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An interview with Senior Bowl Executive Director Jim Nagy

Saturday, January 23rd, 2021

With the Senior Bowl kicking off this week, I spoke to Jim Nagy about some of the players who might be on Seattle’s radar. He also offered some interesting names to watch. This is definitely worth your time so check it out above.

With the Seahawks needing to bolster their offensive line this year, the 2021 class appears to be loaded with options. It’s just a shame they have such limited draft capital to take advantage. I still think they need to be honest about the construction of this team and consider whether they’ve pooled their resources in the wrong areas. If not, it’s better to embrace it now and move on rather than compound the situation.

It certainly appears the 2021 draft could set up your O-line for years to come. The thought of having your pick of a deep group of highly talented and physical interior linemen — or making sure you get Javonte Williams — is appealing.

So much resource has been used on the linebacker and safety positions. Is it time to reverse that? Isn’t it time to ‘make the O-line great again’?

Big thanks to Jim for his time once again this year.

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And if you missed it yesterday, check out my updated two-round mock draft.

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Updated mock draft (pre-Senior Bowl): 22nd January

Friday, January 22nd, 2021

Georgia’s Ben Cleveland is a mauling, physical blocker

In previous mock drafts I tried to balance out my own projections and expectations with more of a national consensus.

For the last two weeks I’ve spent a lot of time revising players I’ve already watched. This mock draft is a reflection of that. I’m not going to pay much attention to the consensus from now on. I think this is going to be a divisive draft class with a wide range of differing opinions.

Here are a few thoughts…

— Apart from Trevor Lawrence, this is a quarterback class filled with risk. Teams will undoubtedly talk themselves into certain players. It always happens. But there’s a distinct lack of year-to-year production. Some players have the physical talent but lack the consistency. Others can’t drive the ball downfield when top receivers create easy separation. I’d be cautious about pitching my franchise to these QB’s. I do think Stanford’s Davis Mills will go earlier than people think, however.

— I’ve been a big fan of Shaun Wade for a while but it’s time to admit he struggled this season and hasn’t shown an ability to warrant first round potential as a starting outside corner. I think a team could take a shot on him in the late first but many will see him merely as a slot corner. Neither do I think Patrick Surtain had a great year. I wouldn’t be surprised if Jaycee Horn, Elijah Molden and Ambry Thomas end up going earlier than Wade, Surtain and Caleb Farley.

— In this strange, Covid-impacted year I think teams will play it safe. I’m not sure anyone is going to be busting a gut to trade up — unless it’s for one of the top receivers or Penei Sewell. I also think the Jets and Dolphins — if they are minded to make a quarterback change — will be more inclined to trade their high picks for a veteran than simply move off Sam Darnold and Tua Tagovailoa for Zach Wilson or Justin Fields. I’m not sure that’s a forward step.

I’ve listed the two-round mock below, then provided explanations for each pick in a separate section after. I talk more about Seattle’s pick at the end.

First round

#1 Jacksonville — Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
#2 New York Jets — Penei Sewell (T, Oregon)
#3 Miami (v/HOU) — Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
#4 Atlanta — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)
#5 Cincinnati — Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)
#6 Philadelphia — Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
#7 Detroit — Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
#8 Carolina — Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
#9 Denver — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)
#10 Dallas — Walker Little (T, Stanford)
#11 New York Giants — Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)
#12 San Francisco — Rasheed Walker (T, Penn State)
#13 LA Chargers — Wyatt Davis (G, Ohio State)
#14 Minnesota — Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)
#15 New England — Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)
#16 Arizona — Azeez Ojulari (DE, Georgia)
#17 Las Vegas — Patrick Jones (DE, Pittsburgh)
#18 Miami — Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
#19 Washington — Davis Mills (QB, Stanford)
#20 Chicago — Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
#21 Indianapolis — Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
#22 Tennessee — Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
#23 New York Jets (v/SEA) — Dayo Odeyingbo (DE, Vanderbilt)
#24 Pittsburgh — Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)
#25 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
#26 Cleveland — Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan)
#27 Tampa Bay — Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami)
#28 Baltimore — Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
#29 New Orleans — Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)
#30 Buffalo — Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)
#31 Green Bay — Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan)
#32 Kansas City — Ronnie Perkins (DE, Oklahoma)

Second round

#33 Jacksonville — Pat Freiermuth (TE, Penn State)
#34 New York Jets — Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
#35 Atlanta — Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
#36 Miami (v/HOU) — Talanoa Hufanga (S, USC)
#37 Philadelphia — Elijah Molden (CB, Washington)
#38 Cincinnati — Rashawn Slater (G, Northwestern)
#39 Carolina — Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)
#40 Denver — Christian Darrisaw (T, Virginia Tech)
#41 Detroit — Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
#42 New York Giants — Jalen Mayfield (T, Michigan)
#43 San Francisco — Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)
#44 Dallas — Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)
#45 Jacksonville (v/MIN) — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
#46 New England — Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)
#47 LA Chargers — Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)
#48 Las Vegas — Jaylen Twyman (DT, Pittsburgh)
#49 Arizona — Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
#50 Miami — Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama)
#51 Washington — Jevon Holland (S, Oregon)
#52 Chicago — Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
#53 Tennessee — Alijah Vera-Tucker (G, USC)
#54 Indianapolis — Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)
#55 Pittsburgh — Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
#56 Seattle — Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia)
#57 LA Rams — Joseph Ossai (LB, Texas)
#58 Tampa Bay — Jay Tufele (DT, USC)
#59 Baltimore — Tylan Wallace (WR, Oklahoma State)
#60 Cleveland — Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
#61 New Orleans — Tommy Togiai (DT, Ohio State)
#62 Buffalo — Nick Bolton (LB, Missouri)
#63 Green Bay — Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, USC)
#64 Kansas City — Tutu Atwell (WR, Louisville)

