve the running game. He specifically called for improvement at left guard. Therefore, I’m going to start my list of possible targets with a running back and two offensive linemen.

Players who might be available

Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)

He fits Seattle’s size preference (5-10, 220lbs) and more importantly, he completely fits their ‘type’ of runner.

Williams is a yards-after-contact machine — breaking tackles, extending runs and finishing. PFF gave him a 95.9 rushing grade — the highest of the 2020 season and the best they’ve ever recorded at the running back position.

He ranked #1 in the NCAA for broken tackle rate (46.5%).

Every now and again you watch a player and you can just tell straight away — that’s a Seahawk. Williams fits that bill.

With Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde both out of contract, running back could easily be a target position in the draft. Williams stands out head-and-shoulders above all eligible runners in terms of Seahawks fit. He’s currently being projected anywhere between rounds 2-4. If he’s there at #56, he could be the pick.

See for yourself…

Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)

Carroll said they need to improve at left guard. Aaron Banks would be a fantastic choice to deliver that improvement.

He’s a monster of a blocker — listed at 6-5 and 330lbs. That’s the kind of size Seattle has coveted on the left side since Mike Solari’s arrival.

For the last two seasons Banks has been playing at a pro-level, dominating up front with a combination of brute force and surprising athleticism. He even filled in at left tackle against Florida State when Liam Eichenberg picked up an injury. The FSU game was a major highlight — on two occasions he slammed defenders to the ground. He constantly plays with that edge.

I’ve been projecting him as a top-50 pick but I felt the same way about Damien Lewis and he lasted into round three. If the Seahawks were to secure Banks, they’d have two stud guards locked up for the next several years.

Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)

It’ll be interesting to see what the Seahawks do with Ethan Pocic. His PFF grade for the season was actually quite poor — a 59.8 overall with a 57.8 pass blocking grade and a 59.4 run blocking grade.

Seattle’s other four starting offensive linemen all faired much better and received high grades.

Pocic only turns 26 in August so has time on his side. He could be retained, presumably, without breaking the bank. The Seahawks might also seek to add some young competition to the position. Or they could just go out and sign a veteran such as Alex Mack.

Landon Dickerson enjoyed a fantastic 2020 season. He didn’t give up a single sack and he only conceded one quarterback pressure. According to PFF, he was the most valuable O-liner in college football per ‘wins above average’.

He’s also very athletic — scoring a 100.05 at SPARQ. He was the #64 overall High School recruit in 2016 per ESPN.

If he was fully healthy he likely would be pushing to go in the top-40. However, injuries are an issue.

He recently suffered a knee injury in the SEC Championship game. In 2016 he tore his ACL. In 2017 he had surgery on his right ankle. In 2018 he missed the whole season due to complications over a high ankle sprain. He then transferred from Florida State to Alabama and suffered this knee injury at the end of the year.

Given Seattle’s history with injuries recently — especially with Darrell Taylor — Seahawks fans might be wary of making an investment here.

That said — if they do the medical checks (thoroughly, this time) and the injuries are deemed to be more unfortunate than anything else, he warrants some consideration. He’s a heart-and-soul blocker who helps set a tone up front. Dickerson has the potential be a 10-year starter if he can stay healthy.

Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)

One other area Carroll talked about improving was third downs. It was a major issue at times this season. Adding a dynamic slot receiver would help here.

I’ve only recently studied Moore. Lane Kiffin thinks he’s destined for round one. That’s certainly possible if he runs well. This is a loaded receiver class though and there’s a chance one or two players could last deep into the second frame.

He’s only listed at 5-9 and 185lbs but unlike Tutu Atwell (see below) his frame looks fairly solid and durable. As you’d expect he’s extremely dynamic working his routes, getting downfield and he dominated several games in 2020.

Even Alabama couldn’t get a handle on him — Moore recorded 11 catches for 143 yards. He reached +200 yards on three occasions — against Florida, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. He finished the season with 86 catches for 1193 yards and eight touchdowns at a pace of 149.1 YPG.

He plays with a degree of toughness for his size and he’s clever with his routes, knowing how to sell plays to get open. He’s direct and shifty with superb change of direction skills. He can high-point, win contested grabs and just about do anything.

He’s going to need to learn to handle press at the next level but ultimately he’s a player you want operating in the slot where he can attack seems, find mismatches and run across formations.

The Seahawks badly need a third receiver who really challenges opponents.

Tutu Atwell (WR, Louisville)

Like Moore, he’s smaller at 5-9 and 190lbs. Louisville has been creative with Atwell — using him on sweeps, as a deep threat and a mismatch weapon.

Reportedly he can run a 4.26 forty and a 3.9 short shuttle. That’s the kind of speed necessary in the modern NFL. You need a receiver who can sprint like this — and the Seahawks could surely use someone with this kind of raw speed to complement D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett.

He’s also tough and explosive — capable of benching twice his body weight (which is insane) and squatting triple his body weight.

