Month: October 2020 (Page 1 of 3)

I am concerned about Sunday

Russell Wilson is likely going to need to do it all against the Niners

This was always going to be the testing period of the season. A self-inflicted loss in Arizona is a bad start to a run of games that could define the 2020 Seahawks.

After all, they started 5-1 a year ago. Then they lost at home, badly, to the Baltimore Ravens. It was a reality check that told us all we needed to know about the 2019 version of the team.

The title of my instant reaction post after the game was this:

‘Seahawks’ luck runs out, they drop to 5-2’

Doesn’t it sound so familiar?

Here’s an extract from the piece:

It seems they’re solely dependant on their offense. If they can’t run they need Wilson. Sometimes they need both. When teams win the LOS battle they struggle. The defense simply isn’t good enough to compensate on those occasions. Not enough pressure, not enough discipline, not enough big plays. Not good enough to contend seriously.

It feels like little has changed in 12 months.

I fear another reality check might occur on Sunday. The season could be exposed for what it is — a repeat performance. A flawed roster with glaring issues on defense and players who aren’t elevating their play — carried along by an elite quarterback.

The 49ers have had a difficult start to the year losing numerous key players. Yet in fairness to Kyle Shanahan and Robert Salah, they’ve righted the ship. They controlled the Rams and then hammered the Patriots.

Once again they look like a team that can cause you problems. They dominate with the perimeter run game, misdirection and outside zone. George Kittle needs to be accounted for on every down. Shanahan designs blocking schemes and wrinkles better than anyone in the league.

On defense they fly to the ball. They clearly miss Nick Bosa and the secondary is nothing to write home about. Yet collectively they are difficult to score against and they manufacture pressure well. The Dolphins game was an anomaly and their last two defensive performances have been very impressive.

The Seahawks were quite fortunate early in the season. Firstly, as it turns out, the schedule was powder-puff. Atlanta (2-6), New England (2-4), Dallas (2-5) and Minnesota (1-5) are not good teams. Secondly, Seattle made hard work of three of those games and easily could’ve lost to the Patriots and Cowboys. They probably should’ve lost to Minnesota.

The Dolphins are 3-3 and deserve credit for the way they are building gradually. Their performance at San Francisco was a statement win, even with Jimmy Garoppolo clearly not healthy and off the boil. The win in Miami was a good one for Seattle — although the Dolphins are in a period of transition.

Overall the first few weeks look like a comfortable introduction to the 2020 season that Seattle made trickier than it needed to be. They risked losing winnable games and eventually their luck ran out against Arizona.

The unbeaten start was a bit of a mirage. It was easy to wash away the defensive concerns or the streaky play because Seattle was winning. Here’s the thing though — Chicago, Arizona, Cleveland and Buffalo also have five wins. There’s nothing particularly special or indicative about being 5-1.

Seattle has glaring flaws and without the protection of ‘wins’ those issues are put under the microscope. More people are willing to examine problems after a defeat. The simplistic ‘yeah but they won’ retort doesn’t work.

Their pressure percentage is dropping week-by-week. They’re now at a measly 20.1% for the season. I spent three weeks explaining how blitzing will manufacture QB knockdowns and hits and that the higher numbers earlier in the season were a reflection of that. Since they reduced their blitzing, their knockdown percentage has dropped from 11% to 8%.

The big issue is and always has been their horrendous sack percentage which dropped back down to 3% this week. When they were blitzing 36% of the time it was 3% and now that they’re blitzing 26% of the time it’s still 3%. Neither plan has created sacks.

Trading for Carlos Dunlap was a necessary move to try and change their fortunes. The trade itself was an A+ in terms of value. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

Yet Dunlap is unavailable this weekend and the Seahawks have a concerning list of injuries. Jamal Adams still isn’t practising and seems destined to miss out again. All of the running backs apart from Deejay Dallas are hurt. Shaquill Griffin is in concussion protocol.

There’s a real danger the offense will become one-dimensional as it did at the end of last season when all the running backs were injured. The defense is bad enough without losing starters.

My fear on Sunday is Shanahan will move the ball with ease. The Niners’ running game will dominate and the Seahawks, like most teams, will struggle to contain Kittle and Jimmy Garoppolo’s impressive ability to drop, set and throw quickly.

Garoppolo has struggled when pressured and harassed. The Seahawks have to find ways to do that and so far, this defense hasn’t found any answers there. I don’t think they will do this but they might have to be more aggressive than ever in terms of blitzing. What’s the alternative?

Yet this is the crux of the problem. The staggering decision to rely on Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin and Darrell Taylor to fix the pass rush this year has left them in a total and utter shambles on defense — where they’re having to go against their scheme and philosophy to desperately find something (anything) to stop the bleeding.

This is no way to be.

It will be left up to Russell Wilson to throw counter punches and yet in the last two games he has lobbed four ugly interceptions and had moments of toil and struggle.

And while the offense is prolific and explosive — it’s also incredibly boom or bust with terrible third down numbers. The Seahawks are 31st in third-down conversion, only superior to the winless Jets. Wilson has been horrible on third down so far and it’s contributing to the streaky nature of the production — best highlighted by a record-breaking first half against Arizona and then a shuddering, feckless second half.

The Seahawks also have to play cleaner than they are. For too long they’ve made mistakes and kept teams alive. Last Sunday could’ve been a comfortable win but for a series of individual errors — from Wilson’s picks to Mayowa’s bonehead penalty to missed tackles to Damien Lewis’ botched assignment to their inability to find a way to get D.K. Metcalf involved to David Moore’s holding penalty and the rest.

Pete Carroll likes to make light of the near constant closeness of Seattle’s games but it might be more beneficial to look into why the Seahawks have seemingly lost all ability to play a good, consistent four quarters that eliminates the need for so much late drama — particularly against inferior opponents.

I said in the podcast this week that I think this is the biggest game of the season. Fall to 0-2 in the division before you’ve even played the Rams and it’ll be increasingly difficult to win the NFC West. You’d then have to go to Buffalo, LA and host Arizona trying to address a two-game slide.

From 5-0 you could suddenly be close to .500.

If they come out of what is clearly the toughest stretch of the season having dropped a few games — what does that say about their chances in the post-season?

A 7-3 or 6-4 record in the future isn’t out of the question — which arguably would be a better reflection of where this team is. It’d also be a major disappointment after a 5-0 start.

Win against the Niners and it could galvanise the team again. I think Buffalo are beatable — especially if you run the ball effectively and challenge Josh Allen to play with patience. Two victories would take some of the pressure off against LA and Arizona — although an ideal worst case scenario has always been 3-2 from this stretch (meaning 3-1 the rest of the way now).

I fear an unravelling though. I’m concerned that Seattle’s striking flaws are going to be exposed against proper opponents and the defense will ask too much of Wilson. The cavalry (Dunlap and maybe another) might arrive too late.

This is a pivotal game on Sunday. The Seahawks need to prove the doubters wrong (I know I’m one of them). This isn’t a Niners team at full strength and that makes it all the more important to win and prove a point.

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What other trade can the Seahawks make?

The deal for Carlos Dunlap brought relief. At least the Seahawks weren’t going to try and press on with what they had.

One 31-year-old defensive end is unlikely to elevate a horrendous defense into a passable unit — but at least it’s something.

Yet suddenly, there was a flicker of hope for more.

Jason La Canfora initially linked the Seahawks to a pair of moves — touting Washington’s Ryan Anderson as a possible target to go with Dunlap.

Then Adam Caplan tweeted something similar:

La Canfora has broken stories about the Seahawks in the past and seems to have a source in the front office. Caplan posted a series of tweets yesterday that seemed to infer he’d spoken to someone within the organisation.

Whether it’s Anderson or anyone else — the message being sent out seems to be that they aren’t finished yet.

Let’s be realistic about what is actually possible though.

The Seahawks have barely any cap space remaining. Another trade would probably need to be for someone on an expiring rookie contract. That is why Anderson makes sense. His cap hit is only $1.6m this year and Washington would incur a $500,000 dead hit. The cost to the Seahawks would be minimal for a half season rental.

It’s the same situation with Takk McKinley in Atlanta. He has a $3.2m salary with Atlanta responsible for a $1.3m charge.

