Most fans have been underwhelmed by Seattle’s offseason, which has been highlighted by the signing of an aging tight end, a bunch of middling offensive linemen and a couple of familiar second-tier pass rushers.
But there might be a method to the mediocrity of John Schneider and Pete Carroll. They seem to be trying to plan around the pandemic, realizing this is a year to have a veteran club and preparing for a draft class that might redshirt.
If there is a season (and there seems likely to be, in some form), it will come after a “virtual” offseason with no field work and perhaps a truncated training camp — and that has many saying you should not expect much from 2020 rookies.
The Seahawks seem prepared for that, at least on the offensive line, which is projected to include five starters added from other teams over the past few years: LT Duane Brown, LG Mike Iupati, C B.J. Finney, RG D.J. Fluker, RT Brandon Shell.
With Germain Ifedi and George Fant gone and Justin Britt coming off an ACL injury, Carroll said he and Schneider wanted to “add some guys with experience that have been there to make sure that we shore up and we can come right back and play really good football.”
“We love our quarterback,” Schneider said. “We want to have as many grown men in front of him as we possibly can. It was important for us to be able to identify some people early on and, quite honestly, we hit — in our mind — what was 1, 2 and 3 in free agency.”
Schneider was referring to Finney, Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi — and obviously meant they were the top three based on what Seattle was willing to pay. The GM reminded the “Sign Jack Conklin” crowd: “We’re not break-the-bank free-agency people.”
Carroll also referenced young O-line holdovers, which include Jamarco Jones, Phil Haynes, Ethan Pocic and Jordan Simmons. And Schneider mentioned the flyer on 2013 first-rounder Chance Warmack, who “wanted to give it another shot.”
“It’s not going to be just about the guys coming in; it’ll be about the opportunities that are there for the younger guys to battle,” Carroll said.
Added Schneider: “We still have a lot of tough decisions ahead of us, but this is an area where we felt like we could make a difference in free agency playing by our (financial) rules and what our philosophy is and trying to protect the quarterback in the best fashion we possibly could.”
The draft offers a good class of tackles, and in many years starting a rookie at right tackle would be fine. But, in the face of this year’s diminished prep time, Carroll and Schneider seemed to realize veterans are the way to go. Their offense is projected to include 10 guys who have started in the NFL for at least three seasons (D.K. Metcalf the lone youngster).
It also explains their trade for cornerback Quinton Dunbar; assuming he beats out Tre Flowers, the secondary will have three veteran additions and just one homegrown guy (Shaquill Griffin, who is entering his fourth season). With Jarran Reed back and returning Seahawks Bruce Irvin and Benson Mayowa both expected to start, the defense will have a pretty veteran look as well (with perhaps another pass rusher to come).
Basically, the Seahawks seem prepared for a redshirt draft. They should be comfortable with that. They’ve been redshirting most of their draft picks for several years. The only rookies who have offered notable contributions from the past four classes are Metcalf, Flowers, Michael Dickson, Griffin, Reed and Ifedi.
Will the reduced prep time impact Seattle’s draft choices? The hardest NFL positions to learn are quarterback, receiver, center, tackle and safety. The easiest positions for succeeding as a rookie are running back and defensive tackle, positions that rely as much on instinct as on scheming. Those two spots happen to be needs for Seattle.
At the Combine, Schneider said he is going to “address” running back (with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny rehabbing injuries). He has not signed one yet, which leads us to believe he expects to draft one — maybe a guy who could help right away and possibly be the future lead back, as Carson finishes his rookie contract.
Schneider also needs a D-tackle to go with Reed and Poona Ford, so expect him to look for an immediate contributor on Day 2. He also figures to sign a vet later this offseason, as usual. They need two additions there.
As for the redshirt aspect of the draft: With none of their linemen signed beyond 2021, the Hawks certainly can go into the event looking to add a tackle and/or center for the future as well. And, with Griffin and Dunbar both free agents in 2021, they might look to add a corner. They also could tap into the deep receiver class.
They are not likely to get much help from a rookie pass rusher (see Rasheem Green and L.J. Collier from the past two drafts), which is why they still need to address that gaping hole in free agency (or via trade). But it would not be a surprise to see them add a guy on Day 2 as well and let him learn as the Hawks rely on veterans to get through this condensed year.
That seems to be their overall plan.