With playoff hopes slim for the Seahawks, and a Super Bowl hardly a consideration even if they do make the postseason, many people already are looking ahead to 2018.
Some overreactive fools are suggesting the Seahawks blow up the entire team, fire Pete Carroll, trade Russell Wilson and get rid of every defender over 30. That’s complete silliness, obviously.
Carroll and Wilson have presided over the greatest era of Seahawks football — a six-year run that has included 64 wins, five playoff appearances, two Super Bowls and one NFL title. Yeah, it has been a relative disappointment ever since Carroll’s botched XLIX decision — the potential dynasty fizzled out with that huge gaffe.
But these guys have plenty left.
Clearly, Carroll and John Schneider have some major decisions to make in the offseason. Their biggest priorities will be (1) to figure out how to gear up a rushing attack that never got out of neutral and (2) to reload a defense that was worn down through attrition despite Schneider’s best efforts to beef up the depth.
The Hawks finally have the makings of a good offensive line (against anyone but the Rams, of course) and they just need to find some running backs who can stay healthy and sync them up with their front five.
You can wish all you want for Carroll to replace Tom Cable and/or Darrell Bevell, but it would be a stunner if he reversed course on that. So we have to hope they have created a foundation for a solid line that could allow Wilson to repeat his success from the second half of 2015, buoyed by a rejuvenated running attack.
On defense, Seattle should return at least 10 key players. They probably will need to replace Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor — and perhaps Sheldon Richardson. But they will have Earl Thomas, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones, Shaq Griffin and DeShawn Shead — with Richard Sherman coming back from his Achilles injury.
Some folks are saying the Seahawks are headed for “salary cap hell” next offseason, but that’s incorrect. If Avril and Chancellor retire and Jeremy Lane is cut, they will have at least $33 million. Cutting Jon Ryan and Neiko Thorpe could bump it to $37 million (i.e., $27 million for 14 players after rookie pool and practice squad/injury reserves). If all but Lane return, it would be (hopefully) good news for the defense, and the team would have about $14 million to add 10 players (so about $8 million above minimum salaries).
We recently ran down the top contract-year Seahawks (although we’re flipping on one of those: It’s hard to see Schneider wanting to pay much to keep Jimmy-&-Hyde Graham).
Let’s take an updated look at each position:
Under contract: Russell Wilson
UFA: Austin Davis
Current position cap count: $23.8 million
The situation: In the restructure to accommodate Duane Brown, Wilson added $2 million to his cap hit, which now sits at a team-high $23.8 million. Seattle won’t spend much for a backup — Davis counted $695,000 this year. Trevone Boykin figures to sign a futures deal off the practice squad.
Under contract: Chris Carson, C.J. Prosise, Tre Madden
UFA: Eddie Lacy
RFA: Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls
ERFA: J.D. McKissic
Current position cap count: $2 million
Possible savings: $1.1 million
The situation: The priority has to be on finding and keeping healthy backs. They can fill the RB spot with Davis for cheap and draft an RB to battle him and Carson, who will be the favorite for the starting gig. Scratch Lacy. Rawls would be cheap, but he can’t stay healthy. The team won’t have any more patience with Prosise’s bumps and bruises; he won’t make the roster if he can’t stay healthy (starting in April). McKissic proved he can play that role.
Under contract: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Amara Darboh, David Moore, Tanner McEvoy
UFA: Paul Richardson
Current position cap count: $14.8 million
Possible savings: $630,000
The situation: Some are lobbying for P-Rich to be re-signed, but that probably would take $6 million. Not sure Schneider would want to pay that for a guy who just played his first healthy season in four years. The Hawks basically have to choose between P-Rich and extending Lockett. We’d go Lockett, who returns kicks and should be better a year removed from a broken leg. Darboh would become the No. 3 WR, with a rookie or cheap vet filling the fourth spot. McEvoy had a terrible season (INT, fumble, penalties, drops) and is not likely to be back. Baldwin has an $11.9 million cap hit (fourth on the team right now) and is signed through 2020.
Under contract: Nick Vannett
UFA: Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson
Current position cap count: $816,000
The situation: It has been Jimmy & Hyde with Graham, who started the season very poorly, then went on a nice eight-game run during which he scored nine TDs, and now has faded away again. A couple of weeks ago, we thought he might be worth re-signing. But, the Hawks just are not consistent enough in how they use him, and his effort this year has been just as wishy-washy. So, they are probably better off using that money elsewhere. Willson, meanwhile, will be a cheap re-sign again. The Hawks almost drafted a tight end last April — they should do it this time.
