After two days of talking by the players and Pete Carroll, we’ve learned a few tidbits about the Seahawks’ personnel and upcoming decisions as they sit out the playoffs for the first time in six years.
A lot of people think the defense is in complete disarray and has to be rebuilt almost from scratch. Don’t tell that to Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Frank Clark, Jarran Reed, Nazair Jones and Shaq Griffin. Those eight are all under contract for at least 2018 and figure to key a resurgent Seattle defense next season.
Carroll said he views it like 2011-12, when he was developing his Super Bowl core.
“There is a young nucleus and a new nucleus of guys that have come to us,” he said, referencing Bradley McDougald, Dion Jordan and Terence Garvin. “They’re part of that (2017 draft) class (which included Jones and Griffin) as well and the class from last year. These are good groups of guys now, so we’re very optimistic about the roster.”
There certainly will be changes, of course.
Carroll all but admitted Cliff Avril and Kam Chancellor are finished, due to serious neck/spine injuries. He told 710 ESPN, “Cliff and Kam are going to have a hard time playing football again.”
Avril declined to talk about his future, but the team seemingly confirmed he will retire by telling reporters he will speak at “the appropriate time.”
Michael Bennett and Thomas are not going to retire, but they have publicly expressed doubt about their futures with the club. Carroll notably omitted Bennett when mentioning key returning D-linemen, and Carroll didn’t satisfy a question about whether Thomas would return. He did, however, mention Thomas as one of the core defenders: “There’s a lot of positives when you build it around Bobby and K.J. and Earl and some of the guys that have been with us for some time.”
It seems unlikely, though certainly possible, that the Hawks would trade Thomas (they definitely won’t cut the Pro Bowl safety). They should keep Bennett, too, unless they think Dion Jordan can take his spot.
One of the D-linemen Carroll did mention is Sheldon Richardson. “If we could be fortunate enough to get Sheldon back,” the coach said, “that would be huge for us.” Young Sheldon said the Seahawks “said they wanted me back, so that’s a plus in my book” and he “definitely” expects to be back. But it would be a surprise if that happened unless Carroll and John Schneider decided to franchise him (which could also lead to a trade).
Carroll also blasted critics who said the Hawks mortgaged the future for Richardson and Duane Brown, who together cost the Seahawks two second-rounders and a third. “That’s just our mentality and our way, and I don’t think you should read into it any other way than that,” Carroll told 710 ESPN. “You can (say), ‘Oh, they’re taking a shot now.’ Well, we’re taking a shot this time, too. And we’re gonna build this team as well as we can, structured as competitively as we can and make it as fit and forward-thinking as possible. I hope you guys will learn that’s how we do it.”
As a reminder to critics, Brown is signed for at least another season and Richardson will return a likely 2019 third-round pick if he signs elsewhere. So the Hawks didn’t mortgage anything for them — the team will get its return, one way or another.
The Hawks got Richardson to replace chucklehead rookie Malik McDowell, who still has not progressed since his July injury (he also was arrested in December). Carroll said “nothing has changed. … We really don’t know, and at this point we just have to wait.” (Don’t hold your breath.)
Meanwhile, Carroll considers Jordan a potential makeup for the McDowell bust. “Dion Jordan had a marvelous turnaround and showed an impact that could be really instrumental,” the coach said. “Where we lost a guy from the draft … maybe we can be fortunate enough to make it up with what he can do.” Jordan said “it would be a pleasure” for him to be back. Jordan’s a restricted free agent, and it will be interesting to see whether the Hawks use the low (original-round) tender for the former first-rounder.
DeShawn Shead also has a unique contract situation. He said he expects to know soon whether the Seahawks will toll his $1.2 million contract. The Hawks also have Richard Sherman (expected to be ready by July), Shaq Griffin, Neiko Thorpe and DeAndre Elliott, and Justin Coleman seems very likely to be tendered at the second-round level ($2.9 million). Carroll also said the Hawks would love to have Byron Maxwell back (though only at a pretty cheap price, you’d think).
“I thought that Byron Maxwell did a great job to finish up,” Carroll said. “I think it was exactly what we would’ve hoped would happen, that we could get him back in our system and we turn him back into the style that we play in and that he might recover the same kind of playing style. And I think he did. I thought Maxy got back to playing ball the way we had seen him in the past. … When he really was finally at his greatest comfort level and his confidence and all of that, it was pretty obvious and pretty evident. We would love to have him back.”
Seattle lost 43 defensive starts to injury this season, and Bennett and Wagner played through injuries almost all year, yet the unit still finished 11th overall, sixth vs. the pass and 13th in scoring. There’s no reason to think they can’t improve that in 2018.
If Bennett returns and McDougald is re-signed, the defense would have 10 returning starters — plus key role players such as Jordan, Shead, Maxwell and Coleman.
If Bennett is let go and Thomas is traded, that new core of Jordan, McDougald and second-year safeties Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson would play major roles.
Then they would just need to fill that 3-technique tackle spot (with Richardson or someone else), add another young pass rusher in the draft and fill in their linebacker corps cheaply again. And, just like that, this crew would be poised to regain its dominant form.
“We’re going to dig in. We’re going to make our decisions of how we’re moving forward,” Carroll told 710 ESPN. “We had a fantastic class last year … and it is time to turn a little bit; we’re turning.”