It used to be said that receivers need time to adjust and adapt to the NFL. This is clearly not the case any more. Teams are drafting impact receivers early every year.

The most dynamic offensive schemes in the league utilise multiple weapons. The Seahawks need more and Atwell could provide it.

Kellen Mond (QB, Mississippi State)

This is a mischievous suggestion but hear me out.

A year ago two teams — Green Bay and Philadelphia — spent high picks on quarterbacks, despite retaining existing (and highly paid) starters.

The Packers selected Jordan Love in round one and the Eagles took Jalen Hurts in round two.

The Love pick motivated Aaron Rodgers to a MVP season. The Packers could easily return to the Super Bowl this year. If he needed a rocket, he got one. And he has delivered.

The Eagles shocked the NFL by drafting Jalen Hurts with the #53 pick. Nobody really knew what to make of it, given the franchise was tied to Carson Wentz and his big contract.

If it was used to test Wentz and see if he could respond, it didn’t work. Reports have suggested he feels he lost confidence after the pick. His form collapsed and eventually he was benched. Prior to Doug Pederson’s departure it felt inevitable he would be traded.

I’m not sure the Seahawks want to start getting involved in any game-playing like this. However, Russell Wilson has just endured the worst stretch of his career. If that continues in 2021, we might be having a much greater conversation about his future.

Drafting a young backup with cheap club control might light a similar rocket under Wilson. I think that’s more likely than a Wentz-esque crisis of confidence. It might also piss Wilson off though — setting the table for a divorce.

It could also provide the Seahawks with something they don’t currently have. For starters — any kind of alternative for the long term. Secondly — a cheap, club-controlled backup who might actually be capable of filling in and winning you a game.

You only make this kind of move if you really believe in the player who is available.

I think Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond has something about him. He has a tremendous arm. He’s been a lot more consistent this season. You see evidence of occasional hesitation, an extra unnecessary hitch or a bit of indecision. I think you can live with that when you also see him arrow accurate passes into tight windows, deliver on-target throws under pressure and launch the ball downfield like he does, right into the hands of a receiver.

I’ve just got a feeling that there might be a bit of Dak Prescott about him. A rough diamond in college football who is somewhat overlooked in the draft and plays well beyond his draft placing. Regardless of any motivational reasons relating to Wilson — he’s the kind of player I think is well worth investing in as a backup and possible trade-chip down the line, if not a future starter.

He will be attending the Senior Bowl.

I think we’re at a stage now where looking at players like this isn’t a waste of time any more. Seattle’s total lack of draft resource might make this unlikely in 2021 — but it depends what else they’re able to get done pre-draft.

Mond isn’t the only quarterback option either. Stanford’s Davis Mills, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance and Alabama’s Mac Jones have all shown potential beyond the ‘big three’ at the position. Mills in particular has the recruiting pedigree and talent to be very interesting. Jones was highly impressive in yesterday’s National Championship game.

Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan)

The Seahawks have avoided drafting cornerbacks early and I don’t think that will change this year. I suspect we’ll see one of two things happen — either Shaquill Griffin will be re-signed or Richard Sherman will return. Or both, depending on cost.

That said, if there’s one cornerback that I think has a chance to really shine at the next level from this class without necessarily being a top-20 pick it’s Ambry Thomas.

He’s adept at press coverage and despite not having massive size (6-0, 182lbs) he’s certainly capable of playing a really competitive brand of football, mixing it up with receivers to reroute and challenge at the snap.

The Seahawks have always liked corners who can tackle and he does that very well. He gets involved and isn’t afraid to get stuck in. He produced three interceptions in 13 games in 2019 and has special teams value as a returner — scoring a 99-yard touchdown against Notre Dame in 2018.

Athletically he has major upside. At SPARQ he ran a 4.43 and a sensational 3.90 three cone. His vertical jump of 36 inches is also impressive.

I’m not sure what his arm length will be and we know the Seahawks have really focused on that (although maybe D.J. Reed has led to a change of heart).

Thomas has the competitive nature, the talent and the athleticism to be really good at the next level. He’s attending the Senior Bowl and that will be a great opportunity to impress.

A whole collection of defensive tackles

At the end of December I wrote a piece discussing several potential defensive tackle options for round two. It’s a good looking class in terms of the range Seattle is drafting in and this could be a group they tap into.

To read the piece click here.

It’s worth noting that, surprisingly, Georgia’s monstrous nose tackle Jordan Davis has opted not to declare.

Players I am higher on but are being projected in-range by others

I’ve been projecting Dayo Odeyingo (DE, Vanderbilt) in the top-15 throughout the college football season. For me he’s an absolute terror off the edge and has the size (6-6, 270lbs) to work inside and create pressure. I haven’t seen anyone rating him as highly as I have and if he lasts into round two, he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

Walker Little (T, Stanford) missed most of the 2019 season through injury and then opted not to play in 2020. However, you only have to watch his Rivals recruiting tape to see he’s a natural left tackle with great size, length and agility. There just aren’t many 6-7, 309lbs left tackles who run 4.40 short shuttles — therefore I think he’ll eventually find a home in round one. If he falls (out of sight out of mind) then it would be an absolute gift.

