Pete Carroll and John Schneider clearly were happy they defied most expectations and put together a playoff team in 2022. But they know they have work to do, both citing the 49ers as their paragon as they enter the second half of a two-year franchise build using high draft picks.
As Schneider told Seattle Sports Radio, the 49ers are “the biggest, fastest, most physical football team in the National Football League. And we gotta get back to that. No questions asked. … We know what we need to do to attack this thing and take the next step.”
The Hawks have 10 draft picks, including No. 5 overall and four of the top 52. That’s a stacked deck following a great 2022 draft that dealt them rookie standouts (in order) Charles Cross, Boye Mafe, Kenneth Walker III, Abe Lucas, Coby Bryant and Tariq Woolen.
As Carroll said, “Last year’s draft being so effective for us, the hopes are really high that we can tag on to that one and keep building. I’m pretty fired up about it. I know John is, too. This is kind of a dream opportunity here, and he’s pumped about it. It’s an enormous opportunity for us.”
Of course, ahead of the draft, the Hawks will need to lock up Geno Smith and slice and dice some of the overpaid vets from their roster.
Let’s look at the status of each position and what they need to do this offseason …
2022 summary: Geno Smith stunned the NFL with his Pro Bowl play, setting team passing records while leading the Seahawks to a surprising playoff appearance.
Key stat: 16 turnovers by Smith, who needs to reduce those, in key moments especially, if the Hawks are going to take a bigger step up in 2023.
Free agents: Smith, Drew Lock.
Offseason to-do: Secure the QB. The Hawks want to keep Smith, but they would prefer it be on a cap-friendly deal, not the $32 million franchise tag. Smith wants to stay, so it seems a fait accompli that this will go from a dating situation to a marriage. The team surely would like to get a deal done before the March 7 tag deadline. … The Hawks also want Lock back – $2 million seems right. … Some hope they draft a QB at No. 5, but that seems unlikely if Smith returns as expected.
Carroll on Smith: “There’s business to be done there, of course. But there’s really no lid to what we can do. The sky’s the limit. … I just couldn’t be more tickled by the way the whole thing turned out and how he handled it. And really, as we look to the future, he’s a big part of why we look to the future more promisingly.”
2022 summary: After Rashaad Penny predictably was injured in Week 5, rookie Kenneth Walker III took over and ended up becoming only the second Seattle rookie (along with Curt Warner) to surpass 1,000 yards. He finished with 1,050 to lead all rookie backs, eclipsing 100 yards in each of his final three games as he figured out patience was a virtue.
Key stat: 10 rushes of 20 yards or more for Walker, second behind Cleveland star Nick Chubb’s 13.
Free agents: Penny, Travis Homer, Tony Jones (RFA).
Offseason to-do: Add more depth. Homer missed seven games, but he is a great special-teams player so the Hawks likely will try to bring him back. DeeJay Dallas averaged 5.3 on 35 runs and caught 17 passes, showing he is a capable backup. Seattle should not spend any notable money at this spot.
Carroll on Walker: “I’m impressed with him. The plays that he makes and the bursts that he has and the creativity and how tough he is. … We have a tough guy. We have a guy that loves to play. He doesn’t even flinch. … He isn’t worried about nothing. I love to compete with him, and he is really talented.”
2022 summary: Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf both went over 1,000 yards for the second straight year, Lockett going over 1,000 for a fourth straight year (tying Steve Largent’s club record) and Metcalf also grabbing a career-best 90 passes. They did that despite fighting through some injuries and not getting a lot of help at times from the line or other receivers.
Key stat: 13 dropped passes by Seattle receivers, third fewest in the NFL.
Free agents: Marquise Goodwin, Laquon Treadwell.
Offseason to-do: Find a dependable third guy. Dee Eskridge, a 2021 second-rounder, has been a bust. Goodwin had some good moments and could be back as a cheap No. 3. Many fans want the Hawks to use one of their top four picks on a receiver, but that would be a luxury pick for a team that really needs to build up its trenches.
Schneider on rookie Dareke Young: “I would have loved to see him have more opportunities down the stretch. Any of those (receivers that are willing to) run down as a gunner or are willing blockers and will come downhill and crack you and will get to the second level and take on linebackers like that, I love that. He’s a big man. He’s confident. He’s really smart. I’m really excited to see his future.”
