The Seahawks started the day competing for the #2 seed in the NFC, they finished the day clinging on to the #3 seed.
Last weeks loss to Arizona cost Seattle a first round bye and an easier potential route through the playoffs. The best case scenario now is they’ll win at home in the Wildcard before heading to a rested Atlanta.
At times against lowly San Francisco, simply winning next weekend looked like a tall order.
Despite playing a 2-13 opponent with a miserable run defense — the Seahawks again struggled to establish a running game. The defense had a slow start — with two ‘hot knife through butter’ scoring drives bookended by costly 49er fumbles. Special teams had another rough outing with a sixth blocked PAT of the season and a wild snap that led to a safety.
It was hoped this was going to be a comfortable victory, building momentum going into the playoffs.
And just as things started to head that way with a nine-point advantage in the fourth quarter, Pete Carroll pulled several starters and suddenly it was game on again after a quick 49er touchdown.
It felt like a strange decision at the time considering the game was far from won. Being #3 instead of #4 isn’t insignificant. Let’s say the Seahawks do find some form in the post season and win next week before defeating Atlanta. They’re a Dallas loss away from hosting the NFC Championship game.
Carroll could argue that’s not a concern of his — keeping Russell Wilson et al healthy is the priority. It’s a fair point. Yet had the Seahawks lost to the 2-13 Niners, flopped to 9-6-1 and dropped to the #4 seed — the negativity to follow would’ve been significant. The second guessing extreme. The questions asked pointed.
It would’ve led to a week of avoidable drama.
Nevertheless, Trevone Boykin actually did well in relief. So did several others to finish the game off on offense. It’s a good job too — because they were a punt away from quite possibly losing the game.
What about some positives?
The defense — and especially the front seven — eventually did a good job establishing order and creating pressure. Bobby Wagner in particular was spectacular, as was Frank Clark and Michael Bennett. Russell Wilson was efficient and Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham had some nice plays.
An ankle injury to Nolan Frese might mean the Seahawks go and find a replacement long snapper. That could provoke a call to the guy who did the job competently with minimal drama for years — Clint Gresham.
For the second week in a row Alex Collins looked like Seattle’s best running back. It’s unclear why it took so long to get him involved in the game.
There’s not much else to say about an instantly forgettable seventh straight win against a former heated rival. We know what the Seahawks are now. They’re a talented roster for sure — with the players capable of launching a run.
Yet the common traits of a Super Bowl Champion are the ability to play well defensively, run the ball and be healthier than some of the other contenders. The Seahawks are capable of great defense but they’re inconsistent. They don’t have a threatening running game. They are missing key players like Earl Thomas and Tyler Lockett — and Russell Wilson certainly isn’t 100% either.
The way they’ve started the last three games has to be a concern too. Against a high-octane offense (and that’s what they’ll be facing the rest of the way) there’s a real threat we’ll see a repeat of the Green Bay debacle if they start as poorly as they have against LA, Arizona and San Francisco.
The hope has to be that they can find a spark now that every week is a potential season-ender. This is still the only team to beat New England with Tom Brady at quarterback this season. We’ve seen the heights they’re capable of. Now’s the time to show some metal.
Whatever happens, it feels like we’re edging closer to arguably the most important off-season in Pete Carroll’s tenure — potentially determining how much longer this group can stay near the top.
Feel free to use this as an open thread for tonight’s two college football playoff games.
1. Cleveland Browns — Myles Garrett (EDGE, Texas A&M)
2. San Francisco 49ers — Mitch Trubisky (QB, North Carolina)
3. Chicago Bears — Jonathan Allen (DE, Alabama)
4. Jacksonville Jaguars — Jabrill Peppers (S, Michigan)
5. Tennessee Titans (via Rams) — Reuben Foster (LB, Alabama)
6. New York Jets — Leonard Fournette (RB, LSU)
7. San Diego Chargers — Jamal Adams (S, LSU)
8. Cincinnati Bengals — Solomon Thomas (DE, Stanford)
9. Carolina Panthers — Ryan Ramcyzk (T, Wisconsin)
10. Cleveland Browns (via Eagles) — Dalvin Cook (RB, Florida State)
11. Arizona Cardinals — Marlon Humphrey (CB, Alabama)
12. Buffalo Bills — O.J. Howard (TE, Alabama)
13. Indianapolis Colts — Tim Williams (EDGE, Alabama)
14. New Orleans Saints — Takkarist McKinley (EDGE, UCLA)
15. Philadelphia Eagles (via Vikings) — John Ross (WR, Washington)
16. Tennessee Titans — Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
17. Baltimore Ravens — Demarcus Walker (DE, Florida State)
18. Tampa Bay Buccaneers — Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
19. Denver Broncos — Garett Bolles (T, Utah)
20. Washington Redskins — Zach Cunningham (LB, Vanderbilt)
21. Detroit Lions — Charles Harris (EDGE, Missouri)
22. Miami Dolphins — Adoree’ Jackson (CB, USC)
23. New York Giants — Budda Baker (S, Washington)
24. Kansas City Chiefs — Mike Williams (WR, Clemson)
25. Houston Texans — Taco Charlton (EDGE, Michigan)
26. Green Bay Packers — Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
27. Pittsburgh Steelers — Deshaun Watson (QB, Clemson)
28. Seattle Seahawks — Haason Reddick (LB, Temple)
29. Atlanta Falcons — Jalen Tabor (CB, Florida)
30. Oakland Raiders — Christian McCaffrey (RB, Stanford)
31. New England Patriots — Obi Melifonwu (S, Connecticut)
32. Dallas Cowboys — Malik McDowell (DE, Michigan State)
The Seahawks take who?
Yes, after days of talking about the O-line, the running game and interior pass rush — in this mock the Seahawks take a linebacker in round one.
