After falling a yard short of winning their second straight Super Bowl title, the Seahawks used the offseason to lock up three franchise cornerstones to long-term deals and add a feared playmaker to supplement their passing game.
- Cary Williams, CB: Three years, $18MM. $7MM guaranteed.
- Tarvaris Jackson, QB: One year, $1.5MM. $1.5MM guaranteed.
- Ahtyba Rubin, DT: One year, $2.6MM. $1MM guaranteed.
- Clint Gresham, LS: Three years, $2.705MM. $300K guaranteed.
- Mike Morgan, LB: One year, $1MM. $150K guaranteed.
- Greg Scruggs, DE: One year, $785K. $100K guaranteed.
- Anthony McCoy, TE: One year, $905K. $75K guaranteed.
- Will Blackmon, CB: One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K guaranteed.
- Demarcus Dobbs, DE: One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K guaranteed.
- Lemuel Jeanpierre, OL: One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K guaranteed.
- Will Tukuafu, FB/DL: One year, minimum salary benefit. $80K guaranteed.
- Jermaine Kearse, WR: One year, $2.356MM. Signed second-round RFA tender.
- James Carpenter, G
- Heath Farwell, LB
- Jeron Johnson, S
- Byron Maxwell, CB
- Zach Miller, TE: Released
- Tony Moeaki, TE
- Stephen Schilling, G
- O’Brien Schofield, LB
- Malcolm Smith, LB
- Bryan Walters, WR
- Kevin Williams, DT
The Seahawks lost one major defensive contributor via free agency, the aforementioned Maxwell – whom they couldn’t afford to retain. Maxwell broke out as a member of the Seahawks’ dominant defense the previous two years and parlayed that success into a $63MM contract with the Eagles. With Sherman still in the fold and a pair of capable corners in Williams and Simon competing for time opposite him, the Seahawks are properly equipped to handle the loss of Maxwell and defend their reign as the league’s top-ranked pass defense. Of course, much of that will also depend on the statuses of star safeties Kam Chancellor (holdout) and Earl Thomas, who’s on the mend after undergoing offseason surgery on a torn labrum.
Offensively, Seattle’s most noteworthy departure in free agency was left guard James Carpenter, who signed with the Jets. A first-round pick in 2011, Carpenter spent four years in Seattle and made 39 starts – including a personal-best 13 last season. PFF (subscription required) wasn’t enamored with Carpenter’s play the previous two seasons, rating him 47th out of 78 qualifying guards last year and 65th out of 81 in 2013. Nevertheless, the Seahawks are having trouble finding an able replacement for Carpenter. They recently courted two-time Pro Bowler Evan Mathis, but he ended up signing with Denver. That means Carpenter’s successor is very likely to come from within. One candidate is Justin Britt, a 2014 second-round pick who started all 16 games at right tackle as a rookie. Britt shifted to left guard earlier this month and lined up there in the Seahawks’ preseason contest against the Chiefs a week ago. Head coach Pete Carroll said Britt “looked very comfortable at left guard,” Gregg Bell of The News Tribune tweeted. Britt is the fifth different left guard the Seahawks have lined up with their No. 1 offensive unit this summer, Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times wrote last week, which points to the lack stability that Carpenter’s exit has led to.
- Acquired TE Jimmy Graham and a 2015 fourth-round pick from the Saints in exchange for C Max Unger and a 2015 first-round pick.
- Acquired a 2015 third-round pick (No. 69; WR Tyler Lockett) from Washington in exchange for a 2015 third-round pick (No. 95; RB Matt Jones), a 2015 fourth-round pick (No. 112; G Arie Kouandjio), a 2015 fifth-round pick (No. 167), and a 2015 sixth-round pick (No. 181; S Kyshoen Jarrett).
The Seahawks made a bold, game-changing trade in March when they acquired three-time Pro Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham from the Saints for center Max Unger and a first-round pick. While Unger was an integral part of their offensive line, he struggled to stay healthy, missing 13 games the previous two seasons, and certainly isn’t the impact player Graham is.
