Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

The reason Antonio Brown might be available sooner than we think

Friday, July 3rd, 2020

We’ve talked a lot about Russell Wilson’s apparent interest in playing with Antonio Brown this season. The workout video this week felt like Wilson was making a point. He wants that story in the media and he wants Brown on the Seahawks — months after calling for the team to land some superstars.

I’ve often highlighted the caveat that Brown is likely to face a lengthy suspension. Thus, any move to sign him seemed like a ways off.

However, Mike Florio raised an interesting point in the video above.

Brown was cut by the Patriots after week two when allegations of sexual and personal misconduct were levied against him and then he allegedly sent intimidating text messages sent to one of his accusers. He was never placed on the commissioners exempt list but that was inevitable the minute anyone signed him. Thus, nobody did.

We know teams were interested. Heck, the Seahawks were linked to him on multiple occasions during the 2019 season. Yet teams knew it would be a waste of time. The minute he penned a contract, he was going on the exempt list due to the allegations. He wasn’t officially suspended but he was essentially frozen out of the NFL.

So while we assume Brown will likely receive a significant suspension were he to sign with a team now, Florio notes it could be argued he’s already served a 14 game ban. If the league wished to suspend him for 16 games — a full season — it’s possible that he might actually only miss two games in 2020. It would certainly be difficult for the league to argue he hadn’t already been prevented from signing for a team and playing in 14 games last season while the allegations remained unaddressed.

That’s something to consider as talk of Brown signing with a team ramps up. If he’s going to miss between 0-2 games in 2020, his signing is a lot more likely than if he was going to miss half the season or more. Presumably when there’s clarity on how much time, if any, he will miss in 2020 — that’s the moment he will sign somewhere.

It’s also worth noting that Wilson isn’t the only quarterback willing to petition for his team signing Brown. Deshaun Watson wants him in Houston and Lamar Jackson has also worked out with him. Tom Brady seems determined to work with him again. Mike Garafolo reported this week that many quarterbacks are ‘enamoured’ with the idea of playing with him. Garofolo also suggested Brown’s preferred destination is Seattle.

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Russell Wilson is making a point

Thursday, July 2nd, 2020

Yesterday a couple of videos emerged on Antonio Brown’s instagram, including this:

It shows Brown clearly working out with Russell Wilson on the quarterbacks property (note the large ‘RW’ logo at midfield). A second video clearly identified Wilson was the person throwing the ball to Brown.

In May John Clayton wrote an article revealing that Wilson ‘would love to add Antonio Brown’. A week ago, Mike Silver connected the Seahawks to Brown by reporting they’d had internal discussions about signing him.

Now, this workout.

So what’s going on?

At the Pro Bowl Seattle’s quarterback made it very clear that he wanted the team to add superstars. None were forthcoming in free agency as the Seahawks failed to bring back Jadeveon Clowney (despite an online appeal by Wilson) and didn’t add any other significant names either — preferring to pad the roster with O-line depth.

This hasn’t been the kind of proactive off-season many expected. The pass rush remains a major issue and there are serious questions over whether the roster has actually improved despite $60m being spent. Many fans are anxious for the Seahawks not to squander Wilson’s prime years. It’s possible the quarterback feels that way too.

By working out with Brown and then allowing the footage to appear on Instagram, Wilson seems to be making a point. He wants this player signed — or at the very least he wants the Seahawks to make a move. He wants this story in the media.

Let’s not be naive and pretend this wasn’t deliberate. The question now is whether the Seahawks will placate their quarterback and if they don’t — is it possible Wilson will start to question how ‘all-in’ the franchise is to get back to the Super Bowl, after an underwhelming off-season.

Regardless, as we noted last week, Brown could face a lengthy suspension which makes an immediate signing unlikely. According to Mike Garofolo, Seattle is Brown’s preferred destination if and when he’s able to continue his career.

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Michigan’s Nico Collins is another talented 2021 receiver

Sunday, June 28th, 2020

Nico Collins has second round potential

The 2021 draft promises to be another year dominated by talented receivers. Nico Collins has every opportunity to be a high pick.

The first thing that stands out is his natural ability. You can see why he was a highly touted, four-star talent. He’s actually from Alabama and was recruited heavily by the Crimson Tide. He took visits to Georgia and Florida State along with Alabama and Michigan. He claims he just fell in love with the idea of playing for Jim Harbaugh and opted, surprisingly, to head North.

Unfortunately the Harbaugh project hasn’t worked as well as hoped for the Wolverines and he’ll go into the 2020 season (if it happens) under pressure to be more competitive — especially against Ohio State. The offensive production in particular hasn’t reached the expected levels, quarterback play has been disjointed and poor and a number of highly touted recruits haven’t played to their potential.

Collins’ production has been decent but has been somewhat limited within an underwhelming offense. He had 729 yards last season with seven scores and in 2018 managed 632 yards and six touchdowns. If there’s a full season this year, that’s about the ballpark expectation unless there’s a major improvement at quarterback.

When you watch him on tape it’s very easy to think his better days may come in the NFL. He’s wonderfully sized at 6-4 and 222lbs and he does two things very well.

Firstly, his ball-tracking is superb. If you chuck a fade in his direction he’s adept at locating the ball then positioning his body to make the completion. It’s not an easy skill — and it’s something D.K. Metcalf, for all his upside, is yet to master. Collins knows when to box out a defender but he also contorts his body to make contested grabs too and it all stems from his ability to quickly locate, gain position and finish. He undercuts defenders running across the middle and fights to the ball too.

