The Seattle Seahawks were surprisingly busy in the early stages of free agency. After making a big move for Dre’Mont Jones, the team agreed to terms with Jarran Reed. These additions were coupled with the release of Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson, which feels almost like a direct swap along the defensive line. Add Al Woods to this equation and it seems like the Seahawks have the front end of their defense locked down ahead of the 2023 season. But do these signings mean that the team won’t target an interior defensive players early in the draft? Possibly.
To be perfectly honest, I assumed that former Georgia Bulldogs standout Jalen Carter fell off Seattle’s draft board when the big news of his ongoing legal troubles became public in the last month. Reportedly, John Schneider and Pete Carroll have placed an increased emphasis on high-character guys in recent years, particularly following the Malik McDowell incidents that led to him never playing a snap for the team. But seeing as the top four picks are looking increasingly likely to be QB-centric, the possibility exists that the team may have a shot at Carter, who is widely believed to be the best interior defensive prospect in this year’s draft. His talent level is such that some are starting to suggest his off-field issues won’t matter to teams who are stricken by his obvious talent. Connor Orr of Sports Illustrated said the following:
The Georgia defensive tackle is probably going to be a top-five draft pick, and if he’s not, there are going to be plenty of coaches and GMs who wish they could make him one. Someone is going to stand up on a podium on draft night and talk about how they were “comfortable with the situation,” how they got to know Carter as a person and how, once they get him in the building, he’ll be a part of the team’s magical culture.
Prior to his legal situation becoming public knowledge, Dane Brugler of the Athletic had Carter ranked as his top overall prospect in the draft. The Athletic still has Carter listed as third overall on their consensus big board. This indicates that his perceived talent level may ultimately supersede any character issue concerns that teams may have, and of course we have seen this play out in the past with many players who entered April with a checkered personal history. But not every team is comfortable with this approach, and as noted above, the Seahawks may be among the franchises that will view Carter as too risky — especially as a top-5 pick. This, combined with their recent moves in free agency, indicates to me that this may indeed be how they feel as we approach April.
Looking at positional need, the team just signed two players who can capably play multiple spots along the defensive line. Both have pass rushing upside, and Reed has shown to be a plus run defender in previous seasons. Both he and Jones signed contracts that seem to indicate that the team views them as more than depth pieces. Of course, teams can make room for a prospect with as much talent as Carter, regardless of roster construction. However, in the scenario laid out at the beginning of this article, if the first four picks are dedicated to QBs, the team would also have a shot at drafting Will Anderson Jr., who is quickly gaining steam as the top overall prospect in 2023.
With Carter’s legal troubles, I believe that his draft stock will come down to whether or not franchises believe he will be facing a suspension, or worse. Even if teams feel confident that he will be fully exonerated, as Jalen reportedly claims he will be, there will still be clubs who have taken him off their draft board, or at least moved him down significantly. But then again, there will be teams that simply don’t buy in to this approach. Essentially, I think that the possibility of Carter falling out of the top-5 may be possible, but I find it unthinkable that he would make it outside of the top-10.
Getting back to the matter at hand, the moves to bring in Dre’Mont Jones and bring back Jarran Reed give me the sense that Pete and John are not going to target Jalen Carter in this year’s draft. They signed two guys who are very likely to be starters, or at least heavily involved rotational players. This alone isn’t enough to preclude drafting a talent like Carter, but when combined with his off-field issues, I think the writing is on the wall. Before all of this, I was inclined to believe that Will Anderson Jr. wouldn’t be their primary target, given that they saw both Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor deliver promising performances in 2022, and they also have talented second year player Boye Mafe who flashed at times in his rookie season. Much like Carter, though, teams can find a way to get talented players involved.
Ultimately, I see two potential outcomes to this Jalen Carter situation that pertain to the team’s draft plan, and neither of them end in him becoming a Seahawk. First, I could see them simply passing on Carter and taking the best player available with the fifth pick, whether this is Anderson or someone else. The other possibility is that this significantly increases their leverage in a trade down scenario, even if all of the top passers are off the board by the time they are on the clock. I could be entirely wrong, of course, but I will be shocked if we get to see Jalen Carter in a Seahawks uniform in 2023.