The draft is already a couple of weeks ago and we’re into the quiet part of the year where very little happens. From Friday, I’m taking a family vacation but before then, I wanted to review where I think the roster is at. I’m also working to arrange a very interesting interview to hopefully take place before I go away — and if not, certainly in the very near future. So stay tuned…
Quarterback position? No panic
I’ve seen people reflecting on Seattle’s situation as concerning but I simply don’t agree. It is what it is. The moment this team dealt Russell Wilson they embraced a rebuild, whether they wish to refer to it as that publicly or not.
This is the reality of where this team is. The core of the roster has departed. It’s not just Wilson (who let’s be honest, carried this team for a fair few years). Bobby Wagner and Duane Brown have also departed. Their best cornerback — D.J. Reed — has also moved on.
This is a seminal moment for the franchise. It’s not a shuffling of the deck. It’s a revamp and an attempt to create a new foundation.
In this off-season alone they were not going to repair the trenches, add talent to the secondary, replace key veteran starters and find a franchise quarterback. Especially not in this mediocre quarterback draft class.
The Seahawks did what they had to do. They created building blocks by drafting two young tackles who could form the future of the offensive line. They added two more pass rushers and a dynamic offensive weapon. They drafted talented cornerbacks to add to the competition and found value in the seventh round at receiver.
They’ve set the table for the future which will include, eventually, a new young signal caller. This way, there’s a chance when that player is added he won’t be thrown to the wolves playing with an inadequate supporting cast.
There was simply no justification to force things this year — either situationally or due to the talent available. The draft class called for a foundational build and they executed that in an ideal way.
They simply have to take their lumps in 2022 and give Drew Lock (or Geno Smith) an opportunity to show what they can do. Is it ideal? No. But short of either shocking the world to warrant longer term consideration, it’s what this team has to do.
What other choice did they have? People can argue all they want for drafting someone ‘just’ to have another option on deck. The NFL told you what it thought about this overrated, overhyped class. The media did what they often accuse NFL decision makers of doing — reaching at the most important position.
The Seahawks are perfectly placed. Expectation is low and thus there’s no real pressure to succeed this year. If they perform beyond expectations, it’ll simply be an enjoyable positive. Having two firsts and two second round picks in the 2023 draft also means even if they win more games than predicted, they’ll still be able to trade into range to draft a quarterback if they want to.
If they are bad and struggle to win games — then perfect. No need to trade up.
The 2023 quarterback class is incredibly intriguing. Although C.J. Stroud and Bryce Young get most of the attention — Will Levis and Tyler Van Dyke, for me, are the top two quarterback prospects as of today. Both players are incredibly exciting. Plus there’s always a chance more players will emerge as the new college season develops.
Patience will pay off for the fans if they’re prepared to be realistic about what this year is. It’s year-one of a rebuild.
Further to that — having a proper competition at quarterback speaks to Carroll re-establishing his core philosophy. If he wants to get back to basics in terms of his vision for this team, this is precisely what he needs. There are several positions where players will need to battle in camp to win a job — including under center.
Again — the Seahawks have played this one perfectly. They needed a long-term vision, not short-term fixes. They appear to be embracing that.
It’s also possible they add to the competition. If the 49ers and Browns cut Jimmy Garoppolo or Baker Mayfield — for the right price, either would likely be welcomed into the camp battle.
It’s not critical that they add though. This is a year to take stock, evaluate, develop and gain experience. It will not be a bad thing if the Seahawks have a rough win/loss record and position themselves to get a quality young quarterback (or Alabama’s brilliant young pass rusher Will Anderson) in the next draft.
Defensively, the Seahawks still lack that killer ‘game-wrecker’ that the Niners and Rams possess. I suspect they’re mindful of that but you can’t just magic one into existence.
If nothing else, they’ve given themselves a couple of shots to find a solution. Darrell Taylor had a promising first year and has the physical tools to develop into a game-wrecker. We’ll see if he can take a further step in year two.
