Thoughts About The Seattle Seahawks Big Off-Season in 2020


Expect this wild Seattle Seahawk ride to settle down in 2020. Go Hawks!

The 2019 Seattle Seahawks were a fun team to watch, and yet, they were also an exhausting team to watch. It has taken me a few full days after the divisional round loss to Green Bay to properly draw an analogy to this club.

For me, they were most like an exhilarating carnival ride which, at various points, you questioned your own sanity while riding it, but you had fun screaming throughout the experience, and then once you had gotten off the ride, you made the instant decision that you never needed to go on it again.. ever.

I loved these 2019 Seahawks, but I don’t need to feel the constant barrage of nail biting close finishes again. In 2020, I just want to see them bury inferior opponents instead of playing down to them, and save the close matches for the teams that are better match up against them. I suspect the coaches and the players want that, as well, and because of that, I suspect some major changes to occur, especially on the defense.

After watching Pete Carroll’s season ending press conference, I think I have a pretty decent sense of what directions this team will likely go on to improve upon their 2019 campaign. Here is a breakdown of the moves that I think will likely be made.

They will address their strength and conditioning program

The first thing Coach Carroll brought up when asked about his disappointments to how their 2019 season played out was the crazy amount of injuries that occurred. I expected him to instantly start talking about the lack of pass rush, but I think truth be told, injuries played a big part of that, and in other areas of the team, as well.

In terms of pass rush, Ziggy Ansah could never stay healthy enough, Jadeveon Clowney played with a core injury during the second half of the season that will require surgery, and Jarran Reed played on a twisted ankle through the end of the season. Those were probably the top three guys that Carroll was most counting on for sacks, and they weren’t playing healthy enough.

Then going throughout the roster, they lost starting tight end Will Dissly to an Achilles injury, they lost starting running back Chris Carson to a broken hip, they lost starting center Justin Britt to a knee injury, and they lost the promising talents of running back Rashaad Penny to a knee injury. They also lost linebacker Mychal Kendricks to a knee injury late in the season, but he also missed games with a hamstring issue. Left tackle Duane Brown played through a pectoral injury and missed games with a knee injury. Starting corner Shaquill Griffin missed games with a hamstring injury. Good lord, it’s amazing that this team, as battered as they were, managed eleven wins.

First year strength coach Ivan Lewis has got to be on the hot seat. He was Carroll’s strength coach for a while at USC but left to follow Steve Sarkisian to Washington, and back down to USC. Dedicated Twelves have noted on social media that injuries have followed Lewis whenever he has gone over the last decade as a strength coach. Perhaps Carroll has seen enough and is ready to reboot the strength program yet again.

Some scheme changes and perhaps the coaching staff will occur on the defense

Carroll expressly noted that there will be some changes on the defense through all levels, including scheme. He noted that they may need to go back to how they have done things in the past. He noted that they gave up too many explosive plays, that had troubles defending the perimeters of the field, and they couldn’t get their pass rush going with four linemen. He didn’t shed light on the question of whether there will be changes to the coaching staff, other than to say “nothing to talk about, no.”

In my own parsing of Pete talk, I think that latter bit means there could likely to be some coaching changes. Here is what I think might happen.

When I pair that with his comment about going back to what they had done in the past, I can not help but look at the fact his former defensive coordinator Kris Richard is presently available for hire after the coaching turnover in Dallas. I don’t know if that would mean firing Ken Norton Jr to bring him back, or creating a situation where they are both on the staff and maybe making one the assistant head coach, but I will say this about Richard; Seattle’s defense was significantly better when he was calling the plays from 2015-2017 than when Ken Norton Jr was doing it in 2018 and 2019. Part of that is probably personnel, but I also think part of that was coaching, and in 2018, Richard was highly credited for turning the Dallas defense around when it took over the secondary there.

