John Schneider had around $35 million in 2020 salary cap space to spend on free agents when the league year began, and everyone expected a chunk of that to go toward a pass rusher on a long-term deal.
That has not happened, and it would be a surprise now if it did — because Schneider has spent about $34 million on 13 veterans (including four RFAs). And he has followed his SOP of not giving out long-term deals to outside players — just three of his signings (Jarran Reed, B.J. Finney, Brandon Shell) have been for two years. Even his reported offers to Jadeveon Clowney have been for just one or two years.
Other than guys on rookie deals, the Seahawks have just three players signed for the next three seasons: Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner and shaky kicker Jason Myers.
Basically, this team is built — you might say patched together — through only 2021. And that includes Schneider and Pete Carroll, whose contracts expire after that season as well.
Why are they being so shortsighted? Because they generally give long-term deals only to players who have proven themselves in Carroll’s system — and few of their recent draft picks have earned the right to be considered part of the core.
Schneider’s MO the past five years has been to add veterans to short deals and sign his own deserving players to extensions. Since 2015, he has added just four guys on deals for more than two years: Myers, Ed Dickson, Cary Williams and Jimmy Graham (via trade); meanwhile, he has done 20 extensions to keep guys for three years or more (that includes one-year veteran additions who got longer deals the next year: Bradley McDougald, Duane Brown, Ahtyba Rubin).
But who’s the core of this team now? And who will be part of it in 2022?
From 2012 to 2015, the team’s heart consisted of 10 proven stars: Original Seahawks Wilson, Wagner, Doug Baldwin, Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor and K.J. Wright and veteran additions Marshawn Lynch, Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. They all were re-signed to new deals (three or four years each), and seven of those guys got second extensions as well.
Schneider and Carroll have dismantled that Super Bowl core, and the Hawks really have had just five core stars the past three seasons: Wilson, Wagner, Wright, Brown and Tyler Lockett. Sure, a few young guys — Jarran Reed, Shaquill Griffin, Chris Carson, Will Dissly — have shown flashes of star power, and short-term veterans such as McDougald and D.J. Fluker (re-signed for two years after a one-year deal in 2018) have helped the Hawks make the playoffs the past two years.
But this largely has been a patchwork squad — and Schneider and Carroll really have no idea which guys will be playing with Wilson and Wagner in 2022.
Lockett, 27, likely will merit a second extension ahead of 2022. But Brown, 34, probably is on his last contract (through 2021), and Wright will be iffy to return next year.
For the next couple of years, the Hawks have Reed (re-signed for two years) and Quandre Diggs (acquired from Detroit in 2019). D.K. Metcalf, 2019 second-round pick, should be a cheap core player for the next three seasons and likely deserve an extension beyond that.
But, of the 30 guys drafted from 2016 to 2018, only Reed, Griffin and Michael Dickson have proven worthy of extensions so far. There’s still time for others to prove their worth, but 10 percent would continue the disappointing returns that started with the 2013 draft (just two long-term extensions from 28 picks in 2013-15).
With Germain Ifedi and Quinton Jefferson gone, Reed and RFA backup Joey Hunt are the only guys left from the 2016 draft.
The 2017 draft has three standing: Griffin, Carson and David Moore. Griffin is the only guy who merits extension consideration. Carson is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons, but he also suffered a second major injury in his three seasons. He has not been healthy enough to deserve a second contract, which is why the Seahawks almost definitely will draft a running back (and likely in the first two days).
From the 2018 and 2019 classes, Dickson and Metcalf were rookie stars. But the rest have work to do.
From 2018: Dissly has played well when healthy, but major injuries have killed both of his seasons and he has to stop getting injured if he is going to be in Seattle beyond his rookie deal. … The team already tried to trade 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny, who then got hurt just when he was playing well and faces a long road back this year (another reason Seattle is expected to draft a running back). … Tre Flowers was thrust into a starting spot as a rookie, but he will face major competition from trade pickup Quinton Dunbar this year. … Rasheem Green took a nice step in 2019, but he needs to show more if he figures to stick around after 2021. … Jamarco Jones could end up starting at left guard the next two years, which will give him a chance to be kept beyond that.
From 2019: Metcalf was a standout who figures to be around for a long time. … First-rounder L.J. Collier was a major bust as a rookie, so there is nowhere to go but up — and Carroll expects it. … Marquise Blair should have played a lot more as a rookie, but Carroll did not trust him. Blair needs to be given the chance to unseat McDougald by next year. … Cody Barton could replace Wright in 2021. … Phil Haynes seems likely to back up Fluker in 2020 and replace him in 2021.
Schneider and Carroll clearly are hoping some of those draft picks take huge steps in 2020 and prove themselves worthy of being the next Seahawks core.
In the meantime, though, Schneider has tons of expected cap room in 2021 and no one to spend it on — because he won’t pay a marquee pass rusher (unless the GM is planning to pull off a big trade for Yannick Ngakoue) …