Now, they’ve added Boye Mafe — who is an incredible, elite-level athlete.
If nothing else — there’s at least a chance they can both compete to get 10-sacks each. Neither Michael Bennett or Cliff Avril were game-wreckers as individuals but they combined to produce the same kind of impact as one elite individual. Perhaps Taylor and Mafe can do the same?
With Uchenna Nwosu, Alton Robinson and Tyreke Smith rotating in — there’s a chance to produce Seattle’s best pass rush results for some time.
Meanwhile, the search for a fearsome star will go on. For now at least, it’s hard to quibble with the path they’ve taken. This is a major improvement compared to the 2019, 2020 and 2021 off-seasons where they made a point of prioritising fixing the pass rush and simply failed to deliver.
The interior D-line still feels like a deep group rather than a scary group. There weren’t a ton of options in the draft or free agency though and a young, dynamic interior pass rusher has virtually become an endangered species.
Shelby Harris will provide leadership and impact. I suspect he will produce better results than people expect and develop into a key contributor — if not a key difference maker in some games next year. Poona Ford is a solid, consistent starter and Al Woods was a revelation in 2021. Quinton Jefferson is very capable of providing rotational strength and we’ll see if Bryan Mone can develop further.
Overall this was a positive off-season for the defensive front.
The O-line needed a refresh and while there’s still plenty of work to do, this was equally a solid start.
I wasn’t a huge fan of Charles Cross as a top-10 pick as you will know — but I also appreciate the thought process. Plenty of others (Daniel Jeremiah, Lance Zierlein) viewed Cross similarly — so I wasn’t alone. I’m not going to complain about the team launching a rebuild by investing in a young left tackle though. He needs to get stronger and a pro-weight and dietary program will help.
I was, however, a huge fan of Abraham Lucas. I think he has every chance to develop into one of the best players from the 2022 draft and leave people wondering, ‘how the heck did he last to round three?’ in years to come.
The idea of having bookend tackles for the next 8-10 years is the stuff of fantasy usually. The Seahawks have a chance, now, to make it a reality.
Hopefully Damien Lewis will return to right guard after a year of being messed around. I’m unsure about his fit in this blocking scheme but he’s a very talented player and deserves a chance to become a long-term fixture.
Gabe Jackson played poorly last year and was being dumped by the Raiders for a reason. Frankly, I’d rather give Phil Haynes a shot at left guard or one of the other tackles (Stone Forsyth or Jack Curhan). The Jackson trade was indicative of Seattle’s former ways — band-aids, ill-advised trades and making short-term decisions to try and turn a so-so team into an unrealistic true contender. Jackson’s best days are in the past.
Center also remains a point of contention. It’s hard to look at the list of players they’ve passed on at the position over the last few years. Austin Blythe is an OK stop-gap given his understanding of the scheme. Yet it’s vital the Seahawks keep building up their line. Don’t stop at the two tackles. Be prepared to invest further draft stock at guard and center if the opportunity arises — or make a free agent splash next year.
The Seahawks are relatively strong in this area and can boast an assortment of weapons.
They have acquired a running back with star potential in Ken Walker. Rashaad Penny ended last season in terrific form. For the first time in years, there’s reason to believe Seattle could have a potent running attack in 2022.
At receiver, a contract extension for D.K. Metcalf feels inevitable at this stage. It’s worth remembering that as good as Metcalf has been — there’s still room for improvement and another level to be reached. Even so, he gives Seattle a player of immense talent that many teams in the league covet. He also seems completely committed to the Seahawks (unlike, for example, Deebo Samuel in San Francisco).
The fact Seattle can pair Metcalf with Tyler Lockett — a consistent, quality, established player and a consummate professional — is a strength many take for granted.
However — the modern day NFL often dictates that you’re only as good as your third receiver. The Seahawks do have a good group of young targets but they need someone to elevate into that role. Preferably it’ll be Dee Eskridge given the price they paid for him — but the two receivers they added late in the draft provided great value plus Freddie Swain gives the Seahawks a nice camp competition.
