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I’m Back. Are You?

Nearly a week has gone by since the Seahawks fell a yard short of consecutive Super Bowl championships. It still sucks. I still hate the call. I still think it was the best Super Bowl I have ever seen. I fortunately had a packed week that kept me from having any time to read or listen or even think much about football. A lot has happened, and more is about to happen, so let’s get oriented.


We know now Kam Chancellor played through a torn MCL and a bone bruise in his left knee, Richard Sherman played with torn ligaments in his elbow, and Earl Thomas played with a torn labrum. Jeremy Lane also broke his arm during the game. 
Thomas has already elected to have surgery. The recovery time is said to be 6-8 months. That would be between August and October, making PUP a distinct possibility. Chancellor may have surgery as well, but MCL procedures tend to be pretty minor when compared to something like an ACL. Sherman was said to need Tommy John surgery and then maybe not. Either way, he should be ready for the start of the season.
The larger story here is that these guys are exiting their most durable years. We should expect more dings and missed time. Thomas has never missed a game, and nobody wants to see this defense without him on the field. They are all still in their physical prime, and are years from declining productivity, but availability could certainly diminish.


The surprise was not that Kris Richard reportedly got tapped to become the next defensive coordinator, it was that another team thought Ken Norton Jr. was DC material. Seahawks fans often point to Norton as a future DC, but I am glad it is not with this team.
He is a terrific motivator and position coach, but there is little evidence that he is a tactician or an effective manager. People forget coordinators manage all their position coaches, have to drive that schedule and devise the game plan each week. They also need to have a clear idea of what each position group needs to do and what types of players they want for different roles.
Losing Dan Quinn to Atlanta is a real blow, far more than losing Gus Bradley a few years ago. Quinn might have been the best DC outside of possibly Vic Fangio in the NFL. He was a leader. He commanded respect and gave it. And he was innovative in his ability to utilize the talent he was given. His focus on defensive line was also a great balance with Pete Carroll’s heritage as a secondary coach. Bradley was also a secondary guy, and tended to call far more zone coverage and less pressure to reduce the load on players in coverage.
Quinn leaned forward and put more responsibility on his secondary players. His team loved that style. The hope is that Richard will take a page from Quinn’s book and remember that the guys he just finished coaching want to play man-to-man. They do not want to be protected by conservative play calls. 
I like Richard because he has always been a pro. He pays attention to detail, and is highly intense. There is little doubt he will work his tail off to be the best DC he can be. Figuring out who will be his defensive line expert has to be job one. Part of being a great coach is knowing where you need help. Travis Jones held that job last year, and unless he is hired by Quinn or Norton, should be back again. What we do not know is how much the DL was being propped up by Quinn’s expertise in that area versus Jones leaving his own mark.

Off-season schedule of events

Feb. 2 Waiver system begins for 2015
Feb. 7 NFL Regional Combine (Davie, Fla.)
Feb. 10 Beginning at Noon ET, NFL clubs may begin to sign players whose 2014 CFL contracts have expired. Players under contract to a CFL club for the 2015 season or who have an option for the 2015 season are not eligible to be signed
Feb. 14 NFL Regional Combine (Houston)
Feb. 16 First day for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players
Feb. 17-23 NFL Scouting Combine (Indianapolis)
Feb. 21 NFL Regional Combine (Dove Valley, Colo.)
Feb. 28 NFL Regional Combine (Owings Mills, Md.)
2-Mar Prior to 4 p.m. ET, deadline for clubs to designate Franchise or Transition Players
7-Mar NFL Regional Combine (Lake Forest, Ill.)
March 7-10 Clubs are permitted to contact, and enter into contract negotiations with the certified agents of players who will become Unrestricted Free Agents upon the expiration of their 2014 contracts at 4 p.m. ET on March 10. However, a contract cannot be executed with a new club until 4 p.m. ET on March 10
10-Mar Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must exercise options for 2015 on all players who have option clauses in their 2014 contracts
Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit qualifying offers to their Restricted Free Agents with expiring contracts and to whom they desire to retain a Right of First Refusal/Compensation
Prior to 4 p.m. ET, clubs must submit a Minimum Salary Tender to retain exclusive negotiating rights to their players with expiring 2014 contracts and who have fewer than three accrued seasons of free agency credit
Top-51 Begins. All clubs must be under the 2015 salary cap prior to 4 p.m. ET
All 2014 player contracts expire at 4 p.m. ET
2015 league year and free agency period begins (4 p.m. ET)
Trading period for 2015 begins (4 p.m. ET)
March 21-22 Super Regional Combine (Phoenix)
March 22-25 NFL Annual Meeting (Phoenix)
6-Apr Clubs that hired a new head coach after the end of the 2014 regular season may begin offseason workout programs
20-Apr Clubs with returning head coaches may begin offseason workout programs
24-Apr Deadline for Restricted Free Agents to sign offer sheets
29-Apr Deadline for prior club to exercise Right of First Refusal to Restricted Free Agents
April 30-May 2 NFL Draft (Chicago)

Yes, you read that right. There is already a regional combine going on today. The off-season is underway. The first day of true note is in a little over a week when teams can designate their franchise and transition players. That is immediately followed by the scouting combine. By March 2nd, we will know all the final decisions on franchise tags.

The free agency derby starts March 10, although agents can start negotiations on March 7th. A number of players have roster bonuses that will force team decisions before the 10th, so more veterans could hit the market.

Restricted free agents like Jermaine Kearse do not have to be signed to offer sheets until late April, and then the draft happens April 30-May 2.

A thought on free agency and the draft

Rumors started yesterday that Ndamakong Suh was interested in playing with the Seahawks. It makes sense. He grew up in Portland, and would be part of a devastating defense. The part that makes less sense is that he will command over $100M. Normally, I would dismiss the notion of Seattle making a big free agent acquisition out of hand. They have to sign Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner. They already have a lot invested on the defensive side of the ball and need to provide some more weaponry on offense. But…
Suh is the one type of player who could force Seattle to stop and think about another huge expenditure. He is the most disruptive interior lineman in football. He crushes the run and rushes the passer. His durability has been great, and he just turned 28 years old. For Seattle to even consider Suh, they would need to cut Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel, and Zach Miller. They would immediately exit the pursuit of Byron Maxwell. That might not even be enough. It might mean they would have to move on from Marshawn Lynch.
I look at all of those, and still think the conversation is worth having. Dominant interior lineman are more rare than franchise quarterbacks. What I do not know is whether Suh and Michael Bennett could both play inside in nickel situations. I would think they could, but it might require Suh to play the nose tackle spot, and he may not want that. I guarantee you every other team in the NFL is hoping the Seahawks do not find a way to add a player like Suh to the mix.
It will be interesting to see if Wilson chooses to take less money so the team can add some terrific talent around him. I absolutely think a player like Larry Fitzgerald is a possibility if the Cardinals do not work out a new deal. He is the exact type of receiver the team is missing, and would almost certainly take a cap-friendly deal to chase a ring.
More likely, the team focuses on their eleven draft picks to help add weaponry, and reload on the offensive and defensive lines. I will break down each position group in the coming weeks and share my recommended off-season plan for the Seahawks. 

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