Seahawks general manager John Schneider greet Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor before the Seattle Seahawks take on the Carolina Panthers at CenturyLink Field on Saturday, January 10, 2015.
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Playing the role of John Schneider: A way too early guide to the offseason
Unfortunately, the Seahawks hopes for a Super Bowl run came to a screeching halt in Atlanta. With too many injuries to count and a fair share of seasonal drama, Seattle simply wasn’t good enough this year.
When constructing a roster, the goal is to establish a consistent culture of winning. The man in charge of ensuring this culture possesses the correct individuals? General Manager John Schneider. The buck stops with him. His singular goal is to provide Pete Carroll with the players necessary to win football games. Roster construction, positional philosophies, cap allocation approaches, evaluation techniques – they’re all uniquely intertwined and equally essential in developing a winning path to the Super Bowl.
When the offseason rolls around (and this may sound a little creepy), I try to shift my mindset from being a “fan” to a “hunter”. I try to position myself as the General Manager of the Seattle Seahawks. I try to position myself in John Schneider’s shoes. In doing so, I consistently ask myself two main questions:
Where is no one else looking?
Where can I find value?
Often times, in the hype of heavy positional focused drafts, talent gets overlooked. Big names in free agency crowd the media reports and talent gets swept under the rug. My personal goal in the offseason is to identify and pinpoint value. Where is no one else looking? Where can I find value?
So. Let’s talk about the Seahawks baby.
Per Over the Cap (which I use for everything), the Seahawks have a projected $32.9M in cap space (including rollover). Not bad. But let’s break down that number a bit further. Subtract $3M for IR, $1M for practice squad, $2.5Mish for rookies (we only budget for higher picks – lower drafted players merely replace similar salaries of lower-tiered players on the roster), and $1M for any future dead money. Necessary deductions equal $7.5M. Please note that this may slightly change if the Seahawks are docked their second round pick for rule violations.
Thus $25.4M of cap space ($32.9M – $7.5M) is a much more accurate, transparent budget for how much playing money the Seahawks have entering the offseason. That’s a pretty good amount of room. In light of the 2016 offseason, Seattle has a bit more spending money. The following is a guide for how I would approach the offseason, if I were the general manager of the Seattle Seahawks. It’s not what I think they’ll do. It’s not what I predict they’ll do. It’s what I would do.
For the sake of clarify; I’ll break down my thoughts on extensions/contracts by offense/defense/special teams – hopefully just to give you a better idea of the roster composition.
On the offensive side of the ball, the Seahawks don’t really have any star players hitting free agency. Bradley Sowell was a disaster and they should let him walk.
Brandon Williams is a UFA. In regards to the tight end position as a whole, I think they should let Luke Willson walk. I think his market will be too high *cough Vance Mcdonald Deal* for his value to Seattle. I would sign Brandon for cheap, let Nick Vannett (the 2016 third round pick) fill Luke’s role as a strong blocking tight end and hope he develops into a receiving threat. In regards to Jimmy Graham’s deal, there’s no need to cut him. It doesn’t make any sense. Let Jimmy play out his contract through 2017 and then evaluate his deal next offseason. If he walks, you get a comp pick. I think we’ll have further clarity regarding Jimmy’s deal after the 2017 season. However, it should be noted that Graham’s contract demands post 2017 would likely be similar or more than his current pay. In regards to his value to Seattle and the cap space he occupies, I think there are valid arguments on both sides of the debate.
I’d like to see Marcel Reece back. I think he showed that he might have something left in the tank. He’s on the streets for cheap…so why not? Bring the vet back!
In regards to the offensive line, which was a complete and utter disaster in 2016, I think the Seahawks need to reform their entire philosophical approach to the position group. Scouting, talent evaluation, scheme, development process, draft and cap allocation goals – I think it all needs be re-evaluated. I’m not pinning this just on Cable. I believe this is an organizational flaw (despite Cable being at the center of it). However, I don’t think they need to blow it all up. There’s some talent on the line to build around. Garry Gilliam, who was once the expected LT of the future, is an RFA. Throughout the season, Cable made some interesting comments regarding his physicality and style of play. Cable had this to say after the Tampa Bay game:
“To play on the line of scrimmage at this level it has to be part of your makeup.”
