Some random thoughts going into training camp & Patreon

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Before I get into this piece, a small announcement. I’ve started a Patreon account. During the 2017 draft coverage a few people requested a ‘donate’ button on the site. I’m not going to hide any content behind a paywall, I’m not going to do anything differently. Every podcast, every article, every thought will be free and available on the blog. This exists purely for the people who wish to contribute. If you’re interested, click the orange tab at the top of the article or the top of the sidebar.

Now let’s get into the 2017 season.

Tomorrow Kenneth and I will be recording a new podcast. I’m preparing an article looking at some draft prospects that caught my eye during a recent tape review.

Today I want to run through some random thoughts…

1. Wilson’s health & running game the key — not the O-line

A lot of people are going to be talking about the O-line in camp. Fans, the media. It’ll probably get discussed ad nauseam and described as the key to Seattle’s season.

Admittedly the offensive line has to get better. Many will argue it couldn’t get much worse. Yet it’s arguably even more important that Seattle gets a healthy Russell Wilson and re-establishes it’s physical running game.

Wilson’s ability to extend plays, make gains with his legs, master the read-option and scramble out of danger is a highly critical part of Seattle’s offense. Pete Carroll once declared he wanted to be the ‘best scrambling team in the league’. The offense is set up to play to Wilson’s strengths. When he’s nursing ankle and knee injuries (neither of which were the fault of the O-line a year ago) it impacts the running game, the O-line and the DNA of the offense.

And then there’s Marshawn Lynch. You don’t need me to detail how he set the tone for the entire team (both sides of the ball). The term ‘generational talent’ is overused. It fits the bill for Lynch.

The combination of physically dominating ground game and mobile/elusive/miraculous quarterback allowed the Seahawks to thrive and win games in 2013 even with Paul McQuistan and Michael Bowie starting at tackle.

Russell Okung missed eight regular season games during the Super Bowl run, with McQuistan forced to fill in at left tackle. Breno Giacomini missed seven games with seventh round rookie Bowie starting at right tackle.

Max Unger also missed three games in 2013.

Aside from a typically brutal experience in St. Louis on Monday Night Football (a game Seattle still won), the O-line injuries didn’t derail Seattle’s Championship season even though they easily could have. That was largely due to the quality of the running game and the skill-set of the quarterback.

So while it’s important the likes of George Fant and Germaine Ifedi take a step forward, that Justin Britt continues to excel and newcomers like Luke Joeckel, Ethan Pocic and Oday Aboushi have an impact — the overall fate of the offense likely rests with the QB and running backs.

Wilson being his mobile best and Eddie Lacy and/or Thomas Rawls being physical and tough to bring down likely equals a return to form on offense in 2017.

2. All signs point to waiting it out with Justin Britt

Jacksonville center Brandon Linder agreed a $51.7m contract extension with the Jaguars this week, worth over $10m a year on average.

Any hopes of an imminent agreement with Just Britt suddenly seem highly unrealistic.

Even before Linder’s deal it might’ve been a stretch.

The O-line market exploded in free agency and teams are throwing money at second and third tier talent, not just the big names. Britt emerged as one of the best young center’s in the league in 2016. Aged 26, he’s hitting the prime of his career.

Britt surely has to test the market in a years time. There’s never been a more financially rewarding time to be a good, healthy, durable offensive linemen.

Alternatively the Seahawks need to see if he can build on a strong first year at center before they consider making him potentially a top-five earner on the roster.

If Britt was to sign a deal equal to Linder’s ($10.34m APY) he’d be the fifth best paid Seahawk on the roster behind only Russell Wilson ($21.9m), Richard Sherman ($14m), Doug Baldwin ($11.5m) and Bobby Wagner ($10.75m). While the likes of Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Jimmy Graham might expect to earn more than $10.34m a year if and when they sign contract extensions, this would still be a bold move by Seattle based on a solitary season at center.

The drafting of Ethan Pocic felt like a hedge at the time and that seems even more likely now. The coaches have done a good job talking up his flexibility and credentials to compete at guard and tackle — but Pocic was a center at LSU and could easily slot into that position from 2018 if needed.

