Archive for the ‘Front Page News’ Category

Pete Carroll on the prospect of drafting a quarterback

Tuesday, March 28th, 2023

Pete Carroll has been speaking to the NFL Network at the owners meeting

I’m on a works ‘road trip’ covering two games in back-to-back days so might not be that active until Thursday. In the meantime, I wanted to share this video. It’s a clip of Pete Carroll being asked about the quarterbacks in the draft at the owners meeting.

I can’t embed the video so here are the quotes:

Carroll: “With all of the quarterback excitement and the great players that are there, and our experience too, Johnny and I have been together a long time, we’ve been working this stuff out. He’s great at it, phenomenal at orchestrating what’s going to happen and predicting and the anticipation and the moves and all the things that we’ve done. This is really fun for him. He’ll be on the top of his game and really excited to see it come through and it’s fun for everybody, for our fans and the players and the coaches and all that.”

Steve Wyche: “Are you going to any pro-days other than the quarterbacks?”

Carroll: “No, that’s my last one, heading to Gainesville (Florida, this Thursday).”

Wyche: “Geno Smith was fantastic last year, you’ve raved about how he’s hung in there… but we’re seeing you with all these quarterbacks, evaluating them as well, what does this all mean? And you just extended Geno as well.”

Carroll: “Well, I told Geno we were doing it. He knows what’s going on. He’s trying to win. Geno knows we’re just trying to win so this is how we compete. I’ve said for years, we’re going to get in every single opportunity that is out there and John’s done a marvellous job of always having his ear to the ground to know what’s going on so that if an opportunity does fit us, that we’re prepared and ready to pounce on it. Well here we are. The number five pick and there’s legitimately four great prospects coming out at the quarterback spot. We may never have this opportunity again, so we’ve got to maximise it and so we’re doing our homework. We’re not going to hold back in doing that. And everybody knows, Geno knows and Drew knows, and everybody knows what’s going on, we’re just got to see what happens and take it as it comes.”

I’m sure this candid answer will be interpreted in a variety of ways. People will call it a smokescreen or a nudge to try and get a team to trade up to #3.

I’m not completely against the suggestion that being so public on the quarterbacks is an attempt to try and persuade someone to trade into the #3 spot with Arizona. I do think they’ll be enamoured by Will Anderson. They ended last season talking about what San Francisco has that Seattle doesn’t. I don’t think Anderson is a Nick Bosa-level player but he’s a very good edge rusher of the caliber the Seahawks simply don’t possess. I think they’ll be celebrating if they get a chance to draft him at #5.

That said, I also don’t think Carroll is speaking dishonestly about the four quarterbacks. I don’t think he and John Schneider are playing some elaborate game of poker, bluffing like crazy because their intention is to go against the words above and select Tyree Wilson, for example. I think this is probably an honest assessment of the situation. The Seahawks like the four quarterbacks and Will Anderson. They pick fifth overall. They attended the pro-days involving Anderson, C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young and Will Levis and will be at Anthony Richardson’s session on Thursday. They’re guaranteed one of this quintet.

For me it seems obvious. They might prefer Anderson at #5 but if he’s gone, they also like the QB’s. It shouldn’t be a big shock because as we’ve noted a few times, the quarterbacks all seem to fit what Schneider likes in a signal caller. As highlighted yesterday, he’s been very prepared to take a chance on a rough diamond.

We may never have this opportunity again” is a quote that speaks volumes. They know this is a rare chance. A bonus, courtesy of the Broncos. Carroll pretty much spells it out. When are they ever going to be picking this early again, with four quarterbacks who are going to go very early in round one?

I don’t want to sound like a stuck record (honestly) but this could end up being fairly predictable. Is someone going to make a late push to get a quarterback, trading ahead of the Colts in a deal with the Cardinals? If so, that likely provides the Seahawks with Will Anderson. If that doesn’t happen, Arizona picks Anderson and the Seahawks are left with the quarterback Indianapolis doesn’t select. I think the Colts are gearing up to take Will Levis because he fits Chris Ballard’s preferences and he’s better equipped to start quickly. I think, for the Seahawks, it’s most likely to be Anthony Richardson at #5 unless the Cardinals trade down.

And frankly, I’d be happy with either pick. Anderson or Richardson.

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Six things I think about the Seahawks’ draft

Monday, March 27th, 2023

Is Tyree Wilson really worth a top-five pick?

— They have to be confident they can land impact D-liners in the draft

Last year they carried six defensive linemen on the roster. Currently, they have three. They also need to create cap space just to afford Bobby Wagner’s contract. The prospect of adding more veteran linemen is fairly bleak without major work to improve the financial outlook in the form of extensions or restructures.

I wouldn’t assume this means the #5 pick will be a defensive linemen because, as regulars know by now, I don’t see any prospect of Jalen Carter being selected. I’m also unconvinced by Tyree Wilson as a top-five pick and will discuss why in a moment. I think they’d run to the podium for Will Anderson — but they’d still need interior linemen even if they selected him.

There are a lot of appealing options set to go in the #20-60 range. They can certainly make hay there. Are they backing themselves into a corner though, when there are potential value picks to be had at other positions?

This is a concern I don’t think should be glossed over. I’m seeing a lot of ‘it’ll be fine‘ or ‘it’s early‘ talk on social media. While there’s certainly no need to panic or overreact, they do need to add three defensive linemen who can carry a significant number of snaps. They have a distinct lack of beef up front, despite running a scheme that requires plenty of beef.

I’m eager to see if they can pull some of the levers Curtis talked about yesterday to provide support, while accepting an all-out worry-fest isn’t necessary because they were always going to draft some D-liners. It seems they want to get younger up front anyway with their moves but I do think they’re a veteran short at the moment.

I’m wary of reaching for need, 12 months after they avoided that and had their best draft in years.

The good news is, there are justifiable players you can take at #20, #38 and #53 without reaching — or if they trade up or down from either spot. Adetomiwa Adebawore, Calijah Kancey, Keion White, Mazi Smith, Keeanu Benton, Zacch Pickens, Byron Young, Bryan Bresee. It might’ve been decided the quality is good enough in this range to feel very comfortable going with a long-term view on the defensive line.

I just wouldn’t want to miss out on a Michael Mayer pick, for example, to fill a pressing need.

Pairing someone who is highly athletic and disruptive like Adebawore, Kancey or White with a big nose tackle like Smith is a very enticing prospect.

— There is one significant thing to note about last year which might be relevant

They didn’t re-sign Duane Brown or any kind of hedge at tackle. With hindsight, it looks like they knew there were three offensive tackles available that they liked and one would make it to #9.

Alternatively, they signed Uchenna Nwosu in free agency and clearly felt comfortable waiting until round two to add another pass rusher (Boye Mafe).

Part of me wonders if their lack of action on the D-line hints at a similar approach at #5? Are they banking on a player being there? I just don’t know who it could be. Anderson is an edge rusher not a big-bodied front player. I’m not going over Carter for the millionth time other than to say I see no prospect of him being taken at #5.

— Are they seriously just going to select Tyree Wilson?

I think it would be a decidedly unexciting move. I went back this week and watched him as part of a revision session, which I do with all prospective targets at various points. It just reminded me why I was initially sceptical of him as a really high pick.

Yes the length and size is incredibly enticing. Look at his frame. The term ‘he’s straight out of central casting’ is perfect for players like Wilson.

His bull-rush is very good and those long vines help him control blocks and create opportunities to pressure. He can play along the line and he’s a very forceful, aggressive defender at times. His best snaps are when he barges his way through blocks, often attacking the B-gap inside to split through and create pressure.

However, he is not twitchy off the edge. He’s not going to beat anyone with speed. There are plenty of occasions where the bull-rush stalls and he doesn’t do a good enough job disengaging. There are quite a lot of frustrating snaps where he just goes through the motions when the initial jolt doesn’t create distance from the blocker. You don’t see a ‘hair on fire’ rusher down in, down out.

Here are some quotes from anonymous scouting sources, courtesy of Bob McGinn:

Scout 1 — “He’s not like glass-eater mean. More of a finesse athlete.”

Scout 2 — “You can see he’s got lots of talent but he doesn’t make plays…You just wish he played more consistently and more physical.”

Scout 3 — “He’s going in the first but I don’t love him at all… He’s kind of like the kid from UTSA (Marcus Davenport) the Saints took a couple years ago (2018) that ain’t done that much.”

Scout 4 — “Slow twitch as far as the mind… Doesn’t see blocks coming. Plays high, doesn’t use his hands. He does flash some power as a pass rusher but that’s all he’s got. No speed on the edge, no plan. Just another big guy you’re hoping for as a project to develop. Similar to Emmanuel Ogbah, and he isn’t any good, either.”

In fairness, one other scout also says, “He’s the best one (DE)… When you see the guy you’re, like, ‘Holy shit, that’s how they design them in the lab.’ He looks like a million dollars. The way that he moves around is pretty unbelievable. I wouldn’t even call him a finished product.”

I think he’s become an assumed ‘next best’ defender because of his frame. His tape is very hit-and-miss. He’s really the polar-opposite to Calijah Kancey. Wilson has only flashes on tape with a brilliant frame. Kancey is a consistent dynamo, making plays in a variety of ways, but he has a questionable frame with a lack of size and length.

We also have no idea on testing and upside. He has been recovering from a significant foot injury and didn’t do anything at the combine. It’s been revealed he’s not ready to perform at the Texas Tech pro-day on Wednesday. He’ll need to have a personal pro-day in April.

Wilson wasn’t included in Bruce Feldman’s ‘freaks list’ so we have no public projection data from the school. He didn’t do any SPARQ testing either in High School, as a former three-star prospect who began his college career at Texas A&M and then transferred to Texas Tech.

I don’t think he’s ideally suited to playing defensive end in a 3-4 either and is far better playing off the edge in a 4-3 and kicking inside on certain downs. He’s an inbetweener for Seattle — not in the 280/285 range to play 3-4 DE and not in the 250-255 range to play 3-4 OLB. He weighed 271lbs at the combine.

I find it hard to get behind Wilson as ‘the guy’ you’re going to spend a rare top-five pick on, believing this is the player who can take you to the next level. I think I agree with Mel Kiper — who had him lasting outside the top-10 in his recent mock draft — and Jim Nagy — who suggested top-10/15 as a range rather than top-five when we spoke before the Senior Bowl.

