It’s time to focus on the trenches, not linebacker and safety

Zak Zinter is a ‘bang the table for’ type of prospect

It should’ve been done years ago.

How long have we been talking about it? The need to transfer resources and spending from positions like safety and linebacker to the trenches.

I’ve written articles, conducted streams and even gone on 710 Seattle Sports multiple times with Jake Heaps to make the point.

If you want to play a brand of football that is physical, tough, runs the ball effectively and exerts your will on the opponent — you have to dedicate resources to the offensive and defensive lines.

It’s not that the Seahawks have completely gone against this. Back when these points were starting to be made, they were trotting out Benson Mayowa and Bruce Irvin as their best pass rushers. They were cobbling together O-lines. Meanwhile, they were making franchise-altering trades for safeties.

They’ve thankfully adjusted their approach since. They’ve used a top-10 pick on a left tackle, while adding a terrific right tackle book-end. They’ve spent two high picks on edge rushers, splashed out on Dre’Mont Jones and made a very aggressive trade for Leonard Williams. They have to make sure they retain Williams to avoid that deal being an egregious disaster (renting a player then going on an epic losing run is a horrendous look, not to mention a complete misjudgement on where they were in order to initiate such a trade). The point is, changes have occurred and they’ve started to take the trenches more seriously.

They need to go a step further though.

One of the consistent lines we’ve covered here (and rightly so) is the fact Quandre Diggs and Jamal Adams are set to take up $48.1m in cap space next year. How has that ever been allowed to happen? Given their performance and, in the case of Adams, behaviour — they need to write-off these deals as soon as possible in the off-season.

The money they can salvage, $27.5m in cap space for 2024, should be used to help the trenches — starting with keeping Williams in Seattle.

It goes further than this though. The Seahawks used a first round pick on linebacker Jordyn Brooks and are paying Bobby Wagner $7m this year. Other teams are not investing this much on a position that, like safety, is almost at running back value level on defense. They shouldn’t be looking to give Brooks a bit extension. They shouldn’t be looking to retain Wagner, given his weakness in coverage that is being readily exploited.

Instead, the Seahawks should be seeking to put as much investment in the two lines while finding cost-effective individuals who can play fast and physical at linebacker and safety. That could lead to some mistakes, some rawness. They might not have pro-bowl level talent at either position. So what? The players currently playing in those roles are hardly error-free. None of the four are among the top candidates for the Pro-Bowl, published by the league this week. They’re just expensive and underachieving. You might as well have that at a fraction of the cost.

You’d also hope if you become a better trenches team, it would aid the players you have playing at linebacker and safety.

The personnel priorities for the Seahawks in the off-season, whatever happens the rest of the way, should be:

1. Draft a young quarterback

2. Shift resource from linebacker and safety to the trenches

That has to be the plan.

Of course, they could go even further. It says it all when even the media are going to inconvenient places, such as former NFL GM Randy Mueller in the Athletic recently:

To me, the Seahawks have been a .500 team in recent years — staying the course and retooling as much as possible, but making minimal attempts at bigger swings. I understand the thinking, but adding linebackers and safeties does not constitute a full swing at the plate. Neither is an impact position. The Seahawks need impact players, which might require a change of philosophy.

You have an older coach who probably does not want to take a deep rebuild dive, especially at quarterback, the most important position. But the Seahawks are going to need to go there to regain elite status.

Seattle might have to take a step back to take two forward. I’m not sure 72-year-old Pete Carroll is up for that and the two years it might take to retool this roster to return to the highest level. The Seahawks might need to purge some of their roster to clear cap space to add impact at key positions.

The numbers show that the balance of 2023 is going to be an uphill battle. Their three-game losing streak could become four or five with the 49ers and Eagles up next. At 1-3 in the division and having been swept by the Rams, their realistic competition in the NFC West is Arizona, which has already embarked on a full rebuild. The Seahawks might be one year behind the Cardinals already. That’s concerning.

