HOUSTON - AUGUST 20: Running back Pierre Thomas #23 of the New Orleans Saints is tackled by linebacker Mario Williams #90 at Reliant Stadium on August 20, 2011 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The following two paragraphs are from part II and give context for what's next:
Carroll, "we are looking for players that have unique qualities, and they don't always need to be the biggest guys like Red (Bryant), so when we find them I want to make sure we have enough flexibility in our system to bring out the unique qualities that a player may offer. We might look at players a little differently than other people, even if it changes our scheme some, because we have enough background."
Citing experience and implying the potential for scheme versatility, he mentioned Brandon Browner and Chris Clemons as two players where Seattle saw potential when others didn't; he also cited the contrast in size of the starting safeties as something unique. He said "...no square peg in round hole...," which I interpret as no complete misfits but he is willing to adapt to the unique talent. The point isn't to say they are great at doing everything they will try, but rather that they are willing to try.
The price of the unique talent versus the other options, in this case on the defensive line
Schneider came to Seattle saying he will be "extremely selective with the people who they think will fit the scheme," which appears a bit contradictory to what Carroll said. But as highlighted a few weeks back, Schneider was around for the Charles Woodson acquisition; he wasn't a sure-fit-and-sign player at first glance, but the idea of his potential and impact when in a new environment became clearer over time. So I think it remains to be seen where he stands as of now, here.
I'm inclined to believe only someone they see as truly unique can become an exception. Someone with the general toughness, leadership and the ability to be be the game-changing presence on the field. The player that will represent that the culture in Seattle is for the "football guy," which is an organizational attribute Schneider learned in Green Bay and hopes to emulate here. In the case of a non-quarterback does this individual need to be an alpha-leader? So for example, is Red one of a few Alpha's on defense if he re-signs?
Now onto the elephant in the room; Seattle has been rumored as a major player in the Mario Williams sweepstakes for a bit. Is a player like Mario Williams unique to them? How much bigger is the upgrade with him as the bookend/1B to Chris Clemons compared to someone else? Or is Williams the heir to the 30 year old - Clemons is performing at a high level and looks young, but his contract expires after 2012 and he'll be a little older. It sounds attractive as Williams could play a full contract at near-elite/elite levels - he is 27 and the "drop off age" is 32 - if he fully recovers from the pec injury, and it's worth noting that other than this major injury Williams has missed only three games in his career - the downside being those came in 2010.
Schneider told Brock and Salk last Thursday; "If you have enough depth and youth, you can do the Reggie White thing...The Packers had $24 million in the bank and gave White $17." We saw Seattle get deeper and younger in 2011...but does Schneider see this situation similarly? Does he mean depth and youth at that particular position, or in general? Not sure, but I feel confident saying if Clemons went down last season an already lacking pass rush would have been in major trouble. Given that there is at least one (and maybe two) suspect pec at a vital position that hopefully will be fully healed, it needs to be acknowledged that bringing in a second/third at an already lacking position is a potential risk.
Seattle does have to consider if the price and risk is worth it, over signing a cheaper player and then targeting that young game changer ala Aldon Smith for the 49ers last year - not to say Seattle can/will hit a home run like that. A player like Melvin Ingram, Courtney Upshaw, or Andre Branch that can potentially play multiple front-seven roles is along the line of thinking here. Then there is the versatile/explosive/unique interior lineman as well if that's the route they go, Fletcher Cox or Dontari Poe are examples of the possibilities. Williams could cost more than both of these "two" (the pick and free agent), and perhaps a few more players, put together. There are also certain levels of risk they can take in creating that alternative combination though, depending on how/who they draft; is Mario and a first/second round defensive lineman really out of the realm of possibility? Few expected offensive lineman with the first two picks last draft...not to mention they added Robert Gallery. They started the overhaul at cornerback too. They've shown the willingness to load at one position in the same year.
To take it one step further; If they want to retain Clemons, they are potentially very tied up with Williams, Bryant (assuming he comes back) and Mebane. Alan Branch is a free agent after 2012 as well, and I expect this offseason and year will give a better indication of his long term status here. What if Dexter Davis - a player Schneider said at the 2011 combine has a "god given ability" to rush the passer and Carroll praised in the post season presser - emerges? If you could somehow arrange the money so it's less of an issue then great. Maybe Clemons gets franchise tagged in 2013, and then what? Who knows...the point is things could get tricky. Schneider cited an example in Green Bay during the early 2000's where they got clogged with too many high salary players on the defensive line and it burned them in the end. His sentiment was you have to be cognizant of salaries and paying players according to their role - situational or every down - which is something to consider in the Red Bryant situation. Signing a high profile defensive lineman now puts Seattle in position to potentially get salary clogged along the defensive line. For a move like signing Williams to work, this would be something to contingency plan for.
