Month: May 2023 (Page 1 of 2)

Some thoughts on the Seahawks defense

I’m in the middle of a very busy day-job period and that’ll likely stretch into next week. From there, we’ll also be entering the ‘quiet season’ for the NFL so my intention is to take a break at some point, then return ahead of training camp as we prepare for another run to April.

I did want to offer some thoughts on the defense currently, however.

I find it interesting that the team is running through a number of nose tackles in a quest, it seems, to find someone they like. Intriguing UDFA signing Robert Cooper has just been cut. Other players are now being brought in.

Although Cameron Young is well placed to earn a significant role as a rookie — depth is required. They’re doing the right thing by checking out different individuals.

I view the situation two ways. Firstly, as noted recently, the 2013 D-line had great depth off the edge but it hardly had a star-studded, loaded interior. The Seahawks had role-players who complemented the pass rush. You can make a strong argument that they didn’t have anyone as potentially impactful as Dre’Mont Jones in 2013. Therefore, I don’t think being overly doom and gloom about the situation is necessary — especially as someone who thinks Young was very underrated during the draft process and could have an impactful rookie campaign.

On the other hand, the scheme is different now. This isn’t the 2013 defense. I’m not an X’s and O’s guy and have never claimed to be. That said, I think it’s fairly well established that the 2013 system basically relied on executing an uncomplicated scheme. The new defense seems a lot more varied. The word ‘hybrid’ gets mentioned a lot. Pete Carroll is already talking about flipping between different fronts, one-gapping and two-gapping. I was a little bit alarmed, I have to say, to read that soon-to-be 33-year-old Bobby Wagner is starting OTA’s trying to fly around the field covering running backs as receivers.

A lot of teams are experimenting with Vic Fangio coaches and elements of his system. As far as I can tell, none are performing particularly well. The idea of the Seahawks using a bit of that, a bit of the old system, and a bit of everything else in between, does worry me a little.

I also completely accept when Carroll talks about the 2013 defense being somewhat ‘found out’ as coaches departed Seattle and opponents worked out ways to attack the Seahawks. It’s understandable why you’d seek to adjust.

There’s no easy answer here, or any quick fix. Yet the defensive results over the last few years have been unnerving. The persistent slow starts, with Carroll noting annually they’ve just got to work things out, have become quite frustrating. I’m not sure giving your players a lot of options in a hybrid system is a great idea. Neither do I think asking 33-year-old linebackers to take on challenging coverage reps is a good idea.

When you look at the offense, it appears loaded. There are barely any holes. Sure, you’d love to have a world-class interior offensive lineman to finish things off. Geno Smith will need to play more like the first half of 2022 rather than the second half. It’s also important players like Charles Cross take a step forward in year two. Yet this is a team that has invested in the O-line and weapons and it’s impossible not to carry a great deal of excitement about what this unit can achieve in 2023.

I’d hate for that to be undermined because the defense is giving up five yards a carry again, while not being able to stop opponents waltzing up and down the field. Too much has been invested in the defense for that to be acceptable now. This is a very expensive defense. Results are required and should be demanded.

One common theme with this type of scheme, which features a three-man front at least some of the time, is bad run defense. If you don’t have a top-level big-man controlling things, it’s hard to see how you avoid this.

That’s why the musical chairs act at nose tackle is a little bit concerning. They’re probably one really established, big-bodied DT away from looking somewhat complete. Relying on a rookie in Young, however intriguing I think he is, while seeking depth virtually off the street, feels like an issue.

It’s also why I think something should’ve been done by now to address Jamal Adams’ contract. He has the biggest cap hit on the team at $18.1m. By all accounts it sounds like it’s at least possible he’ll miss a chunk of the regular season. His injury is serious enough to question whether he’ll ever be the same — and that’s before we acknowledge his lingering shoulder and finger issues.

There’s a section of the fan base that seems to take it personally whenever you question Adams. They’re welcome to that view. I hated the trade from day one, argued the Seahawks shouldn’t have paid him when they did and I think they should’ve chewed up the dead money by designating him as a post-June 1st cut weeks ago. You could’ve used the $8.4m saving in 2023 to keep Ryan Neal and Al Woods and right now, I think that’d be a better bet than hoping — optimistically — that Adams is ever going to amount to anything in Seattle.

People talk about the future dead cap money ($14.2m in 2024) but that isn’t prohibitive and let’s be honest here, the chances are Adams isn’t for long in Seattle anyway. You’re going to take on some dead money even if you give this 12 months. People often argued that dead money would prevent a Russell Wilson trade and that simply wasn’t the case. They handled that financial dilemma easily.

Sometimes you’ve just got to write off a bad move and crack on. I think the Seahawks would be a better team with Woods and Neal rather than the hope that Adams can come back as a blitzing dynamo in a hybrid role and stay healthy.

The Seahawks are currently $570,000 in the red for effective cap space. I don’t know a nose tackle who can come in and solve the problem at this stage in the off-season but it simply makes no sense to commit $18.1m to Adams and have no money to spend. If an opportunity emerges, currently they wouldn’t be able to act. There has to be a difficult conversation here to reduce his salary. If Adams is cut, it’s hard to know if he’d get a job in 2023 with the seriousness of his injury. What would the future hold financially? Surely there has to be some negotiation here, for the benefit of the team and perhaps even the player?

