It came earlier than expected, thanks to an inexcusably bad offense, but the Seahawks’ offseason is here. And it could – perhaps should – be a transformative one, with significant change at the top possibly trumping any personnel moves they make.
The frustration we’ve had with the Seahawks the past couple of years has been over John Schneider’s inability to solve defensive personnel issues (mainly pass rush, which he finally fixed with the trades for Jamal Adams and Carlos Dunlap). As they enter this offseason earlier than expected, the concern has switched to Pete Carroll’s side after coaching cost them yet another playoff game.
The complacency of Carroll and Brian Schottenheimer over the offense was astounding over the past two months. Despite rough performances almost every week over the second half, they barely changed tactics (Washington being a notable exception) – apparently content with winning ugly (6-2 in second half) and thinking they could do that all the way to the Super Bowl.
Plenty of upset fans are calling for Carroll to be fired, but that is not going to happen after he just got a new five-year deal and led the Hawks to a 12-4 record and a ninth playoff berth in 11 seasons.
But Carroll needs to decide whether he is serious about trying to win another Super Bowl. If so, he needs to fix the offense – whether that means replacing Schottenheimer or just making sure they adjust their approach. (UPDATE: Schotty was fired on Jan. 12.)
We also could see Schneider and/or some of his top assistants depart. (UPDATE: Schneider was re-signed for five years and Scott Fitterer became Carolina’s GM.)
The question is whether any of those uncertainties will affect roster building. The Hawks are not likely to make any moves until they know the salary cap for 2021, likely in late February. It is expected to drop by anywhere from $10 million to $20 million, though there is a chance it remains flat, too. That will determine whether Seattle (and the rest of the NFL) has to create room or not.
The Hawks have plenty of talent returning, with only five starting positions vacant (RB, LG, C, LB, CB). Among two dozen unrestricted free agents, only four require consideration for more than minimum pay: K.J. Wright, Shaquill Griffin, Chris Carson, Ethan Pocic. A few extensions (Adams, Dunlap, Tyler Lockett) could easily add a bunch of space.
Two months ago, we took an early look at the offseason – much of it still stands. Here are the priorities:
Is Schneider staying?
Detroit and perhaps others reportedly are interested in Schneider, who still has a year left on his Seattle contract. If he wants to leave, the Hawks should entertain trade offers. He could be replaced by top lieutenants Trent Kirchner or Scott Fitterer – or Seattle could hire from outside. As we have said, it is probably time.
Some offensive assistants are leaving or being courted. Will Schottenheimer be joining them? He has had a star-crossed three years in Seattle, helping the offense set records but also being the main reason the team was knocked out of the playoffs in two of those seasons (Dallas in 2018 and L.A. in 2020). Has Carroll seen enough? If so, he needs to go find a new coordinator – ideally one with the brainpower to get the most out of Wilson and an offense that has plenty of talent.
Carroll seemed to indicate Schottenheimer is staying, citing the team record for points in 2020. But Carroll also was disappointed the Seahawks did not run more against the good defenses that shut down their passing game in the second half of the year.
Carroll told 710 ESPN: “We have a lot of stuff to talk about and evaluation to get through and figure out where we need to go going forward.”
Extend Adams & Dunlap
They are the two best defenders the Seahawks have and they need to be locked in.
Extending Adams is clearly a gamble because he has shown he will wear down if he is used as a pass rusher as much as he was in 2020. And price likely will be a bit of a haggle, with him possibly asking for $18 million (too much) and the Hawks needing to offer $15 million (top of safety market). But they have to get it done or look like idiots for spending two first-rounders and a third on him. Like it or not, they basically committed to paying him top safety dollar when they made that deal. To not do so would be a terminable offense for Schneider (if he’s still around).
Dunlap will be 32 in February, but he is definitely a keeper for 2021 and beyond. The Hawks can drop his $14.1 million cap charge with a little two-year extension at the same annual rate.
Michael Dickson should become the first $4 million punter, and Tyler Lockett should be extended again, but that might not happen due to price ($15 million?) and DK Metcalf’s expensive extension looming in 2022. Seattle could afford both receivers but might not be interested. Some fans are advocating to trade Lockett, but then the Hawks would have to find a new starter.
Poona Ford figures to get a second-round tender and possibly an extension later in the year.
Bring back Wright & Pocic
Wright had two of his best seasons after re-signing in the wake of an injury-plagued 2018. He should be brought back at the same price — $7 million a year. He wants to stay and knows the team won’t pay more than that for a 31-year-old linebacker, no matter how well he has played – especially with Jordyn Brooks looking very good at the end of his rookie season. Wright is two games shy of Keith Butler (146, 1978-87) for most by a Seattle linebacker.
Wright reportedly wants a pay raise, perhaps as much as $3 million more (to a $10 million average). But this is a bad cap year to try to get outside teams to pay him, so he might have to settle for less. Seattle should give him a bump, though.
The Hawks need to fill two spots on the line. Pocic was surprisingly good (not great) in 2020 and could be the long-term center, but only at a reasonable price (maybe $5 million). If Carroll and Schneider don’t value him, they will need a new veteran center. They also need to replace always-injured Mike Iupati at left guard, too.
Don’t overpay Griffin & Carson
Both Griffin and Carson had injury-stunted seasons, and both might require prove-it deals.
Griffin, a quality corner when healthy, might find someone willing to pay him eight figures – in which case Seattle should let him go. If the Hawks lose Griffin, they will need to replace him. They have revelation D.J. Reed and former starter Tre Flowers for now and could look to use their second-round pick on a corner.
It’s easy to see Carson (just 681 yards and five TDs in 12 games) coming back for a one-year, $5 million deal – his last chance to prove he is worth more. Carroll said Carson will have to find his market, so they clearly are not going to offer him much.
Rashaad Penny is the only starting-caliber running back under contract, but he is never healthy. If Carson or Carlos Hyde ($2 million?) is not back, the Hawks will have to add other runners. Alex Collins certainly should be a cheap returnee, and Seattle still has Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas as backups, too.
Trade Reed or Diggs?
The Hawks have just four draft picks (2, 4, 5, 7) and might be able to get some solid Day 2 ammunition by dealing one or both of Jarran Reed and Quandre Diggs.
Reed has a high cap number ($13.5 million), but his value is pretty high after he notched 6.5 sacks during the season and two against the Rams in the playoff loss. Maybe some other team won’t notice that his sacks really were a product of Dunlap’s presence (Carroll previously has mentioned a good outside rusher being the key for Reed’s pass rush). If the Hawks could get a second-rounder or a third and something else, it would be worth considering. Otherwise, they likely will end up letting him go after 2021 anyway – because his price will go up if he has a similar (or better) season (thanks to Dunlap).
Diggs made the Pro Bowl (after being an alternate in 2019) and will want some big money soon. He is signed for one more year, at $5.5 million, and likely will want $12 million or more. As we said, Adams should get at least $15 million. That is a lot to pay two safeties, especially in an uncertain time for the salary cap. If the Hawks want to let Diggs finish out his contract, would he let that happen without a holdout?
The Hawks have some insurance already on the roster. Ryan Neal or Marquise Blair could step into Diggs’ spot. Neither is a true free safety, but Carroll interchanges his deep guys anyway. If Diggs brings the same kind of offer we suggested for Reed, it would be worth considering if they are not interested in paying him.
Of course, Carroll surely would love to keep this defensive band together and see whether it can rival his old Legion of Boom crew. After all, a dominant defense probably is the only way Carroll’s Seahawks will get back to the Super Bowl again.