What are the Seahawks doing? (Part 2)

March 17th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

What are the Seahawks doing? (Part 2)

I spent some time last night considering the free agency situation with Seattle and came to his conclusion. Why is anyone surprised?

We came into this off-season expecting changes, especially on defense. We thought they’d try to get younger and cheaper.

Not many people expected (or wanted) Sheldon Richardson to return. Did anyone think Jimmy Graham or Paul Richardson would be back?

We thought they’d re-sign Bradley McDougald.

We wondered whether they’d add a veteran running back and look at a ‘prove-it’ deal for a receiver. Both of those options are still possible. The team met with DeMarco Murray recently and Terrelle Pryor is reportedly visiting the Seahawks.

We thought they’d add a veteran blocking tight end. Ed Dickson has signed a three-year deal. They need a SAM/LEO and they’ve added Barkevious Mingo.

Pretty much everything we talked about has happened.

So what’s the problem?

Reality bites I suppose. It’s difficult to accept but we’re watching other teams in a better position to compete for Championships.

For a few years now the Seahawks were the franchise to mimic and chase. They were the ones being aggressive, making the big signings and trades that left the rest of the NFL envious.

Now other teams are the ones chasing the Championship and Seattle is re-tooling. Minnesota is in a better position to find that one extra defensive lineman and make the $28m splash on a single player. The Jaguars are the ones using their remaining cap room to load up the roster and try to cover the mediocrity of their quarterback.

The Seahawks are what they are — in transition.

They can still make some moves to be relatively competitive in 2018. Ndamukong Suh is still available. His addition alone would provide a huge lift to the fan base. It has to be the right fit though. The big spending days are gone. If Suh signs it’ll be on Seattle’s terms.

They added Jaron Brown yesterday and appear to be providing second (or third) chances to a number of players who perhaps feel they deserve an opportunity. That’s probably what they want — hungry veterans to compliment the youth movement that’s about to take place.

The draft is going to be the focal point of the off-season. That’s how they’re going to repair the running game. That’s how they’re going to compliment the defense. That’s how they’re going to add speed on both sides of the ball.

Rounds 1-2 — great options at RB/OL
Rounds 3-7 — great options and value on defense

Whether they trade Earl Thomas or not, they’re likely going to be doing a lot of moving around.

So that’s the dose of reality that’s maybe required right now.

That said — it’s also understandable why there’s some anger and frustration out there. This team parted ways with two legendary players last week. A third legendary player is the subject of trade rumours. A fourth and fifth legend might have to retire.

The Seahawks could lose as many as eight starters, if not more. The Mingo, Dickson and Brown signings are hardly lifting a fan base that has got used to watching a highly competitive football team.

They’ve gone from doing anything to try and win a title in 2017 to rebuilding in the space of a matter of months.

It’d be easier for fans to accept major change if they had a cluster of draft picks to look forward to. Currently they do not. The Indianapolis Colts have also lost a few starters in free agency. By trading with the Jets, they now have a treasure trove of picks second only to Cleveland’s. They’re still in the top-10 (and should be able to land a very good player) and pick three times in the valuable second round.

Colts fans will be buzzing with excitement today, imagining the four or more starters they’ll acquire from the 2018 draft.

The Seahawks have one pick in the first three-and-a-half rounds. They’ll have to trade down (possibly multiple times) to fill holes.

And their only option to emulate the Colts and acquire extra stock is to trade away one of the most popular players in franchise history.

On top of that, there’s an increasing frustration about some of the decision making in recent years. Hindsight is very popular at a time like this but there are more misses than hits in recent memory:

— The Jimmy Graham trade didn’t work out as planned
— The 2013 draft class produced almost nothing
— The Malik McDowell pick was a major risk and backfired
— They traded a second rounder to the Jets for one year of Sheldon Richardson

You can probably add more to this list. I don’t think there’s much point dwelling on it though. Moves that were made simply haven’t worked out.

You could argue, however, at least the Seahawks took a chance to maximise their window. Ask fans in Green Bay whether they wish their team had taken a few more chances during the Aaron Rodgers era. You know what the answer will be.

So what now? Probably more of the same. Players acquired with smaller salaries. The roster filled out. A draft that includes trading down and fixing the running game as a priority. A season that probably leans on said running game and Russell Wilson. Just as it leaned on the defense in previous years.

And in fairness, it’s not the worst scenario is it? Relying on one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and (you’d hope) a much improved running game.

The one big question mark remaining is the future of Earl Thomas. It’s gone very quiet again after Jason La Canfora’s report that Seattle were talking to teams and might get even more than a 1st and 3rd round pick in return.

Who knows what the latest is? Are the Seahawks trying to flesh out suitors? Are they trying to move things along?

And what happens if they don’t get the kind of offer they’re looking for?

It probably doesn’t help that Tryann Mathieu, a free agent, only managed to secure this deal on the open market:

Thomas is better than Mathieu but if he’s hoping for +$13m he’s probably going to be disappointed. Teams are unlikely to be willing to pony up that kind of salary on top of a collection of picks.

The rest of the safety market is ice cold in free agency too. Eric Reid and Kenny Vaccaro remain unsigned.

None of this is good news for Earl Thomas. If the Seahawks are trying to convince a team to give up picks and pay him a massive salary, it’s not good news for the team either.

How the New York Jets trade changes things

The Jets have jumped from #6 to #3, giving Indianapolis three second round picks in the process (two this year, one in 2019).

After missing out on Kirk Cousins they’re being aggressive to get their quarterback. By trading into the top three they possibly usurp division rival Buffalo (also looking to move into the top-five) and guarantee they’ll get one of Sam Darnold, Josh Allen, Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield.

So what might happen?

For a while I’ve thought Saquon Barkley was a lock to go in the top two. I’m not as convinced after listening to Mike Silver during the NFL Network’s ‘free agent frenzy’ show. Silver’s well sourced and reliable and he seemed to believe Cleveland and the New York Giants would both take quarterbacks at #1 and #2. With the Jets now at #3, they’ll definitely be taking a quarterback.

Here’s a quick prediction:

#1 Browns — Josh Allen (QB, Wyoming)
#2 Giants — Sam Darnold (QB, USC)
#3 Jets — Josh Rosen (QB, UCLA)
#4 Browns — Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State)
#5 Broncos — Quenton Nelson (G, Notre Dame)
#6 Colts — Bradley Chubb (DE, NC State)

Having added Tyrod Taylor and with Hue Jackson already announcing there won’t be a competition at quarterback this year, to me that suggests Allen might be Cleveland’s choice. Physically he is the prototype. He will need time to learn and adjust to the NFL — more so than Darnold and Rosen.

We could see a team move into the top-six to get Baker Mayfield and the Bills are clearly plotting something. They’ve set everything up to acquire a quarterback. Surely they won’t bail now?

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Some thoughts on UCLA’s Kolton Miller

March 16th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

According to Tony Pauline, the Seahawks had representatives at the UCLA pro-day today to take a look at offensive tackle Kolton Miller.

Pauline also notes Seattle had a coaching presence at the Nevada pro-day to monitor Austin Corbett (Mike Solari?).

We’ve already covered Corbett (click here). He’s one of the more underrated players in the draft and just an extremely competent blocker. The breakdown last week goes into more detail but the Seahawks could do a lot worse than fill their left guard spot with Corbett.

