After a long 24-hours of negotiating, the Seahawks today signed former Raiders tight end Zach Miller for a deal believed to be worth $35m with $17m guaranteed. That’s a better contract than Antonio Gates is receiving in San Diego. It’s another ambitious move by the Seahawks front office.
I noted yesterday that I think Miller upgrades the position. That’s not a slur on John Carlson, I just happen to believe Miller is capable of becoming one of the best tight end’s in the league. He’s got a Jason Witten level of potential and it wouldn’t surprise me if he was the team’s leading receiver next season. He’s a playmaker. He’ll find holes in coverage and exploit them. He’s capable of breaking off a run after the catch – unusual for the position. He has an 86-yard reception. He’s not an incredible blocker, but then the Seahawks invested a lot of money in the offensive line so that the tight end could be more of a threat as a receiver. He’s only 25 and doesn’t turn 26 until December.
This is just another weapon to add to a rapidly growing list. Fans and the media are starting to look at this offense with a little fear (finally). They may not admit it, but the fear is there. You can feel it among the other NFC West teams. The people mocking the Tavaris Jackson signing are suddenly wondering if his life has been made easy enough to succeed. Sidney Rice… Mike Williams… Zach Miller… Marshawn Lynch… a developing offensive line. Sounds good to me.
Rotoworld’s Evan Silver tweeted this shortly after the Miller signing was announced:
Seahawks creating a nice foundation for Luck or Barkley last year. Zach Miller & Sid Rice both only 25 years old.
I think it’s fair to say that the plan for this team is not to be in position to draft either. How else can you describe all these positive moves in free agency? Let’s be realistic here, even if we are fans of the team - this Seahawks offense is not going to be anywhere close to being bad enough to draft first overall, which is what it will take to draft Andrew Luck. If Matt Barkley performs as well as expected this year at USC, he could be the second overall pick. Again, the Seahawks are not going to be in that region.
A lot of people talk about the ‘brutal’ schedule (I have used that word myself) but when you actually break it down, is it really that bad? Six games against a weak NFC West. Games against Washington, Cincinnati, Cleveland and Dallas. That’s nine games there that don’t scare me, how about you? Tougher games against Philadelphia, Baltimore and Atlanta are all at home – and we saw what home field advantage can do in last season’s playoffs. Seattle travels to Chicago again, where they won in the regular season last year before being pummelled in the playoffs. The other two games are particularly daunting at Pittsburgh and the New York Giants.
There are a lot of tough aspects to that schedule, but it’s far from the mission impossible ‘road to Luck’ some people believe. Right now I wouldn’t be surprised if they won five or six games, which would be mediocre. Would it be a total shocker if they won eight or nine instead? Can they go 4-2 in the NFC West again and beat Washington, Cincinnati and Cleveland? Sure – and that’s seven wins, as many as they had last season. Can they win another at home to reach eight wins? Why not?
The reason for this level of measured optimism (notice I’m not projecting a ridiculous 10-12 wins) is purely down to the offense. I’m not saying it’s finished article or completely ready just yet. However, if you had a quarterback with any kind of reputation on this roster - would people be talking about the Seahawks as a dark horse in the NFC? Absolutely.
And really that’s the only thing holding back anyone from making that leap of faith. Tavaris Jackson and/or Charlie Whitehurst won’t be able to complain about a lack of weapons next season. This is a fantastic opportunity for a quarterback to make their mark without a high level of expectation. You know what? Maybe Jackson has enough at his disposal to actually, you know, succeed? Is that really so bold a suggestion?
Although quarterback won’t necessarily be the final piece (the Seahawks still need more on the defensive line and possibly the secondary), if the front office does opt to make a big QB splash in next years draft – whoever they take will be coming into and offense with a lot of talent hitting it’s prime.
A final point for today - what happens now with John Carlson? That’s the big question many people are wondering. Cameron Morrah played well when called into duty last year and is still young and growing. Anthony McCoy had first round level talent at USC and fell only because of character concerns. Both players are cheaper and younger than Carlson and more likely to accept supporting duties alongside Miller.
Carlson’s contract expires next year and with today’s big splash, it seems unlikely he’ll return. Do you try to deal him now knowing he’ll return nothing in the off season? Or do you try to find a role for him alongside Miller?
I’m torn on this one, because I believe Carlson is in that grey area of being a luxury as a backup but not quite someone you make a focal point of the offense (see: Miller signing). I would love to witness McCoy get some action this year and see Morrah’s role expanded if possible. Holding onto Carlson if a deal can be done may be unnecessary.
Even so, what can his value possibly be? Former first round pick Greg Olsen (who is younger than Carlson) made Chicago only a third round pick when he was recently traded to Carolina. I suspect you’d get little more than a 5th rounder for Carlson considering how dry the tight end market has been to this point.
John Clayton is still banging the Osi Umenyiora drum, suggesting the Seahawks could trade Carlson to New York with a draft pick for the pass rusher. It just doesn’t seem like the kind of move this team would make. Umenyiora is approaching 30 and would command a huge contract. He’s not young and hitting his peak and his better days may be in the past. Umenyiora is the kind of player I’d spend money on in free agency or invest a token late rounder, because there could be an easy get out down the line. However, spending something like a third rounder and John Carlson to acquire him would make little sense for a team that is still rebuilding.
Clayton also touted Seattle would lead the race for Ray Edwards, yet they seemingly showed little interest before he signed for the Falcons.
Besides, with the improvements made on offense – the Seahawks may need all of their 2012 picks to make that next ambitious move – trading up the board next April to get that franchise defining quarterback. The final piece perhaps of this offensive jigsaw. The thing that pushes this offense towards elite.
John Boyle has a Tweet containing Pete Carroll’s view on the ‘John Carlson conundrum’. Carroll questions anyone who doesn’t think there’s a role for both Zach Miller and Carlson in the team. This is exactly what I would say if a.) I did indeed have a plan for John Carlson within the offense or b.) wanted to try and drive up his price for a potential trade.