Our 2019 NFL Preview concludes it’s run through the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks, who after returning to the Playoffs following a brief hiatus look to build upon their momentum. Indeed, Pete Carroll and John Schneider showed the football world how rebuilding on the fly is actually done, going 10-6 and earning a Wild Card despite saying goodbye to a wealth of longstanding figures within the organization, particularly the fabled Legion of Boom, which is now completely dissolved with the exit of All-Pro Safety, Earl Thomas. However, Seattle continues to realign their finances, saying goodbye to another high-profile Defender, Frank Clark, while investing heavily in their leading man, Russell Wilson, whom signed a lucrative contract extension that will keep him in the Pacific Northwest for quite a long time. Now with the plan to further build around Wilson, what does this upcoming season have in store for the Seahawks? Read on and find out, folks…
The $140 Million Man
In a move that had long been in the works, the Seahawks opened up their vault and inked Russell Wilson (65.6%, 3,448 YDS, 6.47 NY/A, 35 TD, 7 INT, 65.1 QBR) to a hefty four-year, $140 Million Contract Extension, including $107 Million in Total Guarantees, making the veteran Quarterback the highest-paid player at his position in the NFL this season. The five-time Pro-Bowler, and 2013 Super Bowl Champion certainly earned this deal for a variety of reasons. Despite playing behind a perennially porous Offensive Line, he’s proven to be nothing short of durable, never missing a game in his seven-year career. Furthermore, he’s been a consummate winner, going 75-36-1 in 112 Starts, sporting a Winning Percentage of .669, which ranks among the league’s finest all-time, while taking Seattle to the Playoffs on six occasions, including a pair of trips to the Super Bowl, where he and his teammates hoisted the Lombardi Trophy back in 2013. He’s also been very productive, throwing for 196 Touchdowns in comparison to Sixty-Three Interceptions, while posting a QBR below 61.0 just once his career. Of course, he’s long proven to be a threat with his feet, rushing for 3,651 Yards and Sixteen Touchdowns as well. Lastly, at just 30-Years Old, he figures to continue playing at a high level over the duration of this extension, particularly given the sudden longevity of so many of his contemporaries. The only question is to how the Seahawks will continue to rebuild around him, for the vast majority of personnel (and personalities) that contributed aside him over the past seven years have left for a variety of reasons. Most recently, Doug Baldwin (50 REC, 618 YDS, 12.4 Y/R, 5 TD), who had been his preferred target during the bulk of that span, catching 493 Passes for 6,563 Yards and Forty-Nine Touchdowns, abruptly retired following his side’s 22-24 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card Game. Much of Seattle’s success was cited to the club being able to spend lavishly around Wilson because he was always on an affordable contract since he was a Third Round Pick. Now with that not longer being the case, the aforementioned Carroll and Schneider will have to build around their Quarterback on a much tighter budget.
Exodus in Seattle
As we touched upon earlier, a major reason that Seattle was able to sign the aforementioned Wilson to such an expensive extension, was due to the mass exodus of veteran talent from the Pacific Northwest. Over the last three years, Carrol and Schneider have seemingly gone out of their way to seek out a quieter lockerroom, with many of the outspoken veterans firing a myriad of parting shots on their way out the door. 2016 saw the retirement of Marshawn Lynch (four Pro-Bowls, one All-Pro), with Michael Bennett (three Pro-Bowls) and Richard Sherman (four Pro-Bowls, three All-Pros) leaving in search of greener pastures in 2018. This past Offseason alone saw the retirement of both Kam Chancellor (four Pro-Bowls) and the aforementioned Baldwin (two Pro-Bowls), along with the departure of Earl Thomas (six Pro-Bowls, three All-Pros), who signed with the Baltimore Ravens in Free Agency. While all of those players enjoyed an immense run of success during their time with the Seahawks, the common denominator was that they were all aging and extremely outspoken, which could be viewed as Management throwing the disorderly overboard (to a degree). However, the 30-Year Olds weren’t the only Seahawks to be given their walking papers; budding Defensive End, Frank Clark (41 TKL, 10 TFL, 27 QBH, 13.0 SK, 2 FR, 1 INT, 2 PD), who in the past four seasons with the club had racked up Thirty-Five Sacks and Tackles for Loss, along with Seventy-Two Quarterback Hits. In this case, we have a player who at 26-Years Old, was coming off his Rookie Contract and no doubt looking to cash in on his most productive season to date. With that said, circumstances dictated that the Seahawks do everything in their power to retain Wilson, so Clark was handed the dreaded Franchise Tag instead, prompting the defender to demand a trade, which the team did, sending him to the Kansas City Chiefs on Draft Night in exchange for First and Third Round Picks in the 2019 Draft, along with a conditional Pick in 2020. They turned around and used that First Rounder on his replacement, L.J. Collier, a Defensive Lineman out of TCU.