The picks explained…

#1 Jacksonville — Trevor Lawrence (QB, Clemson)
Urban Meyer felt comfortable taking this job because he knew the opportunity that comes with being the man who gets to coach Trevor Lawrence.

#2 New York Jets — Penei Sewell (T, Oregon)

I think the Jets will shop this pick but in the end they might just take the best player available.

#3 Miami (v/HOU) — Ja’Marr Chase (WR, LSU)
It’s easy to forget just how good Chase was in 2019. DeVonta Smith is terrific but Chase has the extra size teams covet in a #1 wide out.

#4 Atlanta — DeVonta Smith (WR, Alabama)

New GM Terry Fontenot says they’ll take the best player. In that situation, it’s probably DeVonta Smith.

#5 Cincinnati — Micah Parsons (LB, Penn State)

They’d prefer one of Sewell, Chase or Smith but the Bengals never move up and they’re left to take the best remaining player.

#6 Philadelphia — Rondale Moore (WR, Purdue)
Moore is explosive, fast and you can build a passing game around him. He ran a 4.33 forty, a 4.01 short shuttle and jumped a 43 inch vertical at SPARQ.

#7 Detroit — Zach Wilson (QB, BYU)
I really like Wilson. I’m just not sure anyone is going to trade up or move off a previous high QB pick for him.

#8 Carolina — Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State)
As with Wilson, Fields clearly has talent. But is he quite good enough to say ‘we must have this man to lead our franchise’?

#9 Denver — Jeremiah Owusu-Koramoah (LB, Notre Dame)

Highly explosive and dynamic — a true first round talent. He can jump a 39-inch vertical and a 10-3 broad jump.

#10 Dallas — Walker Little (T, Stanford)

Perfectly sized, great agility and a very capable tackle prospect who will go earlier than people think. Had the best SPARQ score among O-liners in 2017 (107.25).

#11 New York Giants — Kyle Pitts (TE, Florida)

This is a pure value pick and I’m not sure anyone in New York is particularly tied to Evan Engram. Pitts dominated in 2020.

#12 San Francisco — Rasheed Walker (T, Penn State)

Walker showed power and agility this season and if the Niners lose Trent Williams they’re going to need a replacement.

#13 LA Chargers — Wyatt Davis (G, Ohio State)
Incredibly gifted interior lineman with a top pedigree. He dominated against Clemson alongside Josh Myers.

#14 Minnesota — Daviyon Nixon (DT, Iowa)

A TFL machine in 2020 (13.5). Nixon creates havoc from the interior and has the size to play every down and distance.

#15 New England — Jaylen Waddle (WR, Alabama)

He’s recovering from an injury but there’s no doubting the speed or the talent.

#16 Arizona — Azeez Ojulari (DE, Georgia)
The Bowl game against Cincinnati was a statement performance. It was Ojulari saying ‘I belong at the top of your pass rushing boards’.

#17 Las Vegas — Patrick Jones (DE, Pittsburgh)

Dynamic edge rusher with superb quickness and leadership skills. Mayock and Gruden should love him.

#18 Miami — Najee Harris (RB, Alabama)
Gliding and cultured runner who somehow combines power and finesse. Very talented and productive. Ran a 4.16 short shuttle at SPARQ.

#19 Washington — Davis Mills (QB, Stanford)
If you want to monitor a potential big riser at quarterback — remember the name Davis Mills. NFL teams are going to love his skill set.

#20 Chicago — Jaycee Horn (CB, South Carolina)
He looks like a Greek God of a cornerback. Incredibly put together. Dominated Auburn’s Seth Williams.

#21 Indianapolis — Alex Leatherwood (T, Alabama)
BAMF in the Duane Brown mould. Tough, physical and what he lacks in elite athletic traits he makes up for with badassery.

#22 Tennessee — Zaven Collins (LB, Tulsa)
He only ran a 5.03 forty at SPARQ but when you put on the tape he jumps off the screen. He looks like a first rounder.

#23 New York Jets (v/SEA) — Dayo Odeyingbo (DE, Vanderbilt)
Robert Salah gets his answer to Arik Armstead. Odeyingbo is 6-6 and 275lbs with 36 inch arms and can play inside/out.

#24 Pittsburgh — Javonte Williams (RB, North Carolina)
He had a record 0.48 broken tackles per rush attempt in 2020, registered 7.0 YPC and 4.59 yards-after-contact per carry. He’s exceptional.

