Saturday, February 18, 2012

Taking Your Temperature: Quick Seahawks Draft Poll

I was reading some mock drafts this morning, and found myself becoming convinced the Seahawks are most likely to trade down and add some draft picks. I'm pretty sure I know what I want them to do. I was curious what all of you are wanting them to do, and what you think they will do?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Next Generation of 12th Men (And Women)

Dana Lowy's 1st Grade class is a special place. Not only is Ms. Lowy an award-winning teacher, but she has the privilege of nurturing a classroom full of rabid Seahawks fans. They welcomed me in this morning to talk about my job, since my son, Nate, is Prince of the Week. We talked for a bit about my real job, and then had a lot more fun talking about my favorite blogging hobby.

There was more than one Matt Hasselbeck fan in the group, and even a Shaun Alexander supporter. They were all thrilled to know that they, too, were The 12th Man. Learning that reading, writing, math, and spelling were important parts of blogging was predictably a little less exciting.

It was a special day for Nate, who has special needs. He is not able to do everything his classmates do, but tries his best, and still gets to have his Dad come in for a visit. When Nate started school, he was in the special ed program. After a lot of discussion at home, and with the school district, we decided to integrate him into the mainstream. There was a lot of debate about what was best for him, for his classmates, for the schools, for the teachers. Our worst fear as parents was that Nate would be treated poorly or that he would hinder the students around him. It has been nothing short of miraculous to see the community, teachers, students and school district form around him.

When mainstreaming is working, the children in class with the special needs kid are learning that not everyone can do the same things they can, and the special needs kid is learning that the same rules apply to them as to others. Separating special needs children on an island can further create a sub-culture that lasts a lifetime. Facing our differences together hopefully makes everyone better.

It's never that easy, of course, and the amount of work teachers like Ms. Lowy put in to make an inclusive classroom is not lost on Nate's parents. The kids deserve all sorts of credit for treating Nate with respect. Mr. H (Henry) is Nate's aid, and is arguably the best one in the world! And, of course, Nate deserves a bunch of love for being a courageous little kid in what is sometimes a strange world to him.

It is no wonder that such a remarkable group of people are big Seahawks fans. Go Hawks!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part VII: Quarterbacks

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
Tarvaris Jackson. Charlie Whitehurst. Just mention their names to any Seahawks fan, and you will get an earful.  Whitehurst entered the year with an ardent group of supporters that believed his performance in the 2010 finale against the Rams had earned him a shot at the starting job in 2011. He even enjoyed the spotlight of that role for about 24 hours before Jackson was signed. Whitehurst had his best game as a pro when he subbed for the injured Jackson in New York against the Giants, and led the team to one of the season's best victories over the eventual Super Bowl Champions. It was a mirage, though, and Whitehurst destroyed his career in the two subsequent starts in Cleveland and at home against the Bengals. Pete Carroll decided the team was better off playing a quarterback with a pectoral muscle that was 50% torn than to suffer through more of Whitehurst. The player that takes his roster spot next season will be more scrutinized than any other move the front office makes, or has made.

Jackson came in with the best kind of expectations: none. Just being able to say, "Hike," and handle a snap would have been a pleasant surprise to some fans. There was almost a shame associated with being the fan of team that might be casting their lot with a player who was so clearly limited. The modest contract Jackson signed (two years at backup money, with no guaranteed money in year two) was the best signal that the front office was not blind to what Jackson was. He earned his teammates respect by not pointing fingers when the offensive line was getting him killed in the pre-season and early regular season. His toughness was undeniable as he took shot after shot, and kept getting up. He was voted team captain by his teammates, but did little else of note the first few games of the year. Jackson hit his stride during the second half of the Atlanta Falcons game, and nearly led the team to a massive comeback. Many of his worst habits (indecisiveness, slow release, locking onto receivers) seemed to melt away when the team went no-huddle. Jackson has a great arm, and can make throws that not every NFL quarterback can make. His touch on deep passes is possibly his best asset. His performance against the Giants put the team in position to win, and who knows how his year would have completed if he had not injured his chest in the first half?

There is little doubt the Seahawks need to upgrade the quarterback position, but the need is not as urgent as some might imply. Jackson can do much of what Alex Smith did for the 49ers last season, and a little more. Jackson ended the season 7-7 as a starter during a tumultuous, injury-riddled year for him and his line. Once the team committed to the run, starting @Dallas, they were 5-2 over the next seven games. If the line can stay healthy, the team can add additional fire power at running back, and Jackson is at full strength, there is no reason to think he could not lead this team to 10+ wins next season. His play was not good enough to guarantee his spot next season, nor was it bad enough to require an immediate switch. Odds are better than 50% he opens the season as the starter.

Josh Portis is the forgotten player. Much has been made about how Carroll and John Schneider have not drafted a quarterback since they took over. They didn't draft Doug Baldwin, but is anyone arguing over his contributions? Portis flashed undeniable athleticism, and surprising touch on intermediate routes during the pre-season. His progress from practice #1 to the final pre-season game was encouraging. Nobody knows for sure what the team thinks of Portis, but it is not entirely out of the question that the young quarterback everyone has been looking for is already on the roster with one year of development under his belt. Don't count on it, but don't forgot it, either.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Quarterbacks:
  • QB Charlie Whitehurst
Seahawks Quarterbacks Under Contract:
  • QB Tarvaris Jackson
  • QB Josh Portis
Goodbye Charlie. Thanks for the 2010 division title. 

Free Agents
History proves that drafting your franchise quarterback is the best way to go. There are notable free agent exceptions to this rule with players like Drew Brees, Jim Plunkett and Kurt Warner who all won Super Bowls. The chances of finding a player good enough to lead your franchise to the Super Bowl on the free agent market are close to zero. Teams do not let great quarterbacks walk without any compensation. Even so, there are some options that will get considered, especially since it would free up the first-round pick for a different position target.

