I, like most somewhat attention span deficient Millennials (shudder), like lists, but also recognize them as the lowest of format, weakest of concept, horseshoe on the hackneyed...So! Without further ado, a top 5 list: What free agency has meant for Seattle.
5. Cheese Eating Surrender Monkey: It's actually Put-Zeer if you're curious. It was Put-Ze-Eh, but Jeb decided that was too French. Anyway, Frenchie signed with Seattle for $650,000. A pittance. He's a capable second string tight end who, like Marcus Pollard, once posted a shiny DPAR on another team. Pollard got old, the Broncos and Texans became fed up with Putzier's inability to block. As bad as Pollard was, though productive, Putzier would likely be worse, though productive. Pollard was a limited athlete, who stretched a seam like an Olsen Twin. Putzier adds a little speed, run after catch and overall receiving ability, but, again, is a bad enough blocker to rarely see the red zone. Like Pollard, starting Putzier won't hamstring our offense, but bad players in undemanding roles can take a turn for the worse at the worst possible time.
Summary: Likely a second stringer. Don't be surprised if he's cut before the season starts. Insurance, depth, flexibility.
4. The Longest Yard: Seattle was the 27th ranked team at converting short yardage with the ground game. The line gets debited for that deficiency, but it's not all their fault. Not one of Seattle's 3 returning backs (Alexander 55%, Morris 47%, Weaver 50%) was particularly successful in "Power" situations. To be fair, Weaver only received 4 carries. And to clarify, over the season "Power" situations encompassed all of 33 carries. Still, from a skill-set viewpoint, Seattle didn't have a player on roster known for his ability to mix it up between the tackles and fight for that extra yard.
Enter TJ Duckett. Duckett is a tough, between the tackles pounder. So much of converting short yardage is hitting the hole and falling forward. Making a good showing before the officials guesstimate where you landed. Duckett can't open holes, but he can pop tacklers and win first contact.
Summary: A short yardage back with the potential to be so much more, Duckett is a near-perfect signing: cheap, all upside and fills a need.
3. Defending/Jettisoning Rob Sims: Sims never mastered Holmgren's somewhat complicated blocking lines. That doesn't mean he's a bad guard. Sims suffered unduly from a complex almost conspiratorial set of factors. Foremost, Shaun Alexander. Alexander squandered Sims' good blocks and dodged blame because of Sims' bad blocks. Guards don't get much credit for a hole when the back is tumbling to the ground behind the line of scrimmage. Predictably, neither Holmgren nor any member of his staff ever criticized Alexander publicly, or Chris Gray for that matter, but regularly ripped Sims. Every guard blows blocks, but when you've been targeted, your good blocks are lost or ignored. When you're inconsistent too, people tend to pile on.
More frustrating yet, Sims' pass blocking, a true strength, was totally ignored. In 2006, Seattle owned the 28th best sack prevention rate in the NFL. In 2007, with the same left tackle, right tackle, right guard, quarterback, a worse pass blocking fullback, a center that was at best a push (pass blocking) for the player he replaced, and an inferior receiving unit, Seattle owned the 19th best sack prevention rate. The major difference between those two teams, Rob Sims. Given the very high number of sacks endured/accepted/invited by Matt Hasselbeck, Seattle's pass blocking is a bit underrated. Seattle ended with the 9th ranked pass offense. One built on a 35 year old tight end, an overworked slot receiver and two receiving backs. In other words: third, fourth and fifth options. The line's ability to consistently provide Beck time allowed him to make his reads and allow plays to develop. Sims ability to neutralize his man and protect Walter Jones against the edge rush made all the difference. Pass blocking is a huge but underappreciated part of guard play. The Cowboys signed Leonard Davis to a $49 million contract almost entirely for his ability to pass block. Sims offered a similar level of play for $445,000.
Sims has lost the left guard spot to free agent Mike Wahle. Wahle is a better fit at left, within Holmgren's system and a pretty slick pass-blocker himself. The fallout should leave Sims first in line at right guard, but one wonders. Have we all, coaches included, missed the good in Sims because of an untouchable running back, some inconsistency and a bad repuatation? Hopefully not, because I think Sims will rule right guard.
Summary: Wahle is an improvement over Sims, and Sims is a sea change from whatever the hell Chris Gray was doing last season. Should Sims or someone better than Sims man right guard next season, Seattle will have one of the best pass blocking lines in football. Should they commit to a capable rusher, don't be surprised if their run blocking isn't too shabby either.
2. Shaun Out: Tim Ruskell's public vote of confidence for Seattle's precarious back may be the proverbial kiss of death. Signing Duckett and interviewing Jones are not the actions of a man who was happy with his running back. Neither Duckett nor Jones play special teams, nor does Weaver, Morris or (snicker) Alexander. The only evidence that Alexander will return is Tim Ruskell's word, which, well...
Couple that with the season long cock and bull story surrounding whether Mora would be Seattle's next head coach and Ruskell's recent evaluation of Marcus Trufant and I see a pattern developing. I think Ruskell exploits the media to get what he wants. I think he wants desperately for another team to give anything of value for Alexander. Will he get it? He might, and until his hand is forced there's no reason to let a soul in America know that he thinks Shaun's as waxed as a Townie's CRX.
Summary: Claiming that Alexander is still a feature back is just good business.
1. Best Available Draft: Everyone agrees that taking best available talent is always best policy when drafting. But need often precludes such a strategy. Every team must at least attempt to field a competitive team, so though it might be nice to take 5 straight defensive linemen, Roger Goodell might inquire why one's playing quarterback. And so need is always a factor. A destructive one. When Oakland finally commits itself to JaMar*Bust*us R*Bust*uss*Bust*ell this season, Raiders fans will no doubt bemoan all the better players they could have taken. Bemoan in a grunty, ex-con sort of way. And, no doubt, when all is said and done, dozens of superior talents will emerge from the 2007 draft class, but need, need, need.
Between internal depth, recent signings and a few consistently healthy starters, Seattle has the enviable position of zero needs. Kicker, natch, is only a need in the sense that a team needs one on their roster. Acquiring one is a minor task. From pick 1 to pick 8, Seattle has a chance to grab whoever they think is the best player available. It's an exciting prospect, a draft that could run in all sorts of directions, should push Seattle into the top rungs of contention in the NFC and bolster the foundation for longterm success.
Summary: Good prior drafts plus attaining needs through cheap, serviceable veterans allows Seattle to enter the draft in the best possible position.