Personally, I would welcome this move if it happens, and say what you will about Richard as a coordinator, but under his playcalling, Seattle was never as generic and soft in coverage, and he had a clear ability to develop talent in the secondary. With Carroll being an ex defensive back coach that he is, it feels to me like a reunion with Richard could be around the corner, but we shall see soon enough.

Even if they do not bring Richard back into the fold, at the very least, I would suspect seeing this defense return to the more traditional Pete Carroll single high safety cover one and cover three looks that they had when Earl Thomas was here now that they have Quandre Diggs playing the position. This would allow the corners to play more aggressive and it could help on their containment issues on the perimeter.

Seattle will be aggressive in improving their pass rush

Even more frustrating than seeing how vulnerable Seattle’s defense was to perimeter plays was watching Seattle struggle to put pressure on the quarterback. This was by far the most frustrating thing to watch all year for me. Far too often it felt like Jadeveon Clowney was putting on the one man show. They could never get any consistency going, and because so many bodies were in and out of the line up, either through injuries or suspensions, they really never had much of a chance.

It hurt having Jarran Reed suspended for the first six games of the season and then get an injured ankle once he got back, it hurt getting LJ Collier injured through his training camp development stage, and it hurt never really having Ziggy Ansah fully healthy. When Seattle traded Frank Clark to Kansas City, these were three players that they were likely banking on to contribute in a big way before they traded for Jadeveon Clowney.

I shutter to think what this defense would have looked like in 2019 had they not made the Clowney trade with Houston. They likely would have rolled out the start of the season with Quinton Jefferson, Rasheem Green, Poona Ford and Al Woods as the starters, and a bag of potato chips as reserves.

I suspect Seattle will be aggressive in their efforts to retain Jadeveon Clowney, and according to Pete Carroll, Clowney wants to be in Seattle. However, Clowney has also stated that he wants to play for a Super Bowl contender. With Russell Wilson at quarterback, that should almost annually mean Seattle being that kind of contender, but Clowney might well require assures from Seattle that he will not be the one man show that he was in 2019 moving forward. He’s going to want and likely demand help.

Therefor, I anticipate Seattle being aggressive this off season adding pass rush help through either free agency, trades, or draft, and possibly all three. They will have north of $60 million to work with. I think it is entirely possible that they sign both Clowney and defensive tackle Jarran Reed, and add a top level veteran speed rusher to compliment them. They might even add a couple.

I think Seattle also needs to define what LJ Collier is and use him accordingly. Carroll indicated that they want to use him more pass rushing inside and out in 2020, but if they bring Clowney back, that likely means Collier will continue being a bench player factoring into the rotation. If they bring Clowney back, and I am Collier, I’m lobbying heavily to being an interior pass rusher, especially if they do not retain Jarran Reed. That might be his best opportunity to flourish as a player because the little that we saw of him, it looks like he does not have the athleticism to be a great edge rusher.

I think we also need to see Rasheem Green take another advancement forward. He had a decent sophomore season. He led the team in sacks (albeit, onky 4 sacks, but at least it is progress from his rookie year). Part of me is still wondering what is true role is with this team. Physically, he looks like a Bennett type more than an Avril, but he seemed more effective rushing from the outside than from in. If they lose Clowney in free agency, there is a chance that he could inherit the five technique spot, but let’s be real, he is nowhere near the disrupting force Clowney is. If Seattle signs Clowney, I think perhaps Green’s best pathway towards taking the next step as a player is to work even more on his quickness off the edge and being a complimentary speed rusher. He has the athleticism, he just needs even more quickness.

Then there is always the draft. It’s not expected to be a deep draft for pass rushers, but that doesn’t mean that Seattle will not look there as well. In 2015, it was not expected to be a great edge rush draft class, yet Seattle was able to find Frank Clark at the end of round two. The one thing that Seattle generally does well is finding quality edge rushers that others weren’t ranking that highly, and that includes Bruce Irvin in 2012.

There are many ways Seattle could go to fix the pass rush. They just need to have a plan, and then smartly execute it. It will be interesting to see what they do.

