Contending for the NFC West title until the final seconds of the regular season, and then getting back to the divisional round of the playoffs, made this Seahawks season a “really good” one. That’s Russell Wilson estimation anyway.
“A lot of people think that we overachieved,” the Seahawks quarterback said Monday. “I think we underachieved, in my opinion, because I think that the goal should always be winning the Super Bowl. That’s got to be our standard.”
How do the Seahawks take a step forward in 2020?
There are several areas for improvement — notably on defense, and coach Pete Carroll acknowledged this week that there will be changes on that side of the ball.
The good news? The Seahawks have money to spend — roughly $58 million in cap space, the seventh most in the NFL — and they are projected to have 12 picks in April’s NFL draft, seven of which will be in the first four rounds.
So the Seahawks do have options and means of upgrading their roster.
“We’ve got to find ways to get better,” Wilson said. “We’ve got to find ways to get past just the first or second round of the playoffs and get to the final push. That’s the reality. I know that’s why I play the game. I know that’s why a lot of guys in this locker room try to play for that and everything else. We’ve got to get better and we will try to do everything we can to figure that out.”
Here are 10 key questions facing the Seahawks this offseason:
Will the Seahawks be able to re-sign Jadeveon Clowney?
Re-signing Clowney to a long-term deal has to be the No. 1 priority for the Seahawks. Seattle’s defensive issues were well-chronicled this season: The Seahawks ranked 26th in yards allowed (381.6) and 28th in QB pressure rate (19.3%). Now try to picture that defense without Clowney, one of the league’s most talented athletes.
He won’t be cheap. The guess here is he gets a deal worth more than what Frank Clark got last offseason from Kansas City; that was a five-year, $104 million contract, with $62 million guaranteed. Are the Seahawks willing to go that high? They should. They have the money to spend, and Clowney is the right player at the right position to help anchor this defense in 2020 and beyond. But Clowney will no doubt have several other serious suitors — the Colts, the Giants and Buccaneers all have a need and money to spend — and he has every right to maximize this one opportunity as a free agent. And that makes the odds of Clowney’s return to Seattle no better than 50-50 right now.
Should the Seahawks stick with their use of so much base defense?
No. The Seahawks stuck with their three linebackers as much as they did because of who those linebackers were: Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks. But it was clear the Seahawks also stuck with their base as much as they did because they didn’t have a viable option at nickel cornerback. Veteran Jamar Taylor, released after Week 10, wasn’t the answer. And while there’s a lot to like about rookie Ugo Amadi and his potential, he wasn’t ready for a prime-time role and should not have been put in position to cover a receiver like Davante Adams one-on-one in the fourth quarter of a playoff game. The Seahawks need to have more flexibility, and more options, in their nickel and dime packages.
What should be done to fix the secondary?
Bradley McDougald and Quandre Diggs, when healthy, were effective together as the safety tandem in the second half of the season. They are foundational pieces for 2020. So is Shaquill Griffin, who made a major leap forward as a No. 1 cornerback. According to Pro Football Focus, Griffin had the highest forced incompletion rate (21.2%) among the NFL’s top corners this season. At the other corner, significant questions remain about Tre Flowers. Remember, this was just the second season for Flowers playing cornerback, after coming up as a safety in college. But there is little doubt the Seahawks will bring in competition to push Flowers — and they need to. Do they make cornerback a priority in the draft? Or should they look for a veteran corner on the free-agent market?
Will Marshawn Lynch play for the Seahawks again?
Lynch has likely played his final game in the NFL. He’ll be 34 in April, and outside of a return to the Super Bowl, this three-week reunion with the Seahawks went as well as anyone could have hoped. Beast Mode scored four touchdowns in three games, three of which came in the playoffs. Beyond his on-field production, Lynch’s true value was the leadership and inspiration he brought to a locker room reeling after the devastating Week 16 loss to Arizona. And Lynch’s postgame news conference in Green Bay on Sunday night — “Take care of y’all mentals, y’all bodies, y’all chicken” — was a pitch-perfect sendoff for one of the most iconic characters in Seattle sports history.