Here’s the thing. A lot of the guys we’ve talked about being possible targets for the Seahawks are rising up the board. Garett Bolles looks like being a top-20 lock. I’d love to continue to pair him with the Seahawks — but is it realistic?
Even if someone like Vita Vea declares — he’ll likely head straight into the top-20 because he might be Haloti Ngata.
I could’ve given them a different defensive lineman or D’Onta Foreman — but I need to see their combine workouts to fully understand if they’ll be targets or not.
Troy’s Antonio Garcia is said to be a big riser according to Tony Pauline. Yet there’s very little tape available online at the moment.
The one thing you can always fall back on with the Seahawks is they love grit, beating adversity, freaky athleticism and production.
Step forward Haason Reddick.
At his junior pro-day he reportedly ran a 4.47 at 6-1 and around 230lbs. He also supposedly had a 10-10 in the broad jump and a 36-inch vertical.
In High School, Reddick suffered a fractured femur and missed an entire season. Upon his return, he suffered a torn meniscus. With no tape to impress potential landing spots in college, he went to Temple University with the intention of becoming a regular student.
His father grew up in Camden with one of the Owls’ assistants — Francis Brown — and put in a good word for him. He was offered the chance to walk-on.
Even then it wasn’t plain sailing. He was told there was no place for him on the team. A change of coaching staff from Al Golden’s crew to Matt Rhule’s led to one last chance and he took it and eventually earned a scholarship.
The rest is history.
If they’re looking for an impact player with great athleticism that has battled adversity — Reddick could be a target. He’s accepted an invite to the Senior Bowl where he’ll have a chance to bolster his stock.
A few weeks ago we talked about being able to possibly draft Garett Bolles, Haason Reddick and Shalom Luani in the same draft class. They could all end up in the top-50 by the end of April.
I know this won’t be many people’s ideal scenario. That’s not the point though — we’re here to look at different options and possibilities.
Could they trade down?
With two quarterbacks (Trubisky, Watson) off the board there’d be every chance. Some teams will want a shot at Deshone Kizer.
What would this mean in terms of Seattle’s big needs?
They’d still have a second rounder to get an impact player — but if they’re picking someone like Reddick they likely would’ve filled some needs in free agency.
Were they able to land an interior disruptor like Calais Campbell? Some veteran help for the O-line? Add a physical running back?
It’d be a lot of work to do in free agency — but not impossible. And any one of these needs could still be addressed in rounds two or three. The Seahawks are expected to receive an extra third round compensatory pick.
Who might they target later on?
Depending on what they do in free agency, here are some suggestions:
Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State) — he’s 6-4 and 275lbs with the tools to be an inside/out type rusher. He had 21.5 TFL’s this year and 10 sacks. The 21.5 TFL’s are the second best in school history behind Mario Williams’ 27.5 in 2005. He’s the cousin of Georgia running back Nick Chubb. We know Chubb had an explosive performance at his Nike SPARQ Combine so there’s a chance Chubb will have an exciting physical profile too.
Shalom Luani (S, Washington State) — Exciting, underrated safety with the range to cover a lot of ground quickly and the physical toughness to play up at the LOS. His backstory is the definition of grit and he could easily be a fast riser into the earlier rounds. If the Seahawks want to tap into a strong safety class and get some quality depth for Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, this could be their guy.
Forrest Lamp (T, Western Kentucky) — Probably more of a guard at the next level, Lamp came to prominence with a strong performance against Alabama earlier this year. The Seahawks want intelligent, explosive offensive linemen. We’ll see if Lamp has the physical profile at the combine — but his personality and character will be very attractive to teams.
Adam Bisnowaty (T, Pittsburgh) — He was a highly rated four-star recruit in High School with a wrestling background (something we know Tom Cable likes). He could compete at tackle or guard. He wears Evan Mathis’ #69 and there are some similarities in their style. Tony Pauline has compared Bisnowaty to Ricky Wagner — a free agent-to-be from Baltimore.
Dalvin Tomlinson (DT, Alabama) — Massive, athletic defensive tackle from a system we know the Seahawks appreciate. Great character, has battled some adversity. Talented musician and artist too. Not the best pass rusher but could forge a solid career as a Tony McDaniel type.
Chad Wheeler (T, USC) — At times really looks the part of a future pro tackle. Consistency isn’t always there and he has a tendency to lunge. If he can correct the technical issues he has a skill set worth monitoring. One to watch at the combine.
Elijah Qualls & Greg Gaines (DT’s, Washington) — Reports suggest Vita Vea won’t declare but it’s not clear what Qualls and Gaines intend to do. Both are really disruptive nose tackle types, capable of causing problems in the passing game and not just the run.
You could include others too. Dorian Johnson, Dan Feeney, Caleb Brantley, Chris Wormley, Dion Dawkins, Taylor Moton to name a few. The combine will reveal a lot as usual. We’ll have a better idea of the names to watch.
Solomon Thomas was outstanding in his Bowl game against North Carolina. He completely dominated throughout, making several splash plays including the game decider. On that evidence he’s going in the top-15. No doubt about it.
Taco Charlton was very productive against Florida State. Missouri’s Charles Harris hasn’t had much attention this year but teams will love his skill set and profile. Both will likely go in the top-25.
I prefer Garett Bolles to Ryan Ramcyzk but won’t ignore the noise that Ramcyzk is highly rated. Bolles’ age might be an issue for some teams (25 in May) but he should still crack the top-20.
Why aren’t you dropping Jabrill Peppers like everyone else?
Myles Garrett had 15 TFL’s in 2016. Guess how many TFL’s Jabrill Peppers (a safety/linebacker) had?
He also had 3.5 sacks, seven QB hurries, an interception, a punt-return score and he averaged 6-yards per touch in the running game on offense.
Peppers was highly involved in virtually every Michigan game. He doesn’t have eight picks like Earl Thomas in his final year at Texas — but he still found a way to have a major impact.
