Off-season priority #1 — the trenches.
The key to future success, regardless of what changes occur in the off-season, is improving the O-line and D-line.
The Seahawks need to be honest about why the reset failed and they need to learn from their mistakes.
It’s time to be bold, ambitious and focused to make the offensive and defensive line a strength. Take a few financial risks there, instead of other positions.
No more quantity over quality
Too often the Seahawks have opted to spread their cap space out and they’ve just ended up with average players.
They’ve had money to spend in the last two off-seasons yet they’ve favoured cheap depth over proven ability.
They opted not to re-work Russell Wilson’s deal a year ago to open up cap space, when they started free agency with just under $20m (and created plenty more by cutting Jarran Reed).
In 2020, they squandered $58.25m for barely any return.
The following veteran offensive linemen were available last year. Their PFF grades for 2021 are in brackets:
Corey Linsley (85.5)
Joe Thuney (77.4)
David Andrews (77.3)
Kevin Zeitler (74.0)
Instead the Seahawks chose to bring back Ethan Pocic (injured for most of the year but now grading at 67.3) and traded for Gabe Jackson (63.6).
Let’s not forget that Jackson was being cut by the Raiders and the Seahawks quickly made a trade so he didn’t reach the open market.
That move also forced Damien Lewis to left guard to accommodate the new arrival. Lewis excelled at right guard at LSU and had a tremendous rookie season in Seattle, grading with a 70.2. He looked like a building block on the line for years to come.
Since moving to left guard, his performance has completely dropped off and he’s now grading at 57.3. It’s not clear if these are growing pains or whether they’ve messed up his promising young career by forcing him to the left side.
People often wonder why Russell Wilson is dissatisfied with the Seahawks yet one of the reasons was made abundantly clear. He started the off-season complaining about the O-line to Dan Patrick.
Had the Seahawks landed a Linsley or Thuney and then doubled down with Creed Humphrey in the draft (he’s grading at a 91.6 by the way…), that likely would’ve prevented a lot of drama.
Instead, Jackson and re-signing Pocic was deemed enough by the Seahawks.
It wasn’t and here we are. The next chapter of the saga has begun.
Go back a year earlier.
In 2020 they preferred to spread their cap space on three offensive linemen (B.J. Finney, Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon Shell) instead of investing in all-pro right tackle Jack Conklin — who earned $8m last year in a starring role for Cleveland. His salary never tops $14m with the Browns.
Finney, Ogbuehi and Shell cost a combined $9.2m.
This plan simply hasn’t worked. It’s time to stop spending the cap on average or bad players. You can create depth with cheap veterans or draft picks (provided you stop giving them away).
It’s time to go and make a big investment on the line.
Terron Armstead, Brandon Scherff, Ryan Jensen, James Daniels and Brian Allen are arguably not on the same scale as Linsley or Thuney.
It’s what’s available this year though and it’s time to make something happen.
Meanwhile with the defensive line, it’s a similar story.
They announced at the 2020 combine that fixing the pass rush was a priority, as was retaining Jadeveon Clowney. They couldn’t convince Clowney to return and ended up settling for Bruce Irvin ($5.9m) and Benson Mayowa ($3.018m).
It wasn’t enough and the pass rush was an absolute disaster before the Carlos Dunlap trade at the deadline.
Rather than learn from the error, they were at it again in 2021.
Kerry Hyder, Carlos Dunlap, Benson Mayowa, Rasheem Green, Robert Nkemdiche, Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson, L.J. Collier.
It’s a collection of journeymen, nearly-men and unproven younger players.
They haven’t been able to create enough pressure or get off the field. They have the fifth fewest sacks in the NFL and the sixth worst pressure percentage. Their sack percentage of 4.5% is the second worst in the league behind only the Falcons.
The group badly needs an injection of quality.
Chandler Jones, Von Miller, Jadeveon Clowney, Randy Gregory, Akiem Hicks, Harold Landry and Calais Campbell are all set to reach free agency.
Imagine snatching Jones away from Arizona and pairing him with Taylor.
Who cares if there’s a risk involved with paying him big bucks? If you’re willing to pay the Jets as much as you did for Jamal Adams, you can’t shirk away from paying a proven pass rusher two years later.
Look at recent free agent additions, currently occupying spots among the NFL’s sack leaders:
Robert Quinn — 18 sacks
Trey Hendrickson — 14 sacks
Matthew Judon — 12.5 sacks
Markus Golden — 11 sacks
Haason Reddick — 11 sacks
Shaquill Barrett — 10 sacks
Yannick Ngakoue — 10 sacks
Leonard Floyd — 9.5 sacks
That’s eight of the top-15 sack leaders — more than half the list.
