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Seahawks 2021 pre-draft checkup: Go ‘Hawks!

The series finale!

NFL Draft Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images

We’re only a couple days away from the start of the NFL Draft - time to wrap things up.

Welcome to the series finale!

This installment is going to be pretty straight forward. I will recap the first eight installments and then wrap things up with some “final thoughts” - some of which were influenced by comments made on the earlier installments.


Series recap

Part One: The front office is ‘killing it’ this year!

Despite the last 3 words in the first installment being “color me skeptical”, the title says it all.

Seattle was in a tight spot, cap-wise, when the offseason started and had roughly 1/3rd of their 90-man roster entering free agency.

What the front office has done up to this point, including the responsible use of “void years”, has been nothing short of a Master Class in Salary Cap Management and Roster Construction.

Worth Noting: I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t find something to be “concerned” about, but when the biggest “issues” I point out in an installment are that we’ve only signed 5 outside free agents (now 6 with the addition of Pierre Desir) and that our roster is extremely similar to last year (when we went 12-4 and won our division) . . . I’m clearly sweating the details.


Part Two: The offensive line

As of today, the highlight of my Field Gulls writing career has been finding an appropriate time and situation to use the word “craptastic.”

And I am only being a little sarcastic when I say that.

While I don’t personally think that returning 80% of last season’s starters and only adding one new offensive lineman (via a trade) is what Russ had in mind when he, um, “spoke out” after the Super Bowl . . . our starting five (Duane Brown, Gabe Jackson, Ethan Pocic, Damien Lewis, and Brandon Shell) is pretty solid and has the potential to be a Top-10, maybe even Top-5, unit.

The depth behind the starters is underwhelming though.

There are definitely some things that Seattle needs to do (ex. figure out the “succession plan” at Left Tackle), but . . .

I am on the edge of being “cautiously optimistic” about our O-line (as is, depth included), and about what our new OC can do with them - and cautious optimism is something I haven’t felt in regard to Seattle’s O-line for the better part of a decade.

Go Hawks!


Part Three: Seattle’s defensive backs

Our safeties and our nickelbacks are solid, but I am worried about our outside corners. Like, worried worried.

And, yeah, it’s probably at least a little bit irrational.

Especially when you look at the 2020 PFF rankings for our presumed starters (D.J. Reed and Ahkello Witherspoon).

Maybe it’s just that I don’t like the idea of “handing” the starting roles to two former 49ers, but I’m not “sold” on either one being a Seahawks starter yet.

Unfortunately, even with the signing of Desir, which happened after Part Three went live, there doesn’t currently appear to be anyone behind Reed and Witherspoon that has a legitimate shot at passing them on the depth chart.

Adding a corner (or three) in the draft is an absolute MUST.


Part Four: Aspiring Super Bowl contender seeks starting linebacker

I’ve been trying really hard not to add any “new” information in the recap portion of this article. I can’t resist doing so with the linebackers though.

Per PFF, Bobby Wagner was ranked #5 (out of 183 linebackers) in 2020. K.J. Wright was #13. Cody Barton was #90. Jordyn Brooks was #123.

Where did our favorite Husky finish?

Ben Burr-Kirven was #2.

Talk about a piece of information that I could have had A LOT of fun with!

At least until someone pointed out that BBK only took 11 snaps at linebacker in 2020 (compared to the 1,141 snaps that Bwagz took).

Still . . .

Seattle had 2 of the top 5 and 3 of the top 13 linebackers in the league last year !!!!

According to PFF.

Now, about that recap . . .

Let’s start with another piece of “new” information.

Per the excellent piece that JPG posted over the weekend, we (meaning I) now know that Seattle usually has 10 or more linebackers on the roster when training camp starts.

Right now, we have four.

Only one of the four has more than 2 years of experience.

And then there’s the snap counts (which is more new information) . . .

  • Bobby Wagner: 9,549 in 9 seasons
  • Jordyn Brooks: 402 (1 season)
  • Cody Barton: 368 (2 seasons)
  • BBK: 15 (2 seasons)

For even more perspective, Bobby’s career low was 877 snaps in 2014. Brooks, Barton, and BBK have combined for 785 in their careers.

Unless the Seahawks are moving away from their standard 4-3 defense this year, we need more linebackers. And unless the coaches (and front office) are truly “comfortable” with the idea of having Cody Barton in the starting lineup Week 1, we need at least one starter-caliber linebacker.

A month and a half into free agency, K.J. Wright (with his 9,171 career snaps of experience) IS still available.


