Now that Free Agency has, for the most part, come to a conclusion I thought it would be interesting to assess the teams that the Seattle Seahawks will be playing in the 2014 season. Let's jump into it with the teams that the Hawks will be playing outside the confines of Centurylink Field.
Carolina Panthers: The league year has not treated the Panthers very well to start. Panthers left tackle Jordan Gross and Guard/Center Geoff Hangartner have both retired. Safety Mike Mitchell, WR Steve Smith, CB Captain Munnerlyn, WR Brandon Lafell, WR Ted Ginn, and WR Domenik Hixon have moved on to other teams. Tackle Bruce Campbell and Guard Travelle Wharton are both unsigned. At this point, it's fair to say that the offensive capabilities of the Panthers has largely been decimated. Defensively, they've picked up Roman Harper at Safety. Beyond that, the main contributors of the Panthers highly ranked defense remain in place. If Cam Newton can maintain some level of consistency, the best that Panther fans can hope for on offense is that dropoff in production will be minimal. I'm not expecting too much personally. I wouldn't be surprised at all to see the Panthers fall to 9-7 or even 8-8.
San Diego Chargers: It's the team that you really haven't heard from very much at all in Free Agency. Apart from when they added Indianapolis' Donald Brown to their backfield to help Ryan Mathews and Kellen Clemens to back up Philip Rivers. Outside of that, additions have been minimal. You can maybe see Brandon Ghee starting at CB but I wouldn't have very high expectations for him there. Despite a surprising trip to the playoffs that also saw a victory, I can't imagine the Chargers getting back to the tournament, even in the weak AFC. Three of their eight wins came at the expense of the NFC East. Good luck getting 2 against the NFC West. Another trip to 8-8 seems likely to me.
Kansas City Chiefs: You know how the Panthers lost a good part of their offensive line? The Chiefs arguably have it worse. Starting Tackle Branden Albert has departed, as have Guard Jon Asamoah and Tackle Geoff Schwartz, both of whom started more than half of the Chiefs games in 2013. This isn't a case like where Seattle loses Giacomini and McQuistan. Backups and other "swing" starters are still in Seattle to pick up the slack. They better hope Jeff Linkenbach from the Colts is a capable replacement. Defensive starter Tyson Jackson departed for Atlanta, but like the Panthers, the defense remains largely intact.
Washington Redsk*ns: The Redskins have quietly had a fruitful Free Agency, landing defensive line starter Jason Hatcher from the Cowboys, as well as likely starters at Guard Shawn Lauvao and WR Andre Roberts. Roberts is likely at least WR #3. Safety Bradon Meriweather has been retained as well. However, guys like London Fletcher and Fred Davis are gone because of age and off the field issues. Any way you swing it, their fortunes hinge entirely on how RG3 does. Apparently, he won't be wearing a knee brace at all in 2014. It'll be interesting to see if he can stay healthy.
Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have signed Malcolm Jenkins from the Saints and Chris Maragos from our own squad here in Seattle, effectively replacing Patrick Chung and Kurt Coleman. I'm gonna say that is largely a wash. They have 3 WR that are UFAs in Joseph Anderson, Jason Avant, and Arrelious Benn, but none of those guys have done too much. The real question will be whether or not the Eagles trade away Desean Jackson. I don't see why Chip Kelly would get rid of one of his best offensive weapons. If Jackson stays, I think I am pretty ready to pencil the Eagles in as the NFC East Champion today.
Looking at these five games, I'd be willing to wager easy money that the Hawks would win 4 of them without too much trouble. Could I see RG3 playing a lights out game and leading the Redskins to an upset, or the Eagles successfully attacking the Hawks defense deep? Potentially, but not likely given the defenses of both teams. Should be very interesting to see how these five teams approach the draft.