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Thursday notes: L.J. Collier, pass rushers & Seattle’s future

Thursday, March 21st, 2019

TCU’s L.J. Collier will take a trip to the VMAC

Seahawks meeting with TCU pass rusher

L.J. Collier is a highly enjoyable prospect to watch. He had a fantastic Senior Bowl. He’s a terrific pass rusher with great length and an ability to work to create openings. His hand use, ability to convert speed-to-power and variety of moves is impressive. You can see him planning two-or-three snaps ahead to set up a blocker. He’s not all about technique though and he bullied several big name linemen at the Senior Bowl. He’s a refined brawler.

There are only positive things to say about his character too. He’s a bit of a self-made man and lacks some of the traits you see in the top draft prospects. Yet you can’t fault his effort, intensity and the way he performs on the field.

It was revealed yesterday that Collier will be having an official visit to the VMAC:

It’s pleasing that he could potentially be on Seattle’s radar. Based purely on the tape there’s some base-end/five-technique/inside/out quality to Collier. He’s not going to wow anyone with freaky athletic skills but as a book-end for Frank Clark and a player who can play any down, he has some value.

Admittedly though he’d go against some of Seattle’s previous trends. He has the length they like with 34 inch arms and a near 82-inch wingspan. That’s unusual for a player of his relatively modest height (6-2).

However, the Seahawks have also valued agility and quickness at defensive end. His 4.78 short shuttle is, to put it bluntly, pretty awful. It’s in the 12th percentile for players at his position. Here’s how it compares to some of Seattle’s previous D-line additions:

Rasheem Green — 4.39
Quinton Jefferson — 4.37
Jordan Hill — 4.51
Jaye Howard — 4.47
Malik McDowell — 4.53
Bruce Irvin — 4.03
Frank Clark — 4.05
Cassius Marsh — 4.25
Obum Gwacham — 4.28

As you can see, it’s a test they pay a lot of attention too. Even their defensive tackle picks have excelled in the short shuttle. It’s why we’ve singled out Trysten Hill as a potential target (he ran a 4.38 at 308lbs). Players who do really well in the agility testing with great size and explosive power — that’s a winning combination and increases the likelihood they’ll be drafted by the Seahawks.

If they select L.J. Collier, they’ll be going against this trend. Some of his other tests were also underwhelming. A 4.91 forty yard dash was pretty average at 283lbs, he only had a 30 inch vertical and his three cone (7.71) wasn’t much better than the short shuttle.

The one area he did excel was the broad jump. He managed a 9-10 which was the third best among defensive linemen and is comparable to Rashan Gary and Ed Oliver (both 10-0). It’s possible the Seahawks want an explosive base-end. Considering they’ll be well out of range for Gary and probably Oliver, Collier might be seen as an alternative. That wouldn’t say much for Rasheem Green though — who has the size to play that role with a far superior athletic profile.

Collier’s performance at the Senior Bowl and good tape could’ve secured a place in round two. If the Seahawks want him, it might need to be with their first pick. He’d be a strong selection, albeit a different one for Carroll and Schneider. He’s a very accomplished pass rusher with a varied repertoire. Collier plays with great effort and intensity. He just has some athletic limitations.

Here’s a quick prediction based on the news of this visit — Texas’ Charles Omenihu will travel to the VMAC too. He’s taller (6-5) than Collier but has similar size (280lbs). He has incredible 36 inch arms. He also tested a lot better in the short shuttle (4.36), vertical (36.5), three cone (7.48) and he matched Collier’s 9-7 broad. Omenihu’s tape isn’t necessarily as good but he has all the traits Seattle is looking for in a DE/five-tech type.

Meanwhile, Arkansas linebacker Dre Greenlaw is also set to visit Seattle. He’s a former safety who didn’t run at the combine. He’s projected to have the kind of speed Seattle wants at the position.

Justin Houston is out of the equation

The Seahawks didn’t have the money to make a big splash in free agency. The franchise tag for Frank Clark, keeping key players (Fluker, Kendricks, Wright) plus the addition of Mike Iupati and a new kicker has chewed up most of the cap. There’s about $15m remaining but a portion of it has to be saved for injured reserve and the practise squad.

They were never going to be big spenders.

Even so, it was fair to imagine they would find a way to bolster the defensive line. Instead they’ve lost Shamar Stephen. Dion Jordan is a free agent and could be moving on. They’ve made no subsequent additions.

Perhaps they’re just setting things up for the draft? The strength of the class is, after all, the defensive line.

However, they’ll need to find some contributors in April because the options on the open market are quickly running out.

Justin Houston was an appealing option because he wouldn’t have impacted Seattle’s 2020 comp picks. They were never going to be able to compete with an offer of $12m a year (which the Colts offered before signing him today).

Ziggy Ansah remains surprisingly available but you have to question whether they’ll show interest. If Houston is getting $12m a year, Ansah can expect that too. If they were to sign him even for $8m — it’d cost them a comp pick (and they appear to be trying to protect those after back-to-back years of minimal stock).

Apart from that you’re looking at Shane Ray, Nick Perry, Adrian Clayborn, Aaron Lynch and Derrick Morgan. None are particularly appealing. They might be better off waiting for the draft and making the D-line a priority target.

Will Grier pro-day reports

According to several people, Grier had a solid workout:

He’s pretty much a forgotten man in the draft media. Grier didn’t have a particularly great Senior Bowl and was underwhelming at the combine. However, it’s likely some teams will rate him a lot higher than outsiders.

Grier excels throwing the deep ball — a trait all teams look for and admire. He helped elevate West Virginia. There are mechanical flaws that impact his velocity at times and that will need to be worked on at the next level. Overall though, he’s a much more interesting prospect than many people are projecting.

Here’s a reminder of what PFF said about his college production:

Grier was once again tremendous for the Mountaineers in 2018, finishing the year as the nation’s third-highest graded quarterback. He let it rip with the best of them, sprinkling in deep shots with great accuracy just as quick as he’d hit a crosser over the middle or perfectly lead his targets away from coverage with relative ease. In total, he averaged the fourth-highest yards per attempt at 9.7 while throwing more deep pass touchdowns than any other FBS QB with 20. He goes down as arguably the best deep-ball thrower over the past two seasons as he’s thrown for more yards (2,850), more touchdowns (36) and more big-time throws (54) on passes targeted at least 20 yards downfield than any other quarterback since 2017.

It shouldn’t be a surprise if a team like the Giants passes on quarterbacks at #6 and #17 in favour of selecting Grier at #37 (if he makes it that far).

Mike Garafolo on Wilson, Clark and Baldwin

The NFL Network reporter is an underrated member of the ‘insider’ group breaking all the main NFL news. He also has a track record of good Seahawks info — so what he says carries some weight.

Garofolo was interviewed by Brock Huard for 710 ESPN today. They only played three short clips on air (promising to play the rest tomorrow) but it was all quite interesting. Fast forward to 26:56 here if you want to listen. Here are the highlights:

1. Frank Clark would net a high first round pick via trade

2. On a Russell Wilson contract: “I don’t see an extension any time soon… my prediction would be that he enters the last year of his deal

3. There’s been some talk behind the scenes about Doug Baldwin retiring and he hasn’t decided yet what he wants to do

Huard added he wasn’t sensing/hearing any momentum for a Wilson contract extension.

Whether it’s impatience on my behalf or an inability to get an angle on what the plan is with ‘the big four’ — I’m starting to wonder what the intention is here.