The same goes for Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama). His stock is all over the place. Some think he’s a top-20 talent. Others, like Todd McShay, have him in round three. He does have some athletic limitations but let’s be right — he’s just a total BAMF. He’s not going to be peak Tyron Smith but he might be the closest thing to Duane Brown to enter the league in a long time. If he’s there in round two, go get him.

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We need to talk about Pete Carroll

Monday, January 11th, 2021

Pete Carroll’s final press conference was a challenging listen.

A large bulk of it was Carroll explaining the issues they’d faced in the second half of the season on offense, then failing to answer several questions asking why they hadn’t done anything about it.

In one breath he’d correctly identify their issues dealing with two-deep safety looks.

Then he’d explain that they tried to take shots against the Rams because they wanted to try and throw downfield against a coverage deliberately set up to take it away.

He’d talk about the need to adjust better and faster in-games. He rightly highlighted Seattle’s biggest issue as their terrible record on third downs.

But then he wouldn’t offer any explanation as to why these issues were so evident and clear for weeks during the regular season and were often brushed off.

The issues and problems Carroll discussed today shouldn’t be an off-season priority. They should’ve been a priority weeks ago.

It was quite difficult, actually, to listen to all of the obvious flaws we’ve discussed for weeks be laid out by the Head Coach — only to remember that as recent as the Washington game, Carroll dismissed fair questions about the offense with a pointed “I ain’t concerned at all” and an agitated message to the media that he didn’t really know why he was being asked about this all the time.

As far as I can tell, the Minnesota Vikings were the first team to stymy the Seahawks passing game with a two-deep look. Other teams followed the blueprint.

If they’re now going to spend the coming weeks and months trying to find a solution, why on earth couldn’t they find one earlier?

This comes back to one of the things I was talking about in yesterday’s piece.

The Seahawks seem to be far too entrenched in what ‘they are’ and what they ‘want to be’ rather than week-to-week planning and adjustment.

It doesn’t seem to matter if an opponent has an answer for the explosive pass play — they’re going to try and do it anyway.

As far as Carroll was concerned they were playing winning football. It didn’t matter that the wins came against the New York Jets, the Washington Football Team with a reserve quarterback or the San Francisco 49ers’ backups.

Therefore no need to adjust. No need to change the formula.

The Seahawks only had two wins all season against playoff opponents. They beat a Dwayne Haskins-led 7-9 Washington team and the Rams in week 16. They were then absolutely hammered by LA in a rematch a fortnight later.

It feels like the Seahawks were complacent. Clearly they could see the issues just as much as we could. They were all listed by Carroll today. They didn’t act on them though, seemingly because they were lulled into a false sense of security thanks to a cupcake schedule that was a gift from the football gods.

It also speaks to Carroll’s apparent stubbornness to stick to his guns rather than treat each individual opponent like a new challenge. If you know a team is going utilise a two-deep safety look, or if they start to show that early in the game, why not have a specific plan to counter that?

We all knew Aaron Donald having a great game was LA’s best chance to win on Saturday. Aiming to take shots, as Carroll suggested today, while facing two-deep safety looks might as well have come with a bouquet of flowers and a card saying:

‘Dear Aaron, hope you had a great Christmas, here’s a late present courtesy of the Seahawks. Have a safe trip to Lambeau.’

Why wasn’t the game plan tailored to try and lessen the damage? You might argue it’s impossible to limit Donald. But it isn’t. The Niners’ backups did it twice. They handled the Rams twice. They beat them twice.

Donald had one sack in his two games against San Francisco.

Kyle Shanahan came up with a plan that gave them the best chance to avoid allowing Donald to dominate.

Seattle, instead, walked into a buzzsaw.

And the worst thing is they’ve been playing Donald twice a year since 2014. They should know by now how to avoid getting so badly burned. Yet time and time again they are here — trying to be what they want to be, rather than doing what they need to do.

You’ve got to anticipate and adjust in the NFL. It sounds like Carroll is intent on his team trying to impose themselves on every opponent while establishing who they want to be — rather than cooking up a plan that might catch an opponent off guard.

After all — how difficult is it for another team to plan for the Seahawks if they know what they’re going to try and do every week?

Where is this plan getting them? One playoff win in four seasons? Not even remotely close to a NFC Championship in years?

And what happens next year when they’ve worked out a plan to conquer two-deep safety looks and another opponent simply counters that? Are they just going to plough on again and wait until the off-season to address that fresh issue?

It gets worse though. Carroll revealed he overruled Brian Schottenheimer on the 4th and 1 call that led to an expiring play-clock, a false start and then a punt.