It’ll also be interesting to see if Noah Fant can provide ‘third target’ value. He has the physical tools and the top-20 pick upside to be a lot more than he has been so far in the NFL. This is a big year for him. If he takes a step forward, the Seahawks would have an excellent group of skill players.
I’m still uncomfortable with the amount Seattle is spending at safety. Jamal Adams’ average salary is $17.6m and Quandre Diggs is at $13m. It’s simply too much.
I won’t go too far into the whole Adams debate again but by this point it’s clear the trade was a bust. They paid far too much to acquire him and doubling down on the salary has now lumbered the Seahawks with an expensive white elephant. Going into year three — they need to find a way for Adams to be consistently effective, max out what he actually does well and keep him healthy.
Even then, I doubt they’ll get anything close to ‘value’ given what they’ve paid and will continue to pay. If the situation doesn’t improve in 2022, I hope they’ll be prepared to chalk this one down to experience and move on. Adams became something of a figure of fun during the 2021 season. In the past the Seahawks have been prepared to accept situations and draw a line under them. For the sake of the player and the team — if 2022 is more of the same, a parting is best.
Still, it’s worth giving him a chance to turn a corner this year. The defensive tweaks, on paper, seem ideally suited to him. He’s at his best in a more aggressive 3-4 system where you can disguise pressure. Sean Desai loved to use three-safety sets in Chicago and having him essentially work as a ‘deathbacker’ — taking away the coverage issues and enhancing his attack-dog qualities — will be the best way to promote what he does well and mask the weaknesses.
They need him flying to the ball-carrier and getting into the backfield. They need to do it in a more creative way than they did in 2020 but they also can’t have him on the periphery of everything like they did in 2021.
Diggs, on the other hand, is clearly a very good football player who unlike Adams has found a level of consistent performance and a structured role and fit in Seattle. He’s expensive and coming off an injury but will likely continue to perform at a level that delivers production.
At cornerback — I think the Seahawks did the right thing. They weren’t in a position to draft one of the top two corners so they added upside and potential.
Artie Burns is familiar to Desai and has a first round physical profile. Both he and Coby Bryant will challenge to start in camp — along with Tre Brown (if healthy) and Sidney Jones. Bringing back Justin Coleman gives the team an upgrade at nickel, too.
Meanwhile, they can work on developing Tariq Woolen.
Sure — they lack an established, proven presence. Yet this is a collection of defenders from which a couple of decent starters can emerge. It’s been a while since the Seahawks had proper depth at cornerback and an intriguing competition. That used to be a staple of Carroll’s team. It’s back, finally. Training camp will be fascinating to watch as these players compete to start.
There’s not a great deal to say here given the new scheme and the likelihood of increased three-safety sets meaning there’s less emphasis on the position. They’ll be able to feature Jordyn Brooks prominently and then work in a second linebacker for early downs. Cody Barton played a lot better at the end of last season and will likely get that starting role. It’s still plausible they could bring in a Kwon Alexander type to compete. That would be an attractive proposition.
The Seahawks achieved two very important things this off-season. They reconnected to the core identity of Carroll’s preference. You may personally disagree with it. Yet while ever he remains in charge of the team, it stands to reason that he’s best served leading it how he sees fit.
There’s only one thing worse than having a Head Coach with a vision you don’t personally approve of. That’s a coach without a vision, or with a muddled philosophy.
The Seahawks now appear to have renewed direction and focus.
Competition across the board is back on the menu. They have the pieces to create a terrific running game that connects to the defense. They can play the kind of complementary football they desire.
They also created the foundation for the next era of Seahawks football by focusing on the trenches in this draft, adding pieces at key positions and setting the table for the future.
Frankly, I couldn’t care less what the win/loss record is in 2022. The Seahawks are on the right path. By this time next year — with the resources they have available to them — they can put themselves in position to steadily climb.
Simply put, the Seahawks just had their best off-season in years.
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