2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part III: Secondary
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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.
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.
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.