|Wait, there's actually a chance he could start for them next season?|
Though the Super Bowl is over and games don’t begin until next fall, the NFL season never truly ends. In many ways, the “game” that goes on in between the games is just as important, if not more so, than what happens on the field. Here, in the offseason, is where the course of all 32 NFL franchises is determined. To highlight the importance of this period, and to take a peek at what each team is facing, I’ll be embarking on an ambitious series in which I briefly preview each team’s offseason. We’ll examine the major questions each team faces, what type of cap room they have, who they should be targeting in the draft, etc. My goal is to complete this prior to the start of free agency (March 13)…..which will likely not happen. Oh well.
We continue the previews with a team that may or may not think Tarvaris Jackson is “the answer,” the Seattle Seahawks. In case you missed them, here are links to each of our past previews:
*Cap figures are taken from South Florida Sun-Sentinel. Estimated cap is $124 million.*
2011 Record: 7-9
PPG For: 20.1 (23rd)
PPG Against: 19.7 (7th)
2012 Cap Number: $111,742,430
Draft Position: #12 Overall Pick
Let me be up front with you, Seahawks fans. I hate your team. Not the franchise, not the city of Seattle; just the collection of players that currently comprises your team. I do not understand how they managed to win 7 games with Tarvaris Freaking Jackson at QB, I do not understand how Marshawn Lynch suddenly turned into the second coming of Earl Campbell, and I do not understand how a group of no-name defensive players ended up as the league’s 7th ranked scoring defense. Sorry, I just don’t get it.
Going into 2011, I had Seattle pegged as a prime contender in the Andrew Luck Sweepstakes. In fact, after the incredibly weird Tarvaris Jackson signing, I accused them of intentionally tanking the season for a shot at Luck. Even after their surprising season, part of me still wonders whether or not there was some validity in that thought. Nevertheless, I stand before you a humbled man. I certainly still have some reservations about the team, but they are far closer to having a contender than I originally thought. Heck, if they could land themselves a real QB, who knows what could happen?!
Just so you have an idea as to how bright a future Seattle might have, here is a list of their young breakout stars from 2011:
RB Marshawn Lynch – ‘Beast Mode’ is apparently here to stay. Lynch, a former first rounder, had struggled to live up to his potential, especially in the two years preceding 2011. 1204 yards and 12 TD’s later, Lynch is no longer dealing with those questions. Not only did he put up great numbers, but he showed an ability to put the offense on his back for long stretches of time. At just 26, he should have plenty of good years ahead of him.
WR Doug Baldwin – I imagine there are plenty of teams that wish they’d invested at least a seventh rounder on him last year, as the undrafted receiver from Stanford was easily one of the best offensive rookies in the league. After all, 51 catches and 788 yards with T-Jax at QB is pretty much the same as 125 catches and 1750 yards, right?
LB David Hawthorne – The soon-to-be 27 year old has had some good seasons before, but he stepped his game up in 2011, posting 115 tackles, 2 sacks, and 3 interceptions.
S Kam Chancellor – The 24 year old Chancellor, who is actually built more like a LB, broke out in first year as a starter with 95 tackles, 1 sack, and 4 interceptions.
S Earl Thomas – Thomas, 23, was a first round pick last year and started all 16 games of the 2010 season. Still, his rise to stardom, marked by his first Pro Bowl appearance, in just his second season is certainly noteworthy.
Brandon Browner, K.J. Wright, Richard Sherman, Alan Branch…there are just so many to mention that I don’t have time to go into detail about them. And we haven’t even mentioned Sidney Rice, Russell Okung, James Carpenter, etc! Point is, the Seahawks have a huge stash of young talent, and they’re in a really good position going forward.
When Tarvaris Jackson is your starter, you know you have a problem. No way around it. Until they find a permanent solution at the position, their potential is going to be limited, no matter how much young talent they have.
Key Free Agents: DE Raheem Brock, DE Red Bryant, TE John Carlson, T Breno Giacomini, K Steven Hauschka (RFA), LB David Hawthorne, LB Leroy Hill, RB Marshawn Lynch, T Paul McQuistan, CB Marcus Trufant, QB Charlie Whitehurst
3 Key Questions:
#1 – Who is the QB?
