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Seattle Seahawks Draft and Free Agency: Exploring 'Not Panicking' and 'Normalcy'

Otto Greule Jr

When Pete Carroll and John Schneider came together, it was made clear that Carroll would call the final shot on a big decision. I believe it was Scott Enyeart who said "Schneider sets the buffet" and "Carroll chooses what goes on the table." Despite the somewhat unorthodox structure of GM not having full power, their philosophies have been in line from the start. I'd like to think they’re creating an innovative, hard working, gritty, honest atmosphere. It’s no secret Pete Carroll has the exuberance of an elementary schooler at recess, the daily tempo he aims to set is a great thing. I think Schneider wants to win just as badly and therefore likes the challenge of keeping up.

JS has been around enough success to know what it takes to achieve it. He's been in the game since he became a fully legal adult, as he "basically stalked" Ron Wolf and was offered an internship with the Packers in 1992. Since then, he's been a part of circles with people that value diligence, hard work, winning and football. The evidence is two Super Bowl championships in Green Bay. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t like the potential he brings to the front office. I don't mention or even imply it often, maybe you have thought this based on my general optimism; I'm a John Schneider fan. My second blog post ever from 2010 and this from last February will help show I've been optimistic from the start.

The perks of diligence

I see the diligent, no-stone-unturned approach in player evaluation and his seeming craftiness making trades as examples of how Schneider keeps up with Carroll. We've seen them acquire players like Chris Clemons, Leon Washington, Marshawn Lynch with mid to late round picks via trade in 2010 to help elevate the talent level at key positions. Also, Mike Williams came out of nowhere and they drafted two Pro Bowl safeties – with their 2nd first rounder and a fifth round pick - and what they hope to be the franchise left tackle with their other first rounder.

In 2011 they found a misfit, 6’4 corner that Carroll liked coming out of high school years ago in Brandon Browner; two defenders that looked like solid pros or even Pro Bowlers at times as rookies on day three of the draft with K.J. Wright and Richard Sherman. Oh, and an undrafted receiver who wants to be the best receiver ever - yup, ever – in Doug Baldwin. And depending on what happens with the rookie right side of the offensive line, currently rehabbing injuries, the top of the 2011 draft could end up looking good. What about Byron Maxwell, Chris Maragos, Ricardo Lockette, Jarriel King, Jeron Johnson or even Josh Portis? Even if only one really pans out as a contributor in the future…the point is I haven’t even talked about the "big time" signings this organization has made in free agency and 10-12 of the guys above (including 2010) were semi-consistent or better contributors in 2011. They were acquired in a number of ways, and at least a few of them have exceeded expectations.

During the post season presser Carroll alluded that Schneider was more surprised by the progress of the roster through this season than he was. Year one brought the beginning of the churn, year two continued the process in addition to bridging the gap with veterans at key spots. Independent of what the time table was for the rebuild, if there was one in the first place; if these next two seasons are the opportunity to finish the foundation and enter the ready to compete for championships phase, why would they panic if they believe they can do it their way?

Normalcy negates panic?

It's totally possible the 'don't panic' tenet applies to the quarterback spot only (as that's where the talk has been mostly focused), but why would they make an exception by not panicking at quarterback and panicking as they fill major holes elsewhere? Personally, I think it would make more sense to treat the rest of the team as they do the "leader," with the not panic mindset.

Last week I brought up the notion that panicking is not an organizational tenet for the Seahawks. I don't have a working definition of "don't panic" nor can I definitively say this organization hasn't panicked at any point thus far, but based off of what I've learned about Ron Wolf, I don't think Schneider has 'panic' and 'how to build a championship footbal' team together within the greater Seahawks-vision Venn Diagram. We heard Schneider say panicking at quarterback can set the organization back, and I personally think he's alluding to more than just choosing the wrong leader. Making the wrong choice at quarterback could affect the rest of the salary structure, which moves can be made when, and perhaps closes a door or two down the line.