Secondly, he has superb body control. There’s very little wasted movement in his catching process. No choppy steps, no dancing at the start of the route. He has an opportunity to become quite a trusted receiver early in his career because he gets to where he needs to go and even if he’s covered, you can throw the ball imperfectly into an area where he can still make things happen.

Size, control, instincts — these are factors that play into the natural talent he has.

There is another side to his game though that will cause some concern. Speed.

Running a great forty isn’t everything. Michael Thomas, DeAndre Hopkins and others are a good example of that. Yet you do need to have some ability to win quickly and suddenly — or have the rare special qualities that enable openings deeper in the route. There aren’t many who can do that at the highest level. As the league has become faster paced and more user friendly for passing — suddenness is key. And more often than not, a good forty is a strong indicator of an ability to get open.

That’s likely one of the reasons the Seahawks haven’t drafted receivers early without running at least a 4.4. They value speed and quickness even in their bigger receivers — as seen recently with Metcalf and previously with players like Kris Durham.

Collins isn’t quick. That’s not his game. You don’t see him exploding off the snap, snaking by a defender and providing that easy throw to the quarterback on a slant. He’s not going to drive to the post and get open. He’s not going to boss go-routes and give opponents a headache downfield. He’s not a YAC-threat. If you want a receiver who does those things you’re going to look at a player such as DeVonta Smith.

A lot of Collins’ catches are contested and at the end of the day, he’s 6-4 and 222lbs. He’s not Antonio Brown or Tyler Lockett.

He didn’t test at SPARQ so we don’t have any indicators on what his forty might be but if I had to guess, I think even a 4.5 might be optimistic. He’s the opposite of sudden. As he builds speed his acceleration is actually quite leggy and sluggish.

Collins is still talented though. As noted before, he has a natural ability that you can work with. He’s probably not going to be a Seahawks target because he’s unlikely to run a 4.4. However — for the teams who like to scheme receivers open, find ways to pick holes in a defensive system and manufacture opportunities for their players — he could be a major value addition in the second round. He could be a good pick for a team like New Orleans or the LA Rams and he has second round potential for GM’s and coaches who can work out a plan to make the most of his physical ability.

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Seahawks linked to Antonio Brown again

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2020

In the video above Michael Silver connects the Seahawks and Ravens to Antonio Brown. He notes Brown has been working out with Geno Smith recently.

Brown hinted on social media earlier this month that he could be joining a new team soon. Shortly after, he resolved a January arrest by pleading no contest to multiple charges arising from an altercation with a moving truck driver whom Brown didn’t want to pay.

There are still plenty of hurdles in the way in terms of returning to the NFL.

For starters, he will be disciplined by the league for the January incident. He remains subject to NFL policies despite not being contracted by any team and pleaded no contest to two felonies (burglary and battery) that entail a minimum prison sentence of one year.

He won’t go to prison because he negotiated a different outcome. Yet the league will have to act as part of any reinstatement and that could mean a suspension.

The NFL also continues to investigate Brown for a civil allegation of sexual assault and rape. He also remains under investigation for allegedly harassing via text message a woman who spoke out about him to the media.

If and when he’s cleared to return to play, there’s every chance he’s going to miss significant time. Not to mention the aesthetics of signing him. Brown has trashed his reputation in the last 12 months and some of the allegations made against him are extremely serious and unsettling.

The Seahawks are well known for looking into every opportunity. Silver’s report merely states they’ve had internal discussions. Keeping the door open isn’t a problem. Signing him isn’t even a problem — as long as he’s cleared of those allegations and your own internal homework is thorough and comes to a satisfactory conclusion.

How viable is it, however, to return a satisfactory outcome? Brown has been a whirlwind of drama for a long time. Even if the allegations prove to be false — he’s provided so many other reasons to steer clear.

Yet Jake Heaps, who is close to Russell Wilson, validates the possibility of Brown being added by stating on twitter that the discussions are serious.

Earlier this summer John Clayton suggested Wilson has been pushing for the team to sign Brown. Even Brown himself posted a ‘jersey swap’ on social media — a picture of him wearing a Seahawks uniform.

Wilson pushed for superstars at the Pro Bowl and none were forthcoming (unless you want to include Greg Olsen). The Seahawks know they need to help Wilson as much as possible because currently, the roster isn’t good enough to win a Championship — even though their quarterback most certainly is.

It’ll be interesting to see what the consequences of Brown’s inevitable reinstatement are — and if it creates a plausible opportunity for Seattle to bring him in.

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Some thoughts on the Jamal Adams trade situation

Saturday, June 20th, 2020

Jamal Adams has asked to be traded by the Jets

There’s been a lot of talk over the last 48 hours about Jamal Adams — and understandably so. He’s a quality player at a good age (turns 25 in October). Aside from his obvious qualities on the field he’s also considered an emotional leader.

It does warrant asking why we’re on chapter seven of ‘will he or won’t he leave the Jets’. It’s possible that the constant drama that surrounds his future is self inflicted. After all, there’s little reason for the Jets to part with a player everyone considers one of their best. Nevertheless here we are — with Adams unsatisfied on contract talks and trying to force his way out of New York.

Adam Schefter tweeted a list of the best teams in the NFL, stating Adams would be willing to be traded to any of them. The Seahawks were on the list. This is all part of the ‘come and get me’ plea that the player is initiating through the media. The Seahawks are listed not so much for any specific reason other than they’re a competent franchise who regularly qualifies for the playoffs with a top quarterback.