Mueller is only saying what needs to be said. He’s absolutely correct in his two critical assessments of the franchise. Firstly, that they need a longer term plan than the Carroll timescale permits. They are doing what they did in the prior reset. They’re band-aiding positions aggressively to try and complete a roster, that isn’t capable of being the contender they desire — purely because Carroll is running out of time.

Thus, Carroll is not the man for the moment. The Seahawks are working to his watch. He is close to the end of his career and they’re acting like it’s a race against the clock. It isn’t. I don’t agree that the Cardinals are ahead in any way but it’s true that Seattle is currently third in a four-horse race within the division and what is badly needed right now is a shift in the overall plan on how to get back to the top. They are not close and it needs a different person making the key decisions in order to realise this and do what is necessary on and off the field. There’s a distinct possibility we’re just going to waste two more seasons here, all for the benefit of Pete Carroll bleeding the last remnants of his Seahawks career dry.

Mueller is also correct that the Seahawks have felt like a .500 team for a long time. Not always in terms of results (Russell Wilson did a great job for a while ensuring they were above .500 consistently) but they haven’t felt like a serious playoff threat. The results — one playoff win in six years (soon to be seven, it’s safe to assume) — back that up.

The reality is, as we’ve noted a lot recently, Carroll was 15-19 before drafting Wilson and he’s 15-15 since trading him. That’s not to say Wilson was solely responsible for the success. The LOB defense and Marshawn Lynch were the main players initially — yet as time went on, Wilson was the Seahawks. Now, without a great defense or a difference maker at quarterback, Carroll can’t elevate his team beyond simply being very average. The win/loss record proves that.

Mueller is also right to point out, as we have done, the investment at safety and linebacker compared to other impact positions — and the need to shift resource to other areas.

So how do they do this?

They currently own the #15 overall pick in the draft. Realistically, they could be up to #12 by Sunday night. In what could end up being a three-quarterback first round depending on who declares, they’re going to need to move up if they want one of the top players in the class.

Although I had the Seahawks trading up for Quinn Ewers in my first mock draft, if he doesn’t declare — I do think they could/should have interest in moving up for Jayden Daniels. He ticks a lot of boxes for them. He has a great deep-ball and can make explosive plays downfield. His scrambling and ability as a runner would add an X-factor they don’t currently have.

He’s an experienced college passer, with 55 starts at Arizona State and LSU. To emphasise how good he is throwing downfield, he’s completed 62.6% of his passes of +10 yards — with 29 touchdowns and one interception on those throws. He was fourth in college football for big time throws (29) but his big time throw percentage (the number of throws that lead to big throws) was 8.4% — also fourth highest in the NCAA but crucially higher than any of the other big name draft prospects (Drake Maye 7.5%, Michael Penix Jr 6.7%, Caleb Williams 6.2%, JJ McCarthy 6.1%, Bo Nix 4.2%, Quinn Ewers 3.5%, Spencer Rattler 2.6%).

He only threw seven turnover worthy passes (1.6%) and his adjusted completion rate is a lofty 79.9%.

Basically, he has increasingly shown that he can make good decisions and protect the football while simultaneously being a highly explosive, productive, accurate passer who is a dynamic playmaker. That is basically what Russell Wilson was for the Seahawks. It’s what Carroll might need if he’s ever going to see a serious winner again in Seattle.

Assuming Carroll doesn’t depart at the end of the year, Daniels’ production and high number of college starts could be viewed as setting him up to start quickly. The only issue is, there’s likely to be red-hot interest in him. Don’t be surprised if very early in the off-season we see a team trade into the top-three picks, knowing they can guarantee one of Caleb Williams, Drake Maye or Jayden Daniels — and don’t be surprised if Daniels ends up being QB2 when all is said and done.

After that though, the focus should be on the trenches.

Diverting money from safety to Leonard Williams should be the first priority, given what they’ve invested in him. Williams is also the kind of character/leader they need in the locker room. They need more Leonard Williams’ and fewer Jamal Adams’.

Jordyn Brooks should be allowed to test the market and only re-signed if the value comes back to the Seahawks. Ditto Damien Lewis. The Seahawks shouldn’t be pushing the boat out for PFF’s 48th ranked linebacker and 35th ranked guard. If they are kept, fine. But it should be on your terms and not for big money.

