So what’s happened to the Seahawks, who at 3-7 have already tied the most losses of any year since Russell Wilson was drafted in 2012?
The success or failure of any NFL team’s season is, of course, always rooted in what happened in the spring, when the major roster-building decisions were made.
Worth remembering is that Seattle, coming off a 12-win season in 2020 and relatively minimal cap space and few draft picks, appeared to have an overall philosophy of keeping as much of the gang together as possible as it headed into the offseason.
But Seattle’s descent makes it worth revisiting some of the major decisions the team made along the way, which with the benefit of 10 games played — and admittedly, hindsight coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider didn’t have at the time — can be more accurately assessed.
Away we go, in no particular order …
Letting Shaquill Griffin walk in free agency
What they did: Instead of trying to match or surpass the three-year deal Jacksonville gave Griffin, worth up to $40 million overall with $29 million guaranteed, Seattle decided to sign several cheaper veterans, notably Ahkello Witherspoon, and also address the cornerback spot in the draft (ultimately drafting Tre Brown), to fill the left cornerback spot.
The verdict: Like most of this season, little went to plan here. Witherspoon failed to secure the job in the preseason and was traded before the season, and Brown — who has shown lots of promise and evidence for why Seattle was high on him — was on IR when the season began due to a knee injury. The upshot was a misshapen cornerback spot with Tre Flowers on the right side and D.J. Reed on the left. And it can be argued that cost Seattle a loss at Minnesota before Seattle benched Flowers and moved Reed to his more natural spot on the right side. But, had Seattle matched what Griffin got from Jacksonville, lots of other holes might not have been as easily filled — Griffin has huge dead cap numbers in 2021 of $24.5 million and in 2022 of $19.5 million. The verdict is that the issue wasn’t letting Griffin go but how Seattle went about replacing him, at least initially. Brown looks like a keeper but sadly is again hurt and out for the year.
Signing Gerald Everett
What they did: Looking to give Russell Wilson another receiving threat, and in a bonus, one who was familiar with the offense of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, Seattle signed former Los Angeles Ram Everett to a one-year deal worth $6 million.
The verdict: While Seattle spent more on Everett than it did on any other offensive free agent this offseason, his cap hit is just 23rd among all tight ends in the NFL. Unfortunately for Seattle, Everett missed two games (49ers, Rams) after testing positive for COVID-19. But he’s been productive otherwise, with a career-high 3.1 receptions per game and 8.1 yards per target. Everett’s signing has been a good one. But now to try to get him involved that much more.
Letting K.J. Wright walk
What they did: Instead of re-signing 10-year veteran K.J. Wright, the Seahawks decided to let him go in free agency and turn over the full-time weakside linebacking spot to Jordyn Brooks and have a committee of players fill the strongside linebacking spot, including second-year player Darrell Taylor.
The verdict: A really mixed one. Wright is playing on a part-time basis now with the Raiders, playing 30% of the snaps for the season, and the question the Seahawks obviously grappled with is whether he have been the same elite player he had been throughout his Seattle career had he returned. Brooks has proven to be good against the run — he has 99 tackles for the season — but is still learning against the pass, allowing a passer rating of 123.3. Veteran Benson Mayowa, also re-signed in the spring, has emerged as the primary strongside linebacker with Taylor playing more on the edge. Mayowa has 72 coverage snaps, via PFF, but has been targeted just six times, giving up six receptions for 39 yards. A one-year buffer season before turning things over solely to Brooks at WLB might have made sense. But Seattle also seemed eager to find out what it really had in Brooks after taking him 27th overall in 2020.
Signing Kerry Hyder
What they did: Hyder was Seattle’s big addition from the outside to its edge rush group, signing him to a two-year deal worth a guaranteed $3.65 million after he had a career-high 8.5 sacks in 2020 with the 49ers.