#25 Jacksonville (v/LAR) — Patrick Surtain II (CB, Alabama)
He’s had a few lapses in 2020 but the talent and size will intrigue many teams. Only ran a 4.57 at SPARQ, though.

#26 Cleveland — Kwity Paye (DE, Michigan)

Highly athletic pass rusher who if he tests well, could go much earlier than this. Looks quick and explosive on tape.

#27 Tampa Bay — Gregory Rousseau (DE, Miami)
Has the size and the length but he was really raw in Miami and sitting out 2020 hasn’t helped his stock.

#28 Baltimore — Josh Myers (C, Ohio State)
Incredibly consistent, tough and very athletic center with a long career ahead of him. He ran a 4.49 short shuttle at 310lbs.

#29 New Orleans — Baron Browning (LB, Ohio State)
Wow-athlete at linebacker with tremendous character and intensity. Ran a 4.18 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 37 inch vertical.

#30 Buffalo — Elijah Moore (WR, Ole Miss)
Strong for his size and capable of going up to get the football — Moore is an ideal slot receiver who could make Buffalo’s passing game unstoppable.

#31 Green Bay — Ambry Thomas (CB, Michigan)
Very competitive corner who loves to mix it up and has shown impressive ball skills. Ran a sensational 3.90 short shuttle at SPARQ, adding a 4.43 forty and a 36 inch vertical.

#32 Kansas City — Ronnie Perkins (DE, Oklahoma)
Mean, nasty, quick edge rusher who is only scratching the surface of his potential. Could go earlier.

#33 Jacksonville — Pat Freiermuth (TE, Penn State)
It’s not overstating it to say that at times he looks like Gronk. Superb body control and size.

#34 New York Jets — Travis Etienne (RB, Clemson)
I think he had a ‘meh’ 2020 season but his profile is incredible. Jumped a 37 inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a 4.43.

#35 Atlanta — Caleb Farley (CB, Virginia Tech)
Farley is talented but lacks consistency. Testing will be key. He was only a three-star recruit.

#36 Miami (v/HOU) — Talanoa Hufanga (S, USC)
He’s exactly the kind of downhill, attack-dog safety the Belichick-tree coaches are going to love. Ran a 4.24 short shuttle at SPARQ.

#37 Philadelphia — Elijah Molden (CB, Washington)
Outstanding player who will only last this long based on his size and straight-line speed. Ran a 3.93 short shuttle at SPARQ and jumped a 37 inch vertical.

#38 Cincinnati — Rashawn Slater (G, Northwestern)

Overrated as a tackle but could easily slip inside and be a terrific player.

#39 Carolina — Alim McNeill (DT, NC State)

Massive, highly athletic prospect who will shock people when he runs and does the agility testing. Ran a 4.27 short shuttle (!!!) at SPARQ.

#40 Denver — Christian Darrisaw (T, Virginia Tech)
Rising offensive lineman but might be limited if teams view him purely as a right tackle.

#41 Detroit — Kadarius Toney (WR, Florida)
He’s a big favourite in the media but here’s something to consider — he ran a 4.69 at SPARQ at 177lbs. Was it just a bad run? That’s what he has to prove at the Senior Bowl. He did jump a 41 inch vertical.

#42 New York Giants — Jalen Mayfield (T, Michigan)
Strictly a right tackle but could move inside to guard.

#43 San Francisco — Creed Humphrey (C, Oklahoma)
Registered a SPARQ score of 94.17 in 2017 and plays with a real edge. Combo-blocking is strong and he gets to the second level well.

#44 Dallas — Andre Cisco (S, Syracuse)
A dynamic athlete and playmaker who has a shot to be really good at the next level. Ran a 4.27 short shuttle at SPARQ, adding a 36 inch vertical.

#45 Jacksonville (v/MIN) — Shaun Wade (CB, Ohio State)
He might have to settle for a permanent role in the slot but Wade has talent and someone has to try and develop him. Five-star recruit.

#46 New England — Trey Lance (QB, North Dakota State)

I’m just not sold on Lance. There are things to like but also minimal games, minimal opportunities and I couldn’t spend a first rounder on him.

#47 LA Chargers — Carlos Basham (DE, Wake Forest)

When he flashes he really flashes. There’s also some average games on tape. No combine doesn’t help him because he’s a good athlete.

#48 Las Vegas — Jaylen Twyman (DT, Pittsburgh)
Pass-rushing three-technique who lacks size but knows how to create opportunities from the interior.

#49 Arizona — Aaron Banks (G, Notre Dame)
An absolute monster at left guard. Big, physical and plows people at the LOS.

#50 Miami — Christian Barmore (DT, Alabama)
Personally, I think he’s a flash in the pan. Turned it on at the last moment at the end of the season but where’s the consistency?

#51 Washington — Jevon Holland (S, Oregon)

Holland is a decent player but how special is he?

#52 Chicago — Mac Jones (QB, Alabama)
Had an amazing supporting cast at Alabama and got the ball to them. Physical limitations could show up at the next level.

