Friday, March 14, 2014

Back & Forth with Chris and Adam

Since our last column, the Seahawks have begun shaping the look of the 2014 roster. They've retained significant contributors from the Super Bowl run-- Michael Bennett, Lemuel Jeanpierre, Jeron Johnson, Tarvaris Jackson and Anthony McCoy. Sadly, we've also seen them part ways with integral components like Golden Tate (Lions), Red Bryant (Jaguars), Chris Clemons (Jaguars), Breno Giacomini (Jets), Clinton McDonald (Buccaneers), Chris Maragos (Eagles) and Sidney Rice (free agent).

CC:  My biggest concern at this moment is obviously the wide receiver group. We're ostensibly left with Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Percy Harvin, Ricardo Lockette and recently acquired Taylor Price.

Harvin's health will always be a cause for concern and both Baldwin and Kearse will have to prove they can make the jump from 'pedestrian' to viable starters this coming season. Tremendous depth was the recipe for success last year and we're beginning to see the roster thin out.
How do you anticipate Carroll/Schneider will address this apparent lack of depth at the receiver position and what do you feel is the strongest and weakest position groups to this point?

AH:  I hear your concern about the receiving corp, but relax and understand we have a built in upgrade to Golden Tate named Percy Harvin. I also wouldn't count out the possibility of resigning Sidney Rice at a minimal one year deal. Another possibility to add the the position group is Pete's annual wide receiver reclamation project. I see Kenny Britt potentially being an option here for a minimal deal with high upside. He falls right in line with the history of Mike Williams, Braylon Edwards, and Terrell Owens.

So, in direct response to your concern at the wide receiver position, there are only a handful of teams with a better 1, 2, 3 combo of Percy, Baldwin and Kearse. I do think we bolster the group through the draft, but the concern everyone is feeling is over the emotional loss of Golden and not so much the rational analysis of the talent at the position.

The two position groups with the most attrition is both the offense and defensive lines. The loss of Red Bryant is to be reinforced with the growth of Jesse Williams (who the organization is very excited about) and an increased role of Seattle's premier free agent retention, in Michael Bennett. 

The loss of Clinton McDonald will be filled in by the progression of Jordan Hill. Hill will graduate to become the situational one gap pass rusher, and eventually taking over for Mebane in two years.

The offensive line suffers the loss of two starters, Paul McQuistan and Breno Giacomini. This is concerning. While the organization has strong belief in both Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie, it would be unfortunate to go into this next season without adding competition to this position group. Seattle must add to the OL if they wish to maintain their identity of being a run first offense. 

One things remains true: Seattle stays true to their philosophy.  Seattle prizes intelligent, athletic lineman than can make reads on the go. Seattle values cornerbacks with extended wing spans that play physical. Wide receivers are scouted and graded on their play making ability, mental capacity and run blocking. The 'X' wide receiver position is favored to have an expansive wing span, red zone threat and an imposing run blocker. 

CC:  I agree that Harvin is several ranks higher than Tate in skill and ability, but I think it would be foolish to pencil him in as a 16-game starter next season. I love the idea of bringing in Kenny Britt as a reclamation project on an incentive-based deal.  It'd be great to see him get his act together for us.

This regime doesn't have a great track record when it comes to drafting receivers.  Outside of Tate, there hasn't been much success for Seattle. Kris Durham, Chris Harper and Jameson Konz never made much of an impact. However, they have had tremendous luck in signing undrafted receivers with Baldwin and Kearse. 
Initially, my hope was that Seattle would draft tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins out of Washington.  I assumed that Miller would be cut and we would be left with Luke Willson and Anthony McCoy.  Now I'm leaning more toward the urgency of adding receiver depth.  How do you see the tight end group shaking out and what do you expect Seattle to do with their first pick in the draft?