Even so, it’s got people talking and even creating wild and wonderful trade scenarios — including players and picks.

The chances of the Seahawks actually making the trade however are remote.

The reality is that safety is one of the few positions where they actually have some depth and talent. The Quandre Diggs acquisition during the 2019 season was a masterstroke. Already he looks like Seattle’s second best player on defense. He’s charismatic and respected. As long as he can stay healthy, a contract extension at the end of the season could be on the cards. Diggs is only 27 and has an opportunity to become a longer term core member of the roster.

At strong safety, they’re only a year removed from spending a second round pick on Marquise Blair. While it’s no precursor to success, it’s worth noting that they took Blair 17 spots earlier than D.K. Metcalf in the 2019 draft. The only defensive back they’ve drafted earlier than Blair is Earl Thomas. That’s how much potential they think he has. He’s also not the first safety to require some time to learn the scheme. Kam Chancellor was redshirted. Earl Thomas had growing pains and simply played anyway because he joined what amounted to an expansion-level roster in 2010.

Trading for Adams would all but write off the Blair pick one year into his career.

They also have Bradley McDougald, who people are already happy to write off and propel off the roster — presumably because he’s not a former high pick or a flashy big name. Yet McDougald has long been underrated. His passer rating when thrown to in 2019 was 58.8 — among the top-15 for all defensive backs in the league. That’s comparable to Tyrann Mathieu (57.8) and Eddie Jackson (57.6). That’s despite being targeted 14 more times than Jackson in coverage.

He actually had a relatively poor end to last season which impacted his statistics. For most of the year he was graded in a similar range to Earl Thomas, who ended up leading all defensive backs in passer rating.

McDougald has also contributed with turnovers — including five interceptions in the last two seasons, four forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Nobody would argue he’s a better player than Adams. He isn’t. Given the choice of the two players to build around, you’d clearly choose the younger former top-10 pick. Yet McDougald is the ideal player to have in place while you bring along Blair. He’s a competent, productive starter with leadership qualities. If the aim is for Blair to take over the starting role in the next 12 months, this is actually a good situation. He has to earn the job but he has a pathway to achieve that.

By trading for Adams you’re completely blocking his route to start. It’d be the end of his Seattle career. You’d have to pay a first round pick for the privilege plus other picks too — on top of the selection already used on Blair.

It really comes down to this — the strong safety position is not a problem for Seattle. They have a reasonable transition plan in place. As good as Adams is — it’s not a situation that warrants the extreme investment (picks and a massive new salary) it would cost to bring him in.

Diggs, McDougald and Blair — supported by Ugo Amadi — isn’t a glaring weakness. If the Seahawks are going to spend a first round pick in a trade, it should be on the defensive line. That’s the real area that’s going to hold them back in a title run.

The dire situation is highlighted by the fact they still haven’t replaced Al Woods at defensive tackle. At the moment they’re prepared to enter the season with only Bryan Mone and Demarcus Christmas backing up Jarran Reed and Poona Ford.

At defensive end, they’re going to be relying on Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin — plus anything they can get from rookie Darrell Taylor — to try and fix the pass rush problem and make up for the loss of Jadeveon Clowney. Nobody would’ve accepted that situation the day after the Green Bay playoff game. Yet here we are.

Had the Seahawks invested in their D-line in free agency and not acquired Quandre Diggs or Marquise Blair in the last 12 months — trading for Adams would’ve been a smart move. As it is they’ve just got other priorities at the moment.

And before anyone points out that Adams had 6.5 sacks for the Jets last year — remember who he was playing for. Defensive coordinator Gregg Williams embarrassingly calls himself ‘Doctor Blitz’. Adams blitzed 90 times during the 2019 season, ninth most in the entire NFL at any position. Baltimore’s Chuck Clark, in a similar scheme, was the only safety who blitzed at a similar rate.

In comparison, Bradley McDougald blitzed 21 times. Even Bobby Wagner only blitzed 71 times last season.

In Seattle’s scheme, Earl Thomas recorded the grand total of zero sacks and Kam Chancellor had two. So Adams’ sack total is unlikely to translate.

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Josh Gordon’s Seahawks return edges closer

Thursday, June 18th, 2020

A month ago I wrote a piece discussing why re-signing Josh Gordon would be a wise move for the Seahawks.

Today, the seemingly inevitable reunion moved a step closer…

Gordon’s attorney is arguing that he suffered a relapse following the death of his brother in November:

“But since that time, he has realized how important it is for him to take the right steps, do what’s proper and understand how to manage these issues. He’s installed the right team around him to make sure he’s on the right path. He understands he’s been given every chance. He looks forward to making the most of this.”

Clearly this is a plausible explanation for someone who has had a lot of personal demons to conquer. It’s also, unfortunately, a familiar story for Gordon. Eventually he’s going to run out of chances to prove he’s ‘realized how important it is to take the right steps’. If he gets another opportunity with the Seahawks, it’ll possibly be his final shot in the league.

That said, the two parties are tailor made for each other in this circumstance. Pete Carroll is always willing to take on a reclamation project. Gordon needs the kind of support an organisation like the Seahawks provides. Seattle has strong leadership across the board and a quarterback with gravitas and status.

More importantly, they have an empathetic approach to their players. They celebrate uniqueness — even if it presents itself in a challenging form.