They want to keep continuity on the offensive line

For all the Germain Ifedi haters out there, Carroll expressly stated that he does not want to see a lot turnover on the offensive line. He also mentioned that he would like to see rookie Phillip Haynes compete for a starting job, presumably at left guard, and that could possibly mean they would move on from Mike Iupati.

It will be interesting to see how they handle this whole offensive line situation. Reading the tea leaves is a bit difficult. Can they afford to pay Justin Britt over $10 million after his salary escalates to that amount this Spring, if they want to dip heavily into the free agent market to fix the defensive line? Is Joey Hunt an sufficient cheaper replacement for Britt? Or could they trust Ethan Pocic to take over at center and stay healthy? What do they do with their young tackles in Ifedi and George Fant? These are a lot of questions they need to address in their quest towards maintaining continuity.

It is worth noting that Seahawk reporters mentioned that George Fant wants to go somewhere were he can be a starter at left tackle. If Seattle wants to keep him, they could entice him to take over for Ifedi at right tackle and then whenever Duane Brown is ready to call it a career at left tackle, he takes over. He might bite on that if he wants to remain a part of the club, but if he truly wants left tackle money, Seattle might have to pony up. There is pretty good tape of him playing left tackle in place of Duane Brown over the course of some recent games, and there is a dearth of quality left tackles in the league. General managers with left tackle needs are going to see that. It actually might be cheaper for Seattle to keep Ifedi over Fant.

One path to maintaining as much continuity as they can on the offensive line would be to get Justin Britt to agree to a restructured contract that will offer 2020 cap relief and add an extra year into 2021, and then convince Mike Iupati to come back for another year in 2020 on a cheap veteran deal. The more I think about it the more these sort of moves make sense for the club. Britt probably wouldn’t have a great free agent market coming off an injury and a draft around the corner that features some good college centers. I don’t think Iupati will either with his age and injury history. Their best value might be in Seattle.

This scenario all boils down to the issue at right tackle, and what to do with Fant and/or Ifedi. If I were to look hard into my crystal ball, I think there is a decent chance that somewhere within day one and day two of the coming draft we hear a name called that will be Seattle’s right tackle in 2020. That’s just my hunch. We will see.

Seattle will continue look to add playmakers on the offense

Pete Carroll is always looking for explosive playmakers on the offense. Whether it is trading for Marshawn Lynch, Percy Harvin, or Jimmy Graham, or it is drafting Golden Tate, Paul Richardson, Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, or Rashaad Penny, or signing free agents like Sidney Rice, Carroll is always looking for athletes that can produce explosive plays. He loves special athletes, and he doesn’t rest on his laurels with what he already has. Expect Seattle to continue this trend.

While the team has special talents at receiver in DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, the 2020 draft class is expected to be a particularly deep one at receiver. The safe bet is that Seattle is going to tap into that class at some point.

Additionally, with Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny coming back from serious injuries, I think this team probably will also want to add more talent at running back. I know this irks some fans when this happens, but I wouldn’t be shocked if Seattle spends another relatively high pick on a running back in this coming draft. There is some pretty talented ones coming out of college, and currently, they have four picks out of the first one hundred. With a little maneuvering, they could end up with five. If they do that, I full suspect that they will target a running back.

Marshawn Lynch doesn’t come back to the team to play another season

This is just a gut feeling I have led by things Pete said in his presser, but it feels to me that once he goes back home and rests on it, Marshawn is going to be content with the way he came back to Seattle, fired up the Twelves, inspired younger players on this roster, and maybe made some amends to the club in which his achieved his greatest success. He will have gone out in style, and with the potential of his number being hung up in the stadium where Beastquake happened. In my opinion, this is as it should be.

But maybe I am wrong, and he will surprise me, and decide to come back to the club, and be a part of a rotation with Carson and Penny and Homer. I can see him loving Carson’s style and wanting to compliment it, but I can also see him simply wanting to move onto the rest of his life being an iconic cult hero of a generation that he is, and looking back fondly at his time in Seattle.