#53 Tennessee — Alijah Vera-Tucker (G, USC)
He has experience at left tackle but a move inside to guard seems likely. Mobile and works well in space. Not sure he has the kick-slide to stick at tackle.

#54 Indianapolis — Levi Onwuzurike (DT, Washington)

Jim Nagy says he has first round talent. The Senior Bowl is going to be huge for his stock.

#55 Pittsburgh — Rashod Bateman (WR, Minnesota)
Bateman was prolific in 2019 but in the few games he played in 2020 he just looked off. He did the right thing pulling himself out.

#56 Seattle — Ben Cleveland (G, Georgia)
Extremely strong, run-blocking specialist with more athleticism than people realise. Moves people off the LOS.

#57 LA Rams — Joseph Ossai (LB, Texas)
Could replace Leonard Floyd as a rush hybrid who can deliver pressure but also drop if needed.

#58 Tampa Bay — Jay Tufele (DT, USC)

Big, physical interior presence. Shows enough quickness to offer some pass-rushing help. Ran a 5.04 forty at SPARQ.

#59 Baltimore — Tylan Wallace (WR, Oklahoma State)

He’s their type of receiver — competitive, works to get open and he makes plays. I’m not sure he’ll run a great forty though.

#60 Cleveland — Dylan Moses (LB, Alabama)
He had an underwhelming season after returning from a knee injury. Cleveland likes to take chances on falling big names from the SEC.

#61 New Orleans — Tommy Togiai (DT, Ohio State)
Tough, tenacious, stout and will clog up lanes at defensive tackle and every now and again he’ll make a play as a pass rusher.

#62 Buffalo — Nick Bolton (LB, Missouri)
Technically sound and really tough but he ran a 4.80 forty at SPARQ and that limits his range.

#63 Green Bay — Amon-Ra St. Brown (WR, USC)
He has natural skills to get open and can do a bit of everything. His forty time will define how high he goes. He must improve on a 4.67 at SPARQ.

#64 Kansas City — Tutu Atwell (WR, Louisville)
Smaller receiver with electric skills. Can be used in many different ways. Will need to run well at his size.

Missed the cut

Landon Dickerson (C, Alabama)
Terrific player who was loved at Alabama. However, a long history of injuries will concern teams. Otherwise, he’s a top-40 talent.

Paris Ford (S, Pittsburgh)
Extremely talented and well recruited. A playmaker on his day. But what happened in 2020?

Jaelen Phillips (DE, Miami)
There’s no doubting his talent and he was a former big-time recruit. However, his history with concussions needs checking.

Kellen Mond (QB, Texas A&M)
Mond was a lot more consistent in 2020 and has a rocket arm. At times looks like a less mobile version of Colin Kaepernick.

Milton Williams (DE/DT, LA Tech)
Really athletic and dynamic with great character. However, losing the combine takes away a great chance to impress.

Terrance Marshall Jr (WR, LSU)
One of the few shining lights from LSU’s poor 2020 season. Again, I think he needed the combine really to get ahead of some of the other receivers.

Sam Cosmi (T, Texas)
Is he a tackle? Is he capable of improving his strength? At the moment he’s a big project.

Brevin Jordan (TE, Miami)
Dynamic tight end who can be a mismatch weapon. He ran a 4.21 short shuttle at SPARQ.

Monty Rice (LB, Georgia)
Tough and a player with starting potential but lacks the great athletic profile of some of the other linebackers in this class.

Javian Hawkins (RB, Louisville)
Smaller running back but dynamite as a ball carrier. Ran a 4.36 at SPARQ and jumped a 41 inch vertical. It shows on tape.

Trey Smith (G, Tennessee)
The health concerns aside, I think Smith has always been a bit overrated based on the recruiting hype he received.

Kyle Trask (QB, Florida)
Mediocre physical profile and on tape he doesn’t always see the field like you’d hope. Had a poor end to the season.

Nico Collins (WR, Michigan)
Makes difficult grabs and his highlights tape is fun to watch. However — does he have the speed to separate?

Jackson Carman (T, Clemson)
A player who is highly regarded by some but I need to watch more.

Kenny Yeboah (TE, Ole Miss)
Had a terrific season. Alabama couldn’t control him. Pure ‘big slot’ type who can be matched up to cause problems.

Seth Williams (WR, Auburn)
At times he looks fantastic. The way he mailed in the end of the season though left a sour taste. Lost his battle against Jaycee Horn.

Jayson Oweh (DE, Penn State)
There’s no doubting his physical upside but his tape is just bang average.

Trevon Moehrig (S, TCU)
I really liked watching him on tape and there’s something to work with here.

Marvin Wilson (DT, Florida State)
Incredible athlete at his size but conditioning is a concern. He needs a good Senior Bowl.

D’Wayne Eskridge (WR, Western Michigan)
I watched him for the first time last night and couldn’t quite believe what I was watching. He’s electric. He’s one to watch at the Senior Bowl.

Thoughts on the Seahawks pick

Based on what Pete Carroll had to say at the end of the season I would suggest the early odds are on Seattle using their top pick on a left guard or a running back.