On the field, the Seahawks badly need a dynamic third wheel at receiver. The league has transitioned in the last few years and the top teams have a variety of weapons and genuine flexibility on offense. The Seahawks have Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Greg Olsen. Putting Josh Gordon on the field too creates a headache for opponents.

His potential impact was clear in his restricted stint at the end of last year. Joining mid-season he had to work within a limited route tree but still found ways to impact games. He was a trusted and reliable presence on third down and pulled off one of the downfield catches of the season against Carolina.

If he has a training camp to develop his role, Seattle could have their most dynamic array of receiving weapons in Russell Wilson’s career. Considering the state of the defensive line currently, they’re going to need to find some ways to compensate.

He’s also not going to break the bank. With a limited market and a string of suspensions he might have to settle for a veteran minimum ‘prove-it’ contract. In that instance it’d be a no-brainer to bring him in and give him a chance to compete.

Wilson called for superstar additions at the Pro-Bowl and the Seahawks didn’t answer the call. Neither did they tap into a strong wide receiver draft until the latter stages of day three or properly address the pass rush. The least they can do is bring back one of the most talented (albeit troubled) receivers in the NFL.

The league will likely agree to his reinstatement after he missed games at the end of last season. Hopefully this will be done in time for the start of camp and the worst kept secret in the NFL — that Gordon would be reunited with the Seahawks — can be confirmed.

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Tyler Lockett deserves a pay increase

Tuesday, June 16th, 2020

Tyler Lockett is only the joint 22nd best paid receiver in the NFL

The importance of timing when it comes to contracts cannot be overestimated.

Anticipating when to agree terms is vital. It provides you with an opportunity to get ahead of the game. While the immediate reaction might be one of surprise depending on the size of the salary — foreseeing progression can provide extreme value.

Kam Chancellor is a good example of this early in the Pete Carroll era. He was made one of the highest paid safeties in the league in 2013 when he signed a four-year, $28m contract. Nobody doubted Chancellor was a fine player and a leader on the team. Yet many questioned the size of the contract. In the end, it was a perfectly justified deal that actually provoked a holdout down the line because it was so reasonable.

The most recent example is Tyler Lockett. There were a few eyebrows raised when he agreed a three-year, $31.8m extension in August 2018. By that point his best season, yardage wise, was his rookie effort of 664. He’d suffered a serious leg injury and in 2017 had only recorded 555 yards and two touchdowns.

It’s easy to forget now but at the time a lot of people questioned the deal. In hindsight, it’s been an absolute bargain.

Lockett has turned into a star. He has 2022 yards in the last two seasons and 18 touchdowns. It’s impossible to imagine the offense functioning without his connection to the quarterback. The trust, chemistry and sheer talent and ability to make the impossible happen is the focal point of the offense.

The $31.8m contract was worth an average of $10.25m a year. Two years later, Lockett is the joint 22nd highest paid receiver in the league. He’s earning less per year than Emmanuel Sanders and Tyler Boyd. His salary is on par with Sterling Shepard’s extension with the Giants.

He’s earning marginally more than Quincy Enunwa.

If I were Lockett’s representatives, I’d be pushing for another extension.

It might be worth Seattle trying to get ahead of the game again. They have an estimated $63m available in 2021 and $187m available in 2022. By tearing up his current contract they might be able to increase his $11.5m cap hit for next season but lower his cap hit this year (currently $12.25m) — then tack on a couple of years paying him in the same range as DeAndre Hopkins and Brandin Cooks ($16.2m).

That might seem like a lot of money to pay Lockett down the line — especially with the uncertainty about the NFL economy due to coronavirus. Assuming the league will recover — and it should — there’s little reason to think receivers are going to see a major regression in average salary at the top end. Thus — what might seem costly today ($16m) might actually be a bargain by the time we get to 2022. Even if it isn’t — Lockett is Seattle’s #1 target. And while a lot of his game is built around supreme athleticism and quickness which might fade slightly as he turns 30 — he’s still incredibly savvy and technically brilliant.

Lockett might not be interested in such a pact and might think it’s best to wait this out and perhaps eventually become a free agent. Yet he, more than most, seems to recognise the good thing he’s got in Seattle. He’s among the highest paid on the roster and gets to work with an elite quarterback at a well run organisation.

Securing an extra couple of years on his deal for a top amount could also benefit both parties. Lockett gets the extra security and doesn’t risk becoming a free agent after 2021 in a financially uncertain period for the NFL. The team can lock up one of its very best players while also creating cap room this year (which it badly needs considering there are still significant holes on the roster).

He only turns 28 in September. Getting ahead of the game with Lockett once before paid dividends. He’s also part of the clear definitive core group that they need to add to and commit to. A pay increase for the future would also be a welcome reward for a player who has been underpaid compared to his peers.

Lockett is one of the best receivers in the league and is clearly one of Seattle’s most important players. Their only long term contract commitments are Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. There’s no reason not to add Lockett’s name to that list. Rather than ask him to tweak his deal to create cap space this year — an extension and overall pay increase would be a just reward for a player who has quickly developed into a significant asset.

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Thoughts on Chris Carson’s contract situation

Friday, June 12th, 2020

Chris Carson’s style is highly valued by Pete Carroll

Whether you agree or not, the Seahawks see tremendous value in a particular type of running back.

There’s a reason why they consistently target players in the 220lbs range with explosive traits and the ability to finish runs. There’s no mystery to what they look for — and it’s why for the last few years we’ve been able to say with a degree of certainty who will be on their radar.