One thing the Seahawks’ offense sorely needed in recent years was an elite weapon in their passing game, and Graham fits the bill. The 6-foot-7, 260-pounder has put up staggering totals over the last four years – since 2011, the 28-year-old has averaged 89 receptions, 1,099 yards and 12 touchdowns per season. Those numbers dwarf the ones Doug Baldwin, Seattle’s previous leading pass catcher, accumulated in 2014: 66 catches, 825 yards, three scores. Regardless of Graham’s production this year, opposing defenses are going to have to focus on him. That will open things up for the rest of Seattle’s offense, and could make running back Marshawn Lynch an even bigger problem for defenses to contain.
Of course, the negative to adding Graham was losing Unger. As with Carpenter, the Seahawks are still looking for a replacement for Unger. They reportedly visited with free agent Samson Satele earlier this week and have been holding an in-house competition between Drew Nowak and Lemuel Jeanpierre, Condotta wrote Wednesday.
Satele, an eight-year veteran, has started a combined 114 games for three different teams. He made 16 starts last season for the Dolphins and ranked 22nd out of 29 centers who played in at least 50 percent of snaps, per PFF (subscription required). However, he has been a decent run blocker through most of his career and might help ease the pain of losing Unger in that respect – to an extent, anyway. If the Seahawks don’t sign Satele, it would mean a starting job for Nowak or Jeanpierre. That would be a significant step for either, as Nowak has zero NFL starts under his belt and Jeanpierre has a mere 11 during his four-year career in Seattle.
Extensions and restructures:
- Marshawn Lynch, RB: Extended through 2017. Three years, $31MM. $7.5MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $4.5MM, $9MM, $7MM. $3MM roster bonus in 2017.
- Russell Wilson, QB: Extended through 2019. Four years, $87.6MM. $31MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $12.34MM, $12.6MM, $15.5MM, $17MM.
- Bobby Wagner, LB: Extended through 2019. Four years, $43MM. $8MM signing bonus. Base salaries of $3MM, $4MM, $10MM, $10.5MM.
Five-time Pro Bowl running back Marshawn Lynch considered retirement early in the offseason, but the Seahawks summarily put that thought to bed by giving him a new contract. A future without Lynch surely isn’t one Seattle wants to ponder, as the 29-year-old has been a revelation during his five seasons with the team. Lynch has totaled 56 touchdowns (48 rushing, eight receiving) and accrued at least 280 carries and 1,200 yards in four of those seasons, also eclipsing the 100-yard mark on the ground in six playoff games. Thanks largely to Lynch, the Seahawks have finished top five in the league in rushing – including first overall last year – three straight times.
One of the other reasons Seattle has had such a tremendous rushing attack lately has been the work of dual-threat quarterback Russell Wilson, to whom the team also gave a new contract. The 26-year-old got a much richer deal than Lynch, inking a four-year, $87.6MM agreement with a $31MM signing bonus and $60MM in guarantees. Wilson’s new contract strongly resembles Ben Roethlisberger‘s pact with the Steelers – a four-year, $87.4MM deal with a $31MM signing bonus – and it’s deserved company for Wilson. Since the Seahawks took Wilson in the third round of the 2012 draft, the ex-NC State and Wisconsin standout has dazzled both through the air and on the ground, helping lead the team to its first-ever championship and nearly another one. Wilson has thrown 72 touchdowns against just 26 interceptions and put up a 98.6 passer rating in 48 regular-season starts, averaging a lofty 7.95 yards per attempt along the way. He’s been just as difficult to stop as a rusher, confounding defenses for 1,800-plus yards and 11 more scores. Last season, Wilson totaled career bests in rushing yards (849) and touchdowns (six), and led the league in yards-per-carry average (7.2). Wilson’s personal success has helped lead to resounding team success for the Seahawks, who have a ridiculous .750 winning percentage with him under center (36-12 in the regular season, 6-2 in the playoffs).
