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The NFL not only features the best action in-season, but their offseason is the best of the major sports as well. There is such little player movement during the regular season that all the action is forced to happen during this window of time. The salary cap forces priorities to be clear. It is a system that has a gravitational pull toward 8-8 for every team. Those who managed to reach escape velocity one year can find themselves dragged right back down the next. In order for Seattle to maintain their orbit high above the rest of the league, they have to know which parts are most likely to malfunction and set out to eithe replace or augment them aggressively.
These are items the team needs to square away before they can even build out a sensible offseason plan. Think of them as the first dominoes that need to fall. Once they have clarity here, they can start enacting the rest of their strategy.
Size the Russell Wilson extension
John Schneider does not need to sign Russell Wilson before free agency begins, but he needs to be clear about what his budget parameters are. Knowing the maximum amount of cap space that they would be willing to allot to Wilson enables him to make a number of other decisions. He would ideally also have a rough idea for how the deal would be structured so he can act quickly and confidently with free agent options that present themselves.
Decide whether you are willing to cut Marshawn Lynch
Schneider said today that Marshawn Lynch has not decided whether or not he wants to play again next year. It is highly unlikely that he is going to play out his contract. Either the team will renegotiate something that gives him some more money, or he will choose not to play. Schneider does not need to have this resolved, but he needs to know what his contingency plans are should Lynch drag this out. For example, if Lynch chooses not to communicate with the team and they have to enter free agency in the dark, Schneider needs to know whether they are willing to cut Lynch should the right free agent come along. He cannot let his offseason plan be held hostage by Lynch’s decision.
These are areas of the team where Schneider must address in some way. Returning with the same options here would be a failure.
No surprise here. Jermaine Kearse and Doug Baldwin are quality players, but they are not enough. If the team starts 2015 with Ricardo Lockette and Bryan Walters in the top five of the receiver depth chart, Schneider has not done his job. That does not mean they need to go wild adding a bunch of players, but one free agent and at least one draft pick makes sense. Chris Matthews and Kevin Norwood provide some internal options for development. Depending on anything from Paul Richardson next year is unwise.
Tony McDaniel backslid in 2014. Brandon Mebane is coming off an injury, and is in the last year of his deal. Kevin Williams may retire. There is reason to hope for some internal development from Jordan Hill and Cassius Marsh, but they are specialized players who still have a lot to prove. Run defense is the foundation of any great defense. If the Seahawks do not renovate this part of the roster, there could be many more games like Kansas City.
These are areas where the team could choose to roll the dice with current options, but augmenting the roster would reduce risk. A lot of the moves here are about adding depth.
Luke Willson emerged as a promising player, but he still has limitations. They could keep Zach Miller and be fine, but there is some reason to think they will let him go and either add through free agency or through the draft.
James Carpenter is a free agent. Alvin Bailey could be an option there, but the rest of the options at guard are not starter material. Adding a veteran could make some sense, or leave it to Cable to coach up another young pup.
Russell Okung is nearing the end of his deal, and has continued to have durability issues. Justin Britt had a mixed rookie season, and should be improved as a sophomore. Bailey can backup both spots. Garry Gilliam was a promising rookie. This is not a spot where it would make sense to sign a veteran free agent. If they address this area at all, it will be through the draft.
Lynch is nearing the end one way or another. Robert Turbin has not flashed topshelf feature back potential. Christine Michael can barely get a snap. They could choose to create a two-way competition to replace Lynch with the guys they have, or they could spin the wheel again in the draft. Spending money on a free agent running back rarely makes sense. If Lynch goes, his cap space will not go back into his position.