The last few weeks of this season should be used to celebrate Bobby Wagner because unfortunately, this has to be the last dance. The Seahawks need someone who can drop into coverage in a way he no longer can. They can no longer give Kyle Shanahan and Sean McVay an easy way to attack the defense.

NC State’s Payton Wilson is an excellent cover-linebacker with the attitude, professionalism, aggression and intensity they crave. He would be a tremendous fit but his injury history would need to be checked out. Sadly, without a second round pick, he might be out of reach. Their challenge should be to find someone later on who can fill a role in coverage. Steele Chambers (Ohio State), Cedric Gray (North Carolina), Tatum Bethune (Florida State) — players of that ilk. They don’t need to spend a high pick. If you’re focusing on the trenches and shifting money, they just need someone who can play fast and aggressive with the ability to drop.

At guard, it’d be great to see them make an investment at the position if possible. Robert Hunt was a blog favourite back in the day. He’s come on leaps and bounds in Miami and would be an excellent, proven addition to the O-line. I’m not completely opposed to bringing back Lewis either, it needs to be for the right money though.

One player I would personally describe as a ‘must have’ is Zak Zinter from Michigan. He broke his tib and fib against Ohio State and is going to be out for a while as a consequence. It’s a scary injury and there’s no guarantee he’ll make a full recovery. However, the more I watched of Zinter — the more I came to the conclusion he’s one of the best guards I’ve scouted since starting this blog.

He has great size and length with +33 inch arms. He plays how you’d expect from a Michigan lineman, with great toughness and physicality. He might be the best pulling guard I’ve watched, given how he runs into space and consistently hits the target. He can move off blocks and re-adjust easily. He can ‘throw defenders out of the club’ at the point of attack before they even engage, he steers openings in the run game and when he locks on he can control blocks with ease.

When you watch a good interior lineman on tape it’s tremendous fun and I’ve enjoyed watching Zinter more than most in this draft cycle.

Provided you can get a decent medical check in before April (which is extremely plausible) I wouldn’t want to leave the draft without him. If you have to redshirt him, fine. If he makes a full recovery, Zinter has a chance to be a 10-year pro in the league. If he wasn’t hurt, he’d be a sure-fire top-50 pick. If it wasn’t for the rampant quarterback need, there isn’t a spot in the draft I would be opposed to the Seahawks investing in Zinter if the medicals are OK.

There are good centers available too. Sedrick Van Pran at Georgia, Charles Turner at LSU, Jackson Powers-Johnson at Oregon, Graham Barton at Duke converting from left tackle. I suspect, sadly, all will be gone before Seattle has a chance to select one of them.

It’s a shame, frankly, the Seahawks don’t have more picks. The quarterbacks, Zak Zinter, Payton Wilson, McKinley Jackson, a decent crop of centers. Regardless, they need to spend their money and picks in the right areas going forward. Quarterback, O-line, D-line. It’s time to cease squandering money at safety and linebacker and get things back on track.

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  1. Joseph

    We 100% have to address the trenches especially on the defensive line. We need what the 49ers have. They have 2 great pass rushers and depth at DT. However we also need to address LBs. Brooks and Wagner are in the final years of their deals. We need LBs who can cover and rush with great speed and lateral quickness. Exs Fred Warner and Roquan Smith. Last thing we need is to address is the safety position. As far as the offensive line. Just another year where we struggle. Lucas health going forward is a concern. I do like Anthony Bradford. We need to see if Olu is the future at center. Lewis is in the final year of his deal. Cross there’s some hope he’ll be the LT of the future.

    QB is tricky given the scenarios. We still don’t know if Ewers will declare. If Seattle is interested in a Qb, the question is where would they wanna draft one? I’ll be more than fine with Ewers Daniels or Rattler. And let’s not forget the no 2nd rd pick makes things even more puzzling. Unsure if they’ll trade up. Knowing Pete and John they are very very very unpredictable.

