As the 2021 NFL Draft fast approaches, the Seahawks are still boasting a league-low three picks. With just one in the top-100, and another that will merely land them a glorified undrafted free agent, filling the remaining holes along their roster is going to be a tough task to accomplish this weekend.
Up to this point, Seattle has had one of the busiest offseasons of any team in the NFL. That comes as a decent surprise, considering it exited the 2020 season with one of the worst cap situations in the league, as well as the aforementioned lack of draft capital. Yet, through the use of cap manipulations in the form of voidable years on several of their latest negotiated contracts, the Seahawks have been able to address quite a few of their most pressing needs in a significant way.
But they're far from done. There are at least five positions they could considerably improve at, and two others they may contemplate addressing with sights set on 2022. However many picks they wind up with in this draft, value is ultimately going to be key. Drafting purely for need in their situation may not be the best route to take, but they've done a fine job in building their roster with the strengths of this weekend's event in mind; several of their biggest remaining needs come at some of the deepest positions in this class.
Before the draft kicks off tomorrow, let's take a look at each of the Seahawks' needs and rank them by level of importance.
Whether it be their wild-card round implosion, quarterback Russell Wilson's comments shortly thereafter, or a mixture of both, interior offensive line has been a key focus of the Seahawks' offseason thus far. They made a splash by addressing the hole opened at left guard with Mike Iupati's retirement in a trade with the Raiders for veteran Gabe Jackson; however, the center position remains relatively untouched. Despite his struggles towards the end of the year, Seattle retained 2020 starting center Ethan Pocic. While he's currently penciled in to reprise his role this fall, he proved unable to handle the elite interior defenders of the NFC West. Therefore, it would behoove the Seahawks to make an upgrade at the spot, especially in a class that offers a few intriguing center prospects in the first three rounds.
Losing 2020 starters Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar to free agency, the Seahawks' group of cornerbacks is looking fairly different right now. They appear prepared to hand D.J. Reed the keys to the right cornerback spot following an impressive audition at the end of last season, but the starting job opposite him is wide open. Free agent addition Ahkello Witherspoon seems to be the likely choice there, but a sketchy history of injuries and inconsistent play doesn't inspire a ton of confidence in his ability to take the role and run with it. Other options, such as Tre Flowers and Pierre Desir, may be serviceable to them, but the Seahawks simply don't have a ton of upside in the unit as it currently stands. There are still a few potential difference-makers available in free agency, such as Seattle legend Richard Sherman, but the Seahawks could use a younger corner they can rock with for years to come and there's no better time to find that player with the depth of this draft class.
3. SAM Linebacker
The solution here may be as simple as re-signing veteran K.J. Wright, who's coming off yet another brilliant year 10 seasons into his criminally underrated career. But once the draft concludes, Wright should see his market heat up as free agent signings no longer count towards the compensatory pick formula for 2022, which could drive him out of the Seahawks' limited financial range. If so, their options at strong-side linebacker likely break down to third-year man Cody Barton - who's failed to impress in finite defensive snaps - and possibly 2020 second-round selection Darrell Taylor. This isn't a great class for a team attempting to find a new SAM, however. Options are few and far between, with their best chance to identify someone who can make an immediate impact cutting off around the fourth round range at best.
4. Versatile Receiver
Some may be surprised to see receiver listed this low, but this comes down to a couple of factors. For starters, this is the deepest position group in the entire draft, so the Seahawks shouldn't have to bend over backwards to find a player they like; they can wait it out a little if they so wish. Secondly, they already boast two of the best receivers in the NFL and added another solid pass-catcher in tight end Gerald Everett this offseason. That said; beefing up this receiving corps should be a priority of theirs, especially following the free agent losses of David Moore and Phillip Dorsett. New offensive coordinator Shane Waldron likes to move his wideouts all around the field throughout the course of a game, so this isn't as simple as finding a pure slot guy. Ideally, the Seahawks want a player who can play a bit of everything and give them a better option to handle jet/fly sweep duties in the expectedly quick-hitting Waldron scheme. They should be more than able to find that in this incredibly talented class, and would make their star quarterback very happy by doing so in the process.
5. 3-Tech Defensive Tackle
If Schneider and company throw a signature curveball early in this draft, it may be at defensive tackle. They kicked their offseason into high gear by extending Poona Ford to a two-year contract, but wound up having to release Jarran Reed after negotiations on a potential restructure ended poorly. Aside from Ford, there isn't a whole lot for the Seahawks to reply upon at defensive tackle right now. They brought in veteran Al Woods, who spent the 2019 season with them before suffering a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances. They're also heavily relying on what they've seen from Bryan Mone in limited snaps over the past two seasons, as well as a one-game audition by Cedrick Lattimore in January. This draft doesn't offer a ton of talent at defensive tackle, which could lead to a surprise early selection from the Seahawks, but this is one of their most underrated needs given the faith they've placed on the players behind Ford. It shouldn't come as a total shock if they do wind up taking an interior defender with one of their first picks, wherever that may land.
6. Tight End
After inking Everett to a one-year deal in March, tight end isn't necessarily a massive need for Seattle right now. However, it could be in a year's time with Everett heading back to free agency and Will Dissly right behind him. Aside from those two, the Seahawks are still uncertain about what they have in 2020 fourth-rounder Colby Parkinson and former undrafted free agent Tyler Mabry. Chances of a tight end selection aren't huge, but there's an argument to be made for them to prioritize one in the later stages of the draft.
7. Left Tackle
Duane Brown is entering the last year of his contract in what will be his age 36 season. So if he doesn't retire, he may still be on his way out the door as a free agent. With a rather dreary outlook for potential veteran replacement options in 2022, this may be a spot the Seahawks don't want to wait and find out on this time next year. There's a nice crop of tackle prospects set to be taken this weekend, especially in terms of guys who could greatly benefit from a year sitting behind - and learning from - one of the best blindside blockers in recent memory. Depending on the player, this could also be their right tackle of the future if Brown ends up deciding to continue his career in the Pacific Northwest beyond 2021.