Seahawks needs: status check 9th September

Vic Beasley could be on Seattle’s radar this season

Throughout the year we’ll consider 2015 needs based on how the team’s performing. It’s still early days, but even now all signs point to a strong focus on the defensive line.

There are several key prospective free agents. Complicating matters is the inevitable +$100m contract set aside for Russell Wilson. He will get that deal, no doubt at all.

Top pass rusher Cliff Avril is a free agent, along with Byron Maxwell, K.J. Wright, James Carpenter, Malcolm Smith, Jermaine Kearse and O’Brien Schofield.

The cap is expected to increase again in 2015, freeing up extra room. The Seahawks will probably be able to do more than simply extend Wilson. Wright stands to be a priority. It might be difficult to get a deal done with Carpenter if he continues his recent form. Kearse may open to a Doug Baldwin-style contract, depending on how he plays in 2015. Maxwell will almost certainly get paid elsewhere due to a shortage of good cornerbacks.

Yet it’s the D-line that could be hit the hardest. Avril is 29 next April. This upcoming off-season will be his last opportunity to really cash in. He’ll probably look for some level of security — a 3-4 year deal for example. It seems inevitable he’ll hit the open market, just like Michael Bennett. And then it’s down to what teams are willing to offer. After a quiet 2013, several big name pass rushers (who are older and inferior to Avril) received handsome contracts. Seattle held on to Bennett — can they afford to pony up for Avril too?

O’Brien Schofield also hits the market. This year he was set to sign an $8m deal with the Giants but failed a medical. He had a sack against Green Bay and if he gets 8-10 for the year (or more) he’ll generate interest. Kevin Williams is also playing on a one-year contract, while Brandon Mebane, Bruce Irvin, Tony McDaniel and Greg Scruggs are only signed through the 2015 season.

Bennett, Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill are the only players tied down beyond that.

Defensive line is the one area the John Schneider/Pete Carroll draft magic hasn’t worked so far. They’ve not uncovered any real gems (although that could change this season). They’ve relied on veteran acquisitions either in free agency or by trade.

If they lose Avril and Schofield there’s nothing to suggest they won’t simply go out and find another pair of quality veterans. Their ability to do so, however, may be hampered by the new Wilson contract and the desire to extend guys like Wright and others. They couldn’t convince Jared Allen to ‘play for a ring’ this year, or Henry Melton.

There aren’t too many other need areas. They have Brock Coyle and Kevin Pierre-Louis ready to replace Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan if necessary. Even if they lose Kearse, they drafted Paul Richardson and Kevin Norwood this year. As for Maxwell — they’ve shown a willingness to develop their own cornerbacks taken in the later rounds. Would anyone be surprised if Tharold Simon started for Seattle in 2015 (health permitting)? Or even some random rookie taken in the middle rounds? And for all the hand-wringing over the offensive line, how many people are complaining right now about Tom Cable’s work with Carpenter, J.R. Sweezy and Justin Britt — or his ability to identify a raw talent?

The defensive line is a safe bet for some serious draft-love, especially LEO/DE. They’ve found ways to add size up the middle without spending big. The top interior pass rushers or nose tackles don’t last until the late first. The highest pick they’ve spent on a DT came in 2013 — a third rounder on Jordan Hill. Consider this — what will keep this defense at the top? Going big on the edge rush or finding guys to work the interior? The priority has to be the edge if they lose Avril and Schofield.

There are two players who stand out in the first couple of weeks of the new college season.

Vic Beasley (DE, Clemson) intrigues me purely because he’s fast as hell. His get off and initial burst looks great on tape. He’s not the biggest but he’s still able to disengage and fight with blockers. He has tremendous balance, he bends round the edge superbly. He’s like a heat-seeking missile and if he needs to run through traffic to get to the QB — he usually finds a way. He’s not a conventional D-end and he’ll give up some plays against the run. Big deal. You can scheme around this and any team willing to be creative will get an impact pass rusher.

Cliff Avril ran a 4.51 in 2008 at 253lbs with an impressive 1.50 split. Bruce Irvin was 245lbs in 2012 and ran a 4.50 with a 1.55 split. That tells you all you need to know about how explosive Avril is — and it also gives us an indicator on what they’re looking for (Irvin was previously dubbed the ‘ideal Leo’ by Carroll).