So what about Miller?

Unlike Wynn and Corbett, the first thing that stands out is size and athleticism. Miller measured 6085 in height at the combine. That means he’s nearly 6-9. He weighed in at 309lbs and carries the weight well too. He also has decent length (34 inch arms).

Miller made headlines at the combine by setting an O-line record in the broad jump (10-1). How does that compare?

Kolton Miller — 10-1
Minkah Fitzpatrick — 10-1
Bradley Chubb — 10-1
Rashaad Penny — 10-0
Harold Landry — 9-11
Rasheem Green — 9-10
Tremaine Edmunds — 9-9
Shaquem Griffin — 9-9
Rashaan Evans — 9-8
Calvin Ridley — 9-2
Da’Ron Payne — 8-11

This highlights how impressive Miller’s attempt really was. Especially considering the explosive nature of some of the athletes also listed.

NFL.com provides historical combine data dating back to 2006. Here are the top-five broad jumps by offensive linemen in the last 12 years:

Kolton Miller — 10-1
Lane Johnson — 9-10
Taylor Lewan — 9-9
Eric Fisher — 9-8
Garett Bolles — 9-7

Now here’s the same list noting each players draft placing:

Kolton Miller — TBD
Lane Johnson — #4
Taylor Lewan — #11
Eric Fisher — #1
Garett Bolles — #20

The next two names on the list were Jason Spriggs and Joel Bitonio — both were second round picks.

Explosive athleticism matters in the trenches. Through TEF we’ve been able to highlight the problem facing the NFL. Many more ‘explosive’ defensive athletes are entering the league vs offensive linemen. Teams are desperate to redress the balance.

I keep coming back to this quote from Pat Kirwan detailing the importance of explosive athleticism in the trenches:

Every time a ball is snapped to start a play there is a critical element of explosiveness that takes place. When two players collide in an attempt to physically dominate each other, the athlete with the edge in explosiveness has the best chance to win the confrontation. It could be a blocker vs. a tackler, a tackler vs. a ball carrier, or many other examples of winning at the point of contact.

By jumping a 10-1 broad and adding a 31.5 inch vertical jump, Miller has shown he has the physical potential to win these 1v1 battles.

It means he can drive a guy deep into the end zone like this:

It doesn’t mean he’s necessarily destined to be a great player but at the very least he has the capability of developing into a very effective force.

Let’s look at how Miller’s combine compared to Lane Johnson’s:

Forty yard dash
Lane Johnson — 4.72
Kolton Miller — 4.95

Ten yard split
Lane Johnson — 1.68
Kolton Miller — 1.67

Short shuttle
Lane Johnson — 4.52
Kolton Miller — 4.49

Three cone
Lane Johnson — 7.31
Kolton Miller — 7.34

Vertical jump
Lane Johnson — 34 inches
Kolton Miller — 31.5 inches

Broad jump
Lane Johnson — 9-10
Kolton Miller — 10-1

Bench press
Lane Johnson — 28
Kolton Miller — 24

The only significant difference is the forty yard dash time — arguably the least important of the tests above. The 10-yard split is considered a more useful test for offensive linemen. There’s very little between the two players over 10-yards.

Again, this doesn’t mean Kolton Miller is going to be Lane Johnson at the next level. It’s clearly not as simple as that. Yet their physical profiles are very similar. For that reason, you have to do your homework. If you believe there’s even a moderate chance Miller can have a similar impact at right tackle, you have to consider him in the first round and possibly in the top-20. That’s how rare good offensive linemen are these days.

There are two other things to highlight.

Firstly, the aggressive nature of the players involved. Taylor Lewan, Lane Johnson and Garett Bolles were nasty, tone-setting offensive linemen. Yes they were explosive athletes but they’re also perfectly suited to playing O-line in the NFL. You want these types of characters blocking for you. The Seahawks have had characters like this in the past — Breno Giacomini for example. The likes of Lewan, Johnson and Bolles combine a similar attitude with first-round physical traits.

Miller isn’t cut from the same cloth. He’s not quite that grizzled, nasty blocker. He’s more of an athlete. He’s probably not going to get into an argument with Richard Sherman like Lewan or absolutely hammer a linebacker after the whistle like Bolles. It’s not necessarily a bad thing it’s just worth pointing out.

The other thing is the height. How tall is too tall? Being nearly 6-9 might have some benefits but it also presents a nice big target for defensive linemen. It’s harder to play with adequate pad level. You’re going to lose quite a lot of leverage battles. He might be susceptible to a change-up where a defensive end rushes with speed and then converts to power. Is he going to be able to adjust and avoid just being jammed in the chest? You don’t see many 6-8 or 6-9 offensive tackles. Giacomini is 6-7 and that might be the tallest Seattle has used so far.

Watching the UCLA-Stanford 2017 game, quite early in the tape you see a snap where he moves backwards to protect against a speed rush and the defensive end just prods him. Miller loses balance and does well to stay on his feet. By that point, however, he was extremely close to moving into Josh Rosen’s throwing lane.

There were a handful of occasions where this was repeated. The D-end gets into Miller’s frame and he loses balance/control. That’s not to say he’s consistently beaten off the edge. He isn’t. On each occasion Miller somehow found a way to recover and just about finish the block. He does manage a last-gasp anchor quite frequently. There are moments where you think, ‘here we go’ and then he ends up getting the job done. Just.

It’s a common theme watching his tape. Quite frequently you’ll see something and think ‘oh no‘ but he recovers just in time.

Look at this false step in his kick-slide. You’d imagine it’d lead to a problem. Miller recovers, stays calm and actually executes well in the end:

Of course, it doesn’t always work that way:

Isaiah Wynn and Austin Corbett showed an ability to drop the anchor and handle anything that’s thrown their way. They’ll contain against power, planting their feet and staying strong in the base. They handle double moves and stunts. They handle speed and power equally competently. Miller doesn’t provide that same reassurance.

That might be one of the things you have to live with if you draft him. Both Wynn and Corbett are going to move inside to guard because they’re squatty players without the kind of length and size you want at tackle. Miller has the size, the length and the rare athleticism to stick outside. He might need some work to realise his potential.

There are things to like. He does play with a degree of patience and calm. Despite some technical flaws and issues with his long frame — you don’t see him beaten very often. Nobody is blowing him away with speed off the edge. There were a couple of occasions against Stanford where he got up to the second level. He generally seems to take good angles in order to make life a bit easier controlling the edge.

When he plays square-up and goes up 1v1 against a defender he often wins. This is a good example below. Miller takes out two defenders highlighting the benefit of being an extremely explosive and agile blocker:

The sensational athleticism could get Miller through some possible growing pains. If he smooths out his kick slide and masters a way to keep people from getting into his pads he’s a good enough athlete where he could end up being a very useful NFL lineman. At the very least you’d be pitting an extremely explosive, talented athlete against another. Very few teams can say that about their right tackles when they face LDE’s.

I’m not convinced this is a direction the Seahawks will go (or a direction they should go). After all, Miller lacks the ability to kick inside as a worst-case scenario if he doesn’t stick at right tackle. A lot of people want to write-off Germain Ifedi but he probably deserves a year working with the new staff (he’ll also greatly benefit from the pass-blocking ability of Ed Dickson). They also believed enough in George Fant to make him the left tackle of the future a year ago. He’ll be returning and could win the right tackle job.