QB Matt Flynn
My read on Flynn to Seattle has not changed. Flynn has better options elsewhere. Miami might be the most logical fit. Washington and Cleveland also make more sense if you are Flynn, since he would step-in as the no doubt starter. Laugh if you'd like at Jackson keeping Flynn at bay, but ask yourself why Flynn would choose to come to a team that has a young starter who was voted captain by his teammates and outperformed expectations while being injured. Flynn is not Brees. He cannot expect to be given a free pass by fans if he struggles at the outset. Does he hold the job six games in if he is playing poorly and Jackson is sitting beside him? I'd only take that risk if Seattle paid me a premium over the other teams interested in me, and even then...

QB Alex Smith
Adding Smith would be moronic. Mediocre (Smith) + Mediocre (Jackson) does not equal good, and certainly does equal great. Pray the 49ers bring Smith back, and spend some money doing it. He will never win a Super Bowl, so what would be the point of signing him?

QB Vince Young
Believe it or not, Young is going to be 29 next season. He flashes some potential, but has a nickel head on his shoulders. He is not the kind of player to waste cap room on.

QB Dennis Dixon
Dixon is a guy nobody talks about, but he's only 27, and has been sitting behind Ben Roesthlisberger for years. He played one game against the Falcons last year and played reasonably well. He does not scream QBOTF, but could be an interesting talent to add to the pile.

QB Peyton Manning
Oh yeah, that Manning guy. Manning had major surgery on his neck and is trying to regain strength in his arm and shoulder. No matter what you read in the media, this is a total crapshoot. The chances that Manning ever steps on a field again are slight, and the chances grow even smaller that he will stay on the field if he ever makes it back. If he is certain to be healthy, Manning would be a great addition. Manning, however, probably would pick other spots with more certain Super Bowl pedigrees and better receiving targets. Only hold your breath on this one if you enjoy it.

Andrew Luck. Robert Griffin III. Say their names to any Seahawks fan, and you are certain to get an earful as well. The practical plan would be to wait out the process until the right player falls to you at the right time. This Seahawks roster is a great quarterback away from being a perennial Super Bowl contender. If the front office believes those two players are head-and-shoulders above the other quarterbacks in this class, they should spend whatever is required to land one of them. Sit back and think about whether you would be more skeptical/concerned if the Seahawks spent four first-round picks to get RGIII or if they chose a player like Kirk Cousins in the 2nd round. This is not a team with holes all over the place. It is a team with one position that needs to make a large step forward, and a few places that need patches/upgrades. You cannot win the raffle if you do not buy a ticket.

Bottom Line
The way Carroll and Schneider handle the QB spot vacated by Whitehurst will define their legacy in Seattle. History favors those that draft their franchise quarterbacks, and develop them within the system. Flynn could end up being as good as his two career starts indicated, or he could be the next Kevin Kolb. Matt Barkley is the guy that would have made this a far different equation. His presence in the draft would have made it three Top 10 QBs instead of two. The Seahawks chances of trading up for one would have greatly increased. Without Barkley, the Seahawks are left with the choice of betting the future on one selection, or trying to play their hand out a little longer. It would seem their future is going to be tied to this selection no matter who it is, so my suggestion is to go all in on a player they really believe in.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Prioritized 2012 Seahawks Free Agents

Ask most Seahawks fans who is the most important team free agent for the team to re-sign, and they would list off names like Marshawn Lynch and Red Bryant. Push for more, and they probably would say David Hawthorne and maybe Leroy Hill. If you were one of the select few Seahawks fans that jumped for joy when the team re-signed Breno Giacomini yesterday, pat yourself on the back. When factoring in team need, player fit, player talent, options to replace the player, and potential of the player, Giacomini arguably becomes the Seahawks most important free agent to re-sign. It is no wonder he was the first one signed, and that the team paid him a premium to keep him off the market.

James Carpenter should not be counted on to be back from injury by the start of the season. There are very few free agent options that make sense, especially considering the team has its starting right tackle of the future already on the roster. Add in that Giacomini is already well-versed in Tom Cable's system, and played at a reasonably high level while filling in last season, and it becomes clear Giacomini may have been in a class by himself. The front office continues to make wise personnel choices.

I decided to take a stab at prioritizing the Seahawks free agents using a formula. It is not meant to be exact, but provides some classification of the value of each player. Here's how it works:

Each attribute is given an equally-weighted score of 1-10.

TEAM NEED - How important is it for the Seahawks to address that position? Linebacker was treated as one need, as opposed to nickel LB vs. back-up WILL vs. starting MIKE. Linebacker is major team need, so it gets a 10.

PLAYER FIT - How well does that player fill the need for the team?

TALENT - How talented is the player?

TOUGH TO REPLACE - Are there easy free agent options or draft options or players on the roster that can fill the role?

PLAYER POTENTIAL - Can this player still get better, or have they reached their max already?

Each attribute was multiplied by the other for a total score. Here are the results:

Giacomini rates right up near the top by this measure. He gets the highest score for being tough to replace. He also it tied for highest potential for growth of the current Seahawks free agent crop. He could end being the future starting right tackle, and Carpenter could shift to left guard eventually.

David Hawthorne shows up high on the list, but his Player Fit score is the lowest in the top six players. Both he and Leroy Hill are not exactly what the team is looking for. This doesn't mean they won't be re-signed, but is the reason why they won't be signed quickly.

Paul McQuistan also shows up higher on the list than most might expect for the exact opposite reason. His ability to sub at LT and both guard spots while being a veteran of Cable's system makes him a near-perfect fit. And given the propensity for injury on the offensive line, that's a big need to address.

Some will argue with John Carlson's score. Another TE is not a big need on the team, Carlson's fit is just average given his inability to block, and there are a number of replacement options if the team did want to add another receiving tight end.

Where do you think the ranking is right? Where is it wrong? Would you score by different criteria? 

Friday, February 10, 2012

Podcast With Softy: Off-Season Intro, Peyton Manning & More

Sports Radio KJR host Dave "Softy" Mahler and I recorded our regular conversation about the Seahawks.

We talked about which parts of the team may see turnover this off-season, whether or not Peyton Manning makes sense here, Matt Flynn, and even a little pre-draft talk about Quinton Coples.

Tell me what you think. Tell me what you'd like us to cover in the future. Hope you like it!