At 235lbs, Beasley has a chance to add some good upper-body weight and still get into that range. The thing is — how likely is he to be available in the late first round? Marcus Smith went in the first this year with a forty time of 4.68. He had a great 10-yard split, long arms and one year of solid production. Since 2012 Beasley’s recorded 23 sacks in 22 games. If he tests well, he could go much earlier than a lot of people think. Teams play much more nickel these days.

You’ll be sick of me continuously bringing up Markus Golden, but he’s the second player I’m talking about today. Here’s his tape from the weekend against Toledo:

In the NFL he would’ve been credited with three sacks in the game. At 0:10 his pressure forces the QB to fumble, while later in the third quarter he’s the first to the quarterback after he falls to the turf. Look at his get off at 2:18 — bursting into the backfield before the tackle is even out of his stance. He gets a sack at 3:24 by disengaging and flashing ideal long speed to force an 18-yard loss. Also check out 4:58 where he again shows an explosive get off to blow up a run play — he’s in the backfield as the ball is being handed off.

Golden is one of the more underrated players in college football so I’m going to keep talking about him. Nobody last year gave Tennessee’s first round tackle Ja’Wuan James anything to worry about — except this guy. James had a terrific year and it shouldn’t surprise anyone he went in round one. But Golden gave him fits:

It’ll be interesting to see how he tests at the combine. He shows some wheels here:

Golden’s had a great start to 2014 and could rise up the boards. He’s certainly a better player than Kony Ealy who went in round two. I’m intrigued to see more of his team mate Shane Ray too — currently ranked in Scouts Inc’s top-15.

I want to see Florida to check on Dante Fowler Jr — a potential top-10 pick who works the edge and can kick inside too. He’s a terrific player and should go early. Nebraska’s Randy Gregory looks more like a linebacker who can play some rush instead of an ideal edge guy — but maybe he’s the type of player the Seahawks would be willing to develop? He certainly has the length to play the edge (6-5, 245lbs) but he moves well enough in space to play backer and seems to be more effective as a blitzer.

I also want to see more of Shilique Calhoun (DE, Michigan State) — a player who looks the part physically but struggled to get off blocks in the Big-10 Championship game last season and kind of played a little soft against a tough Ohio State O-line.

Baylor’s game against Buffalo is on my schedule for Saturday — a first opportunity to get a live look at the massive Shawn Oakman. He had an easy game against over-matched SMU in week one and this might not be much of a test either. They’re next two games are Iowa State and Texas on the road, followed by a home game against TCU. That’ll be a better gauge of his talents. If he really is 6-9 and 280lbs, it won’t just be the Seahawks intrigued by that size.


  1. cha

    Russell Okung figures heavily into the picture for the 2014 offseason as well. 2015 is his last year and he has a $7.28m cap hit with $5m savings if he is cut. I would really like to see him healthy all year and have the kind of season he’s capable of and make it an even tougher offseason for the Hawks.

    • Rob Staton

      It all comes down to staying healthy with Okung. If he manages it, I suspect they’ll come to a deal that pays him handsomely with some degree of team protection in case of further injuries. Good left tackles are hard to come by. And while they (rightly) have confidence in Tom Cable to keep producing talented linemen, I’m not sure they’ll want to mess around too much at left tackle. They still have him for two years and unless anything major happens, I suspect they’ll wait until after the 2015 season to make a decision.

      • CHawk Talker Eric

        Any chance Cable eventually gives Britt a look at LT?

        • Rob Staton

          I’d say it’s unlikely simply because his pass protection at this stage remains a major work in progress. He’s a terrific run blocker and is well suited to the right. If they were planning on eventually replacing Okung, I think Alvin Bailey might have the best shot of the current group.

          • bigDhawk

            Agreed on Bailey at LT down the road. How awesome would that be to get a year or two UDFA-cheap, serviceable LT play on a championship caliber team? It would almost be like having Russell again for another couple seasons on his rookie contract at a critically important position.

            • Robert

              How about Gilliam? He has ridiculous athleticism, quick feet, good length. He needs a bit more upper body strength. I think Cable is grooming him for gee cheap LT!

      • AlaskaHawk

        The hawks have been targeting offensive tackles in the draft and in free agents. They now have 3 backups for that position. I think the coaching staff is looking for Okung and Carpenter’s cheap replacements. Even though Okung and Carpenter look good this year, I can’t get too excited about their long term potential because of the many injuries they have had. I’ve just got a wait and see attitude this year. But I really think that Okung’s replacement is already waiting in the wings. I also can’t see Carpenter getting a big contract if he is extended – they wouldn’t even pay Breno 4 million a year. Maybe that’s the limit for interior offensive linemen.