What exactly is the plan for Wilson if they know there’s little chance of an extension this year? Is it just to play it by ear and save some money in 2020 and 2021 by not extending his contract and have him play on the tag? Do they want the rest of the league to help set his market when he’s franchised and can speak to other teams?

And if they know they can’t franchise Clark, Bobby Wagner or Jarran Reed in 2020 because Wilson will get the tag — are they going to start signing extensions now? Free agency is pretty much over. At least in terms of the big moves. Markets have been set. They know what it’ll likely cost to keep Clark, Wagner and Reed beyond 2019. They have cap space in 2020.

How will this play out? Will there be some clarity soon?

You can be forgiven for thinking it’s a little disconcerting — even if in reality there’s a rock solid plan within the walls of the VMAC.

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Russell Wilson on the tag, Baldwin’s future and Ohio State WR’s

Wednesday, March 20th, 2019

Do the Seahawks want Russell Wilson on the tag?

Jason La Canfora offered these thoughts on the Wilson contract situation today:

“I’ve long chronicled the looming contractual conundrum facing the Seahawks over Russell Wilson, and am well on record that the time to go all out to extend him was last offseason. At this point, I frankly don’t see much happening between the sides. I’m not sure there is even a deal that could be done, or a deal, if I was representing that player, that I would much consider signing, even at $40M per year. He’s been remarkably durable, the franchise tag money in 2020 and 2021 would be huge and with this such a unique time in the history of the game – broadcast rights back on the negotiating table in a few years; a new CBA needed in a few years; the NFL about to embrace gambling money in a way unfathomable even a few years ago – I would be in no rush to even really talk about a new contract at this point. From everything I’ve gathered, this process hasn’t even started and there’s been no dialogue.”

It fits with some of the things we discussed on Monday. The big issue facing the Seahawks is Wilson’s likely willingness to play on the tag, bet on himself and maximise his earnings. Which is a perfectly understandable position to take for many reasons (including the changing face of the NFL as La Canfora discusses).

So if a deal is unlikely this year, what are the Seahawks going to do?

Here’s an idea.

Maybe, just maybe, the Seahawks want Wilson on the franchise tag. At that point he can go and negotiate with other teams. If he agrees a contract somewhere else, he will sign an offer sheet and the Seahawks will have two choices:

1. Match the contract
2. Gain two first round picks

Maybe they need the rest of the league to help set Wilson’s market? And that will in turn enable them to make a decision.

Of course it’s possible other teams won’t step forward. Yet with a price of only two first round picks to acquire Wilson, that would tempt many teams to make an offer.

As I wrote on Monday — both parties are facing a crossroads and both can go in a number of different directions. We have to wait and see what happens but the sheer fact that this already appears to be in some kind of a stalemate simply highlights the dilemma. Something’s got to give.

Doug Baldwin considering his future?

According to Garafolo, Baldwin is set for sports hernia surgery in April. It’s a six week recovery. The surgery itself won’t put Baldwin’s 2019 season in doubt but it seems he’s still considering his future. He’s already had surgery to repair at least two other injuries this off-season.

There was plenty of talk on twitter and on some of the radio shows about Baldwin at the end of the season. It seems at least possible he’ll retire.

This speaks to what we discussed yesterday. Unless they believe they have to prioritise the quarterback position because of this Wilson situation, it seems very likely that defensive line and receiver will be the two key draft targets.

Which position is drafted first will be about value. There will be some attractive D-line options in the 20-40 range. But that could also be where the run on receivers begins. For that reason, it would be perfectly plausible for the Seahawks to take a wide out with their first pick.

The Seahawks have preferences at a lot of positions. At receiver, they seem to want 4.4 or quicker speed and explosive qualities (good testing in the vertical). We know they like to take shots downfield.

This draft class is loaded with really fast, explosive receivers. Eighteen wide outs ran a 4.4 or faster. You can just reel off the long list of potential targets.

D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, Terry McLaurin, Deebo Samuel, N’Keal Harry and A.J. Brown are all expected to go early. Emanuel Hall is an electric downfield target who could go in rounds 2-3. Hakeem Butler has his admirers, while Miley Boykin likely jumped up a couple of rounds after his outstanding combine. Gary Jennings is rising (and rightly so) while Mecole Hardman, Darius Slayton and others could be on the radar.

There might not be a clear top-20 talent at receiver this year but there’s plenty of depth.

Our early round draft focus for the Seahawks is narrowing. We’re getting some clarity on the positions they’ll likely consider with their first selection.

Ohio State receivers and the Seahawks

Parris Campbell will make an official visit to Seattle…

This isn’t a surprise at all. Campbell’s 4.31 speed and running back size will be intriguing to any team looking at this receiver class. He fits every team in that regard.

Urban Meyer used him in the Percy Harvin role — lot’s of screens, bubbles and extended hand-offs. A lot of very talented receivers struggle to shine in the high-percentage offense Meyer uses (and a lot of quarterback inflate their own stats).

Campbell clearly has an outstanding physical profile but there will be question marks about whether his speed can translate. He very much looks like a converted running back. Can he play with suddenness to match the straight-line speed? I think he can make it and wrote about some of the positives here.

You’ll need to have a plan and a role for him. The Rams would have a field day with him. He’s in the Harvin mould — minus the character problems and with a larger frame. Campbell also has good catching technique having spent a considerable amount of time with the jugs machine before the 2018 season.

Meanwhile Doug Baldwin tweeted this earlier…

McLaurin’s agent also says he’s been told to expect a call during round one.

Firstly, it needs to be pointed out that Buddy Baker — McLaurin’s agent — is also Doug Baldwin’s agent. So it’s not a major coincidence that Baldwin is shining a light on a fellow Baker client.

That said, McLaurin really does fit the Seahawks. We talked about him during the college season (including this review here). He excels on special teams and as a blocker. He’s incredibly quick and sudden. He’s a downfield threat but can win at every level.

Listen to any of McLaurin’s interviews and he breaks down plays, defenses, the scheme. He sounds a lot like DeAndre Hopkins when he was at Clemson in that regard. He grew up watching the Colts (had season tickets) and has a clear passion for the game.

He could easily end up being Seattle’s first pick. He’s definitely a name to consider. However — they won’t be the only team interested.

Jon Gruden coached McLaurin at the Senior Bowl and spent considerable time on the final practise day speaking to him. You could see Gruden took a big shine to McLaurin and it won’t be a surprise at all if the Raiders take him at #24 or #27.

The Colts also need more at receiver and McLaurin is from Indianapolis. He’s the type of player you can imagine Chris Ballard having interest in.

So he’ll have options, including the Seahawks, and could easily go in the first frame.

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Tuesday notes: Receiver and D-line thoughts

Tuesday, March 19th, 2019

Jordy Nelson met with the Seahawks this week

Jordy Nelson would be a hedge for the draft

The Seahawks are going to draft a receiver. That’s not in question. There are just too many appealing options that fit their ‘style’. Eighteen players ran a 4.4 or faster at the combine. That’s the kind of speed they like. There’s also plenty of size and they’ve been looking for a dynamic big target for a long time.

If they agree terms with Nelson, very little changes. I think it’d be ‘Brandon Marshall-plus’. A bit more than the minimal amount they paid Marshall but still a deal they can get out of if needs be.

Trevon Wesco and Garry Jennings rising?