Under contract: Duane Brown, Justin Britt, Ethan Pocic, Germain Ifedi, George Fant, Rees Odhiambo, Jordan Roos
UFA: Luke Joeckel, Oday Aboushi, Matt Tobin
ERFA: Joey Hunt
Current position cap count: $21.2 million
The situation: The Hawks have what they need to put together a pretty good line now: Brown at left tackle, Britt at center, Pocic at one guard spot. Highly penalized hothead Ifedi could be pushed by Fant at right tackle in 2018. Joeckel could return on an incentivized deal, but he’s certainly not worth $8 million again. The Hawks could try to find a cheaper veteran guard who won’t miss five games. Brown, 32, is likely to get a short extension at maybe $12 million a year. He’s worth it (and it could lower his 2018 cap hit). We’re always in favor of drafting a lineman in the first two days, so hopefully Schneider will keep it up.
Under contract: Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones, Malik McDowell
UFA: Sheldon Richardson, Marcus Smith
RFA: Dion Jordan
ERFA: Quinton Jefferson, Branden Jackson
Current position cap count: $20 million
Possible savings: $7.5 million
The situation: The futures of Avril and McDowell are in serious question. Avril will get to make his own call, and McDowell’s status will depend on whether he can get on the field. If he can’t, the Hawks should go after his signing bonus and get the related cap credit. Richardson is the team’s biggest UFA, but he seems likely to be too expensive (and reportedly prefers to re-sign with the Jets). If neither Richardson nor McDowell is an option, Schneider would need to find an interior pass rusher elsewhere. Bennett probably will be in his last year (though some think the Hawks might dump him in 2018). Clark probably will be offered an extension. The chucklehead McDowell aside, Schneider has done well at this position in the draft the past three years (Clark, Reed, Jones) — he needs to continue that.
Under contract: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, D.J. Alexander
UFA: Michael Wilhoite, Terence Garvin
RFA: Dewey McDonald
ERFA: Josh Forrest
Current position cap count: $22.5 million
The situation: Wagner is signed through 2019, Wright should be extended past 2018 and the Hawks will fill in the blanks as they did this year — with cheap vets and perhaps a rookie.
Under contract: Richard Sherman, Shaq Griffin, DeShawn Shead, Neiko Thorpe, Jeremy Lane, DeAndre Elliott
UFA: Byron Maxwell
RFA: Justin Coleman
ERFA: Mike Tyson
Current position cap count: $25 million
Possible savings: $6.6 million
The situation: Sherman has no trade value while injured and Schneider won’t cut an injured star, so Sherman figures to play out his contract next year. Griffin will be paired with Sherman (if healthy) or Shead, with Coleman probably back as the nickel. Thorpe and Elliott are reserve options, although Thorpe could be cut to save $1.85 million. Lane will be cut, adding $4.75 million. Maxwell might be a cheap re-sign, if other NFL teams show no interest in the two-time washout. If Shead comes back healthy, as expected, the team probably will look to extend him to take Sherman’s place in 2019.
Under contract: Kam Chancellor, Earl Thomas, Delano Hill, Tedric Thompson
UFA: Bradley McDougald
Current position cap count: $21.7 million
Possible savings: $2.3 million
The situation: Chancellor’s future is up in the air — he seems likely to join Avril in retirement. That leaves a big hole next to Thomas, who seems sure to be extended beyond 2018. McDougald would be the top option at strong safety, if he doesn’t get a better offer elsewhere. Hill also could be pushed to step into a starting role in his second year, just as Chancellor was in 2011.
Under contract: Jon Ryan
UFA: Blair Walsh
ERFA: Tyler Ott
Current position cap count: $3.2 million
Possible savings: $2 million
The situation: Walsh got off to a great start (12 of 13), but he had three costly misses vs. Washington, he came up short on a tying 52-yarder at the end vs. Atlanta and he has hit a career-low 74.1 percent. The Seahawks will move on from him. Ryan is signed through 2019, but the team could save $2 million by cutting him. Based on performance, there is no reason to — he ranks 17th at 45.1 yards per punt this season, above his career average.