This feels especially necessary with the safety market cratering in the last 12 months. It makes no financial sense whatsoever to be committing $18.1m to Jamal Adams.

I appreciate the reason why teams like Philadelphia, San Francisco, Dallas and the New York Jets are thriving on defense is mainly down to talent. The Eagles have depth, while the other three have elite players up front. Yet last year all four used systems, as far as I can tell, that were closer to the 2013 Seahawks than the 2022 version. That’s no surprise when Dan Quinn and Robert Salah are involved with two of them, while Salah was previously also coaching the Niners.

I think Seattle has enough ‘edge’ talent now to be a dangerous pass rushing team and with Dre’Mont Jones, they have an interior disruptor. I’d personally like to see them act more like the Cowboys than cling to the bear-front system. That feels like the best way to minimise their lack of an established nose tackle and the best way to get the most out of players like Wagner.

I thought it was encouraging when Richard Sherman said on his podcast they were going back to the old scheme. That was later played down. It’s a shame. I think it makes a lot more sense than persevering with a system that many teams in the league are struggling to execute.

I just don’t want the defense to be a liability again this year, especially with the offense looking potentially as potent as it’s ever looked in Seattle. We can’t endure five or six weeks of terrible play in 2023, with a promise to get better. It’s time for a unit that has had major investment to start to at least provide a base level of performance that doesn’t compare to Swiss-cheese.

That could require some difficult decisions to be made, both in terms of personnel and scheme.

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Curtis Allen on the cap and realizing value for Seattle

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…

Fresh off the draft and with the bulk of free agency complete, I wanted to share some thoughts on the 2023 roster the Seahawks have put together when it comes to the on-field product the team will roll out this fall.  There is terrific potential for a high value return all over the roster, as well as very real risk at certain spots on the roster that could actually reduce that overall value.

We have talked about this at length recently. Value, in its purest form, is getting more on the field than what you pay for in cap space.  True success in the NFL depends on it.

I think we can all agree the Seahawks have had a very productive offseason with their roster moves.  The plan appears far more effective, needs are being addressed and perhaps most importantly, they are recalibrating their processes to a healthy degree.

As the team transitions into the offseason activities, finalizing the main pieces on the roster and evaluating their major additions, the focus shifts from acquiring pieces from the marketplace to making those pieces fit into a cohesive team that produces more value than the sum total of their salary cap expenditures.

How can they take that next step from scraping into the playoffs to a team that regularly makes deeper postseason runs?  What will ultimately drive this team forward in 2023?  

Two major points of roster value.

Avoiding ‘Comatose Cap Space’

What is that?  Well, if dead cap space is cap space allocated to players no longer on the roster, comatose cap space can be defined as cap space for players on the roster but contributing very little to the overall success of the team, if not being a drain on the roster.

The Seahawks were lousy with this brand of cap space in 2022.  

Jamal Adams busted a finger the first day of camp and then tore his quad in the first game of the season, continuing his pattern of frequently being unavailable due to injury.  The coaching staff more than once made comments to the effect that they built a large part of the defensive strategy around this constantly injured player – a startling revelation that borders on malpractice if true.

Gabe Jackson struggled to have any impact at all on the offensive line.  The team spent 2021 with a weak spot at left guard while Damien Lewis adjusted to being moved in order to accommodate Jackson on the right side.  2022 proved to be a predictable flip in effectiveness – Lewis excelled on the left while Jackson floundered on the right in a job-sharing role with Phil Haynes.

Poona Ford played out of position in the last year of a back-loaded contract as the team sought to revamp their defensive line strategy and the results demonstrated that clearly.

Rashaad Penny had only one above-average game after closing 2021 with a flourish.  The offense badly needed an effective running game as Geno Smith settled into his new job, Ken Walker was brought along slowly in the early going after a hernia surgery and the defense was being the defense early on.

Quandre Diggs did not play nearly up to his potential through the first two thirds of the season.  Coming off a serious injury, helping cover the inept tackling at linebacker and the general disaster of a defensive line all greatly sapped his ability to provide real value as a ballhawk and guided-missile hitter.

All told, those players accounted for about $40 million in cap space last year – nearly 20% of their available cap space.  It was a serious drain on resources that bogged the team down and prevented them from truly capitalizing on amazing value gains such as Geno Smith’s breakthrough season, a low-cost high-yield season by D.K. Metcalf and an excellent rookie class delivering better than they had any right to.

Is it reasonable to expect the team to have zero wasted space in 2023?  To have no major injuries and have every player at least return his full cap hit in value?  Of course not.

Every team has injuries.  Every team has expensive players that sputter at times.  Often what defines a successful program is the coaching, depth development and scheming around these speedbumps with a degree of acumen that keeps your whole program as on-schedule as can be reasonably allowed.  It also means having the foresight and planning ability to smooth out those speedbumps before they even materialize.

If we can identify these speedbumps, we may be able to better understand how competitive the Seahawks will be this fall and evaluate their progress as the season goes on.

Potential Challenges to Value in 2023

Let’s start with the low-hanging fruit:  the defense as a whole.