**Listen to the Podcast**

Thursday, February 9, 2012

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
People are fond of saying that Marshawn Lynch is the face of the franchise now. They say the team is helpless without out. Sentiments like that would have been laughed at midway through this season when he was averaging under 50 yards per game. Sure, he had authored the best run in Seahawks history, but that was last year. The rest of his Seattle career had been underwhelming. Then, Pete Carroll spoke to Tom Cable after a loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, and told him that they were going to commit to the run. That shift had ripple effects throughout the team, but most directly on Lynch. His output skyrocketed to Pro Bowl levels, and his will to fight for every yard became a symbol of the transition the team was going through. The Seahawks push you around. Not vice versa.

The unpopular reality is that while Lynch is better than most backs in the league, he is not required for this to work. There are plenty of backs that could be productive in this system, and with this sort of commitment to running the ball. He is an unrestricted free agent, and the team will have to think about whether it is worth the investment necessary to keep a top-flight running back. There is reason to believe Lynch will be even better next year over the course of a full season, and may have another 1-2 years of his best production still to come. Beyond that is a crap shoot.

Justin Forsett and Leon Washington mixed in with Lynch over time. Combined, they still had less than half of Lynch's rushing attempts. Washington made the most of his chances with a healthy 4.7 average per carry and three runs over 20 yards (Lynch only had four in nearly 6X the carries). Washington is still valuable as a change-up back, and as a returner, but he turns 30 next season. Next year could very well be his last for Seattle.

Forsett was a major disappointment. He only managed 3.2 yards per carry, and it would have been worse if not for his 3rd and long (9+ yards) runs where he averaged 6.4. This is a guy who has averaged close to five yards per carry through his career, and he was basically a sub-3.0 guy this season. He has never been the most physically gifted player, and his spot on the team is highly suspect next season.

Michael Robinson earned a Pro Bowl spot for his efforts this year. He made some key blocks for Lynch, who has consistently run better out of two-back formations. Robinson remains an undersized fullback, and there is no position more physically taxing than fullback. The team needs to be bringing in new fullbacks to challenge Robinson, who will be 30, every training camp. Some fullbacks last into the mid-30s. Robinson is not built like those fullbacks, so the breakdown could come sooner.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Running Backs & Fullbacks:
  • RB Justin Forsett
  • RB Marshawn Lynch
  • FB Michael Robinson
Seahawks Running Backs & Fullbacks Under Contract:
  • RB Leon Washington
  • RB Jay Finley (Practice Squad)
Lynch almost certainly will be back. The team can franchise him for $7-8M this season, and have the cap space to do that. They may try to get him signed to a 3-year deal that lowers his cap number, but they have the franchise tag if that falls through. There is no reason for the team to simply let Lynch walk, and they are not in a situation where they have to sign him to a long-term contract. How it unfolds will be important. An unmotivated Lynch would be a totally different player. The worst-case scenario here would be the Seahawks making a long-term investment (over 3 years). Letting Lynch walk is not worst-case.

Robinson likely comes back for a 2-3 year deal, but will get some interest elsewhere. Forsett will not be back.

Free Agents
Some alternative free agent running backs to be aware of:

RB Peyton Hillis
Yes, Hillis was a disaster and a douche last season. He's also 26, and one year removed from a 1,600 yard (rushing and receiving), 13 TD season. He runs hard when healthy and motivated. Same thing here, though, in terms of no deal over 3 years.

RB Mike Tolbert
Tolbert is football. The guy is built like a tank, and is also 26. Even splitting carries, he managed almost 500 yards and 8 rushing TDs last season. He is also a surprisingly good receiver who pulled in 54 balls for another 433 yards and 2 TDs. I would take him over Hillis any day.

RB Michael Bush
Bush may be the best Lynch alternative. He is 27, runs with similar ferocity, and knows Cable's system. He went for nearly 1,500 total yards at 6'1" and 245 lbs.

RB BenJarvus Green-Ellis
Ellis is only 26, and is smaller at 5'11" 215 lbs. He has a combined 24 TDs in the last two seasons, and is a hard runner. He is not a breakaway threat. His career long run is only 33 yards. He was over 1,000 yards only a year ago.

RB Ryan Grant
Grant is not the runner he once was at 29, but has always been a good yards per carry guy. He might be a good signing as a rotational player.

Free agent running backs are almost never a good idea in terms of value. Running backs almost always have their best years of production in years 1-5, and you can find some amazing value even late in the draft. Spending a first-round pick on a running back is always a mistake, even for a player like Adrian Peterson. Disagree? Name the last league-leading rusher to win a Super Bowl. Name the last All-Pro running back to win a Super Bowl. Championship teams are rarely running teams. Green Bay and New York showed how an effective running game is becoming more important than it was, but first-round picks should be spent filling needs that are difficult to address like pass rushers, quarterbacks, lineman. Pick a couple running backs in rounds 3-7, and your team will be better for it.

Bottom Line
Seattle probably comes back with Lynch at running back next season, and at least one new face to play with him. Washington can still be the change-of-pace, but the team is missing another dynamic runner. They don't need another Lynch, but they do need another back capable of playing every-down should Lynch get injured. Adding young running backs is fun, and should help spark the offense if the front office can find the right player. 

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
This one is all about perspective. On one hand, Doug Baldwin had a historic season for an undrafted free agent, Golden Tate gave hope that he would not be a bust, Sidney Rice was on pace to be a rare 1,000 yard Seahawks receiver, and Zach Miller proved he is a team guy who will sacrifice his stats for the good of the team without bitching. On the other hand, Mike Williams was a disaster, Rice got injured again, Miller had his worst receiving season as a pro, and Tate's improvement was modest. How much of the lack of production by receivers and tight ends was due to a poor offensive line or mediocre quarterback play? Let's look at the individuals.

Rice got injured again. This time it was a couple of concussions that sidelined him, and a torn labrum that he played through before getting an operation this off-season. Some fans and media will jump to the conclusion that he is going to be a free agent bust due to chronic injuries, but that's overstated. He came back from a hip problem and had a head injury and a shoulder injury. These are completely unrelated to one another. His production when he was on the field was pretty good considering he played when the team was struggling mightily with the line and his quarterbacks were either injured or horrible. He was on pace for a 70-catch, 1,100 yard season. There seemed to be plenty of evidence to suggest he could do more. Rice doesn't need to play 16-games every year to be worth his contract. He needs to be a dynamic playmaker on the outside, and avoid season-ending injuries. The team was right to be cautious with him this year. Expect him to have a big 2012.