North Carolina’s Javonte Williams is no longer available. I’ve moved him into round one and a top-40 placing is possible.

Here’s why…

— Had a record 0.48 broken tackles per rush attempt in 2020

— Registered 7.0 YPC and 4.59 yards-after-contact per carry

— Recorded the highest rushing grade of the PFF CFB era (95.9)

— Led all backs in the percentage of runs that picked up a gain of 10 or more yards (26.8%)

— 2,000 yards rushing over the last two years despite carrying the football only 322 times

His ability to run through contact, retain balance and finish make him one of the most intriguing players in this draft.

The top rated guards are gone so I’m bringing a new name to the table.

Georgia’s Ben Cleveland isn’t rated particularly highly by many. There’s something of a consensus that he might be a day three pick. However, the Seahawks don’t tend to follow conventional thinking.

He lined up at right guard for Georgia and would need to shift over to the left side in Seattle. However — he does have a lot of the characteristics they look for.

Since Mike Solari’s return, they’ve often sought massive size at left guard. Cleveland is 6-6 and 335lbs. Reportedly the Bulldogs athletic staff have to stop him at 45 bench press reps at 225lbs. The combine record is 49 and if it was taking place this year, he might have had a shot at breaking it.

The chances are his TEF score would be significant due to his benching but he also has surprising athleticism. He ran a 5.11 forty at SPARQ which is good for his size. His overall SPARQ score is a decent 97.32. He’s a former four-star recruit.

He plants the anchor well for a tall blocker. There were often times on tape in pass-pro where he locked into his blocks and didn’t cede any ground. According to PFF, he hasn’t given up a sack since 2017.

I didn’t see any obvious issues with leverage. Some players try to get low on him but he does a really good job in terms of hand placement to counter and he’s so strong he stalls most attacks. He’d often stand-up bull-rush attempts and when he locks on he can twist defenders to create lanes. You see defenders get quite frustrated playing against him because he’s just too big and strong.

In the running game he thrives when blocking straight-up, driving defenders off the ball and smothering. There’s evidence of combo-blocking. He’ll judo-toss defensive linemen to the turf when given a chance. Frequently defenders lose balance trying to engage him with power. They’re overmatched and almost try too hard, making it easy to work them out of position.

I’ve seen it said that you don’t want him on move but I think this is overstated. He was asked to pull in 2020 and he did it fairly well.

One snap against Auburn stood out to me. There were three interior rushers with the nose standing over the center. Georgia had the center reach to the second level right off the snap, meaning Cleveland had to get out to the nose from a difficult angle. He had to run across the line and connect with the defender on his left shoulder, so immediately he doesn’t have a proper connection or any leverage. Yet he made the move so seamlessly, worked his way in front of the nose and by the time the ball was handed off — he was positioned directly in front of the defender and able to gain leverage and pad-level. The running back ran right behind Cleveland’s block for a first down conversion on 2nd and 5.

There were certainly no issues with his movement there.

So sure — he’s at his best in a phone-booth as a mauler. Yet he’s not a lummox who can’t move his feet.

Teams might question his ability to pick up new schemes. He was academically ineligible for the Sugar Bowl a year ago and he admitted during an interview this season that he wishes he’d taken school more seriously (it took him five years to get a degree). How much of it is a learning issue and how much of it is an ‘only interested in football’ mentality? It took him a long time to nail down a permanent starting job at Georgia.

Cleveland is attending the Senior Bowl and it’ll be very interesting to see how he gets on in the 1v1 drills. These situations are made for pass rushers to excel — so if he can handle some of the quicker interior defenders and flash better than expected footwork, his stock could start to rise.

He clearly plays with a real edge and we’ve seen the Seahawks fall for players who impress with their attitude during the week in Mobile.

In fairness though, he looks like the type of player they need at left guard. He was a really pleasant surprise when I watched three of his games this week. And if they don’t have the finances to go after a big name veteran — you could do a lot worse than take a shot on him in the draft.

There’s a chance he might be available later on and perhaps the Seahawks could go in a different direction at #56 and select Cleveland in a different round? At this stage I’m just trying to bring different names to the table. Seattle generally identifies ‘their guys’ and goes after them. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility Cleveland ends up being one of their top targets.

With only $142,229 in effective cap space for 2021, according to Over the Cap, it’s really difficult to figure out exactly how the Seahawks plan to address several key needs this off-season. The direction they go in at #56 will likely depend on what they can’t get done in free agency.

Currently, they have barely any cap space and hardly any picks.

If you missed it please check out my interview with Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo:

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Curtis Allen’s off-season positional reviews: WR

Thursday, January 21st, 2021

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

#3 Wide Receivers

Roster Notes

Players under contract for 2021: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain

Players under contract for 2022: DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain

Restricted Free Agents: none

Unrestricted Free Agents: David Moore, Philip Dorsett, Josh Gordon (suspended)

Exclusive Rights Free Agents: none

Players signed to Futures Contracts: John Ursua, Will Fuller, Cody Thompson, Penny Hart

Salary Cap Notes

2021 Cap Commitment: $14.6 million (8.30% of $178m cap)

Tyler Lockett has $12.7m of his 2021 salary non-guaranteed

Available free agents

2020 Season Overview

As a whole it was a terrific year for the position group. Russell Wilson set career highs working with his wide receivers.