Part Five: Can we clone DK and NoE?

DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett are clearly WR1 & WR2 (or 1A and 1B) - in whichever order one chooses to rank them.

Together they are arguably the best wide receiver duo in the league.

“Arguably” being the key word.

With a not-so-subtle reminder that I said “wide receiver duo” and thus tight ends and running backs are excluded from that statement.

No offense to TE Travis Kelce (#2 in the league in receiving yards in 2020) or RB Alvin Kamara (the Saints’ #1 receiver last season), but Part Five was (supposed to be) focused on “actual” WRs.

Unfortunately, there is a colossal gap between our top 2 wideouts and our current options for WR3.

And . . .

The free agent market is seriously depleted of quality options.

A trade might be an option.

But the NFL Draft is likely where Seattle will address the position - and even without a first round pick (and only 1 pick in the first 2 days), there are some intriguing prospects for us to consider. (I vote for Jaelon Darden.)

Seattle could “get by” with the receivers that are currently on the roster, but . . .

Hopefully we add at least one more.


Part Six: Yay! to retaining Chris Carson

There was a huge sigh of relief across the Puget Sound region when it was announced that the Seahawks had retained Chris Carson.

He’s a stud - one of the most underrated backs in the league. And he’s OURS! For at least 2 more years - and with a comically low ($2.7M) salary cap hit this year.

And I, for one, am exceedingly grateful because while I think that the other backs on our roster have potential, I think it would be foolish to count on any of them being a difference-maker for Seattle in 2021.

Especially when our current/presumed RB2 (Rashaad Penny) and current/presumed RB3 (Alex Collins) had a combined 29 carries last season (11 for Penny; 18 for Collins) and a total of 111 yards (34 and 77, respectively).

While spending our first draft pick on a running back might not be an option (which dashes my dream of seeing Najee Harris in our backfield), there are some quality prospects that should be available on Day Three, including Oklahoma’s Rhamondre Stevenson and Virginia Tech’s Khalil Herbert.

Free agency might also (still) be an option.


Part Seven: The defensive line

Last offseason, the D-line was the biggest question mark heading into the draft. This year, not so much.

Even if Aldon Smith never dons a Seahawks uniform, the current ensemble of talented defensive tackles and defensive ends is solid with at least 10 players who should have a legitimate opportunity to factor into the rotation.

And that’s if Seattle doesn’t add to the group - which they still might do.

What is perhaps most impressive about the group is that, including Aldon Smith, the 13 D-linemen that are currently on the roster account for only $20,517,923 against the salary cap.

Even factoring in the $5M in dead money from Jarran Reed’s release, the D-line’s combined cap hit is lower than the cap hit for the five starters on the offensive line. And almost $7M less than the combined cap hit for the entire O-line.

Kudos to John Schneider and his lieutenants. Now let’s see what Pete Carroll and Ken Norton Jr. can do with this crew.


Part Eight: QBs, TEs, and Special Teams

Our Special Teams specialists - Jason Myers, Michael Dickson, and Tyler Ott - are, in a word, SPECIAL. Zero concerns about any of them.

_________

In theory, maybe there should be some concern about the Tight End group - given the fact that we “lost” 4 and only brought in one.

But the 4 we lost were “marginal” contributors (yes, even Greg Olsen).

The one we brought in (Gerald Everett) has experience with our new OC - which will undoubtedly prove to be invaluable.

And our presumed TE2 (Will Dissly) finally made it through an entire season healthy - which has always been the biggest “issue” with him.

Add in the untapped potential of Colby Parkinson (TE3) who was only targeted twice last year and was only active for 6 games due to a foot injury, and you have a core group that should be respectable.

Depth is (probably) needed with only 2020 UDFA Tyler Mabry behind those 3 on the roster. Fortunately, there is still plenty of time before the season starts and the draft has a handful of options for us to consider.

My pick would be Tommy Tremble.

_________

Our franchise QB stirred up some emotions this offseason. But performance-wise, he is both elite and irreplaceable and, barring a mindboggling turn of events, it looks like he’ll be back under center in Seattle again this season. Yay us!

Last week we re-signed his backup, Geno Smith - which is huge news as there is no longer any concern (slash downright FEAR) about either Alex McGough or Danny Etling needing to take meaningful snaps for the Seahawks in 2021.

