Just one year after Pete Carroll and John Schneider dismantled their legendary defense and surprised many by making the playoffs with young players replacing the departed stars, Carroll thinks his team is good enough as constituted to take the next step.
At the owners meetings in Phoenix, Carroll told John Clayton: “It’s going to be very difficult to make this team this year for the incoming guys. That’s because the depth is growing.”
He mentioned the offensive line, tight end, running back and cornerback as positions where the depth looks good. He also likes his safeties and is looking forward to having his best linebacking crew (assuming Mychal Kendricks avoids prison).
But we all know the Hawks can get better — they didn’t get home field or reach the Super Bowl last season, after all. And we already know which positions the Seahawks are going to prioritize in the draft: defensive line and receiver.
Seattle almost always uses the first two days of the draft to fill roster needs — trades for Percy Harvin (2013) and Jimmy Graham (2015) and the second-round pick of Christine Michael (2013) notable exceptions. As Schneider said in 2017: “We scout for our team and not for the league. So it’s just based on what our needs look like.”
The needs this time are pretty clear, based on free agents Seattle has brought in and Carroll’s own comments. Defensive line tops the list.
Even though Carroll lauded 2018 rookies Jacob Martin and Poona Ford and said he wants to see what Shaquem Griffin can do as a pass rusher and “get Rasheem Green to really come alive,” the coach confirmed the team is still looking for defensive “problem makers” and a veteran run stopper.
“There’s some guys in the draft that we’re interested in,” Carroll said. “There’s some guys in free agency that we’ll look at here in the upcoming weeks.”
The Seahawks are known to have shown interest in three pass rushers so far: first-round prospect Rashan Gary (Michigan), possible second-rounder L.J. Collier (TCU) and Day 3 prospect Jalen Jelks (Oregon).
Gary is a versatile rusher considered a top-10 prospect by some. Obviously, the Seahawks are preparing in case he slips to the bottom of the first round or top of the second. Some think Collier might even sneak into the first round. The Seahawks also are thought to be high on Texas pass rusher Charles Omenihu, who is projected to go on Day 2.
Wide receiver certainly seems a big need as well, with Doug Baldwin expected to miss offseason workouts as he recovers from surgeries and contemplates his future. Carroll thinks receiver is “a good position group now,” with David Moore, Jaron Brown and possibly Amara Darboh competing for time opposite Tyler Lockett. But the Hawks have to consider drafting a pass catcher.
They have met with Ohio State speedster Parris Campbell, a second-round prospect who runs a 4.31. And there are maybe 10-12 other wideouts who could go on Day 2.
The Seahawks also could look to their 2020 needs and pick an offensive lineman or tight end. Rob Staton has 14-16 linemen slotted for Day 2, and the Hawks could look for a guard or center (Oklahoma’s Dru Samia, Boston College’s Chris Lindstrom, N.C. State’s Garrett Bradbury, et al.).
The Seahawks like their three tight ends, but they might be happy getting cheaper than Ed Dickson or finding a replacement for Nick Vannett. This class is pretty deep, with potentially nine guys going in Rounds 2-4. Seattle so far has scheduled a visit with Jace Sternberger of Texas A&M.
As much as Carroll said he likes his defensive backs, the Seahawks also seem to be considering using a Day 2 pick on another. They have shown interest in Kentucky corner Lonnie Johnson Jr., plus safeties Chauncey Gardner-Johnson (Florida), Nasir Adderley (Delaware), Juan Thornhill (Virginia) and Darnell Savage (Maryland).
Houston CB Isaiah Johnson (6-2, 208, 33-inch arms) could be a target as well, likely in the second or third round. Kris Richard, former Seattle DC now in Dallas, apparently likes him a lot, which means Carroll and Ken Norton probably do, too.
“We don’t necessarily have to (trade) down all the time, but it’s kind of fun.” — Schneider at the Combine.
Schneider’s ideal scenario surely involves moving down into the second round and adding a third so he ends up with three Day 2 picks — similar to what he did in 2017, when he moved down three times and added four extra picks before making his first selection.
Ahead of the Combine, we posited some trade scenarios that could materialize. The deal with the Patriots, who obviously might be looking for a tight end, has become popular in mocks. USA Today has the Hawks taking Adderley at 32 overall after a deal with New England.
Of course, we know Schneider will move down more than once, and CBS Sports took that extra step in its latest mock: Trades with New England and Jacksonville landed Seattle at 38 (netting 64 and 108).
The Seahawks often forecast their second-round picks via their visits and workouts. At this point, that points to Campbell, Gardner-Johnson, Thornhill, Collier, Sternberger and possibly WSU tackle Andre Dillard (the Seahawks talked with him at the Senior Bowl).
Also in the CBS mock, the trade down with the Patriots nets Seattle the last pick in the second round, and CBS slots Thornhill to the Hawks.
Schneider has picked for need at the top of all but two of his nine drafts in Seattle, so expect him to do the same this time.
In 2010, the Hawks needed a left tackle and safety and drafted Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the first round. In 2011, they needed offensive line help (and a quarterback) and added guards James Carpenter and John Moffitt with their first two picks. In 2012, they still needed a QB, plus a D-lineman and linebacker, and they used their first three picks on those spots: Bruce Irvin, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson.
The only times Schneider has not drafted to fill roster holes has been in 2013 and 2015. In 2013, he added Cliff Avril, Michael Bennett and Tony McDaniel in free agency and used his top draft picks on luxury players Percy Harvin (via trade) and Christine Michael. In 2015, he traded his top pick for Jimmy Graham and used his second-rounder on talent over need: Frank Clark.
In 2014, the Hawks needed line help and a receiver and drafted Paul Richardson and Justin Britt in the second round. In 2016, they needed more help on both sides of the line and drafted Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed. In 2017, they needed a guard and defensive backs and drafted Ethan Pocic in the second round and Shaquill Griffin and Delano Hill in the third — after wasting their top pick on DT Malik McDowell.
Last year, they once again needed line help, along with a running back, and they drafted Rashaad Penny first and Rasheem Green in the third.
If Schneider ends up with three Day 2 picks, you can bet two of them will be used on a pass rusher and receiver — with the third possibly going toward a defensive back, offensive lineman or tight end.
And then we’ll see if they’re good enough to make Carroll’s roster.
“We’ve got some really good spots now. It’s going to be really hard for somebody to come in and make the club,” Carroll said. “If they can, then we’re better.”