Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Another Super Strategy

What do you draft for a team that has everything? Even with the Lombardi in hand, the Seahawks know change happens swiftly in the NFL. That’s why Seattle would be smart to look well into the future come the weekend of May 8-10

By
Andy Benoit
· More from Andy·

If the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks have a weakness, it’s along the offensive line. That group was average at best in 2013 and recently lost starting right tackle Breno Giacomini to the Jets in free agency. Another weakness is wide receiver, where the departures of Golden Tate (signed with Lions) and the oft-injured Sidney Rice (released) leave a vacancy at the No. 3 and 4 spots.

Indeed, these are immediate needs, but great organizations rarely address immediate needs through the draft. Likely more pressing to general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are 2015 needs. Among the Seahawks scheduled to hit free agency after this season: FS Earl Thomas, CB Richard Sherman, CB Byron Maxwell, DE Cliff Avril, OLB K.J. Wright and OLB Malcolm Smith. Or, in other words, most of the vaunted defense.

In 2016, the core of Seattle’s offense is scheduled for free agency, as QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch, RB Robert Turbin and TE Zach Miller will have expiring contracts. And, just for good measure, so will MLB Bobby Wagner, DT Brandon Mebane, CB Jeremy Lane and OLB Bruce Irvin.

There’s a reason dynasties—outside of the Patriots in the early 2000s—haven’t materialized in the NFL’s salary cap era. Finances prohibit teams from holding onto all of the young stars they develop. The Seahawks are not immune to this. They’ll have to sort the aforementioned future free agents into two categories: essentials and nonessentials. Those lists should look something like this:

Marshawn Lynch's contract in Seattle runs until 2016, when he'll be 30. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)
Marshawn Lynch’s contract in Seattle runs until 2016, when he’ll be 30. (Rob Carr/Getty Images)

ESSENTIALS
FS Earl Thomas
CB Richard Sherman
DE Cliff Avril
MLB Bobby Wagner
QB Russell Wilson

NONESSENTIALS
CB Byron Maxwell
CB Jeremy Lane
OLB K.J. Wright
OLB Malcolm Smith
OLB Bruce Irvin
DT Brandon Mebane
RB Marshawn Lynch (he turns 30 in April 2016)
RB Robert Turbin
LT Russell Okung (because offensive tackles often are not worth their jolting price tag)
TE Zach Miller

Certainly, some of the “nonessential” players will be retained, but only if it’s assured that all of the “essential” players are first. And everyone on the essential list, save for Avril and maybe Wilson, will warrant a contract that pays at or very near the top of the market for their position. (Wilson’s contract, even if it’s on the second tier for quarterbacks, will likely still cost more than any of those other deals.)

Instead of prioritizing the offensive line in the 2014 draft, Schneider and Carroll should examine their “nonessentials” list and prioritize outside linebacker. As the Seahawks learned in 2013, they can get by with an average offensive line given Wilson’s mobility and the nature of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s run-first, controlled passing system. But to play this way, they need a dominant defense, which requires playmakers at all three levels (front line, linebacker and secondary). The ledger says to draft a speedy, athletic outside linebacker who can eventually take over for Wright, Smith or Irvin.

The ledger also says to look at cornerback. Likely either Maxwell or Lane will be re-signed long-term, but not both. The Seahawks covet a distinct type of corner—lanky, strong, physical—and they’ve been able to find them in the later rounds or even in the undrafted free agent pool. As long as they have the rangy Earl Thomas patrolling centerfield, they’ll be able to keep developing successful young corners. But those corners will have to be drafted earlier now because other teams are copying Seattle’s blueprint and looking for size and strength.

Yes, it would make perfect sense for Schneider and Carroll to draft a wide receiver or two this May. In addition to the immediate vacancies at that position, there’s no assurance that the fragile Percy Harvin will always be available, plus restricted free agent Doug Baldwin might be tough to retain next year. But don’t be surprised if wide receiver—and especially offensive lineman—drop behind athletic defensive playmakers in Seattle’s pecking order. There will be significant needs on defense in a year or two. Smart teams address significant needs long before they become dire.