I’ve done two seven-round mock drafts for the Seahawks. On both occasions, Wesco and Jennings were included. Both players scream ‘Seahawks’.

Wesco is a Y-tight end with great size (267lbs) and length (35 inch arms). He still ran an excellent short shuttle (4.38) and the Seahawks have seemingly paid attention to that test at the position. He’s an excellent run blocker and could act as an extra lineman or even a H-back. He’s a fit.

Jennings ran a 4.42 at 6-1 and 214lbs and also performed well in the vertical and broad. He regularly made big plays downfield (a feature of Seattle’s offense). He competes for the ball superbly. If Nelson is a hedge for the draft, Jennings has the same kind of profile to compete for his job.

Yahoo’s Charles Robinson listed both players as rising prospects. I had Wesco in round three and Jennings in round four. That might be the range you have to draft both and it’s not beyond the realms of possibility Jennings sneaks into round three too.

Seattle’s draft priorities are clear

So far they’ve done nothing to address the defensive line or the receiver position. It’s very likely they’ll sign at least one player in both areas before the draft. However, we’re in the free agency period where cheap deals are signed. By and large, the big moves are over. The teams have addressed their market priorities.

At the moment Jarran Reed, Poona Ford and Jamie Meder are the only contracted defensive tackles on the roster. Naz Jones and Quinton Jefferson can play inside but it was revealed Jones would be a five technique moving forward and Jefferson has always been more of an inside/out lineman.

Clearly there’s work to be done here. With this being an excellent class for defensive linemen, it seems pretty obvious that Seattle is preparing to make at least a couple of additions via the draft.

As noted in Saturday’s latest mock, they often tap into the strength of a class with their first pick. Running backs a year ago, offensive linemen in 2016, receivers in 2014. Their highest pick at cornerback in the Carroll/Schneider era was a third rounder in 2017 — a year defined by the quality of the cornerbacks.

The safe money is on the Seahawks spending a high pick on a defensive lineman. By working on the O-line and at linebacker in free agency, they can use the strength of the draft to make improvements to the D-line.

If they decide not to make an investment at quarterback (which could still be the case, as we touched on yesterday) — the next likely target is receiver.

It’s fair to wonder how much longer Doug Baldwin intends to play for. Tyler Lockett is signed up for the long term. Apart from that, Seattle has useful role players but could use another dynamic wide out.

Assuming they trade back from #21 into the late 20’s (and possibly further into the 30’s or 40’s) — that looks like a range where the value at receiver could be strong. It’s difficult to project when a run on wide outs will occur. Seattle could trade back and see Marquise Brown, Deebo Samuel, D.K. Metcalf, Parris Campbell, Terry McLaurin, N’Keal Harry on the board.

They have another needs. They’ll want to add another tight end. They’ll want more competition at cornerback and at nickel. Those areas can be addressed in the middle rounds. We’ll see about quarterback.

The key thing to remember is Seattle loves traits. With the first pick they’ll shoot for greatness. They’ll want physical and athletic potential and they’ll try and coach it up. Speed, length, size, agility, suddenness, explosive power. They won’t settle for average. They never do. Not with their first pick.

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The New York Giants, Russell Wilson and ‘the plan’

Monday, March 18th, 2019

The Seahawks, as we’ve been discussing, face a major dilemma this off-season. They have four key players all with only one year remaining on their contracts.

Russell Wilson, Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner, Jarran Reed.

Signing three of the quartet before the start of the 2019 season will be a challenge.

Wilson’s signature is the most important but also the most challenging to secure.

I sense he’s fully prepared to play on the franchise tag. It could even be his aim. The concept of Wilson betting on himself is hardly unrealistic. That’s his character — undying confidence and belief. He’s seen Kirk Cousins maximize his earning potential by backing himself using the tag. Wilson knows he’s guaranteed a massive salary for the next two years and then will become a free agent.

Such an approach would also avoid the inevitable situation of being the highest paid player for a matter of months before the next top quarterback gets paid even more. By playing on the tag, Wilson keeps up with the top salaries for two years before being able to go to the entire league and create a bidding frenzy that would dwarf the race to sign Cousins.

Wilson is a highly ambitious, highly motivated individual. I’m not trying to argue that he’s selfish or not interested in working with the Seahawks to remain in Seattle. I’m sure he’s very prepared to stay with the team for a full career. That’s where the true glory comes from — being a one-team man and having major success.

Yet Wilson is also cut from the same cloth as the Derek Jeter’s of this world. He will have major ambitions beyond football, including ownership and entrepreneurship. For Wilson, the sky’s the limit. He’s not going to let anything limit or restrict his ambition. And that includes, sadly for the Seahawks, his ability to earn.

I think some people see this situation as a simple ‘give him more than Aaron Rodgers and everything will be OK‘. I don’t think that’s the case at all. If this was about giving Wilson $35m a year (making him comfortably the top paid player in the league) — the deal probably gets done tomorrow. I sense Wilson has no interest in agreeing terms on a contract like that. He’ll not want to reduce his ambition to being paid marginally more than Rodgers — only to see Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff and others blow his contract out of the water in the next 18 months.

He’s also unlike Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers. Neither, for example, were making appearances on Jimmy Fallon before their extensions were signed. Wilson was asked by Fallon about a trade to New York, about whether he’d expect to be the highest paid player in the league. Is any of this a coincidence? Of course not. Just like it wasn’t a coincidence when Colin Cowherd put out a sourced line that Wilson had interest in playing for the Giants, or when Adam Schefter noted there’d been ‘no talks on a new deal’ during the Super Bowl.

This is all part of the game. The negotiating game. One that intends to put pressure on the Seahawks and if they don’t come up with the goods — well there’s always the franchise tag or another team.

And here’s a reminder of what Wilson stands to earn if he’s minded to play on the franchise tag:

2020 — $30.43m
2021 — $36.4m
2022 — $52.43m

Those numbers are no doubt influencing what Wilson will ask for from the Seahawks (because this is what he’s guaranteed to earn currently). It also shows a clear pathway to the open market after two tags. The same route Cousins took before cashing in.

This is why the Seahawks continue to attend quarterback pro-days. This is why they will, undoubtedly, have to start thinking ahead. Because this is not a cut-and-dried, sort-it-out-in-due-course situation.

While ever it continues to drag on, doubts about the future will increase.

Let’s look at the aforementioned Giants.

At the moment they’re getting an absolute kicking in the media for trading Odell Beckham Jr. Everyone’s asking, ‘what’s the plan?’.

Dave Gettleman insists he has a plan, it’s simply yet to be fully revealed.

I think his plan involves acquiring a veteran QB. It might not be this off-season. It’d have to happen before the draft. It could be in 12 months time.

It could be Derek Carr. There’s been plenty of talk about the Raiders being willing to move on from Carr. It’s not unrealistic that at some point in the next year, the Raiders and Giants will work out a deal.

I also think Wilson is very much in play here. The Giants are a blue chip franchise. They’re expected to compete. I do think they’d be willing to make a major move to get one of the best quarterbacks in football.

Whoever it ends up being, I think it’s obvious for anyone who cares to think beyond ‘they traded Odell LOL‘ that the Giants will do something to address the QB position (probably in a more emphatic way than rolling the dice on Drew Lock or Dwayne Haskins).