In both cases you could make this work financially.

Washington is probably just looking to get anything for Anderson. He’s not going to be re-signed in the off-season and he’s well behind Chase Young, Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan. If they get a flier pick for him it’s better than nothing.

Atlanta might be a more stubborn trade partner even if the price is still fairly cheap for McKinley. They don’t have a GM and seem to be stuck in no man’s land at the moment — waiting for a new front office to determine how severe their rebuild needs to be.

These are the types of trades that make sense from a financial point of view. It wouldn’t take much to free up room to make either happen.

There’s also a reason why both players might be available. Anderson’s career has been unspectacular so far. He was highly active and physical for Alabama but tested poorly at the combine and lacks speed and length. McKinley has the profile Seattle craves but has also had an underwhelming four years in the NFL.

Seattle’s defense is not going to massively improve with the inclusion of either.

This is part of the current dilemma. When you get to the week before the trade deadline — there are always deals to be made but very rarely do they work out to the extent of Duane Brown’s move in 2017. Usually it’s a salary dump, an admittance of a lost season or a chance to get rid of a disgruntled player.

Adding to the D-line now from Seattle’s perspective is more an acknowledgement of needing to try anything to improve. They run the serious risk of wasting another season of Russell Wilson’s prime if they can’t make a turn on defense. They’ve tried blitzing. They’ve tried being more conservative. The next thing to do is add new players.

Fans also need to be realistic.

Many have suggested trading for Stephon Gilmore but it’s highly unlikely. The Patriots would expect to be compensated richly and the Seahawks don’t have the picks. It’d also be a challenge to fit his salary into the current structure for this season or next.

Another name that often gets thrown around is J.J. Watt.

The Texans probably should consider making a move. They have no picks in the first two rounds next year and they’re clearly facing a big rebuild.

If they were able to get a second round pick or higher, that would be attractive for a team that needs to be able to entice a top GM and Head Coach combo to Houston. That’s hard to do when all you can offer is day three picks and the need to cut costs.

I suspect all the talk of trading players in Houston is with the idea of recouping stock. Take Will Fuller. It’s unlikely he’s being dangled for a late round selection. They’ll want a good pick for him. They might expect a second or third rounder — about what they spent on Brandin Cooks. It could be the same for Whitney Mercilus who was only given a contract extension in December.

The Texans are projected to be about $16m over the cap next year but they can deal Watt and Cooks in the off-season, when the new front office has full control, and they would save an immediate $29.5m. Cutting David Johnson saves another $7m. Cutting Duke Johnson and Brandon Dunn would save about $8.5m.

They have a means to raise money fairly easily unlike the Saints, Eagles or Falcons. There’s no real pressure for them to trade now.

I can only see one plausible scenario where Watt could end up in Seattle.

Houston would essentially ‘buy’ a draft pick. They would have to eat his salary for this year, knowing it would clear $17.5m off the books for 2021. For that they would get back into round two next year.

As a plan it’s not too unrealistic. After all, the Texans are famously the team that sold a second round pick just to dump Brock Osweiler’s salary on the Browns.

For Seattle it would mean giving up their only remaining pick in the first two days of next years draft to add a legit impact player on a short-term basis.

Anything else doesn’t seem to cut the mustard. Swapping a second rounder for Houston’s third rounder could only be a difference of about 5-10 picks so it’s hard to imagine a package that works with that at the forefront.

The Seahawks don’t really have players they can sacrifice that would appeal to Houston. Also — why would you want to acquire anyone now before you know whether the new coach or GM wants them?

If you could guarantee 4-5 years of J.J. Watt for your 2021 second rounder, it would be worth doing. The problem is he’s missed 39 games since 2016. He’s a warrior but you just can’t bank on his availability.

It might be a risk you’d be willing to take if you had your other 2021 picks. I doubt the Seahawks want to write-off the 2021 draft for this type of gamble.

There’s always a chance of a surprise, of course. Calais Campbell was moved for a fifth rounder to Baltimore despite his play being so much more valuable. Would the Texans be willing to move Watt to a contender as a thank you for years of service? Maybe. Although in that scenario, would Watt necessarily choose the Seahawks over an army of suitors including, presumably, the 49ers, Rams, Packers, Saints and Steelers?

And would Houston be so inclined to absorb a lot of his salary for a lesser pick? If not, how do the Seahawks afford this deal?

A fired-up and healthy J.J. Watt is exactly what this team is missing. He’s a game-wrecker. Chris Collinsworth pointed it out on Sunday. He said, correctly, that the Seahawks lack a premier defensive end and haven’t replaced Jadeveon Clowney.

Watt, playing across from Carlos Dunlap, could elevate Seattle’s defense to the kind of level they need to be a serious contender. It’d be probably the oldest D-line pairing in the league but it’d certainly be a major upgrade over a toothless Benson Mayowa and L.J. Collier double-act.

I’m not convinced the Seahawks will make this kind of move. Not unless they felt confident in recouping high draft picks in the off-season but there isn’t anyone (short of the quarterback, D.K. Metcalf or Jamal Adams) with the requisite value. You wouldn’t get much for Bobby Wagner at the moment.

Albert Breer also says that the Texans have told teams that Watt is ‘off-limits’ and simply not available for trade.

Breer also says the Seahawks were open to moving Jacob Hollister last week to create cap space for a pass rusher but apparently they’ve moved off that thought since dealing B.J. Finney. However, interest is said to be strong in Hollister and the Seahawks could get an offer worth considering.

The Seahawks may well make another move and who knows who might become available? This is an unusual time in the NFL and there are more rumours than normal at this time of year. Quandre Diggs was a surprise 12 months ago. There might be another shocker to come this season.

Yet it seems much more likely that an inexpensive trade for a player in the final year of a rookie contract will be their final move. And the bulk of the responsibility of fixing a terrible pass rush will fall on the shoulders of Carlos Dunlap.

Good luck, Carlos.

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Breaking: Seahawks trade for Carlos Dunlap

The Seahawks had to do something.

They couldn’t continue with their 3% sack percentage, the most yardage conceded per game and a horrible third down conversion rate.

There are no cure-all solutions on the trade market. Not in late October. Yet the alternative was to do nothing, have the same results and deal with the predictable consequences.

It shouldn’t have come to this, of course. From March onwards, it was clear and obvious the pass rush and defensive line was inadequate. The Seahawks are having to make moves now to fix the bad decisions they made earlier in the year.

However, at least they’re doing something to try and avoid yet another season that ultimately ends in a missed opportunity.

The deal is an A+. They are trading a seventh round pick and B.J. Finney. The seventh is neither here not there and Finney is a poster child for their mess of a free agency period this year. He was highlighted as a priority signing when the deal was done, given an $8m contract and delivered absolutely nothing.

Along with their questionable decision to squander cap space on a bunch of mediocre RFA’s, spend over $10m on Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister, another $10m on Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa and anything else you want to throw in there — the Finney signing was an expensive failure when you consider what they could’ve had for the $50m they spent.

Carlos Dunlap turns 32 in February so this is very much a rental situation. He’ll cost just under $5m for the rest of this season and if they need to, they can cut him at the end of the year without any cost.

He has the great size and length they love. He can play early downs and deliver against the running game and rush the passer.

He had nine sacks last season on a bad football team. Throughout his time in Cincinnati, he has produced at a very consistent level with 82.5 career sacks.

It’s unclear how much he has left in the tank and clearly things have turned sour with the Bengals. That said, he might’ve been the best and most realistic trade candidate available.

My question now is — can they do anything else?

I agree with Jason La Canfora — one move isn’t going to fix the defensive mess. Is their any capacity to make another trade? La Canfora suggested in an article today before the Dunlap deal was announced that Seattle should try and acquire both the Bengals pass rusher and Washington’s Ryan Anderson.

Quite frankly, I’m game. Especially if they can make it another cheap player-for-player swap. They’ve got to mix things up. The current pass rush group isn’t getting it done.

If it’s not Anderson, why not Takk McKinley? His contract is dirt cheap and the Falcons are reportedly talking to teams about a potential trade.

Again — it might not fix things. It’s hard to do that in October. If you can add two pass rushers at a bargain price, it at least gives you a shot to change your fortunes.