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52 comments
BrandonDickey
BrandonDickey

Seahawks face some serious challenges in the next 2 years, and its not from other teams. I pray the main guys will take smaller contracts to keep the others on the team.

thomasoverley
thomasoverley

I will be the first to say I am not a fan of the press constant slober over the Seahawks but how does Tate fit in as your 3rd receiver when he led your team?  Would that not make him at the very least #2


Buck2185
Buck2185

How Seattle drafts is not really that important. What is important to them is that they keep their Adderral supplier employed. Without their Adderral, they will not perform well...

picklejuice
picklejuice

Anyone who has been a Seahawks fans longer than the last 2 months, knows that Carroll and Schneider's draft philosophy isn't to chase positions. If you try to use the draft to fill a position, then you reach for players that aren't that good. Instead, you draft the best player available. Get the best bang for your buck in the draft.

djs425
djs425

Also. It just amazes me how good PCJS are at finding players in the secondary. Sherman (5th), Browner (UFA), Thurmond (4th), Maxwell (6th), Lane (6th), Thomas 1st), Chancellor (5th), Johnson (UFA), Maragos (UFA) can all start on most teams. Browner, Thurmond and Maragos are gone but the depth the Seahawks have developed in the secondary is stunning! And that's JUST the secondary.

LB's Wagner (2nd), Irvin (1st), Wright (4th), Smith (7th), Morgan (UFA) etc etc.

Seahawks don't rebuild, they reload.

djs425
djs425

Seahawks can lose a bunch of players and still be a top team. They didn't win 13 games + a Super Bowl with just their starters. Seahawks coach and GM duo is probably the best in the NFL. Patriots are great too and they've done well longer than PCJS but outside Seattle and New England I don't see a better front office. Saints and Packers are good, I just think the Seahawks and Patriots are the cream of the crop

bestdaveever
bestdaveever

I don't expect Seattle to de-prioritize the O-Line entirely.  Wilson is a long-term investment that needs some protection.  You don't buy a Ferrari and park it on the street.  We've seen Linemen come in and take a couple of seasons to get Cable's system.  I don't expect them to wait until there is a huge hole to fill, I expect them to build depth there, just as they have in other areas.

jkearneyiii
jkearneyiii

Given that Hawks haven't beat Niners at home, home-field advantage reigns supreme.  FA hit our Hawks more than the Niners and they have Lattimore and Carradine not including 6 picks in top 100 to our 2.  I don't see us necessarily as the team to beat.

Hardball
Hardball

I'd like the cost.. to NFL games to go way up. PAY THE HAWKS!

A_Reality_Czech
A_Reality_Czech

Wilson was getting hit so much in the middle of the season I was hoping they'd start rotating with Jackson just to give him time to recover. Wilson played the second most snaps under pressure as a QB in the NFL last season, 43% vs Glennon's 44%.


So I wouldn't count on Wilson's "mobility" get him a damn Oline that can keep people off his back.

Jazzaloha
Jazzaloha

"Instead of prioritizing the offensive line in the 2014 draft, Schneider and Carroll should examine their “nonessentials” list and prioritize outside linebacker. As the Seahawks learned in 2013, they can get by with an average offensive line given Wilson’s mobility and the nature of offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell’s run-first, controlled passing system."


Wilson's scrambling did mitigate the shaky protection, but to say this is a suitable strategy greatly annoys me. For one thing, Wilson took some hard hits last season, and the Seahawks are very fortunate, in my view, that he didn't sustain a major injury. Let's think about that possibility for a moment. If the Seahawks lose Wilson, their chances of winning a Super Bowl are nil in my view (no offense to Tavaris Jackson). Even worse, let's suppose Wilson sustains a career-threatening injury. I suspect others (including Benoit) won't agree with me, but I think that really lowers the chances of winning multiple Super Bowls. (Not to mention my belief that Wilson has a decent shot at being one of the best QBs to ever play.) 


The defense and even the running game gets most of the attention and credit--and that's reasonable to some degree. But I really don't think this team would be as successful if they didn't have Wilson--and I feel like Wilson isn't fully appreciated. I hate the strategy Benoit recommends (and it's one I thought they adopted last year as I didn't think the 2012 pass protection was all that great, and the Seahawks seemed to do little to improve it going into 2013). They're taking a big risk if they follow Benoit's advice, and I really hope they don't do this! 