If they do target Wilson, they have two options…

1. Use your collection of 2019 picks to make a strong offer for Wilson now, eliminating the negative publicity while clarifying what your ‘plan’ is

2. Use your 2019 stock to build up the roster before making your bold move for a quarterback in 12 months time

Any trade for Wilson would be costly. The Giants own the #6, #17 and #37 picks this year. All would likely have to go to the Seahawks if they wanted to make an offer now, plus probably their 2020 first rounder — if not more.

How would the Seahawks feel about that? If they believed there was very little chance to extend Wilson’s contract and that he was prepared to play on the tag, they’d have to consider it. The haul, along with their existing 2019 stock and a projected 11 picks currently in 2020 would give them a shot to build and remain competitive.

They could, for example, use the #6 and #17 picks to improve the D-line (Rashan Gary & Christian Wilkins maybe?). You could use #21 and #37 to possibly draft a young quarterback (Will Grier?) and a receiver (there are plenty of options).

In the meantime, perhaps they could persuade the Colts to trade Jacoby Brissett for a 2020 second rounder in order to acquire a veteran starter for this year?

(Apologies for the rosterbation but it’s a topic that warrants a discussion)

The entire make up of the team would be changed but it’s a plan of sorts. It’d also free up room to keep/extend Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark and Jarran Reed.

But you wouldn’t have Wilson. That’s the problem.

Of course, the Giants could simply pull a similar move themselves minus the Brissett trade. But they’d have a much harder time trading for Wilson or another quarterback in 12 months time with less draft stock. The fact they have two first round picks and #37 presents an opportunity now that won’t be there next year.

There may be a sense of urgency in New York. It’s at least possible they made the Beckham Jr. trade specifically to position themselves for a move this off-season. That would make the acquisition of an additional 2019 first round pick more plausible.

Let’s also consider this possibility — the Seahawks being equally comfortable themselves to allow Wilson to play on the tag, going year by year, without any long term commitment. That might, after all, be preferable compared to the kind of money it’d take to sign Wilson to an enormous extension worth millions more than Aaron Rodgers’ league-leading deal.

There’s a lot that could happen but it’d be naive to think a crossroads isn’t on the horizon, with several different directions the franchise and Wilson can go.

I don’t enjoy writing about this topic. I don’t want to see Wilson traded. I hope in the near future an extended contract is agreed. I simply believe this is a more serious situation than some people currently recognize. I do think the Giants have a plan that involves acquiring a veteran quarterback. And I do think the Seahawks have a big call to make coming up.

Often when there’s smoke there’s fire.

We’ve seen some smoke. Let’s see if there’s any fire.

Jordy Nelson is in Seattle for a visit

According to Adam Schefter the Seahawks are meeting with the former Oakland and Green Bay receiver. This isn’t a big surprise. John Schneider is a big fan of Nelson’s. He won’t count against the comp pick formula because he was cut by the Raiders.

Seattle needs to add a receiver so this would make some sense. They’re still very likely to draft a wide out this year but adding Nelson would allow them to focus their early picks on the strength of the draft (the defensive line). So far the Seahawks haven’t made any additions to the D-line despite losing Shamar Stephen. Dion Jordan also remains unsigned. This isn’t a coincidence. They use free agency to set up the roster in preparation for the draft. Once again, they’ll use the strength of the draft class to their advantage.

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New two-round mock draft (free agency edition)

Saturday, March 16th, 2019

Some thoughts before we get into it…

When does the run on receivers start?
It’s not a great year for legit first round receivers but there’s depth in the middle rounds. If you believe you can get a quality wide out in rounds 2-4 (and acknowledge the value in round one isn’t great) — you’re going to wait. So when does the run start? Is it the early 20’s when Baltimore are on the clock? Will someone jump the line and take one even earlier? Or does it start in the late 20’s (just like the run on running backs a year ago)?

It’s difficult to project picks 20-30
For me there are 11-18 legit first round prospects in this class. I think there’s between 25-35 legit second rounders and possibly as many as 40-50 third rounders. What does this mean? When you get to picks 20-30, you’re probably going to select a player with a similar grade to the guy taken at #50. Anything could happen in the late first. It’s going to be unpredictable. And the teams picking in that range will be absolutely desperate to move down.

Seattle’s pick could still have some value
Why? The Ravens have a big need at receiver. It will help the Seahawks significantly if all of the receivers are still on the board by #21. Teams like Indianapolis, Green Bay and possibly the Chiefs (depending on what happens with Tyreek Hill) might want to get ahead of the Ravens.

The Giants won’t target a quarterback
That’s my prediction. I think in the next 12 months they will try to add a veteran quarterback. It could be Derek Carr. It could be Russell Wilson. It could be someone totally different. But I’m not sold on them spending a high pick on Dwayne Haskins to be the long term answer. Dave Gettleman usually sticks to upgrading the lines and this is a strong D-line class. Don’t be shocked if they avoid the QB’s and wait this out.

The mock in full

#1 Arizona — Kyler Murray (QB, Oklahoma)
#2 San Francisco — Nick Bosa (DE, Ohio State)
#3 New York Jets — Quinnen Williams (DT, Alabama)
#4 Oakland — Josh Allen (EDGE, Kentucky)
#5 Denver (via TB) – Drew Lock (QB, Missouri)
#6 New York Giants — Rashan Gary (DE, Michigan)
#7 Jacksonville — Montez Sweat (EDGE, Mississippi State)
#8 Detroit — Clelin Ferrell (DE, Clemson)
#9 Buffalo — Jawaan Taylor (T, Florida)
#10 Tampa Bay (via DEN) – Devin White (LB, LSU)
#11 Cincinnati – Devin Bush (LB, Michigan)
#12 Green Bay — T.J. Hockenson (TE, Iowa)
#13 Miami — Dexter Lawrence (DT, Clemson)
#14 Atlanta — Christian Wilkins (DT, Clemson)
#15 Washington — Dwayne Haskins (QB, Ohio State)
#16 Carolina — Andre Dillard (T, Washington State)
#17 New York Giants (via CLE) — Ed Oliver (DT, Houston)
#18 Minnesota — Jonah Williams (C/G, Alabama)
#19 Tennessee — Brian Burns (EDGE, Florida State)
#20 Pittsburgh — Greedy Williams (CB, LSU)
#21 Kansas City (via SEA) – Marquise Brown (WR, Oklahoma)
#22 Baltimore — Parris Campbell (WR, Ohio State)
#23 Houston — Noah Fant (TE, Iowa)
#24 Oakland — Irv Smith Jr (TE, Alabama)
#25 Philadelphia — Josh Jacobs (RB, Alabama)
#26 Indianapolis — Justin Layne (CB, Michigan State)
#27 Oakland – Cody Ford (T, Oklahoma)
#28 LA Chargers — Josh Oliver (TE, San Jose State)
#29 Seattle (via KC) — Trysten Hill (DT, UCF)
#30 Green Bay – Deebo Samuel (WR, South Carolina)
#31 LA Rams — Garrett Bradbury (C, NC State)
#32 New England — Daniel Jones (QB, Duke)