Baldwin deserves to be mentioned with Victor Cruz and Wes Welker. He put up 51 receptions for 788 yards and four touchdowns. Cruz didn't even get on the field last season, and Welker only managed 29 catches for 434 yards his rookie year. He can be great, and is off to a terrific start. Even Jerry Rice only had 49 catches and three touchdowns his rookie year, and that was with Joe Montana throwing to him.

Williams was misused, under-targeted and performed poorly when he got the chance to make a play. His talent is still unique and undeniable. He needs a quarterback that trusts him to unlock what he has to offer, and he has to believe he is a valued part of the offense. Tarvaris Jackson missed Williams when he was open more than any other receiver. That wears on any player. His injury makes next season make-or-break. He will either come back with a vengeance, or fade away and out of the league again.

Tate put in a professional effort last year. He showed that he can put in the work, pay attention to detail, and keep his mouth shut. His ceiling is not as high as some might have hoped for when he was drafted. There are not Pro Bowls in his future, and he probably will never be a starter. He can be a playmaker on offense, and could be a guy that pops for 7-9 TDs in a season from time-to-time.

Ben Obomanu made the most of his chances this season. He made his catches, and always fought hard for extra yards. He set a career-high with 37 receptions, but will turn 29 next season. It's possible the team could look to get younger here, but good luck knocking Obomanu off the roster. He's been on the bubble his whole career, and always finds a way to be there when the season begins.

Kris Durham was shut down with a torn labrum, but looked like he was on his way to being a reliable option. Williams may have no bigger competition than the guy he spent a lot of time tutoring during training camp this year.

Deon Butler made a miraculous comeback from a nasty broken leg. It would be an upset if he is on the roster next season, but frankly, it was a bigger upset that he was on the roster this year.

Ricardo Lockette is quite possibly the most celebrated two-catch receiver in the history of the NFL. He did manage to lead the NFL in yards per catch (52.5), so give the kid some credit. Building a roster around the assumption that a two-catch receiver is going to become your starting split end does not make a lot of sense. Lockette is a guy who will be given every chance to earn a spot on the team, and in the offense, but will not keep the front office from adding to the pile.

What you have here is Rice, Baldwin, and a bunch of not-quite-starters.

Miller was a Pro Bowl-caliber blocker, and he has proven his ability as a receiver in earlier seasons. He will be a great part of the team's growth after a full off-season of development and adjustments. People expecting him to flash Tony Gonzalez or Anthony Gates physical skills are missing what Miller is. He will be the player who moves the sticks both by clearing the path for the running game and by making key catches. Tight ends are becoming more and more a part of game plans in the NFL. The Seahawks coaches need to pay attention and better utilize their weapons at that position.

Anthony McCoy was the goat much of the season, easily leading the team in dropped passes, despite being targeted 9th-most on the team. He improved as the season went on, and was a solid blocker. Cameron Morrah joined the team off the PUP and was a surprisingly strong blocker who coaches know can run wide receiver routes. The team should be set with the three of those guys as long as they can keep them together. John Carlson was injured before the season started, and is not likely to be back despite Pete Carroll implying otherwise.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Wide Receivers & Tight Ends:
  • TE John Carlson
Seahawks Wide Receivers & Tight Ends Under Contract:
  • WR Sidney Rice
  • WR Mike Williams
  • WR Golden Tate
  • WR Doug Baldwin
  • WR Ben Obomanu
  • WR Kris Durham
  • WR Ricardo Lockette
  • WR Deon Butler
  • WR Isaiah Williams (Practice Squad)
  • TE Zach Miller
  • TE Anthony McCoy
  • TE Cameron Morrah
Seattle does not need eight wide receivers on the roster. Most teams carry five or six. Obomanu, Butler and Williams should all be on alert. If the team decides to bring in a starting-caliber talent via free agency, even Durham and Tate are at risk. Most likely, the team drops two out of the Obomanu, Butler and Williams trio. Re-signing Carlson would be a shock. He should get better opportunities elsewhere, and the team is in good shape with the talent they already have at tight end.

Free Agents
There are not a lot of clear-cut options in free agency, but a few names are worth consideration.

TE Jermichael Finley
The Packers aren't big into franchising players, or even re-signing their own free agents once they get expensive. Seattle is set at tight end, but could decide to add play-making at tight end instead of at receiver if a player of Finley's talents are available.

TE Fred Davis
Davis is a known quantity for Carroll, and offers help blocking as well as receiving. He is probably not enough of an upgrade to spend the extra cash on him.

WR DeSean Jackson
Jackson is saying all the right things after being an ass the whole season. He would be an ideal compliment to Rice if his head is straight. He almost certainly goes back to Philly, but is a player to track.

WR Steve Johnson
Johnson is 6'2" 210 lbs, exactly the type of receiver Carroll likes. He's only 25, and has already been productive. The Bills probably would franchise him if needed. He is not a deep threat, which makes him less attractive for Seattle.

WR Vincent Jackson
Carroll showed interest before, but Jackson is too old at 29 to make a long-term investment. If he somehow comes on a short-term deal, he might be an option.

Drafting another receiver would be a mistake. Receivers take time to develop, and the Seahawks are already overflowing with young receiver talent. There might be a prospect the team loves late in the draft, but anyone they draft will have to take a roster spot from Lockette, Durham or Tate. At some point, you need to let your previous draft choices prove themselves. Morrah and McCoy could see some challengers, but not likely.