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The encore (aka harsh realities and home truths part II)

I had a few more thoughts I wanted to get into today, as a follow up to yesterday’s piece looking at harsh realities and home truths.

Do the Seahawks have a NFC West problem?

In their last four divisional games, the Seahawks are 0-4. Since the 2015 season, they’re 16-14-1.

Maybe this is merely an indication of how competitive the division is? Yet the Rams went 6-0 in the NFC West in 2018 and the 49ers were 5-1 a year ago (and were a botched kick away from 6-0).

The Seahawks are 1-4 in their last five games against the Rams (and would’ve been 0-5 but for a missed field goal). In those five games LA scored 42, 33, 36, 29 and 28 points.

Here’s the total offensive yardage conceded in each game by Seattle:

2017 (H) — 352
2018 (A) — 468
2018 (H) — 456
2019 (H) — 477
2019 (A) — 455

They’re now 1-2 against Kliff Kingsbury in Arizona. They competed well against the 49ers in Santa Clara last year but put up little resistance on defense in the final game of the regular season. They also toiled against Kyle Shanahan when he was in Atlanta and dropped a game quarterbacked by Nick Mullens in 2018.

So far they’ve seemed incapable of working out a way to deal with the McVay and Shanahan offenses and the early signs are they’re going to have the same problem with Kyler Murray.

Here’s an inconvenient truth — McVay and Shanahan have elevated teams led by weaker quarterbacks (Goff, Garoppolo) to the Super Bowl. The Seahawks have a legendary quarterback and haven’t gotten close in recent years.

Heck — they’ve only won the division once in five years.

I don’t think it’s exaggerating to say this could be the biggest game of the season on Sunday. Lose and drop to 0-2 in the NFC West with two games still to come against the Rams and the Seahawks will already be in a critical state.

My concern going into this season was that it could be a repeat of what we saw a year ago despite the massive investment in terms of money and picks. Let’s not forget — they were 5-2 last year, finished 11-5 and had a predictable early playoff exit.

Coaching matters

Yesterday I mentioned the untidy nature of Seattle’s play and how it deserves more consideration than a glib ‘suck it up’ from Pete Carroll.

Throughout the Carroll era, the Seahawks have played fast and loose. They have a knack of keeping inferior opponents alive in games. When’s the last time they handled a winning team like the Rams did to the Bears last night? Or like the 49ers did to the Rams the previous week?

The Seahawks seem to play in chaos all the time. To be fair, they have won more games than they have lost (although arguably that’s a review of the quarterback more than anything else).

Meanwhile the thing that guides the likes of the Rams and 49ers is their ability to stay on track. The execution of a well-oiled offensive machine. They don’t want to make games chaotic. They want to dictate the flow of a game with their own style, which is often on-point.

Look at the coaching pairings in the last few Super Bowls. Shanahan and Andy Reid. McVay and Bill Belichick. Doug Pederson and Frank Reich against Belichick. Shanahan (the real positive for Atlanta) and Belichick.

None of this group play in chaos. They all have a very clear vision of what they are and they execute more often than not.

As noted yesterday, Seattle’s untidy nature often leads to getting blown away in the first half of important playoff games. They aren’t a four quarter football team and they no longer have the complete roster to excel despite that.

It’s a problem. Their inability to play conventional football is an issue. They are too streaky. There are too many moments like Benson Mayowa’s bonehead penalty against Arizona. There are too many fast starts and slow finishes or vice versa.

Carroll needs to embrace the need to clean things up.

There’s also a limitation which is problematic

The only response given to questions about the defense at the moment is to suggest they’ll ‘keep going’ or that they need to ‘help out’ the players a bit more.

The reality seems to be that they’ve tried everything already.

They started the year among the highest blitzers in the league and got torched — giving up more explosive plays than any other team in the NFL.

Since then they’ve resorted to being more conservative and they just cannot create any pressure — exposing the second and third level.

The Seahawks don’t have the players they need to run their scheme. It’s incredible that they allowed this to happen. They need to be able to create pressure with four. It’s as simple as that.

Using two first round picks on Jamal Adams was a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. They now have a hugely expensive safety, who might absorb a $20m contract in the future, who is going to presumably come back in and be asked to be the designated pass rusher again.

They’re just so limited in what they can do.

It was also scarily stark how the offense had run out of ideas at the end of the Arizona game. Watching it back — they simply had no answer for Arizona’s switch-up where they showed heavy blitzing and man coverage but masked where the pressure, and how much, was actually coming.

Seattle had a half to work out a solution and failed. By overtime the offense could barely function. Wilson looked lost. Nobody really knew what to do and that’s why you started seeing things like a pitch to Carlos Hyde or a play, highlighted by Chris Collinsworth, where nobody ran a route and Wilson just threw it out of bounds.

The whole offense was discombobulated and couldn’t function. Wilson’s ridiculous interceptions didn’t help. Yet it was amazing how they didn’t have any answers to the questions posed by Arizona after racking up 375 yards in the first half.

And why on earth where they not able at any point in the game to isolate a favourable matchup for D.K. Metcalf? Why did it take until the dying stages of overtime to throw him a screen pass? Do something, anything, to get the ball in his hands. It’s not acceptable to go through a whole game with him sidelined or uninvolved.

The missed tackles are back

Seattle started the year second only to New England for fewest missed tackles. Now they’re up to 50 for the season which is the 13th highest. They are climbing the table and if they have another game like they did against Arizona — where I think they had 13 missed tackles — they’ll soon be back near the top (just as they were in 2019).

Parsing Carroll on Darrell Taylor

For the second time in a week Taylor’s name was mentioned in terms of coming back and then immediately it was noted that he’s not even changing direction when he’s running.

I suspect there’s a hidden meaning behind all of this.

Here’s my hunch. The Seahawks realised that free agency didn’t exactly ‘fix’ anything in terms of the pass rush and therefore they set out to identify a player in the draft.

It wasn’t a deep edge rush class but they decided that Taylor was their man. They thought about taking him with the top pick but decided to bide their time and then move up in round two. They got the player they wanted and I think the hope was that he could contribute quickly to make up for the lack of action in free agency.

The problem is he’d been injured for months. He’d missed the Senior Bowl and combine. There were no proper medical checks this year due to coronavirus.

The Seahawks rolled the dice and took an expensive chance.

When Carroll refers to him now, I suspect it’s not with any belief that he’ll contribute this year. I think he’s revealing what their plan was. And really, he’s at such a loose end to find an answer to the glaring defensive problem — he’s now in a roundabout way talking about the hope that failed to be.

Of course they should never have put themselves in a position to be relying on an injured rookie for pass rush. Yet that’s where they ended up and unsurprisingly it hasn’t worked. It was a poor, desperate plan that has backfired.

So now all Carroll can do is long for what could’ve been and talk about ‘making a turn’ or ‘getting better’ or healthier. The problem is Jamal Adams or Snacks Harrison are not fixing your pass rush. They aren’t enabling you to rush with four.

Why are the Seahawks so bad on third down?

They have an elite quarterback, a variety of dynamic weapons, huge depth at tight end.

Yet they are currently ranked 31st in the NFL for third down conversion (33.90%). The only team with a worse rate is the winless New York Jets.

That’s incredible and warrants challenging.

Further thoughts on the trade deadline

I stand by what I said yesterday. I don’t think an ageing pass rusher alone is going to fix this defense.

That said — that doesn’t mean the Seahawks shouldn’t try.

If you don’t add anyone before the deadline, you’re rolling with what you’ve got which isn’t good enough.

Making a trade for Everson Griffen or Carlos Dunlap or Ryan Kerrigan might not solve all the problems. It’s better than doing nothing though.

I want to see a return of the pro-active Seahawks who are doing whatever they can to fix a problem. I hope I’m not alone in saying I’m tired of waiting for this team to put itself in position to properly compete for a Super Bowl again. I don’t want to waste Wilson’s prime years. In 10 years time I don’t want to look back on this period wondering what could’ve been if only they’d had the nouse to not create a defense that is a total and utter liability.

If that means being more aggressive than they’d be prefer to be, I wouldn’t criticise them for that. Maybe they have to be prepared to try and recoup stock in the off-season by trading some of their own players?