Cable seemed really frustrated with Gilliam’s play. When you’re benched for Bradley Sowell, life isn’t going too great. However, later against the Rams, Garry got some snaps that inspired some confidence in his coach:
“I like his approach to this coming back to it, so we’ll go forward,’’ Cable said.
GG reflected on the process:
“That’s more just going harder, really,’’ Gilliam said. “That’s really all that is. I tend to be a player that thinks a little bit more. I read people a little bit more. Just do less of that and just react more. Which isn’t a problem. It’s just a matter of telling myself to do it.’’
After getting benched at RT, Garry seemed to have a “come to Jesus” moment and returned to play a lot better. However, his relationship with Cable seems to be a tricky one. He has fallen in and out of favor quite a bit with his coach. Will he last as a Seahawk? Who knows. But if I were the General Manager, Garry would be competing for the starting right tackle spot in 2017. Additionally, I think the Seahawks also need to take a strong look at Sebastian Vollmer, an experienced right tackle who could potentially hit the market (if the Pats don’t retain him) for a much cheaper rate than Reiff or Wagner. Vollmer is 32 years old and just lost his job to Marcus Cannon, who has had an incredible year under the new Pats’ offense line coach. I’d be willing to throw a little cash/some GTD money his way to solidify the RT spot.
In regards to the left tackle position, I think Seattle needs to target this position aggressively in free agency. Playing George Fant, an un-drafted basketball player, at left tackle was an obviously terrible decision.
PFF gave Fant the lowest grade of any player at any position. Additionally, NFL1000 rated Fant as the 3rd worst LT in the NFL. Numerous film experts publicly criticized the Seahawks for making this decision. However, I believe the Hawks have the resources and the ability to properly address this position hole and provide Russell Wilson with the protection he deserves.
My solution? Andrew Whitworth.
Yes, yes, yes…..I know he’s 35. But bear with me. He had an excellent 2016 and was one of the top tackles in the league.
DEs just run into a wall when going against (LT) Andrew Whitworth. He's as good as advertised. https://t.co/Mwj6kFoavu
I would aggressively pursue Andrew and offer him a two-year deal with strong guarantees through the first year. He’ll have a market…. and he’ll have suitors. However, I believe that acquiring a talented, veteran presence would do wonders for this position group. They are young – but they have potential (at least the interior does). The 2017 tackle class appears to be incredibly weak – and the odds seem to be against SEA in finding the left tackle of the future. I would sign Whitworth to a two-year deal, aggressively draft a left tackle in the 2018 draft class (trade up if necessary), and expect Whitworth to mentor a young rookie from the 2018 class. I’m done making UDFA basketball players protect a franchise quarterback in the National Football League. If Whitworth doesn’t want to come to Seattle or receives more money from someone else, I would consider taking a look at Okung again — who played 99% of his offensive snaps with Denver in 2016. He wasn’t amazing – but he was decent (which is light-years better than what Seattle had in 2016).
I truly believe that aggressively pursuing an answer at the LT position should be a key goal for John entering this offseason. George has potential, but he can’t be the starting left tackle in 2017. It just can’t happen. He makes for an excellent swing player with strong development potential. However, I’m not going to waste the years of a legendary HOF quarterback by making basketball players block for him. If Seattle could combine RT Sebastian Vollmer (if the Pats don’t retain him) with Andrew Whitworth or Russell Okung on the left side, I think the offensive line could be a very solid group in 2017. They need talented, veteran leadership. These players are just that.
In regards to Justin Britt’s contract, I believe the Seahawks need to be willing to pay up to $8.5M APY (at the very highest) for him. However, they might be able to get him for cheaper. After suddenly finding his niche spot on the line, I’m sold on his future as a Seahawk. He was a composed leader in 2016 and the only consistent, above average starter. His football relationship with his quarterback will be vital for many years to come. As he enters the last year of his deal in 2017, I would make extending Britt a priority this offseason. Seattle needs to build off the interior. Glow, Britt, and Ifedi – with some more experience – could end providing a solid future of protection for Wilson.
After a disappointing 2016 season (at least according to the LOB’s standards), many fans are freaking out. I’m not. The dominance of the Legion of Boom will be back.
Mark. My. Words.