Again, Carroll dismissed questions about it from the media like they were making a mountain out of a molehill.

Does he not see the problem though? How often are the Seahawks in these situations with an expiring play-clock?

I know he’s the Head Coach and the buck stops with him. But he needs to make a decisive call on whether they’re going for it or not and then get out of the way.

For all the people who want to criticise Schottenheimer, how often is Carroll getting involved in these situations? And for all the complaints about Schotty this week — what if the Head Coach is insisting on how they play their opponents?

It doesn’t exactly take a giant leap to imagine the same coach who meddles on a fourth down call would equally insist on his co-ordinator throwing downfield against two-deep safety looks every week.

No doubt Carroll’s response would be to point to the wins. What good are they if they mask problems that go unaddressed, only to rear up in the first playoff game?

It’s simply not acceptable for the coach to be so dismissive of certain aspects of a struggling offense, then say after the fact that they needed to do more to address all of the obvious issues. That’s what the coaches job is.

One of the best things Nick Saban has done at Alabama is cede some control. He’s employed a list of experienced offensive coordinators to run things. The results have been emphatic — with explosive plays galore, balance, success. Everything Carroll wants in Seattle.

Yet with the Seahawks, Carroll doesn’t cede control. He appoints people who are prepared to do things his way.

It feels like he actually might’ve given up control for a few weeks at the start of the season as Russell Wilson set the MVP pace. Then at the first sign of trouble — rather than learn and adapt to what teams were doing, he circled the wagons and he was calling the shots again.

It shouldn’t be this way any more. How are things ever going to change if they just keep doing the same thing year after year?

Carroll can clearly coach a defense. Focus on that and your culture and your clear motivational skills. Be the leader this team needs — yet like all good leaders, appreciate the art of delegation.

Let someone else complete the circle for you.

And this has nothing to do with his comments about running the ball more. I’m perfectly comfortable with that.

What I don’t understand though is how they’ve gone about installing that preference during this reset.

We all know what Carroll’s ideal offense looks like. It’s a bit like what we see from Cleveland.

Yet instead of drafting the definitive ideal running back for the Seahawks based on style and physical attributes in Nick Chubb — they select Rashaad Penny instead.

I wrote about this in December. The decision to draft Penny instead of Chubb is one of the single most confusing, avoidable mistakes of the Carroll era.

If you typed all of Seattle’s preferences at running back into a machine, a freshly created Nick Chubb would come out of the other end. I’ve broken this down in great detail.

Their dream player was staring them right in the face and they took someone else.

I saw this exchange on twitter last night:

Here’s Lance Zierlein, confirming what we already know. The Seahawks massively regret overthinking this one and they’re left dealing with the consequences now — talking about needing to be better in the running game.

It’s not just a Nick Chubb issue though. Rather than sign the best right tackle in the league (Jack Conklin) for $8m this year and $13m next year — they spend +$10m on Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister and fritter away millions on players like Joey Hunt and Branden Jackson.

Rather than take the opportunity to draft one of the really appealing runners in the last draft (Jonathan Taylor’s looking pretty good these days) they instead decide a WILL linebacker of the future is the order of the day. They could’ve set up their line for years with Cesar Ruiz and Robert Hunt also within touching distance.

Cleveland took Chubb. Cleveland signed Conklin. Cleveland used their top pick on an offensive lineman. Cleveland has invested across the line in players like JC Tretter and Joel Bitonio. They’ve signed Kareem Hunt.

That is a commitment to identity that simply hoping for the best with Ethan Pocic and adding B.J. Finney just can’t compare to. And sure — Brandon Shell had a strong first year. I would argue he hasn’t played as well as Conklin and it speaks to the contradiction here of wanting a certain brand of team and investing so much resource in other areas.

How exactly are they going to run better and more frequently next season when the top two running backs are both free agents and can’t stay healthy? They have at most four draft picks. They have limited resources in terms of cap space.

Presumably it’ll be another visit to the bargain bin and maybe the second rounder will go on a left guard or a running back.

Carroll painted an optimistic vision for the future several times today yet they only have 34 contracted players for 2021. There are 36 players reaching free agency or restricted free agency.

That’s a lot of players to retain or replace. Thanks to the Jamal Adams trade, taking away their main draft stock for the next two years and seemingly set to eat an $18m a year hole in the cap soon, they have very little scope to enforce the change they want to happen.

Same vision. Same approach. Same players. Limited change.

Why is anything going to be any better next year?

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Why the Seahawks face a problematic off-season

Sunday, January 10th, 2021

Pete Carroll’s Seahawks have one playoff win in the last four seasons

As depressing as yesterday’s domination at the hands of the LA Rams was, the truth is the Seahawks are facing an off-season filled with questions.

1. Is Pete Carroll still the right man to lead this team?

Short of a completely unexpected retirement, Carroll won’t be going anywhere. He’s just signed a new long term contract. Yet it’s still a perfectly justified question to ask.