Michael Bennett has agreed a three-year contract extension
Michael Bennett’s contract extension (worth $31.5m) is interesting for two reasons.
Firstly, it suggests the Seahawks are still extremely committed to their current core. Despite a somewhat difficult 2016 season (that has, admittedly, still resulted in a playoff berth) there doesn’t appear to be any rush to make changes and freshen things up.
Secondly, Bennett’s deal helps establish a market for his peers. Arizona’s Calais Campbell is only a year younger and has a similar reputation. This could easily be used as a starting point for his talks with the Cardinals.
The only other thing to consider with Campbell is his current salary. In 2016 his cap hit is $15.25m. It was $14.75m in 2015 and $11.25m in 2014. So while Bennett is gradually increasing his salary, Campbell is in a different position. Will he accept a pay cut to stay in Arizona aged 31? Or will he want to test the market?
The Seahawks stand to have at least some interest in Campbell if he becomes a free agent. He’s terrorised their offense for years and he has the kind of height and size they like in the interior.
“I think more of it (the criticism) is 50/50 (between the running backs and O-line), if not even more for the running backs because, look, it doesn’t take that long to get… I mean if you have a guy that hits a spot at the right time, blocking someone can really be just getting in someone’s way or inhibiting them just a little bit. So it’s not always about crushing a guy off the line, it’s just about shielding him off. So I think some running backs have a much better sense of that than people think. This is just my prediction but I bet you if you listen to (Tom) Cable, that if you sat in those meetings… that there would be lots of talk about running backs not hitting the hole if you went back and looked at all the film this year. That that’s been more of the problem.”
There’s a desire to pin all of the problems on the offensive line and that’s somewhat justifiable considering the first half of the Arizona game. Yet it also feels like the Seahawks have not trusted their running backs to be a focal point. Whether that’s injuries, form, inexperience or something else. They’ve not committed to the run, as we discussed yesterday, and it might be much more to do with the running backs than people think.
For example — the Seahawks have arguably tried to put the offensive performance in the hands of their stars. Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and Jimmy Graham. Let those guys carry the offense. And yet because the O-line has been so suspect in pass protection, we’ve seen lurches between explosive production and hopelessness.
If they had a reliable running back on the roster, a star of equal importance to the three names above, they might’ve gone in a different direction. How often did they simply resort to ‘lean on Marshawn’ in the past? It was frequently a catalyst for the offense — and the O-line — finding some form.
It’s unfortunate that 2017 might end a run of viable veteran options being available via trade. In 2015 the Bills made a deal for LeSean McCoy, swapping him for linebacker Kiko Alonso. What a bargain that was. Earlier this year the Titans acquired DeMarco Murray from Philadelphia for a swap of fourth round picks. Again, what a bargain.
Both of these trades, and Seattle’s move for Marshawn Lynch in 2010, show the value of acquiring high talent (and proven production) at the running back position. There aren’t many great backs in the league.
It’s really difficult to identify a potential trade target for 2017. Someone capable of providing impact talent so the team isn’t having to rely on the draft or their injured incumbents providing a definitive solution.
Mark Ingram has occasionally found himself in the doghouse in New Orleans — remember his disappearing act after a fumble against the Seahawks? What type of compensation would be required though, considering there’s little reason for the Saints to let him go on the cheap?
LeVeon Bell is set to be a free agent — but surely Pittsburgh will at the very least give him the franchise tag?
Adrian Peterson will need to decrease his $18m salary for 2017 to stay in Minnesota. He could provide an X-factor for one year on say a $6m deal if released.
Vikings rule out RB Adrian Peterson for Week 17. There's a good chance his appearance against the Colts was his last as a Viking.
LeGarrette Blount is 31 next year but coming off a great season in New England. His deal in 2016 is only worth $1m unbelievably. He might be an option on a one or two year deal without breaking the bank.
The draft could also provide a solution — but it’s quite a maddening draft class. Players that are decent but not overly exciting. Players with question marks (how good is D’Onta Foreman?) and two guys at the top of the class who just look spectacular (Fournette & Cook).
This probably isn’t about mere depth at running back. This team arguably requires someone capable of being a genuine X-factor. And assuming the Seahawks O-line won’t suddenly turn into the Cowboys front five over the summer — probably someone capable of creating something out of very little occasionally. Which, believe it or not, is possible beyond Marshawn Lynch.
After all, this is a team that for years has sought to be committed to the run. To an extent the players they’ve added were brought here to run block first and foremost — to carve out Seattle’s key identity on offense.
Run, run, run.
Has it ever felt like this team truly committed to the run game at any point in 2016?
This isn’t a finesse group of guys. They’re made for running the ball.
In the pre-season we saw an interior blowing people off the LOS and creating nice lanes for Christine Michael. We saw clever misdirection plays, big yardage. A group that looked ready to set the tone during the regular season.
And yet here we are, heading into the final weekend of the NFL season and the Seahawks are 19th in the league for total number of runs (378).
The Dallas Cowboys, ranked first, have run the ball exactly 100 more times than the Seahawks. Even the New England Patriots are #3 on the list with 453 attempts.
Alternatively, the Seahawks are #12 in pass attempts. Dallas are at #19.
You’d never imagine these numbers watching the Seahawks between 2012-2014 or listening to the way Pete Carroll talks about his vision for this franchise.
Can a case be made that the Seahawks could’ve made life easier for this young, inexperienced group by dedicating their offense to the run? Emphasising their physical traits and covering up some of their technical weaknesses and lack of understanding?
Have they damaged the confidence and psyche of the unit by asking them to pass protect a lot, considering the widespread criticism that has followed?
Have they abandoned the run too early in games and almost ignored it in others?
There might be reasons for this. Injuries to the quarterback and how defenses have adjusted when playing Seattle. Losing Russell Wilson’s run production. Injuries at running back. The way certain games have flowed (eg needing to come from behind). Have they ever truly trusted the running backs? Christine Michael was cut, Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise injured and it took another spate of injuries for Alex Collins to get any kind of significant work.