I don’t expect any trades, however. I suspect after the Jamal Adams deal they will be reluctant to part with further picks for rental situations. Any prospective move will have to be very, very cheap in terms of compensation. So unless anyone’s dangling a proven pass rusher for a sixth or seventh round pick — I’m not sure there’ll be any action.

I just hope that if this season ends up being a repeat of the last few years, that someone at some point between now and February will ask what on earth happened to their stated goal of fixing the pass rush and how they ended up with this shambles?

Everson Griffen has been traded to the Lions

For a mere conditional sixth round pick.

As noted above — I just don’t think the Seahawks are going to do anything before the deadline.

But at least they’re getting value for the $10-11m spent on Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister (190 yards and two touchdowns). Not to mention the $10m they spent on Bruce Irvin (injured) and Benson Mayowa (ranked #99 out of 111 pass rushers per PFF) is also going to good use. Plus the $9.35m Jarran Reed (#80 out of 119 defensive tackle) is costing this year. B.J. Finney is delivering a top notch service for the $8m committed to him over the next two years. And at least that $4.2m they spent so they could tag Joey Hunt and Branden Jackson wasn’t needed in March.

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Home truths and harsh realities for the 5-1 Seahawks

It’s time Pete Carroll was asked some difficult questions about the pass rush

John Schneider should be challenged too but unlike other GM’s he never talks during the regular season apart from a weekly confab with team employee Steve Raible before each game.

Both said at the start of the off-season that fixing the pass rush was a priority and it’s time for someone to step up to the plate and push Carroll on how they went about it.

The Seahawks have nine sacks meaning they’re on pace for 24 for the season — four fewer than a year ago.

Kyler Murray was pressured on just one of 48 dropbacks yesterday for an astonishing 2.1% pressure rate.

This isn’t a question that needs to be saved until the season is over.

Even if Carroll dances around the topic — sometimes you’ve simply got to be seen to be asking the question. The fans deserve an explanation.

It was painfully predictable that the work on the defensive line wasn’t good enough this year. If Carroll and Schneider are going to have so much power due to ownership being in a holding pattern, they need to be held accountable in other ways.

So how has spending $50m in free agency, three first round picks, a second round pick and three third round picks meant their self-confessed priority has actually got worse?

And what do they intend to do about it? Do they need to be aggressive again before the deadline?

The questions must be asked.

Enough already with the sloppy play

Carroll often tells fans to ‘suck it up’ after the latest narrow victory. He says he enjoys the near constant nail-biters and believes it builds confidence and mental strength for key games later in the year.

Where’s the evidence for that though?

Here’s another way of looking at it. The Seahawks too often play sloppy, mistake-riddled football that undermines the talent they possess and keeps inferior teams alive in games.

Rather than build any kind of ‘experience’ for key matchups down the line, the sloppy play simply re-emerges in fatal fashion in the post-season:

Carolina in 2015 — 31-0 down at half time

Atlanta in 2016 — 26-13 down after three quarters

Dallas in 2018 — unable to get the job done

Green Bay in 2019 — 21-3 down at half-time

When they get to the big moments, they often get punished. It should be seen as unacceptable how often they put themselves in a massive hole in key playoff games and the connection should be made to their preceding regular season performances.

That’s not to say teams can’t be streaky. Look at the Chiefs in the playoffs last year. Yet the Seahawks seem to barely ever comfortably win games against weaker opponents. Why is that? Rather than it be referred to as a cute aspect of the Carroll era — isn’t it right to think the Seahawks should tidy things up?

Especially when the margin for error these days is so much smaller?

Take the Benson Mayowa penalty yesterday. Why didn’t the coaches or even the team leaders on the field make it abundantly clear that nobody should be rushing on that late field goal — let alone trying to jump over the protection?

This wasn’t just a careless error — it speaks to the preparedness of a team. It’s a review of how well your players understand situational moments.

Mayowa went all out for that kick like it was the deciding moment. In reality, Arizona kicking the field goal was a minor issue. Making sure the defense was protecting a seven-point lead and not a three-point lead in the final minute was the key.

All it needed was one person to give the order. ‘Don’t rush’. ‘Don’t give away a stupid penalty’. ‘Let them have these three points’.

It sums up the messy nature of Seattle’s play.

Of course they show plenty of grit, character and cajones. Nobody can question the spirit of any of Carroll’s teams.

Yet is it too much to ask for them not to shoot themselves in the foot so often? To play an occasional clean game of football? To actually protect or enhance a handsome lead rather than throw it away?

I struggle to see the valuable lesson from failing to win football games conventionally. Too often the Seahawks are a team that can’t play consistent, four-quarters football and it’s time that was addressed and fixed.

Maybe rather than the fans it’s the coach who needs to suck things up and establish a cleaner brand of football?

The Seahawks are stuck in philosophical awkwardness

Let Russ Cook? I don’t think this is the shift that many believe. I think it’s a case of needs must.

Seattle knows they need scoreboard pressure to bail out a terrible defense. They know the only shot is to elevate Wilson to a MVP level and give him the chance to win games.

Yet at the heart of the Carroll project is a desire for balanced, connected football. A closed circle.

You see it bursting through in games like yesterday. At the end he relied on four runs by backup running back Carlos Hyde to try and win rather than put the ball in the hands of the star quarterback and risk stopping the clock.

Ultimately he was content to try and let the defense close things out.

The old style. The old philosophy.

But the new Seahawks cannot execute it.

Make no mistake Carroll wants to play Carroll ball. He just can’t. Not with this team.

But when exactly are they going to be able to play it any time in the future?

They have no high picks in 2021 or 2022. Like everyone they’ll have little money to spend. They’ve invested in the players they’ve invested in and might add a bloated Jamal Adams contract to the bloated Bobby Wagner one.

The question I have is — after some mixed form from Wilson in the last three games — is everyone entirely comfortable here? Or is this a marriage of pure convenience?

It’s not wrong to expect or want more

The Seahawks possess one of the all-time great quarterbacks. As we’ve seen with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Aaron Rodgers — this doesn’t always guarantee endless titles and success.

However, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t aspire to win the Super Bowl every year.

Seattle came into this season needing to show improvement and progression. For the investment in terms of money and picks — they had to look like one of the true big beasts in the NFL.

Instead, the defense is worse than it’s ever been and they’ve never been more reliant on the quarterback.

Is it any coincidence that Russell Wilson has already thrown more interceptions this year than in the whole of 2019? He’s on pace to throw the most of his career by far. Perhaps that comes with the territory of throwing more, which Wilson clearly is. Yet the errors against Arizona and Minnesota were so strikingly bizarre, it’s hard not to wonder if this utter dependence is weighing on his shoulders.

You could easily argue it’s unfair to criticise the team. After all, they’re 5-1 and just suffered their first loss of the season. Yet it’s the manner of what we’ve seen so far. The toiling against bad New England and Dallas teams. The overall arse-kicking from 1-5 Minnesota. Now a blown and botched game against Arizona.

None of this exudes confidence in a team being able to take the next step.

They’ve only won the NFC West once in the last five years. In that timeframe, two division rivals have reached the Super Bowl and the other made the NFC Championship game.

That’s not good enough. They need to go further. This needed to be the year where they jumped forward and got back into serious Super Bowl contention.

Can anyone seriously say, based on what they’ve seen so far, that you’d back this team to win 2-3 playoff games to reach the Super Bowl?

And now they’re already 0-1 in the NFC West with Arizona at 2-0 and with the same five overall wins.

Are they destined to tread the same path? Getting to the post-season but more or less making up the numbers? That’s what I thought before the start of the season and unfortunately I still feel that way today.

I don’t think there’s anything they can do to fix the defense

Carlos Dunlap? Ryan Kerrigan?

Sure, why not. But let’s get real. Ageing defensive linemen who are being phased out are not coming to the rescue.

As Chris Collinsworth noted during the broadcast yesterday — the Seahawks badly lack a premier edge rusher. They have nobody who can create 1v1 pressure off the edge.

Bringing in an older player to try and elevate this team isn’t going to cut it.

Let’s also be realistic about returning players and recent additions. Snacks Harrison has been in a holding pattern for three weeks because he isn’t in shape. How realistic is it that he suddenly comes flying in to make an impact?

