I wrote my off-season plan a few days ago and it included the kind of splashy moves the Seahawks typically don’t make.
Truth be told, I don’t expect a big eye-catching addition that generates excitement. I hope it happens. I think if you’re serious about ‘running it back’ and trying to take a step forward, you have to be aggressive.
If you’re prepared to make the Jamal Adams trade — you should equally be willing to ‘go for it’ in free agency for the right player.
There are always risks. Yet spreading their cap on journeymen hasn’t worked. It’s time to add some genuine talent.
I appreciate, though, that we’ve seen how they operate. They’re much more inclined to simply retain their own players, wait for the market to cool and then add second or third tier free agents.
I hope that after years of being a mile away from contention they might do things differently.
Perhaps even a compromise?
If it’s not a big splash for Chandler Jones, maybe they can go and land Akiem Hicks to provide some interior pressure? After all — defensive coordinator candidates Clint Hurtt, Ed Donatell and Sean Desai (more on them later) have all worked with Hicks during his time in Chicago.
Having identified pass rush as a key need, it’d be nice to see them truly address this rather than the lip-service they’ve paid to it over the last three seasons. We’ve been talking about this issue for too long.
It might be the draft, rather than free agency, where they make their biggest move.
I think there’s a very real chance they’ll look at the 2022 class and feel like they’re well placed to add a pass rusher with their top pick, which is currently #41 overall.
This draft remains very difficult to project and we need the Senior Bowl and combine to provide a bit more clarity. However, I do think we’re starting to see which positions might be strong in the first two frames.
Aidan Hutchinson and Kayvon Thibodeaux will both go very early. After that, there’s a handful of players who will also go in round one.
David Ojabo has done enough to secure that projection. George Karlaftis’ production and frame are a bit of a concern but he’s expected to test very well.
Jermaine Johnson has everything you look for in a pass rusher and had a great year for Florida State. Houston’s Logan Hall is an absolute terror with true flexibility to play across the line.
I think those four are very likely to go in round one. If they test well, we could be talking top-20 for each.
Nose tackle Jordan Davis should also go in that range.
Then you have a whole bunch of players who could come off the board in the late first or early second round. That is where the Seahawks are based.
Some of these prospects are raw but the Seahawks like super-charged athletic, explosive players. They might feel pretty comfortable about their options.
It really just depends what they’re after.
I’ve found it curious that they almost over-pursued an interior pass rusher in 2017 by drafting Malik McDowell and then trading for Sheldon Richardson — but have otherwise generally shown little interest in adding a dynamic inside threat.
Could they now settle on Carlos Dunlap and Darrell Taylor as starters off the edge and go for a defensive tackle?
Or will they look for another player to add to the EDGE rotation? Perhaps even more of an inside/out rusher?
I wanted to note the long list of players who could come off the board in Seattle’s range — to emphasise why they might lean on their top pick to fix their self-confessed biggest need and look at potential targets.
Arnold Ebiketie (DE, Penn State)
Ebiketie has an opportunity to launch his stock into round one if he tests well. He could also be an ideal addition for the Seahawks at #41 if available. He had 18 TFL’s and 9.5 sacks in 2021 and flies off the edge with frightening speed. He can engage, absorb contact and fight to the QB. He uses subtle hand-use to swipe away blockers and then accelerate and finish. There’s evidence of a swim/rip. He is afforded a wide, long-run up by Penn State and it’ll be interesting to see how he fares 1v1 in a more narrow alignment at the Senior Bowl. Opponents are visibly wary of his speed and are hesitant to engage. Has he got the size to play early downs and defend the run? Either way he has a terrific motor. He’s a big combine and Senior Bowl away from elevating himself into a high range (after I wrote this review, I noticed Mel Kiper had him at #16 in his first mock draft — that is a very real possibility).
Sam Williams (DE, Ole Miss)
Right off the bat he looks the part. He had 16 TFL’s and 12.5 sacks in 2021. His body is sturdier than some of the leaner edge rushers in this class and he appears more filled out. He has taken a few reps inside. He perhaps doesn’t attack the edge with the same refinement as others and he’s a bit stiff in his motion. Yet his change of direction is good (expect a good three cone) and there’s evidence of winning with bend. Williams has a great motor and plays to the whistle — chasing around the field to get to the ball-carrier. He’s tough to stop when he attacks the edge and has a ‘bull in a china shop’ style of play. He has something about him where you feel like his best football might still be ahead. Reportedly he has run a 4.4 forty at Ole Miss’ facility and jumped a 40-inch vertical.
