From now until the start of the regular season, there won't be many more additions to the Seahawks roster and even the ones that are added probably won't be significant. By now, we should have a good idea of what Seattle is going to be working with. However, there is going to be a lot of shake-up and competition for the players that are already here. We can't nail down every starter yet and it's the backups that might be even more interesting than that, but based on everything we know about Pete Carroll and the NFL, we can probably make some declarations:
The Quarterback Competition Is A Real Three-Way
During the pre-draft period, my opinion of Russell Wilson was "Hmm.. interesting project." And then after the Seahawks took him in the third round, my initial reaction was still "Huh, we're the ones taking on that project. Good long-term prospect." Then as more time passed it seemed less like Wilson was a project and more like he was just a really good QB that's just short.
If Matt Flynn performs well, then there's no reason to rush Wilson. If Flynn performs okay and Wilson performs amazingly, then there's no reason to hold him back. If they both struggle in a new offense and the veteran Tarvaris Jackson improves on his faults, then Jackson could surprise everyone. I doubt Jackson but I haven't entirely given up on him because I don't underestimate the fact that he's now spent the most time in Darrell Bevell's offense and rather than Seattle bringing in a Brett Favre to completely unseat him, Jackson is in an actual competition.
Jackson's advantage is experience and he'd be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league.
Wilson's advantage is youth and excitement. He's one of the most "exciting" quarterbacks that the team has ever had. Ever. There's little that is as intriguing in the NFL as a young quarterback because they are all starting from zero and possibilities are endless. Look at what kind of hope and wonderment about Josh Portis, an undrafted free agent who has never been active for an NFL game and came from California (PA), is constantly brought up on this blog. Wilson is a college superstar from a college powerhouse and Seattle put a lot of draft stock in him.
In the history of the franchise, there have been 15 quarterbacks taken and believe it or not, Wilson is the third highest draft choice Seattle has ever used on a QB. The others, Rick Mirer and Dan McGwire, didn't work out so well. But their career's are known and Wilson's is not, so Wilson is still very exciting. And the more that time passes, the clearer it is that he's squarely in the middle of the competition. Per Evan Silva on Twitter, he'd be the first third-round rookie QB to start week one since 1973.
Flynn's advantage is a mix of both experience and untapped potential. He's the middle ground between the two. Flynn has only started two NFL games but he's been in the NFL for four years. Don't underestimate studying film for four years. Don't underestimate the experience of being in an NFL locker room for four years. Don't underestimate playing behind one of the league's best quarterbacks for four years. Don't underestimate being the backup on a Super Bowl-winning team.
Jackson has experience but has probably reached the pinnacle of his potential, and it's that he's a league-average QB. Something that's difficult to win with consistently. Flynn has four years of NFL experience, and though he doesn't have much game experience, he's got a lot more potential left than Jackson does.
If I had to guess the odds right now as to who wins the competition...
I would say it's basically even: Flynn 34%, Jackson 33%, Wilson 33%.
Tarvaris will be given every opportunity to keep his job, but his limit will be whatever he makes of it. Can he improve decision-making and make use of having a stronger arm than Flynn?
Wilson will be given every opportunity to win the job as a rookie, but his odds are long not just because he's short but because he is a rookie and he wasn't drafted in the first round so there isn't a whole lot of pressure to start him, and Seattle has other capable options if Wilson needs more time to learn.
Flynn has the slightest of advantages because he's the new guy, he seems very capable, and he looks like a perfect bridge from the year of Tarvaris to the reign of Wilson.
I just know that it will be a very interesting summer watching these guys comPETE.
There Is Only One Doug Baldwin
I love you, but if I keep hearing that some UDFA is going to be a stud this season then the dynamic of this relationship is about to change.
There's nothing wrong with liking Lavasier Tuinei or Phil Bates or any other UDFA that the Seahawks signed, but there seems to be a belief that just because Doug Baldwin did it, that it's going to happen again. It's possible but not probable and it's hardly probable. Baldwin was like Liam Neeson last season, because he had a very special set of skills and those skills fit perfectly with the slot receiver option that the Seahawks had an opening for. Well, the spot isn't open anymore and there's a reason that the perfect slot receiver isn't taken with a high draft pick. That's nothing against Baldwin, but it's rare that the slot is "the guy."
A better example of what an undrafted free agent can really hope for is Ricardo Lockette. Get on the practice squad and wait for your chance. If you're still on the team in some capacity when the season starts, that's a win. If you're still on the team a year later, that's a major win. It's difficult, it's rare, and these guys are fighting an uphill battle.
When I wrote about short quarterbacks, I wasn't saying that they are predictive of the career of Russell Wilson. I was only showing how rare it will be if he does succeed. As I always say, I write about the past and rarely try to predict the future. If Tunei were to somehow win a spot on the 53, it will be a major accomplishment. If he made even a single start this season, it would either mean disaster (injury) or that he stunned everyone with his advanced skills in the same way that Baldwin did last year.
Let these guys get a few months in and fight it out and we'll see if maybe some of these unknowns can beat out one of the draft picks or a veteran. That would be really interesting and it would be interesting mainly because of how rare it is.
By the by, a short memory would tell you that Pete and John just murdered UDFA last season so therefore they will do it again. Here's a list from FieldGulls of the UDFAs in 2010, which was also Pete and John. Unless I'm mistaken, I think officially all of those guys are gone. I believe that Josh Pinkard lasted the longest.
The Offensive Line Battles Shall Be Watched Closely
Max Unger should be the center. Russell Okung, if we successfully install adamantium into his body, will be the left tackle. At this point, I assume that we don't see James Carpenter this season. John Moffitt is expected to be ready.
But the problems of course aren't just the spots that are open but the depth behind them since, you know, none of these guys have shown that they can stay healthy. Sure, Tom Cable is well-known because of his time as head coach of the Raiders, but he's also well-known because he somehow can turn a patch-work offensive line into an actually-working offensive line. Breno Giacomini holding his own on the right side of the line has been a blessing. If the Hawks can get everything they can out of Deuce Lutui, it would be amazing.
Could Frank Omiyale be better than Paul McQuistan as a backup option? Can J.R. Sweezy make a successful transition to a side of the ball that he's never played on? Is there anything left in the Alex Barron tank? What do they have in Rishaw Johnson, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Allen Barbre and others?
It's not necessarily about who wins a job as a starter so much as it is knowing that you have more than five guys that actually can be effective starters. The last time that I really remember the line being healthy was 2005, and I could be wrong about this, but it seems like "the offensive line is hurting" has been a theme every season since.
We live in a world with walls and those walls are built by the offensive line, so you better have a good one.
There are of course other Declarations of the Seahawks Offseason but for today I will stop at three and we'll save some for later. Definitely a lot to think about as we build towards the 2012 season.