And while Jamal Adams’ return will be welcome — that’s not going to solve the biggest problem in terms of the lack of sacks and pressures. The Seahawks tried to use him as a designated rusher, blitzing more than anyone else in the league before his injury. The end result? They gave up more explosive plays than any other team in the league.

The Seahawks made their bed with this defense in March. Their 2020 free agency session can be filed alongside what looked to be an unfathomable approach to the 2019 draft, the way they’ve handled trying to replace Frank Clark and the desperate move, in my opinion, they made to get Jamal Adams when it became clear they’d not added anyone of significance to the defense, had all but lost Clowney and then paid a kings ransom right before the season started to acquire the one big name who was available.

The reality probably is this is the unit you’re going to be watching for the next 10 games. I don’t think anyone is coming in before the deadline.

Let’s end on a positive

A loss can linger but it can also motivate. Look at the Green Bay Packers this week. Humiliated by Tampa Bay but then comfortable winners against Houston.

The Seahawks don’t get a gift like the flailing Texans. They have to play suddenly red-hot San Francisco.

However — if the Arizona game re-focuses minds and delivers a much improved performance, people will quickly move on and there will be momentum behind the season again.

The problem is — lose next week and you’re 0-2 in the division before you’ve even played the team you struggle with the most in the NFC West. The Niners game is a huge one and dare I say, a must-win.

If you missed yesterday’s instant reaction podcast, check it out below:

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Instant reaction: Seahawks finally blow a winnable game

We can’t say it hasn’t been coming.

The Seahawks made hard work of games against bad New England and Dallas teams. Against a 1-5 Minnesota they probably should’ve lost.

The problem is the defense isn’t good enough to play complementary football. And that means Russell Wilson has to be exceptional.

Tonight, he was awful after half time.

He was spooked by the Arizona defense. He looked exhausted. It was a total and utter meltdown.

He threw three horrible interceptions (and it’s now four in two games) and the Seahawks thoroughly deserved to lose this game.

It wasn’t the only issue of course. The defense blew a 10-point lead with about four minutes left in the game. The tackling was dreadful and once again there was zero pass rush. Benson Mayowa’s bonehead special teams error gifted Arizona a touchdown. The way they offense just curled up into a ball at the end of the game, especially in overtime, while Arizona exploited Seattle’s tired unit was incredible.

The ref’s also played their part too.

Yet they simply made far too many mistakes in a mess of a performance. They lost a game they had no business losing.

The story of the season was always going to be can Wilson cover up for the defense. Any kind of stutter or stall and it’s goodnight Vienna.

We said all off-season — the Seahawks will win games with Wilson. But this defense will not make up for off-days. They will be exploited. They aren’t good enough. They bye week made absolutely no difference.

The Seahawks are now 0-1 in the NFC West — while the Cardinals are 2-0 and hold a tiebreaker over Seattle.

They play San Francisco next week, who just hammered the Patriots.

As good as 5-0 was — that’s not the goal. Winning the NFC West is. Going deeper into the playoffs is and not just flopping out in the first two rounds.

Not having the same season. That’s the target. Not 5-0.

I remain unconvinced that this Seahawks team is capable of doing it. We can clearly see the defense has regressed even from a terrible 2019 and isn’t good enough. There’s too much pressure on Wilson and the offense and look how they slumped and staggered in the second half.

If Wilson cannot play to a consistently brilliant level this is what can happen.

They have become one of those teams that is completely and solely dependant on the quarterback.

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Sunday Seahawks draft notes & trade deadline rumours

Bengals might be sellers, albeit unreasonable sellers

Jason La Canfora is reporting that Cincinnati are more inclined to trade veterans this year, 12 months on from a bizarre approach to their roster rebuild.

Owner Mike Brown is notoriously stubborn and runs his franchise like a local pub. Trying to trade with him can be a nightmare.

Will anything change?

“I think they are more open to it, yeah,” one general manager said. “I’m just not sure how realistic they’re going to be about the value of these players. We’ll see. I know they’re getting calls and there a bunch of players who want out of there ASAP.”

Therein lies the problem. It’s OK being willing to trade. If he’s going to ask for a second round pick for Carlos Dunlap and A.J. Green, the end result will be the same.

“Who knows, man?” another executive said. “Every time we talk to them it feels like a waste of time because they can’t pull the trigger.”

Dunlap in particular is trying to orchestrate a trade. The Bengals should grant him his wish, move on and try to reshape their roster over the next two years. He’d be a good option for the Seahawks for a late round flier — someone with a history of getting sacks and can play early downs in a four-man front.

I’m just not convinced Cincinnati will be reasonable with their asking price.

However, Ian Rapoport says he could be inactive today ahead of a potential move — so this is one to monitor.

The Texans are gearing up for a busy deadline

La Canfora also notes the Texans are gauging the market for Whitney Mercilus and a number of other players, including receivers Will Fuller and Brandin Cooks.

Houston needs two things — more draft picks and cap space. They’re currently without a first or second round pick in 2021 and they’re already $16m over the cap for next season.

However good Deshaun Watson is, that’s not an appealing situation for any prospective GM or Head Coaching candidate.

Having blown the cheap years when Watson was on his rookie deal, they’ll now have to operate with one of the most expensive players in the NFL on their books (not to mention Laremy Tunsil’s record-setting contract too).

While the likelihood of a blockbuster trade is minimal, there seems to be sufficient interest in enough players to facilitate a transaction or two by the deadline.

They’re not going to get a mega-offer in the top two rounds but they can pad out their depth for day three and save salary by making smart moves now.

Mercilus is the most interesting one for Seattle. He’s 30, quick off the edge and could do a job. Yet the market for a somewhat expensive, ageing pass rusher has to be something like a sixth rounder. It’s a salary dump.

I’m not sure the Texans will be willing to make that move. After all — their cap problems for 2021 are not as severe as the Falcons, Eagles or Saints. They also don’t have any reason to ‘tank’ the season. If anything, continuing to lose from a 1-5 position will be infuriating. Imagine if they end up gifting Miami a top-five pick that they use on Penei Sewell for a fraction of the cost of Tunsil? Ouch.

They almost have to find a way to win games to save face.

Minnesota Vikings open to further trades

Reportedly it’s possible Adam Thielen could be dealt. I’m tempted to say if the Seahawks were willing to risk their reputation on failing to sign Antonio Brown, they should be keeping an eye on the receiver market in general.

Thielen is 30 but Brown is 32. He’s a pillar of consistency — one of the savviest receivers in the game. He already has seven touchdowns this season and he has 22 in the last two a bit years.

Do I think he’ll be moved? No. If anything, he’s someone the Vikings should be desperate to keep hold of. It’d probably take a deal even greater than the Yannick Ngakoue trade to make it happen.

It’s also been confirmed that both the Seahawks and Tampa Bay were only willing to offer the veteran minimum to Brown — so they weren’t breaking the bank there.

Forget the cost though. Seattle was willing to take a major, substantial risk on Brown the person — both in terms of potential disruption and reputational damage.

If they really want to add another dynamic weapon to both support and appease the one player dragging this franchise along — they should be seeing what it’d take to get Thielen, Odell Beckham Jr, Will Fuller or any other talented, dynamic receiver.

Forget about Quinnen Williams and Ryan Kerrigan

According to Ian Rapoport:

Though more than a few teams have called inquiring about DT Quinnen Williams, source said it will take much more than the rumored second-round pick for Gang Green to part with him. GM Joe Douglas will consider anything, but for a player as highly regarded as Williams, it’s more of a question of, “How many second rounders?”

I can’t imagine anyone stumping up multiple second rounders.

Rapoport also says Ryan Kerrigan is unlikely to be dealt:

“Though other executives appear curious if Ryan Kerrigan is available, that doesn’t seem likely. Instead, it’s former second-rounder Ryan Anderson who has drawn calls and appears to be available for an edge-needy team.”

Anderson has short arms, ran a 4.78 forty and a 7.73 three-cone so he’s unlikely to be on Seattle’s radar.

Ohio State center stands out

With the Big-10 starting, a lot of focus was understandably on quarterback Justin Fields. However, it was the player snapping him the ball that drew my attention against Nebraska.

