The Seattle Seahawks are going to look more different than perhaps any other team in the league this year. The team had already transitioned away from the Legion of Boom era but now will look almost unrecognizable from the team that won a Super Bowl and was at the top of the league for a few years.
But that is what happens when you move on from two franchise icons in the same offseason. Seattle started their rebuild by trading quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver for a lot of picks and a few players. And they fully announced they were starting over when they released linebacker Bobby Wagner, the unquestioned leader of the defense for the past decade.
Now, the Seahawks are at a very crucial point for the franchise as they must figure out what the future of the team is. That is more apparent at the quarterback position than anywhere else on the roster. The best option may actually be to play for the opportunity to draft a quarterback in a loaded 2023 draft class, but that is a topic of conversation for another day.
The Seahawks have to decide between either veteran quarterback Geno Smith or young quarterback Drew Lock, whom they acquired in the Wilson trade, to be the starter under center this season. Smith is perceived to have the upper hand in the battle because of his familiarity with the team and offense but Lock presents more upside. It is clear that Smith is not a long-term option at quarterback but Lock could be that if he lives up to his potential, although it is still highly unlikely.
Regardless of who eventually earns that starting quarterback spot, hopefully, it is Lock, they will at least have a good offense around them. The offense won’t be anywhere near as good as it was with Wilson, but it could still be decent if the quarterback steps up. But the more likely scenario is that the offensive weapons are wasted due to poor play at the quarterback spot.
It would be a shame to see the wide receivers, in particular, squandered because the top duo in Seattle is one of the best in the league. DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett have been one of the most productive wide receivers tandems since Metcalf entered the league. They both had such clear and defined roles in the offense with Wilson so it will be interesting to see how they fare with a new guy under center.
Metcalf is especially intriguing because he is going to be a very important part of the Seattle offense in the future. He just signed a hefty contract extension so he will likely be a Seahawk for a few more years (but hopefully not a few more quarterbacks). It is also worth paying attention to the type of wide receiver Metcalf is without Wilson. It could end being the case that Metcalf was only good because Wilson made him good. Now, that probably won’t happen but it is a plausible outcome unless Metcalf keeps up his phenomenal play in 2022.
There is less uncertainty surrounding Lockett because he has proven himself over the length of his seven-year career. Lockett will almost certainly be the same player that he has been over that career, just without as good of a connection with his quarterback. The real uncertainty comes from the receivers other than Lockett and Metcalf. Young wideouts such as Dee Eskridge, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart, Bo Melton, and Dareke Young are going to have to prove they can play a role in the offense going forward.
The Seahawks already know who their tight end will be for the next couple of years. they also acquired Noah Fant from the Broncos in that big trade and he will come straight in and take over the starting tight end position. Fant is one of the most promising youngsters at the position and has a bright future due to his athleticism. Seattle also has tight ends Will Dissly, who they resigned this offseason, and Colby Parkinson, who they drafted in the fourth round last year, so fill out a pretty solid position group.
Another big loss that Seattle is dealing with heading into 2022 is running back Chris Carson, who had to retire due to some serious neck issues. They must have seen that coming from Carson, though, because the Seahawks drafted running back Kenneth Walker in the second round of the draft this year. He is coming off the best season of any running back in college football last year and has a shot to play a big role this year.
He will have to compete with former first-round pick Rashaad Penny, who resigned with Seattle on a one-year deal over the offseason, for the starting role. Penny had a very underwhelming start to his career but finally started to look like a first-round talent when he ended last season on a tear. Those two have the potential to be a very good duo in the backfield but will need to stay healthy. Penny has dealt with injuries nearly every year of his career and Waker had already had to undergo surgery for a hernia during the preseason.
If both of those players can stay on the field this year, then the Seahawks will likely rely on the run game, which is something head coach Pete Carroll clearly loves to do. Using the run game will also help take pressure off whoever the quarterback is, as well as the offensive line.
The line has been a major problem for the Seahawks the last few seasons and this offseason they finally made some drastic changes. Both starting tackles from 2021 are no longer with the team but Seattle has replaced them with first-round rookie tackle Charles Cross and third-round pick tackle Abraham Lucas.
Cross was one of the best players in the 2022 draft class, which led to Seattle taking him ninth overall, and he will be tasked with taking over the left tackle position from veteran Duane Brown. Lucas may technically still be in a battle for the right tackle position with Jake Curhan, but the rookie is the more promising option and should prove to be the better player and hold down the right side this year.
Seattle also used free agency to find their presumptive center this year in Austin Blythe, who started 16 games at center for the Rams in 2020. The only returning players on the offensive line are guards Damien Lewis and Gabe Jackson, who have both been solid players on the inside.