Is the huge signing a risk they should take if it means acquiring a player they believe isn't truly unique; not in my opinion. But if they see Williams - or anyone else - as that player, it becomes a matter of how much does he help the team versus the inflation of the price with market value and the other options. For Schneider, "it's a matter of what comes to you and what is appropriate. What type of player is appropriate to acquire at the appropriate time...we proved that (we are willing to take risks) with Charlie." That move shows not being afraid of failing, too. Ron Wolf was big on not acting out of fear. Schneider spoke about not being a believer in mortgaging the farm for a player; if they get player A great, if it's player B they will adapt, if it's player C same philosophy as B and so on. He also talked about being involved in everything, but always having the option to "say no." I think that last part presents a nifty approach. If they can get the game changer - at a position of major need without the monetary aspect hindering the progress of the franchise, I think they make the push to acquire him. That is, if the difference between that player and the next best - cap casualty, draft, or other free agent - is big enough that the front office feels, with both short and long term interests in mind, they simply can't pass on that player.
Given that we know being strong in the trenches is very important to this franchise and the pass rush is a main priority this offseason, I think Mario to Seattle is possible and I don't think it would be the only move they make to upgrade the defensive front. I see this becoming an interior/exterior remodel. A healthy Mario Williams - (with a downside protected contract, it sounds so easy to say but isn't easily done) - as the centerpiece of the upgrade with some cool little "niche" additions thrown in on the interior line and the front seven in general; sign me up, but that doesn't mean it will happen especially depending on what happens with that other, always talked about position. I expect we'll see some changes here, with or without Williams.
A room-tilting, fleet-footed, fast-thinking signal caller
I'm beginning to believe the signal caller of the future will have a great presence, a strong mind and good feet. Don't interpret those to be the only qualities I am looking for, but they are a common theme for this organization.
Schneider has used the expression "tilt the field/room" a lot recently when describing what attribute he first and foremost wants his quarterback to have. How does the charisma, personality, habits and toughness - "charismatic authority" - of a quarterback rub off on his teammates, especially in crucial situations; when he walks in the meeting room is the presence obvious? He cited Tim Tebow as the example where you can pick apart the football mechanics all you want, but it was clear when Tebow was on the field he tilted it. Brock Huard asked if one can tilt the field too much and Schneider paused and concisely said "I don't think so."
Beyond "tilting the room," Schneider talked about the need for a player that is calm on 3rd down, adept against the blitz and can make things happen; a player that throws the ball in the right spots and can manage the game. But something else stands out to me when listening to the front office speak about quarterbacks; the importance of movement skills.
Schneider did an interview with Clayton last August after free agency started and Clayton asked what Schneider liked about Jackson. Schneider praised Jackson's "really good feet and quick release," smoothness, even keeled-nature and ability to relate to guys in the locker room. The latter attributes are along the lines of what we just covered and the point here isn't to debate if Jackson has them - Jackson knows the "competition" theme of the program and will work to keep his job as starter for better or worse, barring an unforeseen change. What stands out is that when Schneider speaks about the quarterback, I feel those physical attributes are often near/at the top of his list. When talking to Brock and Salk last week, they were. In that particular answer he added the ability to "square his shoulders, back out and move" and "stare down the gunbarrell" to the list.
Maybe the speaking of fleet-footedness is purely coincidental, but add the following Carroll-combine quote to the equation (and I don't feel like this sentiment is new from him):
"Ideally, we'd like to have a guy that can move around a little bit and complement the running game, that can do something for us to get out on the edge and threaten (it) enough to keep the running game that we are so committed to alive as best it can. On the general side, a real competitive guy that can affect the people around him and make them play better."
Both Carroll and Schneider want similar things and if you put it together; I get a picture of a smart, tough, savvy, skilled, movement capable, hard working winner that wants to lead as their ideal player. He's got to make things happen with his mind, arm and feet. Both have said this is a cool, unique quarterback class with a lot of players that can do different things. Schneider said quarterbacks that have trained in a lot of camps or systems "kind of scare" him. That would make some sense if they want someone to mold. It makes me wonder how they feel about routinized veterans nearing but not at the end of their career, or about an unproven, potential laden pro that has been groomed within a system. I'm curious to see how much "tilting" the room matters
over in relation to all of the other attributes and learn more about the other criteria this front office truly covets through their next acquisition/s.
Quarterback options and some concluding thoughts will be posted in a short part IV soon.