That was more like it, eh?
Sure, sure, the caveat with the Seahawks’ 51-29 victory Sunday is it came against perhaps the worst team in the NFL, the two-win Detroit Lions, who were without their starting QB and without much of a chance.
The Seahawks said they approached their home finale as a jumping-off point for the 2022 season, and the fresh start yielded their most complete performance of the season.
Sticking with that forward-thinking theme, our weekly Four Downs segment with Bob Condotta and Adam Jude tackles some of the many, many questions ahead of the organization in what is shaping up to be its most important offseason in a decade.
1. Bobby Wagner avoided major injury to his knee but is not expected to suit up Sunday at Arizona. Has he played his last game as a Seahawk?
Condotta: I think he has almost certainly played his last game on his current contract. Wagner, who will be 32 in June, has one year remaining on his contract, but no guaranteed money and a $20.3 million cap hit that is the second-largest on the team after Russell Wilson — and according to OvertheCap.com, it would account for 9.2% of Seattle’s total cap in 2022. Seattle can save $16.6 million against the cap if he is released. We have seen the Seahawks cut a veteran with a big cap number and bring him back on a lesser deal like they did with Carlos Dunlap this year. I see that as a more likely scenario than an extension. But Seattle hasn’t made such moves regularly, usually just choosing to move on. And the Seahawks might think they have a suitable inside linebacking corps going forward in Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks.
Jude: Wagner has been everything you could ask for from a middle linebacker, a captain and a role model, and no one wants to see him close out his Hall of Fame Seahawks career the way he did Sunday. He deserves a proper send-off, and he has proven throughout the season he’s still capable of playing at a high level. Sadly, because of the economics of the NFL, the Seahawks do have a difficult decision to make. That decision might be a little easier to swallow given the development of Brooks.
2. We finally got to see the offense at full strength, and the results were impressive. Is that enough to convince you offensive coordinator Shane Waldron should be back in 2022?
Jude: Another tough question. You could make a decent argument either way. On one hand, it’s hardly Waldron’s fault that Russell Wilson, Chris Carson, DK Metcalf, Rashaad Penny, among others, were hit with significant injuries at various points in the season. Wilson clearly came back too soon after finger surgery, and the run game was largely nonexistent for the first three months. Waldron never really had a chance to implement his vision for the offense, and trying to break in another new scheme in 2022 doesn’t make much sense. Then again, you could argue the offense has rarely looked inspired, particularly against good defenses, and there’s little evidence to suggest a sustainable answer is within their grasp. But if Wilson’s back in Seattle next season, it’s a pretty safe bet that Waldron will be, too.
Condotta: Assuming Pete Carroll/John Schneider stay intact leading the organization, I think Waldron will be back. Wilson’s injury makes it hard to really evaluate the offense this year. I also think Carroll likes how the offense has evolved over the second half of the season with Penny spearheading a revived running attack. Seattle has rushed for 146 yards or more in four of the past five games, averaging 170.8 in that span and 5.4 yards per carry. And in that span, Seattle has just four turnovers — the three from Gerald Everett against the 49ers and Russell Wilson’s desperation pass intercepted in the end zone against the Rams. That’s the formula Carroll likes and seeing it come together late in the year I think will convince him to keep Waldron.
3. D.J. Reed returned from the COVID-19 reserve list and had two interceptions Sunday. What do you make of cornerback play as a whole this season?
Condotta: Because of COVID-19, injuries and an early lineup change, Seattle has had seven combinations of starting cornerbacks. But I think the Seahawks feel they have settled on a good duo for the future in Reed on the right side and Tre Brown on the left. That assumes Brown makes a full recovery from his knee injury and that the Seahawks can re-sign Reed. I think Seattle would make bringing him back a priority given how much Seattle has struggled through the years in finding suitable cornerback replacements in free agency. Carroll finally seems happy with this group, and I think the Seahawks will look to keep that together, possibly also adding through the draft.
Jude: Cornerback was widely viewed as the weak link of the defense coming into the season. The Seahawks brought 11 cornerbacks into training camp and had an open competition at both spots. The turnaround since then has been remarkable. Reed has been a tone-setter for the defense — he ranks 16th in the NFL among all cornerbacks, per Pro Football Focus — and the Seahawks have been able to manage nicely even with a revolving door on the left side. Carroll really liked what he saw from Brown before the rookie’s season-ending knee injury, and if they can re-sign Reed, they ought to feel good about the position going into 2022.
4. The Seahawks have 15 impending unrestricted free agents. Among them are veterans Duane Brown and Quandre Diggs. Have we seen the last of those two in a Seahawks uniform?
Jude: In many ways, Diggs has been the backbone of this defense since he arrived in a trade midway through the 2019 season. You hate to see him go, but he will command top-of-the-market money in free agency. It’s difficult to envision the Seahawks willing to go that high — especially considering the massive extension for Jamal Adams doesn’t start until 2022. The Seahawks should make Brown a priority, mostly because it’s scary to think what this offensive line could look like without its best and most experienced player. The Seahawks, frankly, don’t really have anywhere else to turn.
Condotta: Each player wanted extensions in the offseason, but Seattle preferred to let each play out the year and then see what happens. Diggs, who has been named a starter in the Pro Bowl, has undoubtedly seen his price tag rise. Brown gave up eight sacks in the first 12 games of the season, via Pro Football Focus, but has steadied his play since then, with none in the past four games. Of the two, Brown might be more likely to be back, since at age 37 next season, his market might be more limited, and he could be amenable to a one-year deal. Diggs surely would like to hit it big, entering free agency in his prime at 28. What’s tricky for the Seahawks is the lack of apparent in-house replacements for either one.