  2. bigDhawk

    Just thinking out loud here, but I’ve finally learned my lesson about approaching a PCJS Seahawks draft from primarily a roster-depth/need-based perspective. We all know good and well that when the team makes their first selection in 2015 we will collectively be like “What the…Who?”, and Kiper will fail us. Then after we have time to think, it will make perfect sense, ergo Paul Richardson.

    Indeed, there will be roster depth picks. Justin Britt was purely need based at the end of the second round, but even those tend to be players none of us saw coming in lieu of more widely discussed, seemingly obvious options, ergo Morgan Moses. And that decision makes perfect sense now, too. Britt is our starting RT and looking like a nascent stud, while Moses is Washington’s second string LT on their depth chart.

    Though I am admittedly not up to the task, I shall attempt (at least in the back of my mind) to approach our 2015 draft not with a view toward where our roster looks thin, but with a view toward how PCJS have demonstrated they approach it – with a view toward their master plan. What is that plan? How far along are they? What parts of the plan are accomplished and what parts, if any, are still missing?

    On offense we knew the plan was to first control the ball with a physical run game then create explosive plays deep downfield in the passing game, primarily along the red line, all the while not turning the ball over. We new Percy would be returning for 2014 and he would stress defenses horizontally, but what we lacked was a ‘guillotine’, take-the-top-off true deep threat that would stress defenses vertically. Hello PRich. We talked much about that ‘tall redzone target’ receiver we seemed to lack, which started with players like Brandon Coleman and ended with Cody Latimer. We overlooked the fact that we already had Latimer on the roster in Kearse and Bates, and after the draft learned of PC’s desire to get that tall receiver archetype exactly right and his willingness to wait for exactly the right player.

    On defense we know the plan is to limit explosive plays by the opposing offense and take the ball away from them. This is accomplished, in part, with physical corners that can win the red line the way our receivers are expected to win the red line, sideline to sideline speed up the middle, and a relentless pass rush based on position versatility and heavy rotation. What fundamentally, if anything, are we currently missing on our roster from that template? Do we currently have that foundation built and now must only maintain it going forward? I honestly don’t know, but I will try to look at defensive players with those questions in mind.

    And a new wrinkle was added to the master plan this year as well – players that have sufficient character to survive in our Always Compete/Win Forever championship locker room. College team captains need only apply…mostly, it seemed.

    Maybe I’m a few years too slow on the uptake, and we are mostly past the point of foundation-building and are now in maintenance-mode, in which case a player like Beasley makes tons of sense as insurance against the possible loss of Cliff Avril. A player like Oakman is indeed fascinating, and we are not the only fanbase slobbering over him now. How does a 6’9″/290 5T/DE fit into our defensive philosophy, just on the merits of those measureables? I don’t know exactly. If it is needful fit, what about Arik Armstead, a 6’8″/280 DE that looked really good for Oregon against MSU? Or maybe is this the year we get that tall receiver exactly right the way PC wants it? Is that player out there, with all the requisite components of size, speed, hands, and character? If he is, does he possibly slip to us at the end of the first round?

    Do I have all the answers about the PCJS master plan? Heck no. All of this is to say, though, that I will to attempt to look toward our 2015 draft with the idea that, amongst our many and real upcoming roster needs, maybe there are still parts of Pete and John’s fundamental plan unfulfilled – such as our lack of a player like PRich – and try to identify those players that might fulfill that plan. I will probably fail, posting info about players based on little more than sexy measurables most of the time. But I also might just hit on something that at least leaves me less shocked than Mel Kiper when our first pick is announced in 2015. I’ll stop my stream of consciousness now.

    • Rock

      Speed, speed, speed. The Hawks look for above average speed at every position on the field. We missed on the WR because we were shopping for size. Our DL is one of the fastest and smallest in the NFL. We want DT’s and LB’s that can pursue sideline to sideline. We want OL’s that can get out on the second level or mirror a 260 DE. We want a QB that is a true dual threat out of the pocket and WR’s that can get separation. The two common traits are speed and as you mentioned locker room character. This is why I doubt we target Danny Shelton. He is strong but not that fast. Some targeted Cyrus Kouandjio with his 5.5 forty. The team selected Britt with a 5.07 forty and PRich with a 4.3 forty rather than taller, slower WR’s. They are willing to overlook the accolades and college production because they are confident they can coach them up. They just cannot teach speed and character.