Two significant franchise records were set this year – Tyler Lockett with 100 catches and D.K. Metcalf with 1,303 receiving yards. It is an impressive achievement that the marks were set by two different players in the same season.

Metcalf took a huge step forward in year two. He increased every measurable receiving statistic dramatically. That was due not just to his skill but his hard work to expand his route tree and become a weapon of broader use in the offense. His career trajectory numbers-wise after only two seasons is tracking with the best to play the game.

Lockett sandwiched several everyday-effective performances with some outstanding games again in 2020. The games where he was the focal point of the offense were really a sight to see. His 15-catch, 200-yard, three-touchdown game in Arizona stands with the best performances of the season in the NFL.

David Moore set career highs for catches and touchdowns. His pylon-kicking body control touchdown catch against the Patriots defied the laws of science. He also had fantastic downfield catches against the Rams and Washington.

Freddie Swain established himself as an available option as a rookie and gave the Seahawks flexibility in the offense.

And yet… in light of the inconsistent manner of the offense and the disappointing end to the season, it is hard not to think of the catches, first downs and potential touchdowns the Seahawks left on the field this year.

– A brilliant D.K. Metcalf catch and run touchdown to seal the Cardinals game that was called back by an unnecessary blocking penalty

– The group had an awful 19 passes dropped this season

– D.K. Metcalf celebrating too early in the Dallas game on a deep completion, getting stripped and costing the Seahawks a touchdown

Also, the play calling and game planning suffered several inconsistencies that did not maximize the talent in the group:

– Stubbornly avoiding quick passes when facing formidable pass rush teams, resulting in Russell Wilson being sacked 47 times and throwing the ball away in several others

– At times trying too hard to feature David Moore and calling plays that do not suit his skill set, to the exclusion of Lockett and Metcalf or finding rhythm on offense

– Failing to get Metcalf targeted early in games. Just one example — the key division matchup against the Rams in Week 10. In a game in which they desperately needed playmaking, they waited until late in the third quarter to throw the ball to him

– Several third and short plays the Seahawks could not convert, preventing the offense more opportunities to throw to the wide receivers

Offseason Questions to Address

1. How will the wide receivers fit in the offense in 2021?

In Pete Carroll’s end of year press conference he called for running the ball more. That does not necessarily mean the team will not use prime assets like Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.

In fact, it is possible that a reinvestment in the offensive line and running back groups could open up possibilities for the wide receivers not experienced under Brian Schottenheimer in 2020.

A strong running game aided by an improved offensive line will keep drives alive more frequently, which gives the wide receivers more chances for targets.

It would also assure that teams can’t just stick to two deep safety looks all game. There will just be too many players to cover.

But really, the question for the wide receiver group is whether the new offensive coordinator scheme better in game planning as well as in-game adjustments? Can they put together a package of plays that utilizes the wide receivers’ skills and playmaking ability that does not always require a seven-step quarterback drop and three full seconds to develop?

How about adopting what other teams are doing? Running out an unusual package that gets defenses confused and then running five or six different plays out of that package to keep defenses guessing?

The Seahawks had a couple plays of this nature in 2020 but never returned to them. For instance, the Freddie Swain touchdown play against the Patriots. The Seahawks lined up Tyler Lockett in the running back spot and the Patriots were yelling out adjustments at the line. They then sent Lockett on a route and everybody was looking at him. That cleared out the middle for Swain to come across and then scoot down the sideline for his first career touchdown.
How about running that two or three times more during the season? Then throwing a wrinkle into that formation by throwing deep to Metcalf when everyone has bitten on Lockett or Swain?

We constantly heard last offseason that covering Lockett and Metcalf is going to be a huge chore for defenses and will open things up. Why then did the Seahawks struggle so much to find mismatches and open men at times? It never seemed that David Moore or Freddie Swain were able to feast on third or fourth string cornerbacks. The tight ends rarely found zone bubbles in coverage to sit down in, or wide open seams in the middle of the field.

There is no doubt some of that is on Russell Wilson not finding them. But still, an offensive coordinator’s job is to make things simple for his quarterback. We need to be honest. Nothing was simple for Russell Wilson in 2020.

This group is too talented not to give an offensive coordinator all kinds of options to work with in 2021.

2. How much higher can D.K. Metcalf climb?

Metcalf had a fantastic 2020. He graduated from an impressive rookie season to a Pro Bowl second season. He demonstrated improved route-running ability, he only recorded one more drop than 2019 despite an almost 30% increase in targets and reduced his fumbles from three to one.

He accomplished all this despite regularly being matched with the opponents’ top cornerbacks.

His impact and skill set are so blinding it is easy to overlook that he has several issues to work on if he wants to reach the top tier of NFL wide receivers.