— I still think they’re going to be a lot more comfortable with this QB class than many people are ready to accept

I’ve always been very clear that I am perfectly happy with a defensive line or quarterback pick at #5. I’ve only done one full mock draft with a quarterback at #5, the rest had defensive linemen. At the end of the season, I noted that Seattle were guaranteed to get a top-three QB or one of Anderson or Carter. The only reason I’ve adjusted that to the top-four QB’s and Anderson is due to the legitimate concerns surrounding Carter and the continued rise of Anthony Richardson as a prospect, to the point where — unsurprisingly — his incredible talent and upside is garnering legit top-five chatter.

I do think a lot of fans (and some media) are entrenched though, which I find a bit confusing. They don’t even want to consider a quarterback pick. They cling to Carter as an option, despite so much evidence to the contrary, or they assume Wilson will be a great pick. Or they think Anderson will last, which feels unlikely. I spoke to a scouting friend recently who said Anderson was ‘hands down’ the top defender taken. Unless Arizona trades out of the #3 spot, they’ll almost certainly select him. I think it’ll take a major haul to tempt the Cardinals away from that selection.

I would’ve thought we’d hear two other viewpoints a bit more often.

Firstly, the history John Schneider has with quarterbacks. This is a man who has often sought traits, even at the detriment of ‘finished product’ status. He traded a lot for Charlie Whitehurst who was a big, strong-armed, athletic backup. He fell for Russell Wilson — a big armed, athletic, shorter QB who had everything but ideal height.

He reportedly was prepared to draft Patrick Mahomes in 2017 despite having Wilson under contract. Then, in 2018, he reportedly was willing to trade Wilson for a shot at Josh Allen.

Because Mahomes and Allen have become big success stories, we’ve forgotten what was said about both when they were about to be drafted. I feel like we should keep reminding ourselves of the following:

— Mahomes wasn’t listed in Daniel Jeremiah’s top-50 prospects in his February list ahead of the 2017 draft or an updated version in April, weeks before he was taken 10th overall. Deshone Kizer, however, was ranked on both occasions.

— In Jeremiah’s final April 2017 mock draft, he eventually did include Mahomes in round one at #27 overall. Deshaun Watson wasn’t included in the first frame. They ended up being the #10 and #12 picks respectively.

— Mahomes himself revealed he was given a second round grade by the draft committee.

— Lance Zierlein graded Mahomes at a 6.30 — a lower grade than Drew Lock (6.40). In his report, Zierlein noted: “Mahomes will be a work in progress, but he’s a high ceiling, low floor prospect.”

This is worth remembering when you see and hear people talking about Will Levis and Anthony Richardson as ‘not first round picks’, appearing in mock drafts deep into the first round or ranked low on big boards. Mahomes, the best quarterback in the NFL and a generation-defining talent, wasn’t considered a true first round prospect by many pundits and league sources going into the 2017 draft.

Here’s an article on written by Lance Zierlein, discussing Allen during the 2017 college football season:

The scoop: “He scares me like he scares everyone, but he is easily the most physically talented quarterback (in this class). He will get drafted much higher than the level of his tape.” — AFC director of college scouting on Wyoming QB Josh Allen

The skinny: Listed at 6-foot-5, 233 pounds and with high-end arm talent, Allen is the prototype at the quarterback position. However, Allen’s production has been very pedestrian this season (181 yards passing per game, 55.9 percent completion rate, 12 TDs and 6 INTs in 8 games).

His accuracy and decision making are not where they need to be. In comparison, Carson Wentz had very similar physical traits and ability coming out of North Dakota State. He was the No. 2 overall selection of the 2016 draft, but his accuracy and football intelligence were exceptionally high. Coincidentally, Allen’s coach (Craig Bohl) helped groom Wentz at NDSU before being hired at Wyoming.

Allen might make a substantial leap forward with better talent surrounding him than what he’s working with at Wyoming. However, I’m not ready to say he’s a franchise quarterback at this juncture.

It’s impossible not to connect what is written above to what is being said about Levis and Richardson. That doesn’t mean either player is destined to emulate Allen’s career but it does help to explain why Schneider might be willing to overlook certain tape-flaws to bet on upside as he was reportedly willing to do for Allen and Mahomes.

There are also these quotes courtesy of scouting sources produced by Bob McGinn:

On Josh Allen:

“He reminds me of (Blake) Bortles,” a second scout said. “Bortles lacked consistent accuracy and I see the same thing with Allen. Big-time athlete but really an inconsistent passer. I don’t see (Carson) Wentz. Some people do because they had the same coach (Craig Bohl). Wentz was a very mature, confident person.” Two-year starter. “He looks the part and a good athlete,” a third scout said. “But you talk about lacking in being a winning quarterback. He has a lot of bad tape (even) at that level. Somebody will still take him high. Are we going on what the tape is and the production and the winning? Or are we going on this guy looks like he should be an NFL quarterback and how he throws the ball?”

On Mahomes:

“People are trying to make that comparison because of his arm. He’s got a really good arm, but Favre was not as reckless as this guy.

“He’s crazy. He plays crazy. He’ll do anything. I don’t even think “gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless.”

“He’s in ‘that offense’ and the way he plays, he’s very erratic,” another director from an NFC team said. “You can see the talent but he’s just so streaky and wild and reckless. He put a lot of balls up for grabs where you’re saying, ‘Man, what are you going to get with him?’

“He could (come on) but I don’t see it. I just don’t think he has the necessary qualities. He has no vision, no mechanics. He’s erratic as hell. He makes a lot of mistakes. It’s going to be a long (development).”

“Mahomes is the boom or bust guy,” said one of the two evaluators that expected him to fail. “He carries the biggest upside but he does have a bust factor. He’s just going to be inexperienced doing the things he’s going to do here.
“When you start looking at players that play off the script it concerns you, and a lot of what he does is off-script. In the NFL, when you get off-script is when you make big, big errors. It’s not as easy to make the off-script play on our level as it is at Texas Tech.”

Is any more evidence required to highlight how sceptical people were about Mahomes and Allen before the 2017 and 2018 drafts?

There was a genuine fear-factor with both.

Schneider has been attracted to rough diamonds. We shouldn’t rule out the rough diamonds in this draft as options for the Seahawks.

This also brings me onto the second point. Why aren’t we universally trusting Schneider to get this right? His track record of judging QB talent is fairly exceptional. Yet I don’t often read ‘in John we trust’.

If he passes on the fourth quarterback available at #5, I’d respect the decision of a proven evaluator when it comes to QB’s. If he does take a quarterback at #5, are people going to react in the same way? Will they trust his judgement?

Why are we not hearing more often, ‘Schneider might like one of these QB’s and if he does, he should take him’? That feels like a fair position we can all rally behind.

I see very little reason to rule it out at this point. Stroud and Young are not expected to make it to #5, Levis or Richardson might. I think they look exactly like the types of quarterback Schneider covets. For that reason, it warrants greater consideration than it’s getting in some quarters.

The only other thing to mention is cost. Some have challenged whether the Seahawks would be willing to take a quarterback at #5 because it would mean an overall spend of $20m in 2023 on Geno Smith, Drew Lock and a rookie.

When you consider they’re spending $42.6m on four safeties, I don’t think we need to worry too much about that. It’d be a quality investment at the most important position in football for the present and future.

— Can they still go BPA at #20 or will they be dictated by need?

As noted, the D-line needs, especially up front, feel like they might force Seattle’s hand. If they don’t take Carter at #5 they’d still need to address defensive tackle even with Anderson or Wilson safely in the hutch.

It’d be a shame if they had to force things because there are some really appealing names regularly mocked within range of #20:

Bijan Robinson (RB, Texas)
Undoubtedly one of the best five players in the draft, if not the most gifted. Robinson would take snaps away from Ken Walker but he’s also such an incredible player that Seattle would have one of the best 1-2 punches in league history.

Michael Mayer (TE, Notre Dame)
Notre Dame botched their own press release last week, copying and pasting Jarrett Patterson’s short shuttle time into the Mayer column. He actually ran an elite 4.31 shuttle and a 6.97 three-cone. These testing numbers mean Mayer has the physical profile associated with the best tight ends in recent history. Paired with his reliable catching ability, good blocking and total-football attitude — he is one of the best players in the class.

Devon Witherspoon (CB, Illinois)
Witherspoon is the best hitter in the draft. He absolutely levels opponents. He will help set the tone on defense for the team who drafts him. Furthermore, he’s a heck of a player. He can press, he can stick in coverage, he competes for the ball. He plays with a swagger typically associated with the best cornerbacks in the NFL. He hasn’t tested and that could mean he lasts on the board but whoever gets him will love him.

Josh Downs (WR, North Carolina)
An exceptional talent who is being overlooked by too many, I think Downs is a top-15 player and the best receiver in the draft. He’s a downfield threat, he’s excellent at uncovering on shorter-routes. He high-points the ball brilliantly and has explosive leaping ability. He’s incredibly mature and pro-ready, with NFL bloodlines from his father and uncle (Dre Bly). He reminds me of Tyler Lockett.

Dawand Jones (T, Ohio State)
There just aren’t many humans like Jones. With his insane size and length, he can overwhelm and overpower defenders. He’s incredibly difficult to move or get-around and he could end up quickly becoming one of the best right tackles in the league. His one day at the Senior Bowl was remarkable.

Jahmyr Gibbs (RB, Alabama)
There were moments in 2022 where Alabama struggled for rhythm and impact on offense. They’d turn to Gibbs and the problem was quickly solved. He runs in the 4.3’s, he’s an excellent receiver out of the backfield. He’d be a brilliant complement to Ken Walker.

For many reasons, it’s also very possible the Seahawks will have John Michael Schmitz on their target list in the #20-40 range too. That will be harder to justify if you are feeling pressured to go D-line early and often.

— There is one name to mention at linebacker who could be intriguing

The Seahawks might need to plan ahead at the position with Bobby Wagner, Devin Bush and Jordyn Brooks all out of contract next year. It was brought to my attention by Si Clancy that Pete Carroll got a very close look at Henry To’o’to’o at the Alabama pro-day:

Carroll was supposedly front-and-centre for the entire workout.

It’s something just to keep in the back of your mind.

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Curtis Allen’s salary cap update two weeks into free agency

Sunday, March 26th, 2023

This is a guest post by Curtis Allen…

See a need? Fill a need.