This is the most important question they will answer this offseason. The Charlie Whitehurst experiment is obviously over – if it ever really began. As for Tarvaris, it appears as if he’ll be given another opportunity to compete for the job. That’s code for, “you were bad last year, so we’re going to try to find a real starter…but just in case we can’t get anybody, you should just hang around.” The usual names are being floated about; Matt Flynn, Robert Griffin, Kyle Orton, even Peyton Manning. Given the cap situation, and the need to retain many of their own free agents, it seems doubtful that they’ll be involved with either Manning or Flynn. Orton would be an upgrade over Tarvaris (as would 85% of people reading this), but are you really going anywhere with him? Then again, the pursuit of Robert Griffin could prove extremely costly given their draft position. I can only imagine what St. Louis or Minnesota would charge to move back to #12…it won’t be cheap. Maybe they’d be better off sending a 2nd rounder to New England for Brian Hoyer? Maybe that exact move isn’t the answer, but I get the feeling that Seattle is in a tough spot here, being just on the outside for each of the top targets. Hey, maybe Orton is the best they can do after all. If so, at least he’s not Tarvaris Jackson.
#2 – Can they retain their own free agents?
Marshawn Lynch, Red Bryant, David Hawthorne, and Leroy Hill all need to be brought back, and the overall price tag is not going to be cheap. Lynch and Hawthorne will be especially pricey. For starters, they’re the two best players on the list, and they’re obviously going to want more money. But another factor is their age (26 for Lynch, 27 for Hawthorne), and their agents’ understanding that this is their chance for that one big payday. The Seahawks have more than enough flexibility and cap space to get it done for all four guys, but I doubt they’ll have much left to splurge in free agency. After a busy offseason last year, things should be much quieter this time around.
#3 – Can anybody on this offensive line stay healthy?
Seattle has invested heavily in their offensive line in recent years, but has been dealt an awful lot of bad luck in the form of injury. Russell Okung was supposed to be the heir apparent to Walter Jones, and has at times looked to have that level of talent. Unfortunately, the guy can’t stay on the field, and even when he can, he’s often too banged up to be very effective. Then there’s James Carpenter, who Seattle took in last year’s first round to play right tackle. He only made through 9 games before tearing his ACL. Add in last year’s 3rd round pick, John Moffitt, who missed 7 games with a knee injury, and you have a truly cursed group. This is an extremely talented group that has the potential to develop into a top level offensive line, but it’s not going to happen with everyone on the IR.
I almost hate to even talk about Seattle’s draft, because what they do will be entirely dependent on how they handle their own free agents. If Lynch leaves, then you might seem them make a move for Trent Richardson (who is dealing with an injury issues and could actually drop this far). If Hawthorne leaves, then Luke Kuechly makes sense as his replacement. If they lose Leroy Hill, then South Carolina LB Melvin Ingram turns into a possibility. And finally, if they lose Bryant, as well as Brock and others, then they could be targeting Devon Still, Whitney Mercilus, Jerel Worthy, or some other defensive lineman. Without knowing what their team looks like at draft time, there’s just no way to make an educated guess.
That having been said, I do want to mention the possibility of them targeting a QB. There have been some rumblings that they’ll go after Robert Griffin. Griffin would obviously be a great get for them, but as I said before, the cost will be enormous. At #12, the talent on the board is clearly inferior to what St. Louis or Minnesota would end up with at #4 or #6. It might take up to two extra first rounders for Seattle to get that deal done. Is it worth it? Hmm…I guess it might be. They have young talent, and QB is so incredibly important, but giving up that much for an unproven player is a tough sell. However, giving up too much is better than reaching for Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill certainly has a lot of talent, and I can see why teams would get sucked in by his arm and athleticism (guy played receiver for two years). I pity whatever team does, because he’s exactly the kind of player that gets GM’s fired. Go watch him play a few games, and tell me you think he’s an NFL QB. Don’t do it, Seattle!
As long as they upgrade the QB position, Seattle has a legit shot at the playoffs next season. Honestly, I think they might have a legit shot at the division! Their defense is only going to get better as the young players develop, and the offense has the potential to be dynamic if they have the right QB running it. And, of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the massive home field advantage they have. Then again, if they can’t hang onto Lynch and other key free agents, then this group of up-and-comers could find themselves on the way down before they ever really had a chance.