In year one of Seattle’s rebuild, they had a winning season, had a shot at the division title, made the playoffs, and still have a top 5 pick in the draft and another first-round pick later on.
As far as rebuilds go, that’s called knocking it out of the park. Things could improve in year two, but that will significantly depend on Seattle retaining their star players from last year as well as adding to the talent this year.
QB Geno Smith being re-signed needs to be the number one priority this offseason. Unless he wants an unrealistic amount of money, he needs to be paid before he hits the open market and gets some silly offers from teams desperate for QB help. Seattle isn’t to that point yet, but with no QBs currently under contract, they might get desperate quickly. While it’s possible they plan to package one or both of their picks in a trade for a star QB, they will likely sign or draft one and save their picks for filling other needs.
If Seattle has to let Geno walk, that could be a terrible setback. Russell Wilson going to Denver was supposed to put this team deep into rebuild mode, and for those of you that didn’t get to witness Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst battle for the starting QB job in 2011, let’s say you were spared some tough games to watch. Those who did witness it was expecting a similar experience in 2022 from Geno and Drew Lock, only to see Geno take a giant leap forward and break Wilson’s team records for passing yards and completion percentage. If that was Geno’s opening act, I can’t wait to see what he does in year two, assuming he gets the opportunity.
Aside from bringing back Geno, this team could use some minor upgrades. They need a pass rusher to pair with emerging star Darrell Taylor, and they need another young cornerback to pair with Tariq Woolen. Safety Jamal Adams will be back to team up with fellow safety Quandre Diggs to keep offenses honest on the back end. A nose tackle would definitely help the rotation when the opposing team wants to run the ball, an option that was just wide open for any offense last season, as Seattle had major problems stopping the run.
Seattle has plenty of assets to make this rebuild convert to a contender very quickly. Getting an edge rusher and a cornerback they can develop won’t be a problem in the draft, but there aren’t many great options for a reasonable amount of money if they want to go after a free agent at those positions. Cornerback will be especially tough since the top free agents will be asking for more money than they are worth, but you need veterans at the position to help your young players figure out how to cover at the pro level.
The edge rushers and nose tackles in this free agent class are somewhere between guys looking for one last ride before retirement, players that haven’t made a name for themselves yet but could be good for the right system, and guys that probably won’t move the needle at all. Seattle usually rides in that middle lane hoping players that didn’t pan out for other teams can work out for them, but that strategy has as many ups as it has downs, and you don’t know which players will work out, which requires taking multiple risks at once.
This only works if Geno is brought back to be the QB. If the team decides to start over with a rookie or brings in a veteran QB with a career path that looks like a roller coaster (or worse, just the drops), it could set them back at least a year, if not more. The problem with bringing in someone new is that most average or inexperienced QBs only succeed if they have an established defense that can present them with short fields and an offense that doesn’t need a star to function. Those teams exist, and Seattle was one of them many years ago, but that’s not who they are today.
Seattle’s draft picks aren’t just good; they are great. Seattle has first-round picks at 5 and 20 and second-round picks at 38 and 53. They will have four selections before the first 55 players are taken. That’s bonkers. As long as they take the most talented defenders on the board for at least two of them, they should be in great shape with just those picks. The only challenge, if you want to grow with the draft and then chase free agents, is that the NFL offseason works backward compared to that strategy. Free agents can be signed in March, but the draft isn’t until the end of April, so you will need to sign veterans to economical deals and then get your rookies a month later, and then find out in September which ones will be ready to make an impact on Sundays.
If Seattle can get Geno back, every move they make after that will be to make his job easier and get the team into the divisional and conference rounds of the playoffs (and hopefully beyond). If they can add some great young defenders to add to a very good offense, they should be in great shape for the long haul, barring significant injuries.
But if the team fails to bring back Geno and has to start over at QB, it will also be the restart of the rebuild. The offense is primarily veterans except for rookie RB Kenneth Walker III, so unless they plan to bring in an established star, the chances of them keeping their key players long enough for a young QB to develop are pretty slim. And their safety tandem is one of the most expensive in the league and not getting younger. If they have to replace their safeties and one, if not both, of Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf, they could go from talent-rich to legitimately poor overnight. Those are not the kind of players you can just get replacements for. You must hit on the correct picks or overpay for established stars.
This team’s potential hinges on making Geno a good offer and keeping him in Seattle. Without Geno, this isn’t a rebuild; this is a complete gut job. Seattle survived a gut job after the Holmgren era ended, but it shouldn’t have to go through another one now with so many pieces already in place.
It’s time to reload what you have around Geno; this is not the time to demolish and start over. The team avoided using a detonator last season, and they should build on that rather than asking for a fresh load of dynamite.