2022 summary: This group answered the call nearly every time, hauling in 110 of 136 passes (81%) and scoring nine touchdowns. The one bummer was Will Dissly getting injured yet again — suffering a knee injury in December.
Key stat: 50 catches for Noah Fant, who joined Jimmy Graham (65 in 2016, 57 in 2017) and John Carlson (55 in 2008, 51 in 2009) as the only Seahawks tight ends to do that.
Free agents: None.
Offseason to-do: Dissly landed on IR for the third time in his five seasons, and his recovery time is unknown. But Fant will be back on his fifth-year option for $6.85 million, and Colby Parkinson emerged as a solid No. 2 option. Some think tight end might be a Day 2 target because Fant might be hard to extend, the overpaid Dissly might be a cap cut in 2024 and Colby Parkinson also will be a free agent. It is considered an excellent draft for tight ends. Otherwise, the Hawks also have Tyler Mabry and Jacob Hollister as possible No. 3 options.
Carroll on Dissly: “This is (an injury) we don’t know. What they’re doing right now is they’re waiting to see how he heals. … Does he need surgery or not? We don’t know that yet. I think they said it was going to be a couple of months of rehab to see if it just heals up so they don’t have to go in and do something. We’ve never had the injury before … so we’ll just wait and see. … We’re not going to know for a while.”
2022 summary: The rookie tackles held up pretty well (though Lucas gave up nine sacks, tied for third most in the NFL), and Damien Lewis was pretty steady at LG (minus the three inexplicable “illegal man downfield” flags in the playoff loss). C Austin Blythe and RG Gabe Jackson were not good though and absolutely need to be replaced.
Key stat: 62 rushing yards averaged during a 1-4 stretch in Weeks 10-15.
Free agents: Blythe, Phil Haynes, Kyle Fuller.
Offseason to-do: Upgrade the interior. Cutting Jackson would free up $6.5 million in cap space. The Hawks should add a couple of veterans and then draft a center (John Michael Schmitz?). Some of the top free-agent interior linemen are Philly’s Isaac Seumalo, Tennessee’s Nate Davis, Minnesota’s Garrett Bradbury and the Jets’ Connor McGovern. Schneider never pays top dollar for free agents, though, so it wouldn’t be a surprise if Blythe and Haynes returned and Schneider drafted a guy or two.
2022 summary: The coaches tried all kinds of moves to get more out of this unit amid their switch to a three-man front, but the fact is the Hawks had no impact players who could regularly beat single blocking, let alone double-teams.
Key stat: 150 yards or more rushing allowed in eight of nine losses, including the playoff defeat to the 49ers.
Free agents: Poona Ford, L.J. Collier.
Offseason to-do: Find impact players. It’s the top priority. Schneider really should wipe the slate clean and start over at this spot. The Hawks can recoup $17 million in cap space by releasing Shelby Harris, Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods – then use that to find better players. Schneider probably won’t want to splurge on Washington’s 320-pound Daron Payne, Minnesota’s 325-pound Dalvin Tomlinson, Philadelphia’s Javon Hargrave or Denver’s Dre’Mont Jones. … Of course, Schneider also knows he can use the draft to find two immediate impact players. Draft analyst Lance Zierlein told Seattle Sports Radio, “I think this is a really good draft for defensive tackles in the middle of the draft. You can wait until Round 3, 4 and 5, and I think you’re gonna find starters — and pretty good starters — on the interior. So Schneider might rely on that and keep some of the above vets at reduced prices in the interim. One thing is definite: Major change is coming to this unit.
Carroll said: “We are going to have to become more dynamic up front.”
2022 summary: Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor each tallied 9.5 sacks and Nwosu had 26 QB hits and 28 pressures, but Taylor was terrible against the run (10% missed tackle rate) and Nwosu had his struggles there as well. Rookie Boye Mafe had three sacks and 41 tackles playing 37% of defensive snaps (Taylor played just 42%).
Key stat: 45 sacks tied for seventh in the NFL.
Free agents: Bruce Irvin, Darryl Johnson.
Offseason to-do: Add an every-down OLB. Mafe still could become that, but Taylor is more suited to pass rushing only, so Schneider needs to look to the draft for an every-down guy. After 9.5 sacks, Taylor could have decent trade value – it’s worth exploring.