      • Rob Staton

        I think we can say with some certainty the reason Seattle drafted Britt over other tackles was not down to his forty time.

        How fast did Carpenter and Moffitt run?

        Forty times at that position are virtually irrelevant.

  3. AgentJ

    It would make me sick to see them finally get Carpenter on the field, playing at a high level, and then see him walk in free agency. If he plays like on Thursday all year long, he’d be my number two priority after Wilson. That’s over Wright, over Kearse, over Wagner or Maxwell or Avril or Mebane.

    • Arias

      It would make me even sicker to see them give Carpenter the bonus and security of a multi year deal, only to watch him mail it in or get injured again, resulting in his being out of shape and out of breath in subsequent seasons.

      If he plays really well this season I’m not sure they’d be able to get him back on an incentive laden deal designed to protect against injury or weight bloatation. Possible, but I think he’s the type to opt for the fatter and more secure payday.

  4. Mylegacy

    Rob – I wake up at 3.40 AM worrying about losing Wagner. Surely, he’s nearing the irreplaceable level? I like Coyle – nice kid and all that, but isn’t Wagner near (or at) the top of all ILBers?

    Looks like we picked a good year to have several hundred draft picks – we’re gonna need them!

    • Rob Staton

      Wagner is so vital to the team it wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they get an extension done in 2015, a year earlier than necessary.

      • Radman

        It wouldn’t surprise me if they don’t re-sign any LBers. They’ve done a pretty good job identifying and developing LBers. I see the Linebacker position as an area they’re looking to gain cap leverage more than any other position group. The celebration in the draft room when they landed KPL signified to me that they have him pegged as a starter for the next few years if he pans out. Coyle, too.

        wouldn’t surprise me one bit if they decided to stay young, cheap, athletic there and let Norton Jr. coach em up. Spend the money elsewhere.

        • bigDhawk

          JS is on record, though, as saying there are LB’s the team wants to resign.

        • JamesP

          I think Wagner is the exception to the rule. He’s just too important to the D they want to run.

  5. UKhawk

    Good article on above subject:

    Everything depends on cost to re-sign vs difficulty to replace. I vote to re-up Bmax & Wright for 2015. Avril is harder to replace but will probably cost as much as Wright & Maxwell combined to extend. Following year my order of preference would be Okung then Irvin again depending on cost. Hence agree Dline and maybe LT will be priorities for the draft. However maybe DT over DE depending on how things fall in draft and free agency. Remember LEO doesn’t need to be a top pick, Clemons & Schofield weren’t.

  6. JaviOsullivan

    Thinking about renovations that Seattle has to do, I had thought several options.

    I think Seattle would try to re-up Avril (8-8.5m), Wright (5), Carpenter (no idea) but my other option has occurred… If Avril is very expensive, you can think of Wright (5) Carpenter (no idea), Maxwell (6.5) and Schofield (4).

    The options in the draft would look for a replacement for Avril or Maxwell. What do you think? Which better?

    And also you have to go heavy DT, CB, TE, LEO and some OL, S in draft 2015.

    • bigDhawk

      Unless he just goes off for 20 sacks there is no freaking way we pay 4M for Schofield next year. He is the type of player you opportunistically vulture on the cheap, let him overachieve in a contract year effort, then let another team pay a premium for past production.

      Avril is the player I most want back. He is the most impactful of the players listed and would be the most difficult to replace. Maxi and Carp would be really nice, but health permitting I think Simon can step in next year the way Maxi did for BB, and I’m starting to trust that Cable could replace Carp with a player like Isles. KJ will likely be too costly and our LB depth is deep right now.

      So for me Avril (and Wagz) must be retained, with whoever else we can afford among Maxi, Carp, and KJ.

    • Arias

      Given the team’s horrible track record at drafting defensive lineman I think they need to make retaining guys like Avril an absolute priority over guys like Maxwell or even KJ Wright, because the quality of replacements that we have in line for the latter two are far better than the depth we have to try and begin to replace Avril. I shudder to think what kind of shell our pass rush would be without being able to use free agency to plug it or having to rely on finding Avril-quality defensive linemen in the draft. Detroit struck gold finding Avril in the 3rd round but it’s hard to count on the FO doing the same when they never have.