In last week’s update we discussed how little cap room the Seahawks have available and that the period to come would be a litmus test for their determination to dramatically improve the team:

“If the Seahawks are determined to improve in a big way this offseason, they will need to be more aggressive.

That means restructuring players, cutting players you otherwise might not, or having a hard conversation with a player you have invested heavily in, like Jamal Adams.

It also means being aggressive with your salary cap strategy in regards to new contracts.  They can do what other teams do, acquire a big piece that helps them tremendously with very little cap room available and just manage the cap to make it work.”

The Seahawks have impressively answered the call early in the off-season in order to push their roster forward in a more competitive fashion.

Pete Carroll says they need to close the talent gap with San Francisco, particularly with regard to having a defensive line difference-maker? Welcome to Seattle, Dre’Mont Jones.

They need more effective depth on the line? Come back home where you belong, Jarran Reed.

They have questions in the defensive backfield and want to run more three safety sets? A super-versatile player who could hedge Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs and even plug in at nickel if needed would be terrific. If he has been a defensive leader as well, that would be a bonus too. Julian Love, you’re gonna look fantastic in green and blue.

Moving on from Gabe Jackson and Quinton Jefferson were not difficult choices.

Cutting Shelby Harris and Al Woods were. However, the Seahawks flipped their script and made the best of the situation. Rather than take the cap room gained and spend it on roster-clogging JAGs – as they have done in the past – they went out with determination and brought in young, rising players with real upside.

All this while impressively filling immediate needs with some intriguing stop-gap players (Evan Brown on the offensive line, Devin Bush at linebacker and bringing back Drew Lock), tendering Ryan Neal in a clearly aggressive move – daring another team to set his market but also saving $1.7 million in cap space – as well as bringing back the bulk of their Exclusive Rights Free Agents.

It is not hard to see what the Seahawks are doing: Making this roster younger, with more upside and giving them as much flexibility as possible to maximize their return in one of the most important drafts in franchise history.

Rather than passively letting the market and player agents dictate to them, the Seahawks are striking with purpose and vision. It is a far cry from what we have witnessed in the recent past. Even if every move does not ultimately prove to be a pure stroke of genius, you can see what they are doing, most of it makes sense and you cannot fault them for trying.

There is one move, however, that does fill a need but does not quite match the other moves.

The Seahawks Have Brought Back Bobby Wagner

Yesterday it was announced they’ve brought Wagner back into the fold on a one-year, up to $7 million contract with incentives.

We are still waiting to hear on the structure of the contract but it is clear what the Seahawks want out of this deal. They want to return a fan favorite, to bring some stability to the linebacker position and to avoid being beholden to a draft that is not deep in effective inside linebackers.

The cost does seem prohibitive, though. Since Wagner had a very good year in Los Angeles, the incentives have a very, very good chance of being “Likely To Be Earned” and thus will count against the current year salary cap.

This will move the Seahawks to make sure they have enough room to cover them on their cap and force some corresponding moves, as you will soon see.

Where They Stand on the Cap

We are going to build on what we talked about last week. I took you on a bit of a rollercoaster ride, telling you the Seahawks had no money to spend and then outlined ways that they could find money to improve the team.

They chose to exercise some of those options and were very active in the market early on. While that is fully commendable, we need to talk about the cost of their aggression.

So again, the Seahawks have no money to spend. None. And that is much closer to reality than the last time I said it.

Currently, the Seahawks have $8.918 million of cap room per OTC. If we take the Wagner contract at full face value, they now have only $2.068 million.

Their draft pool will now cost them about $8.981 million, once you adjust for the 10 picks pushing players off the top 51 against the cap. So, their effective cap space will be in the red by about $6.9 million.

Adding to that, they will need their practice squad and injury money cushion. Somewhere in the neighborhood of $6-10 million would work. They need to find room for that contingency money by trimming some cap space from the current roster.

If you want to call that ‘true effective cap space’, they are about $13-17 million over the cap currently.

Before we get into how they can make up that cap room, let’s backtrack a little and re-emphasize the time element we talked about last week.

The Seahawks will not need that draft pool cap money available until they sign those picks. So likely May or early June.

And the contingency money? They can wait until later in the summer to open that money up.

The point being, it is not great that they are in the red currently. But they do have some time to work things out.

It is definitely not a comfortable situation. Particularly when you examine the needs they have on the interior of the defensive line. A veteran running back would also be a nice addition. A veteran wide receiver too, if we are filling out a wish list.

But the Seahawks do have some time to work things out.

Candidates to Gain Some Cap Room

Updating the chart from last week, the Seahawks still have a few options to get back in the black:

Noah Fant and Uchenna Nwosu – it will be interesting to see if the Seahawks decide to make a move on their contracts to save some cap room. They both have played well but 2023 is the last contracted season for both.

The Seahawks also have robust depth around them (for 2023 at least) and the draft class appears to be a good one at their positions.

Therefore, they have options with those two. Wisdom might seem to dictate that they let the rest of free agency and the draft come to them and then gauge their options — be it a trade (in the case of Fant) or a contract extension.

I did add a column for Post-June 1st trades, because the cap gain numbers for Adams, Diggs and Dissly are very healthy there. It would be a surprise though, if any team wanted to trade for those three with their cap numbers and health status.

That $8.44 million for cutting or reworking Jamal Adams seems like a foregone conclusion given they have invested in two other safeties and now are in desperate need for cap space.

So why hasn’t it happened yet? The Seahawks could have designated him a post-June 1st cut by now, finally tying off one of the worst trades in franchise history.

There are the obvious reasons: swallowing a $24 million dead cap hit is painful, even if it is split over two seasons. They just came off a year where they had $26 million of dead cap on their roster for Russell Wilson but that was easily justifiable. Getting a fantastic return in trade and a wholly unexpected great season from Geno Smith at only a $3.5 million salary made that dead cap number far easier to bear.

The Seahawks would have no such public relations buffer to point to if they cut Jamal Adams loose (although maybe the return of Wagner would blunt it a bit).

It could also be that the team has convinced themselves to give Adams one more year to make this investment work. They had him rushing the passer like crazy in 2020, returning to a more standard strong safety role in 2021 and 2022 got wiped out by injury. They could reason that more defensive line strength and less coverage responsibility on his plate could lead to the true ‘weapon’ style season they have been envisioning since they acquired him.

The counterargument to all that though is Adams’ injury history. After enduring serious groin, shoulder and finger injuries his first two seasons, 2022 was not kind to Jamal Adams in the least. He injured his hand badly on the first day of training camp and once again missed a chance to get valuable practice reps with the team. Then he tore his quad in the first game of the season — an injury that wiped out his 2022 and could put a chunk of his 2023 season in question.

I am increasingly beginning to think that the Seahawks are playing the situation smartly. Not unlike what we discussed above — making some coverage moves on the roster, being patient and letting the market, the draft and circumstance work for them.

How so? By hinging their Adams agenda on some key upcoming dates:

The first of course is June 1st. That is when it is most advantageous to cut Adams and save money on the cap this year. They certainly could cut him sooner and still designate him a post-June 1st cut but would any team really be interested in signing him before June 1st? With his severe injury, unlikely. So, they can let it ride.

Other, sooner dates have significance for this situation also — and they bunch together and could determine the Seahawks’ course of action with Adams:

— April 17th has just been announced as the first day of off-season activity for the Seahawks. They will likely have more than just a typical check-in with Adams. They will get to measure his recovery status fully.

— April 21st is the deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign an offer sheet with another team. Ryan Neal currently counts against their salary cap — having been tendered by the Seahawks — but he is not locked into their roster yet. Not until either Neal signs an offer sheet and forces the team to make a decision, or the deadline passes without another team making an offer.

— April 27-29th is the draft. Rob has gathered some intel that the safety class this year is seen as deep and impressive.

The Seahawks really have no practical incentive to make a move on Jamal Adams – be it outright cutting him, or approaching him about a restructure – until those dates have come and gone.

At that point, they will have a good handle on the bulk of their roster, can have some time to assess how the new acquisitions fit on the team, they will have a better picture of Adams’ health timeline and can make a decision on how to proceed.

They also will have sufficiently built-up pressure to negotiate from. Considering the poor safety free agent market, to their cap situation, all the way to a pure numbers game on the roster, they will have a multitude of reasons to talk Adams into considering a pay cut.

If the Seahawks are to continue the aggressive course they have charted for this off-season, they will at a minimum need to approach Adams about renegotiating his contract. Pragmatically, it is less about the stink of an awful trade and more about assuring that Adams will not make a bad trade worse in 2023 by costing the Seahawks another $8.44 million in guaranteed money if and when he steps on the field without a contract adjustment.

Fant, Nwosu and Adams are the clearest paths to gaining cap room this offseason.

Restructuring Diggs and Lockett by converting some salary to bonus and pushing out the cost to future years are options but should be classed as ‘emergency use only.’

Why? When you convert salary to bonus, that converts non-guaranteed money to guaranteed money, reducing your cap flexibility both in the near term and in the future.

That said, it would not shock me one bit – given how vocal Quandre Diggs has been – if we find out that the Seahawks have restructured some of his 2023 deal already to open up some cap room for Wagner. We will see.

Aside from those options, the Seahawks may choose to utilize void years to make the cap work for them and fill needs this summer. They are loathe to do it but in this case it might be the best option to keep some flexibility with players like Diggs and Lockett in 2024.

Hopefully you see why we stumped so hard for a very aggressive strategy in January, including cutting Diggs before $9.9 million of his salary became guaranteed and dealing with Jamal Adams sooner rather than later in order to pick up nearly $18 million in cap room.

The financial forces are going to push the Seahawks to make some interesting decisions the rest of the offseason, because they will need as much flexibility as possible come next year. Why?

A Brief Look at the 2024 Cap Situation

I am going to give you my same song and dance about the cap. Let me first depress you and then tell you why it is not so bad.

The Seahawks do not have much cap money available in 2024.

Their aggressiveness this year – combined with their as-yet lack of aggression on their two high-priced safeties – is conspiring to keep them from having very much free cap space to splurge on next offseason.

But as always, there is room to maneuver.

What is the current picture like?

They have $54 million with 25 contracted players for 2024 per OTC. Take about $30 million off that for the 2023 and 2024 draft classes and you have about $24 million of room with about 42-45 contracted players.

That room does not include any of the $15 million of roster bonus incentives Geno Smith is eligible to earn. As always, they need their injury and practice squad contingency fund.