What will happen with the running back position going forward?
Chris Carson says he won’t need surgery to repair a fractured bone in his hip and he expects to be ready for training camp. That’s good news for a Seahawks backfield that lost its top three runners in December. Carson, presuming his recovery and rehabilitation go well, will return as the featured back after consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. (Carson is entering his final year of his rookie deal, and whether he can work out a new deal with the Seahawks will be another interesting subplot this offseason.) Rashaad Penny, after his November breakthrough, might take a bit longer to return to form from his torn ACL, but when healthy he’s as good as any No. 2 back in the league. The Seahawks will probably move on from C.J. Prosise after four injury-marred seasons, meaning they could be on the lookout for a veteran free agent to compete with Travis Homer for the No. 3 job.
Where can Russell Wilson go from here?
Wilson was magnificent this season. It’s difficult to imagine how he could be better in 2020, but at the age of 31 he believes he’s still ascending — and that alone means the Seahawks ought to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders next season. Of course, the popular offseason question among Seahawks fans once again will be: Are the Seahawks doing enough with Wilson — and with the talent and scheme around him — to maximize his prime? It is an important debate, but that discussion ought to go beyond simply THROW IT MORE! That statement ignores the other vital aspects of Carroll’s philosophy of playing complementary football — that is, run the ball to control the clock, limit mistakes, don’t put your own defense in difficult situations. The best way the Seahawks could help Wilson isn’t to overhaul the offensive system; it’s to improve an aging offensive line and provide him with more playmaking options at wide receiver and tight end.
What should be Seattle’s priority in the draft?
The offensive line. Seattle’s line ranked 27th in the NFL this season, according to PFF. And it’s one of the oldest lines in the league. Duane Brown will be 35 next season; Mike Iupati, an impending free agent, will be 33; D.J. Fluker will be 29; Justin Britt will be 29 and coming off a major knee injury; and Germain Ifedi, also an unrestricted free agent, will be 26. So, yes, a major shift could be in store for the Seahawks’ line. There’s a real scenario where Brown is the only regular starter from 2019 back next season. The Seahawks could opt to re-sign George Fant, and they have two young linemen with upside in Jamarco Jones and Phil Haynes. But they need another infusion of young talent, and they ought to make the line the top priority in the draft.
Name one other position that needs an upgrade?
Tight end. Will Dissly has all the tools to be a top-flight tight end, but he has only played in 10 games in two seasons and is rehabbing another significant injury. Jacob Hollister was a nice story for the Seahawks this season, and he’ll surely be back next season. But after the Seahawks just missed out on George Kittle in the 2017 draft, and on Noah Fant in the 2019 draft, don’t be surprised if they target a tight end with an early pick this season.
How much longer do you think Pete Carroll will coach?
As long as he wants — or as long as he and Wilson are on the same page. Yes, there is room to gripe about Carroll’s stubbornly old-fashioned in-game strategies — and you don’t have to look hard to find those complaints mapped out in overwrought detail — but the facts are these: Seahawks fans have has been spoiled with a decade of success never before seen here, and Seattle may never have a better coach, in any major sport, than Pete Carroll. Enjoy him while you can, folks.
Do you think the Seahawks will be better or worse in 2020?
There are so many unknowns at this point. The Seahawks were hit hard by injuries in 2019, and they deserve credit for getting as far as they did while managing those. If they can upgrade the offensive line, re-sign Clowney and improve the defensive secondary, they certainly have a chance to get back to the playoffs in 2020. But that’s no guarantee in the rugged NFC West, where a young San Francisco team appears poised to contend for several years and the Rams look ready to reload after their Super Bowl hangover this season. The Seahawks, no doubt, will continue to entertain, but their margin for error has always been razor thin.