DonaldWillis
DonaldWillis

Great article Seahawks have so many good players but I have the utmost 


confidence that Schneider will keep the most important ones and replace the 


good players we are going to lose. These other teams better be glad there is a 


salary cap because if there wasn't I believe the Hawks could win 5 superbowls in 


a row.  But New England managed to do it and so can we ...Go Hawks.














kenc29
kenc29

Pretty good analysis. The thing is, is that the Seattle FO seems to have a good handle on the situation. We'll find out more about whether they can keep it going with the extensions for Thomas, Sherman and Wilson. If they can pay slightly under the market, they may be in decent shape.

ken.burnside
ken.burnside

Seattle will focus on:

Athletic Speed Linebackers - the position has a short shelf life
Tall Rangy Corners
Interior O-Line
Wide Receiver. Unless a WR is a Percy Harvin-alike (a'la Tate) with the ability to move in space, they're going to wait until round 3.
They already have Jesse Williams and Monstar on the bench to replace their DTs as they leave; they'll be doing the same for the LBs.  They know that DE is easier-ish to pick up in free agency than to develop through the draft; when you draft a DE, you spend the first two years getting them up to NFL speed, then have them for two years and lose them to free agency as someone else overpays them.

I think they'll probably move Maxwell up from the "replacable" to "essential" category, but that's the only knock I've got on this assessment.

I also suspect (and hope) that the Legion of Boom may talk about doing joint contract negotiations - there are stories coming out that hint that Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman are talking about trying to present a package "home town discount" deal with incentive clauses to retain their respective services.

That's probably wishful thinking, but oh, man, if it's true...

DustinRCurtis
DustinRCurtis

I agree with all of it BUT Okung. He is essential out of necessity. I don't like LT price tags either, but the truth is, there isn't even 32 viable LTs in the league. So when you find one that's good, you don't let him go. Otherwise you risk losing your QB as well.

The LT is an extension of your QB. Bad blindside protection is what puts teams out of the playoffs every season.

Spokanedad
Spokanedad

Andy- you clearly don't know jack about this team.  You're non-essentials are ridiculous..  One example:  Zach Miller already restructured his contract. Byron Maxwell is critical at this point due to the departure of Browner.  I could go on but why.  If you're going to write about this team.  Do your homework.

Ciscos
Ciscos

NONESSENTIALS - RB Marshawn Lynch? Truth is truth, but ouch is still ouch. 

BrandonDickey
BrandonDickey

Seriously you couldn't think of anything else to say? Seattle Seahawks are the best team in football and only getting better not higher.

JubJub
JubJub

@Buck2185  Yes, that's why they won the Super Bowl.  Moron.  They beat the hell out of my Broncos because they were the best team in the league last year.  Give credit where credit is due.  

John4
John4

@djs425  Again, ONE championship in 38 years, and Seahawks fans could not be any more smug.  Give them a few seasons, and many of their players will be on other teams (due to free agency).  

Largent803
Largent803

@djs425 Lets also not forget Malcom Smith who was a 7th round pick and he just happened to win the Super Bowl MVP. Carrol and Schneider are very good at finding the diamonds in the rough.

djs425
djs425

Yes. The Seahawks had zero fans for 37 years, that makes sense! NOT.

John4
John4

@jkearneyiii  Who is "us"?  And the Seahawks as the SB champs are the team to beat.

Matt72
Matt72

@jkearneyiii i like your thought.  point towards the competitor....but SF is getting old.  Gore, Smith, Boldin, are key contributors that are old.  Bowman and the Guard are coming off injuries,  their secondary has gotten worse this offseasontoo.

djs425
djs425

49ers counting on players who've never played a down in the NFL and assuming they'll simply fill in... Nope. Gotta prove it.

djs425
djs425

They were playing with only 1-2 staters during that span. Okung, Unger, Carpenter and Giacomini were injured and McQuistan (LG) was filling in at LT so there was a reason why. Seahawks have lots of good OL prospects who got valuable playing time and got better as they played more.

destrusdominate
destrusdominate

@ken.burnside  Legion of Boom is the stupidest thing ever. Your team is going 9-7 next year, will miss the playoffs to the Cardinals, lol.

