Sep 10, 2017; Green Bay, WI, USA; Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas (29) during the game against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Gearing up for the draft: the purge might not be over.

Your Seahawks thank you for your participation in the annual purge. Blessed be our founding rookies and Seahawks, a squad reborn.

Last time I published an article the Seahawks were on the onset of a massive roster purge. There were rumors of impending turnover…and I expected it to hurt, but not that bad. I mean, wow….that one hurt. Incase you were living under a rock during free agency, Seattle made some franchise altering decisions. These were moves that likely pained the front office, strained relationships, and disappointed fans.

Let’s quickly re-cap Seattle’s moves so far (as of 4/21 at time of writing):

Departures/Trades: WR Paul Richardson, DE Michael Bennett, TE Jimmy Graham, DT Sheldon Richardson, TE Luke Willson, and RB Thomas Rawls.

Releases: CB Richard Sherman, CB Jeremy Lane, and CB Deshawn Shead.

Additions: OLB Barkevious Mingo, TE Ed Dickson, WR Jaron Brown, S Maurice Alexander, OL DJ Fluker, DT Tom Johnson, DT Shamar Stephen, and CB Dontae Johnson.

Re-signings: S Bradley McDougald, RB Mike Davis, and DE Marcus Smith.

RFA: DE Dion Jordan, CB Justin Coleman.

……those are a lot of names leaving, and some not so great names entering.

And I couldn’t be more excited about that. Let me explain why: this offseason is about resetting the culture in Seattle.

This offseason is about re-inventing the identity of the Seattle Seahawks. Instead of continuing into another season with false and unrealistic Super Bowl hopes, Seattle needed to perform open heart surgery on their identity as a team. Money and success changed lots of players. Coaching voices became stale. And there were a lot of players who couldn’t forgive coaches, and themselves, for the tragic ending of Super Bowl 49.


Quick update on cap

Per Over the Cap, the Seahawks currently have about ~$8.6M in cap space. This is before accounting for IR, practice squad, any dead money from potential cuts, etc. I’d say their true cap space lands around $3-4M right now. Seattle won’t need to save any space for rookies, as they’ll like trade out of the first round and any players selected beyond that will have roughly similar cap hits as players near the bottom of the roster.

If Seattle wants to open up additional space, here’s a couple levers they could pull:

  • Extending Earl Thomas ($$ saved depends on extension)
  • Extending Duane Brown ($$ saved depends on extension)
  • Releasing Cliff Avril (~$6M saved)
  • Cutting Jon Ryan, or negotiating a lower salary with him ($1-2M saved)

I don’t foresee Seattle making any bombshell acquisitions (with high salaries) anytime soon, so I think they’re in a healthy cap position especially looking forward to 2019 and beyond. __________

Before the offseason began, I had four main hopes (or goals) that Seattle would pursue this offseason. They were:

  1. Avoid the middle class
  2. If the right offer is there for a veteran, take it.
  3. Get younger, hungrier, and more competitive.
  4. Go win the god damn Super Bowl.

Before we prepare our nacho bowls for the draft this week, I wanted to review where things currently stand this offseason.  


Avoiding the middle class

Regarding goal #1 of avoiding the middle class, I don’t think Seattle really followed this principal. However, there is a little bit of gray area to this rule. I define the middle class as players generally in the $3-7Mish range, often depending on position and cap growth. When I say “avoid the middle class”, I’m saying avoid paying for clear middle class talent with a middle class salary. I would rather pay a bottom tier player, or a rookie, the significantly lower pay with the rather insignificant talent difference.  

However, there’s an exception to this rule: what if the player might be middle class talent at time of signing, but the team believes he’s nowhere near his ceiling as a player? That’s a different story. Then the team could end up paying middle tier money to a high end player if he develops well. That should be the goal with all signings, anyways.

So which players departing were middle tier players? Paul Richardson comes to mind. He’s on the higher end of NFL salaries, but fairly middle of the road for receivers at only $8M APY. With the Seahawks he only eclipsed 700 yards once (and that was in 2017). Among receivers who started at least 12 games in 2017 and posted a minimum of 500 yards, Prich ranked 34th in catch percentage at 55%. I do believe he maintains a fairly high ceiling, so it’s possible this could end up biting Seattle in the butt. But I think it was probably the right move to let him walk.

