In an offseason that many experts predicted they would lose a chunk of their key players, Seattle found ways to retain most of them, and with some clever moves, might have even improved at a couple of key positions. However, they still have holes and will have to be even more clever if they are going to hide them. I admit, I publicly blasted them early in free agency for not doing enough, and while I still think they played it too safe with a HOF QB running out of prime years, they have done better than I expected overall. Always give credit where credit is due, and they did more than I thought they would, but the job isn’t finished, and they have a tiny amount of draft picks to land at least one impact player.
Russell Wilson wanted improved protection on the offensive line, so GM John Schneider traded for Guard Gabe Jackson, an adequate lineman whose best days are behind him, but his peak was an above-average player. He may be an improvement over Mike Iupati, but time will tell. Seattle gave up a fifth-round pick for Jackson, so it’s not critical from a value standpoint that he succeeds right away, so much as he must succeed for the team to succeed.
After testing free agency for a couple of weeks, RB Chris Carson was brought back on a two-year deal, which means the Rashaad Penny era in Seattle ended almost as quickly as it began. Despite some legitimate injury concerns requiring Seattle to keep adding players to the RB room, Carson proved he can be a legitimate three-down back last year by improving his receiving skills, which means Seattle no longer has to bring another back onto the field for passing downs and force their hand. They might bring another back onto the field with Carson to further confuse the defense and “widen” the field of play by putting another playmaker for Russ in the formation. Both Penny and Deejay Dallas are quality complementary players and can attack a defense in the running game and catch passes out of the backfield, which could help open up the playbook if the team is willing to “let Russ cook.”
CB Shaquill Griffin is now a Jacksonville Jaguar, as is RB Carlos Hyde. Griffin received too large of an offer from Jacksonville to pass up, and Hyde most likely wanted to reunite with his coach at Ohio State, new Jaguars head coach Urban Meyer. Whether Hyde wanted to leave or not, he didn’t appear to be part of Seattle’s short-term plans as they have a crowded RB room with Travis Homer and Alex Collins also on the roster.
To add more weapons for Russ, Schneider signed former Rams TE Gerald Everett to a one-year prove-it deal, a big and athletic playmaker who previously worked with Seattle’s newest offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who was an assistant under Sean McVay in LA. Waldron was a heavy advocate for signing Everett as a big target for Russ, and his career average of 11 yards per reception should pay dividends when the team gets into third and long situations.
A little history on Waldron, he grew up in the Portland area, attending La Salle High School. After playing football in college at Tufts University, he bounced around the NFL, NCAA, and high school levels as an assistant before landing with the Rams in 2017, where he worked until being hired by Seattle this year. This will be Waldron’s first time calling plays since he was at the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in 2011, and his first opportunity calling plays at the NFL level – ever. The good news is that no defensive coordinators can watch film to learn his style; we’ll all see it together in week one. Whatever it is, it will be something completely new.
Some under the radar moves by Schneider include re-signing center Ethan Pocic and giving a one-year tender to keep restricted free agent guard Kyle Fuller and signing free agent tackle Cedric Ogbuehi who had previously played for Cincinnati and Jacksonville.
Schneider signed free-agent CB Ahkello Witherspoon to help fill the hole left by Griffin, and DE Kerry Hyder, both of whom played for San Francisco last season. That wouldn’t be enough on its own, so Schneider brought back DE Benson Mayowa as well as Carlos Dunlap, the player that helped jump-start Seattle’s defense at mid-season in 2020. Dunlap was cut earlier in March to free up cap space, and Schneider used that same money to sign Dunlap to a new two-year deal that saved the team money short term and keeps one of their key players here an extra year.
With the additions on defense and the hope that 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor will get on the field this year after sitting out most of last season, this unit could impress folks – if everyone pans out and stays healthy. Not a small expectation, to say the least, but the same expectation every other team has to live up to. Rosters are fluid, but the expectations stay the same.
Before Seattle thinks about signing anyone else, they have three picks in the draft coming up on April 29th, one selection in rounds 2, 4, and 7. Not only will they need to hit on all three picks, but they will need to pay these players and have limited funds remaining. Russell Wilson could restructure his contract to allow for more funds to become available, but one has to wonder if the team would go after the guys he wants. Wilson has been an advocate for talented guys like Josh Gordon or Antonio Brown, but who is to say they will stay in line for anyone, and who knows if Brown is even interested in coming here? Seattle has Russ, Carson, DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, and now Everett – maybe that’s enough? With the low funds they have left, it might have to be.
KJ Wright is still a free agent, as is former Seahawk CB Richard Sherman. Would Russ be willing to rework his deal to bring back two guys he won a Super Bowl with? Russ wants to cook, but he also knows the value of a top-level defense. Without Griffin, Seattle doesn’t have a top-cover corner in the lineup, and Sherman can still cover top receivers in the league. He isn’t as durable as he used to be, but that’s true of every player after they hit 30; it’s just the truth – the body doesn’t heal as fast at 30 as it did at 25. The safety tandem in Seattle is top-notch, with Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs, and Marquise Blair returning from injury. If they can lure Sherman back, this could be the legion of boom lite, which is a big step up from where they were in coverage last season.
Seattle has done more than just run it back; they have made small improvements. They should be better in 2021 than they were in 2020, but unless the offense stays consistent and the defense takes a big step forward, they might find themselves going on another shallow playoff run. LA upgraded at QB by trading for Matthew Stafford, and San Francisco moved up to the #3 pick in the draft, giving them an unfair asset for an already talent-rich roster. Arizona signed JJ Watt and AJ Green in the offseason and was just a couple of pieces from being ready to contend last year. Are these the pieces they were missing? They did lose Patrick Peterson but signed Malcolm Butler and hold the #16 pick in the first round, so they might not have a drop-off – they could ready to take another leap forward.
Can Seattle keep pace with these teams with under-the-radar upgrades? It’s always possible teams gel and go on an unexpected run, but you can’t bank on that. It looks like these moves are Seattle’s version of going “all-in” for Russ, but it looks more like a GM and HC trying to be clever and outsmart the rest of the league. They did it once in 2013, but it’s asking a lot for the current roster to run it back without all their guys and do it better than they did last season. The 49ers were a shell of themselves, and the Rams had to deal with a QB who didn’t seem quite to understand who he played for, and the Cardinals were still figuring out who they were. That’s not likely to happen again this season.
It’s just as likely that Seattle wins the West as it is they finish last. This division is always tough, and this year they might be too tough for their own good. All four teams will be good, and it’s going to be a war. These appear to be the guys Seattle wants to go to war with; time will tell if they were right.