The team has made major changes to all three levels of its defense.  Once again, they have significantly re-worked their defensive line following a frustrating year.  They have brought Bobby Wagner back to bring some stability to the linebackers and signed Julian Love as a Swiss army knife to provide depth and flexibility to the defensive backfield.

They must get this unit to gel much, much quicker than they traditionally have in the past.  It was a breath of fresh air to hear Pete Carroll admit after this last season that they may have set their sights too high in making all the defensive changes.  As we discussed above, you could see how badly it affected every corner of the defense.

What is riding on making this defense more consistent in 2023?  

They have expensive free agent acquisitions with cheap cap hits this year in Julian Love ($3.9m) and Dre Jones ($10m), structured to fit under the cap.  But those contracts are scheduled to expand significantly in 2024 (to $8m and $18m respectively).  The roster value advantage of the first-year lower cap hit is a limited-time benefit they must take advantage of.  If those two spend a whole year adjusting to a gameplan that is not well-structured from the start rather than being put in a position to succeed in short order, that benefit evaporates and forces a ‘must improve quickly and dramatically to justify the expenditure’ situation for both players in 2024.

The team also needs the defense to be able to cover any growing pains from the 2022 and 2023 draft classes.  As we saw last year, oftentimes the rookies were the ones outplaying the veterans.  Any coach will tell you that is playing with fire.

Perhaps most importantly, they need a unified vision for the defense because the back end is carrying an incredible cap weight.  Brass tacks:  there is no way that Diggs and Adams can return $36 million of roster value in 2023.  The best you can do is minimize that deficit by having sound structure around them that allows them to do what they do best.

A challenge that has really plagued this huge investment at the position is they have logged just as many games apart as they have together.  And yet, when playing together, the defense has never truly realized the benefit of one of the league’s most talked-about and highest-compensated duos to a degree that satisfies the price paid.

Diggs had five interceptions and Adams had nine and a half sacks in 2020 for one of the worst defenses in the NFL.  

Diggs had another five picks in 2021 and Adams was used in a completely different role and could not tilt the field much at all in another poor defensive year.  

2022?  We covered that above.

In three years, we have not seen what these two talented players can really do because the team has not provided them with adequate teammates or in other ways taken advantage of their talents.  Therefore, there truly has not been enough return on investment to justify it.

As has been discussed at length, there is yet one more way the Front Office can chip in some value on this front:  reworking Adams’ contract, reducing the salary down so the 2023 hit is less than $18 million without pushing any money into 2024.  This makes too much sense to not at least approach Adams and have that conversation.

There are other potential value challenges on the offensive side.  Tyler Lockett, D.K. Metcalf and Will Dissly hit the cap for $34 million in 2023 and we should not overlook them as high-dollar contracts that may not live up to their promise.  Yet Lockett and Metcalf have an excellent track record when it comes to providing value and while Dissly’s $9 million cap hit is not ideal, it is highly unlikely to make a significant dent in the team’s output on the field if he is not absolutely worth every penny.

It is all about the defense at this point.  The next three months are critical.  The installation, the prepping, the practice and the decisions they make could push this team significantly forward or keep them treading water in NFL purgatory.

Thankfully, the offense looks so potent and the bar for the defense is not set at an unattainable level.  This squad as currently constructed should meet every expectation that they return a result that is at least in the middle of the pack in the NFL in 2023.  

That is what successful teams do.  They manage expensive (but necessary) components of their roster that may not provide big value to such a degree that they do not hinder the entire team from achieving their goals.

The Seahawks must find a way to at least break even in defensive value in 2023.  Anything less would be a spoiling of the great work the team has done to improve the roster this spring.

What makes that job easier, particularly from Pete Carroll’s standpoint?

There is Ready Value All Over This 2023 Roster

There is an abundance of young, hungry talent along with some cost-controlled veterans to work with.  Instead of just relying on a good quarterback surrounded by tired veteran retreads and one or two young standouts to keep the team afloat, a look at this roster should get every fan excited about the seasons to come.  It will also keep breathing life into Carroll’s enthusiasm for pushing this team towards success.

We have eaten our vegetables by talking about the hard work to make this defense go.  Now let’s have dessert by talking about the ‘fun work.’

Let us count the ways:

— The quarterback room has a cap of $14.1 million.  That includes a $10m number for Geno Smith, coming off a 69.8% completion season where he took all the snaps and delivered 30 touchdowns and only threw 11 interceptions.  Yes, they have pushed out significant cap to 2024 but this team is poised to get big, big value from the position in 2023.  With all of his weapons and a second full year in this offense, an improvement is a reasonable expectation.

— The starting five offensive linemen with Evan Brown at center have a total cap charge of $15.6 million this season and are on track to be the best one the team has had in years.

— The top four running backs will cost the team just over $4.25 million of cap room and could put a charge into this whole team with their game-breaking ability, toughness and versatility.  If Kenny McIntosh makes the final 53, he will likely be the 52nd or 53rd lowest salary on the team, meaning the Seahawks may not be charged any salary cap money in 2023 for him depending on how they manage the bottom of the roster.  Seriously.  A returner, a special teams man, a third runner and a pass catcher for free.  He could be a unicorn that provides ‘infinity value’ to the team this fall because he has no cap cost.