Jeremy Lane was another middle tier talent — hell, you could even consider him lower tier talent with a middle tier paycheck. He went the opposite talent direction you hope for after a player gets paid. Luke Willson is another one. He only signed a one year/$2.5M deal with the Lions after receiving fairly little market interest (so on the low end of a middle tier paycheck). Depending on the game you might even consider Sheldon a middle tier talent. Per FO/SIS, Sheldon had 16 pressures on the season (4th highest on the Seahawks). Out of all the NFL’s defensive line players with at least .5 pressures, Sheldon ranked #70 out of 276 in pressures. He’s a notable name with an inconsistent resume to back it up. He ended up signing a one year/$8M deal with the Vikings.

On the other hand, Seattle added a lot of middle tier talent. Mingo at 2 years/$6.8M is a middle tier deal, as he was nothing special with the Colts. Maybe Seattle utilizes him effectively and gets a better return out of him. I spoke with Jason Fitzgerald of Over the Cap, who had this to say about him:

That’s a fair price to play for Mingo. He’s decent enough to play a lot, though I’m not sure if anyone really has found a good position for him to play at. Some LB prices went crazy this year but they got a good deal here for a guy who should at least give them a pro during a retooling period. With other good players at LB and in the secondary he could surprise a bit.”

Ed Dickson on a 3 years/$14M is super interesting. He seems to be the polar opposite tight end of Jimmy Graham. He’s a strong blocker but seems to have little impact in the receiving game. I think Seattle might be trying to replace the Zach Miller effect here. Jason was less optimistic:

“This just seems like change for the sake of change. Dickson is 31 years old and from 2012-2016 averaged 173 yards a year. He can block but you should pay less than $3M for that. I don’t really see what the point was of a 3 year deal with $3.6M this year.”

Seattle also re-signed Bradley McDougald, who ended up stepping up in big moments throughout Kam’s absence in 2017. Sometimes I forget that he’s only 27 years old and still has a lot of life left in him. His deal is for $4.5M APY over three years. This is one of those signings where the player has a very real chance to out-perform his contract by a wide margin. With Kam likely to start the year on PUP (and maybe never playing football again), Bradley will have a real opportunity to be a valuable contributor over the next 2-3 years. It’s a middle tier extension with high upside, which I can stomach. My only concern, or hope, is that Seattle still gives Delano Hill an opportunity to compete for the starting spot.

Additionally the Seahawks brought in Jaron Brown, the wide receiver from Arizona. He got a two year deal at $2.75M APY, which feels kind of high. I know they’re trying to replace Prich and Graham’s snaps, but the signing just seems kind of odd. It feels like an overpriced depth signing. I guess I would have rather preferred the snaps given the snaps to Amara Darboh or DJ Moore. Jason was a bit more optimistic than me:

“I think it’s a fair market price for Brown. He has a chance to stretch the field and I guess take Richardson’s role at a fraction of the price. They are basically paying him low 3 or number 4 money so it’s hard to believe that he would not justify the contract.”


Signing the right veterans for the right price

I’ve proudly championed the thought that Seattle needs to get younger and hungrier. But sometimes you make exceptions for overlooked veterans in free agency. This situation presented itself when Seattle essentially let Sheldon walk to acquire teammates Tom Johnson (age 33) and Shamar Stephen (age 27) from the Vikings for half the price of Sheldon. Both Johnson and Stephen got one year/$2.1M deals, but were structured slightly differently. Sheldon’s 2018 deal with the Vikings is $8M.

I couldn’t be happier with how Seattle navigated this situation. I’d much rather possess two solid role players and ~$4M extra in cap space than an uncertain player in Sheldon. Of course Sheldon has a higher upside than both of those players, but I’ll hinge my bets on those two rotational players. Jason elaborated:

“Basically I think what you have here are two guys that cost about $4.2M combined, replacing Richardson. Johnson is a quality veteran so you certainly know what you are getting. Stephen is much younger and less effective. My feeling is if you are looking for one year Johnson is probably a better bet for them over Richardson. He comes from a winning culture and played nearly 70% of the snaps last year and 50% the year before. He can replace a lot of what is lost with Richardson. That said he certainly doesn’t bring Richardsons upside. I think letting richardson walk is the right move. The team is retooling their defense and there is no need to do one year at $8M for him. They got their look at him last year and if he isn’t going to do a long term contract then its best to walk away even though they did trade a lot for him.”