Pete Carroll talks consistently about completing the circle. In his mind the way to connect the defense to the offense is through a tough, physical running game. We saw how the LOB and Marshawn Lynch played off each other. Good luck recreating that chemistry — but at the very least Carson, for two seasons now, has been able to deliver the running style they crave.

His ability to finish runs, take the hammer to opponents and be unpleasant to tackle is, to Carroll, a key factor.

2019 wasn’t a bad season for Carson. He finished fifth in yards (1230) behind only Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb, Christian McCaffrey and Ezekiel Elliott. He was third for yards after contact (905) and he was second only to Nick Chubb in yards per carry after contact (3.3).

It wasn’t a particularly remarkable season either. His yards per attempt (4.4) was fairly middle of the road despite playing against opponents needing to key in on Russell Wilson.

He also fumbled seven times — most in the league by running backs. It was a problem that dogged him for the entire season, creating question marks going forward.

His injury history (NFL and college) and fumbling problems mean there are serious concerns about committing to Carson as a long term foundation piece.

However, there are a couple of things to consider here.

Firstly, the Seahawks didn’t draft a running back early. They had the opportunity too and it was an impressive, top-heavy running back class this year. Had they taken Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jonathan Taylor, J.K. Dobbins or Cam Akers for example — the writing could’ve been on the wall for Carson. They could’ve easily walked away from him next off-season having made an investment at the position.

Instead, they waited until round four and took a flyer on Deejay Dallas before signing makeshift veteran Carlos Hyde.

The Seahawks clearly felt they had other priorities — and they did. They like Carson. The defense is a big problem. They prioritised adding to their defensive front seven rather than planning ahead at running back (which is certainly plausible given the lack of activity to fix the defense in free agency).

It’s still a small vote of confidence in a player approaching a contract year who has had too many fumbles and injuries. Some will argue they can just replace him next year anyway, which is true. Yet the Seahawks clearly place a certain value on the position. Essentially ignoring it until the dying embers of free agency and the draft is, if nothing else, a hint that Carson is part of their plans beyond 2020.

Secondly, the contract environment might actually be moving in the right direction for the Seahawks.

Several high profile running backs have signed big extensions recently and the moves haven’t worked out. It means that the next crop — which includes Carson and Dalvin Cook — might find it difficult to garner any leverage in negotiations.

Teams like Seattle are also boosted by Melvin Gordon’s situation. A year ago he held out deep into the season. The Chargers called his bluff and he had to cede and return to the team. When he finally reached the open market as a healthy and somewhat rested player — his market was flat. He ended up having to sign a two-year deal with Denver. He probably anticipated more money when he originally decided to hold out.

Cook is already making noises that he will also hold out if he doesn’t get an extension this summer. Yet the Vikings will very likely use the same tactics as the Chargers. Cook is a good player but is he any more likely to get a big contract as a free agent next year? That’s debatable.

The upper hand is with the teams. This is especially the case with Carson.

He’s due to make $2,149,283 in 2020. This is the first time in his career he’s earned a seven-figure sum. Unlike players such as Cook or Gordon (both high picks) — Carson is yet to make any life-changing money.

Even if he has a fantastic season, the fumbling and injury issues will remain on his résumé. He might be able to convert a strong season into a Melvin Gordon type deal on the open market. There’s also a chance he’ll continue to fumble, get injured again and seriously impact his earning potential.

It’d be interesting to know whether the Seahawks are open to extension talks this year. Presumably it would be tempting for a player in Carson’s position to try and seek some financial security, provided there was still an opportunity to reach the open market in the near future.

It might be worth his while to come to some sort of shorter term compromise now — such as tacking on Gordon’s two years for $8m onto his existing deal. That would enable him to reach the market again in his late 20’s and make some serious money in 2021 and potentially 2022.

His representatives could argue (and I suspect this will be Dalvin Cook’s argument too) that Christian McCaffrey has just reset the market on $16m a year. McCaffrey’s a unicorn though. He’s the face of the franchise in Carolina now, has had near enough back-to-back 2000 yard seasons and they couldn’t afford to let him walk as they progress through a new era and rebuild. Both Carson and Cook are not going to be able to convince their teams to spend that kind of money. It’s also worth noting how healthy and available McCaffrey has been in his career — unlike Carson and Cook.

The Seahawks appear comfortable with Carson and they like his fit. The shape of the running back market works in their favour and Carson’s modest earnings so far in his career could make a shorter term extension appealing for both parties. It’s unlikely Rashaad Penny will do enough in a truncated season to make him dispensable and Carlos Hyde is a short-term fix.

He’s not going to earn mega money and if he did have a stunning 2020 season with massive production — the Seahawks would have the protection of a $10m franchise tag in their back-pocket. It might make sense for both parties to come together now — unless the Seahawks are willing to both let him play out the season and then test free agency, knowing they might be better off letting him establish his market before making even a shorter-term commitment.

That would make some sense too. There’s not really a ‘wrong’ answer here — provided they don’t invest obscene sums (which seems highly unlikely). Eventually though, whether it’s a short term pact or something longer, there’s a reasonable chance 2020 won’t be Carson’s final year in Seattle.

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Seattle’s secondary should be highly motivated in 2020

Wednesday, June 10th, 2020

Quandre Diggs quickly developed into a key player for Seattle

Walter Thurmond, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell, Jeremy Lane.

