The sudden and dour ending to the Seahawks’ season will be hard for fans to shake off for a while, maybe not until a new season begins.
But it’s worth remembering that they did go 12-4 and win a division title, a four-month journey that provided lots of memorable moments along the way.
It was a season in which coach Pete Carroll said general manager John Schneider had “a particularly good year,” a comment he made on his radio show on ESPN 710 Seattle.
Schneider since then has signed a contract extension that will keep him with the Seahawks through the 2027 NFL draft, or a full year after Carroll’s contract expires following the 2025 season, and when Schneider will be almost 57.
The playoff loss to the Rams and the resulting removal of offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer cast a pall on the season. But the larger context of the season is that Seattle has made the playoffs nine times in 11 years since Schneider and Carroll arrived in 2010, with this season marking the fifth division title — almost matching the six the franchise had from 1976 to 2009, before they arrived.
So was it a “particularly good year” for Schneider? The record says it certainly wasn’t a bad one, regardless of the ending.
But which of his moves were the best? And because you can’t win them all, were there a few missteps along the way?
Good questions. Here’s one man’s ranking of the best and worst of Schneider’s particularly good year.
Moves that worked
1. Trading for Carlos Dunlap
The Seahawks had 46 sacks in the regular season, sixth in the NFL. They had 12 in the seven games before Dunlap arrived and 28 in the eight games in which he played. And for that, all Seattle gave up was never-used offensive lineman B.J. Finney (more on him later) and a seventh-round draft pick. Schneider also got Dunlap to agree to a restructured contract, moving $3 million of his salary this season into a roster bonus he will receive if he is with the team five days after the new league year in March.
That dropped Dunlap’s salary-cap hit for this season to $2 million. Not a bad price for a revitalized pass rush. And though Dunlap’s cap hit for next season is $14.1 million with the bonus, Schneider can work some more magic to lessen that if he wants. Carroll said the team wants Dunlap back, so the guess here is Schneider may try to work out an extension to keep him around while lessening the cap hit. Regardless of the future, though, this deal already comes off as a big win.
2. Not re-signing Jadeveon Clowney
There were months of angst over whether the Seahawks would re-sign Clowney. If Seattle had met Clowney’s price, it likely could have (though how much Clowney wanted to stay is unclear). But the Seahawks hung firm to their valuation that Clowney is a good player — Seattle is thought to have offered between $15 million to $16 million — but not worth the salary for an elite pass rusher (meaning over $21 million).
The rest of the league essentially agreed, and Clowney signed a one-year deal with Tennessee worth up to $13 million. For that the Titans got 14 tackles, six QB hits and no sacks in eight games before Clowney went on injured reserve. Among the things Seattle did with the money it didn’t spend on Clowney was sign Benson Mayowa for $3 million. Mayowa has six sacks in 13 games.
3. Claiming D.J. Reed off waivers
One reason not to invest heavily in Clowney was to keep flexibility for moves during the season (such as trading for Dunlap). Schneider often says the focus on the draft and free agency can obscure that roster-building is a 365-day-a-year job. One of Seattle’s best moves was a waiver claim Aug. 5 that didn’t get a lot of attention.
With nothing to lose but a roster spot, Schneider claimed Reed after he was put on waivers by the 49ers, who hoped to sneak him through to injured reserve. Reed had a torn pectoral muscle, and it was unclear when he might be able to play. Reed got healthy enough to play the last nine games of the season and fill in at nickel, right and left cornerback. He was rated the 20th-best cornerback overall by Pro Football Focus and the second-best of 117 against the run.
4. Trading for Jamal Adams
Maybe you think this should be higher given Adams’ importance — he had a team-high 9.5 sacks in the regular season. The caveat with Adams is that Seattle gave up a lot — its next two first-round picks and a third-rounder in 2021, as well as safety Bradley McDougald (though that had to happen to clear a roster spot and $5 million in cap space).
There’s no guarantee what the picks will be, especially if they are low (as it certainly will be this year), and Adams is a sure thing. Still, that’s a lot of the future, which also seems to assure Seattle will have to meet Adams’ price to keep him (hard to figure giving up two first-round picks for two years of a player). The trade is off to a good start. But the final accounting is hardly done.
5. Signing Brandon Shell
There wasn’t a lot of excitement when Seattle signed Shell to a two-year deal worth $9 million after a middling season with the woeful Jets. They didn’t seem to want him back, and the Seahawks immediately portrayed him as the heir apparent at right tackle.
Many fans wondered why Seattle didn’t swing big and go after a right tackle such as Jack Conklin, who signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Browns. But Shell has been a revelation, with the 19th-best pass-blocking grade among tackles, according to PFF. He allowed just three sacks in 673 snaps.
Moves that didn’t work
1. Signing B.J. Finney
Finney stands as the biggest miss of Seattle’s offseason. He was signed to a two-year deal worth $8 million — with a $2 million signing bonus and $4.5 million guaranteed — and pegged as a candidate to start at center. Instead, he never played a down on offense (he played 29 on special teams) before Seattle shipped him to Cincinnati, where he played just two special-teams snaps. Seattle mitigated this greatly by being able to trade Finney, though taking a $2 million dead-cap hit — apparent proof of just how much the Bengals wanted to unload Dunlap, for whatever reason.
To be fair, the Seahawks have always taken a cautious, volume-based approach to free agency. The thought is that instead of investing heavily in one or two players — where a pulled hamstring or high-ankle sprain can derail everything — they will spread money around, figuring enough players will work out. That worked with Shell, and with valuable reserve Cedric Ogbuehi who played well in a few starts. It didn’t with Finney. But you don’t win them all.
2. Signing Greg Olsen
The 35-year-old veteran is a future Hall of Famer and had a few good moments early this season, then made a gutty recovery from a plantar fascia foot injury Nov. 19 to return for the division-clinching game against the Rams and the playoffs.
But Seattle was hoping for more when it signed Olsen to a one-year deal with a cap hit of $6.9 million, the seventh-highest of any Seahawk and 10th among all tight ends this season.
Olsen finished with 24 catches for 239 yards and one touchdown, with his averages of 2.2 catches per game and 21.7 yards per game each the lowest of his career.
Olsen was able to play just eight snaps in the playoff game against the Rams, a contest in which Seattle could have used some production from its tight ends, an occasional vulnerable spot in the L.A. defense this season. Instead, Olsen didn’t have a target and Seattle was just 1 for 7 for 1 yard when targeting tight ends.
3. Signing Phillip Dorsett
There was much excitement in August when Carroll called Dorsett the fastest receiver he has coached. That dimmed a few days later when Dorsett couldn’t practice because of a sore foot — and then flattened completely when Dorsett had season-ending surgery. But it’s worth remembering Dorsett didn’t cost much — the veteran minimum of $887,500. Carroll said this week he expects Dorsett back in 2021 to give it another go. Maybe Dorsett can still reverse the optics of this signing.
4. Drafting Darrell Taylor
It might feel too soon to judge a draft pick. Even someone who does nothing as a rookie has three more years to pan out. And maybe Taylor will. But when Seattle moved up to take Taylor, a defensive end, with the 48th overall pick, he was portrayed as a player who might immediately step into a starting job.
Instead, surgery to repair a stress fracture after his final year at Tennessee prevented Taylor from playing all season. But as with Dorsett, the final accounting on this move is far from over. Taylor returned to practice the week of the Rams game, and Carroll was impressed enough to say Taylor might have played the following week.