I’m not sure if you count a 27 year old player in his 6th season as a veteran, but we need to talk about DJ Fluker. Fluker spent his first four seasons with the Chargers and then 2017 with the Giants, under new Seahawks OL Coach Mike Solari. The deal for DJ Fluker is a one year deal worth $1.5M. He may not be a great pass blocker, but he’s known for being an extremely effective run blocker. In the Pete Carroll offensive system, running matters. And run blocking matters a lot.

Per Alistair Corp, The Giants averaged 110.6 yards per game on the ground with DJ Fluker in the lineup last year, 96.9 without him (and that number drops to 64.4 ypg if you exclude a 260-yard rushing performance in wk. 17)”.

When comparing it to the disastrous Luke Joeckel deal signed last offseason, this appears to be a much better signing for Seattle. Jason spoke on the signing:

“He’ll fight for a roster spot but $1.5M is a pretty good number especially when you consider how badly the Seahawks overvalued linemen last year in free agency. Fluker probably has potential to give you $3-4M play if he gets on the field.”

If Seattle wants to get back to a dominant running game, Fluker will help them get there. Russell’s agent might not be super happy, but I’m sure Chris Carson and future Seahawks RB Derrius Guice are.


Getting younger, hungrier, and more competitive

In an effort to get younger and hungrier, Seattle made some extremely divisive moves in releasing Richard Sherman and trading Michael Bennett. Although the Sherman move came as a shock to many fans, the move made sense. He carried an expensive cap hit for a soon to be 30 year old coming off a major knee injury. The Seahawks gained $11.2M in cap space by cutting him.

At the time of the Bennett trade, many fans were upset. He was the team’s most productive pass rusher on a very reasonable deal — and trading him only saved the team $2M in cap space. But later rumors surfaced that Michael had become uninterested in listening to coaches, reportedly reading books during team meetings in 2017, because Bennett already had heard the things that coach Pete Carroll was saying.” Regardless of your feelings on his social beliefs, those aren’t the actions of a leader — a player who is paid a lot to lead his teammates both on and off the field. However, it’s important to note that similar feelings regarding the oldness of Pete’s messages were echoed by Sherman. That’s another problem that needs to be addressed.

At the end of the day, if Seattle wants to win another Super Bowl, they’re going to need young stars to start contributing. They’ll need to reinvent their identity. Whether you like it or not, the Legion of Boom we grew to love is on the way out. Earl might be traded during the draft and Kam is unlikely to ever play football again. Now is the time for Seattle to build a younger and hungrier foundation for the future.


Concluding thoughts

As we approach the draft, Seattle will have the opportunity to aggressively retool and reinvent their identity. Players we’ve grown to love might leave, but at the end of the day, I still trust Pete Carroll and John Schneider to put together a championship football team. They have my full support. The most concerning aspect of the draft is the lack of capital Seattle possess. They currently sit at the following:

Round 1, Pick 18, No. 18 overall,

Round 4, Pick 20, No. 120 overall

Round 5, Pick 4, No. 141 overall

Round 5, Pick 9, No. 146 overall

Round 5, Pick 19, No. 156 overall

Round 5, Pick 31, No. 168 overall

Round 7, Pick 8, No. 226 overall

Round 7, Pick 30, No. 248 overall

With Earl Thomas as trade ammo a trade-down from 18 likely, it’s very possible Seattle could end up picking 3-4 times in day two. You know, I’m not a draft guy — so I can’t accurately suggest who the Seahawks should target from a talent and scheme perspective. But I do know the type of personalities I want them to pursue: pissed off, hungry, underrated, gritty, trash talkers. Give me the Jalen Ramsey and young Richard Shermans of the world. Give me those players.

If Pete Carroll wants a bully, he’ll need to start drafting some bullies. And to do so, the purge might continue. 

Staff Writer
  1. Is this an idea?

