The Seahawks have 11 players on their roster who have made the Pro Bowl while playing for Seattle --- but only two who were acquired after the 2013 season.
NFL.com raised an interesting question this week — which player on every team has a chance to make the Pro Bowl for the first time in 2017?
The answer for the Seahawks is one I’d imagine would be at the top of just about any Seattle fan’s list — defensive end Frank Clark.
Wrote NFL.com: “Who hasn’t made the Pro Bowl in Seattle? Years of success have generated a wave of personal accolades on both sides of the ball, but Seattle continues to groom new talent. Clark, a third-year end, is trending upward after topping his three-sack rookie campaign with 10 takedowns in 2016. Film reveals a high-motor player with the talent to whirl past tight ends and tackles into the backfield. Considering that Michael Bennett has just one double-digit sack campaign over eight seasons, Clark is just getting going.’’
(Quick aside – I don’t completely get the comparison with Bennett unless it’s simply to state that Clark has already had one season with as many sacks as Bennett has ever had (10) as a way to prop up Clark. The two, though, are hardly asked to play the same roles, with Bennett often moving inside on passing downs where there’s a bit more traffic to get to the QB and also often getting double-teamed. But I digress).
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Why I find this a particularly interesting question, though, is that it gets at what is going to be the key for the Seahawks going forward — will some legitimate stars emerge who were acquired in the post-Super Bowl-win era to take over for those drafted and/or signed prior to 2013?
The Seahawks have 11 players on their roster who have made at least one Pro Bowl while playing for Seattle.
Only two were acquired by the team after 2013 — tight end Jimmy Graham (trade in 2015) and receiver Tyler Lockett (drafted 2015). But each obviously comes with a little of an asterisk — Graham was drafted by the Saints and already a star when Seattle traded for him, while Lockett made the Pro Bowl in the specialty role as a returner, which is fine, but what Seattle really needs are some every-down players to emerge as future Pro Bowlers.
The other nine are the players who remain the heart and soul of the team and who all were acquired prior to the 2013 Super Bowl champion season: cornerback Richard Sherman (drafted 2011), safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor (drafted 2010), defensive linemen Bennett and Cliff Avril (signed as free agents 2013), linebackers Bobby Wagner (drafted 2012) and K.J. Wright (drafted 2011), receiver Doug Baldwin (signed as undrafted free agent 2011) and quarterback Russell Wilson (drafted 2012).
Baldwin, Wright and Avril all finally made the Pro Bowl for the first time last season, ending droughts for what were the three players left who were the most obvious choices to become first-time Pro Bowlers for the Seahawks.
Now, the choices get a little tougher.
As NFL.com noted, Clark’s sack numbers last year paint him as the best bet to break through — he was tied for 15th in sacks in the NFL last season (Avril was seventh with 11.5). The key for Clark will be consistency — he had just 2.5 sacks in the final seven games of the season (or maybe he just has to play the Rams every week – he had 3.5 against Los Angeles last season).
Next on the list might be center Justin Britt, who was a Pro Bowl alternate last season after starting 15 games and proving he could make the move to center after playing his first two seasons at tackle and guard. Certainly, the Seahawks need another similar season from Britt to fulfill their goals in 2017.
Then maybe Lockett, but as a receiver and not just a returner, though it could be difficult for the Seahawks to ever get more than one receiver on a Pro Bowl team and for now it’s hard to envision Lockett putting up better numbers than Baldwin, barring injuries.
You could maybe argue Thomas Rawls would have a better chance than Lockett if he can stay healthy and produce for an entire season the way he did in 2015, when he had 830 yards and a 5.6 per carry average. But the way the Seahawks figure to divide up carries between Rawls and Eddie Lacy — and maybe even C.J. Prosise — could make it difficult for any to put up Pro Bowl-type numbers.
After that, though, it’s hard yet to see anyone else as even close to meriting first-time Pro Bowl consideration.
The Seahawks will hope that’s not the case a year from now, when maybe 2016 draft picks such as Prosise, Germain Ifedi and Jarran Reed have begun to mature into consistent difference-makers, or some of the 11 members of the 2017 draft class have displayed some initial signs of future stardom.
The long-term future of the franchise may depend on it.