— They could end up having seven players across the defensive line making less than $2.15 million each in 2023 and four of them figure to have very prominent roles:  Darrell Taylor, Boye Mafe, Derick Hall and Cameron Young.

— The cornerbacks.  Oh my, the cornerbacks.  They have five players who can plug in and start for stretches totalling a mere $10.13 million in cap space.  They might have a top 5-10 cornerback room this year for the sum cost of less than nine games of Jalen Ramsey.

It is going to be a joy to watch these players in training camp and in the preseason.  One of the greatest sights in professional sports fandom is witnessing talented athletes transforming into great pro players and helping their team ascend to new levels.  We will have a front row seat to see this fantastic cross section of young talent develop right before our eyes.

Make no mistake though, there is pressure on the staff to keep developing the 2022 draft class above and beyond just the natural need to develop your young players.  Starters like Walker, Woolen and the tackles have a lot of room to grow.  Players like Mafe, Bryant and even Dareke Young need to take that next step to where they get significant snaps regularly.

The hallmarks of the 2023 draft class should also serve them well in developing at a good pace.  Their abundant qualities like toughness, skill and versatility will very likely result in players like Witherspoon, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Derick Hall and Zach Charbonnet seeing significant playing time this season.

It is absolutely crucial that the Seahawks do everything in their power to nurture these two draft classes along in 2023.  Why?

One way or another, they are going to have to make a big investment in 2024.  Be it in the form of keeping Geno Smith and his major cap hit on the roster, re-committing to him in the form of a contract reworking, or making the move in the draft and acquiring a quarterback of the future.

They also (at this time anyway) have $39 million committed to the two safeties in 2024 that they will need to decide on.

The more successful they are at finding value with these talented but low-cost players in 2023, the easier it will be to make critical decisions in 2024 that really help the Seahawks reach the next tier of NFL teams.

Honestly, these two areas – putting expensive veterans in a position to succeed and developing their young talent – have arguably been the weakest areas in the entire organization in recent years.  The post-Super Bowl era has been littered with cap space wasted in free agency and young draft picks either not developed or quickly cast aside in favor of those expensive veteran players.

It will be a very big challenge for the team to shake off those bad habits and refocus.

It is fair to say that the front office has re-evaluated their methods and taken great advantage of the opportunities available to them to acquire some serious young talent and free agents who have not reached their ceiling yet.  

They now need the player development and coaching arms of the club to follow suit.  Can they do it?  Can they make this roster into a team that is more than the sum of its parts?

We will see.

Part three of my early 2024 QB review

Bo Nix is kind of indicative of what the 2024 QB class is

This process of trying to study the 2024 quarterbacks has been quite interesting. There are so many names to run through and it’s becoming quite apparent that this is a deep class but it lacks star power.

There’s a common trend running through the group. Most of the players I’m watching have appealing qualities. Most of them have decent arm strength and some mobility. They are capable of being winning quarterbacks in college.

Yet so far, there’s only one player who’s ‘wowed’ me and that’s Caleb Williams at USC. The rest just feel like middle and later round picks. It’s not very exciting.

That mine be fine for the Seahawks. If their plan is to draft a player with raw tools in the second-to-fourth round range next year as a development project, I’ve no doubt they’ll find someone they like. There are so many names.

The early hype, however, that this is some otherworldly class that far outstrips the 2023 QB’s, is just nonsense. Nobody is standing out in the way Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis did 12 months ago. Nobody is showing the incredible upside potential of Anthony Richardson either.

It’s quite hard to watch these players and feel like you’re watching potential first round picks or obvious NFL starters.

Increasingly I can see why John Schneider, perhaps inadvertently (or not), name-dropped Quinn Ewers in one of his post-draft press conferences when talking about Jaxon Smith-Njigba. As bad as Ewers’ tape was in 2022, he has the upside and tools. There’s something to work with, even if he needs a ton of development. He plays in an offense that is more translatable than the super-spread many teams use. It’s easier to imagine what he can become, compared to some of the lower-ceiling players I’ve watched so far.

I can make an argument that the Seahawks might see him as a one-day starter who can be worked on in the background. What he’s shown so far, however, isn’t anywhere close to an early-round level of performance.

I’m finding it especially hard to properly judge the PAC-12 quarterbacks who aren’t Caleb Williams because the pass rush in the conference is so bad. The two I watched for this piece played in an environment completely foreign to what they’ll experience in the NFL.

However, it’s also important to note that there’s a full season yet to come. One of the positives of the NIL era is there’s less incentive for the quarterbacks to declare. The current crop are playing a lot more games in college. With experience should come a greater understanding of what they’re trying to do and improved performance. At least you’d hope so.

I remember the first player I wrote about in 2009. It was Russell Wilson, playing for NC State. He was perfectly fine but certainly not the Wilson we saw at Wisconsin. He grew with experience (not literally, obviously). We’ll see if the 2024 quarterbacks can do the same.

I am slightly fearful because for all the talk about this next class, there aren’t a lot of obvious solutions if the Seahawks need to find an answer next year. I don’t see multiple first rounders so far. In fact I see one. There’s time for that to change but right now this looks like a very deep group but one lacking X-factor players.