  2. cha

    I honestly wonder how much Daniels is in play for the Seahawks.

    Geno Smith is on the verge of doing something PC never allowed Russell Wilson to do – throw on over 62% of plays. And that’s with a stable of talented RBs.

    Part of me wonders if 1-PC is still around and 2-they make the investment to trade up, Pete will want to handpick his Carson Palmer type QB.

    Daniels 100% should be in play for them. I just have a lingering doubt that he will.

    • king

      This my take too. I don’t think Seattle feels the need to aggressively address the quarterback position. I think they stand pat, not because they are afraid to draft quarterbacks or because they don’t, but because, for the same reason Pete wants to win with Adams, he wants to win with Geno, to prove that he made all the right moves.

      Because he believes Seattle truly is ‘this close’ to championship contention and the opportunity cost of spending resources on a young, unproven quarterback is too great when one more first round linebacker could be the difference between riding into the sunset with another Super Bowl win (lmao).

      I don’t know what they are going to do and I won’t guarantee anything, but the tea leaves I am reading say they ride with Geno.

      • cha

        To be clear I didn’t say Seattle would ignore the QB position. I just was wondering aloud whether Daniels fits the profile they like.

        They may be more inclined to go after Ewers or Rattler, a more traditional QB.

    • Peter

      I’ve been reliably informed that it is John not Pete making the picks as of late.

      Unbelievable. Pressure rate is up. Qb is having a very basic year. Let’s throw it all the time.

  3. Mike

    Are you concerned that Olu isn’t the answer at C?

    • Rob Staton

      I’m not concerned, just hard to have any faith given we’ve seen so little of him despite the starter putting in a mediocre season

  4. Scott

    It’s going to be fascinating in the next five months to see what happens at QB.

  5. king

    The story Pete and the fanbase have been telling themselves for about a decade is that Lynch and the defense were the bigger part of the championship equation, but it doesn’t ring true to me.

    The 2011 defense, after what in retrospect was a predictably slow start, was very good after the first 5 games, only surrendering more than 23 points once and averaging roughly 17 points allowed.

    Lynch? He had a season that was almost directly equal to his 2013 season. 1200+ yards, 4.2 y/a, 12 tds.

    Seattle was 5-6 over their last 11 games.


    The defense would coalesce into one of the great all time defenses and Lynch had easily his best season (almost 1600 yards and 5 y/a).

    Yet the team started 6-5 despite the fantastic underlying metrics. It wasn’t until the training wheels were taken off of Wilson late in the year that Seattle emerged as the completely dominant team in the the league.

    Then they came out flat against a Shanahan led team in Washington and got saved by the injury to Griffin, then came out flat again against the Falcons only for Wilson to pull their their collective ass out of the fire and the defense to give up a FG in 30 seconds. Seattle should have won the Super Bowl that year (and every year from 2012 to 2015) and it was because one Russell Wilson was the quarterback.

    (Coming out flat in huge playoff games is a Pete Carroll trademark. Washington, Atlanta in 2012, Green Bay 2014, Minnesota (excusable because of the cold), Carolina in 2015, Atlanta 2016, Green Bay 2019.)

    I am not pretending that Lynch and the defense were not huge parts of the 2012-2015 teams, but I will say, to my dying day, that it was Wilson who was the biggest part, the key that unlocked the team’s true potential.

    And it was Wilson that kept Pete in a job for years after, consistently putting the team on his back and carrying them to wins.

    • Peter

      Great stuff.

      How about going into the fourth quarter with a ten point lead during the superbowl, then surrendering 14 points and having Lynch walk off the field laughing in carrols face….culture.

      • king


        There is so much material, but the reason this isn’t considered the greatest collapse in Super Bowl history is because of Atlanta’s collapse a couple of years later.

        Pete apologists will always fall back on the injuries, but Seattle is not the first team to have to overcome injuries and when you hang your hat on defense and the running game, it is a hollow excuse when you are the first team to surrender a double digit fourth quarter lead in Super Bowl history.

        • Peter

          Thank atlanta because I am just now realizing that we were the first to do that ….good grief.