None of this excuses the poor play in 2016 — but has progress stalled because the Seahawks have not focused on the one thing they’ve done well for years and arguably drafted these guys to do?
This is a pass. Ifedi doesn’t know his assignment and has to ask Justin Britt what to do. Britt points at one guy but it’s too late. Ifedi is lost and doesn’t block anybody.
It’s a small sample size of course but it kind of highlights how green this O-line is. They don’t even fully understand what they’re supposed to do. With three first time starters including rookies at right guard and left tackle — this has probably happened a few times this season.
How often do you think Ronald Leary or Zack Martin turn to Travis Frederick right before the snap and ask, ‘Hey, so which is my guy again?’
And yet physically they’re good enough to just get out there and execute a run play against a big, aggressive Arizona defensive front and look really good doing it.
Should they be leaning on the physical upside of these guys instead of trying to master pass-protection?
Should they be committing, universally, to the running game to make life easy for them?
It’s too late now, going into week 17, to really feel the benefit of such a commitment. Had they done this after the Tampa Bay game we might’ve seen a 2014 style ‘slug fest’ end to the season and an offense that at least is not a hindrance (as it has been in several games).
Hindsight is a wonderful thing — but I suspect they’d rather be in the top-five for rushing attempts right now than #19 and live with the results. Maybe they’d be a bad running team still? At least we’d know.
They might actually have an offensive identity. They might actually have a consistent offense.
What they actually have is a hotchpotch of parts. They’re not doing anything particularly well game-to-game. Given everything we’ve heard about the importance of the run to this team since 2010 — it feels like a mistake that with this O-line they didn’t just commit to their physical upside.
What are the consequences? The clamour in the off-season will be for the Seahawks to spend big on the O-line in free agency. Find immediate quality starters in the hope expensive talent will give the team a quick fix.
It’s a shame really because it’s clear there is talent and potential with the existing starters. And the plan, we all believed, was to create an O-line that could grow together and be good for years at an inexpensive price.
It’ll be a hard sell to stand by this group going into 2017. Not just with fans — but also probably with the more outspoken members of the team. 2016 has the feel of a potential lost season. They don’t want to go through this again next year.
And yet you might be giving up on them because of a self-inflicted crisis. They might actually be the answer, believe it or not. Some further investment would be needed of course. I still think Utah’s Garett Bolles could be the ideal first round pick for this team. They might not get a chance to select him — he is that good. There are others though. The middle rounds of the 2017 draft should provide some nice options too.
However, with the 2016 performance so far you imagine they’ll feel obliged to open the cheque book and be aggressive. Or make trades.
Anything to extend the Championship window.
This won’t necessarily be the answer either. According to Football Outsiders, Minnesota’s O-line is 30th in the run game and 19th in the passing game. Their big off-season moves included signing Alex Boone and Andre Smith. Combined the pair cost $11.2m in 2016.
In comparison, Seattle is ranked 26th and 25th for running and passing respectively.
The teams at the top of the rankings are generally sides with home-grown O-lines. Dallas, Pittsburgh, Washington, New Orleans, Tennessee. Units crafted over time with a bit of experience thrown in for good measure.
So while it will be attractive to many to go out and spend, a greater commitment to running the ball in 2017 and further investment via the draft might not be the worst thing for this side. Whether they can justify that — internally or externally — is another thing completely. Especially this team, determined to win now and needing to address other needs too such as the defensive line or a defense in general that is enduring a historically bad year for turnovers.
Your leading rusher has 469 yards and was cut weeks ago.
You own the 22nd best running game in the NFL.
That is not Seahawks football.
This team is built on connections. The offense runs the ball and sets the tone, that in turns creates openings for explosive plays in the passing game. Dictating to the opponent on offense helps the defense play in ‘their style’, without needing to be overly exotic or creative week-to-week. If you can rush with four, it helps the coverage unit for obvious reasons. Everything is connected.
This year, one factor is completely absent and it’s probably why we’ve seen so many inconsistent aspects of the team overall.
They can’t run the ball.
In some cases, they refuse to.
First and foremost, this situation has to be addressed in the off-season. It’s the priority. Everything else can wait. The 2017 Seattle Seahawks have to be a better running team. Pure and simple.
When faced with such a glaring need in the past, they’ve been aggressive.
So what are some of the options?
Surely the O-line needs major work?
Yes, based on what we’ve seen in 2016. Yet here’s the conundrum facing the Seahawks. They clearly wanted to build a line that could grow together. For years they’ve faced annual changes — and consistency is so important for this unit.
Finally they had a young, athletic, big, explosive group. It’s also a cost-effective group. Ideally they would spend the next 3-4 years playing together, developing, improving. For now all they had to be was competent and not hurt the team.
Sadly, that’s not happened.
If anything they’re getting worse week by week. So what do you do? Show faith that they’ll come good over time, as per the original plan? Make a few extra additions in the draft and punt for competition being the key? Or do you see a rapidly closing Championship window and go bold, tear up the plan to develop your own players and try and find a quick fix?
There isn’t really an ideal solution.
Who is a keeper and who could be replaced?
Justin Britt has played well enough to keep his place at center but the other four spots could be up for grabs. George Fant has shown some potential given his incredible lack of football experience. Yet there’s nothing to suggest we’re seeing the early signs of a blossoming NFL career. Can you rely on Fant for the future? It’s hard to say you can.
Mark Glowinski hasn’t been great despite his redshirt season in 2015. Germain Ifedi has not shown signs of progression either. And the right tackle spot has to be addressed.
So who is young and just needs time and who isn’t good enough?
Good luck working that one out — because they probably aren’t going to be able to replace four players.
Invest in free agency
According to Spotrac, the Seahawks have an estimated $40m in free cap space for 2017. Assuming Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor receive contract extensions, they probably won’t be able to spend all of that. But they’ll have enough for at least one, if not two, crucial acquisitions.