There were some massive injuries endured on the defensive side of the ball. Mike B out for a significant amount of time, Earl broke his leg, Sherm dealt with an MCL injury, Kam missed five games, and Shead tore his ACL. This year sucked – and I think apart of it is just luck. Earl and Bennett are their two best defensive players, and when you miss them for significant amounts of time, your defense will be worse. It’s just a fact. However, that doesn’t mean I don’t have some ideas as to how we can beef up the defense for 2017.
First one is an obvious one: tender Shead. Shead is a byproduct of the Legion of Boom development program – and he had an excellent 2016 before tearing his ACL (best wishes to you DeShawn!!). Miguel Benzan, who is a phenomenal salary cap analyst for the Patriots, wrote this regarding 2017 RFA tenders. It’s important context so be sure to read it thoroughly:
“The minimum increase in RFA tenders is 5% while the maximum increase is 10%. If the increase in the League Cap is between 5% and 10% then the increase in the RFA tenders will equal that increase. Last year’s low RFA tender was $1.671 million. So the range for the low RFA tender in 2017 will be between $1.755 and $1.838 million. Last year’s second-round RFA tender was $2.553 million. So the range for the 2nd round RFA tender in 2017 will be between $2.681 and $2.808 million. Last year’s first-round RFA tender was $3.635 million. So the range for the 1st round RFA tender in 2017 will be between $3.817 and $3.999 million. RFAs can negotiate with other teams starting at the beginning of the League Year. The RFA tender is not guaranteed so the player can then be waived without any dead money. The deadline to sign RFAs to offer sheets is 4PM April 21st, a Friday.”
It’s kind of hard to predict and apply a specific tender to Shead without receiving full medical recommendations from his doctor. His injury really complicated things and couldn’t have come at a worse time. However, I believe the Seahawks should lock in Shead to a long-term extension once he is fully healed. He is a ball hawk…. a corner that I don’t want to lose. Kam Chancellor will also be expecting a new contract. Kam’s body probably won’t ever be good for 16 games again. Despite the gradual weakening of his body, he’s a vocal leader on this team and the soul of this defense. I would extend Kam – but I think Seattle should be very wise in tying easy year 2/3 outs and attach some of his salaries to per game/active roster bonuses. Chancellor can stay on this team as long as he’s productive. But if I were Seattle, I’d make it easy to get out of that contract. Just incase…
Additionally, I’d also like to see Seattle draft a defensive back on either day one or early on day two. With Lane’s poor performance in 2016 and Shead’s injury, I think you have to address that position entering the offseason. You have to add competition – and quality competition at that. One such name I’d love to see as a Seahawk is Budda Baker.
Seattle should also look to address the interior of their defensive line. After inconsistent showings in 2016, it was clear they needed more pressure from the inside. One man can surely make that happen: Calais Campbell. With the company of Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, and Frank Clark – Calais’ addition would make this the best defensive line in the NFL. And it wouldn’t be close. They would be deadly. I expect Calais to have a strong amount of suitors and probably land a 3 or 4 year deal at $10-11M APY. Can the Seahawks afford him? Absolutely.
As a 31 year old with not much time left in the NFL, I would speculate he’d want to join a Super Bowl contender….and the Seahawks are that. Seattle recently hired his collegiate defensive line coach too, Clint Hurtt. Come North, big fella!
In 2016, the special teams unit took a step backwards and consistently had negative impacts on the outcomes of games. One positive note is that Neiko Thorpe played surprisingly well throughout the season. Steven Hauschka is a free agent after playing through the last year of his deal in 2016. I would make an effort to re-sign him, but surely not at the $3.5M cap hit he carried in 2016.
With a depressed value after a poor year, I would pitch a multi-year, low guaranteed deal and see if he accepts it. In addition to solving the kicker spot, Seattle needs some continuity at long snapper. Maybe you look towards the 2016 UDFAs for that player. Either way, you’re not going to shelling out large bucks for a long snapper.
I really, really want Seattle to make a play for Sebastian Vollmer and either Okung or Whitworth. I would make protecting Russell a priority here on out (via both cap dollars and draft pick allocation). An extension for Britt would solidify this intent.
Calais Campbell would be nice – but it seems like a luxury move. If I were John Schneider, I’d prioritize protecting Wilson over adding additional interior pressure. Russell is the future of your franchise. This offseason, I think it’s time to finally recognize that reality.