Josh Myers is 6-5 and 312lbs and a former four-star recruit. He has an ideal combo of physical power to move players off the line of scrimmage and the athleticism and agility to reach to the second level and handle blocks on the move.

At SPARQ he ran an impressive 5.11 forty and an even more impressive 4.49 short shuttle. Those are terrific numbers for an interior lineman at his size. He had the highest SPARQ score (109.35) among all offensive linemen in 2017.

For me there’s absolute no doubt he has the potential to be a first round selection. He’s everything that teams look for in a high O-line pick — physical, athletic, consistent and with high upside.

Keep him on your radar for the rest of the year. He’s only a junior so might not declare for 2021 but he has the potential to go early in the draft.

Seth Williams deserves more attention

He was on our watch-list for the season but Williams kind of gets lost in the wash. There’s not a lot that’s right at Auburn but their top receiver continues to make an impression.

Williams basically won them the game against Ole Miss with eight catches for 150 yards, a touchdown and a two-point conversion. He was unstoppable on slants, creating early separation and always offering an easy-out to Bo Nix. He showed great hands and he extends his arms to high-point and catch the ball.

On one slant he darted upfield and hurdled a defender for YAC. On another occasion Nix basically threw a Hail Mary with 3:26 left in the third quarter. Williams boxed-out his man and caught it in double coverage on the goal line. He showed incredible concentration, positioning and finish.

He made an incredible play to win the game with 1:16 left. Trailing by a point he caught a difficult sideline throw. It was aimed at the back shoulder but the defender had reasonable position and Williams had to contort his body and stretch out to catch it. He then avoided a slipping defender and sprinted from half-way for a 58-yard touchdown (before adding the two-point conversion).

Testing will be important for Williams but he just has a natural ability and he looks the part of a NFL receiver.

Other standout players

It feels like we’ve been talking about Wisconsin tight end Jake Ferguson for years. He could finally be delivering on his massive potential. Against Illinois he rebounded from a costly fumble to record seven catches, 72 yards and three touchdowns. He has ideal size, 4.6 speed, he jumped a 35-inch vertical at SPARQ and ran a fantastic 4.15 short shuttle. He has the profile, now he just needs the production. He could easily be a day two pick if he builds on this start.

It was only against Texas State but BYU quarterback Zach Wilson was superb again with four more touchdowns and 287 yards. He continues to be one of the most impressive players in college football and his stock should be rising quickly.

Michigan’s Kwity Paye has outstanding physical potential and he flashed that with two sacks against Minnesota. On one sack he lined up inside despite not being a natural fit there, then swam by the left guard and exploded into the backfield. He had a hand in another by using pure power to drive the left tackle into the backfield, disengage and then compete to the QB. He was on our watch-list for the year and he has a great shot to get into the first round discussion.

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The Seahawks should be challenged on Antonio Brown

If you missed the earlier article on trade deadline targets, you can check it out here.

There’s some breaking news I wanted to reflect on though:

The Seahawks arguably crossed an ethical line when they decided they wanted to sign Antonio Brown.

Many fans didn’t want it to happen. Russell Wilson, for the first time in his Seahawks career, faced an awkward line of questioning during yesterday’s press conference.

Usually Wilson’s press briefings are fairly bland. A positive review of the next opponents, some praise for team mates, a few cliche’s and then a ‘Go Hawks’ to finish.

Instead he had to explain his support for arguably the NFL’s most controversial current individual.

He clumsily resorted to ‘nobody’s perfect’ as a defense for his public backing of a player cut by the Patriots after it emerged the NFL was investigating Brown for multiple accusations of sexual assault and rape.

Earlier in the week Carroll admitted Seattle’s interest:

“We’re there, we’re in it and we know what’s happening.”

Nobody was playing anything down.

The way everyone was talking — a deal felt inevitable.

They invited criticism — although let’s be fair, many fans also supported the possibility of signing Brown based on his football talent. I don’t think it’s a stretch to suggest they staked some of their reputation on this. Both Carroll and Wilson portray very positive public images. Attaching themselves to Brown at a time when the offense is rocking was a risky move — whether you supported his signing or not.

To go through that and then have Tampa Bay swoop him and snatch him away?

Adam Schefter reported less than an hour before it was announced that the Buccs had agreed terms with Brown, that the Seahawks were still ‘in talks’ to try and sign him:

This is the worst possible scenario. The Seahawks took on all of the negatives of being seen to be actively pursuing Brown — and then didn’t even seal the deal for their troubles.

Anyone who criticised the Seahawks for showing interest in Brown shouldn’t suddenly forget all about it now. They have to hold Carroll and Wilson to account in the same way they would’ve done had they signed him. Per Schefter’s report — they didn’t back out. They retained interest right until the end. They’re simply losing him to Tampa Bay.

For those that did want him — the Seahawks failed to land their target.

And what about Wilson? What does he think about all of this? The man who called for superstars? The man who reportedly offered an ultimatum about ‘letting him cook’? The man who worked out with AB? The man who went to bat for him this week?

Will he understand the Seahawks letting him join a NFC rival? Or will this create an issue now that the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady have got the man he wanted?

If you’re going to cross the ethical line to try and sign Brown — you better get it done and you better have a convincing explanation for those unhappy about it. If you’re not going to get it done — stay well away.

Compare the two teams most heavily involved in this. Seattle spent a week answering questions about Brown, had the fans split discussing this topic, had the media all over it — and for what exactly? Tampa Bay avoided all of that and simply signed him.

The Seahawks have snatched all the negatives from this story and been left with none of the positives. Nobody should be willing to just look beyond that because they ‘dodged a bullet’ they were more than willing to take. Some accountability is required.

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Assessing Seahawks trade candidates ahead of the deadline

Quinnen Williams is reportedly available for the right price

Names are being thrown around. Some are more likely than not.

The reality is the Seahawks are in a difficult spot to make a trade. They don’t have a first or third round pick next year and they only have $3.7m in available cap space.

That’s not to say they can’t be creative and they’re carrying players on the roster who are arguably dispensable.

The Rams have extended an army of players. The Ravens are now over the cap after trading for Yannick Ngakoue. You can make things happen if you have the want and desire.

So let’s look at some of the names linked and gauge the likelihood of a deal being struck.

Carlos Dunlap (DE, Cincinnati)
Like many veteran players in Cincinnati, Dunlap is unhappy with his role. He’s seen a major reduction in snaps recently. Charley Casserly suggested this week he’d be a good target for the Seahawks. He’s used to playing in a four-man front and last year he had nine sacks on a bad team. His contract isn’t overly expensive and the Seahawks could retain him next season (the final year of his contract) if he performed well. He has the size and length Seattle likes.

How likely is it?
Owner Mike Brown is the problem. He treats the Bengals like a family business and is the decision maker in Cincinnati. A year ago it made perfect sense to trade some of their ageing veterans to launch a rebuild. Brown resisted — making ridiculous demands (eg wanting a second rounder for often-injured Tyler Eifert weeks before he departed in free agency). According to a NFC Executive — once again the asking price for certain players is ‘unreasonable’. If he’s asking for high picks, there’s simply nothing you can do. This is how Mike Brown operates.

It’d make perfect sense for the Bengals to move Dunlap and for the Seahawks to acquire him. Yet all the projections of a day three pick don’t account for the owner. Unfortunately, in his world, Dunlap probably has a first or second round value. I’m not convinced anyone will change his mind either.

Ryan Kerrigan (DE, Washington)
Quietly, Kerrigan has been one of the most prolific sack-artists in the NFL over the last decade. He has 93 career sacks — only six fewer than J.J. Watt. While he’s never achieved a level of dominance comparable to Watt, Kerrigan has been a picture of consistency. He has three sacks this year playing in a reduced role as a complimentary piece to Chase Young and Montez Sweat (although Young has missed some time). Kerrigan has the size and length Seattle likes, even if he’s lost some of the dynamic quickness he used to show during the 13-sack season years.