I perceive this organization as being fair, but firm; perhaps willing to dig deep into their pockets if it means acquiring a potential franchise changer - maybe that was the goal with Sidney Rice, but so far...(this was a signing with the long term in mind is their rationale).

I think it's worth noting here that apparently Schneider was a big Reggie White fan, the player Wolf considers the free agent game changer in rebuilding the Packers.

How Seattle re-signs their guys - hopefully cap friendly deals if re-signing guys like Lynch, Bryant, etc - may very well affect the plan going forward. So for example - a) spend a lot of money on a lot of parts in free agency, then make a big move in the draft for a key few pieces or b) spend a lot of money on one or two parts in free agency, and move down to increase the number of Seattle picks (I think it is 6 - losing two because of the Polumbus and Lynch trades in 2010, gaining a 7th rounder because of the Aaron Curry trade) to a more comfortable number like usual nine picks we've seen Seattle make in each of their first two years.

Maybe they spend a lot and stand pat with six picks. Maybe they don't spend much at all and still try to stock pile picks. It's possible none of the above come to fruition, just brainstorming.

With the "normalcy" of this offseason, now this organization can operate in a manner where they don't feel constrained by circumstances such as a brand new staff at the very beginning or a shortened offseason with the lockout. They have been together longer and thus the player evaluation process should have greater continuity. My perception is they don't want to be going into next year thinking they still have a ways to go. What if "not panic" is code for 'hey, we're going to be aggressive, but there isn't just one way to be aggressive.' Things have been chaotic in the past few years, now they are more normal. Perhaps normalcy negates panic.

A new way of life on draft day?

I started putting this post together a couple of days ago, and thus found this Albert Breer article from Tuesday intriguing. His premise is that the reduced rookie pay scale will increase top of the draft trading, and perhaps draft trading in general.

"There's gonna be a lot more of that," said one NFC general manager. "We've had that discussion, about some of the owners and the people they've put in place hoping to turn things around right away. People are gonna take their shot to last as first-time coaches and GMs. I think some of those first-timers, the younger guys, are gonna be throwing some of the old philosophical standby beliefs aside. And there will definitely be more movement, because of how close the salaries are."

As the risk grew with trading up due to increasing salaries for rookies, the amount of trades lessened.

From 2005-2010, there were just five deals involving top-10 picks and one involving a top-five pick. Now, it's different. "And there was the opportunity cost of what you could do with the money otherwise there," said one top NFC team executive. "If you're Miami (now), moving up from ninth to second, it's just a couple million dollars difference. That's not going to change the franchise's future. It removes one of the pieces of risk, but what it also does is make it so it won't just be the quarterbacks you're moving up for."

"Take Eric Berry -- the Chiefs drafted him and made him the highest paid safety in the league instantly. At some positions, that's what you had to do to take a player that high. This brings the whole pick back." And that brings you back to the fraying of the old rules. Now, it won't be as big a deal to take the linebacker or safety so high if you don't like the pass rusher available. Or fill a need with such a pick. Or properly balance free agents against rookies."

"Say you're the Jets, and say they'd love to (sign free agent Ray) Rice," the NFC team exec continued. "They could trade from 16 to, say, 8 and it might cost them a 2. Now, you get Trent Richardson at $3-4 million a year for his first four years, rather than paying $10 million for Rice, who's already got four years of carries on his body. Is that worth the 2? That's where the economics in free agency start to carry over."

Breer's ending sentiment; phones could be ringing more than previously inside and even beyond the top five or 10 because of the new scale. The impression I got from the article is that if there is an explosive player out there that a team wants, they'll come calling. Relating that back to the Seahawks and their potential multiple offseason strategies; does not panicking yield the potential for flexibility because of this new thinking?

The rebuild doesn't have to be finished now, so do they embrace figuring a few more ways to juggle the perhaps tricky cap as they get away from "skirting the edge of depth?" Nothing totally new here, just an added perspective.