The verdict: From a sheer sack numbers standpoint this hasn’t turned out quite as hoped — Hyder has just a half-sack. And via PFF, he has 18 pressures in 245 pass rush snaps this year compared to 55 in 437 pass rush snaps in 2020. But as Carroll noted last week, the Seahawks have asked him to play a lot of different roles on the line. “We’ve got to free him up,” Carroll said. “We’ve got to cover him better so that he gets another beat to get the rush on him.”
Cutting Jarran Reed
What they did: Shortly into free agency, the Seahawks made the surprising decision to cut Reed, a mainstay on the defensive line for five years, in a deal that saved $8.5 million but created a hole at defensive tackle.
The verdict: Seattle simultaneously signed veteran Al Woods to take his place for $6 million less. If some/many Seahawks decisions can be questioned, this one shouldn’t be. Seattle’s defensive tackle trio of Woods, Poona Ford and Bryan Mone has been one of the best positions on the team. As for Reed, he ranks 121st of 129 tackles by Pro Football Focus, a career-low 42.3, with 1.5 sacks in 11 games — he had 6.5 in 16 games last season.
Re-signing Chris Carson
What they did: In a move they hoped had solidified their running back corps for the next two years, Seattle signed Carson to a two-year deal worth up to $10.425 million with $5.5 million guaranteed.
The verdict: It’s worth remembering Seattle was reportedly briefly in the running for Leonard Fournette, who signed a one-year deal with Tampa Bay worth $3.25 million. Sadly, Carson played just four games before being sidelined with a neck injury that required surgery. The Seahawks say they are confident he will return in 2022. Whether he does will provide the ultimate verdict on his re-signing.
Cutting and then re-signing Carlos Dunlap
What they did: Dunlap, acquired in a trade from the Bengals in October 2020, was cut in March in a move that saved $14 million against the cap, then re-signed Dunlap to a two-year deal that has a cap hit of $2.9 million for 2021, spreading out the hit through 2025 via voidable years.
The verdict: This was one of the savvier cap moves of Seattle’s offseason and necessary to get a lot of other moves done. Still, Dunlap has a cap hit of $6.5 million in 2022 and $5.6 million in dead money. Seattle was hoping to get a lot more production from Dunlap than it has. Dunlap played just 17 snaps against Arizona and has just a half-sack this season after making five in eight games with Seattle last year.
Trading for Gabe Jackson
What they did: In what was Seattle’s only real change to its offensive line, the Seahawks traded a fifth-round pick to the Raiders for Jackson, then re-signed him to a new contract that reduced a cap hit of $9.6 million for this year to $4.075 million, though the cap hit increases to $9 million in 2022 with $6 million in dead money.
The verdict: Seattle has gotten its money’s worth as Jackson — who was brought in part due to his reputation as a pass blocker — has played every snap at right guard and he has the 26th best pass blocking grade of 75 guards via PFF — having given up one sack — and is rated 34th of 78 overall. Seattle trade for Jackson after making a run at Kevin Zeitler, who instead signed a three-year deal with the Ravens. Zeitler has allowed no sacks in 722 snaps and is rated 12th among guards pass blocking and 17th overall.
Extending Michael Dickson, Tyler Lockett and Jamal Adams. Not extending Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs.
What they did: In largely keeping the gang together, Seattle re-upped Lockett (four years, $69 million), Dickson (four years, $14.5 million) and Adams (four years, $70 million). The deals make those three players the only three under contract through the 2024 season, other than the three 2021 draft picks on rookie contracts.
The verdict: The true accounting of those deals will come in later years when the cap hits really balloon. Lockett’s and Adams’ deals are structured so that Seattle could get out of them after the 2023 season. As for Brown and Diggs, each wanted new deals and ultimately got a concession where Seattle added a void year so each qualifies for injury protection should either get hurt and be unable to play next season. Diggs is leading Pro Bowl voting and having a season that figures to make him a hot commodity in free agency. Brown, 36, has had an up-and-down year, allowing seven sacks — his combined total of the last three seasons. But if Seattle doesn’t re-sign him this offseason, that becomes a big hole to fill.