That said, they might see this as too good an opportunity to pass up. Miller’s upside is considerably high. If you believe he can develop into a Lane Johnson type, that’s hard to ignore. He’s the type of player that might not have lasted to the Seahawks in previous years. If they acquire extra stock from a possible Earl Thomas trade, they could be interested. It’s also worth noting — they like to take high-upside players early. Players with unique traits.

Very few offensive linemen with Miller’s upside are available.

So what are they looking for if they decide to go O-line early? The upside pick with major tackle potential (Miller) or the competent guard who might be more reliable early in his career albeit with a lower ceiling (Wynn, Corbett, Hernandez)?

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Friday notes: Sheldon Richardson to the Vikings

March 16th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

— We discussed the possibility of a relatively cold market for Sheldon Richardson. He didn’t put up big sack numbers in 2016 or 2017. A year ago Dontari Poe had to settle for a one-year $8m deal to bet on himself. He turned it into a reasonable three-year commitment from the Panthers. Charles Robinson claims the Seahawks offered Richardson only $6.5m a year. Seattle is increasingly thin on the defensive line.

— The Seahawks have signed tight end Ed Dickson. It seems he was their target all along. They hastily arranged a meeting with Dickson once free agency officially began. They were unwilling to match a relatively modest contract for Austin Seferian-Jenkins. The Dickson signing could be a nice hedge for the draft. He’s a decent pass blocker. They’ll have some flexibility if they want to consider a player like Dalton Schultz, Durham Smythe or Will Dissly in the draft. Schultz in particular excelled as a run blocker at Stanford, opening numerous holes for Bryce Love.

— There’s no further news on Earl Thomas’ future. Jason La Canfora reported yesterday that the Seahawks are negotiating a trade with multiple teams. At the time it felt like something was forthcoming. It was quite an assertive report — including details of Thomas’ apparent desired contract (five years at $55m). Twenty-four hours on, however, there’s no further movement. The safety market is currently ice cold in free agency and the possibility of a Thomas trade could be the reason why. Tyrann Mathieu could also be waiting to see what happens with Thomas before negotiating a contract.

— Seattle continues to shop around and meet with various players. Receiver Markus Wheaton, defensive tackle Tom Johnson and defensive end Tank Carradine are scheduled for visits. Wheaton has had an underwhelming career so far but he has speed to burn and looked destined for a big pro-career when he was at Oregon State. Ian Rapoport also says, unsurprisingly, the Seahawks are negotiating to re-sign Byron Maxwell.

— It’s frustrating for fans at the moment. They’ve seen big name departures and want something to get excited about. Yet this isn’t a time for reckless spending. Playing the slow game can work. Ndamukong Suh remains unsigned. We need to see what’s happening with Earl Thomas. In a weeks time you might feel very differently about the direction of this team. Pete Carroll is a master recruiter. They have cap room. Let’s see how it plays out.

— The Seahawks appear to be spending a lot of time studying the O-line options in the draft. According to Tony Pauline, they met with Kolton Miller at the UCLA pro-day. They also sent a representative to Nevada to watch Austin Corbett. Miller had an outstanding combine while Corbett is a highly underrated prospect in the same mould as Isaiah Wynn. He’s just a really good blocker. Having only met with D.J. Fluker so far, it looks increasingly likely they’ll tap into the draft class. With a priority to fix the running game, adding an early pick on the O-line and at running back continues to make a lot of sense based on the talent available.

— Running back Mike Davis is visiting the Lions and according to Ian Rapoport has other meetings lined up too. Thomas Rawls also met with the Chiefs.

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Report: Seahawks discussing Earl Thomas trade

March 15th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

This is the first update in a while on the future of Earl Thomas. It might also partly explain the relatively quiet start to free agency.

Maybe they’ve been waiting for this domino to fall?

After all, this would be a big call. It’d be another high profile departure.

Has it been coming though? Seattle’s first move in free agency was to re-sign Bradley McDougald. That could’ve been stage one. Stage two could be trading Earl Thomas. And from that position, the rest of the off-season plan kicks into place.

The Seahawks clearly want to make changes to the roster and specifically get younger on defense. It’s safe to presume they want to avoid handing out large contract extensions similar to the ones given to Michael Bennett and Kam Chancellor.

Why are they not committing money (so far) to a hefty pursuit of Ndamukong Suh? Why didn’t they sign Austin Seferian-Jenkins? Why is Sheldon Richardson visiting with the Vikings and not inking a new contract with Seattle?

Possibly for the same reason — avoiding expensive and regrettable contracts.

The Seahawks got themselves into an ugly cap situation before. They might be doing their upmost to avoid that happening again. And that includes with Earl Thomas.

If the Seahawks deal Thomas and receive as much as a first and third round pick — it would open up the draft. With only one pick in the first three rounds currently, they’re going to struggle to fill most of their needs. With two first rounds picks, a third and the option to move down and acquire extra stock — they’d be much better placed to retool.

How would they replace Thomas?

They’ve already re-signed Bradley McDougald for insurance. Eric Reid has had a suspiciously quiet start to free agency (surprisingly it hasn’t received more media coverage considering his connection to the protests). He could provide a cost effective short-term solution next to McDougald while they draft and develop some younger players. Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson are also on the roster.

They could also look at Jessie Bates III early in the draft. He’s a highly talented free safety with the range, instinct and discipline Seattle likes. Natrell Jamerson at Wisconsin could be another option and they seem to have taken a shine to his team mate Nick Nelson too.

Tyrann Mathieu also remains a free agent.

Essentially, they’d have options at safety. They won’t be able to replace Earl with a younger replica. Thomas is a Hall of Fame talent, one of a kind. It’s important to remember though — the Seahawks almost didn’t have Earl Thomas to begin with. Philadelphia traded up in the 2010 draft to get ahead of Seattle. Everyone thought they would select Thomas. They took Brandon Graham. That’s how close they were to never having Earl. And yet the Pete Carroll era wouldn’t have just crumpled had the Eagles made a different choice.

Having two first round picks would provide the opportunity to add defensive talent and properly fix the running game at a reasonable price. They’d have no trouble manipulating the board to get one of the top running backs (Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson for example) and one of the top interior offensive linemen (Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett, Billy Price, Frank Ragnow).

They could also seek value on defense. Jessie Bates III is likely an earlier round option and we’ve discussed the huge potential of Leighton Vander Esch. They could look at Josh Sweat who certainly fits some of the traits they’ve looked for in an EDGE rusher.

There’s a long list of names they could look at. That’s a topic we’ll save for another day if/when a trade is complete. At the moment it’s just one report, albeit quite a matter of fact report.

It might provide some insight into Seattle’s inactive start to free agency though. Have they been waiting for this? Keeping an eye on some of the options but knowing this had to fall first? Planning around this potential bombshell?

This feels like a crucial 24-48 hours.

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10 thoughts on early Seahawks free agency

March 15th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If the Seahawks make any new signings I’ll update this post with some notes. If you missed it yesterday don’t forget to check out our piece on a trio of Wisconsin defenders and some thoughts on Seattle’s addition of Barkevious Mingo.