Arzu
Arzu

@ken.burnside 100% agreed re: Maxwell.  The kid is proving himself a very quick study of Richard's system with physical attributes to equal.  I hadn't heard that rumor re: LOB as a package, but I hope it's true.  I personally can't wait for the preseason, hoping to see Christine Michaels on the field every quarter.  A star in the making, I do believe

brianformo
brianformo

@ken.burnside  astute points all around (agree on Maxwell), however Seattle doesn't have a third round pick. They DO have two in the fifth, which is a likely spot to go for corner AND o-line depth.

John4
John4

@Spokanedad  That's YOUR non-essentials are ridiculous.  Learn how to spell.

Drifter1
Drifter1

@Spokanedad Would disagree about Maxwell.  Important for this year?  Certainly.  Critical for the future?  Maybe not.


Look at this team's record since Carroll arrived:  Draft Thurmond.  He gets hurt, Sherm takes over and he can't his job back.  Browner and Thurmond get suspended, Maxwell steps up and makes them both "expendable".


We already have Tharold Simon as one potential taller CB prospect who may be able to do the job if called upon - he was on IR last year but should be healthy and ready to compete in camp this year.  If Maxwell continues to play well and earns a large offer elsewhere, we had better be able to replace him, because we don't have the cap space to afford to spend that much on our secondary on its own.

Rumrunner11
Rumrunner11

@Spokanedad He nailed it pretty well actually.  You have to prioritize under a cap.  Maxwell is critical - but not in comparison to Sherman.  You can't pay for 2 premier corners, so Sherman will get his and it will likely cost them Maxwell, who will want premium $$.  


No need to slag the writer - he might not know the Seahawks really well, but he gets the business part, which is essentially what the article is about........

Shooter McGavin 19711
Shooter McGavin 19711

@Spokanedad  You clearly don't understand that there is a salary cap in play.  Sure, it would be GREAT to say that the team has 12 or 14 essential guys.  But given how much money Sherman and Wilson are going to get - Maxwell will be able to get more elsewhere.  So ... yeah.  If you're not going to be objective about the facts, why bother trying to defend your team.  Do YOUR homework. Homer...


And as for restructured contracts, I'm not sure if you understand the NFL, but most of those get restructured SEVERAL times.  Thanks for playing...



Fleeb
Fleeb

@Ciscos  It's no criticism of Lynch. At 30, he will be in line for one more big payday, and business is business.

Drifter1
Drifter1

@Ciscos If a RB with a tough, physical style approaching the age of 30 is an "essential" for the long term, that's not usually a good thing.

only1H1
only1H1

@Ciscos  christine michaels should be ready to step up by then

Buck2185
Buck2185

@BrandonDickey As long as Pete keeps them full of Adderral, they will keep winning and we will continue to see interesting interviews with Erin Andrews....

Iceman2
Iceman2

@John4 The Bruce Irvin who led all rookies in sacks?

djs425
djs425

I mentioned Smith above. 7th round pick

Jazzaloha
Jazzaloha

@djs425  Injuries definitely contributed to the OL problems. But I didn't think the pass protection problems completely went away when the starters returned (including penalties, especially ones that took away big plays). Let's also remember that they're losing Giacomini. And let's also keep in mind the front sevens in the division--Rams, Cardinals and Niners. (There's also a possibility that the Rams draft Clowney.) 

unitcaptain11
unitcaptain11

@Fleeb @Ciscos  He wont get a big payday from the Seahawks at age 30.  Some other team might over pay for him.

Arzu
Arzu

@only1H1 @Ciscos I love the Beast as much as anyone, but I can't wait to see what Michaels does with more play time

Buck2185
Buck2185

@BigSchtick @Buck2185 Thank you "Little Stik". Speaking of stupid, you may want to look into improving your grammar - your sentence is grammatically incorrect....

Ron33
Ron33

@Arzu @only1H1@Ciscos Until Michaels learns to do the things he doesn't do nearly as well as Turbin does, not to mention Lynch, (namely Pass-protection) you won't see much of him outside of a situational "change-of-pace" role on the Seahawks. (unless the O-line gels and maintains this coming season).

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