Round two

#33 Arizona — Kaleb McGary (T, Washington)
#34 Indianapolis — Jeffery Simmons (DT, Mississippi State)
#35 Oakland — Byron Murphy (CB, Washington)
#36 San Francisco — Taylor Rapp (S, Washington)
#37 New York Giants — N’Keal Harry (WR, Arizona State)
#38 Jacksonville — Johnathan Abram (S, Mississippi State)
#39 Tampa Bay — Will Grier (QB, West Virginia)
#40 Buffalo – D.K. Metcalf (WR, Ole Miss)
#41 Denver — Dawson Knox (TE, Ole Miss)
#42 Cincinnati — Jachai Polite (EDGE, Florida)
#43 Detroit — Trayvon Mullen (CB, Clemson)
#44 Green Bay — Dru Samia (G, Oklahoma)
#45 Atlanta — Chris Lindstrom (G, Boston College)
#46 Washington — Mack Wilson (LB, Alabama)
#47 Carolina — Darnell Savage (S, Maryland)
#48 Miami — Dalton Risner (T, Kansas State)
#49 Cleveland — Greg Little (T, Ole Miss)
#50 Minnesota — Erik McCoy (C, Texas A&M)
#51 Tennessee — Deandre Baker (CB, Georgia)
#52 Pittsburgh — Zach Allen (DE, Boston College)
#53 Philadelphia — L.J. Collier (DE, TCU)
#54 Houston — Isaiah Johnson (CB, Houston)
#55 Houston — Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (S, Florida)
#56 New England — Chase Winovich (EDGE, Michigan)
#57 Philadelphia — Dre’Mont Jones (DT, Ohio State)
#58 Dallas — Juan Thornhill (S, Virginia)
#59 Indianapolis — Terry McLaurin (WR, Ohio State)
#60 LA Chargers — Miles Boykin (WR, Notre Dame)
#61 Kansas City — Jerry Tillery (DT, Notre Dame)
#62 New Orleans — Elgton Jenkins (C, Mississippi State)
#63 Kansas City — Jaylon Ferguson (EDGE, Louisiana Tech)
#64 New England — Christian Miller (EDGE, Alabama)

The trades explained

Denver (#10) trades with Tampa Bay (#5) to select Drew Lock
I suspect some teams will grade Drew Lock as the #1 or #2 quarterback in this draft. Several reports have suggested John Elway is enamoured with Lock. The trade for Joe Flacco could be an attempt to recreate Kansas City’s plan (veteran — Alex Smith, rookie — Patrick Mahomes). If so, are they going to risk the Giants taking their guy at #6? They give the Buccs their 2020 first rounder.

Kansas City (#29) trades with Seattle (#21) to select Marquise Brown
The Chiefs have big needs on defense but they do own two second round picks and a third round pick. So they have the stock to address multiple needs. Tyreek Hill might be on the verge of destroying his career. The Chiefs can’t afford for Patrick Mahomes to lose a dynamic playmaker at receiver. The best case scenario might be to address this in the draft and use your two second round picks to go defense. The Seahawks get a third and a fifth round pick in return.

Thoughts on Seattle’s pick

The Seahawks have consistently done two things under Pete Carroll and John Schneider:

1. Go for high upside with their first pick, targeting exceptional traits

2. Identify the positional strength of a draft class and exploit it

They’re never ‘settling’ on average or even slightly above average athletes with their first pick. Size, speed, length, power, explosive qualities. You don’t need me to list the names. They take guys with massive potential so they can develop that talent and try to create greatness.

Last year was the ‘year of the running back’. Seattle traded into a range to get the one they wanted with their first pick. They did the same in 2014 (the year of the wide receiver) and spent their highest ever pick on a cornerback in 2017 (the year of the corner). 2016 was a strong year for first round offensive linemen (seven in round one). They spent their first pick on a right tackle.

If there’s a clear positional strength in a draft, the Seahawks usually tap into it.

The strength of the 2019 draft is the defensive line. I suspect the Seahawks will want to try and find a defensive lineman with the potential to be ‘great’ from this class. Someone with all the traits, the massive upside, the incredible athleticism.

That’s why I paired them with Trysten Hill. You might argue it’s too early and that nobody else is projecting this. Not many people projected Rashaad Penny in round one either. Or Bruce Irvin. Or any of the other ‘surprises’.

Smith is exactly the type of player they go for. In terms of his physical potential he’s a top-20 talent. There aren’t many players with his size, length, agility and explosive power. He is a top-tier athlete at defensive tackle.

Here’s a recap of his physical profile:

Height: 6-3
Weight: 308lbs
Arm length: 33.5 inches
Hands: 10 1/4
Forty: 5.04
10-yard: 1.74
Vertical: 35 inches
Broad: 9-7
Bench: 28 reps
Short shuttle: 4.38
Three cone: 7.70

He had similar explosive testing results to Ed Oliver despite carrying an extra 30lbs. He had the third fastest 10-yard split among defensive tackles. He meets Seattle’s threshold on arm length (+33 inches) and we know they love the short shuttle at defensive tackle (his 4.38 is an excellent time).

At the combine, he had arguably the best field drill performance at any position:

He’s a special athlete. The type that usually isn’t available beyond the top-20. He will be available beyond the top-20 for reasons we’ll come onto in a moment.

Furthermore, he was also the best player on UCF’s highly successful team. This has been a winning program for several years now. Hill is probably the most talented prospect they’ve had in that time. He’s a winner, as are the rest of the UCF clan. He has produced results in terms of individual production and team victories.

I wrote about Hill’s tape here.

So why isn’t he going to go very early then given this big build up?

Hill found himself in the doghouse at UCF with the coaches.

He played limited snaps and only started one game.

Here’s how he’s described by one anonymous NFC Scout:

“One thing that pops up is that he’s really opinionated about a lot of things. Big talker. He wasn’t always fun to coach so you have to keep that in mind if you bring him into your room.”

Personally, I think it all sounds a bit silly that Hill was essentially reduced to a rotational role because he’s ‘opinionated’. In UCF’s Championship game against Memphis he didn’t take the field until they were trailing 21-7. He then took over the game and UCF won.

He seems quite personable during interviews. A good, polite talker.

That said, we don’t know how disruptive he is (if at all) or why he was so ‘opinionated’. If he was speaking out because he wanted a bigger role in the defense you can understand why. He was by far their best player on either side of the ball.

You have to do your homework though. Seattle has two good sources in the Griffin brothers if they want to find out what he’s really like. I’ll be surprised if they don’t invite Hill for an official visit.

Pete Carroll is very comfortable around ‘opinionated’ players. The Seahawks did move some on a year ago but let’s not start comparing Trysten Hill to Richard Sherman and Michael Bennett. They still have plenty of opinionated players on the team. They’re not suddenly a team of choir boys just because a few of the big talkers have moved on.

If they want to land a defensive lineman from this great class with major upside and the potential for greatness — none of the big names are going to be available. They have to look elsewhere. Hill is an outstanding option who ticks plenty of boxes. I think the Seahawks will do plenty of work on him. They’ll try and work him out as a person. And he could easily be rated very highly on their board.

Don’t linger too much on media projections. This time last year Rashaad Penny was a second or third round prospect and Rasheem Green was touted by some as a first rounder. Think about what the Seahawks look for and keep an open mind.

Couldn’t they trade down again?

Possibly but I wanted to present a scenario where the Seahawks are unable to move down again. There’s not going to be a ton of desire to trade into the 20’s this year. The trade proposed (dealing with Kansas City) makes some sense given the Tyreek Hill situation. This projection only gives the Seahawks six picks (which is at least 1-2 short of where they ideally want to be). For that reason, they might be prepared to deal down from #29 for late round consideration to fill out their board.