Give us some free agent names to monitor
Chance Warmack (G, Tennessee)
If you want to know how likely Warmack is to leave Tennessee, here’s an exert from a Q&A on the Titans official website. A fan asks Jim Wyatt about draft needs, asserting, “The O-line will need a Guard when they release Chance Warmack“. Wyatt’s response is merely to note, “As for Chance, his contract us up.”
Warmack and Jonathan Cooper were unique prospects in 2013. It’s not often you see pure college guards going in the top-10. Brandon Scherff, who ended up at guard for Washington as a top-five pick, played tackle at Iowa.
Few players have looked more of a sure thing than Warmack — a dominant force of nature at Alabama. His combination of size (6-2, 317lbs) and length (35 inch arms), matched up with his physical ability made for a very intriguing prospect. Mike Mayock considered him the best player in the 2013 draft. Todd McShay compared him to Steve Hutchinson.
He didn’t do many workouts at the combine but did manage a 9-2 in the broad jump.
Strangely, his NFL career has been quite middling.
It might be that he just isn’t all that good. In college his physical talent overwhelmed opponents but in the NFL, against the best of the best, he doesn’t stand out.
That said, whether it’s in Tennessee or somewhere else, someone is going to give him a second chance to deliver on his potential. And he might not be quite as expensive as the next man on the list.
Kevin Zeitler (G, Cincinnati)
The Bengals are notorious non-spenders in free agency. They pick and choose who they pay — so while Andy Dalton, Geno Atkins and A.J. Green have remained in Cincinnati, others have surprisingly moved on.
Whether they feel like a major investment is worthwhile at the guard spot remains to be seen. They’re a hard team to read. They’ll have approximately $8m more than Seattle’s estimated $40m to spend in 2017 so money isn’t an issue. Their unwillingness to splash it around might be.
This would be a powerplay move. Seattle’s biggest free agent acquisition since 2011 in terms of finances. Here are the top five highest paid guards in the NFL according to average salary:
Kelechi Osemele: $11.7m
David DeCastro: $10m
Kyle Long: $10m
Brandon Brooks: $8m
Mike Iupati: $8m
Osemele and Brooks were both free agents in 2016 and joined new teams. So you’re looking at a contract that fits somewhere between the two ($8-12m). Zeitler should be able to generate a deal worth $10m a year.
If the Seahawks signed him on that type of contract, only Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas would be earning more (unless Michael Bennett and/or Kam Chancellor top the $10m mark if/when they get new deals).
They can afford it, with nearly $40m to spend. But would they be willing to spend that much on a guard from another club?
On the one hand, Zeitler only turns 27 in March so he’s hitting his peak. The Seahawks paying for a player entering his prime isn’t unrealistic. He doesn’t, however, have a particularly stunning physical profile. His arm length is 32 3/4 inches (short). He didn’t top a 9-0 in the broad (8-5) or a 30 inch vertical (29 inches) at the combine. So is he just a gritty, talented player capable of playing for years — or will he hit a wall sooner than other players? I haven’t studied him enough to know the answer to that.
He will be the best O-liner on the market if he reaches free agency. The Seahawks, perhaps feeling like they need an injection of experienced talent there, could be aggressive. It could also create a scenario where they move Germain Ifedi to right tackle, possibly filling another need on the outside.
Ronald Leary (G, Dallas)
The Cowboys clearly wanted to push La’el Collins into a starting role, yet injuries put paid to that plan. Leary has filled in again on a restricted free agent contract and delivered.
The question is, how talented is Leary? Does he do a good job next to three first round picks, three of the best in the league (Smith, Martin and Frederick)? Or is he just as important to Dallas’ success up front?
Bryan: I agree with you about Ronald Leary and the way that he has played. I also agree with you about signing Zack Martin long-term, but I don’t see that with Leary — especially with La’el Collins waiting. They had a chance to re-sign Leary in the offseason to a deal and they didn’t do it — that tells me all that I needed to know about that situation. They are going to ride this out with Leary and work with Collins next season.
David: These are the limitations of the salary cap era. The Cowboys are likely going to be paying top dollar to Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin. Can they really afford to give another big-money contract to Ron Leary? I doubt it. Not with La’el Collins as a younger and cheaper option. Leary has been drastically underpaid since 2014, and he’s going to want to maximize his value this spring. I don’t blame him one bit, and I don’t think the Cowboys do either.
Leary was an undrafted free agent out of Memphis in 2012. The reason he wasn’t picked? It was discovered he had a degenerative left knee condition called osteochondritis dissecans. It could shorten his career — and for that reason he might not cash in during free agency. He might end up signing a shorter, more modest contract than Zeitler or Warmack.
He’s 6-3 and 320lbs and turns 28 at the end of April. Alex Boone, a free agent this year at the age of 29, signed a contract worth $6.7m a year on average with the Vikings. That could be the kind of range Leary is looking at as a free agent. J.R. Sweezy’s contract is worth $6.5m a year.
There’s more of a mystery to Leary (can he excel without the rest of Dallas’ O-line, how healthy is the knee?) so that could impact his value. Teams will look to mimic the Cowboys O-line given their record this year — so Leary could be in demand.
What about lower down the market?
The Seahawks have identified fits in the past, with mixed results. Breno Giacomini wasn’t a big name when he moved to Seattle but since he departed, it’s been a game of musical chairs at the position. Paul McQuistan was a reliable figure at guard or tackle. Yet the additions this year — Bradley Sowell and J’Marcus Webb — have not performed as well.
It stands to reason they might go shopping for a bargain veteran or two to add to the competition.
What about offensive tackles?
It’s hard to get excited about the free agent options. Matt Kalil has been a flop in Minnesota — but Pete Carroll recruited him and knows his game well. Detroit drafted Taylor Decker because they weren’t satisfied with Riley Reiff’s play at left tackle. Andrew Whitworth is playing well but he’s 35.
