It’s time to open another Seahawks mailbag. And with the draft less than a week away, questions will focus on that and other personnel issues that could impact decisions Seattle makes over the next week or so.
Q: CelestialMosh asked: What is the latest on K.J Wright?
A: Not much. It has been really quiet on the Wright front since a report two weeks ago stated he had talked with the Dallas Cowboys but they were not going to sign him for now.
And it may stay that way until after the draft. Most of the big-name free agents who remain unsigned — a group that also includes former Seahawks Richard Sherman and Golden Tate — may now be resigned to waiting until after the draft to sign. By that point, teams will have an even clearer picture of their remaining needs and might be more amenable to open up the wallet a little more.
For players, waiting until after the draft allows for a better idea of which team might be their best fit.
And by then, the deadline for free-agent signees potentially factoring into the 2022 compensatory pick formula will have passed, which might also loosen up checkbooks.
As has been a constant story line this offseason, but one worth repeating, teams had less cap space this year — just $182.5 million — than a year ago ($198.2 million), and far less than the $210 million or so originally projected.
That seems to have impacted older veterans, whose best shot is a short-term deal, the most. Unquestionably, the market hasn’t quite developed for Wright the way he probably expected after what was one of his better seasons in the NFL. But Wright will be 32 in July, which may also be a factor.
That’s a long way of saying that Wright may just have to wait until after the draft to sign somewhere. And if Seattle doesn’t do anything to appreciably add to its linebacking corps over the next week, maybe the odds improve that he returns to Seattle.
Q: paul_m_rust asked: Why is there zero chatter from media right now that our starting SAM LB (strongside linebacker) is (Cody) Barton. When the discussion moves to biggest holes to fill it’s all CB3 (third cornerback) and WR3 (third receiver) instead of an actual starter? Bizarre to me!
A: I would counter that it has been mentioned and I have seen some mock drafts give Seattle a linebacker with either its first or second picks.
But I also think there is a very real possibility that the Seahawks may be just fine — if not somewhat eager — to see what Barton can do in a full-time role.
Seattle took Barton fairly high at 88th overall in 2019. He has four starts in his regular-season career and two more in the 2019 postseason.
And if I take by your question that maybe fans haven’t been too impressed with what they’ve seen, I think the Seahawks would argue that’s nowhere near enough games to make a definite conclusion on what kind of player he can be.
It may be forgotten that Barton played pretty well starting at SLB in the playoff win against the Eagles in 2019, filling in for Mychal Kendricks with five tackles, a sack and two pass defenses while also playing all of his usual special-teams snaps.
Last year, he started two games at SLB when Wright was playing WLB with Jordyn Brooks out against Miami and Minnesota.
No doubt, Barton showed some inexperience and there was a lot of room to grow in those two games, with the Vikings getting the better of him at times in the running game on their way to 201 rushing yards, the most Seattle allowed all season.
But he did tie a team high with 14 tackles while also playing a key role in the pivotal play of the game — it was Barton who took out the lead blocker, fullback C.J. Ham, on a fourth-and-one run by Alexander Mattison, clearing the way for Bobby Wagner to make the tackle. That got the Seahawks the ball back and allowed them to drive the field for the game-winning TD.
Barton only played 20 more snaps the rest of the season, almost all in mop-up duty. But I think the Seahawks have seen just enough to pique their interest about what he could do with a little more playing time (remember the raves he earned in training camp in 2019).
Also, in the way the Seahawks usually play, the strongside linebacker is only on the field in the base defense, coming off in the nickel. That means it’s a spot that may play only 30-40% of the snaps on average. It was different last year with Wright since he stayed on the field in the nickel, with Brooks going off.
But if Seattle’s linebacking corps is Wagner-Brooks-Barton, I think it’s Barton who goes off in the nickel. There’s also been some chatter the Seahawks could explore using some of their other players in SLB-type roles.
That said, Seattle has just four LBs on its roster — Wagner, Barton, Brooks and Ben Burr-Kirven. They are probably going to have double that number, or close to it, by the time camp starts. So getting a linebacker either in the draft or via undrafted free agency makes sense.
That the Seahawks may think they have on-hand replacements for the SLB spot, though, is undoubtedly factoring into how they have approached Wright, who they obviously haven’t given enough of an offer at this point to get a deal done.
Seattle has had to make some tough salary-cap calls this offseason and Barton accounting for just a $1.07 million cap hit this year it is tempting to see if he can fill the SLB role and save some money in the process.
Q: @tompage asked: As limited as the Seahawks draft capital is this year, they may be tempted to trade some of next season’s picks to get back into this draft, should the Seahawks trade 2022 picks to get more picks this year? Which ones and why?
A: Seattle does not have a first-round pick in 2022 due to the Jamal Adams trade. But the Seahawks do have seven picks at the moment, getting a fourth-rounder back from the Jets as part of the Adams deal.
At the moment, they do not appear in line to get any compensatory picks for losing free agents.
Given that the Seahawks figure to be good again in 2021, any team possibly trading with Seattle would likely assume that second-round pick would be in the mid-50s at the highest.
So the Seahawks do have some ammo, but maybe not enough to do anything really significant like get into the first round in 2021.
One thing to consider, though, is that there is a general feeling that the 2021 draft is not all that deep due to a number of players deciding to return to college in 2022, and there is also the idea that it’ll be more of a crapshoot than ever due to the lack of games players had last season and no combine.
That the 2021 draft may be thinner and harder to predict than most undoubtedly played into Seattle’s decision to trade some of its picks for veterans (the picks mostly going for Adams, Carlos Dunlap and Gabe Jackson).
I still think Seattle’s most preferred method for acquiring more picks this year is to trade down.
If Seattle does trade 2022 picks this year I think it will be for a specific player — like the trades the last two years when the Seahawks traded future picks for John Ursua and Stephen Sullivan, players they suddenly decided they wanted to get, each time trading a future sixth-round pick for a seventh. The question this year, more than ever, will be if the future sixth might be worth more than the current seventh.