At what point is three playoff victories since 2015 — courtesy of a Blair Walsh missed field goal for the Vikings, a home win against the Lions and a win against the Eagles fielding a 40-year-old backup quarterback — simply not a good enough return?

How many more years need to be squandered without delivering any serious threat in the post-season before questions are asked?

The Seahawks appear to be perennially consumed by identity. They’re constantly either trying to re-establish what they are, get back to what they want to be or we’re debating if they’re treading the right path.

Whether it’s ‘Let Russ Cook’, ‘Pete-ball’, ‘run-first’ — I can’t think of another team that invests so much energy trying to figure their identity out.

A thought dawned on me while watching the Indianapolis Colts defeat to Buffalo. Here were the Colts, with 39-year-old Philip Rivers at quarterback, moving the ball and competing.

They were playing the NFL’s in-form team and they were making a game of it.

I don’t know what Frank Reich’s preferred methodology is. Perhaps if I followed the Colts as closely as I do the Seahawks, he too would have a long list of firm, stubborn ideals.

My impression, however, is that he simply adjusts and plans accordingly based on the players he has.

They put their key players on offense in a position to succeed. They don’t seem to force an identity or structure. It’s a movable feast.

Week-to-week the Colts featured different skill players. Trey Burton, Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Taylor, T.Y. Hilton, Mo-Alie Cox and others.

And sure — the Colts lost to the Bills, didn’t win their division and finished 11-5. But watching them manage and scheme on Saturday — and almost force an upset — triggered a thought relating to the Seahawks.

With Seattle there seems to be much more of a focus on establishing a preferred identity that never really changes, regardless of opponent.

They are what they are and it’ll either work or it won’t.

Are they better off doing what Carroll thinks is best, or are they better off game-planning for the specific players on the roster and weekly opponents?

A lot of people are going to call for Brian Schottenheimer to be fired. Perhaps with some justification too.

But here’s the bigger problem. The Seahawks have a defensive minded Head Coach with complete control over everything. At no point in the last 10 years has he turned over the offense to a hot-shot coordinator and trusted them to scheme and produce an offense.

The one time it seemed they came close to doing that was early in this season — and Carroll wrestled control back immediately at the first sign of trouble.

Most coaches appreciate and accept their weaknesses. Thus, Sean McVay made a concerted effort to appoint a vastly experienced defensive coordinator in Wade Phillips when he started as a Head Coach in LA. Then he pivoted to a different coach in Brandon Staley. He hasn’t appeared to dictate to either.

Aren’t the Seahawks long overdue their Head Coach doing something similar?

Firing Schottenheimer will likely just mean the next version is appointed in his place, facing the same shackles.

The criticism of Carroll needs to go steps further too.

The game planning and adjustments have been poor all season. This latest example is an extreme one but really cuts to the heart of the problem. McVay delivered a plan that needed to overcome having to start then replace his backup quarterback — with a player throwing the ball with pins in his thumb, two weeks removed from surgery.

His team found ways to dominate the line of scrimmage, run the ball effectively and deliver just enough through the air to win a big game.

The Seahawks on the other hand started badly, never established anything that worked, didn’t make any noticeable adjustment (or at least any that succeeded) and couldn’t provide a plan for their quarterback or personnel to succeed.

Everything was a chore.

They don’t seem to have a single play they can turn to when they just need to convert a 3rd and 4 to get an easy first down — even with players like D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett and five tight ends on the roster.

It felt like they ran out of plays one quarter into the game.

Too often the Seahawks are found wanting when it comes to preparation and adjustment. The coup de grâce being Carroll’s admission after the Buffalo game that he didn’t expect them to throw on every down — despite Seattle’s (at the time) dreadful passing defense and the passing offense being Buffalo’s main strength.

Worse than this, however, has been the complacency.

Carroll was repeatedly asked about his struggling offense during press conferences, after things started to toil in the second half of the season. He was dismissive of questions, almost seeming irritated by having to address them.

“I ain’t concerned at all” and “you (the media) can talk about this” was his response to failing to score a point in the final 28 minutes against Washington, in a game where they nearly blew a 17-point fourth quarter lead.

He more or less shrugged off how bad they were on third downs in another press conference — an issue that reared its head in fatal fashion against the Rams, as Seattle struggled to 2/13 conversions.

Problems with the team were often addressed with confusion (“I don’t recognise this performance”) or put down to being ‘uncharacteristic’.

It feels like the Seahawks have been sleepwalking towards a loss like this, yet internally the man at the top didn’t notice.

After the game yesterday Carroll confessed he wished they’d adapted better to the way teams had played their offense in the second half of the season.

Haven’t they had weeks to come up with a solution? Isn’t it his job to adapt when they needed to?

In what way is it acceptable for the coach to make that admission once the season has ended in such a predictable manner?