Britt might be so good at center in 2017 that they ultimately decide to pay the going rate. It’s nice to have a sensible backup plan though — something they clearly didn’t have when they traded Max Unger to New Orleans and ended up starting the season with Drew Nowak at the heart of the O-line.

Many fans will cringe at the thought of letting the only solid O-line performer from 2016 walk as a free agent. There are things to consider though:

— Is the drop-off in performance between Britt and Pocic at center going to be that significant?

— The difference in average salary could be $10.5m vs $1.1m, allowing them to potentially use the money to keep Kam Chancellor and Jimmy Graham or one of their ‘prove-it’ players in 2017 (Eddie Lacy, Luke Joeckel, Bradley McDougald).

— Will it be harder to replace Chancellor or Graham compared to swapping Pocic in for Britt?

— Letting Britt walk to get a +$10m a year deal likely nets you a third round comp pick for a player who cost you a late second round pick in 2014.

Whatever ultimately happens, it feels like a situation that possibly won’t come to a conclusion until the early days of free agency. It makes sense for Britt to test the market. The Seahawks can then make an educated decision on their next move — knowing if they have to move on, they’re sufficiently insured with Pocic on the roster.

3. It feels like a different situation with Frank Clark

The D-line market is also booming at the moment. Calais Campbell agreed a contract in Jacksonville worth $15m a year. Olivier Vernon gets $17m a year with the Giants. This week Everson Griffen signed a four-year contract with the Vikings worth $14.5m a year. And it’s a move that will hopefully inspire the Seahawks.

Griffen had two years left on his contract in Minnesota. The Vikings, likely seeing the way the market was going, got him to agree an extension that will look like a bargain by 2019 (when his original deal was set to expire).

Seattle’s best way to keep Frank Clark long term, if his career trajectory continues, is probably to try and get him to agree a contract at the end of the 2017 season (the first time he’ll be eligible to talk about an extension per the CBA).

His cap hit in 2018 is only $1.187m. It’d be a shame to lose that great value, especially when there are other players to consider (Chancellor, Graham). Yet Clark’s price will only keep rising if he continues to perform. Minnesota took a hit now with Griffen to see value down the line. The Seahawks might have to do the same with Clark.

Remember, he had 10 sacks in 2016 despite working in a rotation. As his role expands and if he stays healthy and productive — he will look very attractive to teams with an ever increasing pot of money to spend.

If he reaches free agency his price could be in the Vernon bracket. There might be a way to reward him a year early, take a hit in 2018 and still find value over the long term of the contract.

Of course, he still needs to go out and perform in 2017. He clearly has the talent, however, to work his way into at least the price range of Everson Griffen.

4. It’d be cool if the Seahawks could extend Chancellor’s contract ASAP

Kam Chancellor is the heart and soul of this team. Seattle’s answer to Ray Lewis. Even when Lewis began to age and his play regressed, his value to the Ravens was palpable. Chancellor has the same kind of aura.

A breaking news story that Chancellor has signed an extension would be celebrated by fans and team mates alike. A chance to establish early momentum and avoid any distractions.

It’s likely a complex situation though.

Reshad Jones is a month older than Chancellor and signed a new contract in Miami worth $12m a year with $35m in guarantees over five years.

Chancellor isn’t just a better player than Jones, he’s a greater locker room presence. He’s well within his rights to ask for a similar deal, if not a better deal.

Equally the Seahawks have to plan with their heads and not their hearts. Chancellor missed nine games in 2015 and 2016. He’ll be 30 next year. It’s a given they’d like to reward Kam but does it make financial sense to do a long term deal?

The franchise tag for a safety in 2017 was $10.896m. Assuming it stays at around that level, you could pay Chancellor $8m in 2017 and approximately $11m in 2018. By 2019 Chancellor would be 31 and Seattle could franchise him again or look to do an extension from a superior bargaining position with an older player.

It could also be a risky strategy if they were perceived to be playing moneyball with such an important figure in the locker room — a player who’s already held out once and might be obliged to do so again if he’s forced to play on the franchise tag.

Tagging Chancellor would also remove an option to keep Jimmy Graham for another year on a similar cap hit ($10m) to his current contract.