It’s early days but so far Seattle’s early moves are confirming our thoughts before free agency began:

1. The early part of the draft provides the best value at running back and interior offensive line. The Seahawks met with two veteran running backs (Jonathan Stewart, DeMarco Murray) and might be looking to sign a hedge (more on that in a moment). They haven’t met with any veteran offensive linemen so far and they haven’t signed a running back. As things stand, it looks like they’re preparing to address both positions in the draft. That might change if they sign D.J. Fluker. He’s reportedly set to visit with the Seahawks.

2. They’re using free agency to look at tight ends and defensive linemen. This also works to the strength of the draft. In the first couple of rounds the options on the defensive line and at tight end are quite limited. It’s a total contrast to the options at guard/center and running back.

3. For the Seahawks to be competitive they still need to significantly bolster their defensive line. This is why they’re reportedly interested in Ndamukong Suh and Sheldon Richardson. Signing one or the other is crucial because they’re unlikely to find an alternative in the draft that can have the same block-absorbing impact to keep Bobby Wagner clean (Vita Vea will be long gone by #18).

4. It’s highly unlikely they’ll be able to sign both Suh and Richardson but let’s remember two things. Firstly, who thought they’d be able to sign both Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in 2013? Nobody saw either of those moves coming. Secondly, they’ve cleared significant cap space — not just for 2018 but also for 2019. A rotation of Suh, Richardson, Naz Jones and Jarran Reed would create the kind of variety Seahawks fans often talk about when reminiscing about the 2013 team. It’d be a more expensive group for sure — but they’d also be fresh and would make life a lot easier for Frank Clark, Dion Jordan, Barkevious Mingo and any other EDGE rusher they bring in. Again, Suh and Richardson together is improbable and unlikely. Yet the Seahawks under John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made the improbable possible.

5. They could also look to add a pass rusher within the first four rounds of the draft. It could be Lorenzo Carter or Leon Jacobs who are more SAM/LEO types (possibly less likely since the addition of Mingo?). They might consider someone like Kemoko Turay. He’s more of a classic LEO/EDGE type. He has good size and length (6-5, 253lbs, 33.5 inch arms). He ran a 1.62 10-yard split which isn’t elite but it’s a decent time. Like many players at the combine he hurt his hamstring while running. Turay has an edge to him and he’s definitely talented. He might be available in round three. They could also look for an inside/out type rusher to replace Bennett. Ohio State’s Jalyn Holmes could be one to monitor, or his team mate Tyquan Lewis. It’d be easier to roll with some of these younger DE/LEO types if you had a strong interior rotation.

6. Seattle’s defense would be new-look but it’d also be starting to take shape. They’d have a defensive rotation up front. They’d have an opportunity to add to the linebacker position (Leon Jacobs) and at defensive back. The options at corner and safety could include Wisconsin’s Natrell Jamerson and Nick Nelson, Oklahoma State’s Tre Flowers, Virginia Tech’s Brandon Facyson or Terrell Edmunds, San Diego State’s Kam Kelly or one or two others. There’s plenty of ways to add speed, size and intensity. The signs for the future would be positive. And make no mistake — there will be players available on day three in this draft that can compete to start. Nelson looks like one of the top five cornerbacks in the draft. Could he compete immediately with Justin Coleman in the slot and provide some long term insurance there? Absolutely. Can Jamerson spend a year learning the ropes to play free safety with his 4.40 speed? Absolutely. Does Tre Flowers look every bit the type of long, physical defensive back Seattle has developed in the past? Absolutely.

7. If they’re unable to land Suh or Richardson, they’ll be left in a difficult position. The defensive line will be heavily relying on Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Naz Jones and Dion Jordan. There wouldn’t be much depth. With the cap space they currently have it’d be a major blow if they can’t secure at least one of the two veteran defensive tackles. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

There is this:

However, it’s emerged that Suh will travel to New Orleans on Friday for a meeting with the Saints. Richardson spent today with the Minnesota Vikings. Is it possible the Seahawks could end up failing to land either? Meanwhile receiver Jaron Brown, formerly of the Cardinals, is visiting Seattle. Jordy Nelson has agreed a two-year contract with the Raiders.

8. Austin Seferian-Jenkins will not be a Seahawk. He has agreed a two-year deal with the Jaguars worth up to $11m. It’s not a particularly expensive contract. They might be under some pressure now to finalise a deal with Ed Dickson. Tight end might end up being a draft priority again now.

9. What happens to the running game? You could be looking at drafting one of the top running backs and one of the top interior offensive linemen. One of Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett, Billy Price or Frank Ragnow would be a big add. You’ve also got Ronald Jones II, Nick Chubb, Kerryon Johnson and others at running back. The Seahawks can realistically solve their issues this off-season and be competitive.

10. So why are they considering adding a veteran running back as a hedge? Simple. Look at New Orleans last season. They had Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara. It became apparent early in the season Peterson would be the odd man out and they moved him to Arizona. The Seahawks could do the same. Allow a veteran to compete with Chris Carson and a rookie (plus C.J. Prosise if he can stay healthy). The worst case scenario is you trade or cut the veteran. The best case scenario is you’re covered if Carson and/or Prosise get injured again. With several veteran runners already signed this might not be possible after all. It also feels like a draft class where adding two running backs would be a wise move.

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Wisconsin trio could be in play for Seahawks

March 14th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Wisconsin could be something of a supply line for the Seahawks in the draft. In our Seahawks seven-round mock recently we had them taking Leon Jacobs (LB) and Natrell Jamerson (FS).

Tony Pauline reported on Wednesday that Seattle had dinner with Jamerson and cornerback Nick Nelson after the Badgers’ pro-day.

The Seahawks love speed at linebacker and Jacobs was one of the few to run particularly well at the combine. At 6-1 and 246lbs he ran an impressive 4.48:

He’s not as tall as previous LEO projects but he has good arm length to make up for it (33.5 inch arms). He tested well in the vertical (34.5) and broad (10-2). Crucially he also ran a 1.58 10-yard split — the measure of initial quickness and burst. Cliff Avril, Bruce Irvin and Barkevious Mingo all ran in the 1.5’s.

As a linebacker prospect Jacobs also ran a similar short shuttle to K.J. Wright (4.44 vs 4.46). In many ways he’s a solid fit. There are limited LEO prospects in the draft or free agency (thus the Mingo signing). He’s a hitter who plays with intensity. He has the demeanour that you want in a linebacker and the potential to develop into a solid pass rush contributor.

Not many players can do this to a left tackle:

He reads plays particularly well and plays with patience. Here he is blowing up a screen:

Here is showing patience in the open field and then the closing speed/finish to make the TFL against the running back:

Here he is handling a receiver to make a one-armed TFL:

There weren’t really any players like Jacobs in last years draft (when Pete Carroll talked about adding youth to the linebacker position). He’s the perfect combination of size, speed, explosive traits and intensity. There’s work to be done here (he was more of a role player at Wisconsin) and he’ll need refining. There aren’t many players with a higher physical upside in this draft, however.

Natrell Jamerson initially stood out for his special teams value. He flies around and recorded 20 tackles on kickoff coverage. He can be a gunner and a returner:

As a safety there’s also an awful lot to work with. He ran a 4.40 at 5-10 and 201lbs so he has range. Somehow he managed 25 reps on the bench press at the combine despite the weight disadvantage (try benching your body weight +25lbs). That’s an incredible achievement. At the Wisconsin pro-day he add three inches to his vertical jump (38) and also improved on his broad jump (10-3).

