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Today I wanted to run through what I think the priorities are for the Seahawks leading into the combine and beyond.
1. Establish a connection with Jadeveon Clowney
It makes no sense to launch a defensive line rebuild by letting the best player leave in free agency. Clowney will be expensive but that’ll be the case for any free agent addition. The Seahawks know what they’re getting with Clowney and he deserves the opportunity to play on a Seattle D-line with some actual pass-rushing support.
Although technically not allowed, it’s well known teams and agents talk at the combine and this is where demand and value tends to be established. By the end of the combine and heading into free agency, the Seahawks should have a strong indication of what it’ll cost to keep him. Unless the price is ridiculously high (+$25m a year) that will be the moment to come to an agreement to make sure the Seahawks are adding and not subtracting at their biggest position of need.
2. Find the value in free agency
The combine will also present an opportunity to find out what some of the other free agents are going to be looking for. The Seahawks will have their targets set and ready by now so this is a chance to find out what is realistic when the market opens.
Is a player like Dante Fowler or Arik Armstead going to be reasonably priced? Who are the players open to a prove-it contract? Which players are going to be paid way beyond Seattle’s valuation?
The Seahawks should be able to streamline their priority target list at the combine.
3. Uncover the trade market
This is also an opportunity to speak to teams about who might be available. Trades usually don’t often happen overnight. They are drawn out. The Seahawks can touch base with teams and gather information.
This works hand in hand with the combine workouts, too. For example, if there aren’t many players possessing the traits Seattle needs, it might be more tempting to use pick #27 to add a veteran instead. Equally, if the Seahawks feel they won’t find solutions in free agency, they can compare the value of #27 versus adding a veteran via trade.
This is the type of off-season where the Seahawks are going to look at every option — free agency, trade and draft. They know this is the time to be aggressive and add to what they have. They need to add difference makers, much like they did in 2013 with Harvin, Bennett and Avril.
4. Find the players with traits
The Seahawks like to look for players with special qualities — such as unique size, length, speed, quickness, explosive power or agility. Not every pick works out (Christine Michael, Malik McDowell) but Seattle’s had a lot of success overall picking players with standout athletic qualities (Okung, Thomas, Tate, Irvin, Wagner, Clark, Lockett, Metcalf etc).
This is a year to aim high. To try and replicate the success of D.K. Metcalf’s rookie season. A player with obvious physical talent who, for whatever reason, drops into range.
The combine will provide a clear picture on who those players are. Some early front runners include:
Isaiah Wilson (T, Georgia)
An enormous offensive tackle with fantastic length and physical tools. The NFL will probably be higher on him than the media and he might be off the board by #27 — but if his decision to declare prematurely as a redshirt sophomore makes him available, he’s one to watch.
Brandon Aiyuk (WR, Arizona State)
Like Wilson, he’ll probably be graded higher by the league than the media. Aiyuk is truly dynamic with stunning acceleration and quickness. He’s a playmaker and the type that would really compliment what Seattle already has at receiver. Plus he has major special teams value.
Jalen Reagor (WR, TCU)
He’s incredibly fast but also has explosive power. He’s capable of running deep on a go-route to make chunk plays but he’s also a genuine threat in the red zone due to his leaping ability. Reagor has special qualities and like all of the receivers in this list will have a terrific combine.
Henry Ruggs (WR, Alabama)
People have been predicting he’ll run a 4.2 since last summer and it shows on tape. Teams are always going to have to account for Ruggs with extra safety attention simply due to his game-breaking speed. There’s every chance he’ll go in the top-15 but if he lasts, he has the game-changing athleticism they need.
K.J. Hamler (WR, Penn State)
Hamler is diminutive but seems to have long arms despite his lack of height. He’s a dynamic playmaker with the ball and shows tremendous ability to dart beyond defender’s and turn a good play into a great play. He can also get downfield and provides special teams value.
Raekwon Davis (DT, Alabama)
There simply aren’t many 6-7, 315lbs defensive linemen who look like Davis. He’s a chiselled athlete who has the frame of Calais Campbell. His stats at Alabama have been poor the last two years but there’s just so much potential. If he lasts to #27 you’d be taking a gamble on improved production but his ceiling is elite.
There are others I could mention. J.K. Dobbins will probably have all the traits Seattle loves in a running back but I think it’s unlikely they target that position early.
5. Add good players
Having established what the free agent market will look like, the trade options and received information on the draft prospects at the combine — it’s time to do business. The top priority will be to improve the pass rush and the defensive line. The second priority will be to add a tight end.
Austin Hooper is reliable, consistent and has the size, length and agility testing they like at the position. He could be their big offensive splash in free agency. What they do defensively is less clear. We know who is likely to be available, who will almost certainly be tagged (Chris Jones, Yannick Ngakoue) and who might be available via trade (Calais Campbell? Everson Griffen?).
The key will be to leave the free agency period having addressed the defense and tight end position. The draft is strong at receiver and offensive line but weak for pass rushers and tight ends.
They also can’t rely on re-treads and comeback players. Ziggy Ansah, Luke Joeckel and Eddie Lacy types are not going to cut it. They need to be bold, aggressive and add 2-3 quality players.
6. Make a decision on the O-line
Pete Carroll wants consistency up front and rightly so. The Seahawks need to add, develop and upgrade when possible — not keep blowing up the line and making major changes. There’s unlikely to be big money available for this unit and a line full of rookie’s isn’t ideal either.
If Germain Ifedi is priced out of a return and moves on, the Seahawks could re-sign George Fant to provide some consistency. We’ll see if Mike Iupati has any interest in carrying on. They could sign a similar veteran on a cheap contract to provide a hedge for the draft (where there are strong guard options).
The big question mark remains the future of Justin Britt. His cap hit is very high for a player returning from ACL surgery. They could cut and re-sign him, they could just move on altogether or they could retain his contract (knowing they can still move on down the line). There are good options in the draft (Cesar Ruiz) and it’s very likely that Atlanta will cut Alex Mack to save some cap space.
7. Come out of the draft with upside talent
The Seahawks don’t need a major influx of rookie starter’s but it’d be a big help if they can find dynamic athlete’s who can at least contribute. They especially need to be faster and more physical on defense. On offense, it’d be nice to add even more potency and quickness.
The players identified above include a hulking offensive lineman and several dynamic, sudden receivers. Defensively they need speed and alpha’s. Keep an eye on small-school safety Kyle Dugger as a player they could target quite strongly with his physical style of play, raw speed, dog-mentality and special teams value. LSU defensive tackle Rashard Lawrence plays with great intensity and let’s see how far Damon Arnette falls — because he’s a very talented cornerback with good size and he’s extremely physical.
What they do in free agency and/or the trade market will likely determine their 2020 fate but a good, high-upside draft class can still make a big difference.
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