We’ve talked recently about Seattle’e estimated $37m in cap space for 2017. There is an opportunity, for the first time in a few years, for the Seahawks to add a significant contributor from another team.
That said, here are some points that are worth considering:
1. With the cap rising, other teams also have more to spend
Seattle’s estimated cap space for 2017 puts them 20th only in the NFL per spotrac. So 19 other teams will have more to spend. And while it might be difficult for the Cleveland Browns at #1 ($108m in cap space) to attract free agents, here are some of the other teams with major money available:
#1 Cleveland ($108m)
#2 San Francisco ($87m)
#3 Tampa Bay ($84m)
#4 Tennessee ($74m)
#5 New England ($72m)
#6 Washington ($67m)
#7 Jacksonville ($67m)
#8 Carolina ($63m)
#9 Chicago ($63m)
#10 Indianapolis ($60m)
Teams like San Francisco could be aggressive in free agency as they try and rejuvenate the roster and avoid a repeat of 2-14. Jacksonville were big spenders a year ago. Contenders like New England and Carolina could make a splash — while teams like Washington, Tampa Bay, Tennessee and Indianapolis will feel they can take a step forward with a strong off-season.
Only New England can compare to Seattle in terms of track record and an opportunity to win a Super Bowl — but players will realise that the likes of Carolina and Tampa Bay aren’t a million miles away. If it becomes a battle of finance, the Seahawks might get priced out.
2. Teams have room to retain the big names
If the Bengals wish to keep Kevin Zeitler, they have $47m to spend. If the Cardinals really like Calais Campbell, they have $39m to spend. If the Panthers want to retain Kawann Short, they have $63m to spend.
In the case of Zeitler and Short, the franchise tag is very much in play. A franchise tag at defensive tackle in 2016 was worth $13.6m. Something similar in 2017 would be a bargain for Short considering Mo Wilkerson’s average salary is $17.2m a year.
The Bengals, a notoriously thrifty organisation, might be less willing to pay a $13-14m O-line tender for Zeitler — but with the highest paid guard in the NFL (Kelechi Osemele) earning $11.7m a year and those just below getting around $10m, they have a nice benchmark to begin negotiations.
3. Who could be available?
Calais Campbell and Arizona will be an interesting case. This year his cap hit was $15.25m and he earned $14.75m in 2015 and $11.25m in 2014. He’s a similar age to Michael Bennett with a similar reputation — and it doesn’t appear Bennett will touch those types of numbers on his new contract.
Will Campbell appreciate the situation and work on a reduced pay extension to stay with Arizona? Possibly. He might also wish to see if he can continue to earn around $14-15m on the open market, considering the way D-line salaries have ballooned in recent years.
That doesn’t mean he’d get that type of money as a free agent — but if it gets that far, teams will have the opportunity to lure him away from Arizona even if it’s for $10-12m instead of $14-15m. With the way Campbell played in 2016 — he’s worth every penny of the salary he received this year.
Bruce Arians stated in his end of season press conference they will franchise tag Chandler Jones if they can’t agree a contract extension. That will be costly.
The Ravens might make a business decision on right tackle Ricky Wagner. They only have $19m to spend in 2017 and will likely prioritise defensive tackle Brandon Williams. It’s possible Williams eats up a large portion of that $19m — making it likely Wagner reaches free agency.
The Kansas City Chiefs have a bit of a cap problem. They currently have around $4m to spend in 2017. That will rise when they cut backup quarterback Nick Foles to save $10.75m. Cutting injury plagued Jamaal Charles saves them a further $7m.
That would create enough room to sign Eric Berry to a contract extension. They would have to make further cuts to try and retain defensive tackle Dontari Poe.
4. As the cap rises, so will contracts
Remember a year ago when every fan base was discussing the possibility of adding Olivier Vernon? He was considered a value option. He had 7.5 sacks in 2015, had 6.5 the year before. Maybe you could get him on a Cliff Avril type deal for a couple of seasons?
Vernon eventually agreed a contract with the Giants worth $17m a year.