The Seahawks drafted all five between 2010 and 2012. All five were day three picks.

Since then, the well has run dry.

Cornerbacks Tharold Simon and Tye Smith never made it. Since Smith was taken in 2015, the Seahawks have only drafted one pure cornerback in the subsequent five drafts (Shaquill Griffin). Tre Flowers was a safety convert with the ideal build for what the Seahawks look for — but he was no corner in college.

They’ve drafted a number of safeties — Ryan Murphy, Tedric Thompson, Delano Hill, Mike Tyson, Marquise Blair and Ugo Amadi.

Murphy never looked like making the grade. Thompson struggled before eventually being cut. Hill will fight to make the roster this year. Tyson is long gone. Neither Blair or Amadi made an impression as a rookie (despite some overly positive reviews).

For a team with such a rich early history in developing defensive backs, it’s strange how things have come to a shuddering hault.

There are plenty of theories as to why. Are teams drafting Seattle-style cornerbacks earlier, in an attempt to mimic their success? Is it down to coaching — with the Seahawks no longer having Kris Richard as a position coach? It could even be a lack of options, especially in terms of the cornerbacks. In the 2020 draft, there were hardly any corners that matching Seattle’s preferred profile.

They’ve tried to solve the problem with astute veteran acquisitions. The Quandre Diggs trade looks like a steal, provided he can stay healthy. Bradley McDougald has never been given the credit he deserves for a really solid spell as a starter and leader. The Quinton Dunbar trade has promise, although it’s still unclear what his status will be for the 2020 season following his arrest on suspicion of armed robbery.

Even so, the unit as a whole — like so many areas on Seattle’s roster — faces a crossroads.

You can make a case that the only three positions with any degree of long term security are quarterback, linebacker and receiver. Everything else — running back, defensive line, cornerback, safety, offensive line and even tight end — has a question mark.

This further speaks to where the roster is. A lot of names on a sheet built up as competition — but not enough solutions or talent at key positions.

I want to focus on the future of the secondary today.

Shaquill Griffin certainly improved in 2019, highlighted by this review from PFF:

Griffin earned a coverage grade of 77.0 that ranked 14th among qualifying cornerbacks, and it stemmed from his ability to make plays on the football. He forced incompletions on 14 of his 66 targets this season for a forced incompletion rate of 21.2% that ranked second among all cornerbacks with 50 or more targets.

He also made the pro-bowl for the first time as a replacement.

Griffin’s out of contract after the 2020 season. Given Seattle’s recent record on drafting and developing cornerbacks, they’ll be wary of letting him walk and needing to find a replacement. Especially given their preference not to use high picks at the position or spend big money in free agency.

At the same time, what exactly is his market?

Presumably his camp would point to recent contracts dished out to Darius Slay and Byron Jones. Slay is now earning $16.7m a year in Philadelphia, with Jones on $16.5m. Those are the two top contracts in the league — with Xavien Howard ($15m), James Bradbury ($14.5m), Patrick Peterson ($14m) and Marcus Peters ($14m) following.

Griffin could, not unfairly, point to those deals and expect to be paid in that range. Yet it would be a considerable sum to commit to a player who, while improved, has not shown to be much of a playmaker or difference maker.

He’s not a field-tilter. He’s a solid starter. Ideally, he’d be a really useful #2 cornerback. So far, however, he’s not proven to be a bona fide #1. In three seasons he has only three interceptions in 45 games. That’s incredible. Two of those picks came in one game against a struggling Mitchell Trubisky. The other came on a truly horrendous pass from Drew Stanton — where he somehow managed to throw it so close to both Griffin and Earl Thomas, they almost ran into each other.

Hopefully his 2019 improvement is the prelude to an even bigger jump in 2020. Yet he’s also three years into his career. This might be what he is. It’s possible that he improved to a peak level last season. We’ll find out in a few months.

Unless they’re willing to make him one of the top 2-3 paid cornerbacks in the league now — a new deal before the season seems unlikely. They need to see more. There’s also no motivation for Griffin to accept a team-friendly deal when he could cash in next year.

It means they run the risk of losing him and creating another hole. They have the protection of the franchise and transition tags of course. The franchise tender was $16.3m this year with the transition tender was $14.1m. That provides some security, especially with Chris Carson the only other realistic candidate for either.

Quinton Dunbar is also a free agent at the end of the 2020 season but it’s pretty hard to talk about tags given his current situation. He’s also missed 14 games in the last two seasons and needs to prove he can stay healthy if he even makes the field before we talk about possible extensions. It’s not beyond the realms of possibility though that the Seahawks lose both their provisional starting cornerbacks after 2020 or need to invest major money to keep them.

Tre Flowers is now battling for playing time. We’ll see how creative the Seahawks want to be to fill their nickel role which has been left totally ignored so far this off-season. Carroll says they have a plan. It could mean Dunbar or Griffin shifting inside when they want to play nickel — with Flowers coming on to play outside. They could work game-to-game depending on matchups too. Yet despite complaints from many fans they appear destined to remain mostly in base defense given they’re spending $25m on Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright this year and just used a first round pick on Jordyn Brooks.

Certainly they should have a more serious plan than simply hoping Ugo Amadi improves at nickel. The Green Bay playoff game was an alarming wake-up call that this is a safety converting to one of the most difficult positions in the game. There’s nothing wrong with trying to develop him into a nickel — but we also have to accept there’s serious work to be done here.

