“A bit of mismanagement. Drafting not as great as it was in the first couple years. Guys getting paid.” — Richard Sherman, on the mistakes that led to his release.
Once upon a time, John Schneider was as proactive as NFL general managers come. He was relentless in his pursuit of Marshawn Lynch in 2010. He bolstered an already stout defense with both Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in 2013, when he also made the audacious trade for Percy Harvin. He retained Seattle’s top players with big deals from 2013 to 2015. He made another daring strike with the Max Unger/Jimmy Graham trade in 2015.
Not all of those bold moves worked out, but he was aggressive and unconventional — trying to keep Seattle ahead of the curve. Added to his historic 2010-12 drafts, those early moves for Lynch, Avril and Bennett helped put Seattle in two Super Bowls.
But, little has gone right for Schneider since 2013. His past five drafts have been underwhelming or worse, his big trades have not worked out and he has found himself playing from behind and trying to dig out of holes caused by injuries, coaching mistakes and his own errors.
All of the trust Schneider bought with his first three star-studded years as Seattle GM is gone now. The confidence had been steadily eroding with every bad move over the last five years, and whatever was left disappeared this week when he made the ill-advised decisions to trade Bennett and cut Richard Sherman.
Schneider simply has not been shrewd enough. Most of his gambles have failed, he has become too reactionary — and he might simply be too nice to build Seattle into a winner again.
Schneider’s moves last week weren’t a sign that he has gotten any better at this GM game.
He dumped Seattle’s best pass rusher, basically wasting the $8 million signing bonus he gave Bennett in December 2016. That’s an extra $5 million in dead money thanks to that extension. On top of that, Schneider was in such a hurry to move Bennett, he reportedly missed out on picking up a third-round pick in this draft.
Then Schneider cut Sherman, who quickly signed with NFC West rival San Francisco — a double gut punch to Seahawks fans. Sherman’s deal reportedly is worth $7 million guaranteed, $10 million if he is healthy all season and $13 million if he gets the right Pro Bowl/All-Pro votes. Sherman reportedly gave Schneider a chance to match, and the Seattle GM declined.
Schneider tried to trade Sherman over the past two offseasons but never got an offer he liked.
He made a mistake this year of asking Sherman to take a pay cut rather than quietly shopping the injured corner and taking a mid-round pick for him. When he stupidly asked Sherman to take a cut, word got out and suddenly all NFL teams knew he was going to be released. That ended any chance of Schneider getting anything for him. (UPDATE: Sherman wrote on March 20 that Schneider did not ask him to take a pay cut, but simply told him he was going to cut him.)
In hindsight, Schneider should have taken the deal Miami reportedly offered last year: Sherman for Jarvis Landry. The Hawks could have let Landry go in free agency this year and probably netted a third-round comp pick in 2019. Instead of trading Sherman or letting him play out and getting a 2020 comp pick, Schneider let him go for nothing.
To top that off, Schneider is going to cut DeShawn Shead as a favor — possibly losing another potential comp pick. How nice could Schneider be? First, he paid Shead over $1 million just to rehab last year — and now he is going to let him become a free agent even though Shead technically owes Seattle another year.
These are the kinds of poor decisions that have helped put Seattle in this three-year reverse spin.
Here’s a summary of Schneider’s (mostly poor) performance over the last five years:
Very ill-advised trade for Percy Harvin, who predictably bombed out. It cost picks in the first, third and seventh rounds (Schneider could get only a sixth when he sent Harvin to the Jets the next year). This deal also was a big part of the reason the Seahawks let Golden Tate go in 2014.
Horrible draft: Only 1 of 11 might still be on the team (if Luke Willson is re-signed again) and not a single full-time starter was drafted.
Only good moves were Avril and Bennett (how the GM was able to get both for cheap is still a mystery).
Another bad draft; Justin Britt is the only one of nine who made it to a second contract — and that was just because Seattle was desperate for some continuity with a decent lineman.
This was a big extension year. Schneider kept Sherman, Earl Thomas, Doug Baldwin and Steven Hauschka. Good moves to keep pre-Super Bowl acquisitions.
The stunning trade for Graham did not work out. This is one where the coaches helped screw Schneider, who surely thought they would use Graham to better effect. Some people never liked this trade, but Max Unger could not stay healthy in Tom Cable’s system and it was worth the try. As disappointing as it was overall, Graham still turned into the best receiving tight end the Seahawks ever had.
Frank Clark and Tyler Lockett were the only keepers from an eight-man draft class.
Cary Williams was a horrible signing, cut during the season (but Ahtyba Rubin was good).
Schneider made the popular move to extend Lynch, a move that did not pay off, and also locked up Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner (who will be up for new deals again next year).
Schneider also failed to find a veteran center, and the coaches went with ill-prepared Drew Nowak for half the season — putting the team in a hole (and Wilson on the ground a lot).
Kam Chancellor held out, and Schneider tried to work with him. But Paul Allen ended talks and Chancellor returned after the damage was done and played it safe on the field the rest of the year. Schneider should have traded him in 2015 or 2016, when he could have gotten something for him.
Schneider made a lot of bad choices in this offseason. He overpaid Jeremy Lane and added horrendous offensive line “help” in free agency (Bradley Sowell, J’Marcus Webb).
He drafted three running backs, and none of them amounted to anything (though Alex Collins went on to play very well for Baltimore).
Jarran Reed is the only one of 10 picks who has done anything so far. C.J. Prosise and Rees Odhiambo were poor picks in the third round, and the other third, Nick Vannett, has not had many chances in his first two years (but will get them now).
Schneider also inexplicably cut Clint Gresham and the team had issues at long snapper all season — until Tyler Ott was added for the playoffs.
In late December, Schneider extended Bennett — a poor decision since the GM ended up trading him last week. Schneider paid Bennett an $8 million signing bonus, so Seattle is eating over $5 million in dead cap space.
Schneider’s only good moves in 2016 were moving up to draft Reed and re-signing Rubin, Baldwin and Jon Ryan. That draft class has one more chance to redeem Schneider.
Schneider openly shopped Sherman but didn’t hear a deal he liked. Then Sherman got injured during the season, ruining any chance at trading him this offseason.
Schneider missed out on T.J. Lang and ended up vastly overpaying Luke Joeckel (and Eddie Lacy).
The GM re-signed injured Shead for $1.2 million, but Shead barely got into a couple of games at the end of the season. And now Schneider is letting him become a free agent. Talk about charity.
Schneider extended Chancellor with $12 million in injury guarantees, which kicked in when he suffered a serious neck injury. Not a wise call on a guy with an extensive injury history.
A big gamble on Malik McDowell in the draft cost Seattle two second-round picks (the one they used on him and the one they sent to the Jets for Sheldon Richardson to replace McDowell). Schneider should recoup a third next year for losing Richardson in free agency, but Schneider dug a big hole with this snafu and still needs an interior pass rusher.
Schneider also traded for Duane Brown — finally filling the left tackle spot with a capable player, but spending a 2018 third-rounder and 2019 second to do it. Schneider could have filled that spot through the draft with one pick in 2013.
Shaquill Griffin and Nazair Jones were the only notable contributors as rookies. Schneider has called out the others to step up, and they will need to if he is going to rebound from several bad drafts and other moves and get the Hawks back where they were in 2013-14.