I fricking love the #### out of Marshawn Lynch, though, and would gladly welcome him back with open arms any time he chooses. Go Hawks.

A big name on this roster will likely get cut

This is the cold nature of the NFL in the salary cap era, and with teams looking to improve their weaknesses, it’s just the reality. The Seattle Seahawks are no exception.

The safest bet candidate in getting cut is veteran tight end Ed Dickson (although he really isn’t much of a big name, and hardly factored with the club). His release would save a couple million off the salary cap. We already discussed the potential of center Justin Britt becoming a cap casualty.  A couple other bigger names I think can be thrown out are linebacker KJ Wright, and safety Bradley McDougald.

With KJ Wright, this is a hard notion to digest. I love KJ Wright. I think this team needs more KJ Wrights on this roster. He is a solid player, and he is a highly intelligent player. He just does things right, and he also possesses a great team first mentality. He also just had a great statistical year. He is also incredibly tight with Bobby Wagner, and they have a tremendous chemistry. There is a whole long list of reasons why this team should not move on from KJ Wright.

However, the cold hard facts are that this team has major holes on the defensive line and two key players in that position group that are up for free agency. With Cody Barton on this roster, they have a player that can probably take over for KJ Wright, and play well. They don’t have a player to take over for Clowney, and they probably don’t have a player to take over for Jarran Reed, and they still have to add more to the pass rush than those two players. Quality veteran defensive linemen are expensive. The simply math suggests that KJ Wright could easily become a cap casualty if the Seahawks are to be aggressive in fixing their pass rush through free agency and trades.

The last person to suggest is Bradley McDougald, who like KJ, had a great year. Ideally, he is a guy that you want to keep around. He plays the game the way you want a strong safety to play it, and he plays it well. He’s both good in coverage and against the run, and he is a smart player. Ideally, I think Coach Carroll would want to hang onto him, but they also drafted Marquise Blair with a high round pick, and frankly, Blair has a lot more physical upside than McDougald, and with his rookie contract, he’s also a lot cheaper. Should Seattle elect to bring back former defensive coordinator Kris Richard, Blair would be the perfect project for Richard to take on as a young upcoming talent.

Personally, I hope most of these moves don’t happen. However, it was also really hard to watch this Seattle defense not getting nearly enough quality pressure on quarterbacks as they have in years past. So, I am also almost to the point of suggesting that whatever Seattle can do to fix their pass rush, they should do it.

We shall see.

Lastly, the Seahawks will be a proper championship contender in 2020

I repeat. The Seahawks will be a proper championship contender in 2020. It won’t be easy because they will be playing in arguably the toughest division in football, but I think Seattle will have the clearest path to winning the NFC West. For one, they have the best quarterback in the division, and for another, they still have the best head coach (Sorry Pete Carroll haters on the social media webs, but it is true).

Pete Carroll is going to fix this defense. Book it. Whether it’s changes on the staff, acquiring better talent, adjusting scheme, getting younger players to further step up, or any combination of the above, or all of the above, Pete Carroll will fix this defense in 2020. It will be his mission.

I also think they will continue to surround Russell Wilson with more talent, offensively. If they see playmaking talent in front of them, they will grab it. They always do, and with Russell going into this third year in this system, expect him to master it even more.

It is totally fine to doubt any of this optimism that I have, but here is something else to consider when looking at Seattle’s chances of winning back the West; for the first time in in a long time, Seattle will have significantly more cap space than San Francisco and Los Angeles to work with, and they will have roughly ten draft picks to play with. They will be a player in free agency and trades in a way their divisional rivals likely won’t.

Expect a huge off season to take place over the next few months, and enjoy the news as it unfolds on your sports tickers. I know I will.

Go Hawks.


1 thought on “Thoughts About The Seattle Seahawks Big Off-Season in 2020

  1. Pingback: My Realistic Wish List For the 2020 Seattle Seahawks | 12th Life

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