Draft weekend helped answer some questions for the Seahawks but created a few others.
Let’s take a look at a few of each.
Q: Who is going to play where on the offensive line?
A: The line, of course, became the topic of much discussion after Russell Wilson’s February comments expressing frustration about being sacked as often as he has in his Seattle career. That led to the idea that Seattle might overhaul the line.
Instead, the Seahawks have so far made only one significant addition of a player who projects as a starter this year — Gabe Jackson, via a trade with the Raiders for a fifth-round pick.
Seattle coach Pete Carroll clarified on Saturday that Jackson is going to play right guard, the side he played the last five years with the Raiders, and Damien Lewis is going to move to the left side. Lewis played the right side last year and throughout his college career.
The draft also confirmed that, for now, the center position appears to be a two-man battle between Ethan Pocic and Kyle Fuller. There was much speculation Seattle might take a center with its first pick in the draft since both Pocic and Fuller are on one-year deals, and the $3 million the team gave Pocic didn’t seem to indicate he’s certain to be the starter again.
Seattle, of course, could still theoretically sign a veteran free agent. Austin Reifer, who played last year with the Chiefs, remains available.
But Carroll said that center for now is a Pocic/Fuller competition. Pocic started 14 games last year while Fuller was one of the surprise players in training camp before a suspension for violating the league’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs sidelined him for the first two games of the year. He then suffered a high-ankle sprain at midseason after starting against the Rams.
“(We’re) bringing Ethan back for a second year as a potential starter,” Carroll said. “The confidence he’ll gain from that will really help him. Like I’ve been saying, Kyle’s going to be competing with him all along, as well.”
Seattle’s only offensive-line draft pick was tackle Stone Forsythe, in the sixth round. But he projects as a developmental player to start out, with Duane Brown set on the left side and Brandon Shell and Cedric Ogbuehi back to compete for the starting job on the right side.
Shell was the starter last year but replaced by Ogbuehi late in the season after suffering an ankle injury. Carroll said Saturday that Ogbuehi, a 2015 first-round pick of the Bengals with 29 career starts, has a legitimate chance to earn the starting job this year.
Q: What’s up with the linebacker positions?
A: As of Tuesday the Seahawks had six linebackers on their roster — Bobby Wagner, Jordyn Brooks, Cody Barton, Ben Burr-Kirven and Jon Rhattigan, an undrafted free agent from Army who was reported to have signed with the Seahawks, and Aaron Donker. Donker is a German native who was allocated to the Seahawks on Tuesday through the league’s International Pathway Program. (Donker played the 2019 season at Arkansas State, making 25 tackles. As per the rules of the program, he will be allowed to be carried on the practice squad all season without counting against the roster limit.)
Seattle last year had seven linebackers on its initial 53-player roster.
Seattle, of course, could re-sign K.J. Wright. Monday marked the passing of the deadline for free-agent signings to count against the 2022 compensatory-pick formula, which might open up checkbooks a little bit and create more movement on the free-agent front.
But one thought is that Seattle also wants to see what Brooks and Barton can do in full-time roles.
“We have a group of linebackers that we can really count on,” Carroll said Saturday. “We like our guys and how they play.”
But Carroll also said last week the team also had not closed the door on Wright.
Another possibility is that 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor — listed as a defensive end — could be used some at strongside linebacker, in a manner similar to last year’s starter Bruce Irvin, able to play linebacker in the base defense and rush end in the nickel.
“We’re wide open to whatever he can do,” Carroll said Saturday. “… Darrell Taylor does give us some flexibility. We saw him in college play on the edge quite a bit, where he did some drops and he was in coverage. We have that as part of what we’re counting on.”
Q: So what happens now with Marquise Blair?
A: That seemed to be a big question in the moments right after Seattle drafted cornerback Tre Brown in the fourth round. The general analysis of Brown heading into the draft is that, at a listed 5-feet-9, his best NFL fit might be as a nickel.
But Carroll said Saturday that Brown was drafted to compete for an every-down spot as an outside corner, with the team having seen that 5-9 D.J. Reed could handle that just fine a year ago. But it’s doubtful Seattle would decide to go with 5-9 corners on each side.
Of course, Seattle said on draft day in 2016 that Germain Ifedi was drafted to play right tackle and moved him almost immediately to guard once the team got on the field. So, minds could be changed on Brown.
But assuming Brown stays on the outside, then the nickel job could again be a battle between Blair and Ugo Amadi.
Blair was the starting nickel a year ago before suffering an ACL tear in the second game. But Carroll said Saturday that Blair “is doing great. He’s ready to get back to working. He should be in great shape, ready to compete.” Blair, of course, is also still available to play safety, as is Amadi. Interestingly Seattle has only four players listed as safeties under contract — Blair and Amadi and starters Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. But Seattle could always bring back free agent Lano Hill or sign other veteran free agents or undrafted rookies.
Q: Who are three undrafted free-agent signees who caught your eye?
A: As of Monday morning, the Seahawks had 11 reported signings of undrafted free agents. The two who got the biggest reported signing bonuses ($20,000 each) were cornerback Bryan Mills of North Carolina Central and receiver/returner Connor Wedington of Stanford. Mills was generally regarded as a possible mid-round pick and was rated by NFL.com as the No. 1 corner who went undrafted. Mills’ signing only adds to what is suddenly a pretty packed corps of corners; Seattle has nine under contract. But Mills appears to be one to watch.
Two other UDFAs are particularly interesting: receiver Tamorrion Terry of Florida State and offensive lineman Pier-Olivier Lestage of the University of Montreal.
Terry was projected by some as a possible mid-round pick, and at a listed 6-3, 207 offers intriguing size and something of a different type of receiver than the drafted D’Wayne Eskridge, who is 5-9, 190. Lestage caught the eye of scouts at the East-West Shrine Game and the Tropical Bowl and reportedly signed with Seattle after getting a call from Carroll. He projects as possibly able to play both guard and center and is said to be able to snap the ball with either hand.
Q: What’s the next big move for the Seahawks?
A: Other than maybe signing another veteran free agent or two such as Wright, or less likely, Richard Sherman, the next big task for Seattle is signing safety Jamal Adams to an extension. Adams is under contract for the 2021 season at $9.8 million. But the Seahawks have made clear they want him around for the long-term (as also illustrated by giving up their 2021 and 2022 first-rounders for him). And Adams’ future is not a question Seattle wants hanging over its head when the 2021 season begins. Expect it to get settled before then.