So basically, we are back to the Seahawks having zero money.

Now for the uplifting good news: it’s not as bleak as it sounds.

The Seahawks will have two more draft classes primed and ready to join the 2022 draft class to form a dynamic young core. That #5 overall pick this year should have a big impact on the field.

They have already addressed sore needs by adding difference-makers on the defensive line with Jones and Reed and at safety with Julian Love.

They have team control of two potentially key players in Darrell Taylor and Michael Jackson Sr.

They can pick up $20.3 million very easily by moving on from their two expensive safeties.

Another $20 million is available on the contracts of Will Dissly, Bryan Mone and Tyler Lockett.

They can pick up $13.8 million by trading Geno Smith. Or they can renegotiate his contract to keep him and avoid a potential $32-46 million cap hit.

They have options and if the 2022 class keeps ascending and they have a successful 2023 class, the picture will look a lot rosier.

One thing of note: At this point, with their cap situation as it is in 2024, circumstance does seem to be pointing towards the potential of the Seahawks seeking a major, major source of cap relief in 2024 by drafting a quarterback at #5 this year.

Geno’s flexible contract has an easy out in 2024. The ability to cut or trade him before being on the hook for his incentive roster bonus, acquiring a serious talent like Jones on a multi-year contract and then spending themselves into the red in 2023 all could be indicators that the Seahawks are positioning themselves for a handoff of the quarterback spot to a second-year player next season.

Concluding Thoughts

Aggression is good but it needs to be smart and well thought out. Opening up cap room is great. But it has to be married to smart moves with that cap room. It is best when complemented by good drafting.

The Seahawks have mostly done well so far. But they have a very long way to go.

At the moment, we have about 60% or so of the off-season picture for the Seahawks. The draft is critical. Even then, the rest of the offseason will not be loaded with simple bottom-shelf roster moves and scouring for summer free agent bargain finds. They still have a lot of work to do.

Finding cap room while still filling key spots on the team without pushing too much cap burden onto 2024 will be the team’s task going forward. John Schneider and his staff are going to need to be very creative and very sharp in their roster planning.

It is most definitely not going to be a boring off-season.

A lot of things will happen between now and the fall. We will be right here all the way to keep you apprised of what is happening and the impact of the moves they make.

Bobby Wagner is re-signing with the Seahawks

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

It’s been pretty clear since Bobby Wagner’s departure from the Rams that his preference was to return to Seattle. He’s coming home, which will have many Seahawks fans rejoicing. It will be a feel-good story in the city and it means linebacker is no longer a need for the team.

I do have a few reservations to raise though and hope this isn’t construed as raining on anyone’s parade.

In his last season in Seattle in 2021, I thought Wagner looked a shell of himself. He wasn’t attacking gaps with the same vigour. He was riding screen passes downfield. He wasn’t flying to the ball. I’m not sure if he had an injury or felt like it was a bit of a lost cause as things unfolded — but this wasn’t the Wagner we’d come to know.

Seattle didn’t have to cut him a year ago. An extension would’ve lowered his large $20m cap hit and they could’ve kept him around. Perhaps it was simply a really difficult bargaining position to owe that much for 2022 and work on an extension? Especially with no agent involved. That’s very plausible. Either way, I thought the Seahawks made the right call to cut him and jump into a new era.

I thought he looked renewed and refreshed in the three Rams’ games I watched last season — the blowout against Denver and Russell Wilson on Christmas Day and the two meetings with the Seahawks. In particular against Seattle, I thought he looked fantastic. There were many reasons why he would be highly motivated to excel in those games — but the fact is he did play very well.

I can’t speak for the rest of his season but it sounds like he returned to form. I would caution, however, that he did get to play behind Aaron Donald for 11 games. He won’t get that luxury in Seattle.

Indeed, the defensive line currently looks incredibly limited. They have cut everyone and signed just two replacements — Dre’Mont Jones and Jarran Reed. I like both of these signings but for Wagner to excel, I think he needs (and deserves) to have a D-line that can control things up front.

Wagner is 33 in June. He’s coming to the end of his career. It remains to be seen, even with the addition of Jones, whether the Seahawks can be good enough up front to allow him to play free and fast. Is he going to be able to produce, or will we see a repeat of 2021?

Can you create a fearsome D-line with rookies? Or do you need a few more grizzled veterans in there? Do they need the Shelby Harris and Al Woods types to mix in with some young talent?

I also fear that they’re increasingly setting up a situation where they’re going to back themselves into a corner in the draft. Are they obliged to take defensive linemen early and often, regardless of whoever else is available? They’ve spoken about avoiding that situation but it’s hard to know how they’ll steer clear of it now.

According to Over the Cap they have -$746,786 in effective cap space. If Wagner’s contract isn’t incentive-laden, they don’t even have the money currently to sign their rookies. They also don’t have many levers to create more cap space. It’s basically negotiating with Uchenna Nwosu from a position of weak leverage or cutting Jamal Adams as a post-June 1st release. Or they trade Noah Fant in a buyers market, given the quality of the tight ends in the draft.

It’s a big benefit to the Seahawks to have Wagner’s experience and leadership. I sense they’ve gone above and beyond to get this done — knowing the groundswell of desire from fans and the players’ apparent preference to come home.

I do think it’s curious though that they’re spending so much, again, on linebackers and safeties while the defensive line is in the state that it is. The draft will inevitably provide help. Clearly, they intend to be younger up front. That can have big benefits — but can a young, inexperienced line execute the scheme and keep the second-level defenders clean?

I also appreciate this is not a good linebacker class. Now, they can ignore it completely if they wish. They have eliminated a worry and have added character to the locker room.

Some other notes:

— In the last 12 months Wagner’s been cut by the Seahawks and the Rams. On each occasion he has had a ‘let’s wait and see’ market, with teams weighing up their options. If he’s still capable of playing like one of the best linebackers in the NFL, why has he been cut twice and not been a hot-ticket free agent on either occasion?

— One of my big complaints during the 2018-21 period was the resource spend at linebacker and safety, compared to the investment in the trenches. Last year was a great start — cutting money at linebacker then spending high picks on the O-line and defensive front seven. Then they signed Dre’Mont Jones to kick off free agency this year. However, they still have an astonishing $36m committed to Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams in 2023 on top of also signing Julian Love and retaining Ryan Neal. Now they’ve brought back Wagner and signed Bush for $10.5m. It’s a curious strategy.

— Is there a danger that nostalgia is playing too big a a part in this? Is he coming back because he legitimately is ready to play better than his previous season in Seattle, or are we getting caught up in a nice story? The Seahawks were right to turn to a new era a year ago and launch a fresh start. Is one injury to Jordyn Brooks enough to rush back to the past?

— Are the Seahawks being more aggressive to accelerate their fresh start, are they simply being opportunistic or do they think they are close to contending? I am very comfortable with the first two but I hope they’re realistic about where they are. If they can combine competitive in 2023 with an eye to the long-term through the draft, that would be ideal. I hope, however, they avoid treating the draft like a ‘finishing touch’ with attempted ‘impact’ moves to fill remaining holes. That is the kind of plan, as they have admitted themselves, that has led to mistakes in the past.

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Video: Seven-round Seahawks mock draft

Saturday, March 25th, 2023

Will Levis’ pro-day deserves more credit & attention

Friday, March 24th, 2023

Will Levis had an impressive showing at his pro-day

Before I get into the Will Levis review, a general thought. I think the Seahawks are telling us how the early part of this draft is going to shake out.

I know people are desperately trying to parse everything as a smokescreen at the moment, depending on their personal wants and needs at #5.

But let’s think about this for a second.

Pete Carroll, John Schneider and an entourage of Seattle’s staff attended the Ohio State, Alabama and Kentucky pro-days.

Next week, they’re going to Texas Tech and Florida. Schneider confirmed that.

That covers C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Anderson, Will Levis, Tyree Wilson and Anthony Richardson.

In other words, the six players who are consistently being projected to be the first six players drafted.

Some mock drafts continue to include Jalen Carter in the top-five but I will just keep repeating what I’ve said for a while, however repetitive or boring it is. There’s stuff teams know about, some of which has already been reported in the media, and it gives me reason to believe there’s little chance he’ll be drafted by the Seahawks.

So while fans rabidly debate the meaning behind numerous selfies with quarterbacks and why the Seahawks are attending pro-days en masse — I think it’s simply this:

1. They are watching the players who are slotted to go in the range they’re picking

2. They have a rare top-five pick and want to get as much info about these six players as possible

They can’t do this level of extensive work when you’re picking 20th. What are you going to do? Attend 30 pro-days as an eight-man travelling band? When you’re picking fifth overall you can narrow the field and make sure you’re at the pro-days you need to be at.

To me, it’s as simple as that.

It remains to be seen if they’ll still go to Texas Tech because it’s been revealed Tyree Wilson won’t do a workout. They may still want to meet with him.

If you don’t think these six players will be the first taken, that’s fine. I’m not suggesting someone else can’t work their way into the mix. Yet even the Panthers picking first overall are having dinner with Will Levis. So the teams at the very top are doing their work on him. The Seahawks are doing the same thing.

Rather than tie ourselves in knots, let’s just embrace that the team is doing the necessary work to get this pick right. That’s reassuring. It’s very possible the players they are watching are simply the consensus players to go early and they’re doing their homework.

Onto the notes on Levis’ throwing session…

He looks in fantastic shape and there’s no doubt he’s a brilliant athlete. I actually think he’s too ripped, though. He looks absolutely jacked. He has a reputation at Kentucky for living in the weight room, which is hardly a bad thing. It’s the polar opposite to certain other players (Carter, J.). However, I’m not sure being this big is a good thing. I think if he took the edge off his workouts it might actually help him be more elusive, nimbler and a better scrambler.

Right off the bat this was a more up-tempo pro-day than Bryce Young’s. Jordan Palmer put the session together so it’s no surprise, he’s well versed in this process. The scripting was excellent and this was a brilliantly designed plan.

I thought Levis’ footwork was better than some of the talking heads suggested. His drop looked very smooth, his base was solid and the ball came out very well. He doesn’t drop his arm on release, it’s a nice compact throwing motion with the ideal release point.

The mock-play-action stuff was nicely executed. I really like the way he set to throw on those deliveries and the ball shoots out 20-30 yards downfield with ease.