  6. Brodie

    Rob, have you watched Nash Hutmacher (NT- Nebraska)? I’m not sure if he’s coming out. He’s in some draft simulators and not in others.

    He’s 6’4 330lbs and was an undefeated heavyweight wrestler in HS. He was 166-0 and the only 4 time heavyweight champ. Won his last 73 matches by pin with 71 coming in round 1. He also won state titles in discuss and shotput.

    If JPJ is available in the 3rd, I think that would be a great pick. He played mostly guard early on, so he has that background. Was a Cristobal recruit and trainee early on. Cristobal may not be much of a HC, but he’s a really good OL teacher. JPJ was also one of the more vocal supporters and peer recruiters on the team. Dude just loves the game and has a great attitude to go along with his latest hardware (Rimington trophy – best college C). Same award Olu got last year.

    • Brodie

      His Dad is an Ox too! Pretty cool 6 min look at Nash:

      • Peter

        Did the pediatrician not see his dad when they were worried about his size?

        He came up in my searches. I wonder if he’s not a little too upright for NT? But that size and strength….got to hope he tests well. I wonder how explosive he is?

        • Brodie

          Possible. With his wrestling background, you’d think leverage wouldn’t be a concern. I confess, I haven’t watched any film on him apart from one highlight reel.

          I’m not sure he’s even declaring for the draft, but combing through the guys outside of the top 150 – he stood out as a pretty unique dude.

  7. BK26

    I’m not going to lie, if there isn’t a first round qb taken, my interest might be minimal to nonexistent until Pete is gone. What is there to get excited for? Clearly there is a cancer in the team, and it might be the vaunted culture. This last week has made me almost embarrassed to be a Seahawk fan. I don’t trust Pete to do anything football related now. With no new quarterback, there is nothing to be excited for. The future will be a waste, the rookies and 2nd year guys will all be gone and out of contract, and Grandpa Pete will still be telling war stories of how good Bobby Wagner was (while he is still on the team).

    I’m going to watch the fireworks at Epcot now.

    • Big Mike

      good post, and yeah there won’t be much to care about without a drafted QB.

  8. cha

    Adam Schefter
    Seahawks’ RBs Kenneth Walker III (oblique) and Zach Charbonnet (knee), both listed as questionable for Sunday, both are expected to play vs. the 49ers, per sources.

    • Mick

      Who wants to bet we won’t be having a run game though, and Pete will say they were banged and he wanted to protect them so he reduced their carries?

      I’ve seen Clark didn’t travel with the team, hopefully we’ll see more of Hall. If we don’t use him enough, we might end up using #12 on an edge rusher.

  9. Forrest

    I think we need to get the personnel to get back to playing press man coverage. KJ Wright basically said when you have Bobby in the middle, you have to play zone. Fine, fix that! Ditto Jamal Adams. I’m not putting him one on one with any WR, RB or TE. Fix that! If we’re going to compete with San Fran, we need the personnel to put a hat on a hat and feel comfortable. If we invest resources in the trenches, a run defending MLB (Bobby) isn’t necessary. Then give me a ball hawking safety (not Diggs, who feels like a SS trying to be a FS) and run some exotic stunts/blitzes to FINALLY get some pressure on the QB.

  10. Big Mike

    D. Hurt is just calling it like Pete tells him to

    Yep but Pete will still make him the scapegoat this coming offseason or the next just as he will with Waldron this coming one. The satellites change but the planet remains the same. Maybe he can appoint his kid the new OC.

  11. Rob Staton

    All that bloody fuss from Carroll about being in first place after the Cleveland game

    Watching red zone today and seeing us third in the background. Well done team

    • Joseph

      A shame that we have a soft Seattle media and brainwashed Pete supporters still praising him and blaming others. KJ Wright, with all due respect to him, he’s annoying with the support. I mean of course he’s gonna support him. Pete gave him a chance and he balled out his entire career. This team is doomed until ownership (current or new) makes a change or Pete (realizing he doesn’t have it in him anymore) finally retires. Either way we should expect to be mediocre for awhile.

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