With Earl Thomas’ future still relatively undecided, the Seahawks are assessing the draft options. Tony Pauline previously noted interest in Wake Forest’s Jessie Bates III. Jamerson has the raw tools and instinct in zone to make plays like this:

I needed to take a look at Nick Nelson. He wasn’t on the radar. After all, why are the Seahawks meeting with him? He’s somewhere between 5-10 and 5-11 and has 30 3/4 inch arms. He is the very definition of a cornerback they don’t draft. He only ran a 4.52 at 200lbs too.

Yet watching him at Wisconsin, it’s clear why they’re showing some interest. Arguably there isn’t a cornerback in this class that plays tighter coverage. He smothers receivers and blankets them, frequently getting a hand to the football.

His performance against Maryland’s D.J. Moore (a possible first round pick) was outstanding. He’s #11 for Wisconsin:

Look at the first attempt in the red zone and how quickly he closes space and narrows the throwing window for the quarterback. On the second red zone snap, he’s all over Moore. There’s no chance for the quarterback to get him the ball.

At the 1:45 minute mark you’ll note the long, looping pass thrown by the quarterback that falls incomplete. Watch after the ball drops to the ground. Nelson comes in and absolute dumps Moore on his backside. It’s a bit unnecessary but fun nonetheless. Seattle has missed some of that attitude recently.

The only reception Moore completed came on a play where Nelson forces him to re-route and he steps out of bounds before illegally catching the pass. At about the 3:20 mark he has blanket coverage on Moore downfield and plays the ball to force an incompletion.

He pitched a shut-out against one of the most athletic, tough and highly rated receivers in the draft.

In total Nelson had 21 passes defended in 2017 — the most in college football. He recorded 42 for his career. It’s very clear why. His footwork is efficient, you don’t see him fooled on double moves. He’s just sticky. It all looks so effortless. He mirrors receivers, tracks the route, doesn’t make many mistakes and when the ball’s in the air he’ll compete.

He’s thick set and physical. He looks like a tremendous prospect to handle slot-corner duties. In an emergency even a team like Seattle could probably trust him to put in a shift outside.

You also wonder if they see him as a possible safety project. After all, he’s so far away from Seattle’s prototype cornerback. They simply don’t draft guys like this. His size, composure, timing and reading of the game could fit a move to free safety. He plays with the competitiveness of a Seahawks safety, that’s for sure.

He didn’t do the agility tests at the combine but he took part at the Wisconsin pro-day:

There’s some quickness on show here:

Nelson received a second round grade from the draft committee but he’s being projected to last a little longer than that.

Jacobs, Jamerson and Nelson are three names to keep an eye on here. All three are highly athletic, physical and competitive. They’re winners. And the Seahawks are going to need to draft some young players like this for their defense.

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Free agency thoughts & open thread

March 14th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

If anything breaks regarding the Seahawks, I’ll post some thoughts. Feel free to use this as an open thread too.

Here’s what we know:

— So the first outside free agent to join the Seahawks is former #6 overall pick Barkevious Mingo. He’s had a disappointing career so far, struggling with the Browns before underwhelming stints in New England and Indianapolis. That said, they needed to add an EDGE with some outside rush ability. Mingo ran a 4.58 at his combine with a 1.57 split. That’s in Seattle’s ball-park for the LEO position. With very limited LEO options in the draft, this might be a necessary project. It appears to be a cheap contract. The potential has always been there with Mingo. Now the Seahawks will be tasked with trying to turn him into a role player. He turns 28 in October.

Mingo is also the fourth top-15 pick they’ve signed from the underwhelming 2013 draft. Luke Joeckel (#2), Dion Jordan (#3), Barkevious Mingo (#6) and Sheldon Richardson (#13) were all acquired by Seattle in the last twelve months.

It’s difficult to identify LEO pass rushers in this draft class. Even Harold Landry might not be a fit. He ran a 4.65 which is slower than they’ve looked for in the past and he has sub-33 inch arms (they’ve never drafted a defensive lineman with sub-33 inch arms). Leon Jacobs at Wisconsin and Lorenzo Carter at Georgia might be their two main options. Aside from that? It’s really limited. Adding Mingo doesn’t prevent them from drafting either Jacobs or Carter.

— DeShawn Shead has signed a $3.5m one-year deal with the Detroit Lions. It can grow to $6.5m based on incentives. That’s a nice deal for Shead, one the Seahawks were unlikely to match.

— The Seahawks tendered Dion Jordan as a RFA. They gave Justin Coleman a second round tender. Unsurprisingly, Thomas Rawls and Mike Davis were not tendered. J.D. McKissic, Quinton Jefferson and Branden Jackson were given ERFA tenders.

— The Seahawks met with Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He is also meeting with the Jaguars despite the fact they’ve agreed a deal with Niles Paul. According to Ian Rapoport, Seferian-Jenkins has concluded his meeting with Seattle and is now heading to Florida:

— Aside from Niles Paul, blocking tight end Virgil Green (formerly of the Broncos) is off the market. He is joining the LA Chargers.

— Ed Dickson, another tight end, is also flying in for a meeting with the Seahawks.

— Ndamukong Suh has been released by the Dolphins. We know he was in Seattle earlier this week but according to Jordan Schultz, is now heading back to Portland. Suh will likely have numerous suitors so if the Seahawks want him, they’ll have to pay up. Apparently they’re showing some interest…

— Jordy Nelson is set to meet with the team following his visit with the Oakland Raiders.

— Earl Thomas updates are few and far between but here’s some info:

Clearly the Seahawks are unwilling to just give Earl Thomas away. It’s not a seller’s market so all signs, at the moment, point to Thomas returning. After all, if teams are only willing to give the Seahawks a third rounder (for example) you might as well play out the contract.

There’s also this:

— Tyrann Mathieu has been released from his contract by Arizona. This might be a situation to monitor regarding Earl Thomas’ future. Mathieu’s next contract could influence any potential negotiations with Thomas — or could even encourage trade talks.

— Quinton Dial, a defensive lineman formerly of San Francisco and Green Bay, will visit with the Seahawks. He’ll also meet with the Lions.

Thomas Rawls appears to be meeting with the Carolina Panthers.

The only reported interest in Sheldon Richardson is this tentative link to the Vikings. It’s early days but is it possible he’s facing the same cold market previously experienced by Dontari Poe a year ago?

Ian Rapoport says there’s been an assumption Richardson would be staying in Seattle:

Tony Pauline says the Seahawks had dinner with Natrell Jamerson and Nick Nelson at the Wisconsin pro-day. Jamerson was one of the picks in our recent seven-round Seahawks mock.

— The number of available veteran running backs is thinning. Jonathan Stewart has joined the Giants, Carlos Hyde is moving to Cleveland and the 49ers signed Jerick McKinnon. It seems like the Seahawks will wait this position out until the draft, although they did meet with DeMarco Murray.

— Justin Pugh is meeting with the Arizona Cardinals while according to Mike Silver, the Rams, 49ers and Browns are trying to sign Terrelle Pryor.

