With the major portion of free agency over and all 259 draft selections turned in, the NFL goes back into somewhat of a hibernation period. There will still be plenty to talk about, however, with rookie camps being conducted over the next week, the regular season schedule being released on May 12, and quite a few marquee free agents still looking for a home before training camp begins in July.
The Seahawks have had one of the busiest offseasons in the entire league, despite putting together a league-low three-pick draft. Though they feel confident in what they were able to come away with in last weekend's event, free agency has been the main source of improvement for them over the past two months.
Manipulating the salary cap through the use of voidable years, the Seahawks were able to address several of their most pressing needs while pushing a considerable amount of money to future years. This allowed for some much-needed additions, such as defensive ends Carlos Dunlap and Kerry Hyder Jr.
They've also made sure to take care of their own, extending receiver Tyler Lockett, defensive tackle Poona Ford, and new right guard Gabe Jackson. That's also come in the form of retainments, with Seattle bringing back unrestricted free agents Dunlap, Alex Collins, Chris Carson, Geno Smith, Benson Mayowa, Ethan Pocic, Cedric Ogbuehi, Jordan Simmons, Nick Bellore, and Damarious Randall.
That group may expand even farther if Seattle ends up coming to an agreement with veteran linebacker K.J. Wright. Thus far, his absence has yet to be supplemented by the team. Head coach Pete Carroll has expressed a great deal of confidence in Cody Barton's ability to take on strongside linebacker duties, and has also hinted at a potential move to the spot for 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor. That said, a reunion with Wright may still make the most sense—especially at this stage of the offseason.
But if they have to say goodbye to the 2020 Steve Largent Award winner, he won't be the first starter they've had to do so with this year. Cornerback Shaquill Griffin came off the board early on, landing a three-year, $40 million contract with the Jaguars despite the Seahawks' reported involvement up to the very last minute. Later on, their other starting corner in Week 1 of last season, Quinton Dunbar, agreed to a one-year deal with the Lions. And after negotiations on a potential contract restructure fell through, Seattle was forced to cut defensive tackle Jarran Reed, who subsequently went to the Chiefs, for cap purposes.
The losses of Griffin and Dunbar, specifically, have left the Seahawks in a less-than-ideal situation at cornerback. It's not for a lack of effort, however, as the team has acquired a handful of corners in response. They re-signed Randall, as noted, and reeled in veteran Pierre Desir and former 49er Ahkello Witherspoon in free agency. Then, after trading back from pick No. 129 to No. 137 in the fourth round of the draft, they selected cornerback Tre Brown out of Oklahoma.
Left cornerback is going to be one of the biggest position battles to watch in camp and in the preseason for this team. Witherspoon likely has the inside edge on the job, but he's struggled with injuries and inconsistent play in his career. There's also Tre Flowers, who's started a significant amount of games for the Seahawks over the last three seasons.
How the rookie Brown factors into all of this is the biggest question mark of all. Carroll has said he expects the fourth-round pick to compete on the outside, but he comes in at just 5-foot-9 with sub 30-inch arms. The Seahawks, of course, have clearly shifted from their philosophy of only starting corners who are over six-feet tall with arms of 32 inches or more out there, but they already have a player of a similar size, D.J. Reed, set to start on the right side. Would they actually play two 'undersized' corners on the outside with the big bodies of DeAndre Hopkins and Cooper Kupp in their division? That remains to be seen, but Brown proved his size didn't matter in college.
The possibility of a reunion with All-Pro Richard Sherman still looms as well. The 33-year old corner has said he's had talks with Seattle, which the team has confirmed itself. He's also weighing a return to San Francisco, though New Orleans may be the most likely landing spot for him with Kris Richard, his former defensive coordinator and position coach in Seattle, now serving as the defensive backs coach there.
Looking around the rest of this roster, the Seahawks appear all but set at most position groups. They may need to add another edge rusher if Aldon Smith, who's currently in the midst of legal trouble over a physical altercation in Louisiana last month, and could look to add more depth at defensive tackle behind Ford and Al Woods. Perhaps a veteran receiver is in the cards, such as former Seahawk Golden Tate, but the team used a second-round selection on Western Michigan's D'Wayne Eskridge, and three of their top undrafted free agent signings also came at the position. Quarterback Russell Wilson is going to have an improved arsenal of weapons at his disposal no matter what, given the arrivals of Eskridge and free agent signing Gerald Everett.
Whatever the case may be, don't expect many additions to be made the rest of the way. OverTheCap.com currently has the Seahawks at nearly $7 million in effective cap space before factoring in their draft class. They do have some other levers they could pull to help with signing Wright and/or Sherman, such as restructuring Wilson's contract.
The likelier solution though, which would give them at least a couple more million dollars to play with, is a Jamal Adams extension. The All-Pro safety is entering the last year of his rookie contract and the Seahawks have been very open about their desire to keep him in the Pacific Northwest for the long haul. As camp inches closer and closer, a deal could happen at any moment.
When camp begins, competition is going to be aplenty. Carroll has made it a point of emphasis in his coaching this year following a self-admitted uncharacteristically complacent 2020 season when it came to his 'Always Compete' mantra. As he told reporters before the draft last week, "That's going to change."
It's going to be especially important when it comes to the team's offensive line. Much was made about the unit after Wilson openly discussed his displeasure with it, and the Seahawks answered to the best of their ability. Acquiring Jackson in a trade with the Raiders, they shored up one of their two biggest needs along the interior. Jackson will stay put at right guard, the position he's played the last five years for Las Vegas, meaning 2020 third-rounder and All-Rookie honoree Damien Lewis will switch over to the left side.
There are seemingly two spots up for grabs, however, with the retained Ethan Pocic set to compete against Kyle Fuller, Brian Lundblade, and UDFA Pier-Olivier Lestage at center. Brandon Shell, despite a strong 2020 campaign in 11 starts, appears to have Cedric Ogbuehi and sixth-round pick Stone Forsythe breathing down his neck.
For now, the Seahawks' line appears fairly unchanged going from the end of 2020 to now, aside from the Jackson trade. But that could change at the drop of a hat if Pocic and/or Shell are caught sleeping at the wheel.
Overall, considering how much of a disadvantage the Seahawks were at heading into this offseason from both a financial and draft capital standpoint, they have to feel pretty good about where they're at. To be competitive in this division, which could easily see all four teams vie for the playoffs, you have to be aggressive. Seattle was over the past two months, getting creative in ways it hasn't before.
Whether that pays off or not remains to be seen, but the Seahawks are certainly not stepping back into the shadows just yet.