_________

Final Thoughts

Over the past however-many seasons, the almost constant refrain has been that Seattle “ignores” the trenches, that the Seahawks “short shrift’ed” the offensive line, that they don’t put enough emphasis on the defensive line, etc.

I don’t think we’re going to be complaining about the lines this year.

At least not like we have in the past.


In Part Seven, I included a section that looked at when each of our current defensive linemen was selected in the draft - not the year, but the round. It was “interesting, but meaningless”.

In hindsight, I wish I had done that for the offensive linemen in Part Two. Fortunately, this is my series and I can do that now.

Round 1: Cedric Ogbuehi (#21), Duane Brown (#26)

Round 2: Ethan Pocic (#58)

Round 3: Damien Lewis (#69), Gabe Jackson (#81)

Round 4: Phil Haynes (#124)

Round 5: Brandon Shell (#158), Jamarco Jones (#168)

Round 6: N/A

Round 7: N/A

Undrafted: Brad Lundblade, Jordan Simmons, Tommy Champion

Eleven offensive linemen:

Two R1s, one R2, two R3s, one R4, two R5s, and 3 UDFAs.

Note: For comparison, on defense, the breakdown for thirteen defensive linemen is: two R1s, two R2s, one R3, one R4, one R5, and six UDFAs.


A lot of you have a lot more faith in Shane Waldron “single-handedly improving” (our offensive line, our offense in general, our ability to advance in the playoffs, our “competency” on offense, etc.) than I do.

I want to believe. I just don’t . . . not yet. It will probably take seeing the “product” on the field for me to (maybe) come around.

That said, I do agree with the idea that hiring Shane Waldron as our new OC was “the biggest improvement” we’ve made on offense so far this offseason.

But that’s sort of a backhanded compliment because I’m not actually sure we’ve done much to “improve” on offense . . . yet.

I feel better about our O-line, but “less good” about our running backs. I think our tight end group is basically on par with what we had last season. But we lost a quality WR3 and haven’t (yet) replaced him.

Kind of feels like we’re treading water to me.

At least so far.


MJDarby15 mentioned that “Stephon Gilmore is available via trade and probably won’t cost a lot”; then went on to say that Gilmore “could push the defense over the top and back into elite territory.”

From a cap-perspective, this is definitely doable.

Gilmore’s current cap hit in 2021 is north of $16M, but more than half of that is dead money. The cost to us, if we were to acquire him, would be about $7.9M ($7M base + $411,765 roster bonus + $500,000 game-based bonuses).

As of 4/26 (per OTC), Seattle’s current cap space is $7,624,958 which is a hair lower than what would be needed to “squeeze him in” - but it’s close enough that the Hawks could make that move if they were so inclined.

The 2 questions I have are:

One. What would it cost us? Both in terms of compensation to the Patriots (i.e draft picks), and in terms of what else it would prevent us from doing (i.e. would it mean that re-signing K.J. Wright is off the table?)

Two. How much does he have left in the tank? This applies both to this season and to future seasons because if you’re going to trade for him this year (rather than waiting for him to enter free agency next year) then you should be planning to sign him to an extension.

Note: Obviously, we don’t have to sign him to an extension and JS/PC have made plenty of trades where they didn’t. I am not a fan of that approach though and wouldn’t personally pull the trigger on a trade for Gilmore unless I thought he would be here past 2021.

Trading for Gilmore (or someone like him) would make me feel a whole lot better about our outside corners. But . . . at what cost?


There is A LOT of support among the 12s for both BBK and Cedric Lattimore with multiple comments about each of them in the respective threads.

It was heartwarming to see / read.

Not sure I agree.

And think the coaching staff might have a different opinion (especially on BBK).

But I loved the comments :)


Someone suggested that Seattle might want to package their 3 picks in this year’s draft to move up to get a player they covet who might be “sliding”.

In theory, I see the appeal.

Unfortunately, our 3 picks (#56, #129 + #250), packaged together, are roughly the equivalent of pick #52.

Note: Per the Jimmy Johnson Trade Value Chart, our current picks are worth 384 points. Pick #52 is worth 380 points; pick #51 is worth 390.

When in doubt, round down.


It’s probably worth noting that, per JPG’s 4/24 article, Seattle currently has 25 open roster spots - i.e. there are 65 players under contract with a total of 90 roster spots available.

Obviously, this leaves plenty of “openings” for the Seahawks to add players - many of whom will presumably be low-cost UDFAs.

But it’s also worth noting that the final roster only has 53 available spots.

It will be interesting to see how the next few months play out.

Go ‘Hawks!