How likely is it?
Washington, like the rest of the NFC East, are in an odd spot. They are 1-5 and yet they’re in the thick of the divisional race. So are they trying to win the division or rebuild? They have two young first round picks at defensive end and two more first round defensive tackles. It seems unlikely that Kerrigan will be re-signed in the off-season as a free agent, so they should probably see what they can get now and rely on Young and Sweat the rest of the way. He wanted to break the franchise record for sacks and he achieved that in week one. It’d make sense for the team and player to orchestrate a deal — although in fairness he’s never sought a move despite Washington’s troubles so he might be settled. His contract would cost about $6-7m to acquire, so Seattle would have to create cap space.

In many ways, it’d be good for all parties. There are three key questions though. How realistic are Washington prepared to be in a trade for a 32-year-old on an expiring contract? How much do the Seahawks see a 32-year-old pass rusher being able to provide the quickness off the edge they currently badly lack? And how willing are they to create $3-4m in cap space to make it happen? After all — this is likely a 2020 rental. I’m just not sure the cost will fit for Seattle.

Whitney Mercilus (DE, Houston)
Reports last week suggested the Texans were considering a fire-sale. They don’t have a first or second round pick in 2021. They need to provide an attractive proposition to potential GM and Head Coach candidates beyond just Deshaun Watson. Some have touted J.J. Watt as a trade candidate but let’s get real. He is the Texans. He’s an institution in Houston. The more likely trade candidates are Brandin Cooks, Bradley Roby, Kenny Stills, Zach Cunningham, Will Fuller and Whitney Mercilus.

How likely is it?
This is a complicated one. Mercilus only signed a new $53.5m contract last December. His dead cap-hit is enormous and would need to be spread out, causing headaches for some time. It’s the sign of a badly run franchise that you let one individual make so many significant personnel moves, then fire him. However, they are also $16m over the cap for 2021 as things stand. They need to shift some bodies. Imagine trying to coax your GM and Head Coach combo to Houston with the offer of no high picks and no money to spend. Difficult decisions are needed and players will need to be sacrificed after a 1-5 start and with the team almost certainly out of playoff contention. Mercilus is 30 and has the speed and length Seattle likes. His production, however, has dropped off in recent years. He’s not had more than 7.5 sacks in a season since 2015 (he has three sacks this year). It’s questionable how appealing he is if the price isn’t low.

He’s at a reasonable age. He only recently turned 30 so he might have a couple of decent years in the tank. He would be expensive in terms of base salary until 2023 but you could cut him at any point with no penalty. The stumbling block, again, could be price. How reasonable are the Texans willing to be? For Seattle, they will want the flexibility to move on at the end of the season if it doesn’t work. So that would mean giving up a later round pick in order to set the ball rolling for Houston to sort out their cap. Is that appealing to the Texans? Is it worth moving him for? For Seattle, a late round pick works. I’m not sure that’ll cut it for Houston.

Kyler Fackrell (DE, New York Giants)
The Giants, like Washington, are in a strange spot. They are 1-6 yet very much contenders for the NFC East. They should’ve beaten the Eagles on Thursday to take control of the division at 2-4. Dave Gettleman — and to a lesser extent Joe Judge — need to have this franchise heading in the right direction by the end of the year. For that reason, they seem less likely to throw in the towel and siphon off assets. Even so, Fackrell has the length and size to play LEO and was a former blog favourite. He had a fantastic game against Seattle in 2018 during a 10.5 sack season. He has three sacks this year and isn’t expensive.

How likely is it?
Not very. New York’s defense, at times, has been a positive for them (see: the game against the LA Rams). If you’re trying to establish culture and a new mentality, getting rid of players who are actually producing for you isn’t wise. Unlike the Jets, Jaguars and others — the Giants don’t feel like a team that are suddenly having their heads turned by the prospect of being in position to draft Trevor Lawrence. That said, their offensive line is a shambles and if they were able to flip one player to make an O-line improvement, they might consider it. I’m just not sure how much they truly value someone like B.J. Finney.

This could be a low-key brilliant move. Fackrell isn’t going to come in and start wrecking games for you but he has a knack of rushing the edge, getting into the backfield and making things happen. He’s only 28 and there’s no commimtent beyond 2020. However — it just doesn’t make all that much sense for the Giants to trade him unless they get a great offer.

Takk McKinley (DE, Atlanta)
Albert Breer reported recently that prior to the firing of Dan Quinn and Thomas Dimitroff, the Falcons were considering dealing McKinley. He also said the situation is now unclear — with ownership seemingly willing to let caretaker Raheem Morris have a proper shot to win the job. Even so, McKinley is a free agent in the off-season and it would make some sense to get something now for a player who hasn’t delivered on his first round potential.

How likely is it?
With the report on a willingness to trade him and based on his physical profile — it feels like the most likely option listed here. It’s hard to imagine the Falcons asking for much in return. He turns 25 in November, so he’s at a great age. He has the 35-inch arms Seattle likes, LEO size and he ran a solid 1.60 10-yard split. A trade would be ideal for McKinley. He gets a fresh start and an opportunity to make an impression before becoming a free agent. For Seattle he could provide something they badly need — genuine speed off the edge.

Provided the Falcons were willing to deal him and not hold on — it’s probably the most likely scenario. It all depends on Atlanta’s motivation. Trading McKinley doesn’t save any money for next year. If they’re only getting a late round pick — is it worth hampering Morris if they want to see if he’s up to the job? If they’re happy to just move on, then it’s worth a roll of the dice.

Quinnen Williams (DT, New York Jets)
In recent days there’s been a lot of speculation to suggest Williams is available. It very much looks like the Jets are trying to drum up a market. They’re in full-blown tank mode at this stage, with major changes imminent. Acquiring stock for next year is the key. The current GM, Joe Douglas, didn’t draft Williams. If he can get a second rounder to go with the haul he got from Seattle for Jamal Adams, he’ll probably take it.

How likely is it?
It really depends how the Seahawks viewed Williams going into the draft. During the 2018 season, he was arguably the best player in college football. He suddenly exploded onto the scene as a one-year wonder — blowing up interior lines and making plays galore. He had eight sacks and 19.5 TFL’s. He then ran a 4.83 forty at 303lbs at the combine. Williams appeared destined to be the next big thing but for whatever reason, it hasn’t happened. The Seahawks said one of the main reasons they traded for Jamal Adams was their inability to pick high enough to select players of that quality. If they think Williams is a stud suffering due to New York’s ineptitude, they might think at 22-years-old he’s better than anyone they’ll be able to draft in round two next year. Plus — the Jets will take on the bulk of his salary meaning he’ll be a bargain for two more years after this season.

I’m not convinced the Seahawks will want to go into the 2021 draft with no picks in the first three rounds — especially now that the college football season is underway (the 2021 draft no longer looks like a busted flush). However — you’d be getting a #3 overall pick at a great age, on a phenomenally cheap salary and at a position of serious need (D-line). So how did they grade him? Did they think, as some did, that he was the best player in the 2019 draft? I don’t think it’s likely the Jets will get an offer to make a trade worth their while.

Anyone on the Philadelphia Eagles
Philly’s problems with the cap in 2021 are well known. They face a $71m black hole for next year. The only clear solution is to try and use some of their remaining $21.5m for 2020 to absorb dead money this year and get certain big contracts off the books for next season. Fletcher Cox, Brandan Graham and Derek Barnett could be potential targets.

How likely is it?
Bizarrely, they just restructured Cox’s contract and by placing Zach Ertz on short-term IR, they eliminated any shot of him being dealt per the rules. They seem, if anything, to be trying to add before the deadline. Even so — they surely have an eye on their enormous cap problem that is only a few weeks away from being a biting reality. I’m not sure a 2-4-1 team should be ‘all-in’ on an improbable playoff run simply because they have the good fortune to be in the NFC East.

One trade did happen today
The Arizona Cardinals traded a sixth round pick to the Giants for Markus Golden. Having played last night — and with him needing to go through Covid-testing — he won’t play on Sunday. However, it’s a smart move by the Cardinals. He knows the team well having spent four seasons there. They needed a replacement for Chandler Jones. He’s also the third pass rusher, after Yannick Ngakoue and Jordan Willis, to be traded this week. Players are being moved and a market is being established. So far the Seahawks, who desperately need help off the edge, are yet to make a move.