Sebastien Vollmer, it has been suggested, might retire at the end of the season. Menelik Watson could be an option as could another former team mate of Russell Wilson’s at Wisconsin — Baltimore’s Ricky Wagner. Watson and Wagner are both, however, the type of solid but unspectaular player you appreciate on a rookie contract. Are you willing to pay either millions as a free agent?
What about the draft?
The problem with relying on the draft is you’re just adding more inexperience to the line. And because the Seahawks can pick no lower than 21st overall, there’s a strong chance they won’t be able to pick a really talented player anyway.
Garett Bolles is the best bet. A player who will be 25 in May, has a supreme physical skill set and looks exceptional on tape. His nasty demeanour, talent, athleticism and attitude would be an ideal early pick for this team.
I suspect, unfortunately, he’ll end up going in the top-20 if he declares. A team like Denver, having missed out on the playoffs, would be a good landing spot for Bolles. He could end up rising into the top-10.
Ryan Ramcyzk is being highly touted by many and could also go early.
The options beyond round one are not unfavourable. At guard you’ve got Dorian Johnson, Dan Feeney, Forrest Lamp and Damien Mama. At tackle you’ve got Adam Bisnowaty, Chad Wheeler, Dion Dawkins and Taylor Moton — four players who could all kick inside too. I’m yet to watch Troy’s Antonio Garcia or Mississippi State’s Martinas Rankin — two players highly rated by Tony Pauline’s sources.
What might be the ideal situation?
A combination of draft and free agency.
Maybe you go for experience and try and make a couple of splashes? There is something appealing, I suppose, about the idea of two of Russell Wilson’s college linemen rejoining him in Seattle (Zeitler and Wagner). If you can follow that up by drafting someone like Garett Bolles — the line would be getting two proven veterans and college football’s best offensive tackle. It just seems increasingly unlikely that Bolles will be available for Seattle.
If they believe in Fant or if Bolles isn’t there, it could be a case of adding some competition in the third round range (Wheeler? Bisnowaty?). That would enable them to look at other positions in round one — such as D-line or…
What about running back?
This is a difficult one — and a topic that will divide opinion between fans. In the last 12 months both Thomas Rawls and C.J. Prosise have been dynamic, exciting… and injured. You don’t want to give up on either or write them off. Yet you equally want more from the position.
The Seahawks offense has never had a dominant O-line during the Russell Wilson era. They have had a dominant running game though. We all knew life after Marshawn Lynch would be difficult. It still feels like they’re trying to work out the plan moving forward.
Unfortunately they might never be able to rely on Rawls and Prosise to carry the load. You might need to limit their snaps, manage their workloads and keep them healthy. They can still have a vital role on the offense — but do they need a bell cow runner in 2017?
Finding a great running back isn’t easy. There aren’t many in the league — and it’s quite an unpredictable position overall. For every Zeke Elliott there’s a Trent Richardson. Yet the top five backs in 2016 were all taken between rounds 1-3:
Ezekiel Elliott — round one
Le’Veon Bell — round two
DeMarco Murray — round three
LeSean McCoy — round two
David Johnson — round three
Melvin Gordon was on pace to be among this group too before his injury — he was also a first round pick.
Plus Marshawn Lynch, the man they’ve had to replace, is a former #12 overall pick. And let’s not forget Adrian Peterson either, a #7 overall pick back in the day.
The Seahawks probably need to keep adding talent until they find a guy they can lean on. And that means considering another pick in the first three rounds at this position.
And the options are…?
Several backs aren’t turning pro, including Royce Freeman, Elijah Hood and Nick Chubb. It’s cut the depth overall and could bump other players up a round.
Clearly the top two are Leonard Fournette and Dalvin Cook. I can imagine the Seahawks liking both. Fournette for his unreal combination of physicality, size, athleticism and attitude. He’s pretty much the ideal back for this situation in Seattle. Cook is more of a Jamaal Charles type but he’s an explosive playmaker.
Both will probably be out of reach. Yet if the Seahawks want to be bold and aggressive, who knows? Certainly if they end up picking 21st or 22nd it’d be easier to pull off an Atlanta/Julio Jones type move compared to picking between #29-32.
D’Onta Foreman could go in round one or he could go in round three. I’m still undecided on how good he is. Foreman’s ability to run away from defenders or bounce runs outside and explode is impressive for his size. His combine performance will be fascinating. Yet he doesn’t necessarily make the most of his size either. He’s not a monster like Fournette.
Christian McCaffrey is a wonderful player to watch. An exciting playmaker. But is he the type of back Seattle needs right now?
Samaje Perine is a good athlete for his size. He’s better than D’Onta Foreman running up the middle but Foreman is better at turning the corner and bouncing outside. Perine’s awful with the media, he’s constantly in a bad mood. Some people will like that. He could be an option in rounds two or three.
Boise State’s Jeremy McNichols and BYU’s Jamaal Williams could be two names to watch. There are others too — but these are the players perhaps most likely to go in the first three rounds.
Le’Veon Bell will likely stay in Pittsburgh one way or another — possibly on the franchise tag. Yet at the moment he is set to be a free agent and would interest a ton of teams.
Eddie Lacy has health and weight issues — but he too will be a free agent.
Will New Orleans consider dealing Mark Ingram? Or Carolina Jonathan Stewart?
There aren’t many appealing big names likely to be on the trade block, unlike last year with Murray. And unless Bell somehow reaches the market — all signs point to the draft for the Seahawks.
How important is this?
This a team that puts such a focus on the run game being integral to their identity. It is more important to them than it is to a lot of other teams. Settling just isn’t an option, especially with the meagre production in 2016.
Whatever happens during the rest of this season — this feels like an area they will focus on hard during the off-season. O-line, running back. They cannot have a repeat of this year.