And how on earth did they go into the Rams game with whatever game plan they ended up with?

I can only imagine what other coaches and players thought, watching it unfold.

There’s no denying that Carroll is a hero in Seattle. A man who deserves the greatest level of respect for what he’s achieved. It’d also be remiss to suggest he doesn’t bring anything to the table any more. Clearly he does. I’m certain that other teams remain envious of the culture he cultivates, for instance.

It’s also easy to think, sometimes, the grass is always greener.

It just feels, for the first time, like a legitimate case can be made for a fresh approach.

Is ‘Pete-ball’ going to get the best out of the players you have? Is Carroll truly willing to cede control and give up aspects of his preferred identity, in order to find a consistently functioning system? One that doesn’t just get the best out of your players for a few weeks before imploding — but enables Russell Wilson to play his best football for 16 weeks and further.

Is he willing to bring in coaches from outside of his bubble who can deliver attention to detail and make the necessary in-game adjustments? Is he willing to cede control to allow that to happen?

Is he willing to do what it takes to end this run of every single season ending the same way? Will he act to make 2021 different?

And to lead onto point number two, is Carroll now directly opposed to his quarterback in terms of their respective visions?

2. What now for Russell Wilson?

I recently wrote an article highlighting why these playoffs were so important for the future of the Seahawks.

Wilson reportedly issued an ultimatum to the team prior to the start of the off-season. He wanted to cook. The Seahawks let him cook and it worked for a few weeks. Wilson was the red-hot favourite for the MVP. He threw 28 touchdowns in the first half of the season and was on pace to set passing and scoring records.

Then he started to turn the ball over. You could argue it was because he was under immense pressure to carry a struggling defense that was well on its way to set historic records itself. It’s easy to forget how dependant the Seahawks were on Wilson in the first few weeks of the season.

Whatever the reason (and yes, Wilson deserves blame too), Carroll’s reaction was forceful. Suddenly, the Seahawks were focussed, it seemed, on avoiding turnovers as a priority. The defense had improved therefore closed-circle football was back.

Wilson threw 12 touchdowns in the second half of the season and was throwing about 210 yards per game — a far cry from his early season prolificacy.

Winning is the most important thing. If the Seahawks could win playing this way, nothing else would matter. Wilson isn’t going to complain about style points while lifting a Lombardi Trophy.

Yet the point raised in the previous article was this — what if the Seahawks don’t win? What if they get dumped out of the playoffs playing uninspired offensive football? What if we saw a repeat of every playoff exit since 2015?

What then?

Now we get to properly analyse that question. Because I suspect if Pete Carroll’s aim next year is to carry on with this preferred offensive vision, with his quarterback having stats more akin to Baker Mayfield than Patrick Mahomes or Aaron Rodgers, he might well have an issue with that.

Just think about this for a second. How many of the leading quarterbacks in the NFL are having the offensive style dictated to them by a 69-year-old defensive Head Coach? Zero. That’s the answer.

Wilson undoubtedly will cast an envious eye at the production, design, input and style of the schemes in Kansas City, Green Bay, Buffalo, New Orleans and others.

He’ll look at the power Tom Brady has, with the Buccs acting on his advice to get Rob Gronkowski and Antonio Brown — even when the coach Bruce Arians is on the record saying he wouldn’t touch Brown with a barge pole.

Wilson is very conscious of his legacy. He constantly talks about being remembered as one of the best — if not the best to do it.

I’m pretty sure he’d be willing to acknowledge he hasn’t played well enough since the bye week. Everything I wrote about Carroll above, you could possibly flip and talk about Wilson instead. For the first time since 2012, it doesn’t feel unfair to ask whether he is still good enough to lead this team back to the Super Bowl. Unfortunately the way he played in the second half of the season wasn’t a million miles away from the form Carson Wentz showed in Philadelphia before he was benched.

How did Wilson go from the MVP favourite to the worst stretch of his career over the course of the season? Why did he look so broken by the final game? These are questions that must be addressed.

I also think, if you really got the truth, the thought of playing Pete-ball for the next five years is not appealing. I suspect it’s not going to be how Wilson rekindles his best form.

The trade talk (that people want to dismiss) has been consistent for three years. Read the piece I wrote at the turn of the year for the evidence.

I’m not saying anything is going to happen this year. I also wouldn’t rule anything out either. Not in an off-season where people are talking about the Eagles, Falcons and Texans trading their quarterbacks and absorbing massive dead-cap hits.

Regardless of the timing, I can’t help but feel like you’ve got a Head Coach with a long-term contract and a vision for his team (including the offense) and a legacy-conscious quarterback who turns 33 in November and will be starting to worry about the quickly evaporating ‘peak’ years of his career.

I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that he might think he needs a change of scenery. I also don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility the Seahawks will feel the same way.

When Carroll won his Super Bowl, Wilson was a third round pick on a few hundred thousand dollars a year. He had no expectations on how the offense would play. He simply went out there and did the job asked of him and it was never an issue.

