2012 Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations
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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.
Breno Giacomini and Marshawn Lynch. They are the first two signings in Seattle’s off-season. Both were vintage John Schneider moves that cleverly matched value to need. Giacomini had the potential to become another team’s right tackle of the future. Schneider paid a premium to keep him from hitting the market because the other options at that position were far less palatable, including counting on a seriously injured James Carpenter to get back in time. Lynch was signed for a very reasonable $17M-$18M guaranteed. There was no doubt the team was willing to franchise him, and therefore owe him $7.7M. This amounts to tacking on two more years at about $10M for a 25-year-old running back who is a nearly ideal fit for your system. Easy call.
Things get tougher from here. Red Bryant is one of the next dominoes to fall. If he signs elsewhere, Alan Branch may be moved outside and the team would be in the market for a new defensive tackle. If he stays, it will be for a 2-3 year deal that probably only guarantees $9-13M. It is not surprising that he needs to talk to other teams in order to make sure he is not selling himself short. The chances that he finds a suitor willing to go over that dollar amount is pretty low. He should be back. Mario Williams name comes up a lot as a potential mega-free agent the Seahawks could go after to augment their pass rush. That would be extremely costly, and the risk of committing that kind of money to a player who will be 28-year-old this season should cause some hesitation. The Seahawks could have a shot at someone like Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram in the draft. There are also sure to be cap causalities or hidden gems like Chris Clemons available for a more discerning shopper. There may even be some help on the roster with players like Dexter Davis coming back. The team does not need to spend $15M/year to get 10 more sacks.
How the team handles David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill will be a clear indicator of their plan on defense. Hawthorne will likely be valued more by another team, especially since the Seahawks need to add speed and pass rush at linebacker. K.J. Wright could slide to middle linebacker, and the team would then explore free agent and draft options on the outside. There are a number of intriguing linebacker prospects in the draft that could be had anywhere from the 1st round to the 5th or 6th. Watch out for names like Lavonte David, Zach Brown, Demario Davis, Ronnell Lewis and Luke Kuechly. Joe Mays and Larry Grant would be interesting free agent options to explore, although Grant is expected to be tendered as a restricted free agent. He is interesting if tendered at a 7th round level, but not 2nd round. Hill is an option to return, but would have to compete for the starting role. If another team is interested in him before the draft, the Seahawks won’t bid him up. Linebackers are like running backs; the younger, the better. Hill will probably be back, but expect him to share snaps with a guy like Malcolm Smith.
Quarterback is a mess. Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III are almost certainly out of reach. Schneider has gone on record as saying he does not believe there is a player in the draft worth “giving up the farm” for. What else is he going to say when he know neither Indianapolis nor St. Louis will take his offers? Building up a player he knows he has no chance of getting is self-destructive PR. Ryan Tannehill has, by many accounts, rocketed into the Top 10 of the draft. Schneider would have to love him to move up from #12 to get him. If he falls to the Seahawks, that becomes a more worthwhile conversation. Numerous reports are indicating the Seahawks will go hard after Peyton Manning. The first impact of the decision on personnel might be on that 1st round pick, where it would be surprising to see the Seahawks select Tannehill at #12 given the wealth of pass rush talent they could find instead. Seattle would spend at least one pick on a QB after the 1st round, but it would be better to spend two. A guy like Russell Wilson is intriguing, especially if he is not your only future QB prospect.
Look for the team to spend a 3rd or 4th round pick on a running back. They will be looking for a playmaker, and someone who has the potential to be an every-down back should Lynch go down. A player like Chris Polk, Doug Martin or Chris Rainey could fit if available. There are enough free agent running backs available that the team does not need to stretch here. There is always undrafted free agents as well. Expect Michael Robinson to re-sign.
Some are suggesting John Carlson could be back in an attempt to copycat the Patriots success with multiple tight ends. His inability to block is a huge strike against him in this offense, and the presence of still-promising Anthony McCoy and Cameron Morrah is enough to make Carlson expendable.
Training camp will look something like this:
– Two new speedy starting linebackers
– Red Bryant back at his old spot
– Two new quarterbacks in camp
– At least two new defensive lineman, one an end and one a tackle
– A new running back behind Lynch
– Giacomini starting at right tackle
– McQuistan returning as a multi-position back-up
– Robinson back at fullback
– Chris Maragos getting a shot at back-up safety
– Matt McCoy back as nickel LB
– Tarvaris Jackson as the starting quarterback
If the Seahawks cannot get Tannehill or Ingram at #12, look for them to trade down. Don’t be surprised to see them trade back at some point to add that 5th rounder they lost in the Lynch trade. Manning is a unique free agent, but outside of him, the team is a year or two away from being ready to add a mega-free agent. They should consider selling high on a player like Brandon Browner if they can get solid value in return, especially in the pass rush department. This is a playoff team with an improved pass rush, a healthier offensive line and Jackson at quarterback. Seattle’s best chance to become a perennial Super Bowl contender for the next decade is to find a young quarterback in this year’s draft. Their best chance to do that is to draft more than one. It is far from the perfect plan fans were hoping for.