Young had a lot of pointless ‘drop, set and check-down for seven-yards’ throws. I much preferred the session Palmer put together. He had Levis stand in the pocket, pretend to go through two reads, then re-set and check down to the running back who had peeled off towards the sideline. This is just a better way of emphasising the same thing.

Stroud’s hardest throws were the ones when he moved to his left on Wednesday. This is typically the case for most QB’s. Palmer designed some very elaborate ‘exit the pocket’ throws for Levis, where he had to scramble a long way to the left and deliver. The accuracy was ever so slightly off here, as they were with Stroud. But bloody hell, what an arm from Levis. To be virtually sprinting to the left and then deliver with that much torque and velocity. It’s impressive. It deserves to be described as a major positive and it’s not like the throws were well off the mark. We’re talking fine margins.

Throws like this were all over Twitter during the session:

There was also one throw where he launched it 75-yards downfield, hitting the receiver in stride. It was a mouth-ajar moment.

Levis was showing off his physical prowess here and he clearly has a bigger arm than Stroud and Young. He lacks Stroud’s perfect touch and consistency but he does have a bigger arm. There were some issues too, though. One 50-yard downfield throw was badly under thrown to the point the receiver had to stop and wait for the pass (which he bobbled). This does show up on tape. I don’t know why his downfield throwing is inconsistent like this. He’s capable of beautiful, crazy downfield bombs as we saw here. But every now and again there’s the odd duck. It must be a technical thing that teams will have to work out.

On a more positive note, I absolutely loved his throws on the move to the right hand side. They were perfectly judged in terms of arm strength, placement and touch. He hit receivers in stride and you can well imagine him in a bootleg offense having a lot of fun on levels and crossers.

He made 25-yard throws over the middle look so easy. He can flick his wrist and the ball shoots out. The way the ball leaves his hand is a thing of beauty. He generates so much pace on the delivery — it’s pretty to watch.

There was one 40-yard seam throw where he dropped, set his feet, added a ‘find the laces’ adjustment and then launched it on the money downfield like he was handing it off downfield. These are the ‘wow’ moments for me, rather than the big bombs. You can attack linebackers on these routes with quicker players and if they can release into these zones quickly off the snap, Levis can attack for big chunk plays with his arm.

There was a mid-range in-cutting route that I thought was wonderful. Three-step drop. Progression read simulation across the middle to two targets, bolt right back to the left hand side and fire with perfect velocity and loft, hitting the receiver in stride. Perfect.

He did the modified ’throw against the grain’ pass we see at a lot of pro-days. As with Young yesterday, he didn’t create as much momentum on his initial run which was good to see. He threw the ball at the 10-yard line, off balance across his body and the receiver caught it at the opposite 17-yard line. That is incredible arm-strength and the throw had good loft — it wasn’t a direct, flat throw as we saw with some of Young’s deep passes.

The NFL Network kept talking about players like Cam Newton and Josh Allen during the session. This isn’t Levis. These are poor comparisons. For me he’s more of a Justin Herbert but even then it’s not an ideal comparison. Levis showed what he does best today. Play-action, bootleg throws where he can get on the move and utilise his arm to varying levels of the field. He is perfect for the Sean McVay offense and it’s why he excelled so much in 2021. He’s not going to play hero ball like Allen or be a big powerhouse like Newton. He’s not a crazy improvisor and he needs to play within structure. He needs the right scheme and the right scheme is McVay’s.

Overall I thought this was a very good performance, brilliantly scripted by Jordan Palmer. Stroud’s pro-day isn’t going to be topped — it was a masterclass in tempo, skill, talent, touch, accuracy and sheer quality. This, to me, felt far more impressive than Young’s which as we discussed yesterday, felt like a box-ticking exercise to get it out of the way. Levis is not the naturally gifted, ‘born to do this’ passer that Stroud and Young are. However, he is an incredibly physically gifted player with ideal character, attitude and dedication to improve and develop.

It leaves me wondering, again, what exactly people expect? I keep hearing criticism of the quarterbacks this year — or at the very least a lukewarm response. I think the top-four deserve a lot more love. I’m not surprised the team with the #1 pick are checking them all out. This is a really good group, better than most years.

It baffles me because the defensive alternatives in round one are nothing to write home about.

I think Will Anderson is a quality player worthy of going #3 overall and he’d be a great selection for Seattle at #5. He’s not a special player though. He is not Myles Garrett, Von Miller or a Bosa brother. He doesn’t have elite get-off or bend around the arc. He’s physical, explosive, he plays the run brilliantly and when used in space, he can fly to the ball-carrier or quarterback. He is not, for me, a game-wrecking edge. I would happily take him at #5 because I think he will provide around 10-12 sacks a season consistently, he’ll lead your defense (if not your entire team) and it’s a safe pick with a high-floor. Anderson is a fantastic scheme fit for Seattle.

There are question marks about Tyree Wilson’s quickness and ability to be more than a big power-rusher. When I interviewed Jim Nagy before the Senior Bowl, he suggested the right range for Wilson would be ‘top-10 or top-15’. He’s now being regularly mocked in the top-five but is it justified? Mel Kiper put him at #11 in his last mock and it does feel a little bit like Wilson’s a good player, with flashes on tape — but how has he become a top-six lock?

I’ve talked about Carter’s issues. Then you have the cornerbacks who are likely to get pumped up due to the premium nature of the position.

We seem to hear a lot about what’s wrong with the quarterbacks but barely anything about some of the question marks on the defenders. Why is that?

I have no doubt that like Herbert, Levis can excel at the next level in a scheme that suits him. I think he would be a good pick for Indianapolis or Seattle. I continue to think the Colts will take him, either in a trade-up to #3 or with the #4 pick.

The Seahawks certainly made sure they got a prime viewing spot for this one:

Don’t underestimate the power of character and personality. Levis is beloved by the people at Kentucky. I know, I’ve spoken to them. I’ve interviewed Levis personally:

He is going to leave no stone unturned to maximise his potential.

While he’s far from the finished article as a passer, let me share some scouting quotes, courtesy of Bob McGinn, on Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes. See if you can find any similarities to what’s being said about Levis and Anthony Richardson:

Josh Allen

“He reminds me of (Blake) Bortles,” a second scout said. “Bortles lacked consistent accuracy and I see the same thing with Allen. Big-time athlete but really an inconsistent passer. I don’t see (Carson) Wentz. Some people do because they had the same coach (Craig Bohl). Wentz was a very mature, confident person.” Two-year starter. “He looks the part and a good athlete,” a third scout said. “But you talk about lacking in being a winning quarterback. He has a lot of bad tape (even) at that level. Somebody will still take him high. Are we going on what the tape is and the production and the winning? Or are we going on this guy looks like he should be an NFL quarterback and how he throws the ball?”

Patrick Mahomes

“People are trying to make that comparison because of his arm. He’s got a really good arm, but Favre was not as reckless as this guy.

“He’s crazy. He plays crazy. He’ll do anything. I don’t even think “gunslinger’ is the right word. He’s reckless.”

“He’s in ‘that offense’ and the way he plays, he’s very erratic,” another director from an NFC team said. “You can see the talent but he’s just so streaky and wild and reckless. He put a lot of balls up for grabs where you’re saying, ‘Man, what are you going to get with him?’

“He could (come on) but I don’t see it. I just don’t think he has the necessary qualities. He has no vision, no mechanics. He’s erratic as hell. He makes a lot of mistakes. It’s going to be a long (development).”

“Mahomes is the boom or bust guy,” said one of the two evaluators that expected him to fail. “He carries the biggest upside but he does have a bust factor. He’s just going to be inexperienced doing the things he’s going to do here.

“When you start looking at players that play off the script it concerns you, and a lot of what he does is off-script. In the NFL, when you get off-script is when you make big, big errors. It’s not as easy to make the off-script play on our level as it is at Texas Tech.”

So far my pro-day rankings for the top-four are:

1. C.J. Stroud
2. Will Levis
3. Bryce Young

If you missed my reports on Stroud’s pro-day check it out here. Here’s my write-up for Young.

A final note for today. I went back and reviewed the safety class after the combine, in part due to a recommendation from a scouting friend who raved about the depth of the group.

One player I adjusted up was Alabama’s DeMarcco Hellams. Then I saw this tweet today:

Hellams isn’t a special athlete but he’s a heck of a football player. He plays with a ferocious nature and he leaves everything on the field. He’s indicative of this class for me. There are some absolute blood-and-thunder ballers available, even if there’s a distinct lack of obvious blue-chip first round talent. And several of those blood-and-thunder types happen to play the safety position this year.

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Bryce Young’s pro-day was a low-key event

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Another day, another QB selfie for the Seahawks

If C.J. Stroud set out to put on a show yesterday (read my review here), Bryce Young’s pro-day had a very different vibe. This was never going to be a platform where Young ‘won’ any points over his rivals. He kind of just had to get it out of the way. If Stroud’s was a ‘wow’ workout this was a lot more understated. If the contingent from Carolina travelled to Alabama, a day after watching Stroud, they’ll have come away from this feeling swayed. That would be my feeling, anyway.

Stroud began his workout peppering throws to each sideline like he was a human JUGS machine. In no time at all he was lobbing throws downfield with precision and velocity. It felt like he was puffing out his chest and saying, ‘watch this’ — eager to make a statement and claim the #1 spot in front of the watching Carolina entourage.

Young’s day felt a lot more like a pre-practise warm-up session. The energy was a lot lower. It started with several tune-up throws on a shorter range. This isn’t anything out of the ordinary — most pro-days start this way. Yet the fact Stroud came out flying was noticeable and different.

I didn’t think we really needed to see Young throw a handful of seven-yard check-downs under no pressure in shorts. That kind of set the tone for the workout.

There were still clear positives to highlight. Young throws with a good base and whips the ball out with reasonable velocity for his size. His arm strength is clearly weaker than Stroud’s but not to the point of it being an issue on mid-range throws. He has a stronger arm than Mac Jones and Tua Tagovailoa, two other former Alabama first round picks.

Young delivered some 25-yard outs with a nice zing to them. They were accurate and punchy with good placement. Young also tried the ‘off-platform-across-your-body’ throw that has become common at pro-days. He did it with less momentum on the run so it was more impressive and he got the ball 60-yards downfield (the pass was dropped by the receiver). There was one throw that faded a bit on the mid-range and I think at the pro-level there will be times when Young isn’t able to drive a pass into a tight window when not ideally set. Yet overall he’s accurate, he’s mechanically sound with his feet and shoulders properly aligned and he has enough arm-strength to not feel like you’ll be limited in a way Miami and New England with the other former Alabama QB’s.