Travon Walker (DE, Georgia)
He’s extremely powerful and can manhandle opponents at the LOS — delivering a jolting punch or driving at contact to force blockers backwards. His production was lower than others in 2021 with 7.5 TFL’s and six sacks. He’s capable of absorbing double teams and still working across the line in the running game. Walker keeps his eyes on the ball-carrier and combines his power with a slippery elusiveness. He’s difficult to control and looks very explosive. He flashes great quickness when he slips gaps lining up inside. He seems to do his best work when he’s in the trenches, battling it out with a lot of bodies and traffic. Thus, you kind of wonder what his best position is. He’s 6-4 and 275lbs. He’s not a natural twitchy edge rusher and he’s not a big guy who plays inside. Yet it still, for the most part, works — and he’s a very explosive street-fighter who plays across the line and he’s shown an ability to work in space.
Myjai Sanders (DE, Cincinnati)
He’s long limbed and leaner than a lot of other players. He’s all arms and legs. His production was disappointing in 2021 but he did draw a lot of attention — he finished with 7.5 TFL’s and just 2.5 sacks. He uses his length well to keep his frame clean. The rip/swim move is there. He can absorb contact and finish. Sanders has a nice fake inside move before countering to the outside. He’s got smooth, quick feet and good athleticism/quickness. He can round the edge but doesn’t have the lean/balance of the elite rushers. He might find it tough-sledding vs the run in a 4-3 system if he works the edge on early downs. He’s reportedly capable of running a 4.56 forty and a 4.10 short shuttle. He’s also broad jumped 10-2 and has a vertical jump of 35 inches. That kind of testing, along with a strong Senior Bowl, will get him noticed.
Boye Mafe (DE, Minnesota)
Great initial hand placement and can jolt offensive tackles off balance using one arm, freeing his other arm to rip and disengage. Has a tremendous amount of power in his one-arm bull rush. Mafe had 10 TFL’s and seven sacks in 2021. He’s very good at initiating contact, disengaging and then exploding to the QB. Loves contact and likes a battle — he doesn’t lose many 1v1’s and his power and agility show up on tape. Has shown an ability to stack vs the run and keep himself free to make the tackle. Is more ideally suited to handle the run game compared to other edge defenders in this class. Can bend and straighten against flat-footed right tackles. He can chop down hands to round the arc, drive into your chest or attack the edge with speed. Not sure he has the sudden get-off some others have but he is easily the best with his hands and his combination of length, size and hand-use make him a very intriguing prospect. He can reportedly run a 4.57 plus jump a 40.5 inch vertical and a 10-6 broad.
DeMarvin Leal (DT, Texas A&M)
He is a somewhat overrated versatile rusher who still generated reasonable production in 2021 with 12.5 TFL’s and 8.5 sacks. He’s regularly mocked in the first but is much more likely to be a second day pick. He has a lot of the tools and it’ll be interesting to see how he tests at the combine. Yet he lingers on blocks too long and needs to learn how to disengage. If he wants to make a permanent shift to defensive tackle he could do with getting closer to 300lbs. There’s often not much of a plan with the way he pressures and he seems like a player who relies a lot on physical qualities rather than technique. That said, Chris Jones was a similar type of player in 2016. He had a lot of qualities but teams didn’t know whether he could put it together. Thus, he lasted to pick #37 and ended up being a steal for the Chiefs. Leal could end up being a similar type of value prospect who needs a fair bit of work but there’s risk/reward on offer. For the Seahawks he’d offer something they just don’t have at the moment.