 

Tuesday notes: Thoughts on early free agency

March 13th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

The wide receiver market is red hot

Allen Robinson (Chicago), Sammy Watkins (Kansas City), Paul Richardson (Washington) and Marqise Lee (Jacksonville) have all agreed new contracts already. This is possibly indicative of a mediocre draft at the receiver position.

All received hefty salaries too:

Allen Robinson — 3 years, $42m
Sammy Watkins — 3 years, $48m
Paul Richardson — 5 years, $40m
Marqise Lee — 4 years, $38m

The Seahawks were never going to get involved at these prices.

Where does it leave them though?

After all, they’re losing Richardson to the Redskins.

It might not mean all that much. They still have Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett. They’re only a year removed from drafting Amara Darboh in round three plus they just traded for Marcus Johnson. They also seem to be high on David Moore.

When the Seahawks were at their peak in 2013, the main receivers were Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse. Sidney Rice picked up an injury during the season.

If they’re going back to that formula, an expensive receiver isn’t necessarily required.

All of the names above would’ve compromised their compensatory picks in 2019. There’s also a degree of risk. Robinson is still recovering from a torn ACL, Watkins has underwhelmed so far while Lee and Richardson have missed many games through injury.

What they really need is some extra speed (possibly provided by Marcus Johnson) and a big target. We’ll have to see what the market is for Terrelle Pryor. Michael Floyd could be a cost-effective alternative.

Jimmy Graham heading to Green Bay

Graham leaving was expected. The Seahawks spent two years trying to make him a complete tight end, then finally caved and used him as a touchdown maker in the red zone.

The Packers have struggled to get the most out of veteran tight ends. We’ll see if Graham is any different.

Will the Seahawks sign a veteran tight end?

It feels like a priority. Austin Seferian-Jenkins reportedly wants to play for the Seahawks. It’s also a greater need. Nick Vannett and Tyrone Swoopes are the only contracted tight ends on the roster.

Seferian-Jenkins would cost them a comp pick. It’d cancel out one of the departures — Paul Richardson, Jimmy Graham or Sheldon Richardson (assuming Richardson also leaves). They might have to take that on the chin. They’ll need to spend some money.

Here’s the latest:

Will they sign a veteran running back?

They’re meeting with DeMarco Murray. Murray wouldn’t cost them a comp pick next year. Both players were cut. It’s highly likely they will sign a hedge running back at some point — the key is who’s willing to play on a modest deal? Jonathan Stewart is out of the equation though — he’s joining the Giants:

If (when?) the Seahawks sign a running back — it’ll be assumed by many that the position is sorted, or that it’ll allow them to wait in the draft. Perhaps. I suspect it’s more likely it’ll just be insurance or competition. After all, the Saints signed Adrian Peterson and quickly moved on when it emerged Mark Ingram and Alvin Kamara were the two to go with. The Seahawks signing a veteran creates a similar situation with a veteran, a rookie and Chris Carson competing.

Adding to the defensive line also feels like a priority

Re-signing Sheldon Richardson or adding Ndamukong Suh could be the first big move they make. People will have reservations about both players but they’d be very important in Seattle. It’s not a coincidence Bobby Wagner had a career year with a talent like Richardson absorbing blockers.

Why would they spend big money on either?

A year ago when Michael Lombardi first reported the Seahawks were willing to move Richard Sherman, he made this interesting remark:

I think Seattle really thought twice about paying Richard Sherman. They felt they had to when they won the Super Bowl. Now their cap’s kind of a mess and they need to fix it so I think the reason they need to fix it is because they put all that money in the corner position in a defense where, we feel you can draft players that fit that scheme. Seattle did it, they’ve done it over and over again.

The scheme in Seattle allows you to find corners especially size/speed corners of which there’s a bundle of them in this draft that can play deep third of the defense, they’ll tackle and they can play within the scheme.

The Seahawks clearly have confidence in their ability to find cornerbacks on the cheap and fit them into their scheme. They have a proven track record there. And these quotes from Lombardi shed light on why they were asking Sherman to take a pay cut.

So while they’re saving money at that position by cutting Sherman, it might be with the intention of spending more money on the D-line. In the past they brought in Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril. They traded for Sheldon Richardson. They spent high picks on Frank Clark and Malik McDowell.

Now they might be transferring some of the Sherman fund to a different area of the defense.

Will they spend on the offensive line and sign a veteran guard?

Probably only if the price is right. After all, this is an excellent draft for interior O-liners. The options on the market aren’t great either. The Seahawks got burned overpaying for average players a year ago.

What’s happening with Earl Thomas?

During the combine Jason La Canfora suggested he would be traded. Then Ian Rapoport reported Thomas would be staying in Seattle. La Canfora yesterday posted this Tweet:

It’s just his personal hunch rather than a report but it leaves the door open. If Thomas is going to be moved, it’d likely be in the early days of free agency.

Mike Davis wasn’t tendered

According to a report by Brady Henderson. This isn’t a big surprise either. They weren’t likely to give him $1.9m to stay. They can now try and re-sign him on a much cheaper deal.

Google Hangout tonight

I’ll be doing a live Google Hangout later (4pm PST) discussing free agency. I’ll post it at the top of this article. If you have any questions, post them in the comments section. Start the question with ‘GOOGLE HANGOUT’ and it’ll be easier for me to spot.

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Seahawks re-sign Bradley McDougald, Suh next?

March 12th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

This isn’t unexpected news. Bradley McDougald had a productive first season in Seattle. The deal appears to be relatively cheap and McDougald will likely start at strong safety next year, assuming Kam Chancellor isn’t able to make a return.

Of all Seattle’s free agents, McDougald felt like the one most likely to re-sign and the one that would provide the best value. This is a good start to the new league year.

Things seem to be moving now for Seattle. And while they are turning over parts of the roster, this isn’t a franchise known for sitting on its hands. It also became apparent today that Miami is going to cut Ndamukong Suh. At pretty much the same time, Suh posted this video on Twitter:

So Suh is in Seattle. He’s about to be cut. And he’s talking about an ‘exciting day’.

This would make a lot of sense for the Seahawks for a number of reasons. Firstly, it wouldn’t impact their comp pick situation in 2019 because he’s being cut. It’d provide leadership to the defensive line plus an element of intensity.

He’s also not regressing as much as some people believe:

Ndamukong Suh, Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas would be a good looking trio to build a younger defense around.

With McDougald signed and potentially Suh to follow, the next priority might be tight end. Jason La Canfora is reporting interest in Austin Seferian-Jenkins. He’s already turned down two offers from the Jets and might have his heart set on returning to the Pacific North West.

Finding targets and spending some money on offense will likely be a target for Seattle. The tight end position needs help that might not be forthcoming in the draft. They also need to add at receiver and Jacksonville’s Marqise Lee could provide some relative value. There’s also a distinct possibility they’ll add a hedge running back at some point.

If you missed yesterday’s article asking, ‘What are the Seahawks doing?’ I’d recommend checking it out. Hopefully it’ll provide some perspective.