Understanding how he can better use his huge frame and wingspan to his advantage in the passing game should be his number one assignment this offseason.

Metcalf at times plays like a small, quick wide receiver in that he utilizes his speed to beat his man. It is very easy to rely on that speed as his primary weapon. After all, he has had so much success with it.

But being able to body out defenders as well as better high pointing of the ball will send his impact on the game into the stratosphere.

Imagine Metcalf being able to box out defenders on quick slants and gaining an easy 7-12 yards anytime he wants. What kind of effect would that have on the defensive backfield? Those slants are good eating for safeties looking to deliver a smack. But do they really want to do that when the receiver is a 6’4” 230lb freight train coming at you? It has been tried.

Many times those players have been knocked to the ground with Metcalf standing over them on the field, looking at them like he had just swatted a fly. Now imagine after a handful of those, sending Metcalf on a slant and go route, streaking past them as they hesitate to consider whether they want to get whacked by him.

Consider what improved high pointing skill can accomplish. Being consistently matched up with a 5’11” cornerback and giving your quarterback the option to throw to you at any time, whether it is along the sideline or in the end zone, knowing Metcalf can jump out of the gym and go get the ball. That would open up all kinds of options in the playbook.

His mental focus needs some work. He had seven drops in 2019 and eight in 2020. No drops in 2021 would be ideal but a reasonable goal would be to cut those drops in half.

He also had several mental mistakes that cost the Seahawks at key times during the season:

– The Dallas game fumble
– A drive-killing procedural penalty against the Rams
– Failing to set a proper pick on a 4th down pass to Tyler Lockett in the Arizona game

– Failing to set the edge on the David Moore jet sweep play at the goal line in Philly

Metcalf needs better focus when called on to complete mundane plays.

Perhaps it is just a natural progression and he will improve? Maturing personally and the game slowing down for him in his third year will likely be beneficial. Yet they need to be addressed and cleaned up this offseason.

Just think on the possibility that Metcalf is able to improve on all these areas this offseason. Even just a little.

Defensive coordinators will not be able to stop him. He will be able to wreck their entire game plan by himself.

Consider what that does for Russell Wilson and his confidence.

Consider what options that opens up for the offensive coordinator.

Would you like a cherry on top? Metcalf will be on his rookie contract for the next two seasons. If he continues to improve his game, the Seahawks will be getting easily ten times the value of the contract they’re paying him.

But it is up to him to put in the work this offseason.

3. Will they look at extending Tyler Lockett?

It’s time.

They extended Lockett in 2018 with a year left on his original deal. He is in the last year of his contract and counts $15m against the cap in 2021. He has provided terrific value, snagging 239 passes for 28 touchdowns in the three seasons since he signed it. He is currently not in the top twenty wide receivers for contract value and that should be rectified.

He will be 29 when the 2021 season starts. He has plenty of good years left and he has proven to be incredibly durable for a player of his size.

Extending him now does more than just reward fine play. It keeps the pairing with D.K. Metcalf intact. It underlines the case to Russell Wilson that he has a really good thing going in Seattle.

If structured right, the Seahawks could gain some sorely needed 2021 salary cap room.

It demonstrates to D.K. Metcalf that this organization rewards outstanding play.

And speaking of Metcalf, a Lockett extension helps the Seahawks set up their roster and cap structure for when Metcalf’s rookie contract expires after 2022. Metcalf should be the clear top receiver on the team at that point and the Seahawks will have Tyler in the last year or two of his contract and it will give them options in deciding how to proceed in the draft this year and next, as well as flexibility when considering paying Metcalf a huge contract.

This makes too much sense for all parties involved for it to not happen.

4. What do they do behind Lockett and Metcalf in 2021?

There is not currently a proven third option behind their two starters at wide receiver.

David Moore is an unrestricted free agent. It will be fascinating to see what his market will be. The Seahawks tendered him at the $2.1m rate last year, kept him on the roster all summer and then on roster cut down day, negotiated his contract down to about half that and kept him on the roster.

His speed, ability to adjust and fight for deep balls and his record of clutch catches would seem to suggest a higher ceiling than he has shown in his Seahawks career. Unfortunately, he has developed a pattern where he typically follows a game with a breathtaking catch with two or three games with very little activity to speak of.

The Seahawks sought to expand his role in the offense with some plays at the line of scrimmage designed to open up looks for him. They did not really take advantage of his strengths and thus did not produce much.

Still, 35 catches for six touchdowns, a player that Russell has implicit trust in and some punt return duties on his plate are well worth $1million. If he finds himself without a large contract offer, he is a great fit in Seattle and needs to be considered.

At this point in his career though, it needs to be asked, is he a true third receiver? It would appear we have experienced the best he has to offer.
He appears to be a perfect fourth receiver. He is frequently used on special teams, he can take some snaps when the other receivers are hurt or need a breather and can catch the defense snoozing on him.

Could a new offensive coordinator get more out of him?

Freddie Swain had a nice rookie season but much about his future role is unknown at this point. It was a good sign that he got used in game action early in the season. Can he step into a bigger role in 2021? The coaching staff seemed very positive about him.

