The spotlight is on Seattle’s GM this week as the Seahawks and Jamal Adams face the Jets and Darrell Taylor’s future remains a mystery.
John Schneider’s job security, quite frankly, should depend on two things: Whether he re-signs Adams and whether Taylor ever plays. If neither happens in 2021, the last year of Schneider’s deal, the GM should not be re-signed.
This is not just about the two big moves to get those guys this year — deals that cost the Seahawks five high draft picks. It’s about a GM who has had a lot more failures than successes over the past seven years, who is still living off his historic 2010-12 drafts, who has whiffed at the top of his last eight drafts way too often, who rarely makes good decisions in free agency, who is not very creative with the salary cap and who for several years has been making it up as he goes, with no long-term plan.
Schneider is considered league-wide to be one of the top GMs, but many who think that are still looking back at his 2010-13 work that created a two-time Super Bowl team. As we wrote in 2018, Schneider has had a lot more misses than hits since then. The theme has continued in 2020.
Granted, Pete Carroll has a ton of input into the roster, but Schneider is the one who decides how much to pay free agents, where to draft guys and what to give up in veteran trades. When we grade out Schneider on those three things, he has not been above average since before 2013 – and he has three offseasons that merit D’s (2014, 2016, 2018).
Sure, Schneider has made some positive moves over the past few years. He moved up in the draft to grab Tyler Lockett (2015), Jarran Reed (2016), Michael Dickson (2018) and DK Metcalf (2019). He traded for Duane Brown (2017). He got a nice haul for Frank Clark and traded for Jadeveon Clowney and Quandre Diggs (2019).
But for every Lockett, Reed or Metcalf in the draft, there is a Christine Michael, Malik McDowell or Rashaad Penny – high picks who were busts. While most of the GM’s veteran trades have worked out pretty well, the Percy Harvin deal in 2013 was a predictable all-time loser, and his moves for Clowney and Sheldon Richardson turned out to be expensive one-year rentals.
Because his drafts and trades have not netted many keepers, there is no obvious core or long-term plan with this team. You could say it is due to uncertainty around 2020-21 because of the pandemic. But this franchise has been floating since 2018, when the Legion of Boom was dismantled and Schneider’s 2016-17 drafts failed to come up with replacements.
Among players acquired after 2012 (eight offseasons), Schneider has signed only eight to long-term deals (three years or more): Cary Williams, Ahtyba Rubin, Justin Britt, Bradley McDougald, Ed Dickson, Brown, Lockett and Jason Myers. Williams and Dickson were free-agent busts, while Rubin and McDougald earned longer deals after coming over on one-year flyers.
Since 2018, the GM basically has been piecemealing the roster one or two years at a time. Right now, the only guys not on rookie deals who are signed after 2021 are 2012 superstar picks Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner and the kicker Myers.
Since 2013, Schneider is 25th in the NFL in draft ROI and has extended just three picks: Britt, Lockett and Jarran Reed (just a two-year deal). He’s probably not going to offer much to 2017 draftees Shaquill Griffin and Chris Carson next offseason either. Most of his picks just haven’t been worth paying.
Because of that, Schneider has rebuilt the roster every year with trades and mostly cheap one-time free agents (though he has put bigger money on one-year gambles for Luke Joeckel, Ziggy Ansah, Greg Olsen, Bruce Irvin).
The trades have helped the Hawks remain a playoff team – the injury-ravaged 2017, when the LOB effectively ended, has been the only postseason miss since Wilson became Seattle’s quarterback. But the Hawks have not been good enough to get back to the NFC title game; they are 3-4 in the playoffs since 2015.
Defense has been Schneider’s big failing. He and Carroll waited too long to replace the LOB, and they now are on their second try at doing it – going with veterans after the draft didn’t work.
Schneider made a bunch of mistakes in how he dismantled the LOB. He should have traded Kam Chancellor during or after his holdout in 2015 and he should have gotten something for disgruntled LOBers Richard Sherman (in 2017 offseason) and Earl Thomas (2018). Instead, Chancellor suffered a career-ending injury after signing a new injury-guaranteed deal in 2017, Sherman was cut in 2018 after suffering an Achilles injury, and Thomas was simply allowed to leave in free agency (he netted a third-round comp instead of a 2 in trade). Schneider also extended Michael Bennett (a move we liked) but then traded him in 2018 (missing out on a third-rounder, to boot) because they had decided to get rid of the malcontents (him and Sherman) as they lost Cliff Avril and Chancellor forever.
