The Seahawks will be competitive this year, just as they were in 2018.
However, there’s a difference between being competitive and a genuine contender. And currently, the Seahawks are probably a year away from being considered a top-level threat in the NFC.
There’s also nothing wrong with that.
This team started a refresh a year ago that was never going to be resolved within 12-18 months. So many big names and key contributors have departed including three star pass rushers, an entire legendary secondary and now the teams’ best receiver.
On top of that the Seahawks have had to cope with cap restrictions and limited draft stock. As a franchise they’ve had a lot on their plate.
To remain competitive and make the playoffs while having to endure all of this is no small achievement. Several other franchises have gone through minor rebuilds and suffered as a consequence. The Baltimore Ravens won 54 regular season games between 2008 and 2012 — culminating in a Super Bowl victory. In the following six seasons they’ve only made the playoffs twice, had a five-win season and two 8-8 seasons. They’re still rebuilding.
It’s extremely difficult to evolve and remain a viable post-season threat. The Seahawks have pulled it off — mainly by returning to their philosophical roots and building around their quarterback (supporting him with a much more experienced offensive line and a productive running game).
There needs to be a sense of realism and perspective going into the upcoming season though.
This is still a team going through a form of transition. Nobody within the franchise will use those words. Their aim, understandably, will be to be as good as they can be this year. Making the playoffs again is very possible.
Indeed a season similar to 2018 — ten wins and a playoff berth — shouldn’t be seen as a failure or treading water. The current roster warrants that level of faith and no more.
The truth is they’re lacking in several areas. They need another off-season to try and complete the refresh before anyone can realistically ‘expect’ the Seahawks to be a genuine Super Bowl contender.
In 2020 they’ll have a slew of draft picks — including five in the first three rounds. They’ll have money to spend — OTC is currently projecting $74m (although this likely doesn’t include Bobby Wagner’s new contract).
There’s a real opportunity next year to have the kind of Championship off-season they had in 2013 that pushed Seattle towards its first Super Bowl. That’s about the time you’d realistically expect things to come together. Another haul of young talent and the potential to add some veteran quality to a blossoming group.
The future is bright — but to appreciate and enjoy that fact it’ll take some honesty about 2019.
The pass rush has serious question marks. Jarran Reed’s suspension doesn’t help. Losing Frank Clark is a big deal even if the compensation was satisfactory. The secondary remains a work in progress and aside from Bradley McDougald — there isn’t really a sure-thing in any of the other four starting positions (including nickel corner).
That’s not to say young players won’t emerge or that Ziggy Ansah won’t be able to pick up some of the slack. Yet the Seahawks were at their most dynamic on defense when they had a pass-rushing trio of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and one or more of Chris Clemons, Bruce Irvin and Frank Clark. Now they’re left relying on Ansah and a collection of unproven unknowns and emerging prospects.
In the secondary, there’s more hope than expectation that the young group will produce long term solutions.
Doug Baldwin will also be difficult to replace. That’s no knock on Tyler Lockett (who’s outstanding) or the potential of D.K. Metcalf and the rest of the younger wide outs. Yet Seattle has always been such a streaky team on third down in the Russell Wilson era. Losing their clear top receiver for the key downs is undoubtedly a concern.
That’s not to say the sky is falling. Far from it. The Seahawks are an extremely well run and well coached outfit. So much so that a portion of fans have begun to take it for granted in a big way. They have a sensational quarterback and proven quality and leadership in the likes of Wagner, K.J. Wright, Mychal Kendricks and Duane Brown.
A similar season to a year ago is distinctly possible. There’ll probably be some exciting, close wins and some annoying defeats. Sometimes you have to ride things out and play the long game. The Seahawks are still settling into their latest incarnation. The 2020 off-season stands out as a big opportunity to take the next step. Continuing to grow and develop in 2019 — while remaining competitive — is the order of the day.
Any greater expectation might be asking too much.
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