Earl Thomas' future is one of the questions that could be answered during the NFL Draft.
The ninth Seahawks’ draft of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider, which begins with the first round Thursday and continues through Saturday, is among the nine most important the team has held in the Carroll/Schneider era.
Which is a smart-alecky way of noting that all drafts are pretty equally critical at the time they are held, even if their impact on the team may turn out vastly different.
But with the Seahawks reeling in the years a little bit last season, it’s fair to say there’s some urgency that maybe there wasn’t in 2013 to make sure this draft doesn’t turn out like the one in 2013 did (not one of the 11 players picked that weekend remains on the team five year later).
Here are five questions hovering over the Seahawks as another sure-to-be-transformative draft awaits, in no particular order.
Will they trade Earl Thomas?
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While Carroll and Schneider made comments last week that sounded like hints Thomas could stay in 2018 — Schneider specifically saying Thomas had said he would not hold out even if he does not have a new contract before the 2018 season — rumblings persist that a trade might still be in the offing.
If so, it might happen by Thursday, assuming Seattle would want to try to get a first-round pick back in return, or maybe at least its equivalent. Dallas remains rumored as the most likely suitor.
And if comments last week could be read as positive for Thomas staying put, some found it interesting that when Carroll left out Thomas on Monday when he referened the team’s nucleus of core players during a pre-draft press conference.
“We’ve always had a sense of the nucleus of this team and I still feel like we are like that,’’ Carroll said. “There’s been a nucleus that we’ve built it around – Bobby (Wagner), K.J. (Wright), Russell (Wilson) and Doug (Baldwin) – the guys that have been familiar to us.”
Whether Thomas remains part of that core may be known by the time the weekend is out.
Will they trade down?
The Seahawks have traded down in the first round to acquire more picks in later rounds at least once in four of the last six years — the other two times they traded their first-round pick for a veteran player (2013, Percy Harvin, 2015 Jimmy Graham). The last time Seattle used its actual first-round pick was 2011.
Seattle is picking at No. 18 this year, its highest since 2012, when it held the 12th pick before moving down to 15.
But if it might be tempting to stay put, Schneider and Carroll have also made it clear they’d like to try to get picks in the second and third round and not go all of Friday — the second day of the draft — without making a selection (after 18, Seattle doesn’t have another scheduled pick until 120, and waiting for 101 names to go off the board might be more than the Seahawks can handle) . Seattle traded the second-rounder as part of the Sheldon Richardson deal and the third-rounder for Duane Brown.
“I wish we had a second-rounder and a third-rounder, but we went for it,’’ Schneider said this week. “So here we are, and now we’ve got to figure it out. It’s a challenge, but it’s a fun challenge.”
The smart money is on Seattle somehow answering that challenge and getting some additional picks — the Seahawks have eight overall — either via a Thomas trade or moving down.
What kinds of players are they looking for?
Schneider and Carroll talked frankly this week of having decided to enforce somewhat tighter criteria on which players make it onto their draft board and in the process cutting down the number of players they are considering. The hope is that will result in increasing the odds of getting a player who will contribute.
Schneider, though, also said what the team is looking for is players who will accept the challenge of immediately competing for playing time.
Schneider has said several times in recent months he thinks some players the team has drafted since Seattle won the Super Bowl in 2013 have maybe been too intimidated by the star players on the team’s roster, saying he and his staff took the blame for not doing a better job of recognizing that could happen.
“Just because you’re talented doesn’t mean you’re going to come in here not be in awe of Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Russell Wilson or whomever,’’ Schneider said. “ We’ve got to get back to bringing guys into this building that are ready to compete with those guys and not just be happy to take a second seat or a backup chair. Pete’s whole deal is it’s all about competition. We need to get those guys that want to come in and compete.’’
What’s the Seahawks’ biggest need?
Schneider this week also intriguingly admitted that the Seahawks may have erred at times in post-2012 drafts – which haven’t as yet yielded the star power as did the first three in 2010, 2011 and 2012 – in drafting too often for a specific need.
“I think that’s fair in a couple instances, sure,’’ he said.
That seemed to hint that the Seahawks will try more than ever to adhere to a best-player-available philosophy.
And that may be easier for the Seahawks to do this year than past years since the roster seems to have a few more holes to fill — it doesn’t take too much imagination to make a case for just about every position group as at least needing some sort of upgrade or additional depth.
But three may stand out — defensive line, particularly edge rushers; running back; and secondary, especially if the team moves Thomas. The offensive line is also an obvious area of need, though the Seahawks have given lots of votes of confidence to many of the holdovers this offseason. How much confidence they really have in the current offensive line should become evident this weekend.
What’s the single-most intriguing non-Earl Thomas thing about this draft from a Seahawks’ standpoint?
Simple answer: Whether — and how high — the Seahawks take a quarterback.
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Seattle hasn’t drafted a quarterback since taking Wilson in 2012 and Schneider said last week that’s maybe been a mistake.
“I don’t feel like we have done, me personally have done a good enough job of continuing to acquire quarterbacks all the way through,” Schneider said in an answer that was also an explanation for why he had been spotted at the Pro Day for Wyoming’s Josh Allen, generally expected to be among the top five overall picks.
Not that anyone has really raised an eyebrow — because Wilson has been so durable, and that the Seahawks also had Tarvaris Jackson around from 2013-15 as a more than capable backup, there hasn’t seemed much need to devote many resources to filling out the quarterback position.
But Wilson turns 30 this November and has two years left on his contract and Carroll has also talked of challenging Wilson like he’s never been challenged before.
Seattle might just want to improve the depth behind Wilson (the backups at the moment are Austin Davis, the backup a year ago, and Stephen Morris, who has never taken a snap in the NFL).
But if the Seahawks do more than that — say, they get someone who could be a legitimate option down the road if contract talks with Wilson go in unexpected directions — then let the hot takes commence.