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Seahawks among least-changed teams from last season

NFL: Seattle Seahawks-Minicamp Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

How much should the Seattle Seahawks really look to change, roster-wise? The Seahawks have made the playoffs in six of Pete Carroll’s seven seasons, including four division championships and six trips to at least the divisional round of the postseason. That being said, 2016 was Seattle’s worst season since 2011, as the pass defense crumbled without Earl Thomas and the offense suffered because of a lack of protection for Russell Wilson, injuries to the running backs, and nowhere for them to run.

However, it’s clear that Carroll does — and should — believe in the talent he had on the roster prior to this offseason. That’s why the Seahawks were ranked 26th by OverTheCap in roster turnover, with 14.6% of their snaps lost and 10.3% of them being “quality snaps,” and OTC noting:

Seattle rarely lets anyone of note leave their team and what we see here are simply bits and pieces being sold off for pennies, with the average APY under $950K. If we didn’t take special teams into account or gave it less impact on the score, which might be fair, you could make a strong argument that this is the most or second most intact team of 2017. Basically they sacrificed low level depth and hope they can replace it in the draft. This is a team to keep an eye on in 2018 as more of the veteran contracts begin to come due. Do they risk becoming pretty old for the next four or five years or turnover the roster? Young guys have a great opportunity to make a statement this year, in my opinion.

As Jason Fitzgerald notes, the Seahawks let some players walk, but almost no one of importance. Their biggest loss could be kicker Steven Hauschka, a player who they only parted with because of his significant struggles that could effectively spell the end of his career potentially.

Other players that Seattle lost include tackle Bradley Sowell (bad), tackle Garry Gilliam (bad), tight end Brandon Williams (number four tight end, special teamer), running backs Christine Michael/Troymaine Pope (replaceable), linebacker Mike Morgan (increasingly diminishing SAM snaps, reserve player, special teamer), and safety Steven Terrell (very bad).

Notable players that they brought in to replace those guys include tackle/guard Luke Joeckel, guard Oday Aboushi, running back Eddie Lacy, linebackers Michael Wilhoite, Arthur Brown, and Terence Garvin, defensive tackles Malik McDowell and Naz Jones, offensive lineman Ethan Pocic, cornerback Shaq Griffin, safeties Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson. Which of these players doesn’t feel like:

A) An upgrade

B) A cheaper, younger, higher-drafted version of his predecessor?

By September, the Seahawks starting lineup could be nearly identical to what it was in September of 2016. There will be at least one new starter on the o-line (Joeckel) but he may turn out to be the only new starter. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing ... Aboushi and Pocic may also earn starting spots, but there’s a chance that George Fant remains at left tackle and that Mark Glowinski keeps one of the starting guard spots.

Receiver Jermaine Kearse is likely fighting for his life in the starting lineup, but if Coleman Crawford is to be believed, Kearse could be on the verge of a rebound. If not, then the change to Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, or Amara Darboh eating into his snaps is not a bad proposition.

The team of course also remained diligent in holding onto their own, giving one-year deals to retain tight end Luke Willson and cornerback DeShawn Shead.

If you consider the slot cornerback spot to be a starting position — and in this base defense it should be — then there’s a good chance Jeremy Lane will continue to be a starter with a potential move to the outside, and the new starter could be Griffin, Bradley McDougald, Neiko Thorpe, or a dark horse like Pierre Desir, DeAndre Elliott, or Mike Tyson. And that would be the only new starter on defense.

It’s possible that McDowell ends up with more snaps than Ahtyba Rubin, but probable that he doesn’t. Maybe Cassius Marsh or someone else ends up with more snaps at SAM linebacker than anyone had last season and deserves “starter” recognition, but also not as possible as it is probable.

Special teams is where there could be a few changes, like replacing Hauschka, Williams, and Morgan, but Blair Walsh may be no worse than Steve and players like Garvin were noted for their special teams coverage abilities. Carroll never seems to have an issue getting guys on the roster who crave those special teams snaps and excel at it.

So the Seahawks will likely look very much the same when teams kickoff in Week 1, though their changes to the starting gigs appear to be slight upgrades and their depth is much more encouraging than it was a year ago. Does that mean that they’re back to their late 2012-Super Bowl 2014 days? I wouldn’t go there yet, but I think continuity for a good team is better than continuity for a bad team, or sweeping changes before they are necessary.

With so many players on one-year deals, and veterans like Jimmy Graham and Kam Chancellor facing contract expirations of their own, this could be the make-or-break season for how Seattle approaches their future.