At safety, they have an above average starting duo in Diggs and McDougald if they can stay healthy. Many fans are desperate to see Blair overtake McDougald. Certainly for the investment (round two pick) you would hope that was possible. Yet all Blair really showed as a rookie was the ability to hit — which wasn’t a surprise to anyone who saw his Utah tape. He seeks out contact and delivers sledgehammer tackles.

That’s a huge boost and something Pete Carroll clearly cherishes. For all the talk among some fans about Carroll’s conservatism, he has a child-like exuberance for the fundamental ‘exciting’ things a game of football can produce. He loves, like many, a beautifully executed deep throw, a scrambling quarterback extending plays, a running back breaking tackles and fighting for yards after contact and the raw, legal violence of a bone-crunching hit.

We’ve also seen, through Russell Wilson, Marshawn Lynch and Kam Chancellor, how those three elements can provide the foundation of a Championship team and truly energise a whole roster.

Yet Blair’s ability to provide the hits can’t come at the expense of poor execution of the scheme. Seattle’s defense isn’t complex. It doesn’t use a ton of exotic blitzes and formations. It demands discipline and everyone has to be in the right place at the right time. Mastering the scheme is crucial and for anyone wondering why Blair didn’t play more despite his exciting hits — there’s your reason.

It’s not overly concerning. Earl Thomas’ year one struggles are well publicised. Thomas was simply too good, playing in what amounted to an expansion roster in 2010, not to start. Chancellor was redshirted as a rookie. The fact Blair struggled with the scheme isn’t a big worry at the moment. Now he has to take a big step forward in 2020 and get on the field. If he fails, the second-guessing over Seattle’s trade-down fest in the 2019 draft — taking them out of range for Johnathan Abram — will be rife.

This is a key year for Blair who must take a step forward — just as much as L.J. Collier. They were Seattle’s two highest picks last year — before even D.K. Metcalf. They should feel pressure to contribute.

Quandre Diggs provides the best combination of talent and value on Seattle’s entire defense. His cap hits this year and next are no higher than $5.5m. If he plays most of the regular season games and continues to perform well — he might be the first to receive an extension among the group. He has quickly established a leadership role and has flashed competence, toughness and playmaking.

Bradley McDougald is a free agent at the end of the season. He turns 30 this year but it’ll be very difficult for the Seahawks to let him walk if he continues to perform to the level of the past two seasons and Blair fails to make an impression.

The one thing every member of this group has is a motivation to play well. For Griffin and Dunbar it’s about a new contract. For Blair it’s about proving he was worth a second rounder. For Flowers it’s about showing he belongs having been essentially usurped as a starter. For Diggs it’s about developing into one of Seattle’s core players and potentially earning a large new contract in the off-season. For McDougald it’s staving off the younger competition and earning a third contract in Seattle. Amadi needs to show he can be make the nickel position his home.

This can be a good thing. It certainly feels like the Seahawks are banking on that added motivation making up for some talent deficiencies elsewhere.

It would’ve been nice to see a highly motivated secondary also given the protection of improved D-line play. To their credit, the 2019 secondary forced 10 interceptions despite their top corner recording zero. Seeing how they’d perform with a much improved pass rush on the field would’ve been interesting.

Alas that might not be the case. Yet some of these players have to emerge as long term solutions for the Seahawks. They have to increase the number of trusted core players beyond the commitments to just Wilson and Wagner. They can’t be spending $60m a year on hopeful punts and journeymen. They need to start finding players who warrant being part of the foundation of this roster.

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The Seahawks have big question marks on the O-line too

Sunday, June 7th, 2020

Brandon Shell was benched by the Jets in 2019

The Seahawks went into the off-season with Pete Carroll once again noting the importance of consistency on the offensive line.

Yet there’s a reasonable chance they’ll begin the 2020 season with four new starters.

When the Seahawks travelled to London in 2018 I asked Carroll about the importance of retaining J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker. Both were playing on one-year deals. Both were making a positive impression on a much improved O-line. The Seahawks could run the ball again after a disastrous 2017 season. Although the line was far from one of the best in the league — it’d taken a significant step forward.

Carroll’s answer is quite interesting to reflect on. He called them members of the new core. They were going to be part of the foundation of what was emerging during the reset.

Yet 18 months later both were gone.

It’s indicative of what has been Seattle’s problem since that 2018 season. Players assumed to be part of the new core — Fluker, Sweezy, Frank Clark — have left the team. Some others have emerged, such as D.K. Metcalf. But not enough. Their key players are mostly carry-overs from the previous incarnation — Wilson, Wagner, Wright, Lockett — with some others who straddled both eras (Carson, Griffin).

If the aim from 2018 was to build and craft a new group — it’s not really happened.

The O-line in particular appears to be facing a crossroads. By moving on from Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi and Fluker they could improve the unit. Ifedi was a fixture for four years but had to settle for a veteran minimum contract as a free agent. Britt is currently unemployed and recovering from a knee injury — and who knows what the future holds there? Fluker will fight for a roster spot in Baltimore but didn’t have a good 2019 season.

They haven’t exactly lost Jones, Hutchinson and Tobeck.

The thing is, there’s such a striking unknown about the replacements.

Brandon Shell is a carbon copy of Ifedi in terms of size and profile. He was benched by the Jets last season but now possesses a two-year $11m contract in Seattle. People will joke he can’t be any worse than Ifedi but there’s at least a chance he might not be a significant improvement or any good.