Let’s get into my three-player review for this piece…

LSU’s Jayden Daniels really kicked on as the 2022 season went along, helping LSU establish themselves as a returning power — denying Alabama a tilt at Georgia in the SEC title game.

He caught the eye as a naturally gifted playmaker who can certainly make LSU another dangerous team in 2023. However, there are some con’s to go with the obvious pro’s.

Firstly, there’s a lot of one-read-and-run stuff in the LSU system. So often on tape he’ll look at his first target and if it isn’t there, he sets off. Often it works in college and he can scramble around to make plays. At the next level, that won’t cut it. You’ve got to sit in there and go through progressions. He also takes his fair amount of hits playing this way. In college he’s tricky and elusive when the initial read isn’t on. For the NFL he’ll need to convince teams he can sit in the pocket and make proper reads. That’s a big question mark at the moment.

When he does run, he’s a strong runner. It’s just too big a part of his game. He couldn’t play the second half against Georgia due to an ankle injury and I worry about the punishment he takes even in college.

Daniels has a good arm and there’s evidence of him being able to throw 50-55 yard passes downfield. At every level he generally throws with timing and accuracy. He has a habit of staring at his read and then throwing into traffic. Strangely he still completes a lot of those passes but in the NFL it’ll be dangerous.

He throws a good, clean ball with reasonable velocity. He showed a good ability to check-down and be patient against Georgia, despite facing heavy pressure. Daniels also took a major hit against Alabama but still delivered a fantastic pass. He doesn’t lack for composure in those situations, I just wish he wasn’t as eager to set off. For every time he avoided pressure he’d run into a sack.

His fade throws could use a bit more loft and he occasionally throws slightly behind.

Against Alabama he made a clutch red-zone throw late in the fourth quarter then won the game in overtime for his team. You have to admire how he did that, in such a high pressure encounter against a tough opponent. He elevated LSU in a big way after a tricky start to the season. I’m keen to see if he can take his own performance to another level this year.

Overall I think he’s a fun player who will win a lot of games in 2023 if he can stay healthy. Nobody will look forward to facing him. Yet I never felt watching Daniels that I was seeing a high draft pick or necessarily a future NFL starter. There are intriguing elements to his game but he reminds me of a less erratic Dorian Thompson-Robinson (although I think DTR had a better arm).

Oregon’s Bo Nix went the opposite route to Jayden Daniels. Nix swapped the SEC for the PAC-12, Daniels did the reverse when he transferred from Arizona State. It’s done his career the world of good. Despite all of the recruiting hype at Auburn, Nix floundered. He’s rebuilding his career at Oregon nicely.

That said, it’s flipping easy for him. Oregon runs the ball very well and everything plays off that. It helps slow down any kind of pass rush the Ducks face and means Nix can both manage the offense and take occasional shots downfield thanks to the defense cheating up. He also benefits from extreme speed at receiver, with players often running downfield uncovered.

I watched game after game where Nix was basically untouched. In other situations he’s sent on bootleg motions to get out of the pocket and stay clean. Oregon also sprinkles in some well-schemed shorter passes and everything just ticks along. The run is so strong and consistent, the offensive machine chugs along and all he has to do is play the right notes.

Take the UCLA game. They just ran all over them. It’s one of the easier environments for a QB I’ve seen in quite a while.

I don’t think Nix is a X-factor player. I think he’s a good glue-guy for Oregon. He does the little short passes and dump-offs well. He offers a genuine threat as a QB-keeper. The stuff on the run works. He has enough arm strength to drive the ball 50-55 yards downfield and he can do a lot of the basics right. He manages things.

I’m not convinced you can put a game on his back though and I think if they ever play a top team again we might see a repeat of the Georgia game to open last season.

He had some misses on tape vs Utah and he’s not a surgeon with accuracy. He also had a horribly telegraphed interception to the left sideline vs Utah. There’s very little evidence of going through progressions and the main key to the passing game seems to be to get it out quickly and complement the run.

Nix can drive the ball downfield well and he had a nice touchdown vs UCLA to show that off — but he also had four clear seconds in the pocket to allow the receiver to run right down the middle and create a couple of yards of separation. Against Washington he showed off good core strength to throw across his body on the run 55-60 yards downfield for a touchdown. When you actually study the tape though, there are two receivers wide open with nobody near them, waiting for the pass.

Oregon’s receivers are just too good and too fast to cover when they get the free release. With hardly any pressure on Nix, he often just has to bide his time on the big throws downfield and it’s a cheap score.

Nix can run with power and he’s mobile but he’s not especially sudden or dynamic when he scrambles. Overall I think he’s a perfectly fine player who will get drafted later on as a likely project or backup with the view that he might be a facilitator in the right system. There’s not much to get excited about though, not without a big step-forward (and some bigger defensive challenges) in 2023.

Washington State’s Cam Ward can improvise well and throw from difficult angles with accuracy. I was more impressed than I expected to be with his anticipation from the pocket. In particular, you see some great back-shoulder work. He clearly trusts the scheme and his receivers and they combined to execute well in the games I watched.

Ward can be creative in the pocket to extend plays. He’s not Williams-esque but if he gets into bother, his first instinct is to elude and look downfield, rather than just set off and run.