In the last two years, Jeremy McNichols has exactly 3000 rushing yards and 43 rushing touchdowns. He also added 910 receiving yards and another 10 scores.
That’s some college career.
He’s listed as 5-9 and 212lbs but he plays tough. There are some similarities to the guys he replaced at Boise State — Jay Ajayi and Doug Martin.
Tony Pauline ranks him as a third round prospect. He might go a little earlier following the news Nick Chubb and Elijah Hood will be returning to Georgia and North Carolina respectively. Pauline notes, however, “Opinions on McNichols are mixed. While we presently grade him as a third round prospect some scouts believe he’s more of a fourth or fifth rounder.”
This season has been one of growth for McNichols, who was open in the offseason about all the areas in which he wanted to improve. He discussed running smarter to avoid injury and has not missed a game. He wanted to improve as a blocker, so he has sat in on film study sessions with the offensive line. He aimed to gain good weight and added about 10 pounds, enabling him to break tackles while still breaking big runs.
McNichols and Boise State play Baylor in the Cactus Bowl tomorrow.
Take a look for yourself in the video above. He’s a name to monitor with the Seahawks likely to add a running back at some point during the off-season.
Merry Christmas to everyone. For those needing something to read to enable them to move on from the Arizona game, I hope this helps.
Even playing as poorly as they have been recently, the chance to get the #2 seed offered some cause for optimism for Seahawks fans.
That situation has changed massively in light of the Arizona game.
Just look at the difference between the two scenarios:
By claiming the #2 seed…
— Win one home game against a wildcard opponent
— Play the NFC Championship game possibly in Seattle (depending on Dallas’ result)
By settling for the #3 or #4 seed…
— Win one home against a wildcard opponent
— Go on the road against the #1 or #2 seed
— Go on the road in the NFC Championship game
It wasn’t beyond the realms of possibility that even this disjointed version of the Seahawks with so many injuries and issues could win one home game and pull off a win in the NFC Championship game.
Are they capable of winning two road playoff games, after negotiating the wildcard weekend?
So far they’re 0-4-1 on the road in the NFC and in the last five weeks they’re 2-3, including their worst defeat in five years.
There’s no point in giving up on the season completely. This is a weird year in the NFL. On Christmas Eve, Oakland fans woke up dreaming of the Super Bowl. On Christmas Day, they were grieving for their quarterback’s broken leg.
The Tennessee Titans, one of the hottest teams in the NFL, started Christmas Eve with a great chance to make the post season. By Christmas day, that wasn’t possible and their bright, young franchise quarterback also has a broken leg.
The 9-7 Giants won the Super Bowl in 2011 in a year that included a four-game losing streak between weeks 10-13. In week 15 they were well beaten at home by a 5-11 Washington team 23-10.
They got hot at the right time. If you want a reason to believe Seattle still has a chance, there’s your ammunition.
Yet it still feels unlikely, or perhaps more pertinently, it needs to be seen to be believed. We’re at week 16 and there’s no signs of improvement on the O-line. The glass cannon theory rings truer than ever. The defense is streaky and missing a generational safety.
And it means, sadly, there’s little cause for optimism.
This is one of the key issues:
Russell Wilson games of 30+ pass attempts by season (including playoffs):
An offense that was at its best based on ball control, physicality and putting the team in a position to win the game in the fourth quarter is now highly dependant on the passing game.
Seattle’s offense between 2012 and 2014 could be defined as conservative plus. They often played for field position. A punt was not their enemy. Yet this was offset by the most creative point guard quarterback we’ll ever see and a punishing ground game.
The Seahawks were explosive and modest in equal measure. And with a stern defense, it was a classic winning combination.
In the last two seasons, that has completely changed. They’re more like every other team in the league with a franchise quarterback. They throw to try and win. Except unlike a lot of other teams, this is a much more volatile proposition.
I’m going to reference the glass cannon again. When things work, this offense is extremely entertaining and prolific. The collection of talent — Wilson, Graham, Baldwin, Lockett — is ideal for an explosive, attacking passing game. Yet because the O-line and running game is so poor, it’s been boom or bust all year.
The cannon can fire away with reckless abandon but one chip or chink and it cracks.
Teams know the Seahawks will abandon the running game if they get behind. And they get behind because teams also know they can sell out defending the pass, attacking the O-line to rush the passer without worrying about putting eight in the box.
Opponents appear to be saying, ‘we’re prepared to give up yards in the running game because we don’t think you can sustain that side of your offense — plus you’ll give it up if things get rough’.
If the Seahawks are going to get back to being a serious contender, this has to be addressed. They’ve regressed from a consistent top-five running offense to a team currently ranked #21 in the NFL (and they could fall further down the list depending on what happens in the remaining games over Christmas).
This was an interesting Tweet by ESPN’s Josina Anderson today…
2017 #NFL Free Agency is going to be way more interesting than 2016, especially from the things I'm hearing early. Adversity brings change.
Perhaps it’s Josina’s profile picture — a selfie with Ciara — that makes me wonder if she’s talking at least partly about the Seahawks here.
This is a team that was built aggressively. Multiple roster moves. Big trades. Hosting players like Brandon Marshall on a seaplane. Star names, big splashes.
When they lost that Super Bowl, they traded for Jimmy Graham a few weeks later.
Facing an identity crisis on offense and a clear, festering problem that is an absent running game and a poorly performing offensive line — the idea that the Seahawks will cross their fingers and hope for the best seems unrealistic.
In discussing free agency, Josina Anderson references adversity. That’s what the Seahawks are facing right now. “Adversity brings change“.
She might as well have added the teams hashtag: #weare12
The Seahawks have money to spend. Not as much as some others, but there’s some room. Do they go after someone like Ron Leary? Or Chance Warmack? Or Kevin Zeitler? Or Riley Reiff? That’s just four names to start with.