Kelechi Osemele’s big contract in Oakland showed this wasn’t just a D-line craze. Teams have more money to spend than ever with the cap increasing rapidly every year. It’ll be interesting to see if the market steadies in 2017 or continues to boom. Who’d bet against another big pay rise for those available? And will that price out the Seahawks at the top end of the market?
5. What could be an alternative for Seattle?
Veteran trades can eliminate the need to negotiate a contract. The Seahawks dealt for Jimmy Graham knowing what his salary was for the next three years. They did sign a contract extension with Percy Harvin — but he was towards the end of his rookie deal.
We’ve seen this team be creative before. Would the Niners be willing to allow Joe Staley to move on as rumoured a few weeks ago? His deal is worth $11m in 2017 but drops to $7.7m in 2018 and 2019. If the Panthers draft one of Leonard Fournette or Dalvin Cook with the #8 overall pick — would they consider dealing Jonathan Stewart? His cap hit is $8.25m in 2017 but drops to $2.5m in 2018.
Several big name prospects declared for the draft in the last 24 hours including:
Gareon Conley (CB, Ohio State)
Patrick Mahomes (QB, Texas Tech)
Samaje Perine (RB, Oklahoma)
John Ross (WR, Washington)
Budda Baker (S, Washington)
Elijah Qualls (DT, Washington)
Sidney Jones (CB, Washington)
T.J. Watt (LB, Wisconsin)
Quincy Wilson (CB, Florida)
Derek Barnett (DE, Tennessee)
By the time you’ve read this there’ll be others to add to the list. It’s that time of year, with only the National Championship game left to play in the college season.
Two players to keep an eye on during the draft process are David Sharpe (T, Florida) and David Njoku (TE, Miami). Sharpe has quite an interesting frame and played well at times this year. We highlighted him at the start of the season as someone who could rise amid a poor overall offensive tackle class. With so little depth at the position this year, Sharpe has a chance to really bolster his stock with a good combine.
Njoku meanwhile is an absolute freak. Until his decision I didn’t know he was intending to turn pro. He’s a big time athlete at 6-4 and 245lbs and could be a winner at the combine. This highlights video will give you a flavour of what he’s capable of:
The Seahawks might not be in the market for another tight end having drafted Nick Vannett in 2016 and with Jimmy Graham still under contract. They could also try and re-sign Luke Willson. Yet Njoku looks destined to have an impact at the next level and could be the next big ‘move’ TE. He might even get some first round love by the end of the draft process.
One final name to monitor is Bradley Chubb at NC State. Earlier today I watched Louisville’s blow out victory against NC State from a few weeks ago. Despite the one-sided scoreline Chubb did as good a job as anyone corralling Lamar Jackson in the open field and had a sack working the interior rush. He’s the cousin of Nick Chubb — and we know he’s a special athlete.
Chubb’s 21.5 TFL’s in 2016 is second all time at NC State — only beaten by Mario Williams’ final year before becoming the #1 pick in 2006. At 6-4 and 275lbs — he has inside/out rusher potential but also experience playing linebacker.
In a loaded year for defensive ends and EDGE rushers, Chubb might provide some value.
“Seattle’s run game is shaky, the quarterback is beat up, the offensive line is poor and the defense hasn’t been able to pitch shutouts without Earl Thomas. They have been exposed. Earl was the eraser for a lot of things on the defensive side. You have ‘Sherm’ [Richard Sherman] and [Bobby] Wagner and K.J. Wright as the main guys, but it is not the same defense, even at home.”
Missing Earl Thomas has been significant and could be one of the things addressed this off-season (better depth at safety). It’s perhaps unlikely the Seahawks will take a safety with their first pick given their collection of needs — but it does lend credence to the feeling they might target someone like Shalom Luani earlier than most are currently projecting.
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.
The article suggests the Vikings have to decide on Adrian Peterson’s future at the end of the season because he’s due a bloated salary. If he’s released, should the Seahawks consider adding him to get some star power in the backfield? Would it help repair the running game in 2017?
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.
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