Bottom Line
The biggest goal here is to add more dynamic play-making. That could happen by getting a healthy Rice, a year of growth from Baldwin, Tate, Lockette and Durham, and a better game-plan for Miller and Morrah. That could happen by adding a big-time free agent like Finley or Jackson, or it may just not happen this year. Look for the team to explore their options, but probably stay put. They have a big pile to sort out, and may regret acting to rashly.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part IV: Linebackers

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
No position group will play a larger role in setting the ceiling or floor of this defense than the linebackers. The secondary is already great, and should make some improvement. The defensive line is very good, and has the potential for some improvement. The most likely scenario has the 2012 defensive line and secondary manned by exactly the same starters as the 2011 team. That means that if the defense is to improve things like the pass rush, the linebacker position is where there is the most play. Sure, the team may add a stud pass rushing defensive end, but he won't start ahead of Red Bryant or Chris Clemons. The coaching staff will not always be able to predict when a team will be in a passing situation, and needs to find pass rush in their base defense. Pete Carroll talked about getting faster on defense a number of times in his post-season interviews. Linebacker is the obvious position to do that.

David Hawthorne produced one of his best statistical seasons, nearing his career highs in tackles, interceptions, and tackles for loss in 15 games. He did all this at the age of 26, and on what was essentially one leg. He battled a knee problem all year, but gutted it out. His injury robbed him of the explosiveness and range that defines his game, and may have cost him a future in Seattle. He is now an unrestricted free agent, and could be the player fans are most surprised to see the front office let go. Rookie K.J. Wright had a strong enough rookie season to allow the Seahawks to move on from Aaron Curry at the strong-side linebacker spot. The coaches love him at the middle linebacker spot that Hawthorne played. They probably love him at either SAM or MIKE, but moving him to MIKE gives them a chance to add another impact outside linebacker while enjoying the benefits of a 6'4" player dropping into the middle zone against seam routes and crossing patterns.

Wright started flashing some pass rush potential as the season wore on, and began making other impact plays with six tackles for loss in his final seven games. He is long, smart, and shows promise in zone coverage where he gets some of the deepest drops I have seen from a linebacker. His man coverage skills are questionable, but he appears to have all the physical and mental skills necessary to improve on that over time. There is some question whether he will ever be the playmaker Hawthorne is. He looks more like a guy who will be assignment-correct and tackle reliably, which is nothing to scoff at.

Leroy Hill is 29-years-old, but it feels like he should be 35. He has been around for six years, but this was the first season he managed to play all 16 games. He nearly has a career-high in tackles (89), and had his highest sack total (4.0) since his rookie season in 2005. He remains a very talented player, but speed is no longer his calling card. Expect Malcolm Smith, the 2011 7th round pick, to get a chance to challenge for the starting WILL position in camp. Smith is all about speed, and could be an intriguing addition to the defense. Smith was hurt a fair amount of his rookie season, and will need to spend some time in the weight room this off-season, but could have a Kam Chancellor-like second year if things fall into place.

Matt McCoy was becoming a surprise contributor to the nickel package before he was injured. He is a blur on the field, and would be a great player to keep around for depth if some other team does not swoop in.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Linebackers:
  • Heath Farwell
  • David Hawthorne
  • Leroy Hill
  • Matt McCoy
  • David Vobora
Seahawks Linebackers Under Contract:
  • K.J. Wright
  • Malcolm Smith
  • Mike Morgan
  • Adrian Moten
  • Allen Bradford (Practice Squad)
Don't expect the Seahawks to rush out and re-sign either Hawthorne or Hill. Both played a big role in the 2011 defensive success, so letting them go would be a risk, but it is a risk the team needs to take. Linebackers do not need years of time to develop the way a quarterback, lineman or receiver does. If the Seahawks can find an impact linebacker in the draft, he will make a difference immediately. Look no further than Wright, who was drafted in the 4th round. Hill is the more likely of the two starters to return, but he would be a late signing, and would not enter camp as the expected starter. Carroll and John Schneider may want to let him walk, a la Lawyer Milloy, to make room for a younger player to emerge.

Farwell was a great special teams player, and could be back. McCoy would be a good get, and has reason to come back if he thinks there may be more playing time. Vobora will not be back. The team will be looking for faster players with more upside, even in the back-up roles.

Free Agents
The draft is a much more likely place to add talent at linebacker, but there are some free agent names worth watching. These are not the names that will top most free agent linebacker lists. They could make sense, though, in Seattle.

Joe Mays
Mays is a little undersized at 5'11" 250 lbs, but hits like a freight train, and is only 26. He played in all 16 games last season for the Broncos and had 75 tackles (64 solo) and 8 tackles for loss. He would be a guy who could allow Wright to stay at the outside spot, or could be in the mix with Smith at the WILL.

Larry Grant
Grant, 26, stepped in for Patrick Willis while he was injured and did not show a big dropoff in play. He is 6'1" 251 lbs, and plays with a mean streak. He could be a possibility at any of the LB positions.

Ahmad Brooks
Brooks, 27, checks in at 6'3" 259 lbs, and is a more proven pass rusher than either Grant or Mays. He has 20.0 career sacks, including 7.0 last season. He could draw interest as a SAM.

Don't be surprised if the Seahawks spend their first-round pick on a linebacker. If they can find someone they believe can be a Pro Bowl player with pass rush ability, it might be the most prudent way to spend the pick. Expect at least two linebackers added in the draft, with an emphasis on speed. 

Bottom Line
The Seahawks could do a lot worse than just returning the same group they left with last season. Hawthorne is a borderline Pro Bowl player when healthy, and will flourish wherever he ends up next season. Hill is still a starting caliber linebacker, but just may not be what this defense needs. This is the position group that holds the key to turning what has been a very good defense, into a dominating defense. Wright is the only sure thing. If they can add elite range, with some pass rush ability behind a stout defensive line and in front of a lights-out secondary, watch out. 

Sunday, February 5, 2012

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part III: Secondary

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
Count your chickens. Don't wait for the fat lady to sing. Your Seahawks secondary is set to be the bedrock of this defense for years to come. Count on it. Earl Thomas became a Pro Bowl starter in his second season. Kam Chancellor deserved to be a Pro Bowl starter, but still made it as back-up. Brandon Browner led the NFL in passes defensed and was second in the league in interceptions as he made the Pro Bowl as well. The only starter in the secondary left out of the Pro Bowl was Richard Sherman, who garnered All-Pro consideration from Peter King. Browner is the crusty old man of the group who will turn 28 next year. He should have at least 3-4 more years of this level of play. He reminds me of Charles Tillman, who just made the Pro Bowl again as a 30-year-old. Thomas is just now 22-years-old, while Chancellor and Sherman are 23. Only Thomas makes over the rookie minimum, making it entirely possible that this will be both the NFL's best secondary and it's cheapest.