Linebacker Bobby Wagner followed in the footsteps of Lynch and Wilson and became the third Seahawks Pro Bowler to sign an extension this year. Wagner is now the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league after inking a four-year, $43MM extension ($22MM in guarantees). Despite missing five games in 2014 with turf toe, Wagner racked up a prolific 135 regular-season tackles and was named an All-Pro for the first time. PFF (subscription required) ranked the 25-year-old fifth out of 60 qualified ILBs in 2014, grading him as an above-average contributor in pass coverage, as a pass rusher, and especially against the run.
- 2-63: Frank Clark, DE (Michigan): Signed
- 3-69: Tyler Lockett, WR (Kansas State): Signed
- 4-130: Terry Poole, T (San Diego State): Signed
- 4-134: Mark Glowinski, G (West Virginia): Signed
- 5-170: Tye Smith, CB (Towson): Signed
- 6-209: Obum Gwacham, DE (Oregon State): Signed
- 6-214: Kristjan Sokoli, OL/DL (Buffalo): Signed
- 7-248: Ryan Murphy, S (Oregon State): Signed
The Seahawks’ defense finished last season toward the top of the league in most major statistical categories, but the unit ended up just 21st in sacks. Second-round pick Frank Clark could help in that department, and he’s been impressive this summer. In his preseason debut earlier this month, a loss to the Broncos, Clark led the Seahawks with nine tackles and showed off his ability to play on both the right and left sides.
“We’re trying to gain some information about where he’s most effective,” Carroll said afterward, according to Brady Henderson of ESPN 710 Seattle. “He had a good edge rush and (chased) the football, too. He forced a fumble tonight. He looked really good, so we’ll just figure it out and see where he’s best suited. It will take us all the way through the preseason to do that.”
While Clark has acquitted himself well on the field, the same wasn’t true off the field during his college football career. A domestic violence arrest last November got him kicked off the team at Michigan, but the Seahawks were apparently satisfied enough with Clark’s character to draft him.
“Our organization has an in-depth understanding of Frank Clark’s situation and background—we have done a ton of research on this young man,” Schneider said after the draft, per Condotta. “There’s hasn’t been one player in this draft that we have spent more time researching and scrutinizing more than Frank. That is why we have provided Frank with this opportunity, and we look forward to him succeeding in our culture here in Seattle.”
- Promoted Kris Richard to defensive coordinator to replace Dan Quinn.
- Declined 2016 fifth-year option for LB Bruce Irvin ($7.751MM).
- Signed 11 players to reserve/futures contracts.
- Signed 12 undrafted rookie free agents following the draft.
In 2013, the Seahawks lost defensive coordinator Gus Bradley to the Jaguars, who hired him as their head coach. History repeated itself this past offseason, as Bradley’s successor in Seattle, Dan Quinn, left to be the Falcons’ head man. Quinn’s absence probably won’t be felt to any large extent in Seattle, which has the talent to continue as one of the league’s premier defenses. It might help that a familiar face, Kris Richard, is taking over for Quinn. Richard has been a member of Seattle’s defensive staff since 2012, previously coaching their secondary.
This season could be the last in Seattle for linebacker Bruce Irvin, who has been a Seahawk since they used a first-rounder on him in 2012. Despite his on-field prowess (16.5 sacks, six forced turnovers), he’s likely to be a victim of the Seahawks’ success. With a salary cap in place and multiple breakout players on the Seahawks having already signed big-money extensions, not every star can be retained long term. Thus, the team decided in April not to pick up Irvin’s fifth-year option for 2016, which means he could become a free agent next winter.
Top 10 cap hits for 2015:
- Richard Sherman, CB: $12,200,000
- Marshawn Lynch, RB: $8,500,000
- Cliff Avril, DE: $8,000,000
- Michael Bennett, DE: $8,000,000
- Jimmy Graham, TE: $8,000,000
- Earl Thomas, S: $7,400,000
- Russell Okung, LT: $7,280,000
- Percy Harvin, WR: $7,200,000 (dead money)
- Brandon Mebane, DT: $5,700,000
- Kam Chancellor, S: $5,650,000
The Seahawks aren’t perfect (their offensive line is a testament to that), but they’re about as close as any team in the league. They’re a good bet to win the NFC West for a third straight year, clinch a fourth consecutive playoff berth, and vie for their third Super Bowl trip in a row.