When the season ended, Pete Carroll made it clear what the priority was.
They had to improve their pass rush.
Clint Hurtt took it to another level, recently revealing in a radio interview that adding a game-wrecking edge rusher was necessary.
Then there was Jake Heaps, revealing on 710 ESPN that the Seahawks landed Sean Desai by reassuring him over personnel additions.
On top of this, there’s plenty of talk about a more aggressive defense next season. Not to mention increasing pressure to win now for various reasons, including Carroll’s age and a hotter than usual seat after a 7-10 season.
In the past the Seahawks have been able to trust in their process because they were making the playoffs. After all, it’s easy to have an ‘ah shucks’ attitude about the loss to the Rams a year ago that ended the 2021 season. It was the wrong thing to do, because clearly there were bigger issues building (as we came to find out). Yet the fact the Seahawks were 12-4 in the regular season was a useful counter.
There’s no such security blanket now. Another year like 2021 and Carroll probably won’t get another off-season.
It all points towards a different, less conservative approach to team building.
I suspect Chandler Jones will be the target when free agency begins.
He’s a good fit for the Vic Fangio scheme, which the Seahawks are leaning towards. He has a proven track record as a top-tier pass rusher. At his best he’s a game-wrecker. He’d be an excellent complement to Darrell Taylor and Carlos Dunlap.
This would be the big splash move to galvanise fans and — just as importantly — the franchise quarterback.
The key question is — are the Seahawks willing to do what it takes?
A year ago they dipped their toe in the water with the likes of Joe Thuney and Kevin Zeitler, before settling on Gabe Jackson (trading for him just as he was about to be cut by the Raiders).
In 2020 they talked about retaining Jadeveon Clowney as a ‘priority’ — only to fail to meet his demands and be left pivoting to Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin.
Can the Seahawks deliver a top free agent? Are they prepared to go out of their comfort zone and take a risk?
Or will they once again stick to their principles, miss out and be left searching in the bargain bin?
For me — this is the key question of the off-season. Not Russell Wilson’s future. Because if the Seahawks make a statement early in free agency, Wilson’s future will be a moot point.
Take a chance. Spend the money to land someone like Jones. Structure the deal with a low year-one cap hit — just as the Rams did with Leonard Floyd, the Bears did with Robert Quinn and the Cardinals did with J.J. Watt.
If it doesn’t work out for whatever reason — his play drops off, he gets injured — at least you’ve tried. The Seahawks are at a point now where trying and failing is much more attractive than doing the same thing every year and it never working.
Relying on the 2022 version of Kerry Hyder, Mayowa, Irvin or Aldon Smith deserves criticism. Rolling the dice on a proven stud, and it simply not working, does not. That will simply be misfortune.
Aside from unpredictable injuries, I wouldn’t be worried about production. Desai just coordinated a defense where Robert Quinn bounced back to record 18.5 sacks. Jones is only three months older than Quinn. I think this is an ideal match for the coaches, the scheme and it addresses Seattle’s biggest need.
Of course you can’t make a player sign for your team. It’s possible Jones ends up being too expensive or simply doesn’t want to cross the NFC West divide. That’s understandable. Yet the Seahawks need to be ready to pivot and go after a proper alternative if that happens. They need a great Plan B.
A year ago, Cincinnati’s priority was to retain Carl Lawson. When he chose to sign for the Jets instead, they quickly snapped up Trey Hendrickson for a similar price.
If Jones isn’t possible — they need to make sure they land a Von Miller or Harold Landry. They can’t come away empty handed, sifting through what’s left after a few days of the market opening.
There’s another reason for taking this approach.
Although the pass-rushing options in this draft are strong, there’s a chance none of the top names will last to #41. Certainly Aidan Hutchinson, Kayvon Thibodeaux, Jermaine Johnson and David Ojabo won’t be there. I am convinced Boye Mafe will go in the first round too.
After that, there’s nobody quite with the same exciting profile.
Likewise, I wouldn’t expect Jordan Davis or Devonte Wyatt to be there for Seattle.
Thus, if improving the pass rush is the priority, it’s probably best to make a big splash in free agency and address that need right off the bat. Then in the draft, you can keep your options open.
It might be that you still want to go for a defensive lineman. You can make a strong case for Travis Jones or Perrion Winfrey at #41. I think Josh Paschal would make sense as an inside/out rusher.
You don’t have to force things, though, if you land a top pass rusher in free agency. You have more options. There’s a reasonable collection of offensive tackles, for example. There are good cornerbacks and linebackers slated for day two. Dameon Pierce is a blog favourite who fits everything Seattle looks for in a running back. You might want to tap into a rich pool of tight ends.
Heck — with more and more people underestimating Abraham Lucas, I’m starting to think he might just last to Seattle.
Either way, you’ll have some great options at #41 and #72. If you can avoid having to address desperate needs with those two picks by having a much improved free agency period — all the better.
It all starts with that big move to begin a pivotal season.
I suspect Chandler Jones will be the prime target for the Seahawks.
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