By the time they reached Super Bowl XLIX, their defense was a shadow of itself — six key defenders on injured reserve or out of the game by the end and the Legion of Boom fighting through major injuries. Those issues played no small part in their 28-24 loss to the Patriots.
The Seahawks put 17 players on IR — fourth most in the NFL. John Schneider did a great job making moves to keep the Hawks in the hunt, but the injuries on both lines, in the secondary and at tight end affected Seattle throughout the season.
So, as Seattle coaches and personnel people arrive in Indianapolis for the Combine this week, their major goal clearly is to find players who could improve the team’s depth across the board, with an eye to replacing future free agents as well.
A year ago, the Hawks went to the Combine with needs (current and future) on both lines, at receiver, at linebacker and at cornerback. Well, due to injuries and pending free agents, not much has changed. And you can add running back and tight end to that list. In other words, pretty much every spot but QB needs some help.
Here’s a look at key needs, listed by priority, and possible draft prospects:
Why it’s the No. 1 need: Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse need help. Neither could get open vs. Green Bay or New England. Kearse is not an NFL starter, and Baldwin is a borderline No. 2. Paul Richardson had taken a big step forward in the final month, but his development will be delayed by a torn ACL. Kevin Norwood likely will step up in his second year, but the talent level has to be improved immediately.
Prospects: Name a guy — Sammie Coates, Devin Funchess, Dorial Beckham-Green, Phillip Dorsett, et al. — and he has been mocked to the Hawks. The guess here is they will go for the best combination of size and speed, likely in the second round. That could mean someone such as Breshad Perriman, Rashad Greene or Devin Smith.
Why it’s the No. 2 need: Carpenter is a free agent, the Hawks have very little depth there and Russell Okung and J.R. Sweezy will be free agents in 2016 (barring extensions). The Hawks need to reset their line for 2016 and beyond, which ideally would mean two linemen in this draft.
Prospects: At the bottom of the first round, they could see tackles T.J. Clemmings, Cameron Erving, Jake Fisher or D.J. Humphries. If they don’t draft one in the first two rounds, they probably will wait until the sixth or seventh — as usual — to grab a couple of projects.
Why it’s the No. 3 need: Byron Maxwell is expected to leave in free agency. Jeremy Lane has a badly broken wrist and a knee injury that could keep him out for the start of the season. Tharold Simon was horrible in the playoffs. Simon still might improve the way Maxwell did (remember, he didn’t do anything for his first two years either). Lane and Marcus Burley will be free agents in 2016, so the Hawks need to restock their depth as well.
Prospects: The Seahawks coach the secondary better than any position (and any team), which is why they always take cornerbacks on Day 3 and develop them (e.g., Richard Sherman, Maxwell, Lane, Simon). It’s possible they go for one in the first two rounds for once — someone such as Jalen Collins, P.J. Williams, Kevin Johnson or Quinten Rollins. But it is much more likely they grab one or two in the middle rounds — e.g., Ladarius Gunter, Charles Gaines, et al.
Why it’s the No. 4 need: You can never have enough defensive linemen. That was proven when the Hawks ended up playing the fourth quarter of the Super Bowl without five of their top eight guys. Kevin Williams is a free agent who might retire, the Hawks probably won’t tender restricted free agent Greg Scruggs, and pickups Demarcus Dobbs and Landon Cohen are free, too. So the Hawks have six experienced linemen. In 2016, Brandon Mebane and Tony McDaniel will be free agents as well. The Hawks might end up going the veteran route here as well.
Prospects: This looks like a good draft for defensive linemen, and the Hawks should easily find one or two they like. Jordan Phillips and Eddie Goldman have been mocked to the Hawks at No. 31. They also could double up on Michael Bennetts. The Hawks could add a LEO, too — Eli Harold, Hau’oli Kikaha and Lorenzo Mauldin all seem good options in the second and third rounds.
Why it’s the No. 5 need: Malcolm Smith and Mike Morgan are free agents this year and Bruce Irvin is a free agent in 2016 (so is Bobby Wagner, but the Seahawks won’t let him go anywhere). Kevin Pierre-Louis likely will step into Irvin’s starting role next year, but the Hawks need to build some depth at this position.
Prospects: Mid-round options include Jordan Hicks, Taiwan Jones and Jake Ryan.
Why it’s the No. 6 need: Marshawn Lynch is not long for the Seahawks — whether it’s now or two years from now. Robert Turbin will be a free agent in 2016, and Christine Michael’s potential is still unknown because he rarely sees the field.
Prospects: If Todd Gurley falls to them because of his ACL injury, the Hawks might grab him up. Melvin Gordon has the kind of speed the Hawks love, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take him at 31 either. If they wait until the middle rounds, they could go for someone like David Cobb or Mike Davis.
Why it’s the No. 7 need: The Seahawks could easily go with the tight ends they have — Zach Miller, Luke Willson and Cooper Helfet, with Tony Moeaki and Anthony McCoy as backup options. But none of them has been very dependable. Some think the Hawks will try to sign a free agent (Julius Thomas, Jordan Cameron or Jermaine Gresham), but they could go cheaper via the draft.
Prospects: It’s apparently a middling class of tight ends, with the best options being mid-rounders such as Ben Koyack or Jeff Heuerman.