It might be the slow time of year in the NFL, but there’s always time for a Seahawks mailbag.
So away we go.
A: Long answer really short, they are working on it.
The issue here is pretty simple — Wagner wants to be the highest-paid inside linebacker in the NFL, which means a contract averaging more than $17 million a season.
That title currently belongs to C.J. Mosley of the Jets, who is getting his $85 million payout over five years.
Seattle isn’t likely to want to do five years, so the task will be constructing a contract that can give Wagner a higher average per year but not hamstring the Seahawks for too long in case things go awry.
Would a three-year deal at $55 million to $57 million total get it done, and especially if it came close to or exceeded the $43 million guaranteed at signing Mosley received?
Those are the kinds of questions the Seahawks have to answer while working with Wagner, who is representing himself.
That Wagner is serving as his own agent makes the dynamic for this one a little different, obviously. It also might mean this will be a quieter negotiation than some because, theoretically, the only people who know what’s going on are the Seahawks brass (general manager John Schneider, coach Pete Carroll, salary cap expert Matt Thomas, etc.) and Wagner, with no agent/agents in the mix, lessening the number of people who might leak something.
It’s also worth noting there has so far been no real urgency in terms of how the team generally conducts these things.
Seattle has typically gotten its extensions done right around the time training camp begins.
True, they got Russell Wilson’s done in April after Wilson set an April 15 deadline. But had there been no deadline, Wilson’s deal likely would have stretched into the summer.
Wagner would like a deal done sooner rather than later. But he also showed up for the team’s offseason program, keeping matters at an amicable level, though he did not take part in onfield drills.
That Wagner sat out drills is no big deal. Given his veteran status and the team having some young linebackers it needed to get a lot of work, it was probably almost preferred. He hardly needs to learn the defense.
I think the best bet remains something gets done in late July, right around the time training camp begins.
If nothing is done a week or so into camp, then I’d start to wonder a little bit, and specifically begin questioning if the Seahawks would try to wait to see how their young linebackers progress in 2019 knowing they could always slap Wagner with a franchise tag in 2020. But the time to worry isn’t quite yet.
A: Well, it probably better be Ziggy Ansah because they are paying him up to $9 million in 2019 with $6 million guaranteed and the fifth-highest salary cap hit of any player on the roster.
Ansah needs to not only get his shoulder healthy but also get all the strength back to endure a 16-game regular season, and Seattle will take every precaution needed to assure he’s ready before putting him on the field. The team’s hope remains that he’s back in mid-August or so, and then ready for the Sept. 8 opener against the Bengals.
Otherwise, there aren’t a ton of secrets on who Seattle needs to come through — Cassius Marsh, Jacob Martin, Rasheem Green, L.J. Collier, Jacob Martin and Quinton Jefferson on the outside, and then as close to what Jarran Reed gave them last year again on the inside with continued maturation from Poona Ford, and whatever the team can get out of vets Al Woods and Jamie Meder.
Reed had 10.5 sacks last season after getting a combined three in his first two years, and it’s not likely he’s going to again hit double digits. But Seattle will need Reed to again be a consistent presence inside and maybe create some double-teams to open things up for the guys on the outside.
But in the big picture, the Seahawks are going to need what is at least somewhat of a gamble on Ansah to pay off. He’s the most proven outside pass-rusher they have following the trade of Frank Clark and counting solely on improvement/quick progress from all of the younger pass-rushers will be asking for an awful lot.
A: The new development was the drafting of guard Phil Haynes out of Wake Forest in April.
Haynes isn’t necessarily a complete lock to make the roster. But as a fourth-round choice, No. 124 overall, he’s going to be given a pretty good chance to make it, and the early impressions were all positive in terms of what the coaches said about him during the offseason program.
And at that point, it just becomes a numbers game.
Seattle is going to keep eight or nine offensive linemen. I had them with nine in the projection you referenced.
Obviously, the starting five are locks — Duane Brown, Mike Iupati, Justin Britt, D.J. Fluker and Germain Ifedi. So is George Fant, who will have a regular role as a tight end-eligible tackle.
That leaves everyone else battling for two or three spots.
I think Seattle would have to keep another tackle, and I went with Jamarco Jones, who also looms as a potential long-term answer in case Ifedi and/or Fant — each potential free agents in 2020 — don’t return.
Haynes would then make eight.
At that point what they’d need is someone who can be a backup center, something Haynes has not done in his career to date.
Besides Britt, there are just two other centers on the roster at the moment — Joey Hunt and Ethan Pocic. I went with Pocic because he also has played guard and tackle, and with teams usually going with seven or eight active linemen on game day, versatility is a really valuable trait. But Hunt could get the nod if they continue to feel comfortable with him at guard.
But keeping either Hunt or Pocic — and Seattle has to keep one unless someone else emerges who can play center — likely means cutting either Haynes or Simmons, unless you keep both and then cut Jones.
Hard calls, to be sure, but potentially having to cut a player who has played well also might indicate the improvement of Seattle’s offensive line over the past year or so.
A: Here’s an answer that sounds like I’m being smart alecky but really isn’t — not start with two consecutive games on the road.
The years when Seattle has started slow also have, not so coincidentally, coincided with the years when the Seahawks had a road-heavy schedule to begin the season.
The 0-2 start in 2015 consisted of road games at the Rams and the Packers (the latter also an emotional rematch of the NFC title game from the previous season, as well as both being games Kam Chancellor missed while holding out).
And the 0-2 start last year consisted of games at Denver (which is notoriously hard to beat in home openers, having started 2-0 each of the past six seasons) and a Monday night against what turned out to be a good Chicago team.
Last year, the Seahawks also were still tinkering with their offensive formula a bit in the early going, especially because they didn’t yet have Fluker in the lineup.
And the Chicago game, in particular, featured a lot of disjointed personnel stuff with Doug Baldwin missing his first game since 2012, Shaquill Griffin out and Akeem King making his first career start at cornerback as a result, and neither Bobby Wagner nor K.J. Wright playing. Mychal Kendricks signed on Thursday and then started on Monday to help replace the absent Wagner and Wright (with Austin Calitro also getting his first career start in that game).
So I’d argue that more than any magic formula or coaching technique, the issue in the 0-2 start last season was playing on the road and some injury/personnel issues that it just took a little while to sort out.
Seattle started 11-1 in 2013 when it had the best team in the NFL, started out 7-2-1 in 2016 before injuries hit, and also 5-2 in 2017 despite playing four of its first seven on the road. So I think how the Seahawks prepare for the season has proven to be good enough.
But it’s the NFL, and there’s always a pretty fine line between winning and losing, and injuries and being on the road are as big of a factor in winning and losing than anything.
Seattle this year at least opens at home and then never plays consecutive road games until December.