AH:  For several years now, Carroll and Schneider have investigated other avenues at tight end. From trading for Kellen Winslow to signing international basketball players to bringing in Jermichael Finley for a visit when the position group is already amongst the strongest on an already very strong team. They are obviously still looking for something. It's possible the front office is looking to establish the future before parting ways with Zach Miller, but letting Miller go wouldn't save the team all that much money this year, but it would next year, which would make sense with much or Seattle's core group being up for new deals. I, for one, am still very curious to find out what they are trying to establish there. The impending progression of Luke Willson may solve that.

If Seattle does choose to go after a TE in the draft this year, I only see two options: those being Eric Ebron and Austin Seferian-Jenkins. Jack Amaro is a nice specimen, but Seattle drafted that guy last year in the 5th round. His name is Luke Willson. I expect to see a big jump in his progress this year, possibly enough to move on from Anthony McCoy or Zach Miller with the addition of one of the two draftees or Jermichael Finley. 

One other possible scenario is that Seattle is looking at a possible sign and trade with Miller. The Bucs have been movers and shakers, a possible reunion with the Raiders or maybe even Atlanta, Tennessee or the J-E-T-S? There is a good market out there for Zach Miller. That foot likely won't come down until Brandon Pettigrew signs, though. Our front office relationships in both Tennessee and NYJ could benefit with the combination of needs at the TE position.

If Seattle were to trade Zach Miller, I would estimate his value would be at a 5th round pick.
CC:   One last topic before we wrap this up.  The lynchpin of this team last season was its tenacious defense anchored by its remarkable depth. We've seen Bryant, Maragos, Clemons and McDonald sign with new teams this offseason.  Browner will most likely not return and Walter Thurmond is visiting other teams.  Even throwaway guys like O'Brian Schoefield and Ty Powell found gigs with new teams at much higher salaries than they earned here. We knew that Seattle would get raided after winning the Super Bowl, but the question remains whether or not they can restock the pantry with enough depth to repeat. Do you think Seattle will make any more waves in free agency to address defensive depth? What would you say is the top three position priorities to address through the draft?

AH:  To tell you the truth, I don't see Seattle reaching for big deals in free agency on players outside of this organization for several years. Not unless it's a great team deal. Seattle will look to retain it's core group of players while letting expendable players go.

That's not to say the Seahawks don't go for any guys in free agency. Schneider will never turn away from cost effective deals. Jared Allen, Julius Peppers, Kenny Britt, Henry Melton, Jermichael Finley are all possible short term deals that Schneider would likely have interest in after the market dies down a bit. 

Pete Carroll is employing a philosophy that operates on a college like timescale approach. In college, Pete had guys between one and five years. With that type of turnover, you can't overly base your system on individual players and maintain consistent success. That approach would give you a lot of up and downs. By approaching it from a system approach, we expect to progress and graduate new players from within. It's your basic freshman to senior approach. You get guys with the mental tools and physical equipment to play the position, then develop them. You develop with continuity and consistency. We have great consistency with Gus Bradley/Dan Quinn, Ken Norton Jr., and Tom Cable. Those coaches are the men that make this philosophy successful. 

As for my top positions on need in the draft, I would say that adding competition to the offensive line is the teams number one need after moving on from McQuistan and Giacomini. Cutting James Carpenter in camp is not beyond the realm of possibility, but even if we don't cut him we will still need to make a contract decision with him next year. And since I imagine that Seattle will be moving on from Lynch after the upcoming year, it would be best to have a familiar offensive line during the transition to Christine Michael.

Wide receiver. Done. He will be tall. He will be physical. Don't be discouraged if Seattle doesn't draft this guy early. The talent at this position group and overall size is unprecedented... maybe even two receivers.

Pass rushers are always held in high regard. KJ Wright and Malcolm Smith will be RFA's, and would likely benefit the team by adding more depth there, allowing Bruce Irvin to be more versatile. Where Michael Bennett can alter from inside to outside the defensive line, Bruce Irvin will make the biggest leap this upcoming season and, I believe, will become one of the defensive terrors of the league.

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