With the Seahawks’ season now in the rear-view mirror, it’s time for our annual postseason review of every position, looking at the personnel at each spot, contract situations and who may and may not be back.
We’ll start with what has suddenly — and maybe surprisingly — become the most-discussed position on the team, quarterback.
Snaps played in regular season: 1,047.
Contract situation: In 2021 will enter second season of four-year extension that lasts through 2023 and averages $35 million per season.
Snaps played: 18.
Contract situation: Now an unrestricted free agent. Made $1.187 million in 2020 on a one-year contract.
OTHERS ON THE ROSTER
Danny Etling, Alex McGough.
The second line of Russell Wilson’s updated official team bio reads this way: “Set single-season franchise records in TD passes (40), completions (384) and completion percentage (68.8).’’
And if you read only that sentence and knew nothing else about how Seattle’s season unfolded you’d probably be stunned to realize that it’s the offensive coordinator who was fired, the offense that is the subject of all the worry heading into the offseason, and that one proposed solution is to run the ball more.
The view here is Wilson is hardly broken and not even close to the biggest worry on the team. The play-calling was, if not stagnant at least not able to come up with answers quickly enough in the second half of the year, the offensive line struggled down the stretch, Seattle didn’t get as much as it needed out of its tight-end spot, and receiving contributions from anyone other than Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf was erratic.
And maybe, too, the Rams — whom Seattle played three times in the second half — were/are just a bad matchup for Seattle and Wilson (though admittedly they always sort of have been).
Consider that Wilson was 53-96 (55.21%) for 647 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions in three games against L.A., a rating of 73.57. He was 342-489 (69.64%) for 3,739, 37 touchdowns and 10 interceptions against everyone else, a rating of 108.93, which would have been the third best of his career.
In Wilson’s other 14 games he had only two passer ratings lower than his average rating against the Rams.
And at the age of 32, Wilson also had the fourth-most rushing yards of any quarterback this season, 513 behind only Lamar Jackson, Kyler Murray and Cam Newton (Newton had 54 more attempts than Wilson to get 79 more yards at 592).
Take out the three games against the Rams and Wilson would have pretty much had a season ranking with any of the best in his career — especially when factoring in 6.2 yards per rush, tied for the second best of his career, other than a couple too many interceptions.
Much has been made of Wilson being sacked 47 times this year.
But that also wasn’t out of the ordinary.
In fact, Wilson’s sack rate of 7.8% was the fourth lowest of his career — in the Super Bowl winning season of 2013 Wilson was sacked on 9.8% of pass attempts (his career high is 10.7% in 2018).
Wilson has always taken a lot of sacks because of issues with the line. But he has a unique ability to extend plays with his feet in which there is always going to be some bad to go with a lot of good, and coach Pete Carroll in general would rather he take a sack than throw the ball up for grabs, within reason. Carroll also has always favored the deep pass, an approach that also leads to more sacks.
How much of that can be changed at this point of his career is hard to know — more quick passes would obviously help — especially since Seattle has limited draft and salary-cap resources to enact much of a significant makeover on its offensive line.
But the issue is obviously that the Rams are a team Seattle has to beat to win the division, which is the easiest way to make any sort of a long postseason run.
So, the offseason will be devoted to figuring out a way to give Wilson better options to beat the Rams (and maybe it will help that LA defensive coordinator Brandon Staley is leaving to become the head coach of the Chargers, as was reported Sunday night), and other teams that try to do what they did to Seattle so successfully this season.
Wilson said this week he will have input on the hiring of a new coordinator, one who presumably would be in place for the next two or three years, and maybe the rest of Wilson’s current contract.
As Wilson said, it’s “a critical” hire to try to maximize some of the remaining prime years of his career.
A new OC, which will be the third of Wilson’s career, will also likely prove whether there is much more Wilson can really improve at this state — Carroll says he’d like to get Wilson to a 70% completion rate — and how much Wilson just is what he is, which despite the late-season drop-off is still among the best of the best in the NFL.
The only question from a personnel standpoint is who will be the backup.
Smith, as noted, is again a free agent after signing a one-year deal last spring to return as Wilson’s backup.
Seattle re-signed both Etling and McGough to futures deals but neither has played in an NFL game and you’d think the Seahawks will want someone on the roster to begin camp who has some experience.
That could just be Smith. If there really is no on-field offseason program again — as Wilson said this week he expects will be the case — then teams again may place more value on bringing back their own players who already know the system well, especially at a spot like quarterback (one reason the team brought back McGough late in the year as he had familiarity with the system having spent the 2018 season with Seattle on the practice squad after being drafted in the seventh round).
Seattle also is never going to want to spend much on a backup with Wilson next year accounting for a $32 million cap hit, which could be as much as 18% of Seattle’s overall cap if the number is at or close to the projected floor of $175 million.
But Smith, 30, has also played in only one game in two years with Seattle, mop-up time in the blowout against the Jets, and might also want to see if he has other options where he might have a better chance to play.
There are a number of veterans who wouldn’t figure to cost much who will be available as free agents (Matt Barkley, who played for Carroll at USC, is one). But again, given that this could be another unique offseason, Smith might be as good of an option as any.
Up next: Running back.