Bold statement in the title? Perhaps. However, I truly believe the Seahawks are three key pieces away from being a contender in the NFC. Let me explain…
For starters, you don’t need to be a dynasty to win the weak NFC West. If you are solid, consistent and good at home – you’ll win the conference. The fact you have the opportunity to play six games against NFC West opponents also helps in terms of playoff seeding. If you’re in the post season regularly, you’re a contender. If the Seahawks are playing playoff games at home, even more so.
I think this off-season has been a unmitigated success so far. I’m not a ‘homer’ who backs every decision this team makes, far from it. Neither am I overly critical, but certainly I would like to be considered a realist. I felt the Seahawks had to move on at quarterback and rather than assume a 36-year-old often injured Matt Hasselbeck was far better than any other option, I think the Seahawks made the right choice to at least try and turn over a new page. This team is not building around Hasselbeck or even a quarterback with his current skill set. I understand the popularity he enjoyed and deserved in Seattle, but let’s be brutally honest here – Matt’s reputation and general ‘great guy’ personality is the only thing separating him from other ageing (and struggling) quarterbacks like Donovan McNabb.
I’m a big proponent of the receiver position and feel it’s vastly underrated by fans who clamour for ‘building in the trenches’ as the only way to success. I don’t mean you can’t build a team with strong line play, but looking at recent Super Bowl teams like Pittsburgh, Green Bay, Arizona, Indianapolis – none of these teams had the kind of elite line Seattle enjoyed in XL. There are many ways to skin a cat – so the saying goes – and that is true in the NFL. Playmakers compliment an offensive line just as much as an offensive line gives the playmakers the opportunity to produce.
As it happens the Seahawks have tackled both areas. The offensive line is now one of the most expensive in the league as not many teams will start two recent first round picks at tackle, a free agent guard who was a former #2 overall pick, a center drafted in the second round and a right guard drafted in the third after a move down from round two.
That is some serious stock spent on your offensive line.
But the signing of Sidney Rice was equally as vital in my view, as was the re-signing of Mike Williams and Ben Obomanu, the drafting of Golden Tate and the Marshawn Lynch trade. Playmakers are vital. You need someone who will draw coverage and make a defense think twice about stacking the box. You need someone who can stretch the field. You need someone who can be a reliable security blanket who you KNOW is going to catch several passes a game. The Seahawks haven’t had that for many years and without Mike Holmgren running his precision offense that generated the numbers, they needed a big time receiver.
Rice will be 25 in September – coinciding with the time he should be hitting his prime. He has all the tools - except perhaps blistering speed – to be an elite receiver. His presence will not only aid the much desired improvement in the running game, he’ll open up a lot more opportunities for the likes of Williams and Tate. Was the price high for Sidney Rice? Yes, but I’d rather gamble on salary than draft stock and Rice cost absolutely nothing in terms of picks.
Brandon Mebane appears close to agreeing terms with the Seahawks, filling a gigantic hole (literally and figuratively) in the defensive interior. Losing Mebane would make little sense for a franchise hoping to build around players reaching their best years at the right age so it’s a good sign he will be staying in Seattle, albeit probably at a premium price.
Suddenly a team with no key players, nothing to make an opposition team fearful… actually has quite a few pieces to the puzzle. Due to this belief, you suddenly want more. When Seattle’s name suddenly cropped up regarding Nnamdi Asomugha - I felt myself dreaming of an elite addition to the defense. Many fans started to talk about Vince Young believing he could offer more than Tavaris Jackson or Charlie Whitehurst at quarterback. Even if they hadn’t necessarily noticed, I think Seahawks fans were getting their hopes up – including those who were very disappointed following Hasselbeck’s departure.
This brings me onto the three areas I think need to be filled for us to realistically believe in this team – not just in the NFC West, but in the NFC.
