Like the vast majority of businesses, when it comes to building an NFL roster, coaching staff, or front office, connections and familiarity matter immensely. Teams need to be able to establish chemistry in quick order at all levels within the organization to attain success.
Over the past 11 years under coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the Seahawks have excelled at checking off all three boxes.
Though Carroll has made a few minor tweaks, including hiring a new offensive coordinator in Shane Waldron back in January, he's generally maintained continuity with his staff. Schneider has lost a few of his top advisors to promotions with other teams, including Scott Fitterer leaving to become the Panthers general manager earlier this year, but the front office remains one of the best in the NFL.
As for the roster, Carroll and Schneider have a strong understanding of which types of players they want. They have always preferred players with chips on their shoulders that have overcome adversity on and off the field. They have certain athletic and size-related traits they covet at each positional group and schematic fit matters.
This specific set of criteria can be easily seen in Seattle's offseason additions through the first three weeks of free agency. It also shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone that all of the players signed or traded for thus far have significant ties to the organization in some way, shape, or form.
Shortly after losing starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin to the Jaguars, the Seahawks quickly found a potential replacement in a long-time NFC West foe, signing former 49ers starter Ahkello Witherspoon to a one-year deal. Possessing the size (6-foot-2) and length (33-inch arms) Carroll covets on the outside, he made an official pre-draft visit with the team prior to the 2017 NFL Draft, so he has been on the organization's radar dating back to his time at the University of Colorado.
In retrospect, Witherspoon may have been Seattle's preferred cornerback option, but he was selected at No. 66 overall. Griffin eventually was picked later in the third round with the 90th selection.
Seattle's second significant free agent signing came on the second day of free agency, as fifth-year tight end Gerald Everett also changed NFC West zip codes to reunite with Waldron, who coached and mentored him the past four years with the Rams. While he admitted the chance to play for Carroll and catch passes from Russell Wilson helped him make his final decision, Waldron's presence was the biggest factor that led him to the Pacific Northwest.
Everett also has a backstory that would certainly draw Carroll and Schneider's attention. After only playing football his senior year of high school, he bounced around with multiple colleges, starting at Hutchinson Community College before enrolling at the University of Alabama-Birmingham. Unfortunately, UAB temporarily shut down its football program, but he landed on his feet with South Alabama, where he became an All-Sun Belt performer and eventual second-round pick for the Rams.
Veteran guard Gabe Jackson, who was acquired from the Raiders for a fifth-round pick to bolster pass protection for Wilson, has a couple interesting links to the Seahawks as well. During the 2014 NFL Draft, he apparently received a call from the team at the end of the second round to inform him they were not selecting him, suggesting he may have been a coveted player on their draft board.
While Seattle ultimately picked receiver Paul Richardson and center Justin Britt with two second-round selections that year, Jackson still eventually played for line coach Tom Cable, who returned to the Raiders in 2018 after seven seasons with the Seahawks. This experience playing in a zone-heavy scheme should serve Jackson well as he transitions into Waldron's system.
As for defensive end Kerry Hyder, who signed a two-year deal with Seattle last month, he broke into the league as an undrafted free agent out of Texas Tech and has managed to carve out a successful six-year NFL career. Exhibiting excellent quickness and hand technique at 270 pounds, he's an ideal fit for the team's 5-tech base defensive end role and can also reduce inside, providing much-needed versatility.
He also played in a similar scheme under former 49ers defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who spent three years as a defensive assistant with the Seahawks under Carroll. The team was able to see him excel for Saleh's defense firsthand last year, as Hyder produced a sack and two quarterback hits in two divisional games against them.
With only three draft picks this year, Seattle will continue to look for affordable veterans on the free agent market to help supplement the roster. Predictably, most of the names being rumored as possible targets, including a possible reunion with Richard Sherman, have previous ties to the organization. The ones who don't - such as receiver Marquise Goodwin - have desired athletic/size traits and most importantly have played in similar systems elsewhere.
As evidenced by all of the Seahawks moves since the start of the new league year, familiarity matters a great deal. Forced to be more reliant on free agency to fill gaps than a typical offseason due to the lack of draft capital, it will be an even more decisive aspect of the roster construction process for Schneider and Carroll moving forward.