He had some nice 35-yard seam throws where he dropped, set and threw very quickly — firing the ball to the target with pace and accuracy.

I really like the way Young steps into his throws. He has a very natural, fluid release and the ball comes out of his hand well. The spirals are excellent on the mid-range. Although he’s not physically exceptional, the ball gets to where it needs to go to most areas of the field.

One slight criticism I have is his deep balls were flat. While Stroud absolutely nailed the loft, velocity and touch on his deeper passes, it did feel a bit like Young was trying to throw as hard as possible and the ball came out without enough air and they were harder to catch. The receivers were dropping passes the Ohio State group were gathering with ease. I also would’ve liked to see a few more deeper throws during the session but I guess he doesn’t want to get into a physical battle with Stroud, Will Levis and Anthony Richardson.

It did feel like a ‘get this out of the way’ experience. He didn’t run a forty or do any other testing, just as he didn’t at the combine. He wasn’t weighed again. This pre-draft process for Young is essentially trying to do as little as possible, tick-off the boxes he needs to tick and crack on. There’s nothing wrong with that because again, he isn’t going to go toe-to-toe with the physical beasts at the position.

The problem with this, though, is he’s leaving the door open for GM’s and coaches (and perhaps more importantly, owners) to be wowed by the other three. He’s relying on teams being comfortable with the size, watching the tape, seeing things like him basically winning a game against Texas in the fourth quarter on his own and having someone say — ‘that’s our guy’. Someone is going to do that early, possibly even the Panthers. If not them, probably the Texans. Yet there was a marked difference between Stroud and Young and that’s in part why this felt like a ‘get it out of the way’ pro-day rather than a chance to flex.

That said, Young is clearly naturally gifted with A+ character. Personally I would draft him early. As much as his frame is a concern in terms of durability, you can’t wait around for the ideal quarterback. Sometimes you’ve got to take a chance on someone and I would take a chance on Young at #5 if he lasted.

The question is, would you take him over the others? Physical tools matter a lot more than I think some people are willing to acknowledge in the modern NFL and Young is a distant fourth among the top-four in that regard. Yet he isn’t a physical liability either and the fact he ticks so many other boxes from mechanics to production to creativity and character will convince teams he’s capable of not just being a franchise quarterback but also a highly successful one.

It is possible, though, that the other three QB’s will turn heads in a way Young simply wasn’t capable of doing during his throwing session. Stroud has already, for me, taken a big step towards the #1 pick with what he showed. Now it’s up to Will Levis and Anthony Richardson to try and stake their claims —- because rightly or wrongly, there will be some trepidation about Young’s size. Rightly or wrongly, teams like traits.

Frankly, we should learn to be comfortable with that. Justin Herbert and Josh Allen were the third quarterbacks drafted in their respective classes. Patrick Mahomes was the second quarterback drafted in his — 10th overall. All were critiqued a lot more than people seem prepared to admit after the fact.

You draft players to develop. Nobody bats an eye-lid when a high-upside, undercooked defensive lineman or left tackle is taken early with the intention of developing them. I’m not sure why, at the most important position in the sport, drafting to develop incredible upside is treated with suspicion and concern.

A GM might lose a job by trying to draft and develop the wrong quarterback. A GM can also become a team legend by siding with the right one. I’d suggest the GM who sits around waiting for the second coming of Joe Burrow to fall into their lap will eventually find it very difficult to justify their position. It’s why I think you’ve got to keep taking shots until you hit. A good owner should be comfortable with that. You need to try and find the Holy Grail.

Seattle’s QB tour is reportedly heading to Kentucky tomorrow to see Will Levis. Again, it’s also worth noting that there are other players to check-in with on these trips. Yesterday, I think it’s almost certain the Seahawks checked out and/or spent time with center Luke Wypler. Today, Pete Carroll was having a good look at Byron Young who I think would be a perfect fit for their defensive front. He also spent time chatting with Will Anderson, who is likely a coveted player for the #5 pick.

Disappointingly Anderson didn’t do any testing today — which means he’ll go into the draft with no vertical, broad, short shuttle or three cone numbers. He has no excuse for this, no injury issues or anything. It’s quite frustrating.

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C.J. Stroud pro-day notes & Adetomiwa Adebawore a target?

Thursday, March 23rd, 2023

Pete Carroll watched C.J. Stroud’s impressive pro-day

It has been said that a pro-day, for the most part, is a waste of time. You’re throwing against air. You expect a pro-quarterback to excel in this situation.

Even so, the truly class players have a way to shine through — even in an environment set up for success.

Two years ago I wrote a fairly scathing review of Trey Lance’s pro-day:

I can’t recall a recent pro-day with so many balls hitting the turf. I saw overthrows and under-throws. He’s toesy with his feet and his technique needs further work to sharpen up his accuracy.

It felt obvious that this was a player who needed a lot of work. His physical upside was his only redeeming feature. I was surprised Kyle Shanahan had his head turned by the people pushing for Lance in San Francisco’s front office. He was never a good scheme fit and nothing about his pro-day or tape suggested he was destined to fit with the 49ers.

Then there are other pro-days where you’re left mouth ajar. Josh Allen, still to this day, had the best pro-day I’ve ever seen. Everyone knew he was physically impressive yet at his event, he made everything look natural and easy. It was a stroll in the park for Allen to throw 60-yards downfield, effortlessly. He was having fun, he was showing off. He hit the mark to all areas of the field and just oozed charisma doing it. There was no doubt from that point that despite any flaws he showed at Wyoming, he was worth taking a chance on.

Stroud doesn’t have Allen’s ridiculous physical upside. Yet his pro-day was reminiscent of what Allen showed. He looked in complete control.

Firstly, the effortless throwing motion. Stroud began his session churning through touch passes to each sideline. He was rolling, just setting and throwing with tempo and pace. It was like a factory production line — each throw landing perfectly with consistent touch and accuracy.

There was no messing around either — no short-range throwing, building up to a big finale. He cut to the chase, progressing to mid and long range passes quickly. His ball-placement was perfect on all but a couple of throws and even they hit the mark.

It’s so easy to think back to that Lance pro-day, where balls were hitting the floor all the time. Stroud’s session was like watching a Madden video game practise. There was never any danger of a pass hitting the floor. His throws were so crisp and precise, it was like he was handing the ball off 30-40 yards downfield.

Based on film review, I’ve said a few times I’ve never seen a better touch-passer. His ability to throw with perfect velocity downfield, with the ball landing cushion-like into the hands of a receiver, is special. This was all on show again today. Receivers don’t have to work to catch Stroud’s passes. He doesn’t need to overdo the loft to get the right downfield pace. He’s like a snooker player the way he judges angles, precision and touch.

Stroud’s body language oozes ‘I was born for this’. He’s so on his game from a mechanical, physical and accuracy perspective that this challenge of a pro-day — with numerous key NFL personnel watching on including one owner — was a walk in the park. He’ll have no problem handling the spotlight of being the #1 pick, if that’s what Carolina decides.

He also didn’t have any of the gimmicky throws we’ve seen creep into pro-days to get social media traction. None of that ‘run to the left, throw across your body with sweeping momentum, get some fan-boys to applaud in the background’ stuff. This was a proper pro-day. Ohio State are doing an excellent job developing mature, pro-ready players and it’s no surprise this set-up was so efficient and organised.

Stroud’s footwork was generally good with only some minor tweaks needed when he runs to the more uncomfortable left hand side. Overall we’re talking about one of the most naturally talented, complete football players to enter the league in a long time. Yes — he’ll need to adjust to the pro-game and cope without his hand being held like it was at Ohio State. He showed against Georgia however, that he’s more than capable of doing that.

He’s an exciting player, worthy of being Carolina’s present and future.

It’s no surprise the Seahawks were there, en masse, to watch his pro-day:

It’s been reported that the contingent will now travel to Alabama and then Kentucky to watch Bryce Young and Will Levis. A week today, it’ll be Anthony Richardson’s turn.

It’s worth noting from the picture above that Stroud admitted a few years ago that he was a Seahawks fan. Even if that was a loose ‘bandwagon’ style fandom as Seattle became a top franchise, or whether he just admired Russell Wilson, it seems it was still clearly enough for Stroud to get a selfie with the group when they met later on (and let the Seahawks use it).

Pete Carroll and co will have been impressed. Everyone attending will have been impressed. The timing is ideal — because now they can compare all of the other pro-days to this excellent performance.

I think they’ll grade Stroud incredibly highly. John Schneider reportedly loved Patrick Mahomes in 2017 and there are Mahomesian elements to Stroud’s play. Unfortunately, they’re unlikely to have any realistic shot at drafting him.

It also needs to be said that these trips will also provide Seattle’s group a chance to look at other players. Luke Wypler is an obvious fit at centre and I bet they spent time with him at Ohio State. Alabama’s roster is chock full of prospective picks — from Will Anderson to Byron Young and Emil Ekiyor and several others. This won’t just be a quarterback scouting mission — although obviously they’re doing their due diligence on the top QB’s, given this rare opportunity to be picking in the top-five.

In other Seahawks news, they reportedly had Mario Edwards Jr in for a visit this week. He spent last year in Tennessee. I think this is very interesting. Having already signed Dre’Mont Jones, they reportedly were also trying to add Zach Allen. Now they’re looking at another player in the 6-3, 280lbs range.

To me it indicates that while the’ll undoubtedly be adding some beef to the defensive front at some point, they’re also after another disruptive player in this size range.

There just so happens to be a 6-2, 282lbs prospect with elite testing, excellent character, with a brilliant Senior Bowl on his résumé and his profile indicates ‘special’ potential.

Increasingly I think they’re going to be very interested in Adetomiwa Adebawore. He’s exactly the type of player they seem keen to bring in. Yet he’s also a 4.49 forty runner, a 1.61 10-yard split runner, a 4.26 short shuttle runner, a 37.5 inch vertical jumper — all with 34-inch arms and big 10.5 inch hands.

When’s the last time you saw a player with this profile?

He has every tool in the box. Explosive power, quickness, attitude, leverage. Look at what he did at the Senior Bowl below. Nobody else on the D-line got the rest of the participants howling like ‘Ade Ade’ did:

His testing profile — and the flashes he shows on tape and during those Senior Bowl practises — suggests he could be someone who just takes the league by storm. It’s not unrealistic he comes in, swiftly develops into a very accomplished player and we all wonder how he lasted as long as he did in round one. Let’s not forget, Aaron Donald lasted to the #13 pick.