The Seahawks did the right thing moving on from Matt Hasselbeck in my view, but nobody can hide behind the fact that the current two quarterbacks on the roster have major question marks hanging over them. Maybe one of Jackson or Whitehurst grabs this opportunity and runs with it? We’ll find out soon enough.
Even so, the situation remains unresolved as of today in terms of filling a long term need that should’ve been addressed ages ago. People point to next year’s draft and certainly I have some optimism for Andrew Luck, Matt Barkley, Landry Jones, Austin Davis and Kirk Cousins. The rest of the class? Not so much.
Can something still be done this summer? I’m not going to rule it out. I really enjoyed this piece by ESPN’s Mike Salk almost imploring Mike Brown to trade Carson Palmer. Lots of people have slammed the door shut on a potential trade this year. Listen – there have been negotiations on a trade between the teams. Palmer IS Pete Carroll’s #1 option. Some took smug delight (heaven knows why) in the press conference this week where Brown simply reiterated what he’s said all along as if this time it was particularly defining. He will trade Palmer. Maybe it will be next year? Maybe it will be five weeks into the season? Yes Mike Brown wants to make his point, but if he gets a deal he likes now…
The Bengals have big needs. If you want to try and solve one of those needs, one option is a trade. The Bengals have been bystanders in free agency, losing their top free agent Jonathan Joseph and trading Chad Johnson. Putting Palmer on the ‘did not show’ list won’t help them make up the cap limit but trading him for a veteran will. If you’re trying to drive a hard bargain, then reiterating a stance of ‘no deal’ via a much publicised press conference is one way to do it. If the Seahawks want a quarterback who can still get it done in the NFL, who can add veteran leadership and be an excellent bridge option to the future, then put together a package that will get this done. If it creates other holes at the same time, well isn’t that what free agency is for?
Perhaps next year’s draft will provide the answer instead, but it’s an area that will be addressed.
Chris Clemons had an excellent year rushing the passer in 2010 and will be the teams top LEO this year by the looks of things. Keeping Mebane and adding Alan Branch improves the quality/depth ratio on the defensive line but with Raheem Brock in limbo, the Seahawks need to see what else is out there.
Ray Edwards is unsigned and Osi Umenyiora could be traded. The Seahawks were linked to both before free agency began, but haven’t been mentioned in relation to that pair since the lockout ended. The LEO position is designed for sack production and Pete Carroll may believe it’s an area that doesn’t require major free agency dollars. Even so, can you imagine a line with another proven pass rusher included?
Beyond Edwards and Umenyiora (and it’s important to remember both have played alongside other very talented players in Minnesota and New York) there aren’t a ton of alternatives. However, either would fit comfortably into the rotation, they have the right size and skill set. Can a deal be done? Who knows. This may be an area that gets the treatment in the future, but there are options open for the Seahawks to explore now if cap room allows.
*Update* Ray Edwards agreed to join the Atlanta Falcons today.
Marcus Trufant will be 31 in December and hasn’t reproduced the form that earned him a Pro-Bowl selection in 2007 and a fat new contract. Injuries have played a part, but at times he’s been a liability in coverage and has become prone to penalties. A better defensive line and improved T.O.P. from the offense would help, as would greater support in the secondary. Trufant has been flanked predominantly by Kelly Jennings the last few years and could line up across from untested sophomore Walter Thurmond this season.
Eric Wright, Jonathan Joseph and seemingly Nnamdi Asomugha are out of contention in free agency – but Antonio Cromartie remains available. For all his criticisms, he’s a good starting corner in this league who matches the size criteria set out by the Seahawks. He likely won’t return to New York if they sign Asomugha. Of course, having invested a lot in the secondary during the most recent draft (albeit with later round picks) the Seahawks may be happy to give their young guys a chance to compete and ultimately start.
Is a combination of a Palmer trade, defensive end signing and cornerback addition too much to ask from this single free agency? Almost certainly. It’s Madden ’12 territory. Pipe dreams. If they find a way to pull it off in the next 12 months though, then teams are going to start giving the Seahawks a lot more respect.