The talent goes beyond the top four. Roy Lewis, Walter Thurmond, and Byron Maxwell all have upside. Thurmond was playing at least as well as Sherman before his injury in Cleveland. A full recovery for him would give the team an embarrassment of riches. Maxwell barely saw the field outside of special teams, but has the potential to be a great slot corner who plays with the same ferocity as Browner and Sherman do on the outside. With that, comes the potential for even more penalties. Lewis will be better next season than he was this year after coming back from an injury. Marcus Trufant will be one to watch. His chronic injuries are not likely to get better, but he may have value as a veteran back-up who is capable of starter-quality play. One has to wonder, though, if the drastic improvement in pass defense after he was sidelined with injury was purely a coincidence.

Depth at safety is a question mark. Neither Thomas nor Chancellor can be replaced. They are each unique in ways that are hard to find in a generation of players. The downside to that is that any injury can send the defense reeling. Thomas, especially, plays a role that allows the whole scheme to work. Seattle had hoped Mark LeGree would be the rangy back-up to Thomas out of 2011 draft. He did not make the team. Jeron Johnson earned a spot, but his ability to contribute outside of special teams remains to be seen. Atari Bigby was a late veteran addition who played his part well. Bringing him back is an option, but it will not happen before looking for another solution in the draft. Keep an eye on Chris Maragos, who became a late special teams ace. He flashes elite speed that could translate to great range.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Defensive Backs:
  • S Atari Bigby
  • DB Roy Lewis (Restricted)
  • CB Kennard Cox (Exclusive Rights)
Seahawks Defensive Backs Under Contract:
  • FS Earl Thomas
  • SS Kam Chancellor
  • CB Richard Sherman
  • CB Brandon Browner
  • CB Marcus Trufant
  • CB Byron Maxwell
  • S Jeron Johnson
  • DB Chris Maragos
  • DB Phillip Adams
The Seahawks will not be in any rush on their free agents in the secondary. There are other areas of far more pressing needs. Expect the front office to make a qualifying offer to Lewis to guarantee some sort of compensation should he leave. 

Free Agents
Seattle will not be spending any free agent dollars on the defensive backfield. They may fill in spots closer to training camp with veterans like Bigby, but nothing more splashy than that. 

John Schneider will add more help at the safety spot if the right value appears in late rounds. 

Bottom Line
This group is so good, don't be shocked if Schneider trades from a position of strength to address needs elsewhere on the team. A player like Browner may never have a higher value than he does right now. If they feel confident about the recovery of Thurmond or the development of Maxwell, trading Browner is not out of the question. More likely, the team returns with nearly the same players as they did the year before. There will be some fighting for scraps at the bottom of the roster, but that's about it. A full off-season, and another year of playing together could turn this unit into one of the most dominant in the NFL. They have the talent, drive, work ethic and scheme to excel. The Seahawks have had secondaries that included players like Kenny Easley, Shawn Springs, Dave Brown, and Eugene Robinson. This current collection should be the franchises best ever. Anything less would be a disappointment. 

Cortez Kennedy: Irrepressible Greatness

The lights would go off in our high school English class, and all hell would break loose. People would throw wads of paper, make funny noises, and generally revert into ancestral chimps. I was one of them. Our teacher was good-natured about it, but often said, "Yes, you do exist." He was an odd guy, but whip smart. It was his subtle way of pointing out our immaturity, and it always stuck with me. You do exist, even when nobody can see you. Nobody embodies that more than new Hall of Fame Inductee, Cortez Kennedy. Seattle has never seen a more dominant defensive player. His dominance was so complete that playing on a terrible team in "Southern Alaska" did not hold him back from gaining league-wide acclaim, and now Hall of Fame recognition.

Kennedy joined the Seahawks in 1990 after being drafted 3rd overall out of Miami (back when the Hurricanes mattered in college football). Joe Nash and Jeff Bryant manned the middle of the defense back then, and Kennedy didn't get a chance to start until 1991. His impact was immediate, piling up 6.5 sacks as an interior lineman in that first season. But it was not until 1992 that Kennedy truly announced his arrival. On what was arguably the worst team in Seahawks franchise history (2-14, lowest scoring team in modern NFL history), Kennedy turned in one of the NFL's most dominating seasons. He piled up an insane 14.0 sacks and 92 tackles. The league did not track tackles for loss, but Kennedy played that entire season in the opponents backfield. He easily would have racked up a tackles for loss total in the high teens, and quite possibly got into the mid-20s. Nobody could block him. No two bodies could block him.

There was no doubt that he was the best defender in the NFL that year, but there is always doubt that a Seattle player will get his due, especially on such a terrible team. In fact, of the 41 players that have been named NFL Defensive Player of the Year, only five have played for a team that did not make the playoffs. Of those five, only Jason Taylor of the 2006 Dolphins (6-10) and Kennedy played on a team more than two games below .500. The Seahawks were twelve games below.500.
Kennedy was a rare breed of greatness

League awards are always a popularity contest to some extent, and none of the voters have time to really research and follow all the teams across the league. They rely on the stats, and on the teams making the most headlines. The fact that Kennedy managed to win the award in 1992 before the Internet era is all the more impressive. It was also completely deserved.

Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant are dominating players, at times, for the current Seahawks. Each approaches Pro Bowl consideration. Neither are in the same stratosphere as where Kennedy was in his prime. It is hard to think of another defensive tackle that compares. Warren Sapp was dominant, but very different type of player. Kennedy was huge, where Sapp was almost undersized. Sapp attacked upfield through creases in the offensive line. Kennedy was more like King Kong rumbling in any direction he chose with lineman helplessly hanging on. 

