It feels like the Seattle Seahawks’ 2021 season came crashing down with their 17-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday. It wasn’t just because they lost, it was the way they lost. The offense looked inept, despite Russell Wilson being back under center. The defense showed up for the game but has struggled a lot this season. When you aren’t an offensive or defensive team, you aren’t really a good team at all.
That is where the Seahawks find themselves at the moment. Yes, technically they are mathematically in play for the seventh NFC wild card spot, but does anyone really believe they would do anything other than get dominated by whoever they would play in that matchup? So even if this team somehow makes the playoffs, they aren’t a serious contender.
That is a hard pill to swallow for the fanbase since Seattle has a star quarterback in the prime of his career, who also happens to be making over $30 million, and has the seventh-highest active payroll in the league. The Seahawks are constructed to be winning right now; you don’t trade multiple first-round picks for Jamal Adams to not be playing football in January.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like the Seahawks will be contending this year. Unlike other teams that will be on the outside looking in of the playoff picture, Seattle has the potential to get back to contention in 2022. In fact, they must get back to contention if they want to keep their $30 million quarterback that has already hinted at the desire to demand a trade if things aren’t going well enough.
So what do John Schneider and the rest of the Seahawks’ brass need to do to get this team back on track for next season? I’m glad you asked because I have a roadmap for Seattle to follow in order to get their franchise back to the level it has been for a majority of the Carroll-Wilson era
1. Appease the Franchise
I don’t mean the franchise as in the Seahawks franchise. I mean the franchise quarterback, Russell Wilson. As I previously mentioned, Wilson has been weird about possibly wanting out of Seattle in the near future. He hasn’t officially requested a trade or anything, but he has released a list of the teams he would want to go to if he was traded. Yeah, it’s very odd.
The quarterback position is crucial to winning football games, so Seattle needs Wilson if they want to avoid launching a full-fledged rebuild. I would suggest doing whatever it takes in order to keep Wilson around. I don’t know what that exactly looks like. I know Seattle did some of that already by making Shane Waldron their new offensive coordinator over the summer, the guy that Wilson wanted for the job. So more of that should be in store. Whether it is signing a wide receiver he wants or adding new concepts he likes to the offense, the Seahawks need to make sure they appease their franchise signal-caller.
2. Have a potentially tough conversation with Pete Carroll
I absolutely love Pete Carroll. I watched him take over my favorite team in sports and deliver the first major sports championship to Seattle since 1979. Since Caroll won that Super Bowl in 2013, he has a level of job security that you don’t find in a lot of other places. Due to that, he will only cease to be the Seahawks’ head coach when he retires. He is not getting fired.
But Carroll could have his worst season during his tenure in Seattle (he won seven games in his first two seasons) and could miss the playoffs for just the third time. It might be time to raise the question of whether Carroll is still wanting to continue coaching and if he is still able to keep up with some of the other elite coaches in the league.
This could also tie into the first step I mentioned. Maybe Wilson will be happier with a new head coach, possibly a more offensive-minded coach that is not as set on establishing the run. Whether or not that is the case, ownership and management need to have a tough conversation with Carroll about how he fits into the future of the franchise. He is the oldest coach in the NFL so it is not out of the question that he will want to take it easy as he enters his 70s instead of keeping at one of the most difficult jobs you could have.
Just to be clear, I am not calling for Carroll’s head on a stake. I do not think they should part ways with the legendary coach, but I also do not know all of the information regarding the situation. That is why I am saying that the decision-makers should get all the information they need to make the most educated decision possible.
3. Deal with in-house free agent
The Seahawks certainly will be players in free agency this offseason. They have a projected $50+ million in cap space for 2022, which gives them a lot of room to make some substantial moves. But it all starts by dealing with the in-house free agents that they should try to resign before looking to outside candidates.
Starters to resign: safety Quandre Diggs, cornerback D.J. Reed, right tackle Brandon Shell, defensive end Rasheem Green, defensive tackle Al Woods, tight end Gerald Everett or Will Dissly.
I would advise Seattle to strongly pursue a new deal with each of these listed players with one exception. The Seahawks need just one of Everett or Dissly. Rookie Colby Parkinson can be a solid second option, so just one of these upcoming free agents need to be resigned. My prediction would be to lock up Everett for a two or three-year deal for around the same amount of money he is making this year ($6 million). Dissly has too many injury issues to warrant a bigger contract so if they can resign him for no more than $2 million, then do it, otherwise, let him walk.
The secondary will have the biggest free agent questions, with two starters in Diggs and Reed set to hit the open market. Seattle needs to very strongly attempt to bring both of those guys back to prevent an already struggling secondary from getting even worse. These two guys should be the number one priority. I project Diggs to sign something around a 3-year $27 million deal while Reed could get something in the $28-32 million range depending on if it is a three or four-year contract.
The offensive line has always been a sticking point for Seattle over the years. And while it still is not a strong suit of the team, Shell has done a very admirable job at the right tackle position. He has earned himself the opportunity to sign a second contract with Seattle and stick on the right side of the line. He probably earned himself a bit of a pay raise too. I think Seattle should try to sign him to a two-year $12 million contract and keep him around for the next couple of seasons.