It’s a perfect illustration of the dilemma teams face at times. On the one hand you want to reward a highly respected, highly talented player. Precedent has been set with another similarly aged player. And yet from a business perspective, it makes more sense to manage the situation year-to-year.

Nevertheless, a Kam Chancellor contract announcement over the next few weeks would be the best possible start to the 2017 season.

5. Hope for an easier path to the playoffs

The Patriots have benefitted for years playing in a weak, mostly uncompetitive AFC East. If you can rely on 5-6 wins in your division, you’re half way to getting a #1 or #2 seed in the playoffs.

Here’s Seattle’s record in the NFC West over the last five years:

2012 — 4-2
2013 — 4-2
2014 — 5-1
2015 — 3-3
2016 — 3-2-1

Total — 19-10-1

A strong showing in 2014 pretty much secured the #1 seed, making up for losses against San Diego, Dallas and Kansas City. Last year the divisional record directly cost Seattle a bye in the playoffs.

The Seahawks are too good to be going 6-5-1 over the last two years even in a competitive NFC West. If the standard of the division was to drop, however, it’d make things easier.

It really is this simple. When the Seahawks only have to win two home games to make a Super Bowl — they have a great chance of making it happen against any opponent. See: 2005, 2013, 2014.

With San Francisco going through a major rebuild, the Rams trying to establish a new identity with a rookie Head Coach and the Cardinals ageing, minus Calais Campbell and seemingly focusing on one final tilt (at least in the eyes of Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer and Larry Fitzgerald it seems) — this could be the year where the quality does drop after years of intense competition. Wether this occurs or not, the Seahawks have to go better than 3-2-1 or 3-3.

6. Who are the most interesting additions?

Going into camp, for me it’s Eddie Lacy and Malik McDowell.

Lacy appears to be benefitting from his fresh start and a re-commitment to a better diet. And while his size has become something of a running joke among pundits and fans — it’s easy to forget just how good he can be when healthy and in shape:

He’s not Marshawn. Nobody is. Yet he might be the nearest thing they were ever going to get for the type of back they needed to acquire. Big, tough to bring down, capable of getting the tough yards.

If the Panthers or Giants were fielding a healthy looking Lacy in week one, you’d be envious. If there were a few smirks when he joined the Seahawks as an unheralded free agent — he could end up being one of the steals of the off-season and a possible ‘comeback player of the year’ candidate. Especially for a team determined to run the ball.

Lacy also takes some of the pressure off Thomas Rawls — a fine player in his own right who might be at his best working in a one-two punch rather than needing to carry the load on his own.

McDowell meanwhile gives the Seahawks something they’ve lacked for a while — a dynamic interior rusher. With size, length, strength and the ability to make plays as an inside/out rusher — he’s the weapon they didn’t have in previous years. Hopefully they find a way to maximise his talent as a rookie without the need for a Frank Clark ‘learning year’ — and hopefully he can answer the call.

Carroll and Schneider casually name-dropped Calais Campbell when they reviewed the McDowell pick during the draft. You don’t do that on a whim. He has a long way to go to find that level of play (and Campbell took a few years to become a dominant force) but if he has even a solid rookie season — it could take the D-line and pass rush to a new level.

34 Comments

  1. John Welch

    Great to here from you! Hope you are having a great summer across the pond!

    • Rob Staton

      Had a great summer thanks John, ready for some football now 🙂

    • Rugbylock

      Good to have you back Rob!!

  2. Seahawcrates

    Great to have you back, Rob. Thanks also for the opportunity to sign up and show you a miniscule but tangible means of support via Patreon. Looking forward to attending the first three days of camp and eager to see the new offensive line additions. Guess the team decided continuity wasn’t so important if it was poor continuity. Only Britt seems a solid bet to stick at last year’s position. I am a sucker for Fant’s story though, so I will be hoping he earns the left tackle spot.
    I keep waiting for news on a deal with Kam. I remember quotes about how he would be in their plans for an extension after he returned from his ill-advised holdout. I’m hoping but those big strong safety contracts in Miami and Kansas City make me wonder how a deal both sides are happy with can get done.
    On a personal note, my wife and I hiked Hadrian’s Wall this month. Didn’t make it to Sheffield but my wife did ask if we were going to see that “British Seahawks Guy?” Next time! The hike was great. Lots of sheep and Roman Britain history. Hope you are considering a Seattle game again this year. If so, I’m buying you a beer!