Phidarian Mathis (DT, Alabama)
People are really underestimating Mathis. It’s possibly due to his climb from little-known day-three project to star for the Crimson Tide and the fact that he doesn’t look like the best athlete in terms of body shape. Yet his tape in 2021 was exceptional. He had 12 TFL’s and nine sacks. He has ideal size — 34 inch arms, 6-4, 312lbs. It’s hard to pick floors in his game and he deserves a lot more attention. Firstly, he’s incredibly powerful. He drives back interior linemen with one hand, keeps his head up and reads the backfield. He overwhelmed several blockers this season and he makes your life a misery. He’s an absolute war-horse in the trenches — his feet don’t stop and even when you engage and maybe even gain initial leverage, there’s a counter-punch to the chest, a swipe with his free arm and suddenly you’re on your backside and he’s pressuring the QB. Yet you also see clips where he flashes incredible agility and quickness. There was one snap against LSU where the guard doesn’t engage and Mathis just danced round him, straight into the backfield, with choppy, quick feet before hammering the quarterback. He’s disciplined versus the run. He has a swim/rip to slip into the backfield. This is a player you want to go to war with.
Drake Jackson (DE, USC)
He is raw compared to some of the other prospects listed and will need technical refinement in order to show better hands and the ability to make the most of his potential. Yet in terms of physical tools — he’s a very appealing prospect. His production in 2021 was so-so (eight TFL’s, five sacks) but he attacks the edge with a real bursts and rounds the tackle with ease. He threatens offensive tackles the way teams love — he has that natural bend and suddenness that you can’t teach. There’s one rep he had against Arizona State last season where he dips under the tackle’s attempted block which has to be seen to believe. I’m not sure I’ve seen a player get so low, round with such balance and basically not lose a step of momentum — it’s all in one motion, direct to the QB. Getting him to put it together consistently is the key but the potential is there.
Cameron Thomas (DE, San Diego State)
He had big-time production in 2021 with 20.5 TFL’s and 11.5 sacks. When I watched him for the first time a few weeks ago — he blew up the first two plays in the game. On another snap he started at left end, looped around to the right side of the line on an elongated stunt, then when the QB scrambled to the opposite side of the field — he continued his pursuit right to the sideline, hammering the passer as he tried to throw. It’s one of the best ‘effort’ plays I’ve ever seen. He lines up off the edge and inside. He can win inside with his agility and feet and he has the length to engage and compete. Sometimes he just bullies his way through blocks. There are some cheap inside stunts (they dominate college these days) so I want to see how he tests. If he performs well at the combine he could have legit inside/out potential.
Dante Stills (DT, West Virginia)
He’s extremely athletic with NFL bloodlines and a lot of potential. He had 15 TFL’s in 2021 and seven sacks. He shoots gaps with quickness and directness. There’s evidence of a swim move and he plays with a great motor to chase down ball-carriers. Stills has good, strong hands and combines it well with agility — he ran a 4.24 short shuttle at SPARQ. The problem is he’s a bit of a tweener. He’s 6-4 and 280lbs and might have an issue with arm length. That said, there’s talent on offer here and while the second day might prove a bit early — he’s shown to be a dynamic, pressure-creating force for WVU.
All of these players could be considered in Seattle’s range, with perhaps the exception of Stills (who could provide value later on).
It’s a nice thought that they could add a Jordan Davis (a monster who will stun people with his athleticism at the combine), Jermaine Johnson (the ultimate edge rusher — he does everything well), Logan Hall (a dominating force when he lines up inside, capable of winning with brute strength and quickness) or Devonte Wyatt (who’s expected to run a 4.8 forty at +300lbs and could elevate himself into the top-25).
They would all be great options but are less likely to last.
As we can see, though, #41 might be a sweet-spot for a defensive lineman/pass rusher. For that reason, the safe money could be on that being Seattle’s pick.
If they do address this area with gusto in free agency — they could turn their attention to linebacker (if they move on from Bobby Wagner) with Channing Tindall, Brian Asamoah, JoJo Domann and Quay Walker all worthy of attention.
I only watched Domann for the first time yesterday and he’s got ‘Patriots’ written all over him. He plays with his hair on fire, can jump a 36.5 inch vertical and he’s run a (probably assisted) 3.97 short shuttle.
They could also take a long look at Florida running back Dameon Pierce — who will likely go earlier than a lot of people realise. It’s also possible — maybe not likely, but possible — that tackles Bernhard Raimann and Abraham Lucas last into range.
Yet having clearly stated what their off-season aim is — pass rush — it aligns with their draft position nicely. It’s worth keeping an eye on the D-liners in Mobile during the Senior Bowl.
The good and bad of the D-coordinator search
I can’t decide whether I’m encouraged or sceptical about Seattle’s desire to interview some highly regarded outside candidates for the defensive coordinator job.
