Our 2022 NFL Preview heads to the Pacific Northwest, where the Seahawks are set to embark on what appears to be nothing short of transitional season. After years of rumors linking him with a move away from Seattle, (longtime Quarterback) Russell Wilson was finally dealt away in exchange for a sizable bounty that (Head Coach) Pete Carroll hopes will provide the franchise with the requisite tools to facilitate an expedited renovation. With that said, do they have enough talent apart from Quarterback to avoid remaining in the doldrums of the competitive NFC West? What is the plan under center? How much longer will the aging Carroll remain in charge? Let’s take a look, shall we?
After ten years in which he led the Seahawks to eight playoff appearances, four NFC West titles, and two trips to the Super Bowl, including the franchise’s first and only Lombardi Trophy back in 2014, Russell Wilson’s time in the Northwest ended this past spring, as he was traded to the Broncos in a blockbuster deal that could very well prove to be a boon for both teams. Looking at it from Seattle’s perspective, they’re losing one of the most prolific Quarterbacks in the NFL, and not to mention one of its most successful; the nine-time Pro-Bowler threw for 37,059 yards and 292 touchdowns opposed to just eighty-seven interceptions in 158 career starts, while rushing for another 4,689 yards and twenty-three more scores en route to amassing a stellar 104-53-1 record as the starter, equating to a win percentage of .658. Furthermore, he was as durable as anyone at the position, missing just three games over his career, which coincidentally all came in 2021 as the ‘Hawks spiraled to their first losing campaign since he was drafted in 2012. Needless to say, that’s quite the CV that Carroll and (General Manager) John Schneider is replacing, with an open competition playing out this offseason between veterans Geno Smith and Drew Lock (pictured together), who each bring various traits to the table. Smith, 32-years old, enters his third season with the club, having started three games in place of Wilson last year, completing 68.4% of his attempts for 702 yards, five touchdowns and an interception, demonstrating a solid grasp of the scheme and earning the trust of his teammates. 13-21 (.382) as a starter over the course of his eight-year career, Smith has the early advantage heading into the fall over Lock, who six years younger, arrives as part of the trade with Denver. 8-13 (.380) in twenty-one starts with the Broncos, Lock has the physical tools and upside to earn the starting job long term, but he has been plagued by injuries and inconsistencies in his play over the last three years. In an unprecedented offseason that featured more Quarterback movement than we’re accustomed to seeing in the NFL, it was awfully telling that the Seahawks opted against acquiring a more prominent signal-caller than Smith or Lock, which makes this an evaluation year for both. After all, Seattle has another first-round pick owed to them in the Wilson deal, so if they feel that they need to move in another direction at QB following this season, then they’ll have the ammunition to do so in the Draft or via trade.
To Rebuild or Transition?
While on the surface 2022 looks to be the beginning of a rebuild for the Seahawks, there have been plenty of signs that this season is more of a transitional one in the Pacific Northwest. Sure, as we detailed earlier, Quarterback is a major question mark for Seattle, but when you look at the rest of the roster that Carroll and Schneider have put together, and the moves that they’ve made over the offseason to address their weaknesses, this is a team that could be surprisingly competitive this fall. So, why the feeling of optimism, you ask? Despite losing Wilson and (longtime Linebacker) Bobby Wagner, the club handed out extensions to the likes of (Safety) Quandrae Diggs (three years, $39 million), (Tailback) Rashaad Penny (one year, $5.75 million), and (Tight End) Will Dissly (three years, $24 million), along with (Pro-Bowl Receiver) D.K. Metcalf (pictured), who put pen to paper on a lucrative three-year, $72 million deal. As for new faces, the ‘Hawks received what should be a pair of starters in the form of (Tight End) Noah Fant and (Defensive End) Shelby Harris as part of the Wilson trade, while also signing (promising Edge-Rusher) Uchenna Nwoso in free agency to a two-year, $19.5 million contract, and spending their first top-ten pick in over a decade on (Left Tackle) Charles Cross with the ninth overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. With returning talents such as (Pro-Bowl Safety) Jamal Adams and (vertical Wideout) Tyler Lockett, this is a team that is from short on talent. It’s also a good indication of the direction of this project that Metcalf opted to remain in Seattle despite the departure of Wilson, with many around the league expecting the 25-year-old to request a trade. Instead, whomever lines up under center will enjoy throwing the football to one of the most physically imposing pass-catchers in the NFL; at a hulking 6’-4″, 235 lbs., Metcalf is coming off a season in which he hauled in seventy-five receptions for 967 yards and a career-high twelve touchdowns.
At nearly 71-years old, Pete Carroll (pictured) owns the distinction of being the oldest Head Coach in the NFL at the moment, and it’s a mild surprise that he is continuing on in that position as the Seahawks embark on this new era without the aforementioned Wilson. Indeed, a potential retirement coinciding with his former Quarterback’s departure would have signified a clean break from the previous regime to a new one, but that doesn’t appear to be the case in the Pacific Northwest, at least not yet. There is no question that Carroll has turned Seattle into one of the most successful franchises in the league during his tenure there; in twelve years, he’s amassed a stellar 119-73-1 record (.619), including nine trips to the playoffs, four division titles, and a pair of trips to the Super Bowl, including a triumphant victory in Super Bowl XLVIII. Also serving as the club’s Vice President of Football Operations, he carries a lot of influence in personnel decisions, which means that all of those extensions and additions that we listed earlier were carried out at his behest and according to his plans, which is yet another sign that the venerable skipper isn’t done stalking the sidelines quite yet. In fact, there is a real argument to be made that the Seahawks have been set up nicely for the future after he and Scheider engineered the Wilson deal; Seattle received the aforementioned Lock, Fant, and Harris along with a pair of first-round picks and second-round picks (2022 and 2023), not to mention a fifth rounder in last spring’s NFL Draft. Furthermore, the money that they managed to save by offloading Wilson’s salary allowed them to address many of their weaknesses, particularly a porous defense that after years of dominance has finished no better than twenty-second in total yards allowed over the last three seasons. The ‘Hawks are also in the midst of their most dramatic shift on that side of the football under Carroll’s watch, with newcomers (Defensive Coordinator) Clint Hurtt, (Associate Head Coach) Sean Desai, and (Defensive Pass Game Coordinator) Karl Scott, coming together to implement new scheme that will be a grand departure from the Cover-3 that was their hallmark for a decade. Expect more 3-4 looks with aggressive blitz packages, while the Safeties will line up in more split looks as the aforementioned Adams and Diggs will be interchangeable in an attempt to create more big plays.
Projected Finish: 6-11
After a busy offseason in which they parted ways with Russell Wilson and locked down many other players across their roster, the Seahawks enter what looks to be more of a transitional season than an outright rebuilding one. Though the offense has plenty of weapons and the updates to the defensive scheme are long overdue, the NFL remains a Quarterback-driven league. If you have a good one, then you can be competitive, and if you have a great one, you can contend for championships, but if have neither then it can be very difficult to simply win games, which is where Seattle finds themselves as Geno Smith and Drew Lock vie for the starting job. They’ll likely be a pain in the ass for many opponents, particularly at Lumen Field, but envisioning them winning more than six games in a hellacious NFC West is asking too much out of Carroll & Co.