He doesn’t need to be a pro-bowler to be a worthy addition — he just needs to tie up his side of the line, not give away the high number of penalties Ifedi conceded and refrain from being a liability. Most people can’t name more than five or six right tackles in the NFL. Not being bad isn’t a high bar for Shell but it’s funny how often it proves a challenging obstacle for a number of offensive linemen.

B.J. Finney will presumably be first in line to replace Justin Britt. We are not talking about a proven commodity at center, however. In 2017 he was a swing backup guard or center, starting one game at left guard. In 2018 he was a backup guard — starting twice at right guard. The Steelers liked him enough to place a second round tender on him a year ago and he started some games at center too. Yet we’re not talking about a player who’s been anything more than versatile depth up to this point in his career.

Can he be a consistent, quality starting center? That’s not a question anyone can answer positively with any conviction. We need to wait and see. His competition isn’t exactly fierce either. Joey Hunt is a serviceable but limited center and Ethan Pocic has struggled to stay healthy or have any impact in his three years in the league.

I’m a big fan of Damien Lewis and believe the Seahawks stole a top-50 player in round three of the draft. He’s tough, physical and has the potential to become a long-term contributor. He could start as a rookie. For once the Seahawks didn’t go for a player who can play multiple positions. They took a player who is a pure, 100% right guard. He’s not going to be moved around the line or spend three years finding his fit. He’s a right guard. Plain and simple.

He’s also a rookie. And even if the pick ends up being a roaring success down the line, there’s an opportunity for some growing pains — especially when he’s likely going to slot between two other new additions in Finney and Shell. He’ll have to compete with another new signing — Chance Warmack — to start in 2020.

The re-signing of Mike Iupati will provide an opportunity for some consistency at left guard. It’s possible they felt obliged to add him to at least avoid almost a clean sweep of changes up front. It’s very difficult to insert four new starters into an offensive line in one off-season. Iupati’s main competition will be Phil Haynes — although both players were hampered by injuries in 2019.

Duane Brown is probably the second most important player on the team. You can make an argument for Bobby Wagner but the Seahawks just spent a first round pick on a middle linebacker. If Brown gets hurt, as he did last year, the offense could implode. It could easily look as bad as it did against Arizona in week 16.

It’s one of the big head-scratching moments of the off-season really. They spent $60m and not only failed to adequately boost the defensive line (and still have a hole at defensive tackle to this day) — they don’t have a serious Plan B if Brown gets injured.

Admittedly it’s hard enough to find one capable starting left tackle, let alone two. Arguably their failure to properly address the defense in free agency took away any realistic chance to draft a tackle in the first three rounds. They zoned in on Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi in free agency and then moved on.

This is a problem due to Brown’s age. He’s 35 in August and while he insists he’s healthy and raring to go this season — the injuries were starting to stack up last year. The Seahawks aren’t a team like the Titans, with a long term fixture at left tackle who you can realistically expect to play 16 games. Brown is at a point in his career where injuries aren’t going to be surprising. That places a greater importance on having a solid backup. It’s a position you need to invest in. Ideally it’s a fairly highly drafted player you can develop to be a successor.

The Seahawks haven’t invested in a heir apparent or a serious, relatively proven backup. They merely signed Ogbuehi.

The addition was both understandable and curious. They needed to replace George Fant and Ogbuehi at least has some experience of being the sixth linemen in Jacksonville. It’s not quite so clear why he earned a pay increase from $895,000 to $2.237m based on the 155 snaps he had last season. Was demand really that high for a player who had to accept the veteran minimum as a free agent a year ago? For a player who was a first round bust and has endured an injury history? Nevertheless, he fits the Fant mould fairly well.

His addition as the likely backup left tackle though feels like yet another reclamation project that is going to predictably go the same way as all the other ones over the years. It has to be hoped that he never has to play left tackle. It’s fair to say that for all the talent on Seattle’s offense — Wilson, Carson, Lockett, Metcalf, Olsen, Dissly — they’re relying on the health of a 35-year-old left tackle to hold things together.

It means that even in the one position where you feel good about the talent and the experience and the consistency — there’s still a question mark. Again, having spent $60m and having possessed four picks in the first three rounds — it was reasonable to think this would be a target position for investment.

Much has been made of Seattle’s numbers on the O-line. They currently have 17 on the roster. For all the talk of mass competition, however, the starting five seem fairly set with the only real challenge being between Iupati and Haynes and Lewis and Warmack (who was out of the league last year). Most of the 17 are camp bodies. If you had to pick 10 to make it, your guess today will probably be more or less spot on.

It’s also understandable if fans sense a little bit of déjà vu. In 2016 the Seahawks tried to fill holes on the O-line by adding cost-effective starters Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb. Then in 2017 they spent money on a reclamation project in Luke Joeckel and added Oday Obushi, before using a high pick on Ethan Pocic. Finney, Shell, Ogbuehi and Lewis feels, unfortunately, like an eerily similar plan.

Much of the talk this off-season has quite rightly been about the underwhelming moves on the D-line. Yet the lack of action there would’ve been more understandable if there’d been a concerted spending effort on the O-line. If they’d gone out and really added proven quality, such as a Jack Conklin, it still might not’ve been the best use of resources with the pass rush so inept in 2019. At least, however, you could justify the investment in the O-line. Big moves are big moves. Improving your team is improving your team.

The problem with this off-season is they’ve spent $60m and they might not be better on either line. And yet these are the two areas where they really needed to improve.

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