    • Rob Staton

      Next time you’re over here you should stop by. Sheffield isn’t the best tourist spot but any excuse to talk Seahawks 🙂

      I am planning to be in Seattle for the game against Washington on November 5th.

      And thanks for the support on Patreon!

      • Myfanwy365

        Oh I dunno, if you extend it to Yorkshire in general it’d be ok & the Peak District on the doorstep. There’s worse places(Hull)

        Few pints of Jaipur would see you right

        • Alex6674

          Myfanwy365…………..can you get Jaipur on draught where you are?! I have only ever seen it in bottles where I am (Chester/Devon).

  3. Mike

    Always great to see you back. I am betting that more than a few of us will hit that patron button because your stuff is always dynamite!!

    • Rob Staton

      Thanks Mike 🙂

      • Ed

        Nice that you finally did something for fans to contribute. Is it monthly only or can you just donate a lump sum?

        • Rob Staton

          Patreon is a monthly subscription only unfortunately.

          • Ed

            No problem, kept saying you should do something like this, monthly contribution isn’t going to keep me away.

  4. cha

    Great to see the blog back up Rob! Cheers.

    Half-formed thoughts on your thoughts:

    “Letting Britt walk to get a +$10m a year deal likely nets you a third round comp pick ”

    I wonder how the inevitable ‘Kirk Cousins getting a dump truck of flaming salary cap money’ from the Niners will affect the comp formula. Still, I would think the Hawks would be OK even if the comp pick for Britt slipped to a 4th.

    “. Hopefully they find a way to maximise his talent as a rookie without the need for a Frank Clark ‘learning year’”

    I really hope so as well. But that seems to be the trend for the Hawks. Between Irvin, Clark, and Reed they all seem to have needed a year in the system as well as the training & diet regimens. I’ve set my expectations for McDowell to 20 or so snaps a game, 4-5 sacks and the occasional splash play.

    On that subject, Reed could really be the unsung guy to take a big step this year. Hopefully he follows suit.

    “Wilson being his mobile best and Eddie Lacy and/or Thomas Rawls being physical and tough to bring down likely equals a return to form on offense in 2017.”

    That’s what has me so excited about the offense. The return of physicality in the running game will benefit this team in so many ways. Having a fully functioning running game adds so much fuel to the passing game. If Richardson can build on his exciting play and stay healthy, this offense can really become elite.

  5. joel

    Happy to support you via Patreon! Supporting the valuable hard work of folks like you, Samuel Gold and Kenneth is such a great value, I’d feel guilty if I didn’t support you. You’ve really enriched my appreciation of the players entering the league and illuminated the complexity that FO’s face in trying to effectively draft their rosters.

    Thanks for all the amazing insight and incredible hard work. I’ve spent a lot of the Spring and Summer leaning on your draft insight when thinking about the rookies on the other teams in the NFL. Even if Seattle doesn’t snare every player you break down, that information and wisdom is incredibly helpful in understanding the trajectory of the other 31 teams. I’ve invested myself in trying to seek out the best draft insight and you are head and shoulders above much of the competition, Rob!

    Thanks so much!

    • Rob Staton

      Thanks for the support Joel!

  6. Bob Johnston

    If the Seahawks were loathe to pay offensive lineman before salaries went wild, just imagine how much they’ll avoid paying o-linemen in the future with the money flowing like champagne. They obviously believe not spending a large proportion of their cap at the position gains them a competitive advantage overall, I would think that they love seeing teams spending ever increasing percentages at a position they don’t highly regard.

    I would anticipate that this is Britt’s last year as a Hawk unless something unforeseen happens and Pocic will be the starter in 2018.

  7. Roger Davis

    Rob

    WELCOME BACK!!! Life begins anew!!!