Seahawks seven round projection

#29 (R1) — Trysten Hill (DT, UCF)
#85 (R3) — Trevon Wesco (TE, West Virginia)
#93 (R3) — Amani Hooker (S, Iowa)
#125 (R4) — Gary Jennings (WR, West Virginia)
#160 (R5) — Justin Hollins (EDGE, Oregon)
#168 (R5) — Derrek Thomas (CB, Baylor)

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Things I think about the Seahawks — 15th March

Friday, March 15th, 2019

1. Trysten Hill could be in play with their first pick

The Seahawks love traits. They’ll take a guy who could be great and coach them up. Trysten Hill emphatically fits the bill. He’s as explosive as Ed Oliver. The thing is, Hill’s 6-3 and 308lbs not 6-2 and 287lbs. He had arguably the single best workout of any player at the combine. His drill work was sensational. He flashed incredible movement, change of direction and quickness. The Seahawks like length (+33 inch arms) and agility. Hill has 33.5 inch arms and ran a brilliant 4.38 short shuttle. He’s as good as any of the top rated defensive linemen in this deep class but could last into range because he ended up in the coaches doghouse at UCF. That didn’t put off the Seahawks when they drafted Christine Michael in 2013. Hill’s exactly the type of player they’ve targeted in the past and would give the Seahawks a chance to land a top defensive lineman from this great class without picking in the top-15.

2. Wide receiver is another option with the first pick

If the Seahawks trade down into the late 20’s, the 30’s or even the 40’s — that could be the range where a receiver starts to make sense. It’s not a good year if you want to take a receiver in round one. There might be zero wide outs with legit first round grades. Yet there are 18 at the combine who ran a 4.4 or faster and that’s what Seattle likes. In the 20-40 range the likes of Deebo Samuel, Parris Campbell, Marquise Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Terry McLaurin, N’keal Harry and others might come off the board. We might see a rush in the 20’s but it could last a little longer.

3. There are great big nickel options this year

This draft is stacked with safety prospects who can play nickel. A lot of the top safeties in college have been converted in recent years. Amani Hooker, Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, Johnathan Abram — they all spent a ton of time playing in nickel. This is the perfect draft to try and replace Justin Coleman with a fast, tough defensive back prospect. Hooker might be the pick of the bunch but Marvell Tell, Gardner-Johnson, Abram, Marquise Blair, Darnell Savage, Juan Thornhill and several others warrant consideration too. The range? Rounds 3-4.

4. Dru Samia screams perfect run game fit

If you said Samia and Trysten Hill were top-50 picks in this draft I wouldn’t argue. Samia is fantastically physical and does an exceptional job as a run blocker. He drives defenders off the LOS to create lanes but also squares up brilliantly and keeps everything in front. He can progress to the second level, combo-block, pull around and block on the move. He finishes and constantly plays with an edge. He wants to hit you and leave a mark. I don’t know whether the Seahawks will make an early pick on the O-line after signing Mike Iupati and D.J. Fluker but Samia would be a fine choice.

5. West Virginia are a Seattle pipeline

Will Grier’s deep-throw ability, Trevon Wesco’s credentials as a sixth linemen, Gary Jennings’ speed and chunk-play ability. It’s no wonder John Schneider attended the Oklahoma vs West Virginia game. All three of the names above could be on Seattle’s radar and it won’t be a surprise if they bring in multiple prospects from WVU.

6. It’s time to get a full back

And specifically, it’s time to draft Alec Ingold from Wisconsin. He’s an old-school punisher with a willingness to play special teams. Trade down, get a day three pick and write Ingold’s name on it.

7. They will add a pass rusher and a defensive tackle in free agency

They’re meeting with Caraun Reid and need to find someone to fill the Tony McDaniel role. They could also do with adding another pass rusher — although the options are getting thin. Is there a chance to land Justin Houston or Ziggy Ansah? They’re the two big names left on the market but could be expensive. They could still add a receiver (eg Jordy Nelson or Jermaine Kearse) but cheap additions to the D-line seem to be the last domino’s to fall in free agency. That said, they need to try and protect their comp picks. And for that reason, they might be willing to bring back Dion Jordan and trust Rasheem Green and Jacob Martin take a step forward. That would put pressure on finding help in the draft but it is a good D-line class.

8. A prediction on Frank Clark

They agree terms on an extension in the not too distant future. Dee Ford’s trade and signing helped set the parameters for a deal. They should be able to work this one out. The sooner they get this one done they can move on to Jarran Reed, Bobby Wagner and — hopefully, eventually — Russell Wilson. That last one will be the trickiest to conquer and could have a major impact on Seattle’s 2019 draft if they fear the worst on a long term deal.

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Seahawks add Iupati, bring back Fluker & Wright

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

D.J. Fluker is returning to the Seahawks

Yesterday we discussed how Seattle’s off-season was right on track with the minor exception of losing J.R. Sweezy.

Today, they took it up a level — re-signing K.J. Wright and D.J. Fluker and adding Mike Iupati. Three key and important deals. Here’s why:

Linebacker depth is strong

The weakest position in the draft is linebacker. Devin White and Devin Bush will be top-20 picks. Mack Wilson will go in the first two rounds. After that? There’s not much to get at.

The Seahawks were highly unlikely to get a starter in the draft. As noted in our free agency primer — they had to have a plan at the position. Re-signing one of Wright or Kendricks was vital. Getting both is a huge plus — especially with Wright, Kendricks and Bobby Wagner all missing games in 2018.

Now they can ignore the linebackers in the draft altogether if they want to and focus on other positions.

Plus — Wright and Kendricks are quality players.

Retain consistency on the O-line

It’s disappointing that Sweezy departed but re-signing Fluker was a must. No other player did more to set a physical, imposing tone on offense. The O-line created a much more physical offense in 2018 as the Seahawks regained their identity.

There’s been so much change on the line over the years and it hasn’t helped. Replacing one starter is manageable. Iupati is familiar with Mike Solari during his time in San Francisco and should be able to slot into the starting left guard spot. He’s clearly not quite as productive as he was earlier in his career. However, the Seahawks witnessed the benefit of experience last year. Rookie O-line starters tend to struggle. Now they won’t feel any pressure to replace Sweezy in the draft. They could still go O-line early — but it isn’t a must.

Also — if you’re not aware by now, the Seahawks love run blocking offensive linemen. Pro Football Focus ranked Iupati as the sixth best run blocking guard (+300 snaps) last season.

Don’t lose any comp picks

At the moment they’re collecting extra 2020 picks nicely. If they avoid adding outside free agents and stick to players who were cut — they could have 10-12 picks next year. That would make a nice change after two years of limited stock.

They’re currently projected to gain a third, fourth and two sixth round picks.

What does it mean going forward?

The Seahawks are almost there. They could do with adding another pass rusher. We’ll see how that market develops with still a handful of veteran options available. They could do with adding another defensive tackle in the Tony McDaniel style.

Then it’s just a case of drafting well. They’ll need to create picks by trading down from #21 (possibly multiple times). The draft is strong at receiver, tight end, guard, defensive line and safety — plus there are plenty of tall/long cornerbacks.

Adding the likes of Trysten Hill (DT, UCF), Dru Samia (G, Oklahoma), Trevon Wesco (TE, West Virginia), Gary Jennins (WR, West Virginia), Amani Hooker (S, Iowa), Marvell Tell III (S, USC) and one of the multiple cornerback options would set the Seahawks up for a positive season. And they may just still consider adding a quarterback like Will Grier (QB, West Virginia).

Whoever they ultimately target — they’re very close to being able to focus on the draft and re-signing the ‘big four’ of Russell Wilson, Frank Clark, Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed to extended contracts.