Kennedy went to eight Pro Bowls and was 1st Team All-Pro three times. Walter Jones is the only Seahawk with a more decorated career, with nine Pro Bowls and four All-Pro selections. Jones may be the best comparison to Kennedy in terms of dominance. They played different roles, but opponents were similarly helpless when facing them. I would pay good money to see them face off in their primes just in one-on-one pass rush drills.

As great as Kennedy was, he was too often surrounded by ineptitude. The Seahawks were 76-100 (0.432 winning percentage) during his career. He suffered through Stan Gelbaugh, Dan McGwire, Kelly Stouffer, Rick Mirer, and John Friesz. He played on only two winning teams, and made only one appearance in the playoffs near the end of his career. He never demanded a trade. He never put himself above the team. Seattle was lucky to witness his greatness, and may never see another like him. Congrats, Tez. Well earned.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part II: Defensive Line

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
There may not be a more perplexing group on the Seahawks roster than the defensive line. Seattle signed two starters, Brandon Mebane and Alan Branch, last year that should be quality anchors for a long time. The two defensive ends get the most notoriety, but each have cloudy futures. Chris Clemons has been an absolute steal after coming to the Seahawks in 2010 for Darryl Tapp. He piled up 22.0 sacks in two seasons, and complimented his pass rush with a great year against the run in 2011. Clemons will turn 31 in October, though, and is in the last year of his deal. Depending on him beyond 2012 would be unwise, and that's a ton of production to make up for. Red Bryant is the other end, and is an unrestricted free agent. He may have a greater impact on the defense than any other single player outside of Earl Thomas. The assumption is that Bryant will be back, but it is not as certain as many would believe. He helped to convince Carroll that a player of his size can play end in this scheme, but it is debatable how much of Bryant's effectiveness is unique to him. Junior Siavii subbed for Bryant during one game in 2010, and the defense against the run almost immediately returned to the level it had been when Bryant was in the lineup. It is possible that a variety of stout defensive tackles could take that spot in a pinch. Even Branch was originally signed as a hedge against Bryant's health in addition to his value at DT.

Neither Mebane and Branch will provide much pass rush inside. Bryant, or his replacement, will not provide much pass rush at one end. Clemons could hold-out, and if he plays, his performance is more likely to slow down than speed up. This unit was the healthiest of any on the roster. Only Branch missed any time. They were among the best lines in football against the run earlier in the year, but their effectiveness eroded as they were left on the field a lot before the offense found a running game late in the season. The best case scenario for this group is to maintain their excellence against the run, and maintain their mediocre-to-below-average pass rush. That would be great within the overall scheme of the defense.

There were not many high potential back-ups on the roster. Clinton McDonald did a nice job at DT, but is not going to be the interior pass rusher the team needs. Anthony Hargrove was solid role player, but will not be any better next season than he was last. Pep Levingston has upside that he needs to find by working his tail off during the off-season. Dexter Davis and Jimmy Wilkerson offer some unknowns. Davis gets a lot of praise from Carroll, and could fit behind Clemons or take Raheem Brock's situational rusher role. Wilkerson is going to be 32, but flashed some pass rush inside and out before being injured in the pre-season. Pierre Allen is a promising player on the practice squad that could surprise next year, but not someone a team can count on yet when building out a roster.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Lineman:
  • DL Red Bryant
  • DL Anthony Hargrove
  • DE Raheem Brock
  • DE Jimmy Wilkerson
Seahawks Lineman Under Contract:
  • DT Alan Branch
  • DT Brandon Mebane
  • DE Chris Clemons
  • DT Clinton McDonald
  • DL Pep Levingston
  • DE Dexter Davis
  • DE Pierre Allen (Practice Squad)
Bryant is probably worth more the Seahawks than any other team based on the role he plays in what is unique system in the NFL. He wants to be back, and probably will be. It probably would not be cataclysmic if they cannot come to agreement. Hargrove will be 29, and will be a late signing (think Brock), if the team cannot find a younger replacement with more potential. Brock will not be back, and Wilkerson probably will not be either (although, Carroll loves him). Davis, Allen and Levingston could be players that grow enough in the off-season that the team gets a boost, but none of them are clearly on the rise right now. That means the organization will have to look seriously at the draft, and possibly free agency to bolster the ranks and produce meaningful competition.

Free Agents
There are a number of intriguing free agent defensive lineman. Seattle could choose to bring in another tackle and slide Branch over to Bryant's end spot, or take the more predictable approach and look for pass rush help at both DT and DE. Spending premium dollars on rotation players can be a questionable way to go, so the draft might be a more likely place to invest in this position group. Here are a few free agent lineman to be aware of:

DE Robert Mathis
Mathis is going to be 31, but has produced at least 9.5 sacks in every season since 2004, except for 2007 when he had 7.0. Mathis probably goes to a contender who needs an impact player, and is too expensive for the Seahawks. Signing aging pass rushers is something Seattle should know is a bad idea in almost every case.

DE Calais Campbell
Campbell is an interesting one. He's only 25, and at 6'8", 300 lbs, he has swing ability. His impact numbers have grown, and he had 7 tackles for loss, 10 deflections and 8.0 sacks last season. Arizona probably keeps him, and Seattle would have to be sold on him as the replacement for Clemons long-term in order to spend the money needed to sign a 25-year-old free agent defensive end with upside.

DE Cliff Avril
Avril is also 25, and is more likely to be a lower priority for his current team (Detroit). Avril went from 8.5 sacks in 2010 to 11.0 in 2011. He also forced six fumbles. At 6'3", 260 lbs, he is more clearly matched up to Clemons LEO role, and could spend this season filling the Brock situational pass rusher opposite Clemons. Avril would be a great get, but the Seahawks would not be alone in pursuing him.

DE Mario Williams
Williams missed much of last season with a torn pectoral muscle, but is a proven pass rusher. He was asked to become a stand-up outside linebacker in Wade Phillips 3-4 defense, but at 6'6" 283 lbs, he is plenty big to play defensive end in the 4-3. He will be 28 next season, and is talented enough to require a big contract. Season-ending injury, nearing 30-year-old pass rusher, requires a big contract...danger, John Schneider, danger! Then again, he might be the most talented lineman available, and could be an impact addition for 2-4 years.