That isn’t the case any more. Now they have a quarterback earning $35m with his own set of expectations and ideas.

If Carroll wants to play this way, perhaps he’s better off with a quarterback with no expectation other than to have an opportunity to start? One capable of doing what the offense needs, keeping it on schedule. Even if that means lesser talent and a smaller reputation (and price).

If that’s not the case and he desperately wants Wilson as his man then he needs to seriously consider doing what we talked about in section one — ceding control, inviting a top coach to run the offense and getting well out of their way.

Otherwise we might be seeing the early stages of an inevitable divorce.

3. Limited resources

Usually when a season finishes like this, the crumb of comfort is the off-season. Free agency, the draft. Ways to cultivate your roster and go-again.

This year I’m afraid it’s going to be very difficult to offer any brightness.

The Seahawks are even more decimated in terms of resources than they were at the start of the reset in 2018. Back then, at least they had a top-20 pick among their four draft selections.

The acceptance of a reset also provided some curiosity as to what shape or form it would take.

Now the Seahawks have used all their resource — so much so that they’ve also tapped into the 2022 credit card too.

They only have 34 contracted players at the moment for 2021.

According to Over The Cap, the Seahawks have just $6.3m in effective space if the salary cap reduces to $176m for the 2021 season.

There has been talk that the cap could be $20m higher than the original $176m estimate. Even so, having $26m available will only scratch the surface of the work that needs to be done.

There are 36 players reaching free agency or restricted free agency. They will all need to be signed or replaced.

Shaquill Griffin, Chris Carson and Ethan Pocic are out of contract starters. Presumably they will want to bring back K.J. Wright but who knows if that’s possible? Jacob Hollister, Benson Mayowa, Carlos Hyde and Mike Iupati — among others — are all free agents.

The stark reality is, regardless of your opinion of the names above, they might not have the money to retain most of this group. In fact, they might have to try and dig around to find cheap replacements. That could work in their favour. It could also, quite easily, deliver a weaker team than we saw in 2020.

The other problem is the draft. By investing so much in Jamal Adams (more on him later) they only have three or four draft picks this year.

There’s a lack of clarity over whether they possess a conditional seventh rounder that was originally traded to the Jets for Parry Nickerson. Seattle cut him before the 2019 season started and it’s never been fully cleared up if they got the pick back.

Nevertheless, it’s a seventh rounder. At most they’ll have four picks. They have minimal draft stock to fill holes or trade down for extra stock and add cheap talent.

How do the Seahawks take a step forward in 2021? A lot of their money is going to need to be saved filling depth holes in the roster, rather than delivering impact.

In many ways it feels like they went ‘all-in’ for 2020, only to discover they weren’t close. Like 2018, they’re now left to pick up the pieces of a highly aggressive tilt only to come up emphatically short.

So what are they going to do? Muddle through? Do what they can? Hope a few minor changes produce a different result next season?

Or do they have to be aggressive to create cap room and bring in draft picks?

4. Jamal Adams’ future

Many will disagree but I simply do not think this was a good trade by the Seahawks.

From the get-go I thought it was a deal born out of desperation. Seattle hadn’t made any significant upgrades on defense and they were approaching training camp. Quinton Dunbar’s future was uncertain at the time, meaning the only key changes were adding Bruce Irvin, drafting Jordyn Brooks and swapping Jadeveon Clowney for Benson Mayowa.

Adams was available. He was established. He was considered an elite player.

They made an aggressive move to add him, to provide an injection of quality.

I said at the time, and still believe this, that the timing of the deal and the price-tag were indicative of a desperation move.

If the Seahawks had targeted Adams as an off-season priority, I doubt the Jets would’ve turned down that offer before the draft. The price — two firsts, a third and a veteran starter for Adams and a 2022 fourth rounder — was extreme. It had all the hallmarks of a deal conjured in a sellers market.

I also thought the Seahawks backed themselves into a corner by not having a contract extension ready to go (another sign that this wasn’t entirely a long thought out plan). Yes — they might’ve preferred the flexibility to see the lay of the land in a Covid economy. Yet the reality is, the minute you pay two firsts and more for a player, you are committing to paying them a record salary — regardless of the economic factors. It actually would’ve been cheaper to pay him immediately than to wait this out. Global pandemic or not, the minute you execute that trade you commit to a huge new contract. Waiting only makes the deal more expensive, because other players (such as Budda Baker) can reset the market in the meantime.

Laremy Tunsil and Jalen Ramsey exploited similar situations to reset the market at their positions. So too will Jamal Adams. He will probably ask for $20m a year. The subsequent bargaining will not drop below Baker’s $15m a year as the highest paid safety in the NFL.

This is going to be a big challenge for the Seahawks. Assuming he signs a new deal, you might be paying Adams and Bobby Wagner $36m a year. Combined with Wilson’s $35m a year, that’s three players earning an average per year of $71m, leaving perhaps as little as $100-120m for the entire remaining roster.

