Check out this weeks podcast where we reflect on the Super Bowl and look at prospects in the upcoming draft class that compare to members of the Broncos’ Championship winning team.
Tomorrow I’ll be publishing a new mock draft. Today I wanted to do a status check on where the Seahawks might be as we edge closer to the combine.
What do they do in free agency?
So far they haven’t re-signed any of their free agents. That’s not a surprise. Teams at this time of year are generally formulating a plan for the market and looking at possible additions elsewhere.
Davis Hsu estimates the Seahawks will have about $18m to spend on their seven free agents expecting to earn +$2m per year (Kearse, Irvin, Okung, Sweezy, Lane, Mebane, Rubin). It’s perhaps unrealistic to expect any major new signings. Pete Carroll has stated he’d like to keep as many of the existing roster as possible.
Who is the priority?
I still think it might be Jeremy Lane. The Seahawks learnt a valuable lesson with the Cary Williams disaster. They’re unlikely to add outside players at cornerback any time soon.
Losing Lane would put a lot of pressure on the younger players to step up (and for Tharold Simon to stay healthy). Question marks in the secondary significantly impacted the defense early in 2015 and they could do without such problems in 2015.
Brandon Mebane and Athyba Rubin anchored Seattle’s D-line at a high level and the team would probably rather add a pass-rusher (or two) to the group instead of chasing replacements.
If they do go into the market, what can they do?
Cincinnati’s Wallace Gilberry might be one to keep an eye on. He earned $2.1m in 2015 and while he’s in the twilight years of his career (he’s 31) he’d provide some interior pass rush. He had seven sacks for the Chiefs in 2010 and 14 sacks for the Bengals between 2012 and 2013. The production dipped recently (three sacks in the last two seasons) but he’d be a cost-effective option. They’ve used free agency to add defensive linemen in the past.
Olivier Vernon has been a dynamic rusher in Miami but what kind of contract can he get on the open market? Jabaal Sheard’s cap hit in 2015 after signing with the Patriots was just $4m. Can the Seahawks tempt Vernon (25.5 sacks in the last three years) to sign a one or two year prove-it deal? He’s only 25.
Phil Loadholt is expected to be a cap casualty in Minnesota and wouldn’t cost the Seahawks any compensatory picks as a consequence. He’s played for Darrell Bevell before. He has the massive size and run-blocking skills the Seahawks like at right tackle or left guard. His injury history could play into Seattle’s hands in terms of market value.
Do we have any idea yet what positions they’ll consider at #26
The signs point to Russell Okung moving on and that would create a hole that needs filling on the O-line. Either way — they have to improve the interior and might consider doing so at #26. Tackle, guard or center could be in play.
The Seahawks haven’t played the percentages before by looking at perceived positional value to solve multiple needs. They generally go BPA at a position of importance and attack that need. They seem unlikely to say, “well we could go defensive tackle at #26 because the options on the O-line are better down the line”. If the guy they really like is an offensive linemen they will probably go for it. Pete Carroll admitted their top priority was to provide a consistently performing O-line for 2016.
There is a chance, however, that they will find someone they really like on defense too. Looking at previous drafts it would need to be someone with unique athletic traits. This is the list of defensive talent they’ve taken in the first two rounds so far: Earl Thomas, Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Frank Clark. Notice a trend?
If they go defense early it’s safe to expect a dynamic athlete who tests well across the board at the combine. That hasn’t always been the case when they’ve drafted early for the offensive line (Okung, Carpenter, Moffitt, Britt). It’s something to consider when the combine begins later this month.
Seattle wants to be the bully again so there’s likely to be an emphasis on toughness. It’s hard to look beyond an addition in the trenches at #26 — either on the O-line or D-line/pass rusher.
Who might they consider?
On the offensive line Shon Coleman is a punishing, edgy tackle with ideal size and grit. He could play left or right tackle or move inside to guard. He’d be an ideal pick to fill not only a need but also provide some toughness up front.
Assuming Jack Conklin and Taylor Decker are both off the board, Cody Whitehair and Nick Martin are center prospects who would solidify the interior, provide leadership and physicality while removing any question marks over a vital position for the next few years. Daniel Jeremiah today touted Alabama’s Ryan Kelly as a possible first rounder and I’ll be watching more of his tape tonight.
Defensively it’s safe to expect Sheldon Rankins to be long gone after his masterclass at the Senior Bowl (ditto Noah Spence). There’s some uncertainty about other perceived ‘top’ players though. How much will Robert Nkemdiche’s character concerns impact his stock? And would the Seahawks go anywhere near him if he falls? Is A’Shawn Robinson all bark and no bite? He has a tremendous athletic profile and should excel at the combine. Yet on tape he’s passive, gets blocked too easily, doesn’t have enough splash plays and seems to go through the motions.
Both Nkemdiche and Robinson have the type of athleticism that would interest the Seahawks. But do they have the necessary edge and competitive desire?
A case in point. Here’s running back Alex Collins blocking A’Shawn Robinson — a 312lbs defensive lineman:
Ok to be fair.. Here's Collins finding work. Giving it to A'Shawn.. pic.twitter.com/iRmn88TJUe
— Ben Fennell (@BenFennell_NFL) February 9, 2016
Vernon Butler and Andrew Billings provide unique movement skills for their size, a ton of strength and plenty of upside. They’re also better suited to the one technique/nose tackle role in Seattle. That isn’t a position the Seahawks rely on for a pass rush (who does?) and the big issue in 2015 was losing the production provided by Clinton McDonald (2013) and Jordan Hill (2014). The base defense needs to be disciplined and gap control is vital (something Billings struggled with in college). It’s hard to imagine the Seahawks placing a first round emphasis on a one technique — even if Mebane departs.
It’ll be interesting to see if Kyler Fackrell (a possible edge rusher) can test anything like Clay Matthews (a former #26 overall pick). It’s not ridiculous to consider. Is the #26 pick too early to consider former 5-star recruit Chris Jones? Probably. He has the athleticism and upside they love but he’s an underachiever (something they’ve avoided). Jonathan Bullard is an overachiever but is he special enough as an athlete to go in round one? Austin Johnson is incredibly active, hustles to the ball and has plus athleticism for his size. Is he a problem-solver for the pass rush though at 323lbs? And is #26 too early?
What about later in the draft?
There are some nice options on the O-line that are likely to be available in rounds 2-4. Joe Dahl excelled at the Senior Bowl while La’Raven Clark’s hopeless technique is matched by stunning physical potential. Graham Glasgow could be a punishing guard or center and Fahn Cooper impressed at tackle for Ole Miss.
If they’re looking for an interior pass rusher (or two) to work into the rotation — they might be able to wait on Adolphus Washington and/or Jihad Ward. Ronald Blair III is another player to keep an eye on. I watched one game of Indiana’s Darius Latham today (a former four-star recruit) and he could be a mid or late round option too.
There could be a sweet spot in round three for running backs (Alex Collins, Paul Perkins, Jordan Howard and Devontae Booker might be available), LSU’s Deion Jones fits their profile at linebacker (speed, speed and more speed) and there’s a handful of long cornerbacks likely to be available on day three.