Will they find a way to make a creative trade as we’ve seen them do in the past?
Will Le’Veon Bell test free agency? It seems doubtful but right now he hasn’t got a contract for 2017.
Or will the Seahawks focus on another area of need — interior pass rush — and make a play for Calais Campbell or Kawann Short or Dontari Poe?
They haven’t really made splashes in free agency since 2013. They haven’t paid big money since 2011. This has a feel of 2011 to it — trying to establish something. Trying to get things going.
They might be aggressive in the draft too. Whether it’s getting after someone like Garett Bolles to provide an injection of talent at tackle, one of the better interior D-line disruptors or a stud running back. Being aggressive doesn’t necessarily mean trading up — but it’s an option. Picking later in the first round hasn’t provided the Seahawks with a great draft pick in the Carroll/Scheider era. It feels like this team needs a spark, on top of a few solid acquisitions.
They might even trade their #1 or #2 pick for a veteran. They’ve done it before.
Either way, this is the absolute three crucial priorities:
— Repair the broken running game
— Improve the O-line
— Improve the interior pass rush
The good news is, they won’t need to focus too much on the safety position:
That was a nice little pre-Christmas pick-me-up after the Arizona game. Earl will be back. Probably more amped than ever before. They can focus on trying to acquire someone like Shalom Luani possibly in the middle rounds, instead of needing to go after one of the top safety’s in round one.
Here’s a silver lining to focus on for now. If this team doesn’t find a spark to go on a great playoff run — we might be just a few weeks away from the most interesting Seahawks off-season in a long time.
The Seahawks were certainly in a festive mood today.
Atlanta and Detroit, Merry Christmas.
With two wins against slumping opponents, the #2 seed would be Seattle’s. First round bye, home game in the divisional round.
Now they’re left hoping the Saints upset the Falcons in Atlanta (not likely) and the Cowboys defeat the Lions on Boxing Day.
It’s tempting to say it doesn’t really matter. The Seahawks are not playing well. Do they deserve the #2 seed? Over someone like Atlanta or Detroit?
You don’t need me to tell you the answer.
Two straight forward wins against Carolina and Los Angeles — both mired in dysfunction — didn’t mask anything. The defeats in Tampa Bay and Green Bay were ugly and this was a home clunker.
This latest loss was arguably more galling than the ones in Green Bay or Tampa Bay. Seattle wasn’t facing an in-form opponent, red hot and making a run. They were at home. They controlled the #2 seed and just had to handle their business. And the rally at the end made for an unlikely slice of Christmas agony when Arizona marched downfield to kick a game winning field goal.
All three units played poorly at various times. The offense didn’t function in the first half, largely due to the struggling O-line. Quick passes, read-option, running the ball, play action. They tried everything and nothing worked. The early turnover by Marcel Reece led to seven crucial points. The late, desperate comeback shouldn’t gloss over how inept the offense was in the first half.
There shouldn’t be any grandstanding from Richard Sherman this week. The defense gave up the last minute drive to lose the game. They conceded 34 points overall and had the four-play touchdown drive straight after a Seattle score made it a three-point game. The pass rush continues to be streaky and it often feels like they can’t create pressure without blitzing the two linebackers. That’s despite having Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Frank Clark on the field.
The special teams had another miserable day. A blocked kick, a blocked punt and a missed extra point. The two missed kicks cost four points — inevitably crucial given the margin of victory for Arizona. On the missed PAT the snap was slightly high and there was pressure off the edge. You still expect the kicker to make it. Questions have to be asked about Steven Hauschka given his disappointing season in a contract year and the decision to change long snappers.
The game also highlighted Seattle’s three consistent problems:
1. The offensive line is not good enough. There are probably reasons for that — three of the five are starting for the first time this year, Justin Britt is a first year center and there’s a game of musical chairs at right tackle. But it was impossible for the offense to function in the first half with the way this O-line played. It’s hard to imagine this is a situation that will be improved by yet more inexperience (aka rookies) in 2017. You want to believe this unit will grow over time but it’s hard to invest faith in that happening after today.
2. They can’t run the ball how they want to and they know it. They came out throwing again today because they can’t establish the run. They’ve become thoroughly one dimensional and the old glass cannon theory was accurate once more today. Impact the pass and this offense shatters into pieces. They’re relying on a passing game and can’t pass protect. It’s not a good combination. Plus Thomas Rawls picked up his latest injury today (shoulder) and you have to ask — is he ever going to be able to stay healthy?
3. The Cardinals O-line has struggled for weeks, it’s banged up. The Seahawks didn’t exploit it at all. Arizona on the other hand had Seattle’s O-line for dinner. It’s a truly confusing and baffling situation given the talent in Seattle’s front seven. Why do they so infrequently smother opponents with pressure? Why are they so often dependant on the blitz?
You can list other things too — but I focus on these three because they’re consistent. And they generally lead to other problems such as red zone woes, backup defensive backs getting burned for 80-yard scores, Russell Wilson missing throws he’s made for years and Jimmy Graham being a non-factor.
This loss also didn’t just cost the Seahawks a straight path to the #2 seed, they also blew the opportunity to go unbeaten at home in the regular season.
The Seahawks will be in the playoffs as the NFC West winners but sadly there aren’t many reasons to believe this will be a Championship season. It’s not unheard of for a team to stumble into the post season and catch fire. Yet it feels like there’s just too much work to do and not enough time to do it.
This team needs an off-season to try and get right and get healthy. Unfortunately that might come sooner rather than later.
I’ll end with this — some things are more important than football, like enjoying time with family and friends and having a nice Christmas. Try not to let this game ruin your holiday, enjoy yourself and I’ll see you in a few days.
This week I give Kenny my views on where the Seahawks are at right now, the Sherman drama, some thoughts on possibly the most intriguing safety in the draft class and Leonard Fournette & Christian McCaffrey skipping their Bowl games.
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