End of season draft status check
This is a pretty unusual end of season report. Normally there’s at least one glaringly obvious, critical need for the Seahawks.
For the time being, that isn’t the case.
We can make arguments for certain positional upgrades. But the fact of the matter is this is currently the most rounded overall roster in the NFL. The record speaks for itself at 13-3.
That could change very quickly when players start to get paid. And that moment is coming.
This off-season will be the first opportunity to extend Richard Sherman’s contract — and I expect that to happen. It’s unimaginable to think they’ll let Earl Thomas play through the final year of his contract, knowing the 2015 off-season will be the time they pay Russell Wilson.
Sherman and Thomas will get extensions this off-season. I’m pretty sure about that.
Wilson’s second contract is also just around the corner. They’ll have to start making room now for a likely $100m+ deal. If he wins a Championship either this season or next, it’s going to be an eye-watering deal (see: Joe Flacco).
This is why we talk about being forced to cut players you’d ideally keep. It’s unavoidable. There isn’t any scenario where Sherman, Thomas and Wilson aren’t part of this team for the long haul. They are the holy grail of this franchise.
They will have to start making some room and relying on the draft for replacements.
Seattle will probably never have a roster as jam packed as the 2013 edition. Not without world class drafting every year. While it’s not going to be a mass exodus in a few weeks time, the first few painful cuts or walks will be tough to watch.
Right now we don’t really know what Seattle’s greatest need is. We have to wait and see what happens.
Here are a few scenarios to consider…
- What if Michael Bennett walks? He has no reason not to test free agency. He came here on a one-year deal to prove himself. Job done. Nearly every team in the NFL would be stupid not to try and sign him. It’ll only take one team to make a gigantic offer to price Seattle out of the market. I sincerely hope Bennett stays with the Seahawks, but I’m preparing for the worst. He was a true difference maker for this team, the missing piece of the puzzle. Without him in 2014 I fear the pass rush will revert back to its previous one-dimensional status. That can’t be allowed to happen.
- Breno Giacomini is a terrific Seahawk. His attitude, his honesty, his execution. He might be the most under-appreciated player this team has had in my time following the Seahawks. Too many people got bogged down with his penalty trouble at the start of last season. He’s a very good right tackle. Even though his position doesn’t attract a lot of attention in free agency, he might be a painful sacrifice this off-season. It’s hard to imagine how they’ll be able to afford him unless he generates zero interest in the open market, which I highly doubt. Unless they truly believe in Michael Bowie as a starter, it would make right tackle a priority.
- Receivers get paid big bucks in free agency. Golden Tate is the perfect combination of household name and playmaker. Someone will pay him to be part of their roster. Like Bennett, he’ll be too costly for the franchise tag. He was Seattle’s most productive receiver in 2013 and has a ton of chemistry with Wilson. Can they find a way to keep him? Everyone would love to see Tate get an extension. If it doesn’t happen — it’ll create a big hole. Throw in Percy Harvin’s health issues and Sidney Rice’s likely departure and receiver could quickly turn into a titanic need.
- Tony McDaniel has been a revelation this year — a truly underrated signing at a cost effective $600k. Along with the rejuvenated Clinton McDonald, another free agent, we’re talking about two players who will likely need to be replaced. McDaniel in particular has been more than just an impact player. He’s been an absolutely crucial starter. The positive is they plucked him from nowhere to have such an impact. Maybe they can do it again?
These are just four scenarios. Then you throw in all the potential cuts. What if you have to move on Chris Clemons, Brandon Mebane or Red Bryant (or a combination of the three) in order to pay Bennett, Sherman and Thomas? That creates a need for another pass rusher or a run stopping defensive tackle.
Right now we can only speculate on what might happen. Needs will emerge, it’s simply impossible for Seattle to go into next season with everything intact.
For me, it’s all about keeping the defense together. It’s the most rounded group in the NFL.
Some minor changes are unavoidable. I expect we’re coming to the end of the Clemons era and it’ll be tough to hang on to McDaniel. Keeping everyone else is key, without exception. Try to re-sign McDaniel, McDonald and Walter Thurmond. Keep Bryant and Mebane.
To preserve the defense — almost man for man — it could mean losing Golden Tate and Breno Giacomini, which would be tough to stomach. Particularly given the complete lack of payback on the Harvin trade so far and the investment made in him, while Tate is the one out there making plays.
But the defense will make Seattle a contender year in, year out. This isn’t the draft to feel comfortable trying to replace a guy like Michael Bennett, but it is a good, deep draft for receivers and offensive tackles.
Seattle has made its bed with Harvin and if he can get back to good health — that trade can still be a success. Pairing him with Doug Baldwin and a bigger, true #1 will help make up for the potential loss of Tate if it comes to that.