I also think Green needs to be resigned. He is one of the most productive defensive ends on the roster this year. He has been moderately impressive throughout his whole Seattle career but with youth on his side, he may only be getting better as he matures in the league. I think a multi-year deal for about $5 million a year would be a good price for Green. Woods is another guy who should be brought back along the defensive line. If the 34-year old doesn’t retire this offseason, Seattle needs to bring him back on another one-year $2-3 million deal.
Starter to negotiate with: left tackle Duane Brown.
This will be the toughest decision that the Seahawks have to make this offseason. Brown held out during the preseason because he wanted a new contract, but he didn’t get it, allowing him to hit the open market this offseason. I am dubious about bringing Brown back because of his age (36 years old). But without a solid replacement for Brown on the left side of the line, it might not be the best idea to let him walk. If Seattle doesn’t resign Brown, they will probably put themselves in the conversation for a free agent left tackle which is a market that can get very pricy. If Seattle can get Brown to agree on a one-year deal in the $10-12 million range then that is a no-brainer. If Brown wants anything more than that, either years or money, then they will be better off looking to the open market or the draft for their left tackle.
Backups to resign: running back Alex Collins, center Kyle Fuller, offensive lineman Jamarco Jones, defensive tackle Bryan Mone, defensive back Ryan Neal.
These should be the primary backups/role players that Seattle should get back under contract. None of these players should be too expensive but all have proved vital with their ability to function within their current role or fill in when called upon. There are obviously other players they will reign to fill out the roster but that should not be done until all of these players resign.
4. Play the free agent market
If Seattle resigns all the big players to similar contracts that I mentioned, they will have around $20 million in cap space. If they also resign Brown, they would be looking at closer to $10 million. That means they wouldn’t have a ton of room to operate in free agency. They could always do some cap maneuvering such as restructuring contracts or cutting players to make some more room so it is not a number set in stone. I think this gives them the space to make a few moves in the free agent market, starting potentially with left tackle.
Without Brown under a new contract, Wilson’s blindside protector will be the biggest priority on the open market. I doubt Seattle will have enough money to go after Terron Armstead but they should at least have a conversation with him. If they look more a more affordable option, I think Riley Reiff is the perfect fit. He is playing on a $7.5 million deal this season, and I think a similar contract would be reasonable for Seattle.
Beyond left tackle, cornerback will be another position the Seahawks should explore in free agency. They will certainly be priced out of the top corners on the market, similar to what happened with former Seahawk Shaquill Griffin last offseason. That leaves them in a position where they are targeting the lesser-desired options on the market. Some candidates for that this offseason are Kyler Fuller, Bryce Callahan, Jason Verrett, and Casey Hayward.
Fuller will likely be the most expensive of the group, but with other younger corners dominating the market, Seattle might be able to scoop him up for a decent price if he slips through the cracks. Callahan is another guy they could pounce on if he gets overlooked. He has had productive seasons in the past but is not necessarily playing up to that potential at the moment, making him a good upside signing. The riskiest one of the bunch is Verrett. He plays well when he is on the field but also misses a lot of time due to injury. Seattle could take a very low-cost flyer on him ad hope that he stays healthy. Hayward is an interesting name because he has played like one of the best corners in the league at times but is currently playing on a $2.5 million deal. It is possible that a team gives him a more expensive deal but he could also be a good name to get for cheap.
The last free agent I think could be a fit in Seattle is defensive lineman Akiem Hicks. He has always been an underrated player but will still demand a hefty price tag. If Seattle does want to spend over $10 million on a free agent, Hicks is their best option. He would instantly bolster the defensive line, which is a group without any huge blue-chip players. He could fit in next to Poona Ford very well and would create a tough group to run against. He would also provide help to pass rush with his ability to get to the quarterback from the inside. This would be a big swing for Seattle, something we haven’t seen them do too much in free agency, but it would certainly improve the defense and go a long way toward getting them back to contender status.
5. Get value in the draft
Seattle has five picks in the 2022 NFL draft but is most notably without their first-round pick because of the Jamal Adams trade. The Seahawks did a good job drafting for need last year with just three draft picks. More of the same will be in play this year. With a limited amount of draft capital, Seattle will have to be very smart with how they use their picks.
John Schneider always moves his picks around during the draft, usually ending up with more picks than they start with. But let’s just say they make five picks in the 2022 draft, what five positions should they focus on?
At least one of those picks should go to the secondary. Fifth-round pick Tre Brown from last year’s draft is playing solid in his first season, but until the secondary is back to being a strength they should draft at least one corner or safety each year.
Another couple of picks should go to the trenches. Especially if Seatle doesn’t resign Duane Brown, the offensive line will warrant a selection or two. We have also seen the Seahawks target defensive linemen or edge rushers early in the past couple of drafts. That could remain a target if a talented player falls to them in the second or third round like Darrell Taylor did in 2020.
Seattle tends to draft a running back with one of its last picks in the draft but did not continue that trend last year. With more picks in this year’s draft, they will likely return to that and add another late-round back as they have done with Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas.
Lastly, it will be interesting to see if Seattle does anything with the quarterback position. They clearly do not need to go for one early, but it could warrant a day three pick on someone who can be the backup quarterback. Geno Smith has not done enough with his play in Wilson’s absence to have a guaranteed spot as the backup next year. It would be very much worth it to look a late flyer on a signal-caller to have him push Smith for the backup and possibly take over for Wilson if he does depart any time soon.