I wonder if Edwards will be seen as a potential hedge for someone like Adebawore? If he’s still there at pick #20 — and that no longer feels like a sure-thing — he could easily be the man Seattle takes to add to their defensive front. Adebawore and Jones combining on passing downs would be a scary prospect for opponents and as long as they can get some run-stuffing bigger-men to secure the interior, this would be an attractive proposition.

If you missed my interview with Adetomiwa Adebawore, watch it here:

Finally, Cameron Young mentioned in this interview that he’s had a meeting, possibly two meetings, with the Seahawks. A long-armed, powerful defensive linemen who really shone at the Senior Bowl — he’d be a tremendous mid-round option. He’s definitely someone to keep an eye on as the process unfolds.

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Wednesday draft notes: D-line & the QB pro-day tour

Wednesday, March 22nd, 2023

Derick Hall impressed at the Auburn pro-day

It’s always useful to look for trends among the top pro’s. While there are plenty of players who match the testing results and never amount to anything, it’s still a means of helping us identify who has the potential to be an impact player in the NFL.

Von Miller — 4.53 (1.62) at 246lbs (4.06 ss)
T.J. Watt — 4.69 (1.59) at 252lbs (4.13 ss)
Nick Bosa — 4.79 (1.62) at 266lbs (4.14 ss)
Joey Bosa — 4.77 (1.68) at 269lbs (4.21ss)
Khalil Mack — 4.65 (1.53) at 251lbs (4.18 ss)
Myles Garrett — 4.64 (1.63) at 272lbs (DNR ss)
Maxx Crosby — 4.66 (1.62) at 255lbs (4.13 ss)
Aaron Donald — 4.68 (1.59) at 285lbs (4.39 ss)

As we can see, the combination of burst/get-off (10-yard split) and agility (short shuttle) is an indicator of success. Only Joey Bosa posted a sub-standard split for his position.

I’m eager to see if Will Anderson runs a short shuttle at tomorrow’s Alabama pro-day. There was a feeling his testing performance at the combine was so-so. Yet if he can run an excellent shuttle, he’ll be in a similar ball-park to Maxx Crosby in terms of size, burst and agility:

Will Anderson — 4.60 (1.61) at 253lbs (DNR ss)

There are two other players who have already reached that mark and they happen to be my second and third ranked ‘edge’ rushers on my updated horizontal board, posted on Monday:

Will McDonald — 4.66 (DNR) at 241lbs (4.09ss)
Derick Hall — 4.55 (1.59) at 254lbs (4.14ss)

There was an expectation that McDonald would test well. He bends the arc better than any pass rusher I’ve watched since starting the blog in 2008. His ability to get low to the ground, round the edge and retain balance is freaky. Here’s a reminder of what he did to Darnell Wright — the best offensive tackle in the draft — at the Senior Bowl:

These are also fantastic testing numbers for Hall. Essentially he has a complete physical profile. Unlike McDonald he’s an ideal weight at 254lbs and he has excellent length (34.5 inch arms). He’s one of the top ‘alpha’ types in the draft and was a team captain at Auburn. What he doesn’t have, though, is a great Senior Bowl performance on his résumé (he was so-so in Mobile) and his run defense is surprisingly iffy given how intense he is.

McDonald and Hall both provide the Seahawks with options if they want to add an early-round edge. Either could be a target in the late-20’s if they trade down, or at #38 if they last.

They feel like serious options if Will Anderson, as expected, doesn’t last to the #5 pick.

Mel Kiper’s latest mock draft aligns with what we’ve been discussing in the top-five. He has the Cardinals taking Anderson, after swapping picks with the Colts.

As of today, I suspect this is the scenario the Seahawks will face. If Anderson lasts to #5 I think they’ll take him and I’ve felt that way for a while. I think they’ll see a player they can build around on defense — who can develop into a core-leader and producer of pressure. This will require the Cardinals to trade out of the top-five (feels increasingly unlikely) or they’ll need to prefer Tyree Wilson.

If Anderson is off the board, then I think the remaining quarterback of the ‘top-four’ will likely be Seattle’s pick — in this case Anthony Richardson. That would be an ideal situation for Richardson, allowing him to sit for the whole year without any pressure to play with Geno Smith and Drew Lock locked into the QB1/QB2 slots.

I don’t think Wilson going to the Cardinals is that outrageous. A good pro-day performance on March 29th will certainly help. He’s a good fit for the Jonathan Gannon defense. He also has the best pass-rush win percentage:

Tyree Wilson — 22.6%
Nolan Smith — 22.1%
Andre Carter — 22%
Mike Morris — 20.2%
Will Anderson — 19.6%
Keion White — 19.6%
Tuli Tuipulotu — 18.9%
Lukas Van Ness — 18.8%
B.J. Ojulari — 17.9%
Myles Murphy 17.8%
Isaiah McGuire — 17.2%
Derick Hall — 16.9%
K.J. Henry — 16.3%
Felix Anudike-Uzomah — 16%
Will McDonald — 15.7%
Isaiah Foskey — 15%
Zach Harrison — 14.4%
Byron Young — 13.2%
Colby Wooden — 12.7%

Daniel Jeremiah mocked Wilson ahead of Anderson on February 21st, noting:

“First edge rusher off the board? Over Will Anderson Jr.?!? There’s a lot of love for Wilson around the league. His combination of size, length and production has teams very intrigued.”

However, in his latest mock published yesterday, he says Anderson “makes the most sense” for Arizona at #3.

I’m not sure what’s changed here, if anything, but on January 31st Jeremiah published his first ‘top-50’ board for He had Keion White listed at #8 overall, suggesting:

“White is one of my favorite players in the class and could emerge as the top defender in the class.”

It’s not clear why, subsequently, he has dropped White to #27 in his latest ranking update and didn’t include him in his latest first round mock. In the blurb, the line about White possibly being the ‘top defender’ in the class remains.

How do you drop from #8 to #27 while consistently being described as possibly the best defensive player in the draft, without any mention as to what has provoked the fall?

Going back to the players — it’s increasingly clear the Seahawks are going to need to add some defensive linemen as a priority when the draft comes around. With virtually no money to spend, it’s hard to imagine how they’re going to do much more than bring in a cheap veteran. Initially I wondered if this would be Poona Ford. After listening to Brady Henderson on with Brock Huard yesterday on 710 Seattle Sports, it seems Ford is less likely to return (and was apparently looking for $10m-a-year at the start of free agency — explaining why he remains unsigned).

Instead it seems more likely Shelby Harris might return. I’d welcome that but I’m not sure it prevents the Seahawks feeling a bit of pressure to select defensive linemen as a priority — the thing we hoped they might be able to avoid.

At the same time, it’s true that they were always likely to draft defenders early. You just hope they don’t feel obliged to force anything if better players at other, less ‘needy’ positions are available.

It’s not a deep class for the defensive front but there are options.

I wondered if the signing of Dre’Mont Jones might make it less likely that they could target Adetomiwa Adebawore. However, the admittance by John Schneider that they were also in for Zach Allen is interesting (before he opted to join Vance Joseph, his old defensive coordinator with the Cardinals, in Denver).

Allen and Jones kind of feel like the same type of player for Seattle’s scheme. If they were willing to pay both handsomely, it suggests they were interested in having two young impact rushers attacking from the front.

Zach Allen was 6-4 and 281lbs at his combine. Adebawore was 6-2 and 282lbs.

Kiper and Todd McShay discussed on the ‘first draft’ podcast yesterday that they felt Adebawore would go between #20-31. With a ridiculous 4.49 forty at his size and an equally ridiculous 1.61 10-yard split and 4.26 short shuttle, 34-inch arms and a top performance at the Senior Bowl in his back-pocket, it’s easy to build a case for Adebawore with Seattle’s second pick.

I’ve been saying for a while that his tape is better than some are making out. He played on a hopeless Northwestern team and was able to provide consistent pressure. He recorded a reasonable six sacks, all considered, plus 31 pressures in 2022.

His pass-rush win percentage was comparatively good for interior linemen in the draft:

Karl Brooks — 23.5%
Calijah Kancey — 22.2%
Moro Ojomo — 18%
Jalen Carter 15.8%
Keondre Coburn — 15.4%
Adetomiwa Adebawore — 14.9%
Bryan Bresee — 14.3%
Keeanu Benton — 13.7%
Byron Young — 13%
Zacch Pickens — 11.6%
Siaka Ika — 11.5%
Mazi Smith — 11.2%
Jaquelin Roy — 9.8%
Jalen Redmond — 9.2%
Gervin Dexter — 8.4%

It’s certainly true that the Seahawks need some big-bodies up front to clog running lanes. They also need disruption and pressure. It would be interesting to see a front that included Adebawore and Jones attacking obvious passing downs. He has a special testing profile and while that doesn’t automatically translate to a special career — the numbers he recorded are fairly incredible.

You can just as easily make a case for the man whose name is second on the list above. Calijah Kancey doesn’t have Adebawore’s length but he’s a disruption machine. If he had 33-inch arms and was 6-2 instead of 6-0, we’d probably be talking about him as a top-15 lock.

Seattle has always made a big deal about length for their defensive linemen. Again though, how eager are they to have two key disruptors? Are they willing to prioritise that? A nose tackle isn’t going to provide you with major snaps. If you take one in the first two rounds, are you getting bang for your buck?

It’s true that Adebawore or Kancey wouldn’t necessarily be a high-snap percentage type — but they offer more than just space-eating. They are potential game-winners.

It’ll be interesting to see how they approach this. Another name on the list above, Moro Ojomo, has a good blend of size, length and testing and his 18% pass-rush win percentage is also attractive. I really like him in round three. I’m also a big fan of Alabama’s Byron Young as regulars will know. He’s not going to ‘wow’ anyone with testing but he’s a first-rate alpha who is ideally matched for the scheme with his ability to read the offense and two-gap. He has great size, strength and surprising quickness. I also think Zacch Pickens at South Carolina is being overlooked.

Back to the nose tackle position — I also appreciate that some people see it as pivotal for the scheme. There were more than a few whispers a year ago that had Charles Cross and the other three tackles not been available at #9, Seattle was seriously considering drafting Jordan Davis.