    I’m SO GLAD you’ve added the Become a Patron link. For years I’ve thought your work was the very best Seahawks writing available. I’m proud to kick in a buck a month. Every one of your readers would be delighted to have you working full time on the Seahawks while you earned a GOOD full time yearly salary to do it. Hopefully this can be the start of that. Personally, I wouldn’t even blink at a tenner a month (mind you the pound is now about 1.30 US so I’m saving .30 cents by you getting paid in Colonial Script.)

    Hope you, the wife and the little newby are all doing well. Now, get back to work man – there’s a lot of great football to look forward to!!!

    • Rob Staton

      Thanks for the support Roger!

  8. troy

    Rob is back! Glad to have you posting again, I will be going to training camp on the 30th would anyone be interested in seeing some photos? Can’t wait for the season to start!

    • Rob Staton

      I’d love to see some photos

  9. Seaven Hawking

    Gotta say I was pretty excited to see this article posted. Long time lurker here finally posting a comment. Great to have you back Rob. Looking forward to the season!

    • Rob Staton

      Thank you!

  10. Scotia Seahawk

    Welcome back and great call with the Patreon.
    Although I guess this means summer is officially over. And my work productivity will be taking a dive.

    • Rob Staton

      On the plus side, in a few weeks Sunday becomes more than just the day before we all have to go back to work 🙂

  11. Myfanwy365

    With paying Clark & having Bennett under contract for a while, is this year potentially the last year of Cliff Avril. Cap saving of 7.5m next year if cut vs dead cap of 500k.

    Earl, Sherm & KJ probably looking for new contract at the end of the year as well as they’re all contracted until 2018.

    Possibly getting way ahead of myself

    • Rob Staton

      I can’t imagine them cutting Avril personally. He had a career year in 2016 and presuming he continues that form in 2017 and avoids any major injuries, his $8m cap hit in 2018 is an absolute bargain.

      • Myfanwy365

        Just double checked OverTheCap, Bennett is only on 7.5m in 2018. I thought he was way above that tbf.

        This is why I shouldn’t look at the cap

  12. mr peapants

    man its great having you back rob. love this site and appreciate all you do for us.

    thank you rob

    • Rob Staton

      Thanks!

  13. DavidM2

    ROB’S BACK!!!! ROB’S BACK!!! ROB’S BACK!!!! ROB’S BACK!!!!

    FOOTBALL!!!! FOOTBALL!!!! FOOTBALL!!!! FOOTBALL!!!!

    ROB’S BACK!!!!

  14. David Ashton

    Pledged!

    Thanks from Birmingham, UK.

    Go Hawks!

    • Rob Staton

      Thanks David!

      • Dave Ashton

        You’re welcome. Call me Dave 🤣

        I am a massive advocate of the sport getting more respect in the UK.

        The main blockers are the complexity of the game (!¿¡¿?). Any advice other than saying perseverance and “investing time into it” which i did (?). A quick rules guide that will stick? Anything to pique the interest?

        For context my mate got me into boxing. Just a bit of context and a few entertaining live fights and I felt compelled to learn more. Maybe I’m cut from a certain cloth!

        Have been involved with hawks 4 years now – seen every game …. learning as i went. Go hawks!

  15. Manthony

    Great to have you back Rob.
    Im teathering my expectations a little, but have long held a belief that Pete and a lot of his staff seem to be able to maximize players potential.
    Super excited to see if Dion Jordan or Marcus Smith can add to the DL, or what the youngsters Nas and Malik bring. Will be cool to see any improvements Clark, or Reed have added to there games as well.
    I know we restocked the secondary and with that many DBs selected by a Pete Carroll team, we just know at least 1, if not all four, will be doing amazing things i short time. Obviously theres bot gonna be enough snaps or roster spots for all of them to shine right away, but i just feel really good about the depth i the LOB again.

    Having a good backup QB would be nice, but ideally, id rather have Russ just remain healthy so im not overly upset about that.

    Hoping Cable can make it work with the oline, it seems like it should be an improved unit, and with any amount of improvement there i think this team is going back to the big game.

    Again, super glad the blog is back going on
    The internet just got a lot better for me.

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