I don’t think he has the freaky torque in his body to be a big-time off-platform dynamo and there are some clear misses on tape when throwing downfield. Underthrown passes are an issue and he needs to be more consistent with his footwork, base and throwing with the right amount of air to give his receiver a chance. He does have some bad interceptions on tape, too.

I found the Washington State offense a bit predictable overall apart from when he was scrambling and creating. Like Nix, he also had games where there was no pressure. Against California there was a play where he basically walked around in the pocket like he was going for a Sunday stroll before delivering a pass when the receiver uncovered. He had time to check Twitter if he wanted.

That said, there’s evidence again of an arm capable of throwing 50-55 yards downfield (his throwing technique is not orthodox but it gets the job done) and he’s not afraid to throw over the middle.

As with Nix, though, it’s just hard to watch him and feel like I’m watching a high draft pick — at least based on 2022 tape.

For part one of my 2024 quarterback preview, click here.

For part two of my 2024 quarterback preview, click here.

If you’ve enjoyed the blog this draft season and want to support the site via Patreon — (click here)

An interview with Jim Nagy on Seattle’s 2023 draft

This week I had the opportunity to sit down with Jim Nagy from the Senior Bowl and discuss the Seahawks’ 2023 draft class (and he provides some insight on the conversations he had with John Schneider before and after the draft). We also get into some other topics in a wide ranging conversation. Check it out below:

Seahawks draft plans revealed in intriguing articles

The Seahawks had a first round grade on Derick Hall

After the draft it’s always a fun exercise to try and put together little bits of information to try and work out the thinking in the draft room.

Wonderfully, information relating to the Seahawks has started dripped into the public domain.

Firstly, this article from ESPN’s Brady Henderson. Over the last couple of years Henderson has written articles that are well sourced and he appears to be connected to the Seahawks front office. I would suggest when he says something as fact, or implies a thought from within the walls of the front office, that it’s worth paying attention to.

Here’s what he wrote:

Schneider said Thursday after the first round that while the Seahawks listened to trade offers for the fifth pick, they had already decided that they weren’t going to move back from that spot if Witherspoon and/or one other player were available.

The unnamed player was Anderson. The Alabama outside linebacker briefly looked as though he might fall into Seattle’s lap when the Houston Texans took Stroud second overall, creating some fleeting hope in the Seahawks’ draft room that quickly vanished when Houston traded back up to 3 to take Anderson.

From a pure evaluation standpoint, the Seahawks thought enough of Richardson’s talent and potential to take him with the fifth pick. But in the bigger picture, for a team that’s trying to win now and in a financial pinch, it would have been tough to justify using a pick so high — and the money that comes with it — on an undeveloped quarterback who’d be a backup for at least one season.

Here’s what I would take away from this:

— Will Anderson was almost certainly their top target at #5. That’s not a big surprise, it felt obvious pretty much since the end of the season.

— I don’t think the Seahawks were planning to draft a quarterback at #5. I’m not convinced it was as philosophical as suggested here. For example, if John Schneider loved a quarterback I doubt the financial constraints would’ve prevented the pick. After all, they’re spending $40m on safeties this year. I think it’s more a case of none of the quarterbacks expected to be available at #5 moved the needle enough for Seattle’s GM to make that call. At least not enough to pass on Anderson or Devon Witherspoon, who they seemed to zone-in on.

— I do think the Seahawks really liked Anthony Richardson. My impression is Pete Carroll developed a soft spot for him, with the way he’s spoken so glowingly about the player. I also think they were likely very intrigued by his physical upside. Maybe if Anderson and Witherspoon were off the board and no trade-down option was viable, they might’ve drafted him? But I sense that wasn’t a burning ambition, to select him at #5. Nevertheless, I think with the way Carroll has spoken since the draft, he’s genuinely pleased for Richardson that he went as high as he did as he’d taken a shine to him as a person, even if he wasn’t the player they were specifically targeting.

As I’ve mentioned a few times, I had a conversation with a former Seahawks player the weekend before the draft. He suggested they would take someone at #5 who could be a ‘firebrand’ — someone who can add to the leadership in the locker room, that they’d sought to further develop this year by re-signing Bobby Wagner and Jarran Reed. The former player didn’t expect a quarterback at #5 either.

That conversation, combined with Henderson’s report, leads me to think that the Seahawks were strictly thinking Anderson and Witherspoon at #5 — two physical, alpha, 100% football types with leadership and tone-setting qualities.

John Boyle at has written a tremendous article from inside the Seahawks draft room. The piece last year was incredibly insightful and interesting and this equally provides some tantalising nuggets of information (while also leaving you hungry for more).

Boyle notes that the Seahawks had four players left on their board with first round grades, once Washington had selected Emmanuel Forbes at #16. One of those players was Jaxon Smith-Njigba, taken at #20. One of the others was Derick Hall.

Regardless of your personal view of the players in question, it really speaks to how this was a successful draft for the Seahawks internally. The piece mentions they had fewer than 20 players with first round grades on their board, yet they came away with three of them. That’s a huge result.