DT Jason Jones/Michael Bennett
Jones is an unrestricted free agent, and Bennett is a restricted free agent. Both a disruptive interior pass rushers that would be great fits in Seattle. Seahawks fans will painfully remember that Bennett made a big impression in Seattle during pre-season a few years back before getting waived and signed by Tampa Bay. Jones is going to be high on the Titans priority list to re-sign. Neither are likely to move, but should be discussed nonetheless.

If Seattle does not get the player(s) they need in free agency, which appears likely, there will be a heavy emphasis on defensive line in the draft. Even if the team decides to find pass rush help via the linebacker spot, they cannot ignore the potential hole they have ahead of them with Clemons impending free agency and slowdown due to age. Davis could be part of the solution, but the team needs to upgrade the talent at DE overall.

Bottom Line
This is a solid part of the team, that could fracture if the wrong steps are taken. How the team handles Clemons will be a key part of the off-season. He may have been the best player on that line last season, and it was not a weak group. They need to add speed and disruption to the heft they already have. That should come in the form of a player like Bennett (even if it is not Bennett), and a player like Avril (even if it is not Avril). Getting Avril could set them up nicely to play the hand they are dealt in the draft instead of searching for a need. The front office has shown they will spend on free agents, as long as they are 26 or under. The biggest addition to this unit may be an offense that can hold onto the ball for more than half the game. They should wear down less, and may be able to dominate more. 

2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part I: Offensive Line

This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2011 performance, the impending free agents, and the potential for free agent or draft additions. The final part of the series will summarize the recommended plan of attack across the entire team.

Part I: Offensive Line
Part II: Defensive Line
Part III: Secondary
Part IV: Linebackers
Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part VI: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part VII: Quarterbacks
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

State Of The Position
Three of the top four picks by Pete Carroll and John Schneider have been spent on offensive lineman. Russell Okung was taken 6th overall in the 2010 draft. James Carpenter was taken 25th, and John Moffitt was taken in the 3rd round (the team had no 2nd round pick) in 2011. Each of those three players has shown promise, and have given strong signs they are talented enough to start in the NFL. None of those three players finished the year on the active roster. This is the paradox facing the Seahawks front office as they try to build their foundation from a dominant offensive line. The quarterback position gets the most attention, but make no mistake, this era of Seahawks football is every bit as dependent on the quality and stability of this offensive line. Tom Cable came in and turned this group into a nearly faceless unit by season's end that allowed the Seahawks to operate reasonably well with three starters on injured reserve. Long term, the team cannot expect Cable to stick around, and certainly should not count on back-ups to carry them to a championship. Okung must shed the injury-prone label. Carpenter must shed the extra weight. Moffit needs to recover.

Okung's torn pec is not something that should impact his game next season, but Carpenter's and Moffit's injuries are severe. Carpenter was already questionable in pass protection, especially against speed rushers, and a blown ACL on his left knee will definitely effect his lateral explosiveness off the line. Seahawks fans should brace for the potential that this injury forced Carpenter inside to guard. He is young, so a full recovery is possible, but it should not be counted on. Moffitt tore both the MCL and PCL. Guards don't need to be the quickest players on the field, but this was a significant injury. There is more hope for a full recovery from Moffitt, in part, because he has proven to be a diligent worker.

Robert Gallery missed the first few games of the year, but managed to play the rest of the season. He largely met the expectations associated with his free agent contract. Gallery is 31-years-old, and it is not unusual for guards to play into their mid-30s. What happens with Carpenter could effect Gallery's future, but a change next year would be less likely other than if an injury fells Gallery. Max Unger was a revelation at center. He played 15 out of 16 games, and was arguably the best player on the line for the balance of the season. His emergence answered a big question at center, where he should anchor the line for many years. He is feisty and smart, traits that any coach loves in the line leader.

2012 Seahawks Free Agent Lineman:

  • OT Breno Giacomini
  • OL Paul McQuistan
  • OG Mike Gibson
Seahawks Lineman Under Contract:
  • LT Russell Okung
  • OL Robert Gallery
  • C Max Unger
  • OG John Moffitt
  • OL James Carpenter
  • OL Lemuel Jeanpierre
  • OL Paul Fanaika
  • OT Jarriel King
  • OL Allen Barbre
  • OL Brent Osborne (Practice Squad)
Giacomini and McQuistan played pivotal roles last season. Giacomini played a nasty right tackle in place of Carpenter, and McQuistan shocked many of us by proving he could play a little left tackle. Both are unrestricted free agents, and Giacomini may have played well enough to earn some offers as a starting right tackle for another team. He is only 26-years-old, and shows potential to get measurably better. He will be Seattle's toughest decision on the line. Signing him would allow Carpenter to come back when he is ready, but also creates a possible logjam if the coaches decide Carpenter should slide inside to guard. Seattle will have a hard time finding a better option at RT than Giacomini. McQuistan is a solid back-up that should be re-signed if the price is right. The team has developed other, younger, talent like Jeanpierre, but a veteran back-up that can play nearly any position in Cable's system is a luxury that should come at a reasonable price. King is a wild-card for next year the way Giacomini was this year. The coaches have been developing him over the season, but there is little evidence to show he can contribute.

Free Agents
It would be a waste to detail much on free agents here. The Seahawks will be looking to sign their own players, and will only go to free agency on the line if something unpredictable happens. If they want more depth or talent here, it will come via the later rounds of the draft. 

Some mock drafts have had the Seahawks picking a player like Stanford's OG David DeCastro with their first-round pick. Don't bet on it. Gallery is old, and injury-prone, but there are options within the organization to fill that spot if needed. Seattle may add more lineman later in the draft if they find a great value, but offensive line is near the bottom of the needs list.

Bottom Line
Carroll has said publicly that he is really happy with the make-up of his offensive line. He was also openly complimentary of Giacomini and McQuistan. Expect the team to try and re-sign both players, and possibly add another player late in the draft. It is possible that no additions will be made to the line this off-season, outside of re-signing players. That would mark a stunning turnaround from a team that entered 2011 with only one starter that had played his position for the Seahawks in 2010.