Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part IV: Linebackers

Part four of this series will focus on the linebackers. Let's take a look at where we are, and where we might be after the off-season.

Most casual observers would rank linebacker as an area of strength for the Seahawks. After all, Lofa Tatupu is Pro Bowler multiple times over, Aaron Curry was the #4 pick in the draft just two years ago, and David Hawthorne ranks among the best in the NFL according to some advanced statistics for LBs. The reality, unfortunately, is not so rosy. Tatupu has not played like a Pro Bowler for a few years, and shows no signs of regaining that form. Curry made modest improvements last season, but is yet to look worthy of his his draft status. Hawthorne is the real deal, but is below average in coverage. The cupboard is pretty bare behind those three. This is a unit that needs more depth and more top-line talent. 

2011 Seahawks Free Agents: LB:
  • LB Will Herring
  • LB Will McCoy
  • LB LeRoy Hill
Seahawks LB Under Contract:
  • LB Lofa Tatupu
  • LB David Hawthorne
  • LB Aaron Curry
  • LB Joe Pawelek
The upside of this group is limited as long as Tatupu remains the starting middle linebacker. He's a great leader, and a plus coverage 'backer, but is physically inferior to almost every other linebacker. Even before his injuries, Tatupu was physically challenged. The years have pounding have taken their toll, and the Seahawks would be wise to find his successor this off-season. Moving Hawthorne back to MLB is an option as it can be easier to find an impact OLB. Hawthorne is weak in coverage, though. Curry is not going anywhere for the foreseeable future, and he's at least serviceable as a run stuffer and occasional pass rusher. The goal for the off-season should be to find the most talented linebackers possible for a place on special teams and the ability to share time a la Kam Chancellor. 

The Seahawks would be foolish to go after starting caliber free agent linebackers, so it's not worth the time to explore the options there. There may be some prospect-level free agents the team adds, as you can expect to see Herring move on for a chance to get more PT. The draft has some decent MLB prospects that can be added in later rounds. Overall, though, the draft is thin on impact linebackers. This may be a position that has to hold together for another season before getting real attention. After all, we'll know for sure what Tatupu's future and Curry's ceiling will be by the time 2012 rolls around.

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