Zach Miller signs, Seahawks offense on the brink

August 2nd, 2011 | Written by Rob Staton

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.

***UPDATE***

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.

34 Responses to “Zach Miller signs, Seahawks offense on the brink”

  1. Your Mom says:

    How nice would it be to insert Palmer into this equation. I know this is a dead horse but Damn that would be nice.

    • ba_edwards24 says:

      I was just thinking about that to. Woulda been sweet. I am scared that we win the NFC West, pick in the 20s, and can’t trade up to get a franchise QB. I wouldn’t be happy with Cousins or Rob’s boy Austin Davis; I want one of the top 3 guys, possibly Tannehill with an exceptional season. We’d likely need to give up 2 firsts and 2 seconds, similar to the ATL-CLE deal to get into franchise QB range from the 20s. Also if Barkley stays in school, the price goes up exponentially. The price may even be higher now that top 10 picks are cheaper. Risky to go all-in on this year’s QB class as PCJS have done, but our team is better than it was a week ago. That’s really all you can ask for.

      • Rob says:

        It’s going to be so interesting to monitor Matt Barkley, because if he didn’t declare that changes the situation so much. Landry Jones potentially becomes hot property for trades.

        • ba_edwards24 says:

          I wonder if Pete could convince him to come out if he’s on the fence. Remember how Locker almost came out in 2010 because of PC? Super interesting. It would seem to be illegal (tampering w/e) to persuade Barkley to come out, but there are ways. We also need teams with possible QBOTFs to get the top picks. For instance if SF, CIN, DEN, CLE and MIN are all picking in the top 10, a QB like Barkley or Jones is more likely to fall out, or atleast they are willing trade candidates. If OAK, BUF, WAS, or MIA pick in the top 10, they are taking the best QB available and not willing to trade. Interesting how the draft is so much luck.

  2. Finnian says:

    I would not be against trading a high number of picks to get either Luck or Barkley. I mean, after QB and CB what other positions do we need to upgrade? Maybe another passrusher? This team has gone from one with countless needs to one with only a few pieces away from contending for a Superbowl.

  3. Your Mom says:

    Based on the youth of the OL it probably makes sense to go with a T Jax type. It won’t make for a ton of wins this year but the offense will grow in 2011 and a QB will be added in 2012

    • Rob says:

      A very fair point. TJ may not be a Pro Bowler, but neither are you going to be terrified your young franchise passer takes some hits as that line grows together.

  4. hawksfan33 says:

    Carlson is as good as gone! i dont buy it when pete says that they ahave a plan for him in the offense. Lets get real, a draft pick is going to be more valuable to the seahawks in their future Super Bowl ambitions then having John Carlson for one probably meaningless year. Im not saying the seahawks cant make the playoff but the super bowl is not within reach this year. we arent going to give Carlson a contract next year so now is the time to get value for him.

    • Rugby Lock says:

      What about trading Carlson and a pick to the Iggles for Asante Samuel?

      • Rock says:

        NO! Asante Samuel is 30 and at 5-10 too small for the Seahawk secondary. We have Kelly Jennings to cover the little guys and are collecting bigger, younger CB’s.

  5. LouieLouie says:

    Considering the activity in free agency, I haven’t heard or read any more of these (so called) experts lambasting the Seahawks’ first round pick. If the O-Line begins to gel by mid-season, maybe T-Jack can become a “solid” QB. That may be all that the Hawks need; a decent QB, not necessarily a pro bowler.

  6. Ivotuk says:

    T Jax will have the most talent he has ever played with in this years Seahawks and he is much more experienced than he was in 2008. I predict a 59% completion rate and a 1.5 to 1 TD to INT ratio this season based in part on the team around him, but more specifically on the coaching he will receive.

  7. Jeff says:

    It seems so obvious, I cannot believe it’s not happening…. three way QB trade to solve 3 teams QB issues:

    Seattle, trades QB Whitehurst to Denver, Denver trades QB Orton to Cincy, Cincy trades QB Palmer to Seattle.

    Why?
    Denver needs to get rid of Orton, wants to go with Tebow, and will need a back-up, so can use Whitehurst. Denver will need another player(s) or draft pick(s) to make this happen, as they otherwise lose the trade.

    Cincy gets a starter in Orton to mentor rookie QB Dalton, gets rid of Palmer. This would probably be a fair trade straight up, if not, add draft picks or players.

    Seattle gets QB Palmer, pair him with T Jackson. T Jackson may have the early QB advantage knowing the offense, but Palmer will eventually become the starter. Then Palmer can mentor a draft pick next year. Seattle would “win” in a swap of these 2 QB’s, so needs to give up players (Carlson? Curry?) or draft picks to balance it out and make it happen.

    These deals never happen in the NFL, though, only in baseball and basketball.

  8. Christon says:

    Love your take on T-jack and I also believe that he has a chance to succeed. Thanks for staying optimistic while not guaranteeing a twelve win season or something crazy. Great article.

  9. Your Mom says:

    Am I the only one who isn’t very excited about giving up a #2 for Osi? Seems like a lot to pay for an aging, oft injured player. You get pretty close with R. Brock and it costs you nothing.

    • AlexHawk says:

      No your not a 2nd for Osi is way to much and as Rob was saying I cant see the seahawks investing in an aging player with the emphasis on getting younger. If anyone does give a 2nd for Osi they are making a mistake I would give no more than a 5th and Carlson and would prefer to get Samuel in(although that might cost more).

