The Seahawks' win over the Eagles Sunday was aided greatly by five veteran players all acquired by the team since March.
The easy takeaway was to say that Sunday’s 24-10 win over the Eagles showed that the Seahawks of old are back.
But while some of the usual suspects led the way — quarterback Russell Wilson, receiver Doug Baldwin, linebacker Bobby Wagner, to name a few – the win couldn’t have happened without a handful of players in their first year with the Seahawks.
In fact, consider that just seven starters Sunday were part of Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl champs (and one of those was cornerback Byron Maxwell, who recently returned after leaving Seattle in 2014).
Here’s a look at five new Seahawks who paved the way for Sunday’s win, what they have meant to the team this season and what their future may hold.
1, Left guard Luke Joeckel.
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Why he was acquired: Joeckel was signed to a one-year deal worth up to $8 million last March, with Seattle at the time also pursuing longtime Green Bay veteran T.J. Lang as part of the team’s plan to add experience on the offensive line after feeling that in 2016 they had gotten too young.
If Lang had come to Seattle then Joeckel might have played left tackle with Lang at guard. Instead, Lang signed with Detroit and the Seahawks decided to put Joeckel at guard, a spot he played last year with the Jaguars after beginning his career at left tackle.
What he has done: Joeckel started five games at left guard, then had surgery to clean up his knee and missed five. Now he’s back and teaming with tackle Duane Brown on the left side. And if the Seahawks were hardly dominant up front against the Eagles it was, as coach Pete Carroll said, “enough to get us a good game.’’
Future outlook: Joeckel knew he had to prove himself anew in Seattle after the Jaguars didn’t pick up an option on his contract. The perception is that it’s Brown who has made the biggest impact in solidifying things for Seattle’s front, and assuring Brown’s future may be the bigger priority. But if Joeckel makes it through the rest of the year healthy and the OL progresses, you’d think Seattle would want him back.
2, Safety Bradley McDougald.
Why he was acquired: Seattle set its sights in free agency on acquiring a veteran safety as a backup after the defense fell apart late last season when Earl Thomas broke his leg. And the Seahawks quickly zeroed in on McDougald, a starter for Tampa Bay the last two seasons with lots of experience at both free and strong safety, signing him to a one-year deal worth up to $1.8 million in March.
What he’s done: McDougald has now started five games, each of the last five, in fact — two at free safety when Thomas was out with a hamstring injury and three at strong safety since Kam Chancellor was lost for the season with a neck injury. Seattle is 3-2 in those games but has given up 17 or fewer points four times (the other a 34-31 loss to Atlanta). Sunday he played his best game with 12 tackles.
“Bradley is showing you that he is a legitimate football player and he can step in and do stuff,’’ Carroll said.
Future outlook: With Chancellor’s future uncertain, the 27-year-old McDougald would seem a priority to re-sign, likely to a deal for more years and maybe more money.
3, Defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
Why he was acquired: The Seahawks thought they had added depth and maybe a potential immediate impact player when they took Michigan State defensive lineman Malik McDowell with their first pick in the draft at No. 35 overall. But when McDowell suffered a severe concussion in an ATV accident in July — an injury that will keep him out for the year — the Seahawks began scouring for options to solidify the defensive front. Richardson, a Pro Bowler with the Jets in 2014, was entering the final season of his contract, and the Jets, in full rebuild mode, were willing to move him and two two sides eventually worked out a deal, the Jets getting receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick in 2018 for Richardson (Seattle also getting a fifth in 2018).
What he’s done: Richardson has started every game at the three-technique defensive tackle spot and after admitting he needed a little time to adjust to a 4-3 defense after playing a 3-4 in New York he has become the proverbial “difference-maker,’’ highlighted by his strip of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz that forced a third-quarter fumble and touchback Sunday, maybe the key play of the game.
“It shows up really every game, he does something special,’’ Carroll said.
Future outlook: Richardson just turned 27 and can hit the free agent market for the first time in the spring and would seem likely to want to test the waters unless Seattle makes a big, pro-active move, which the Seahawks may not be in position to do with uncertainty surrounding the likes of Chancellor and Sherman. That could leave Seattle hoping the market doesn’t go crazy and they can keep him though Richardson figures to be highly valued — OvertheCap.com estimated in September Richardson could get up to $18 million a year. Seattle, though, knew from the start that if Richardson were to sign elsewhere they would likely get a third-round comp in 2019 in return, meaning they would have basically traded Kearse (who didn’t figure in Seattle’s long-range plans) and moving down one round, one year later in the draft for getting Richardson for a year.
4, Cornerback Justin Coleman.
Why he was acquired: Seattle didn’t have a specific need at cornerback as the season neared. But when they sensed Coleman, a third-year player who had briefly been on Seattle’s practice squad in 2015, would be available they jumped at the chance to acquire him on Sept. 1 from New England for a seventh-round pick — a pick the Seahawks then got back the next day when they traded defensive end Cassius Marsh to the Patriots.
What he’s done: Coleman immediately became the backup to Jeremy Lane, which meant immediately playing when Lane was tossed out of the opener against Green Bay on the first series and then hurt in week four against the Colts. Coleman has played 483 snaps overall and appears for now to be the starting nickelback for the rest of the season with Lane now on the bench with Maxwell and Shaquill Griffin as the outside corners.
Future outlook: Coleman, 24, will be a restricted free agent at the end of the season and seems assured of returning especially since the Seahawks are likely to release Lane, who has cap hits of $7.25 million the next two years – releasing Lane would save $10.75 million over the next two years.
5, Left tackle Duane Brown.
Why he was acquired: Had Seattle signed Lang then the Seahawks would likely have been done shopping on the offensive line. But Seattle kept looking throughout the offseason and those efforts intensified when George Fant was lost for the season with a knee injury in August. Houston, meanwhile, was looking for trade partners after Brown held out into October. The deal finally got done with Seattle trading a 2018 third-round pick and 2019 second-rounder (after initially dealing Lane, only for Lane to fail his physical) and getting a 2018 fifth-rounder in return.
What he’s done: Brown, 32, has started five games, the last two teaming with Joeckel to give what the team feels is the best left side of the line it has had in a few years. According to Pro Football Focus, Brown’s impact has been immense. Specifically, PFF reported this week that the Seahawks gave up pressure on 37.2 percent of passes prior to Brown’s arrival but just 22.8 percent since he arrived.
Future outlook: Brown’s contract goes through 2018, due to pay him $9.75 million. But Seattle general manager John Schneider said when Brown was acquired that the Seahawks hoped to sign him to a new deal to assure he could retire with the Seahawks. Given what he’s done and what Seattle gave up for him that figures to happen, whatever the cost.