2022 summary: With no help up front, Jordyn Brooks and Cody Barton were terrible against the run (most of their 297 combined tackles were made downfield). Brooks suffered an ACL injury late in the season and is questionable for the start of 2023.
Key stat: 150.2 rushing yards per game allowed, third worst in the NFL.
Free agents: Barton, Tanner Muse (RFA).
Offseason to-do: Add two inside thumpers. With Brooks out, Schneider needs to add a good vet. He should be able to find one in a pretty loaded free-agent class of inside linebackers that includes the Bills’ Tremaine Edmunds, the Titans’ David Long, the Eagles’ T.J. Edwards, the Raiders’ Denzel Perryman and the Browns’ Anthony Walker. … Brooks’ injury was really bad timing for him. The Hawks have to make a call on his fifth-year option for 2024; it seems unlikely they will want to guarantee over $11 million to him, so expect them to pass on the option and see what happens in his contract year as he comes off the injury.
Carroll on Brooks: “It’s a long recovery, it’s late in the year, it’s a hard race against time for him to make it. … He’s a centerpiece, he’s such a good player, and we’ll continue to lean on him that way. So, fingers crossed that he’ll make it back and be ready to go for the season.”
2022 summary: Tariq Woolen was an awesome surprise, tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions and making the Pro Bowl as a rookie. Fellow rookie Coby Bryant forced four fumbles, and Mike Jackson had some great moments (and some bad ones) at left corner. All in all, this crew was surprisingly good.
Key stat: 9 takeaways by Woolen, including three fumble recoveries.
Free agents: Justin Coleman, Artie Burns, Teez Tabor, Xavier Crawford.
Offseason to-do: Apply the experience. Jackson is an ERFA, so he will be back and likely face a battle from Tre Brown for that left side spot in training camp. This unit is already set for 2023, with high expectations now.
Carroll on Woolen: “It’s not hard for him. He’s gracefully moving about it. And he’s taken on the new stuff that he can learn and trying to find the consistency and trying to find this extraordinary focus that he will hopefully gain in the time ahead that will take him to where he is a dominant player. He has a chance. Not everybody has a chance, but he has a legitimate chance … to really own this thing in the end.”
2022 summary: Jamal Adams was lost to injury again early in the season and Quandre Diggs did not seem to play well in the first half as he returned from a 2021 ankle injury. But Diggs finished strong, and Ryan Neal was very impactful when healthy.
Key stat: 4 interceptions by Diggs, who is the only NFL player to have at least three over each of the last six seasons. He has 17 picks in 55 Seattle games, making him the fourth-best ballhawking safety in team history (behind Kenny Easley, John Harris and Darryl Williams).
Free agents: Neal (RFA), Johnathan Abram, Josh Jones.
Offseason to-do: Keep Neal and get Adams healthy. Expect Neal to get the second-round tender (around $4 million). Adams is still working back from the quad injury suffered in September. Carroll said Adams will be recovering into the summer. “We’ll just have to wait and see how it goes, but that’s not one where he’s going to bounce back and be ready next month. … It’s going to take him a while.”
Carroll on Adams missing 21 games in 2021-22: “The last two years it did affect us, because we had a real plan of how we wanted to utilize him. He’s a terrific ballplayer, he would be a big factor, and the design of the scheme was all set up with that in mind. But I’m not blaming anything on that; we’ll take advantage of it when we have him again, and he’ll make the most of it.”
2022 summary: These units ranked second in the NFL as Jason Myers had a Pro Bowl season with 143 points, which led the NFL and tied a team record. Michael Dickson set a career best and ranked No. 2 in the NFL with a 44.4 net average, and Godwin Igwebuike was a great find as kick returner (fourth in the NFL in average return).
Key stat: 3 years straight in the top three for Larry Izzo’s units.
Free agents: Nick Bellore, Tanner Muse (RFA), Cody Barton, Josh Jones, Tyler Ott, Carson Tinker, Travis Homer.
Offseason to-do: The biggest move already was made as the team re-upped Myers for four years. The Hawks need to settle long snapper and bring back or replace some of the unit’s top players (Bellore played 76% of ST snaps but is 33). Ott was on IR in 2022, so he probably will resume his spot after Tinker filled in.