The Youth Movement
With so many veterans taking their leave, the opportunity for a younger generation to emerge is now for Seattle, with the Seahawks looking to rebuild around the aforementioned Wilson with younger (and cheaper) talent. Indeed, both Carroll and Schneider are hoping that some of these young players develop into the next Richard Sherman or Marshawn Lynch, with the youth movement being in full swing in the Pacific Northwest. As noted earlier, with the pick obtained in the Frank Clark trade, Seattle chose L.J. Collier to start opposite of Free Agent acquisition, the oft-injured Ezekiel Ansah (11 TKL, 3 TFL, 7 QBH, 4.0 SK), who was signed in Free Agency. The Backfield will very much be a platoon of Tailbacks featuring Chris Carson (247 CAR, 1,151 YDS, 4.7 Y/C, 9 TD), Rashad Penny (85 CAR, 419 YDS, 4.9 Y/C, 2 TD), and the versatile C.J. Prosise, while 2019’s Second Round Pick, D.K Metcalf, is set to get every opportunity to become the team’s top receiving threat. With the aforementioned Baldwin retiring, the Seahawks are very thin at Receiver, with the 27-Year Old, Tyler Lockett (57 REC, 965 YDS, 16,9 Y/R, 10 TD), becoming Wilson’s most reliable target. Metcalf, who made waves with his performance at the league’s Scouting Combine, has the unique size/athleticism ratio to become a difference maker at the professional level, despite a rather unproductive tenure at Ole Miss. At 6′-3″ 229 lbs, this guy is a physical presence on the perimeter, who should factor into not only the Passing Game, but also the Running Game as a blocker. Defensively, the Defensive Line, headlined by Jarran Reed (50 TKL, 12 TFL, 24 QBH, 10.5 SK, 2 FR), will be comprised mostly of unheralded players, particularly with Reed serving a six-game suspension to start the season after running afoul of the league’s Personal Conduct Policy. They’ll also be counting on Shaquill Griffin (61 TKL, 3 TFL, 2 INT, 8 PD) to step into that No. One Cornerback that the aforementioned Sherman popularized, perhaps even creating a new incarnation of the vaunted Legion of Boom along the way.
2019 Forecast: 8-8
After returning to the Playoffs following their first missed opportunity in five years, the Seahawks are biting the proverbial pill when it comes to paying a Franchise Quarterback. After garnering so much success with Russell Wilson still under the shelf of a rookie contract, Seattle must now prove flexible enough to build around the veteran Signal-Caller, with their funds likely restricted to a degree after signing him to such a hefty contract extension. Pete Carroll and John Schneider will be relying heavily on a group of young, and largely unproven players, to make the most of the opportunities that Wilson provides. Will Metcalf prove to be something greater than simply a combine workout warrior? Will the crowded Backfield of Carson, Penny, and Prosise once again rank among the league’s most productive? And how about the Defense, which has undergone more change than anything over the past few years, will they carry the torch that has been left behind by their predecessors? With the NFC West, particularly the bottom of the Division, showing improvement, it’s difficult to see the Seahawks rolling though their schedule with only the Rams to realistically worry about. Our opinion is that with Wilson now under wraps for the foreseeable future, the club will be willing to take a loss in the short-term so that they can make some greater gains later down the line, with 2019 shaping up to be something of a training exercise for the plethora of young players that occupy their roster.