Go and get your 10-15 sack specialist and make life hell for opponents, preventing these long, tiresome drives we keep seeing on defense every week.
You’ve tried thrifty bargain shopping and it didn’t work.
You’ve tried to ‘recruit’ players to play for cheaper and you’ve not had a hit since Avril and Bennett nine years ago.
Now it’s time for a splash. It’s time to shop for the NFL equivalent of a designer label.
They have money available
According to Over the Cap, the Seahawks have $43,508,768 to spend in 2022.
You can easily create more. Look at the potential savings:
Cutting Bobby Wagner saves $16,600,000
Cutting Jason Myers saves $4,000,000
Cutting Gabe Jackson saves $3,000,000
Cutting Chris Carson saves $3,425,000
Cutting Benson Mayowa saves $1,510,000
Cutting Kerry Hyder saves $2,000,000
Cutting Marquise Blair saves $1,345,452
Cutting Nick Bellore saves $2,150,000
Cutting LJ Collier saves $986,323
Cutting Carlos Dunlap saves $900,000
I’m not suggesting they make all of these moves — but if you need more than $43,508,768 to spend there a ways to increase it.
You also might be able to trade some players, rather than cut them.
There’s no excuse not to be big spenders in the off-season. Only five teams have more cap space than the Seahawks. If they cut or trade Bobby Wagner, that list shrinks from five teams to one team.
They need to be honest about the roster
The Seahawks can’t pretend the current group is close. They aren’t.
Yet we don’t have to go over the top and suggest they’re years away either.
If you can make impact signings on the O-line and D-line, you can make major improvements very quickly.
Too much has been invested at linebacker and safety while they’ve scrimped and saved up front. They need to be prepared to reverse that now.
That means moving on from Wagner and drafting a cheaper replacement in the middle rounds — such as Georgia’s Channing Tindall. You’ve already spent a first round pick on Jordyn Brooks. That’s quite enough high-end investment at linebacker.
It also means accepting that you’ve already made the ill-advised decision to pay Jamal Adams $17.5m a year having already given up two first round picks and a third rounder for him. Therefore, you cannot justify splashing out on Quandre Diggs if it means more bargain shopping in the trenches.
This is a decent draft at safety. You’ll be able to get one in the middle rounds — or do what you did with Diggs in the first place and add a veteran at a great price.
I’m not suggesting they shouldn’t re-sign Diggs. It needs to be for the right price, though. Ideally you retain him and Gerald Everett but you can’t overpay at the expense of more important positions.
What else can they do?
I’ve already mentioned Georgia’s Tindall at linebacker. They probably need another running back. Florida’s Dameon Pierce or UCLA’s Zach Charbonnet fit the bill.
Don’t waste resources there, look to the draft.
Try and be the poacher for once and look for value in the trade market. Mekhi Becton is supposedly on the way out in New York. Make a call.
On top of that, be willing to bring Duane Brown back on a one-year deal if needed. He might be getting up in age but he isn’t a liability who desperately needs to be replaced unless a clearly better solution emerges.
The Seahawks currently own pick #41. It has been possible to trade back into the late first with relative ease over the years:
2019 — Seattle went from #30 to #37 for a fourth and fifth round pick
2019 — Rams went from #31 to #45 for a third round pick
2017 — Packers went from #29 to #33 for a fourth round pick
2016 — Chiefs went from #28 to #37 for a fourth rounder and a swap of sixth and seventh rounders
There are players I really like in this draft and expect to go early. Yet just because I’m projecting them higher than a lot of other people doesn’t mean it’ll happen.
If a quality tackle prospect or defensive lineman lasts into the late first, Seattle should be aggressive and go and get them.
Here are some names to monitor:
Trevor Penning (T, Northern Iowa)
Bernhard Raimann (T, Central Michigan)
Abraham Lucas (T, Washington State)
Tyler Linderbaum (C, Iowa)
Logan Hall (DL, Houston)
Jermaine Johnson (DE, Florida State)
Devonte Wyatt (DT, Georgia)
Jordan Davis (DT, Georgia)
If the Seahawks go into next season strong in the trenches with Russell Wilson, the weapons they have and a revamped running game — the rest will take care of itself.
It’s very possible to go from bad to good in an off-season but you have to be honest about the roster and you have to target and sign the right players in the right areas.
The Seahawks have not used their resources well since the 2018 reset. If they’re willing to be frank about what’s gone wrong, they can avoid making the same mistakes in 2022.
They can get this team back on track and they can convince the quarterback his future remains in Seattle.
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