On the one hand, it’s been quite interesting to see fans of the Bears and Cowboys react with fear that they might lose Sean Desai or Joe Whitt Jr.
Both have enjoyed success in their respective roles and Desai in particular has led a defense, rather than working for a defensive minded Head Coach.
On the other hand, I wonder why either would take this job? Why would they want to come and run Pete Carroll’s defense, rather than their own? And is this window-dressing before the inevitable appointment of Ed Donatell and Clint Hurtt as co-coordinators? Are these interviews really only to enable the Seahawks to say, ‘see — this was a thorough search’.
They did appoint Shane Waldron, an outsider, a year ago. I hope that is a trend, not a one-off. This defense needs new ideas and a fresh set of eyes.
For too long Carroll has appointed yes-men and family members. It’s time for the Seahawks to try and build the best staff money can buy — not the staff most willing to follow along like loyal disciples.
Be creative with the center position
It’s not a good draft at center and they need an answer here.
The Seahawks have tended, in recent years, to invest in veteran O-liners. That market isn’t flush with options either.
I mentioned this in my off-season plan and increasingly I think they should call New Orleans about Cesar Ruiz.
We know they like length and size. We know they like explosive traits. Ruiz is the complete package for them physically.
He has struggled after moving to guard. The Saints drafted Erik McCoy and he’s retained the center spot. Fans have started to get on Ruiz’s back and increasingly it feels like he needs a fresh start.
I don’t know what kind of price it would take but I’d pick up the phone and ask the question. Saints fans certainly seem ready to move on so it might be a cheap deal.
DK Metcalf trade rumours?
Who knows whether this is legit — but this tweet emerged a week ago:
One name to watch being made available via trade this offseason is #Seahawks WR D.K. Metcalf.
Would take a solid haul to get him but feeling is Seattle could move on from him.
— uSTADIUM (@uSTADIUM) January 13, 2022
I’ve never heard of ‘uSTADIUM’ before. They have 36,700 Twitter followers (a fair amount) but they also follow 15,400 accounts (which makes the 36,700 more manufactured).
Nevertheless, this could end up being a story that pops up this off-season.
It will cost a minimum of $20m a year to sign Metcalf to a new contract. That’s where the market is. The franchise tag this year was just over $19m. He could realistically ask for $23-25m and it wouldn’t be unfair.
Seattle has to decide whether it wants to do that.
Trading him now would probably be peak value. A buyer would get one last year on his rookie deal and a franchise tag. That’s a decent position to negotiate a new contract.
For a team like the Jets — with no weapons and a young quarterback needing an outlet — it would make sense. They have loads of cap space and they have, as we know, two first round picks this year.
Metcalf should command a deal similar to the Jamal Adams trade. If the Seahawks don’t want to pay him and feel it’d be worthwhile to get their #10 pick back — plus another first in 2023 — that could be tempting. Especially if they think the Jets are unlikely to take a big step forward next year. It could be another high pick.
It was a strange year for Metcalf in 2021. The Seahawks struggled to feature him in some games. He actively looked frustrated and angry at times. Against Washington, he was visibly gesturing to Geno Smith after one failed drive — as if to say ‘this guy should be starting’.
He might find life even more irritating in New York but money talks — and the Jets can buy his favour by offering a record-breaking contract, given their favourable cap situation.
Certainly the Jets need an injection of proven quality from somewhere.
Seattle found themselves in a very similar situation with Frank Clark where they felt priced out. That deal didn’t secure a top-10 pick, rather a late first.
The only thing is — if they are very much in ‘win now’ mode, can you justify a trade that could easily make you worse?
It’s an interesting topic. Especially because you could easily argue they spent a second round pick on Dee Eskridge a year ago, they’ve chosen to pay Tyler Lockett big money already, there are some good veteran receivers reaching free agency and there are players like Kentucky’s Wan’Dale Robinson available in the draft. So they wouldn’t be short at receiver.
A top-10 pick could give you a chance to secure a pass rusher or offensive tackle.
One final note though — Carroll loves big, athletic receivers. He finally found one in 2019. I’m not sure he’ll give that up easily. The Clark trade does provide some precedent though.
Still, it might be more one for next year rather than this year. And the Seahawks have never been particularly pro-active on trading their own until the last minute.
If you missed my interview with Jim Nagy yesterday, please check it out here:
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