Schneider tried to set up a succession plan in 2017, ahead of the LOB meltdown; he drafted four defensive backs and McDowell, a possible Bennett replacement. But McDowell (a big attitude gamble in the first place) never played for Seattle, and Griffin was the only DB who stepped up. Rasheem Green and Tre Flowers were project picks to add to the defense in 2018, but neither developed enough after two years, so it was back to the veteran drawing board.
With the draft failing him (or vice versa, really), Schneider moved to a new plan, at least short term – adding veterans to fill holes at pass rusher and making trades to build a new secondary.
In 2019, he let Thomas go and decided to trade Clark – the first time he ever made an outgoing blockbuster deal (he had paid high picks to bring in Harvin, Jimmy Graham, Richardson and Brown). He got good value in the trade, but moving on from Thomas and Clark merely created more holes to fill.
In the secondary, he drafted Marquise Blair and later traded for Diggs to replace Thomas. At pass rusher, he crossed his fingers on Ziggy Ansah (who did not pan out) and managed to make a good trade for Clowney on the eve of the 2019 season. Clowney was effective when healthy, which is why Schneider was willing to pay him $16 million this year. Clowney declined, which turned out for the best as he ended up on IR for Tennessee.
With Clowney not returning, Schneider eschewed other expensive, productive pass rushers and instead overpaid Irvin to come back to Seattle, along with Benson Mayowa. The GM also gambled big with a draft trade-up to get Taylor, who was recovering from leg surgery. Schneider and Carroll bet on those guys to be the pass rush. It was a bad bet that they lost.
In the secondary, Schneider sent a fifth-rounder to Washington for Quinton Dunbar, who was to replace Flowers. And then he made the surprise blockbuster with the Jets to get Adams, who faces his old team this week. It was a head-scratcher after Schneider had drafted Blair and acquired Diggs; the Hawks seemed set at safety for the next few years.
Schneider made that move because he knew the 2021 draft would be a bigger crapshoot than normal. The college season and scouting process have been watered down this year, and no one knows what the Combine or Pro Days might look like next spring.
Of course, Schneider had his usual bad luck when Irvin and Adams were injured early and Taylor never got on the field. So, Schneider fortunately was smart enough to make yet another emergency trade at midseason, adding longtime star Carlos Dunlap. That was the big pass-rush move all of us had been calling for all offseason, and it saved Schneider’s 2020 from getting another D in the grade book.
Dunlap immediately sparked the pass rush and has 3.5 sacks and seven QB hits in five games (although he too is dealing with the injury bug now). Dunlap was a great move – costing just a seventh-rounder and overpaid backup center B.J. Finney (another free agency mistake by Schneider) – and hopefully will stick around for two or three years.
Adams, the blitziest defensive back in football, leads Seattle with 7.5 sacks despite missing four games. But he will prove to be a great move only if Schneider pays him in the offseason (whatever the cost) and the safety improves his overall game and stays healthy.
Sure, Schneider could trade Adams rather than pay him. But he won’t get what he gave up. So Adams – like Richardson and Clowney – would be an expensive rental player. Richardson cost a 2, Clowney a 3. The net cost for Adams likely would be at least a 1. That’s way too much to pay for a one-year rental. Schneider was all-in when he made the deal, and he knows it. If he does not pay to keep Adams, this will be a huge bust of a deal.
For what it’s worth, it sounds like Carroll absolutely wants to keep the safety.
“He’s been everything we could have hoped for at this point, and he’s gonna keep getting better,” Carroll said, adding that Adams is the most complete safety he has ever coached (and he has coached a lot of good ones). “I’m fortunate that I’ve been through a lot of safeties that have a lot of really unique talents over the years. You’ve seen big guys and small guys and hammers and quickness and speed. … What we can do with Jamal is everything we’ve ever done with everybody.”
Meanwhile, Taylor seems to have decided not to play in 2020, even though Seattle docs apparently have cleared him. That has led to a lot of questions about what that might mean for 2021 and beyond. Is Taylor just sitting out the pandemic season, without saying it that way? Or is his leg really a concern? The big fear from many fans is he will turn out to be McDowell – a guy who never plays a down while taking a bunch of money from the Hawks.
Considering Schneider used second- and third-round picks on Taylor, it would be a major gaffe if he wasted that draft stock.
If Adams doesn’t stay and Taylor doesn’t play, Seahawks owner Jody Allen should strongly consider making a change at GM.
Not that she would. She just extended Carroll, and he and Schneider are joined at the hip. Carroll would not like losing his longtime partner, and Allen might be in that group of observers who still view Schneider through the 2010-12 lens.
But that was then. This is now, eight years later. And the spotlight – and accompanying heat — should be on Schneider.