The win at Atlanta was a big deal in terms of NFL Playoffs Seeding and potential home field advantage. What a weekend! Apart from being 9-1 and having firm control of the NFC West, and the inside track to the #1 Seed, there were a handful of other items I wanted to mention that had me greatly encouraged as it pertains to the long term picture. As you probably know, I am always thinking long-term.
* The Seahawks' receiver corps looked anything but mediocre to me once the offensive line was able to give Russell Wilson some time to throw. Maybe this receiver group is actually mediocre, (I don't actually believe that) but the bigger point is that once you give Russell Wilson protection, he will drop dimes to Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse, on both 3rd down and for explosive plays. And sometimes, explosive plays on 3rd down.
Once you add Percy Harvin to that mix, it may be hard for a rookie receiver (2014 Draft pick) to get a ton of burn. Here's why:
I am convinced that Seattle will re-sign Golden Tate. Seattle likes Tate, and Tate likes Seattle. Doug Baldwin is a restricted Free Agent, and there is almost zero track record of an RFA leaving (even though Bill Belichick tried his best this past offseason). Harvin and Jermaine Kearse are under club control for a while.
What I once thought was a 2nd round need at WR is probably actually something that Seattle may be able to grab in the 4th round - or perhaps they can truly be more "best player available" as they descend down their 2014 Draft. I am not against rafting some stud in Round 1or Round 2, but what I am saying is that the Seahawks can let the Draft come to them a bit in this regard.
* Related to the above item of protection, the Seahawks' offensive line stepped up big time against Atlanta. Michael Bowie, to my eye, can be your starting Right Tackle in 2014. I watch him closely every game on Game Rewind, and I do have some things to nitpick in terms of some of his targeting and finishing of plays, but it isn't because he doesn't have the athleticism to hold up and play RT. Plus, I think he is improving.
I do think Seattle needs to add to the OL group early in this draft, but they may not have to grab the first Right Tackle they get their hands on, perhaps they can go with a Guard - or the "best player available" in terms of an Offensive Lineman. Perhaps you replace J.R. Sweezy, or add competition for James Carpenter, or perhaps you bolster your depth with talent at swing Tackle or swing Guard-Center.
I was also encouraged with Alvin Bailey, and it looks like he can play inside and outside. Even the fact that Seattle went into the game with Caylin Hauptmann as the backup Center, shows a bit of trust there, and some hints of value. I was greatly encouraged.
On the longer term, it would be ideal to have at least two of your Offensive Lineman on "New CBA" rookie contracts (and perhaps three) as Russell Wilson heads into his next contract with a bushel of high priced wide receivers in terms of managing your cap over the next few years. I say keep hitting offensive line in the Draft, and even though Seattle has had some success in the 7th round - you don't have to wait until then!
* The Seahawks held up against the run without Red Bryant.
For cap purposes, I have previously mentioned that Seattle needs to move on from Sidney Rice in 2014. They will also need to move on from one of either Cliff Avril or Chris Clemons (as both count over $9M towards that cap). I also believe they need to move on from one of either Brandon Browner or Walter Thurmond. Lastly, they need to move on from one of either Red Bryant or Brandon Mebane.
The key to making your best offer to Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, when you isolate the salary cap on the defensive side of the ball, is that you must draft some quality Defensive Lineman - whether they be "pass rushers" or "run stuffers". The net savings on Brandon Mebane or Red Bryant is a tad bit over $5M each, once you deduct dead money in 2014.
As both of these "good" players get older, cap will be moved to pay the younger "great" players (Earl and Sherman). Look for Seattle to draft either a Nose Tackle or a 5-Tech somewhere fairly early in the 2014 Draft. This is not a talent indictment, strictly a cap casualty type of situation in my eyes.
* I think the priority re-signings this offseason are Golden Tate and Michael Bennett. If Seattle trims off the players I mentioned, they will be able to afford these two. Third priority would be to re-sign Walter Thurmond; it will be interesting to see what WT3 commands in the open market and what Seattle's appetite will be.
* In terms of a Tight End, I think Seattle should seek to draft one in 2014, but he might not be "The Guy," if that makes sense.
In 2012, Seattle's favorite personnel groupings were '3 wide' (11), "2 tight end" (12, 22) and "2 back" (21, 22) looks. With Percy Harvin, I believe we will see more "3 wide" and "2 back" looks and fewer "2 tight end" formations/personnel groupings.
Luke Willson is contributing in the pass game and the run game, but isn't getting a ton of targets. Zach Miller did not have a catch versus Atlanta (not because he isn't good, but perhaps Atlanta keyed on him since he went off the last time we played Atlanta.)
I don't see Seattle getting rid of Zach Miller in 2014, so unless a stud drops - I wonder how high they will draft a TE. Again, I am not against Seattle taking a stud TE, even in Round 1, but I would not be surprised if they waited a bit.
I will do some 3rd down work with Danny later in the week - until then...
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