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Thoughts: Seahawks sign Kendricks and Myers

Wednesday, March 13th, 2019

Mychal Kendricks is back with the Seahawks

The Seahawks are right on schedule in free agency, with only one small hiccup.

Nothing has been a surprise so far. On January 27th we listed a bunch of predictions. We then followed this up with our free agency primer. Included were the following:

— Mychal Kendricks will re-sign
— Earl Thomas is done in Seattle
— Check out the kicker market
— The Seahawks won’t make a free agency splash
— The priority will be retention not addition

This was never going to be an off-season where the Seahawks came out and blew everyone away. They are still in the midst of a re-set.

The biggest dilemma, as we’ve discussed so much and now others seem to be latching on to this too, is the ‘big four’ out of contract players in 2020. How to re-sign Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark and Jarran Reed is the puzzle to solve. The secondary issue was keeping the new core together and adding where possible.

The only minor issue so far is losing J.R. Sweezy. His deal with Arizona hasn’t been officially announced yet, by the way. Let’s assume he does finalise that move.

They can still re-sign D.J. Fluker. The way he’s petitioning on Twitter suggests he isn’t getting close to the market he hoped for. If nobody steps in this week, he might be more inclined to return to the team where he knows he’s a good fit.

They re-signed Mychal Kendricks today. That’s a major positive. This is not a good draft for linebackers. If they lose K.J. Wright, they won’t be scrambling around for a replacement. Kendricks is also an extremely talented player and a very capable starter. He’s only 28 years old and could be a longer term player for the Seahawks. It’s safe to assume Pete Carroll has some insight into his legal situation and that there’s a good chance he’ll be free to play in 2019.

They signed a kicker. Jason Myers isn’t a sure thing by any stretch. He’s not Robbie Gould. The Seahawks cut him last year in order to roll with Sebastian Janikowski. However, he made a pro-bowl in 2018 and is a good age (27). They made an investment to try and solve a problem and didn’t, like the previous two years, simply ‘get by’. They want to play games tight. It was time to spend money on a kicker.

There’s still an opportunity to sign a pass rusher. Plenty of names remain available. The first wave of free agency is where good or even average players get paid elite salaries. When things calm down next week, that’s the time to make a move. If the Seahawks can add a pass rusher and re-sign Fluker they can focus on the priority of re-signing the big four. They’ll be set up for the draft and anything else in free agency will be a bonus.

They’ll also protect their comp picks.

It’s still too early to say with any certainty but things are starting to take shape for the draft. We know they’ll trade down from #21. We also know there’s plenty of depth at tight end, receiver, guard, nickel/safety and the defensive line.

Losing Sweezy puts a greater emphasis on the O-line (especially with limited remaining options on the open market). Yesterday I suggested Dru Samia could be a target. Don’t be surprised if some teams have him graded higher than he’s currently being projected. Go and watch him against Alabama. Samia is the real deal. Teams interested in him — and the Seahawks could be one — might not want to wait to see if he’s there on day three. Rounds 2-3 is not out of the question for Samia. He will likely have a variety of grades but some teams will rate him highly.

Assuming they’re able to collect picks in rounds 2-5 — they should be able to address their other needs too. Trevon Wesco would be an option at tight end and might last a bit longer than the likes of Drew Sample, Dawson Knox and Josh Oliver. Trysten Hill is going to provide the best value on the D-line in this draft if he lasts beyond round two. And there are a long list of tall, long cornerbacks and 4.3/4.4 runners at safety with experience playing nickel (such as Amani Hooker and Marvell Tell).

Nobody should’ve been expecting a splashy start to free agency with the Seahawks ‘going for it’ — throwing money around to accelerate their re-set. This was always going to be more than a one off-season project. Wise, cost-effective additions and good drafting is the key.

The elephant in the room has always been the need to solve the Wilson, Wagner, Clarke and Reed dilemma. That will have their full attention soon enough.

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Tuesday notes: Thoughts on free agency so far

Tuesday, March 12th, 2019

J.R. Sweezy is signing with the Cardinals

So much for keeping the O-line together. Now they need at least one replacement. D.J. Fluker, meanwhile, posted some vague semi-angry tweets. He also retweeted a fan calling out Pete Carroll, demanding he stop wasting time and re-sign Fluker.

This is a difficult situation for the Seahawks. You’ll hear people say it’s a good thing Sweezy moved on. They’ll hand pick the snaps where he wasn’t great in pass-pro and suggest this is no great loss.

Seattle’s line did more than anything else to re-establish the identity in 2018. They set the tone. There’s a reason Pete Carroll announced it was a priority to keep both guards. Neither Sweezy or Fluker is flawless. They ‘fit’ for this team though and helped establish the leagues most productive running game.

At the same, they wouldn’t and couldn’t overpay for two players who they picked up as cheap free agents. They had to wait this situation out and try to get some value because both Sweezy and Fluker have had injury issues in the past.

So who replaces Sweezy? They could go back in for T.J. Lang but at what cost? The rest of the free agent linemen are unappealing. There are options in the draft but Seahawks fans know by now how difficult it is to plug in a rookie starting offensive linemen.

Even so, it might be the best and most cost-effective solution. One name stands out to me. Oklahoma’s Dru Samia. Tough and physical against the run. Angry. Extremely aggressive and carries the same kind of intensity as Sweezy. He squares everything up and blocks to the whistle and beyond.

He’s not the only option but he’s one to keep an eye on. Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom is the best physical match to Sweezy. Samia is nasty though.

How do they replace the others?

Akeem King will get a chance to replace Justin Coleman but keep an eye on a deep class of fast safety’s. A lot of the safety’s in the draft played nickel in college. There will be ample opportunity to add someone who can fit into that role. I’ve watched three games of Iowa’s Amani Hooker and came away incredibly impressed. USC’s Marvell Tell III also makes a lot of sense. You could add several others to the discussion too.

Losing Shemar Stephen is no big loss with Poona Ford playing so well as a rookie. Sweezy we talked about above. Losing Mike Davis is a shame but they should be able to find a #3 running back. Nebraska’s Devine Ozigbo or Penn State’s Miles Sanders could make sense.

Brett Hundley is joining Sweezy in Arizona. The Seahawks already signed Paxton Lynch.

The Seahawks have had a quiet start

This is a positive thing so far. Sweezy is probably the first free agent they’ve lost and might’ve expected to keep.

The first wave of free agency is simply a chance to overpay for middling talent. The elite players barely ever reach the open market but elite salaries are still handed out.

We’ve been saying for weeks the Seahawks don’t have the money for a ‘splurge’ and so it proved. Really though, they probably weren’t going to indulge anyway. They are still in a re-set.

Price tags will start to drop now. There are still several intriguing players available. The key is to get value and build a competitive roster — not blow most of your remaining cap on one player.

Let’s point this out again — the Seahawks don’t have much money to spend. Even with all the spending that’s occurred they’re only in the middle of the pack for available cap room. They have about $30m available and can create a little more when they cut Kam Chancellor.

At the moment one player on the open market might cost $13-17m. That’d be half your cap space. They were never going to be big players in the first wave of free agency. They have a small number of contracted players for 2019 and they need to fill out their roster.

Earl Thomas is getting a wake-up call

Why couldn’t the Seahawks get a first round pick for Earl Thomas? Because of the current situation. Thomas has an inflated view of his own value. His high demands are clearly not being met and teams are happy to look at alternatives. Landon Collins, Tyrann Mathieu and Lamarcus Joyner all have deals. Earl? Sat, waiting.