      • cha

        You’re spot on Arias but it should be noted the Hawks have consistently found good values at the DL in the veteran market – trading for Tapp for Clemons (didn’t they get a draft pick in the deal too?), trading scheme misfit Kelly Jennings for Clinton McDonald, re-shaping Red Bryant, Alan Branch, Raheem Brock, Tony McDaniel etc. Hopefully Kevin Williams will be another successful find.

        I’d much rather they draft a develop a long-term solution (c’mon Marsh!) but all is not completely lost if they can keep finding good values on the secondary market and integrating them into their defensive packages.

        • Arias

          True but of those you mentioned, only Clemons when healthy comes close to being an elite pass rusher like Avril. It’s just the rarest of breeds that I’d expect they’d have prioritized before any other position. It’s one thing to find or convert specialists against the run like they did with Red, Branch, and now McDaniel. That’s great, but the premium on DL is the ablility to generate pressure. That is something the FO would be better off not taking their chances on trying to find and develop IMO, and the way to do that is by prioritizing the re-signing of Avril.

          • cha

            You’re absolutely right. The Hawks definitely need to score on a cheap/elite pass rusher, the days of paying your elite QB and DB’s peanuts are just about over.

            I love that this is where we’re at with our expectations – we found a franchise QB in the 3rd round and franchise DBs in the 5th so the next logical step is to find a franchise DE deep in the draft too. Having to keep reminding myself that other teams are asking every week “who is starting at CB this week?” or “Will our QB stay healthy and actually be good this year?”

  7. Adog

    Irvin will replace avril next year. When Pete said Irvin was an ideal Leo I believe he meant it in a developmental sense. I thought Irvin looked explosive last week, and for first time I noticed…his hands looked strong. Part of his development is linked to the development of the scheme. In that regard it looks like they’re asking the Leo to occupy a space rather than attack it.

    • Rob Staton

      Carroll did say he was the ideal LEO, but after a year at the position they moved him to linebacker and signed Avril/Bennett. I think it’d be an upset to see a permanent return to D-end, they’ve constantly answered that question by stating he’s a LB now. That pass rusher role is going to be absolutely crucial especially with Clemons now in Jacksonville, the mainstay of the team for years. If they lose Avril I’d expect some kind of addition, even if Irvin did make the switch. After all, he’s only contracted through 2015.

  8. Rock

    Russell Wilson is signed thru the 2015 season. He is eligible for a contract extension in the next off season but it will not take effect until the 2016 season. I expect his deal will be heavily structured toward a signing bonus enabling the team to postpone the cap hit into future years. For example, they could give him a 5 year $100 million deal with a signing bonus of $60 million. He gets the money immediately. The team prorates the bonus over the five years ($12M per season) and sets his escalating base salary at $2 million in the first year. The first year cap hit is then only $14M. This will enable the Hawks to keep a couple extra guys while the team is dominant. Trading signed players for draft picks might enable them to remain forever young.

    It all comes down to finding rookies and free agents that can replace our expensive veterans regardless of position. If there us a blocking TE that can replace Miller or a RB that can replace the Beast, we should expect them to do that.

    • Arias

      If Wilson gets a contract extension over the next off season wouldn’t they be able to incorporate his 4th year into that contract and pay him immediately? What makes you think it won’t go into affect until 2016? I thought they could take that 4th year and just add it to the total life of the contract they would give him and spread it out over more years.

  9. CC

    Cassius Marsh had one of the fastest 3 cone and 20 yrd shuttles – high energy constant motor. Late round pick with a big upside. Don’t be surprised if he is in training to fill in for someone who might not be here next year. We’ll have to see what he does this year, but he’s a guy I am looking forward to see this year.

  10. NMD

    I’ve been harping on it every time I see LEO prospects mentioned and it’s the other Missouri DE, Shane Ray #56, that has the physical gifts and skill set to become our new LEO.

  11. Steve Nelsen

    The other position besides D-Line where Seattle does not currently have elite-level talent is TE.

    Miller is a very good blocker but he may be a salary cap casualty next year.

    The incorporation of Harvin (and Richardson?) into the offense this year increases the difficulty for opposing defenses. Adding a TE who would be a mismatch against LBs in pass coverage is one way to increase the difficulty for opposing defenses next year.

    • cha

      Are there any thoughts on if Willson got better in the offseason as a blocker? That off-shoulder block on Clay Matthews was a thing of beauty.

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