Can you justify that?

And if not, what were they expecting when they made the trade?

It also might not be simple getting a deal done unless they write a blank cheque. Adams’ dissatisfaction in New York was largely influenced by the Jets’ unwillingness to get a new deal done a year ago.

Some will try and argue he was unhappy because the Jets were bad. Perhaps so — but I remember watching Adams live at the combine, co-hosting the defensive back workouts a year ago. He spent most of the broadcast waxing lyrical about his desire to stay in New York because he loved it there and they’d made significant noises about a new contract. He said any issues were in the past and they were moving forward together.

What changed? What made things sour? New York refusing to pony up.

For anyone who thinks they can wait this out — do you think Adams will be comfortable with that? And what does it say for the trade if you decide to wait and see for another year before committing?

It seems quite simple to me. Either you’re convinced he’s a major part of your future, you accept the massive cost that you knew was coming when you made the trade and you extend him as soon as possible, or you move him and try to recoup whatever you can.

A lot of people like to point to the fact Seattle basically gave up a deal similar to what it would’ve taken to move into the top-ten. Technically yes, in terms of picks. Yet the future salary is a game-changer.

Be honest — is Adams really worth $18-20m a year? Is any safety worth that?

His PFF grade (64.2) ranked 45th among qualifying safety’s. We’ve all seen he has some limitations in coverage — and his coverage grade was a concerning 53.1.

He was blitzed at a higher rate than any other player in the league to deliver 9.5 sacks. It was a fine return — with the team and player making much of it being a record for a defensive back. Yet when Adams isn’t blitzing, are you really getting $18-20m worth of value?

Maybe the best way to look at it is this. If they’d only spent a day three pick on a rental of Adams, and were unable to franchise him this year (basically the Clowney scenario) — do you think they’d pay him $18-20m a year? Or do you think they’d let him test the market and possibly walk?

Because they can’t make a decision for the next five years simply on the fact they committed so much draft stock to him a few months ago. Either a huge new contract is right for this team or it isn’t.

I’m not for a second saying Adams is a bad player. He’s a very good player. But the financial impact on the horizon, to me, doesn’t necessarily mirror the impact on the field. I’m not sure any safety justifies $20m a year, however much you blitz them.

Hugh Millen, courtesy of 950 KJR, provided some interesting thoughts on Adams last night:

5. What’s going on with John Schneider?

Whether the interest from the Detroit Lions is legit or not, or even if it’s simply not possible this year due to Schneider being under contract, doesn’t this need to be resolved?

If the Seahawks want Schneider to stay, why haven’t they committed to him in the form of a big new contract?

Have they tried to?

Is it about money? Is it about control?

Does Schneider genuinely crave the kind of overall power that he would get somewhere else?

The Seahawks can nip this in the bud pretty quickly. They can make him an offer he can’t refuse, just as they seemingly did with Carroll.

If that doesn’t happen — and assuming Schneider doesn’t depart this off-season due to his contract — it’s just going to create 12 months of speculation, mystery and insecurity.

We’re going to be talking about it all the time. Is this his last year? What happens next?

It’s not good to have those kind of question marks hanging over a franchise.

And what will it say for the state of the Seahawks if Schneider does see his future elsewhere? What does it say for the Carroll project, or the ownership structure?

These are not healthy topics to be discussing. If the intention is for John Schneider to be here for years to come, they need get a new contract done now.

6. How do they galvanise the fans again?

It feels a little bit like we’re watching the end of an era unfold in Seattle. Six years, only three playoff wins, very little progress.

A reset that hasn’t delivered post-season success. Insufficient attention to detail. Some of the worst performances of the Carroll era (Bills, Rams x2, Giants).

The same cast of characters. The same messages. The same results.

To many of us it all seemed so predictable. We talked throughout the off-season about this conclusion being a strong possibility because the work they did in free agency and the draft simply wasn’t good enough. The issues on offense and in particular with third downs were talked about for weeks in the regular season, only for nothing to be done about it.

Fans are often accused of being spoilt for not appreciating the annual 10-12 win season. Yet this team constantly fails in the post-season, when it matters. Nobody is going to turn around in 10 years and bask in the glow of what we’ve just seen in the regular season. This team has earned the right to be judged in the playoffs — and that is the standard they’ve created.

The result is one playoff victory in the last four seasons. Not good enough.

We don’t have to compare this franchise to the Jags or Jets and be grateful. There’s nothing wrong with wanting more. Especially when the playoff exits are so brutal. Carolina, Atlanta, Dallas, Green Bay, LA. The one constant is the terrible performance.

Why will anything be different next year?

Perhaps the greatest challenge will to turn that feeling around. I can’t be the only one feeling that way.

The Seahawks have long been a good team. I think, currently, many will struggle to believe in this group being great again.

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