For that reason — as things stand — I’d say a big receiver is the greatest need this team has. But that’s just today.
One final thought on this — what should they do if there’s simply no way of keeping Michael Bennett?
I’d take the money saved for him, put it in a big bag, and hand it to Lamarr Houston. He’s the nearest thing you’ll find to Bennett in free agency this off-season.
Breakdown of the prospective two big needs
Golden Tate is a free agent. Sidney Rice’s knee injury and huge contract will likely lead to a parting of ways. Percy Harvin’s hip injury remains a major concern, even if he practises this week. This is a big need for Seattle. Even if Tate re-signs and Harvin gets healthy, they need a big bodied wide out. It’s an absolute must. Russell Wilson will thrive with a big target to throw to downfield.
Best early round options: Mike Evans, Brandon Coleman, Kelvin Benjamin
I’d love to see Breno Giacomini get a new contract. The guy belongs on this team, playing for Tom Cable. But the reality is the only way he can stick around is with a decent pay cut. His cap hit this year is $4.25m. A rookie drafted in the late first round can expect to earn around $1.2m in year one. The saving is obviously even bigger if you wait until the late second round.
Best early round options: Cyrus Kouandjio, Antonio Richardson, Greg Robinson, Zack Martin, Cedric Ogbuehi, Cameron Erving, Taylor Lewan
Dan Quinn a coaching target?
Vikings have requested permission to interview Seahawks DC Dan Quinn, as Browns have.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) December 30, 2013
This isn’t a huge shock.
Assistants at winning teams will always get attention. I suspect Quinn will get more than two interviews. Before anyone panics though, let’s remember — this is Pete Carroll’s defense. And while Carroll remains, there shouldn’t be too much of a drop off.
From Quinn’s point of view, this has to be tempting. You don’t get many opportunities to become a Head Coach in the NFL.
I say good luck to him. But I hope he, Darrell Bevell and Tom Cable remain with the team in 2014.
Jason La Canfora is now reporting Bevell will also interview with the Vikings. He was, of course, formerly an offensive coordinator in Minnesota.
Browns zoning in on McDaniels and Manziel?
Rob Chudzinski was fired yesterday, somewhat surprisingly.
I have a theory here.
‘Chud’ and offensive coordinator Norv Turner are pretty immovable on the type of quarterback they want. It’s the Troy Aikman, Philip Rivers style pocket passer.
There’s been a lot of speculation for weeks about Cleveland’s interest in Johnny Manziel. The very opposite of what you’d call a Turner-style quarterback.
If the Browns’ front office are pretty much sold on the idea of Manziel, why would they stick with a coaching staff that contradicts that vision? It wouldn’t surprise me at all if they go with a creative offensive mind willing to embrace the much-discussed Texas A&M quarterback — rather than Quinn or Todd Bowles (who they are also hoping to interview).
For that reason I expect Josh McDaniels to be candidate #1 on Cleveland’s list. They tried to get him last year. And McDaniels is the guy who drafted Tim Tebow during his spell in Denver.
Clearly he likes a challenge.
Manziel could be his next project.
And then there’s this…
Once Josh McDaniels interviews for the Browns job, again, I’ll have a helluva time thinking someone else gets it — Jason La Canfora (@JasonLaCanfora) December 30, 2013
I’ll be doing a mock draft tomorrow — and guess who the Browns will be taking?
Speaking of the 2014 quarterback class…
Jimmy Haslam signing the praises of 2014 @NFL Draft. Had a GM tell me last night it reminds him of the 2011 draft when it comes to QBs. Ouch
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) December 30, 2013
… And I totally agree with that GM.
Teddy Bridgewater will be a solid starter with the right guidance, but will he ever be truly elite? I suspect Manziel will be constantly up and down — a bit like Andy Dalton, even if they’re very different players. As for the rest? It wreaks of another Blaine Gabbert, Christian Ponder and Jake Locker bunch.
I suspect we won’t see as many going early. Surely the NFL has learnt its lesson?
2014 confirmed draft order so far
#1 Houston Texans
#2 St. Louis Rams (via Washington)
#3 Jacksonville Jaguars
#4 Cleveland Browns
#5 Oakland Raiders
#6 Atlanta Falcons
#7 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
#8 Minnesota Vikings
#9 Buffalo Bills
#10 Detroit Lions
#11 Tennessee Titans
#12 New York Giants
#13 St. Louis Rams
#14 Chicago Bears
#15 Pittsburgh Steelers
T #16 Baltimore Ravens
T #16 Dallas Cowboys
#18 New York Jets
#19 Miami Dolphins
#20 Arizona Cardinals
The Ravens and Cowboys will need to toss and coin to determine who owns the #16 and #17 picks.
Mock draft time tomorrow.