    – Trade Thomas and sign Eric Reid for not much; then draft a young up and at em safety.

    – Sign Kap and keep him for the post Russell years (which will come next year); draft a QB and give him 2 years to learn from the practice squad and then as side kick to a reinvigorated Kap…

  2. Dear Evan,

    I don’t see why anyone fully supports PC & JS at this point. (I appreciate your article, but, rightly or wrongly, I don’t agree with your full support of the powers that be). They hit a grand slam, and then they struck out—struck out a lot. My hope is that PC&JS learn from prior mistakes. Not many people get that chance.

    Here’s hoping they field another SB winning team in Seahawkville.

    I think they should trade Earl. Might as well, with the LOB 3/4 gone. It’s all about the “Retool” now, and they need the picks.

    1. PC & JS have been striking out way too often, seemingly more desperate every year & making more bad decisions. Just look at last year, traded out of the first round when they could have drafted OT Ramczyk, a position of great need, their basketball LT got hurt & had to trade a 3rd rounder for Brown, meanwhile Ramczyk has a good year for the Saints & McDowell might never play again. Then they used their 2nd pick on an OL, who did not have a great year. Trading 2018’s 2nd for richardson, then letting him walk is just bad mgnt, no way to justify it, obviously not the player PC fantasized he was. Now we have our highest pick in years, but no 2nd or 3rd round picks, PC will sit there with that smug grin on his face, trading down & down again, thinking he is so smart, focusing on one player no other team is willing to take a chance on

  3. Does anyone doubt that JS/PC feel the heat? One could surmise that they got a bit smug from their much deserved early success, building a mini-dynasty with two SB appearances one successful, one less so. Presumably players, coaches, the team as a whole, got “fat”. They were the talk of the league, especially when the conversation centered on defense, for a few years. Have you noticed that the sports networks don’t talk about them nearly as much anymore, well, unless the narrative is about falling teams? The Vegas odds makers no longer automatically post them near the top of the rankings. I’m a bit surprised that the schedule for next season has them with 5 prime time games, but then, the scheduling office might be a bit behind the curve. And they can always change the schedule alignment. I wouldn’t call it a panic, but the team definitely knows it needs to do things differently this season. Coaching purges, player purges, the announcements of wanting players that are “all football” (Kaep advocates, think about it, forget the black ball b.s.), and now the admission that the draft board is more narrowly focused. All of which suggests that looking at the draft in a “they always do……….” light might not fly this year.

    The comment about trimming down the draft board is especially interesting given that the meme this year is something along the lines of “it’s the fattest draft through the mid rounds in years”. With the possible exception of starting qb, the team could realistically use help in just about every position group. That would imply that taking the “best available” athlete at any position would make sense if you buy the “deep” premise. Right now it appears though that other than pick 18 they don’t have much ammunition to capitalize on the “deep” picks. Many are now starting to dismiss the chances of trading Thomas to gain picks. Jerry Jones pulled out one of his tricks in the past couple days of having his media flacks put out the word that they’ll probably wait until Thomas is a free agent to pick him up. Yeah, maybe, though it could just be a negotiating ploy. JS shot himself in the foot a bit last year by holding to fast to a high price for Sherm. That likely has cooled interest in others offering trades for Thomas, especially if they also believed that Dallas had the upper hand in access. So maybe Jerry’s game will backfire, combined with JS signaling that they are more focused on a narrower board, there might actually be an increase in creative offers heading into the draft. Either way, there’s no need for them to take any offer, unless it’s too good to pass, before day one of the draft.

    Can we realistically expect any exciting draft picks? Probably not based on what has been shown the past couple months. While dramatic changes have been made in coaches and players released, the replacements, so far, have been pretty mundane (perhaps a bit too strong a term in an ironic way) though not incapable. But as we’ve talked about in the past, it isn’t an individual player’s skill set that will elevate the team, it’s the entirety of team performance that will lead to success. From that premise, this reshaping of the team doesn’t look as bad as some are projecting. Might even be an advantage if the opponents are lulled to sleep by the seeming mundane “retool”. If the “narrowing of the board” means they’re going to take fewer risks on injury or character history I’m all in. Give me well coached, solid performers who are motivated to win, not potential drama queens.

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