With the East-West Shrine Game and the Senior Bowl behind us, it’s time to look ahead to the offseason. Over the next several months, the 2019 Seahawks will begin to take shape through retaining (or not retaining) players on expiring deals, free agency and then the draft.
Last offseason, Seattle did well to fill in holes along the offensive line and at SAM linebacker, while filling in other vacancies with players already on the roster. Now in their second offseason of a retooling period, here’s five positions that could need addressing prior to the 2019 season.
Two stars in a pleasantly surprising 2018 for the Seahawks were Jarran Reed and Frank Clark. Reed flashed dominance against the pass for the first time in his career, dating back to Alabama. Pressure from the interior is crucial and to have that box ticked is a huge boost for Seattle. Clark, long penciled in as the next premier edge rusher for the Seahawks, following Chris Clemons, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, took the next step in 2018.
Though Reed and Clark provided Seattle with a tremendous boost, there’s still a hole on the other side of the line. Clark needs a running mate; a Bennett to his Avril. Sadly, Dion Jordan wasn’t able to replicate his play from 2017 in 2018. There’s a host of red and blue chip EDGEs on expiring contracts, but the majority, like Clark, will likely be re-upped by their current teams.
Luckily, this year’s draft is loaded with defensive line talent. A player I wrote about prior to the Senior Bowl, Montez Sweat, seems like a perfect fit at this point in the process. In another year, he could’ve been a top-10 prospect; this season, an argument could be made he’s the 10th best defensive lineman. With free agency and the draft to come, the Seahawks should feel good about filling the hole opposite Clark on the outside.
After battling injuries for most of 2018, K.J. Wright hit his stride in Week 16 and carried that form through the loss in Dallas on Wild Card weekend. However, whether they re-sign Wright or not, it’s time to start searching for his replacement at WILL linebacker. It may be Shaquem Griffin, and though surely we’re all rooting for him, the reality remains: Griffin is a fifth round pick who struggled in limited opportunities on defense. To count on him to step into a starting role would simply be poor management. Whether it’s through free agency or the draft, Seattle must add another option at linebacker.
Pass-catching running back
In the lead up to the 2018 NFL Draft, it appeared as though the Seahawks would go away from their mold at RB for the first time, as they extensively scouted smaller satellite backs. Ultimately, they rolled with Mike Davis in that role, continuing a trend of using bigger-bodied backs in that spot, like Robert Turbin before him.
Though C.J. Prosise remains under contract through 2019, the search should continue for a pass-catching tailback. Davis will likely look for an expanded role elsewhere, and J.D. McKissic (who is out of contract) and Prosise’s combined four touches in 2018 seem to indicate there isn’t a plan for either player.
When Paul Richardson left for Washington, Seattle lost their vertical threat and contested catch receiver. Tyler Lockett filled the vertical role (and then some!) in an outstanding breakout season, while David Moore, at times, looked like he was on the way to becoming a legitimate above-the-rim threat.
Moore faded almost completely down the stretch, and so that search continues. Moore has the athleticism and has flashed ability; he shouldn’t be given up on. Even still, it would be wise to throw another dart at the need, whether it’s through a low-key free agent addition à la Jaron Brown, or a day three selection in the draft. The Seahawks can avoid depending solely on Moore, as well as investing heavily in another player at the position.
Outside-in defensive linemen
Not to be overshadowed by the fantastic seasons Clark and Reed enjoyed, Quinton Jefferson became a legitimate rotational player in 2018. Seattle began deploying him as a 5-tech capable of reducing inside in the preseason, and it paid dividends over the course of the season. Even with Jefferson’s step towards useful NFL player, the Seahawks could use one more player in that vein. Though it’s a spot that should be addressed this offseason, there’s also two possible in-house solutions.
The first would be adding two more EDGEs this offseason, allowing Clark to reduce inside in pass-rush packages, flanked by two pure edge rushers. He’s done it previously and has all the tools to become the type of threat rushing from inside that Bennett was. The second would be depending on Rasheem Green to fill that role. It’s where he projected coming out of USC, but he was a non-factor as a rookie. Green is young (21) and has great tools; he should get there within the next season or two, but depending upon him takes an element of risk, after not seeing much of anything from him in 2018.
There are several large contract extensions looming, but with just under $55M in cap space, Seattle is in great position to bolster their roster this offseason. Replenishing depth, while finding a couple bargain-priced gems, would go a long way towards the Seahawks not only returning to the playoffs in 2019, but advancing.