John Ursua was a roster stash throughout 2019 and then came in late in the season and had a couple key catches.

He then failed to beat Swain and Penny Hart to make the roster in 2020 and spent the year on the practice squad. He never once merited a game day activation spot. He has been styled as possible great fit at slot receiver for the Seahawks but just has not been able to get on the field.

Penny Hart was used on special teams and only had one catch in 2020.

Philip Dorsett and Josh Gordon were complete washouts, not seeing a snap of game action.

The rub therefore is, the Seahawks do not have a real third option on the roster right now. There are several free agents available but with their limited resources and the talent stacked ahead of them, the best option might be to try and add a couple inexpensive free agents and hope one of them pops.

It would appear that if the Seahawks fill some other needs before the draft, they would be free to take the best player available. If that is a wide receiver, he will definitely have a role available to him in 2021.

Rob’s Potential Draft Targets

It’s another strong looking receiver class. Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith will go off the board quickly. I expect Rondale Moore will rise when he’s had a pro-day and shown he’s one of the best athletes in America.

Assuming there are no lingering issues with Jaylen Waddle’s ankle injury, he will also be a high pick.

There are several players who could also go in the top-40 but have the potential to last to the Seahawks too. Elijah Moore is a dynamic, strong and sturdy receiver who plays beyond his size. Tutu Atwell is another diminutive pass-catcher but he’s explosive and quick with big-play potential.

The Seahawks seem to prioritise speed at the position and look for players running a 4.4 or faster. It’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Rashod Bateman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tylan Wallace and Nico Collins run — but I suspect all might be 4.5 runners.

Kadarius Toney has talent and could be a mid-round pick. Again, speed will be key. He’s attending the Senior Bowl so might be one to watch. Seth Williams at Auburn lost his matchup with Jaycee Horn and slouched through the end of the season — but he’s better than he showed in his final few games. Terrance Marshall Jr also had a highly productive year in trying circumstances with LSU.

Sage Surratt wins a lot of contested catches but again — whether the Seahawks are interested will come down to how he runs.

For more on the draft please check out my interview with Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo:

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An interview with Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Check out the blog post from earlier discussing the latest on the offensive coordinator search by clicking here. However, I figured we could all use a break from the subject. So here’s my interview with Vanderbilt’s extremely talented Dayo Odeyingbo.

The Senior Bowl is right around the corner and he’s definitely one to watch in Mobile.

Please take a look and hit the like button on YouTube to help spread the word.

Does anyone want this job?

Wednesday, January 20th, 2021

Doug Pederson, Anthony Lynn, Shane Steichen, Mike Kafka, Adam Gase…

Plenty of names have been linked with Seattle’s offensive coordinator job, or held talks.

Over a week later — the interviews are still ongoing.

At what point does an ‘exhaustive search’ turn into a case of nobody wanting to do a job that Brian Schottenheimer didn’t fancy any more?

The latest person to be interviewed is Kirby Wilson — the running backs coach for the Las Vegas Raiders.

Wilson hasn’t had an interview for an offensive coordinator gig for seven years. He has never called plays in his career. He turns 60 this year.

But guess what? He was Carroll’s receivers coach at USC in 2001.

Would it be that surprising if Wilson got the job, flanked by Dave Canales as co-coordinator or remaining in charge of the passing game?

Names from Carroll’s inner-circle, willing to do what he wants.

I don’t think yesterday’s intervention from Brandon Marshall was a coincidence. As Nick Wright very carefully stated — there’s no reason for a national TV show to be talking about Seattle’s offensive coordinator gig in the middle of the NFL playoffs or with the NBA season in full flow:

That, to me, was another example of negotiating through the media. Marshall, a former Seahawk, letting everyone know what the situation is. That show, yesterday, was issuing a very real warning to the Seahawks.

“A bubbling massive story”

“We are on the brink of a disaster in Seattle not that dissimilar to the one playing out in Houston”

If you’re still denying there’s a problem here — it’s time to grasp the nettle.

This is getting serious now — just as we said it might do a month ago.

It’s been confirmed Doug Pederson isn’t taking the job. That was never realistic. He would’ve been working for free anyway, due to his payoff from the Eagles. Anthony Lynn’s in a similar situation but according to reports could end up with Urban Meyer in Jacksonville.

There’s no reason not to identify an innovative up-and-comer and make it worth their while. Come and work with Russell Wilson. Be empowered. Call the offense.

That’s not happening though, is it?

Carroll, by being so strict in his insistence on what the offense should be, seems to be making this job unattractive. A top coordinator wants to do what they want to do. Their vision. They don’t want a meddling Head Coach dictating things from the top.

It’s simply not appealing to come and run an offense chosen by a soon-to-be 70-year-old defensive-minded coach.

Schottenheimer didn’t want to do it.

They’re going to end up with an internal candidate or someone from the outside with background to Carroll, or someone simply willing to do what he wants.

This is trending one way. Unless the Seahawks can pull a rabbit out of a hat, they’re going to be left with a serious issue on their hands.

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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.

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

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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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