The Seattle Seahawks are one of the youngest and deepest teams in the NFL, meaning that this year’s Super Bowl championship doesn’t have to be the end of the road. This group has the nucleus of a legitimate contender for years to come. Although many of the key components are locked in through at least next season, there are several names that are either restricted or unrestricted free agents as Seattle heads into its first championship offseason. There are many roster decisions that Coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider have to face.
For what it’s worth, here’s my take on how I would prioritize the list.
1. DE Michael Bennett
The defensive lineman took a gamble coming to Seattle for this season on a one-year deal and it paid off handsomely for both sides. He led the team in sacks and was an all-around terror as a pass rusher, providing constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks. Re-signing Bennett seems to be a foregone conclusion, the only question being how much money he’s going to receive. Expect #72 to get paid handsomely sometime in the near future.
2. WR Golden Tate/Doug Baldwin
Tate was Seattle’s best wide receiver this year statistically and one of the most dangerous punt returners in the NFL. With an ostensibly fully healthy Percy Harvin next year, Tate’s presence as a viable #2 option becomes pretty important. Throw an ever-developing Baldwin into the mix and Seattle’s oft-criticized receiving corps suddenly starts to look like a strength of the team, especially as Tate and Baldwin continue to establish themselves to an even greater degree. Baldwin is a restricted free agent, while Tate is unrestricted.
3. K Steven Hauschka
Some might question putting a kicker this high on the list, but Hauschka had an elite-level year last season, going 33/35 on field goal attempts. Kickers have one job and Hauschka is doing that job about as well as anyone at the position right now. Now that he’s quieted the fears of his ability to hit from distance, he deserves to come back. Sign the man.
4. CB Walter Thurmond
Thurmond would probably be a bigger contractual priority if Seattle didn’t already have the most loaded secondary in the league. But one of the main reasons that this defensive backfield is considered so deep is because of the guys like Thurmond, Byron Maxwell and Jeremy Lane.
Keeping a deep selection of players behind Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor is a wonderful luxury that Pete Carroll likely won’t want to give up. Thurmond and Maxwell will likely have the option at some point in their careers to cash in for huge money elsewhere, particularly if they keep contributing to the best secondary in the league at this high a level. But for now, keeping Thurmond as a slot corner is a necessary action for the Seattle front office.
5. FB Michael Robinson
If you’re someone who’s big into “heart and soul of the team” kind of guys, then Robinson probably goes higher. But if you’re going by purely on-field needs, then it’s just a fact that he’s slightly more expendable than guys like Bennett, Tate or Thurmond.
Robinson is a favorite of fans and teammates alike so that could honestly be reason enough to give the fullback a deal for next year, especially because he is a capable blocker. But be realistic about your expectations. There’s at least a 50% chance that Robinson isn’t wearing a Seahawks uniform next year, even if fans won’t like it.
6. OT Breno Giacomini
If there was a weakness for Seattle this season it was their O-line, which struggled mightily at times to protect Russell Wilson. Giacomini was injured from most of the middle part of year, as was left tackle Russell Okung, so that almost certainly played into some of these struggles. Giacomini is a good player and his return would be nice but it wouldn’t be considered a debilitating, franchise-changing blow if money had to be spent elsewhere.
7. DT Tony McDaniel/Clinton McDonald
If you had to pick between the two, you’d probably have to go with McDonald who got more playing time and notched 5.5 sacks on the year. But with Bennett set to cash in a huge deal and the other guys on this list trying to get paid as well, sacrifices have to be made somewhere.
All of the players noted above are all viable contributors and you could make an argument that pretty much every single one deserves to be signed. It’s a good problem to have for Carroll and Schneider, who also have the draft and free agency to look forward to in attempts to improve and expand on what is already the deepest, most versatile roster in football.