  10. Don says:

    The Seahawks have got to find a way to get one of the top three QB in next years draft. If the seahwaks end up second in the division to the Rams, then SF and Ariz will be in the top 8 of the draft, and you know they won’t trade with a team in their own division.

    Perhaps TJack has a “pulled hammy” for those games against Ariz and SF and can’t play, securing a lower position in the final standings. Not that I am suggesting anything underhanded or anything…

    Any team who is in the top 3-5 of the draft is not going to trade away the chance for a franchise QB. That is why they are bad. No GM will say ” Yea, we are 3-13, but we have a great QB and we will pass on Luck or Barkley”

    • Rock says:

      What if we re-sign Carlson to a multi year deal and trade Zack Miller for a first round pick after they both have pretty good years. Then we can bundle the first with our own and move up for the QB of our dreams.

    • ba_edwards24 says:

      What kinda logic is that? AZ, SF, MIN, CIN, CLE, CHI, DEN, and CAR could all pick in the top 12, and none of them would be likely to take a shot at Barkley or Jones w/ young quarterbacks already in place. Same things have happened in recent years with AZ, SF, WAS, BUF passing up signal callers in the top 10 w/no apparent future at the position, why wouldn’t these teams (who DO think they have a future at the position) do the same? By your logic every team in the top 5 every year should need a QB, and be a candidate to take one. That’s simply not correct. Your 2nd paragraph embarrasses me as a 12. You don’t deserve to be a part of as good of a fan base as this one.

      • Don says:

        Whoa, don’t take everything so seriously. I thought it was obvious that I was making a joke with the second paragraph. As far as your draft analysis of all of those teams not taking Barkley or Jones, I think you are making a very big assumption. Any team picking in the top 5 will look very hard at their QB. We can cross off AZ and Min, they will not be in the top 5.

        More often than not, a team is one of the worst because of the QB, and if Luck, Barkley or Jones is better than who ever they have, they will pick him. This doesn’t happen every year, because the QB talent vary’s year to year. I hope I simplified it enough for you to understand

        Save your insults for the opposing team when they visit .

        • Rob says:

          Let’s keep things friendly guys, no insults please.

        • ba_edwards24 says:

          Apologies regarding the 2nd paragraph thing. Realize that there is no font for sarcasm.

          Ok so what about the ’06 Raiders who passed on Leinart and Cutler when they had Collins, Aaron Brooks, and Tuiasosopo. A perfect example is actually that same year when the Bills had a young QB in Losman who had terrible years with QB ratings of 40 and 65, yet they still passed on Leinart and Cutler. The Lions that same year passed on 2 potential franchise QBs while they had Kitna as their starter. There is nothing different about those 3 examples from the example that I have put forth regarding this upcoming year. Nothing. The following year, 20 teams passed on Quinn who many thought could be a franchise guy. The Dolphins and Rams passed on Matt Ryan when they had John Beck and Bulger/Frerotte as their respective starters.

          And how are you so confident Minnesota and Arizona will not be drafting high? They both were last year and have each lost integral parts of their team; Minnesota with their o line and d line and Arizona with Cromartie. Did we think Houston would be drafting in the top 12 last year? Dallas? Obviously you’re entitled to your opinion, and you could very well be right in the long run, but the logic that has got you there is flawed.

  11. Don says:

    With all of the weapons on offense, it makes me wonder what if the seahawks had drafted the QBOTF Kaepernick with the 25th pick.

  12. Meat says:

    I am excited to see the offense this year. I have little faith in Jackson, but he has some nice new cars to play with. I feel conflicted with the wins. I always want the hawks to win but the QB and Corners are the positions that NEED an upgrade (and defensive depth). Without a franchise QB Hawks are not contenders. Luck is out of the question, no way will a team with the first pick give him up, Bills, Fins, Skins will all probably have poor seasons who all need an upgrade at that position. I am hoping Hawks get that QB they need so badly.

  13. Bubba Gill says:

    Man Rob, I also predict a NFC west championship. Rice and T-Jax have chemistry, add in BMW and now Miller. Just imagine the packages with two wide, twin TE’s, the Play-action is there, and some beast mode. I do think that realistically T-Jax is going to have a career year here. Also look out for that O-Line in the next 2-3 years. 2013= 2005 and a win. hopefully over the Steelers. Love the analysis, best you can find on our beloved Hawks.

  14. Bubba Gill says:

    Also Rob what about of QB in next years draft we draft Arizona State LB Burfict, man that guy is the next ( I hate to say it) but Ray Lewis, I actually compare him to Ray Lewis’ punishment + Willis’ Speed. What do you think?

    • Rob says:

      Burflict is a very talented linebacker, potentially the best to come around in a long time. You’re making fair comparisons, which says a lot.

  15. Misfit74 says:

    I think the wholesale changes on the offensive line are often being overlooked in terms of how fast this unit will come together. Adding talented players is one thing, but that talent gelling into a cohesive, experienced group that plays well together and plays well off of each other may take some time. I expect a significant amount of growing pains this season from our offensive line. If Tavaris starts, his mobility will help mitigate some of that, but I expect teams to get pressure and take advantage of mistakes as well as scheming to force mistakes. I think 2012 could be where this line hits the ground running as a symbiotic wall of force we can be proud of.

  16. Bubba Gill says:

    Hey Rob, can you do some of your magical analysis of Josh Portis, Carroll seems very happy with him in training camp!

    • Rob says:

      I would love to Bubba, but unfortunately game tape of Cal (PA) is seriously limited. I found a few snaps on youtube but nothing I can disect and judge a player by. I will be watching and recording the San Diego game and it appears Portis will play considerably in that game, so look out for a piece later in the week.