His options are shrinking and teams like the Niners and Cowboys appear happy to wait for him to accept the situation and sign on their terms.

While many complained at the Seahawks for refusing to ‘pay the man’ — the rest of the league refuses to do so too.

One of three things will happen now. Either Thomas will win the day and one of the few remaining teams interested will pony up to get him. He won’t get $15m a year though like he wanted. The second option is he will accept the situation and sign in Dallas (hometown) or San Francisco (revenge mission). This seems unlikely because Earl’s pride will take a hit. The third option is he sits at home for weeks and weeks like the safety’s a year ago until he comes to the realisation that actually, he isn’t valued as highly as he thought.

And no, he won’t be coming back to Seattle. That ship sailed ages ago.

What is the key for Seattle?

Wait it out with D.J. Fluker and hope that you can come to an agreement that suits both parties. Wait it out with Mychal Kendricks and K.J. Wright and try to get them back.

Then it’s a question of where the value is. Does a receiver come into play because the value dropped to a point where you’re interested? Are any of the tight ends appealing? Are one of these pass rushers going to become available in a range where you feel satisfied in adding them?

Free agency is about rounding out your roster sufficiently and setting up your draft. That is what Seattle will do.

What is the priority now?

The same as it was two days ago. Re-sign your guys (the ones left) and try and tackle the 2020 dilemma of the ‘big four’. We’ve been talking about Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark and Jarran Reed being the big problem since the end of the season. That’s clear for all to see now. We have absolute clarity there.

Can you get any of these guys signed up? Can you have at least three signed up by the end of the year? And if deals with any of the four are impossible or highly unlikely — get some value for them now.

Which names on the open market appeal?

Brandon Marshall (Linebacker) — tested well in the short shuttle at his combine and would fill a hole at a good price if they lose Wright and Kendricks

Clay Matthews, Bruce Irvin (EDGE) — all have enough juice left to play on a one-year deal and offer some help to the pass rush

Tyrell Williams (Receiver) — he has the height (6-4) and speed (4.4) they like, he makes big plays downfield and surprisingly he’s still available (one year prove-it deal?)

Daryl Williams (tackle/guard) — liked him in college and could possibly fill a hole at right guard if Fluker moves on

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Are the Seahawks guilty of short-termism?

Monday, March 11th, 2019

Feel free to use this as an open thread for free agency. If anything significant occurs involving the Seahawks, I’ll publish a new article.

I suspect, however, that their priority will be to re-sign the likes of D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy and let the market come to them.

As a prelude to the market opening, I wanted to discuss Seattle’s recent decision making. Can they be accused of short-term planning?

It goes back to the 2017 season. Perhaps out of desperation and not wanting an era of football to be defined by an interception on the one yard line — and in a chase for redemption — they were very aggressive.

The end was coming. They could probably sense it. There had been talk about Richard Sherman’s future and a possible trade. Within a year a reset was going to be required. So why not have one last real go for a Championship? Luke Joeckel was given $7m to try and help fix a bad O-line. Eddie Lacy was given $4m to try and provide a solution at running back. They pursued and nearly signed T.J. Lang to a big contract.

This was all just the start.

What followed was almost a desperate attempt to capitalize on an opportunity.

They traded for Sheldon Richardson, giving up a second round pick on a one-year rental purely because their top pick Malik McDowell was out indefinitely. Then they traded second and third round picks to Houston for Duane Brown to try and secure the left tackle spot when starter George Fant hurt his knee.

The Brown move has paid off because he was re-signed. Richardson was not — for no compensation. It was practically the most expensive one year rental imaginable. When you spend a first round pick, as Seattle did on Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham, they either have time to run on their deals or they’re extended. Neither happened with Richardson. And he walked, for free.

You wouldn’t be wrong in criticizing or praising the moves. After all, there’s nothing worse than a Championship caliber team drifting. The Packers wasted years of Aaron Rodgers because they sat on their hands, only winning one Championship as a consequence. Seattle was bold and ambitious. Also, reckless. They placed themselves in a market as aggressive buyers and bought at a high price.

This was arguably understandable short-termism. Merely a team wishing to give itself the best possible chance of success.

What has followed though, is a lot more contentious.

Why did the Seahawks keep hold of Earl Thomas, while knowing full well 2018 would be his last season with the team? Clearly they didn’t want to ‘sell low’. However, the market determines a players value. If the offers were only in the second or third round range, was it not better to get something rather than nothing for a player you had no intention of keeping?

They stuck to their guns and played out the contract. He’ll walk for free and if they sign any free agents over the next two weeks, the chances are they’ll get zero compensation for a player who will be coveted on the market.

Did they keep Thomas because it benefited them in 2018? Probably. But that’s short-termism. Why not get a pick, even a mid-rounder, and add someone who can be part of your roster for years to come?

Is that hindsight or fair comment?

The Frank Clark situation is a little bit different. Clearly they want to keep him — which is the big difference between Clark and Thomas. Yet how likely is a deal?

Presumably Clark and the Seahawks are not close on a new contract. That’s why Jay Glazer is dropping rumors about the Bills and why Clark’s agent is texting Ian Rapoport to announce live on the NFL Network that Clark won’t sign his tag or turn up to training camp.

With Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner also unsigned beyond 2019 (plus Jarran Reed), the chances of a second tag for Clark are slim. So right now, as things stand, he will walk in 12 months for only the outside chance of a third round comp pick in two years time.

So either the parties are close and just need to work through the process (still possible, let’s acknowledge that) or there’s a difference between the two parties severe enough for the battle to enter the realms of the media. If it’s the latter, they need to seriously think about getting the best offer for Clark.

Keeping him in 2019 might help the team this year. Aren’t they better off trying to get value now, however, before adding young talent that could be with the team for 4-5 years at a cheaper cost?

Is it not time to start preempting inevitable departures (if that’s what Clark is) and make some deals? Even if, sometimes, you don’t get amazing value?

I hate using the Patriots as an example because they are unique and masters of their own philosophy. Loads of teams try and fail to mimic them. But this is a team very prepared to ‘only’ get a second round pick for Chandler Jones and a third round pick for Jamie Collins. They also received generous first round picks for Deion Branch and Richard Seymour. The market is what the market is.

For two years the Seahawks have had weak draft stock. A year ago they had to trade down because they had #18 and nothing until round four. This year they need to trade down because they have four total picks. They don’t have the draft stock to replenish but they keep losing talent for zero (Thomas, Sherman, Paul & Sheldon Richardson, Graham) or very little (Bennett) compensation.

The salary cap era of football is developing all the time. Currently, we’re seeing players demanding more as the cap rises and being willing to roll the dice with multiple tags. Players are less inclined to ‘do deals’ to stay with a certain team. The teams and owners are described as capitalist thugs trying to keep players from getting what they’re due — and yet the cap rise isn’t necessarily keeping up with the massive rise in cost for quarterbacks, defensive linemen, receivers and offensive linemen. Even if you want to re-sign players — it’s difficult.

Cap challenges are harder than ever. Being willing to churn, while retaining an increasingly smaller core, appears to be the key to consistent success. That and good drafting.

Nobody wants to see popular players like Frank Clark leave. But it might be time for the Seahawks to plan to ‘win forever’ not just the next season. They need to start getting value for players who move on.

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