Linebacker 10-yard splits published

The NFL Network didn’t show these during the live of the combine but here are the numbers courtesy of NFL Draft Scout:

Shaquem Griffin — 1.54
Fred Warner — 1.55
Lorenzo Carter — 1.56
Leighton Vander Esch — 1.56
Leon Jacobs — 1.58
Roquan Smith — 1.58
Oren Burks — 1.59
Malik Jefferson — 1.59
Peter Kalambayi — 1.59
Tremaine Edmunds — 1.60
Jerome Baker — 1.62
Micah Kiser — 1.62
Kemoko Turay — 1.62
Josey Jewell — 1.63
Uchenna Nwosu — 1.63
Dorian O’Daniel — 1.64
Matthew Thomas — 1.64
Marquis Haynes — 1.66
Darius Leonard — 1.69
Jeff Holland — 1.71

Here are my takeaways from this…

— Lorenzo Carter fits the athletic profile of a SAM/LEO. He ran the same forty time as Bruce Irvin (4.50), they’re a similar weight (245 vs 250) and height (6-4 vs 6-5) plus their splits are similar (1.55 for Bruce, 1.56 for Carter). They both have 34 inch arms. Irvin jumped a 33.5 inch vertical and a 10-3 broad. Carter actually managed a 36 inch vertical and a 10-10 broad. Irvin ran a sensational 4.03 short shuttle but Carter didn’t do the test at the combine. Even so, they are very similar physically. It’s worth noting, however, Tony Pauline’s recent report that some teams medically red-flagged Carter. There are also scouts in the league who see Carter as an underachiever. There’s no doubting his potential though.

— The split times are another feather in the cap for Wisconsin’s Leon Jacobs. He ran a 4.48 at 6-1 and 246lbs. He also jumped a 34.5 inch vertical and managed a 10-2 broad jump. He’s explosive and fast and also has good length (33.5 inch arms). Jacobs put up 26 reps on the bench press (second only to Malik Jefferson among linebackers). His short shuttle time (4.44) was similar to K.J. Wright’s (4.46). He’s an intense, physical prospect. Now we know he also runs an elite 10-yard split. He could easily be on Seattle’s radar.

— As if Leighton Vander Esch needs any more of a boost. He ran a 1.56 and is a lot heavier than a number of the names on the list above. For example, Shaquem Griffin ran at 227lbs. Vander Esch is only marginally slower (0.02 seconds) over ten yards at 256lbs. In our piece a couple of days ago we highlighted what an exceptional physical talent he is, comparing favourably to the best linebackers in the league. Now we also know he runs an elite 1.56 split. That compares pretty well, of course:

Sean Lee — 1.54
Leighton Vander Esch — 1.56
Anthony Barr — 1.57
Luke Kuechly — 1.57
Telvin Smith — 1.57
Bobby Wagner — 1.57
Jordan Willis — 1.57
Vic Beasley — 1.59
Tyus Bowser — 1.59
Haason Reddick — 1.59
T.J. Watt — 1.59
Lavonte David — 1.60
Von Miller – 1.62
Jamie Collins — 1.64
Thomas Davis — 1.64
Khalil Mack — 1.64
K.J. Wright — 1.66
Shaq Thompson — 1.69

Here’s how he compares specifically to Luke Kuechly:

Forty yard dash
Luke Kuechly — 4.58
Leighton Vander Esch — 4.65

Ten yard split
Luke Kuechly — 1.57
Leighton Vander Esch — 1.57

Short shuttle
Luke Kuechly — 4.12
Leighton Vander Esch — 4.15

Three cone
Luke Kuechly — 6.91
Leighton Vander Esch — 6.88

Vertical jump
Luke Kuechly — 38 inches
Leighton Vander Esch — 39.5 inches

Broad jump
Luke Kuechly — 10-3
Leighton Vander Esch — 10-4

Vander Esch is going to go early in round one.

— Fred Warner was a team captain at BYU and tested well at 6-3 and 236lbs. He jumped a 38.5 inch vertical and ran a 4.28 short shuttle. He also managed a 6.88 three cone. The only average mark was the forty. He ran a 4.64 which isn’t amazing at his size. He more than makes up for it with a 1.55 split. He’s another one to keep an eye on, as is Vanderbilt’s Oren Burks.

The Seahawks have a lot more options at linebacker in this draft compared to a year ago.

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What are the Seahawks doing? Plus Austin Corbett

March 11th, 2018 | Written by Rob Staton

Pete Carroll is staring a challenging off-season right in the eyes

What are the Seahawks doing?

We’re all seeking clarity. Here’s my best attempt at answering some of the big questions we’re all asking at the moment…

Are they giving up on 2018?

It’ll never be about ‘not winning’ for Pete Carroll. Even in 2010 when the Seahawks were a cobbled together bunch of retreads, rejects, journeymen and rookies — Seattle found a way to compete.

Here’s a reminder:

Change has been on the cards. We’ve known that since Mike Silver published his piece in December.

It doesn’t mean, however, that they won’t or can’t be competitive next season.

So how are they going to be competitive? They’re cutting key veterans!

I think they believe if they can fix the running game it will cure a lot of ills. Russell Wilson would get the support he needs on offense and that helps the defense too.

Complete the circle.

This also allows them to challenge as best they can in 2018 while they make some difficult but possibly necessary changes to the roster. Moves that will increase competition and the speed/health of the defense.

That’s all well and good but there’s intent and there’s execution!

As bad as the Seahawks were at times in 2017, they still won nine games and should’ve won more despite playing virtually an entire season without a running game.

When they were able to run the ball, they looked terrific.

Remember the Eagles game in week 13? Seattle defeated the eventual Super Bowl Champions handsomely. Richard Sherman didn’t play. They ran the ball and were balanced. It was one of the few times in 2017 everything clicked together. They were a proper team.

So even as bad as things were last year, they still put together a clear example of what they want to be. It’ll be a lot easier to repeat that performance if they can turn a hopeless running game into a functioning and consistent one in 2018.

Why couldn’t they just fix the run and keep Sherman?

The Seahawks spent spent $93,714,666 on their defense last season, more than any team in the NFL. The split between offensive and defensive spend was 36.37% vs 55.98%.

There needs to be more balance there.

Not only was it an expensive defense, it was an ageing one too. Multiple veteran players suffered key injuries or simply didn’t practise during the week.

Getting cheaper and younger on defense had to be part of the 2018 plan. And that meant difficult decisions had to be made.

But now they have so many holes on defense!

Pete Carroll deserves some benefit of the doubt here. Even last year they found Dion Jordan, Justin Coleman, Bradley McDougald, Shaq Griffin and Naz Jones.

Carroll is a very experienced and proven developer of talent. He gets the best out of people, especially on defense. So here we go again. Let’s see what they can do.

Even if they needed to get younger and cheaper on defense, they won’t be that competitive even if they fix the run!

Any team with a franchise quarterback and a running game will be tough to beat. Any team carrying those two aspects plus a defense led by Bobby Wagner and Earl Thomas will be competitive.

What are they going to spend all this cap space on?

They don’t have to spend it immediately. They can be picky. They have the flexibility to chase the next Sidney Rice, Zach Miller, Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril if they become available in 2018, 2019, 2020 or whenever. The next time a Calais Campbell hits the market, that player might be heading to Seattle.

Their biggest outlay this year might be a veteran blocking tight end, a receiver or a recently cut defensive or offensive lineman. It might be a hedge running back for the draft. They might spend to retain their own, be it Bradley McDougald or Sheldon Richardson.

Rolling cap and protecting comp picks could be the ultimate goal.