I think that perhaps tells us what we need to know. For a highly athletic, freakish nose tackle it might be acceptable to consider high picks. Otherwise, just get someone later on. That might put Mazi Smith firmly into play at #38 or #53. Although his pro-day performance was underwhelming, teams might have all the intel they need given his highly publicised appearance at #1 on Bruce Feldman’s 2022 ‘freaks list’.

The other thing with Smith is he can play across the line. He might be 6-3 and 323lbs but he carries it well. He’s not a big, sloppy nose tackle. You can play him as a 3-4 defensive end, you can potentially leave him in for certain passing situations. He’s not just a two-down player. That makes it easier to justify taking him early.

Given the situation with Al Woods, taking someone like Smith feels more likely than it did a week ago. I also think he’s better equipped to start early than most defensive tackles (although it’s noticeable how limited Davis was in Philadelphia as a rookie, despite his testing profile and high pick placing).

I know there are some people ‘in the league’ who prefer Keeanu Benton but I don’t know if that’s the consensus. He’s been a fast riser since the combine. I’ve always had him in the late second as a grade but it seems more likely now that he’ll go in the top-50 comfortably.

Seattle’s trenches need is sufficiently high that it’d be good to see a pro-active approach to this situation. Who do you want the most? Let’s include the center prospects in this too. Unless a player you ‘have to have’ lasts to #20 — which isn’t implausible — it might be best to move down a few spots into the mid-20’s, get your target player, then be prepared to trade up from #38 to get the second player.

As we’ve noted before — the Seahawks were actively seeking to move up from the #40 pick last year. It won’t be a surprise if the same thing happens this year — with a bit of board manipulation limiting the damage by trading down at #20 then up from #38.

Finally for now, I wanted to reflect on this:

The Seahawks are sending a heck of an entourage to the Ohio State pro-day today. I suspect they’ll all be on a bit of a road trip. It’s Alabama tomorrow (Bryce Young) and Kentucky on Friday (Will Levis). On March 30th, it’ll be Florida and Anthony Richardson.

You’ve got to do due-diligence on these players. There are four quarterbacks slated to go early. You pick fifth. It’s no big secret you’re considering taking one at #5 and nobody would believe the Seahawks if they suggested they weren’t considering it. Go and get the intel. Compare and contrast.

The pro-day impact will be fascinating this year. We’re seeing an uptick in chatter about Carolina targeting Bryce Young first overall. Yet there’s still a distinct possibility they’ll have their heads turned. As Adam Schefter put it a few days ago — Young is their answer to Mac Jones. The Panthers traded up with Young the initial target, just as Jones was for San Francisco in 2021. By the time the draft came around, the 49ers had pivoted to Trey Lance. Will history repeat?

A few weeks ago it was reported by Jeff Howe in the Athletic that generally speaking, the league sees a ‘top-three’ at quarterback (Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud & Will Levis) with Anthony Richardson the intriguing, athletic specimen who is a developmental dream.

Let’s see how this all plays out by the end of the month. Josh Allen had a pro-day for the ages. If Richardson can emulate that, who knows what happens? By signing Andy Dalton, Carolina has kept all options on the table at #1.

If you missed my updated horizontal board on Monday, check it out here.

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Cap space issues are starting to hamper the Seahawks

Tuesday, March 21st, 2023

The Seahawks have gained a lot of praise for the Geno Smith contract structure and rightly so. The cap hit this year of $10.1m has created room to add other players, including Dre’Mont Jones. They can get out of the deal relatively pain-free, meaning they can draft a quarterback of the future with the #5 pick if they want to.

We have to take the rough with the smooth though and point out an issue which currently is hampering the Seahawks.

Yesterday they cut Al Woods. The timing suggests they’ve done this because they’ve run out of cap space and want to sign a different, younger player. My guess is Poona Ford — who turns 28 in November, rather than Woods who turns 36 on Saturday.

Woods, however, had been a good performer for Seattle. He was also a defensive captain. He was ideally sized to play nose tackle in the scheme and he leaves a big hole, literally, at the heart of the defense. Meanwhile, the depth up front is now paper thin. That will remain the case even when they make a corresponding move.

So while it’s great to see the addition of Jones and Jarran Reed — at the moment, they effectively represent the entirety of Seattle’s defensive front. Having worked so hard to avoid being backed into a corner in the draft, they now risk being in that exact position — needing to focus on the D-line simply to fill the roster and be in position to play a football game.

And it’s not a deep draft up front, either.

I’m also not sure if younger is necessarily better. Ford is 5-11 and 310lbs — not exactly the mountain you typically find playing nose tackle in this scheme. A’Shawn Robinson, who visited the Giants on Monday, is more of a prototype — but he suffered injuries last year and remains on the market for a reason, one suspects.

So why have they found themselves in this position?

As we’ve noted before, they should have more money to spend than they have. They have frittered away a lot of cap space.

Take the safety position. They are spending $38.8m this year on Quandre Diggs, Jamal Adams and Ryan Neal. We don’t know Julian Love’s cap-hit yet but it’s almost certain he will tip the Seahawks over $40m for the four players.

Clearly, safety is important in the scheme. When they appointed Sean Desai a year ago it was well publicised that he likes to run a lot of three-safety looks and it’s safe to assume they intend to carry that on given their outlay.

However, look where the safety market is this year. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson has just been forced to accept a one-year deal worth a maximum of $8m. That’s a whopping $10m less than Quandre Diggs in 2023. Jordan Poyer had to settle for a deal worth $6m. Jimmie Ward got $6.5m. Vonn Bell got $7.5m.

Only Jessie Bates received big money — one of the established top players at the position. He just turned 26 and he’s not reset the market — he’s on $16m a year.

It’s possible this is a market correction exclusive to 2023 and there was a heated market for Diggs a year ago, which led the Seahawks to open the chequebook on a $13m a year deal with such a high cap-hit this year. However, the $18m that’s on the books today — when placed alongside the fact they’d already decided to pay Adams $18m this year — is seriously questionable.

I’m curious to know how the league felt about Diggs last year. Teams are turning their noses up at the position in the market. Yet a year ago, were they really prepared to pay an ageing safety a large third contract coming off a serious injury?

You could argue the Seahawks made their bed when they paid Adams and to double down and pay Diggs a contract that doubled their outlay on two players was too much. It feels like loyalty to Diggs trumped a reasonable financial approach. Yet you could also make that same accusation about the Will Dissly contract ($9.1m in 2023).

It would be unfair to criticise the Seahawks for not anticipating where the safety market went. But I do think there’s no way they should’ve structured the contract to pay Diggs an immovable $18m this year, when they already knew they were committing $18m to Adams. They’ve walked into a situation where they have a $36m weight around the ankle of the franchise. They’re not properly able to attack free agency despite the low cap-hit for Geno Smith, or the fact they’ve moved on from Russell Wilson’s contract.

It’s why the Seahawks, for all the praise we’ve given them, are not considered one of the ‘winners’ of free agency. Teams like the Lions — even with Jared Goff on the books — have been able to do more. Atlanta have been very active. We’re now seeing teams capitalise on the market by making smart, opportunistic moves (eg Bills) and the Seahawks, instead, are cutting players who contributed a year ago to have something, anything, to spend.

You can easily argue the Adams contract is a bigger issue than Diggs’. I understand why he’s come to his salary. I never wanted Seattle to trade what they did for Adams, or pay him afterwards. I thought they should’ve been prepared to do what Kansas City has just done with Orlando Brown Jr — franchise him, then assess whether they want to commit long term. Instead they paid him a record-breaking salary for a player at the time who had leverage due to his manufactured sack numbers in 2020 and the fact Seattle had already traded a haul for him.

The Seahawks made a mistake that came back to bite them horribly. By not signing Adams immediately after making the trade, they let the market re-set twice. Budda Baker was paid a deal worth $14.75m a year. Then Justin Simmons got $15.25m. By the time Seattle eventually got round to paying Adams, he was given $17.6m a year.

That’s how they end up in this slightly ridiculous position today where the highest paid player on the roster in terms of 2023 cap-hit is a relative unknown. Nobody knows when Adams will be back healthy, whether he’ll ever be good again or be capable of avoiding further injury. It’s an $18m mystery, at a time when the team is having to cut Al Woods to be able to do anything else to the roster, with an exposed D-line situation.

The Seahawks seemingly are unprepared to cut their losses on Adams, saving $8.4m this year. So now they run the risk of having the right intentions to fix their defense but not having the tools to do it. Or rather, forcing themselves to use their draft picks and hoping rookies can do the job. This is the exact position we’ve been praising them for avoiding in the early stages of free agency.

If they line up in week one with Dre’Mont Jones, Jarran Reed and Poona Ford on the D-line, with Devin Bush or a rookie filling in at linebacker until Jordyn Brooks returns — does anyone have any confidence that’ll be good enough to avoid more defensive problems up front? It’s not unrealistic as we sit here today and as we’ve seen from the Seahawks, they have been reluctant to start young players on the D-line. From Boye Mafe to Frank Clark to even Jarran Reed back in the day — all were not entirely trusted to take major snaps in their first year.

Depth, not just quality, was needed on the defensive line this off-season to fix a problem. As it stands, the Seahawks have a very expensive safety position and are majorly thin on the D-line.

It’s OK cutting the players who didn’t perform a year ago — but you have to replace and upgrade. At the moment, they’re going to be forced to spend draft picks on the D-line — regardless of value when they’re picking.

One final note on dead money. I’ve no idea how the Seahawks ended up signing contracts with Al Woods and Quinton Jefferson that made a parting in 2023 so financially painful. They are spending $3.75m of their cap this year just to not have Woods and Jefferson on the roster any more. They restructured Shelby Harris’ contract a year ago, meaning they’re paying him a further $3.3m not to play in Seattle. Gabe Jackson is somehow taking up $4.8m in dead cap money and Carlos Dunlap is costing $4.2m.

Overall, approximately $17.9m of their 2023 cap is being spent on dead money. That’s almost as much as it’s costing them to have Diggs or Adams on the roster — their two most expensive players.

You can understand eating a dead cap-hit when you trade Russell Wilson and get a haul of picks in return. How on earth they’ve ended up eating all this wasted cap space to have replaceable ageing players no longer on the roster is something that needs to be raised and challenged as they scrimp around trying to find more money to fill out the roster.

If you missed my updated horizontal board yesterday, check it out here.

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