The combination of the new way, diligence and history yields...?

So, if not panicking somewhat equates to keeping an open mind and continuing the churn, not building to a set date but instead to when their roster building requirements are fulfilled, I think that's good. I do think it's worth wondering: is Seattle part of that new school, "young" front office crop that looks for the big splash, or are they in fact a product of old school methodology? One could say it's a risk-reward strategy to try and exploit the movement of other teams on draft weekend, but if this front office walks away from the Combine - not to say the Combine is the be-all-end-all of their opinion, but the combine will provide answers to some of their questions - further thinking they can really work this draft and not sacrifice talent, athleticism, etc, do they set their sights on trying to exploit?

A recent example I find intriguing is the Redskins draft from last year. They went into it with the 10th overall pick and eight picks total. They traded down six spots in round one to pick up another second rounder and then tried to trade one of those two picks to acquire more late round picks. Ultimately, they picked up four extra picks and took 12 guys.

They were aggressive, presumably not trading down to get players they thought were of lesser talent than the talent available when they traded each pick, instead simply increasing the 'value' of the players they did take. If you're trading down and still getting players you think are equally talented/explosive, that's how you win the trade. We heard Seattle talk a game about trying to trade down out of the first round last year, but apparently never received the right deal - ultimately they traded out of the second. Hopefully Seattle wouldn't use a similar strategy as laid out above unless it meant not sacrificing talent for more picks.

Well, it's weird how things work some times. I wrote what you read above and as I prepared this for posting, this Clare Farnsworth piece appeared on the web. It breaks down what the Combine means to Schneider and co. It details the information gathering process that the team takes. But also, this quote by Schneider caught my attention:

"I personally believe that if you believe in your process, which we do, than it just makes more sense to have more picks," he said. "If we have more picks then we're drafting Jeron Johnson, and we're drafting Doug Baldwin, and we're drafting Josh Portis. Luckily those guys came to us as free agents. But I believe in our system, I believe in our process, so it doesn't necessarily matter where you're picking the players. People can pick apart how you acquire a player, or where you acquire a player, but I think after time that kind of goes away."'

It's not about where they are picked, its about who is picked. But also, Seattle may not get as lucky every year as they did with undrafted guys this year, though I'm sure they'll always try. The thinking seems to be centered around hoarding more picks for more shots at quality guys. And now the potential to trade players on draft day comes back into play as well.

To cite Davis' Green Bay Model: Ted Thompson averaged 9.7 picks per draft.

When Thompson was a member of the Seattle front office (VP of operations) running the draft boards from 2000-2004, Seattle picked 9 (2 1st rounders), 12 (2 1st rounders), 10, 9, 7 for an average of 9.4 a year. Seattle went to the Super Bowl after the 7 year.

The numbers from Wolf and the Packers from 1993-2001 (starting with 1993 when the draft became seven rounds): 9, 9, 10, 8, 8, 7 (exit Holmgren, enter Ray Rhodes), 12 (exit Rhodes, enter Mike Sherman) 13. The 2001 draft, when GM duties were being transferred to Sherman but Wolf stayed on, yielded 6 picks. Wolf led drafts (not including '01) produced an average of 9.5 picks. Less picks near the Super Bowls (7 or 8 picks), more during times of massive transition at the end of the regime (12, 13 picks).

There was a sentiment heading into 2011 that is was a bridge year; a bit premature to say, but 2012 has a bit more expectation as being the start to the finish of the churn and one step closer to the true creation of the "family" mentality. You could say this organization is still undergoing a massive period of transition. Seattle sticking with 6 picks, simply based on the history and lineage, seems against the norm. Now that circumstances are more normal and hopefully with greater continuity, do they feel capable of moving around to the extent of getting 2, 3, however many more picks without sacrificing potential? The Combine - its player analysis and evaluation - is an important step to solving that puzzle.