So how do they fix the run if they’re not going to just go and spend $14m a year on Andrew Norwell?

Well, this just so happens to be the ideal draft class to fix the running game. The first two rounds will be loaded with talented running backs and interior offensive linemen.

They couldn’t have picked a better year to face this challenge.

I know some people (no names mentioned *cough* *Seahawks Twitter* *cough*) are allergic to talking about the running back position with anything other than pure disdain — but the Seahawks have a great opportunity to get things back on track.

They only have one early pick though! So how are they going to do this?

They’ll need to be creative but that’s fine.

Trading down twice from #18 (initially into the mid-20’s and then possibly down into round two) could net two third round picks. That would give you three picks in the sweet-spot of the draft (R2-3).

Turning #18 into three day-two picks could be their objective. And it’s achievable.

They’d also have much more flexibility if that happened. They could trade down again, trade up if needed. They should be able to land the tools they need to fix the run.

Trade down AGAIN? No thanks!

Well, there aren’t that many legit first round players in the draft this year. I think there are about 10-15. Phil Savage says 20. Either way, the player you take at #18 might not have a significantly higher grade than the player drafted at #35.

The sweet-spot this year, without a doubt, is rounds 2-3.

What about the defense though! Surely they need to spend a high pick there!

Let’s have some names then. Defensive line is often suggested as a must-pick following Michael Bennett’s departure. The options are limited in round one. If you compare Marcus Davenport, Harold Landry and Taven Bryan to Isaiah Wynn, Will Hernandez, Austin Corbett and the running backs (especially players like Ronald Jones II) — good luck convincing anyone a defensive lineman at #18 is a better option.

Vita Vea will go in the top-10. Leighton Vander Esch could go in the top-16 and Derwin James might be off the board too. The defensive options at #18 aren’t likely to be that appealing and they’ll be even thinner if you trade down.

So how exactly do you plan to add to the defense!?

Again, you play to the strength of the draft. It’s quite simple this year. The early round value is at running back, linebacker and the interior offensive line. The later round picks should provide a lot of value on defense in general.

Our seven-round Seahawks mock draft highlighted this. There is plenty of day three talent on defense this year.

So how quickly can they get back to their best?

Atlanta and Philadelphia turned things around pretty quickly. Seattle can do the same. But it starts with fixing the run first and foremost.

Nevada’s Austin Corbett could be Seattle’s first pick in the draft

Austin Corbett should be on our radar

Tony Pauline connected him to the Seahawks during Senior Bowl week, suggesting they could target him in round two.

Considering the Seahawks are likely to trade down from #18 — possibly out of the first round altogether — Corbett is a name to monitor. If they did want to go O-line first after a significant move down, Isaiah Wynn and Will Hernandez might be off the board. Corbett could be a prominent alternative.

Today I spent time watching two of his games from 2017 (vs Boise State, Hawaii) and it’s easy to see why he’s being considered a possible first round pick by some scouts.

Watching him leaves you wondering whether Corbett has done any martial arts. Often he’ll judo-throw a defensive lineman off balance. he generates a lot of power in his hips. In the two games I kept seeing this same move time and time again and he tried it at the Senior Bowl when lining up at center for this rep:

He also has a chop he likes to bring in which is a thing of beauty. Hand-technique is vital in the trenches:

He also has a great punch, jolting blockers off balance and frequently stoning them at the point of attack. Here he is versus likely top-25 pick Marcus Davenport:

He’s very willing to progress to the second level and Corbett combo blocks as well as anyone else in this class. He appeared very comfortable dealing with stunts and twists:

Corbett is physical and plays with the attitude you want to see on the O-line. Need evidence?

That’s him dominating Marcus Davenport again, by the way.

Like Wynn he’s extremely competent and doesn’t get flustered. It’s difficult to beat him. It’s incredibly difficult to find obvious flaws. And that’s the one thing that separates this class of lineman compared to previous years. Even the guys like Wynn and Corbett who played left tackle in college are barely ever beaten off the edge. They combat speed, get into position and have the kind of hand technique and recovery to sustain blocks. You’re not looking at highly athletic, raw projects and seeing the obvious areas where they can improve. This is rare in 2018 but they genuinely look like plug-in-and-play O-liners.

This isn’t the cleanest rep against Ogbonnia Okoronkwo in the Senior Bowl. His footwork isn’t particularly smooth but he just finds a way to get it done. Decent use of the hands, eventually gets into position. No way through for Okoronkwo:

You can find tape where Mike McGlinchey is beaten, for example. Watching Wynn and Corbett — it barely ever happens. They are both incredibly difficult to beat. There’s no rhyme or reason to it either. Neither are sensational athletes or particularly long or big. They’re both adequately sized. Decent but not elite physical traits. There aren’t many of these players around in college football but they’re just really, really good at blocking. In both the passing and running game.

Being extremely competent might seem like you’re dabbing a prospect with faint praise. Maybe so for other positions but not necessarily on the O-line.

This might be important too — he’s very durable. He played more than 600 snaps in college, starting 49 of 50 games at Nevada. He missed only one game because of an ankle injury and that came in his Freshman year.

Corbett’s not the most explosive lineman. He only managed an 8-10 broad and a 28.5 inch vertical. His 5.15 forty isn’t bad but Joel Bitonio, who he’s often compared to, ran a 4.97 and also had better explosive testing results (e.g. 32 inch vertical).

He did do well in the 10-yard split though. His 1.76 was only bettered by Kolton Miller (1.67), Brian O’Neill (1.70) and Joseph Noteboom (1.72). Miller, O’Neill and Noteboom all ran sub-5.00 forty’s. Joel Bitonio might’ve run a quicker forty but Corbett beat him in the split (1.76 vs 1.78).

It’s also worth noting that one of the other players to run a 1.76 split was 327lbs Will Hernandez. Both Corbett and Hernandez ran 1.76 splits and 5.15 forty’s (Hernandez is 21lbs heavier though).

Corbett excelled in the short shuttle, running a 4.50. That’s similar to Bitonio’s 4.44 and better than Garett Bolles’ 4.55 and Jack Conklin’s 4.57. It’s the eighth best time in the last three years and put him in the top five for O-liners at the 2018 combine:

James Daniels — 4.40
Joseph Noteboom — 4.44
Kolton Miller — 4.49
Austin Corbett — 4.50
Brian O’Neill — 4.50

He showed off his agility during the combine drills:

As we’ve often discussed, this is a very strong looking group of interior linemen this year. Quenton Nelson could go in the top-five. Wynn and Hernandez likely sneak into the back-end of round one and Billy Price could still get into that range too. Frank Ragnow and Austin Corbett won’t be too far behind. I’m yet to study James Daniels the Iowa center.

It won’t be a surprise if teams look to trade into the last 5-7 picks of the first round to get at the interior O-line class or the group of running backs. There’s going to be a ton of talent at those two positions leaving the board between 25-45.

It won’t be a total shocker either if Corbett sneaks into round one. He’s probably more likely to be an early R2 but listen — this is possible. He’s really good.

If the Seahawks want to go OL-RB — and if Wynn and Hernandez are off the board after they’ve traded down — Corbett could be a target. It might surprise a few people on draft day but it’s possible.

It’s a shame they don’t have their native second round pick to be able to say with some confidence they can tap into the interior O-line and running back classes early.

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