I can’t imagine how the Eagles plan to get out of cap-hell for 2021 without doing some deals before the deadline. They could, theoretically, start cutting players at the end of the season. However — why not try and get something back in return now? It comes down to whether they want to delude themselves into thinking they’re a serious contender, rather than a franchise that needs to embrace how badly they need a refresh.

Final verdict
The issue with many of these options are age and cost. It’d be ideal to have a younger player, still on a rookie deal, with something to prove.

For example, look at the Rams’ trade for Dante Fowler a few years ago. A former top-five pick at a good age with some talent who can come in and try to earn big money in free agency.

The only comparable situation listed here is Takk McKinley in Atlanta. However — unlike Fowler he isn’t a former top-five pick.

More than anything the Seahawks need speed off the edge. A younger player is more likely to provide that but beggars can’t be choosers. If an opportunity for a 30-something pass rusher emerges, it still needs to be considered. The Seahawks are stacked with potential five-techniques but only have Alton Robinson and Benson Mayowa who can play anything akin to a LEO. That’s a big problem.

Yannick Ngakoue on a discount deal for the remainder of the season would’ve been perfect. He’d come to Seattle with an enormous chip on his shoulder, knowing he had a few weeks to set himself up for free agency. He has the quickness they need to attack the edge. He has the production (five sacks in six games) they currently miss. Unfortunately not having a third rounder in 2021 would’ve made it extremely difficult to compete with Baltimore.

Unfortunately the decision to try Stephen Sullivan at pass rusher and bring back Mychal Kendricks (who rushed well from the SAM last year) is perhaps indicative of the difficulty Seattle faces ahead of the deadline.

Nevertheless — the uncertain economic situation in the NFL could still make this a trade deadline like we’ve never seen before. There have been surprises in the past. Nobody predicted Quandre Diggs would be traded, for example.

Could it happen again?

Meanwhile Antonio Brown is set to visit with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this weekend. Reportedly both they and the Seahawks are ‘highly motivated’ to get a deal done.

Given the controversial nature of Seattle’s interest — surely the only thing worse than actively pursuing him would be going through all of this just to miss out?

If you missed our podcast on the Antonio Brown news and the Arizona game, don’t forget to check it out…

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Thursday notes: Yannick Ngakoue traded (again) & an AB theory

Firstly — if you missed our podcast yesterday on the breaking Antonio Brown news and a preview of the Arizona game, don’t forget to check it out…

Thoughts on Yannick Ngakoue’s second trade of 2020

According to Adam Schefter, the Baltimore Ravens are trading their 2021 third round pick and a 2022 conditional fifth to the Vikings for Ngakoue.

Basically, for the sake of six games, Minnesota dropped from a high second round pick to a late third — which is incredible and barely believable.

They end up paying around $6m and moving back approximately 50 picks for six games of Ngakoue.

And once again, the Ravens are the beneficiaries.

Remember in February when the Seahawks stated fixing the pass rush was the priority, only to fail to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney then replace him with Benson Mayowa? Then they traded a second and third round pick for Darrell Taylor — who wasn’t allowed to work out at the Senior Bowl or combine due to injury. It’s increasingly likely he won’t play in 2020 and who knows if or when he’ll be available?

The pass rush hasn’t been fixed and the defense is struggling badly.

Now compare this to Baltimore’s work this off-season:

— Acquired Calais Campbell for a fifth round pick
— Franchise tagged Matt Judon
— Signed Michael Brockers and when he failed a medical, pivoted to Derek Wolfe
— Drafted Justin Madubuike in round three
— Traded a third round pick for Yannick Ngakoue

The difference between the Seahawks and Ravens couldn’t be more stark.

Let’s consider an alternative universe. The Seahawks spend the $50m they used in free agency this year to keep Clowney (or properly replace him) and add Campbell. Instead of trading up for Darrell Taylor, they use their picks to add Ngakoue.

Would they have so many issues on defense? Would they look like the clear team to beat in the NFL?

It’s frustrating to think about what could’ve been.

Some suggested Jacksonville worked with Campbell to move him to the team of his choice and he personally selected the Ravens. Campbell revealed this wasn’t the case at all and that there were multiple interested parties.

I don’t think the Seahawks made a move for Calais because of Jarran Reed. I think they intended to pay Reed and didn’t want to invest $10-12m a year contracts in two defensive tackles. This, to me, was a philosophical call relating to the cap and ultimately a mistake. Campbell has four sacks in six games this year.

The Seahawks also badly need a dynamic edge rusher. Ngakoue has five sacks in six games this season.

A lack of a third rounder in 2021 makes it difficult to compete with Baltimore in this most recent trade. However, they still had a second rounder. They could’ve even offered players or more significant future picks.

If the Seahawks fail to add a pass rusher before the trade deadline, it would’ve been tolerable if the market at the position was quiet. It won’t be if other teams, like the Ravens, go out and get players like Ngakoue.

It wasn’t the only move. Yesterday the 49ers swapped a sixth for a seventh rounder with the Jets for Jordan Willis. His career has never got off the ground but his athletic potential has always been high. He ran a 1.57 10-yard split at his combine and a 4.53 forty. Seattle needs that kind of speed.

The 49ers are turning over rocks to find solutions. What are the Seahawks doing?

If teams like the Vikings have decided to put the ‘for sale’ sign up — the Seahawks have to be aggressive. Had they traded their second round pick for Ngakoue — there would’ve been no complaints here. As I mentioned on Monday — if there was ever a year to be aggressive, this is it.

Hoping for the best with the current pass rush isn’t going to cut it. They don’t have anyone on the roster who can consistently win 1v1 off the edge. They have the fifth worst sack percentage (3.6%) in the NFL.

If the Ravens realise their potential this year and the Seahawks are left wondering what could’ve been — the way both teams approached their pass rush will be a difficult pill to swallow.

The timing of the Antonio Brown report was extremely ‘convenient’

I mentioned this briefly in yesterday’s article but wanted to expand on the thought today. I’m convinced the Seahawks were extremely comfortable with Adam Schefter reporting the news on Antonio Brown and may have even had a hand in supplying the information.

This is a controversial prospective signing given Brown’s recent history. Gauging reaction would be an understandable move by the Seahawks.

You toss out the possibility via the NFL’s premier reporter and see what the fall out is. Schefter has the biggest reach and would be able to bring in the greatest reaction.

Everything about the report felt a little stage-managed. Schefter had a fancy ‘breaking news’ graphic to go with his tweet which I’m guessing he didn’t personally throw together in 15 minutes at home:

Then there’s the couched language:

“The Seattle Seahawks are now positioned to make a push to sign him, though they’re not alone, league sources tell ESPN. Other teams also are interested.”

Let’s parse this a little. The Seahawks are in a position to sign him but nothing is done. It’s both non-committal yet striking. If others are interested and nothing is done, why single out the Seahawks as an interested party? Why are they the focal point of the report, rather than the mere fact they are among the teams showing interest?

If my hunch is correct that this is an exercise in gauging reaction, the use of language is quite clever here. Down the line the Seahawks have an easy out if they decide not to sign him, with no discrediting of the reporter. They are the only team mentioned with the caveat that nothing is certain.

Using the media in this way is nothing new. Sports teams, governments, politicians, companies — it happens all the time. If you want to know what people think to an idea, get it into the media as a possibility and see what happens.

The heat is taken off somewhat if you know public opinion is on your side.

I’ve had a quick look at social media and the forums. There doesn’t seem to have been any kind of backlash. Some fans have been vocal in their disproval. Yet there hasn’t been a groundswell of negativity.

For that reason, I suspect the Seahawks might have received the feedback they require to feel comfortable making this signing. It would be curious for this information to be made so public and not come to fruition. If Pete Carroll wanted to play everything down he could’ve during his press conference. Instead, he embraced the report.

To me, this feels increasingly inevitable.

I do think there are some serious things to consider, including how you handle Brown. As noted yesterday — some responsibility needs to be placed with Russell Wilson. The quarterback wants him, has petitioned for him, so Wilson needs to make sure this works out.

It feels like he will get that opportunity and barring any setbacks Brown will likely agree terms with the Seahawks next week, go through the Covid-19 protocols and be ready to play Buffalo in week nine.

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