It’s also noted that while the Seahawks liked Keeanu Benton, he wasn’t top of their board as the #52 pick was approaching. That was Zach Charbonnet. John Schneider tried to move up, presumably to land the UCLA running back who was one of the few remaining players they had graded in round two. They got him with their native second rounder. Again, that’s a success story for the team based on their grading.

I won’t re-write everything that is said in the piece, go and check it out for yourself. It’s brilliant and hopefully it’s a journalistic tradition the Seahawks continue next year.

The other nugget to review is this report from Tyler Dunne at

“I was told the Seahawks were quite pleased that everybody seemed to view their team as (Jalen) Carter’s most logical landing spot. It was never going to happen. (“Hell no”, one team source said).”

This is something we consistently noted, of course, to the extent I felt confident enough to write I was 99.5% certain they wouldn’t take Carter in a piece critiquing all of the mocks that paired him with the Seahawks.

The wider media, however, were convinced. Virtually every mock had Carter going to the Seahawks. Peter King noted how it had become a cliché among league sources to give the Seahawks Carter in projections. Todd McShay, who days earlier had reported he’d heard the Seahawks wouldn’t take Carter, edited his final mock draft hours before the event to have Seattle pick the Georgia defensive tackle at #5. Locally, when the Seahawks were on the clock, Gregg Bell even tweeted, “All signs are Seattle is going to draft defensive tackle Jalen Carter here next at 5.”

As Dunne notes, it was never happening. I wouldn’t have written or talked about it with such conviction without doing my own homework or speaking to my own sources. It needn’t have been such a big talking point but a serious conversation was never really had about the likelihood of Seattle passing on Carter.

The other thing I wanted to bring up isn’t from a report, it’s from John Schneider himself. It’s the way he referenced a desire to acquire extra 2024 stock as a key goal during the draft.

I suspect he felt that was important because of the quarterback position, more than anything.

Firstly, with the entire middle tier of the 2023 class returning to college football, it stripped away the depth this year while simultaneously plumping up the 2024 crop. The hype over the talent available might be OTT — but there’s certainly a lot more quarterback depth next year.

This means the Seahawks should be able to find someone they like enough to draft and develop, whether that’s in the first, second or third round. Having that extra third rounder courtesy of the Broncos gives them some crucial flexibility.

Secondly, Geno Smith’s contract dictates they have to plan ahead. His cap hit will be no lower than $31.2m next year. For it to stick at $31.2m, however, he’d have to fail to hit any of the following $2m incentives:

— Passing Yards (4,282)
— Passing Touchdowns (30)
— Completion % (69.8)
— Passer Rating (100.9)
— Wins (9)

Thus, the likelihood of him getting $31.2m in 2024 is remote. He’ll either be cut, take a pay-cut or earn more than $31.2m because he hit the incentives. It’s hard to imagine him failing to reach all of these targets and being seen as value for money at $31.2m.

Therefore, it kind of narrows it down to this. Smith is either going to play well and secure his position for 2024 and 2025, or they’ll be in a slightly desperate situation where they need to replace him next off-season.

Is Drew Lock an option if that happens? Sure, but they’d run the risk of becoming another Indianapolis — having a good roster and not having a serious long-term answer at the most vital position.

There’s even a situation where Smith hits some of his incentives and the Seahawks still have to have a difficult decision to make. What if he throws 30 touchdowns to get an extra $2m but also throws 20 interceptions? What if his play is average but the rest of the roster elevates the team to nine wins? If both of those things happen, he’d suddenly be due $35.2m next year. This is a quite complex situation in terms of Smith’s future.

Even if he plays brilliantly (and hopefully he will) it’d be worth investing in a quarterback for the future. Firstly, it delivers a cheap backup. Secondly, it provides a potential heir to the starter role, with Smith turning 34 next year.

The Seahawks might not have wanted to spend the #5 pick this year on a quarterback, investing and drawing major attention to a third stringer while failing to deliver an impact player in 2023, but a quarterback is coming and it’s likely coming in 2024.

I’d suggest reading the first two parts of my quarterback study for next year (click here for part one and click here for part two).

If they’re ultimately drafting someone to develop, it could be someone with tools who needs refinement. Schneider already name-dropped Quinn Ewers in one of his post-draft press conferences. He’d be a classic example of someone with all the physical qualities to be a top quarterback but his tape, so far, is fairly dreadful. He needs major work and given he almost has to declare next year due to Arch Manning’s presence at Texas, he could be seen as an intriguing project. I also think the Seahawks will be drawn to Michael Penix Jr’s arm talent and personality. They are two options but there are others.

Everything written in this article today, I discussed in the video below:

If you’ve enjoyed the blog this draft season and want to support the site via Patreon — (click here)

Curtis Allen’s post-draft cap update

This is a guest article by Curtis Allen…

With the draft behind us it’s a good time to talk about where the Seahawks’ cap situation stands.  They made the majority of their most impactful roster moves already and the picture of what this roster will look like in 2023 is quickly coming into focus.

OTC has the Seahawks with only $4.6 million of cap room before they sign their draft picks and they’ll be $4.33 million over the cap after they sign them all.  They currently don’t have enough room to sign their draft class, let alone make any further moves.