This won’t be a one-year-turnaround up front for the Seahawks but it is encouraging to see them finally doing something about the line. the future of the group does look bright. With three of the five starters younger than 26 years old, and several other young backups with potential, the Seahawks are building for the future on the offensive line.
On the other side of the ball, Seattle is at least better prepared to replace their leader. The defense is going to look very different without Wagner in the middle of it, but the Seahawks do have linebacker Jordyn Brooks in place to take over for him. Brooks, a first-rounder in 2020, had a huge season last year. What he showed in his first season as a starter clearly gave Seattle enough confidence to release Wagner.
Brooks does still need some work in pass coverage but his tackling is already elite; he led the team with 184 tackles last season. The bigger question at linebacker will be how well linebacker Cody Barton can do after he is elevated to the starting lineup. Barton has been a valued backup for a few years and is now finally getting his shot to prove himself to the team that has believed in him. His game should work as a starter because he possesses everything a team wants in a linebacker but only time will tell what he is truly capable of.
The outside linebacker position is in a different spot because they didn’t lose any talent yet still brought in a big free agent. Outside linebacker Uchenna Nwosu may not have been the biggest free agent in name, but he was still a productive player that found himself on the open market. He was slowly improving as a Charger but was never going to be the main guy with so many great pass-rushers on the roster. Now, Nwosu gets the chance to be the number one pass-rusher on a team and prove that he can play at that level in the league.
The Seahawks are not only hoping that Nwosu can elevate his game in 2022 but that he can do that for the entire position group. The defense is full of young pass-rushers, but none of them have taken a sufficient enough step forward to help solve the pass-rushing problem. If Nwosu can get the best out of young pass rushers such as Darrell Taylor, Alton Robinson, and rookies Boye Mafe and Tyreke Smith, then maybe the Seahawks can finally start to put opposing quarterbacks under some pressure.
The defensive line will also play a major part in that, but that group is a little more reliable than the edge rushers. Defensive tackles Al Woods and Poona Ford formed a great duo on the interior, starting a combined 33 games in 2021. Seattle also added defensive end Shelby Harris in the Wilson trade, and he has been a reliable starter in Denver. Throw in former first-rounder defensive end L.J Collier, young players such as defensive tackles Bryan Mone and Myles Adams along with bringing back defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson after a few years on other teams, and Seattle’s defensive line might be the best part of the defense.
What certainly won’t be the best aspect of the defense is the secondary. Well, actually, that isn’t fair to the safeties because Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs are both toward the top of the league at strong safety and free safety, respectively. So those two will be great on the back end, even though Adams has struggled in Seattle, but mostly due to injuries.
It is really the cornerback position that will be the downside of the defense. Seattle finished second to last in passing yards allowed last season and they lost their best corner, D.J. Reed, in free agency. So, the likelihood of that group being even worse in 2022 is strong.
But it is not like the team has ignored the position, they just haven’t had anybody emerge as a true starting-caliber option. They have some veterans with limited upside but that could provide some solid play (Sidney Jones, Justin Coleman, Artie Burns) and some young, unproven players that could end up being really good or could really struggle (Tre Brown, Coby Bryant, Tariq Woolen, John Reid).
Seattle is that the two rookies, Bryant and Woolen, end up as quality starters at some point and that the second-year Brown can stay healthy enough to capitalize on his upside. Realistically, just one of those guys will step up this year, if any, so it will probably end up being Jones and Burns starting on the outside for the Seahawks. Regardless of who it is, it will probably be another tough year for the Seahawks’ pass coverage, just one of the many reasons that they are trying to rebuild this team.
Rebuild is definitely the key word for this season. Seattle fans aren’t used to having a bad football team because the Seahawks have been so consistently competitive in the Carroll-Wilson era. But this is a new era. An era that will most likely be defined by players that aren’t on the team, or even the NFL, yet.
But that doesn’t mean it’s a bad thing. This is the way that most teams in professional sports become good. Not everyone can be the Patriots. But it does mean that it won’t be a fun season in terms of wins.
I think the Seahawks finish with a 6-11 record, which won’t be pleasant to watch. The Seahawks don’t even have a young quarterback to watch as a way to make the games have at least some sort of meaning. But those losses should bring them a great opportunity to draft a new quarterback with their very high pick in the 2023 draft. And if they aren’t selecting early in the draft, that means one of the quarterbacks on the roster right now ends up being better than expected and maybe the team isn’t as bad.
But in likelihood, the Seahawks will be bad this year. And they will probably be bad for at least one more year after this year. But a few years down the road when they have their franchise quarterback and are back to contending, all this pain and suffering will be worth it.