The suddenly-tenuous Seattle futures of Earl Thomas and Michael Bennett were among the takeaways from Pete Carroll's press conference Tuesday.
Seahawks coach Pete Carroll met the media for a final time this season on Tuesday, starting with a 10-minute, nine-second opening statement that could best be viewed as a “state of the team’’ address as everyone heads into an earlier-than-expected offseason.
The overall theme could probably be boiled down to this — Carroll was deeply disappointed Seattle is missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011, but while there will be inevitable change, some of it undoubtedly significant, he sees no reason the Seahawks can’t get right back to making a long playoff run again in 2018.
“I couldn’t feel more optimistic about our chances to be really good again,’’ Carroll said. “I think there is a championship team sitting in this meeting room right here.’’
Here are five other takeaways in no particular order:
1, A year after his Seattle future seemed in question, could Richard Sherman really be the only one of the big three of the Legion of Boom with the Seahawks in 2018?
Carroll said Sherman’s recovery from an Achilles injury is going well and that he’ll have a cleanup surgery on his ankle soon, seeming to indicate there’s no reason he won’t be ready for the 2018 season. And while last year there was lots of trade talk about Sherman, the thought this year is that the injury and just one year left on his contract means Sherman will be back in 2018.
Kam Chancellor, meanwhile, could be forced to retire due to a neck/stinger issue, Carroll confirmed.
That leaves free safety Earl Thomas, who whenever asked about his future this season has only created intrigue with vague answers, let alone the “come get me’’ stunt in Dallas.
So could the Seahawks really look to trade Thomas this offseason to head off concerns that he won’t re-sign before his contract runs out following the 2018 season (Thomas makes $10 million a season and would likely want at least $13 million to match that of Kansas City’s Eric Berry)?
Asked a direct question Tuesday if there is any reason to wonder if Thomas won’t be with the team in 2018, Carroll instead talked only about what Thomas did in 2017 in coming back from a broken leg the previous year while attempting to use humor to deflect some of what Thomas said.
“Earl had a terrific year, a really good year,’’ Carroll said. “Marvelous job recovering from his injury, and coming back. Shocked us with his return, but I shouldn’t have been shocked with how competitive he was. I shouldn’t have been surprised by that. But I just thought it was such a big injury that it would take him longer. But from the first day he jumped back on the practice field he shouldn’t have been out there, but he was. And he never really backed off that. He had a marvelous season, and here he is going to the Pro Bowl again, and he deserves it. Earl had some media glitches along the way here. But that’s not his…that’s not in his wheelhouse right there. He’s a ball player.’’
Where, though, seems like more of a question with every day.
2, Will Michael Bennett really be gone in 2018?
Bennett’s future has also come in increasing question due in part to Bennett saying he’s uncertain if he’ll be be back — he has three years left on his contract but is now 32 and coming off a season in which he battled foot and knee injuries and the team could save significantly against the cap in 2019 and 2020 releasing him.
That made it hard not to notice that Carroll mentioned five defensive linemen — but not Bennett — when talking about the potential defensive line makeup in 2018.
And later, when asked about Bennett’s 2017 season and future, Carroll didn’t talk about what might happen next, only fueling the idea the team could look to move on from a player who has been the heart-and-soul of the line since 2013.
3, Carroll really, really wants to get back to running the ball well in 2018.
With the season finally over, Carroll had no choice but to acknowledge that a running attack that averaged just 101.8 yards per game — down from the 141.8 of just two years ago — needs to be revived. The running game also sagged last year, but the team then could point to injuries to Russell Wilson and others as a primary reason. Wilson, though, was healthy this year and rushed for 586 yards. That would have been great had that not been 346 yards more than anyone else on the roster (Mike Davis, 240) making Wilson the first QB since Randall Cunningham in 1990 to lead his team in rushing.
Carroll said he likes the group of running backs returning — mentioning Davis, Chris Carson, J.D. McKissic and C.J. Prosise but tellingly not mentioning Thomas Rawls or Eddie Lacy. But Carroll also said the Seahawks will look to add running backs in the offseason as well.
“It just didn’t come together for us,’’ Carroll said of the running game. “. … And we are not losing the essence of who we are and what we are trying to become.’’
Carroll then alluded to the fact that most of the teams at the top of the standings this year had good running games — nine of the top 10 rushing teams are in the playoffs — while Seattle, by contrast, finished ranked 23rd.
Carroll called that a “championship’’ formula and said “it’s really clear. There’s no secret there.’’
And no secret that fixing the running game may be job one entering 2018.
4, If Carroll in the past has downplayed the impact of penalties he admits this year they were a big issue.
Seattle has always been one of the most-penalized teams in the NFL under Carroll but in past years — such as 2013, when the Seahawks won the Super Bowl despite leading the league in flags — he’s been able to point to the team’s success and largely shrug it off.
But not this year.
Seattle set a team record with 148 penalties and had the second-most yards in league history with 1,342. And with a team that had a smaller margin for error, Carroll admitted this year it caught up to them and needs to change in 2018.
“Probably my biggest regret this season is how the penalties factored into our season,’’ Carroll said. “We’ve been in this situation before and we’ve been able to overcome the issues, and our style of play didn’t affect us. This year it was more of a factor. Our margin wasn’t as such that we could endure it as well, and that’s a major aspect that has to change. I’m clear on how I’m going to go about that and it’s going to start way back with the first day, April 16 (when the official off-season program begins). We’ll make a change there and it has to happen. I don’t know that our margins are going to be as big as they’ve been in years past. I don’t know. Maybe they will maybe they won’t.’’
5, The praise for Dion Jordan and desire to re-sign Sheldon Richardson may be further indications that Malik McDowell may never play for the Seahawks.
Carroll said he had no update on the health of McDowell, who was the team’s first pick in the 2017 draft but missed the year with a severe concussion suffered in an ATV accident in July.
But in discussing the rapid progress of Jordan — who came on late to finish with four sacks, third on the team — Carroll alluded to Jordan basically serving as a replacement for McDowell.
“He (Jordan) made some real positive overtures and he’s an exciting prospect for us,’’ Carroll said. “Really exciting prospect. Where we lost a guy from the draft maybe we can, it’s not exactly the same position, but maybe we can be fortunate enough to make it up with what he can do.’’
Carroll also mentioned hoping the team can re-sign pending free agent Sheldon Richardson, whom the team basically traded for to replace McDowell.
“If we could be fortunate enough to get Sheldon back, that would be huge for us,’’ Carroll said.
And maybe necessary to make up for what may be looming as one of the team’s more disastrous draft picks.