For what it is worth, at the very end of the Seahawks’ press conference on day three of the draft, John Schneider was asked if the team will have to make moves or tweak some contracts to fit the draft class in. He responded, “No.  We’re OK right now.” 

Very interesting.  The official NFLPA cap report has the Seahawks with only $5.5 million of cap room currently so OTC is not wildly misreporting their cap number.  They clearly do need to make room to pay their rookies.

Schneider’s answer may have been a dodge on his part – a waiving off the question to not tip their hand to what they have in store.

At this point it might be most logical to forget his comment and just say they need the full $4.33 million to sign their draft class.

They will also need to free up an additional $6 million or so to pay their practice squad.  All in we are looking at $10.33 million of room they need to create to keep their heads above water.  

Let’s call it $11 million.

Looking at the calendar, time-wise they will likely need to free up the $4.33m by mid-July or so (last year, Charles Cross signed his contract in early June and they completed their draft class contracts in late July).

The practice squad cap room does not need to be created until early September.

They still have time to make moves but the clock is ticking.  The next few weeks could be very intriguing.  What they decide to do will also give us clues about the direction this team is heading.

Where The Cap Space Will Come From

We have talked at length about the options available to the team:

There is over $30 million of cap space between these players the team can work with.  It is not a question of space so much as priorities.

To frame the discussion a bit, the age-old cap conundrum is at play here.  

Would the Seahawks prefer to maximize their potential competitiveness in 2023?  Or focus more on 2024?

Here are some examples of what an extreme approach to answering those questions would look like:

— If the Seahawks want to go all in on 2023, they could simply convert salary to bonus for Tyler Lockett and Quandre Diggs.  That would create $11.85 million of cap space and keep the current roster intact.  However, Diggs’ 2024 cap number would increase to $21.26m with a $10.26m dead cap and $11m cap gained if cut.  Lockett’s 2024 and 2025 numbers increase from $23.95m to $26.79m each year to pay for his restructuring.

— A 2024-centric approach would be to Post-June 1st cut Jamal Adams and trade Noah Fant for 2024 draft stock.  That opens $15.29m of room for this year, $9.39m of room in 2024 on Adams and gives the team more options and flexibility in the draft.  However, that subtracts two potentially important pieces from the 2023 squad and they would probably want to use some of that cap space gained to bring in lesser options at their positions for depth.

— A neutral approach would be to extend both Fant and Nwosu and push the maximum cap available into the future.  They keep their 2023 roster intact; in 2024 the team can move on from Will Dissly to afford Fant and Nwosu could be extended for two years not unlike the contract they signed him to last year, with a lighter cap in 2024 and a ballooned cap in 2025.

What Will the Seahawks Do?

History would indicate that the Seahawks will find a compromise between the two approaches.  Their ‘win forever’ thinking often leads them to straddle that line between being competitive in the current year and building for the future.

The cleanest option would be to first make a decision on Noah Fant.  There would be benefits to both 2023 and 2024 if they either trade or extend him and either option would clear enough to pay the rookie class and buy them a couple months to pursue the most advantageous opportunities to gain room.

Nwosu could be a tough needle to thread.  It’s possible he has no interest in negotiating an extension.  Or he will want a very healthy raise to buy him out of 2024 free agency.  An excellent 2022, a high 2023 cap hit and 2024 free agency make for some strong negotiating leverage in his favor.

I do think they will want to at least see if he is willing to have the conversation and get a feel for the parameters of an extension.

Lockett and Diggs – I think they will keep those potential restructures in their back pocket.  If they deal with Fant sooner rather than later, that will buy them some time to talk to Nwosu to see where he is.  They can then plan accordingly.  It could also be potentially very useful to have some cap room at the ready if they are having a fantastic 2023 and that one-more-piece player becomes available at the trade deadline or in street free agency.

If it comes down to picking one or the other to restructure, Lockett is the easy choice.  He has two years remaining on his contract so you can water the cap hit down.  He also has been incredibly durable and his skillset has translated extremely well as he has aged.

Jamal Adams.  All the signals the team have been sending out indicate he is coming back for 2023 and that they still consider him a vital cog in the defense.  It certainly could be smoke – a way to encourage him in his rehab and to be able to apply a salve of positivity if they do decide to approach him about renegotiating his contract to a lower cap number.

Trying to convince Adams to take a reduced contract will be like a game of poker.  If they want to get some cap relief, they need to sit at the bargaining table with the mindset of being ready to cut Adams loose if he says he is not willing to be flexible on his contract.

Do the Seahawks honestly have a taste for eating $24 million in dead cap and walking away from a player they clearly have considered a linchpin of their defense?  Despite his injury record and what a lot of fans think of him?  Very hard to say.

I have long argued that they should make a move on Adams, promoting an aggressive strategy that opens up that $8.44 million of cap space, whether through renegotiation first or a release as a last resort.

It is possible the Seahawks view keeping Adams as the aggressive strategy.  That he could in fact be that one-more-piece player they ‘acquire’ by activating him off Injured Reserve with the goal of adding electricity to the defense.

Whatever you think of Adams, I think we can all agree that renegotiating his salary down followed by him being put in a position to maximize his talents and then doing so (while avoiding further injury) would be an optimal scenario.

Unfortunately, the odds of having that materialize as a reality are not extremely high.

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