With the 2016 NFL Draft kicking off in two days, Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll held a press conference Tuesday, but if you were expecting the two to tip off their intentions for the 26th pick of the first round, or any of the other eight picks Seattle currently holds, well, sorry. Understandably, Carroll and Schneider weren't interested in giving any secrets away while navigating a half-hour press conference.
"We're not going to tell you a thing," Carroll said with a laugh midway through the press conference.
At another point, Schneider sarcastically said, "We want to give everybody all the information we possibly can."
But on a more serious note, Schneider and Carroll do take pride in the way their front office has been able to keep their draft intentions secret in their first six drafts together.
"Really, it's a credit to our coaching staff and our personnel staff," Schneider. "We're a little bit unusual here in that we've talked about no walls since we got together, so we have everybody in that room together—they can see it, they know where specific players are—yet we have not had situations where people have jumped ahead of us to take a player where it just completely crushed us or something like that… It's a credit to everybody in that room and we have specific rules for that room."
But while Schneider and Carroll weren't going to get specific on their intentions for this year's draft, there was plenty of good information to glean from Tuesday's press conference.
1. This is a deep draft.
The Seahawks hold nine picks in this year's draft, including four of the top 97 picks, and it sounds like this is a good draft to be holding a little extra draft capital.
"This is our seventh draft, and to us it's the most impressive one so far in terms of sheer numbers of players," Schneider said. "There's 100 juniors."
Part of that depth includes good balance throughout the draft and at multiple positions, Schneider said: "We think it's strong all the way through. There doesn't seem to be as many huge drop-offs along the way. There are a couple of positions, but not as bad as it has been in the past."
A deep and talented draft could mean the Seahawks are able to land more impact players than they have in recent drafts, though part of the reason the 2010-2012 drafts have done so well is that they weren't competing against as talented of a roster for jobs and playing time.
"It's been harder to make our team since the '13 draft, the '14 draft," Schneider said. "Some drafts are stronger than others, so we have to figure out how many of these guys really have a legitimate chance of making our team and contributing. I would say in '13 and '14, it was harder to figure out if a guy has a legitimate chance to make our team."
2. Evaluating offensive linemen is more difficult now than it has ever been.
With left tackle Russell Okung and right guard J.R. Sweezy both leaving in free agency, Carroll admitted that the line could "feel a little bit in transition through the early part of the season," as was the case last year
But transition doesn't necessarily mean bad results, and the hope is that, even with some new players in the fold, the line can build off of the progress it showed in the second half of last season.
"It was interesting last year—we suffered early and were struggling—then the second half of the season, we turned things around and those guys came together, kind of like we kept saying," Carroll said. "We would have hoped it would have happened earlier, but it didn't. You are faced with some of that, so there is a learning curve, there's an opportunity for guys to grow with you and all that. We're somewhat accustomed to that; we don't like it that it's like that, we'd like to start faster. We'd like to pick up where we left off. We did a really nice job the second half of the season, and all of our numbers switched, from the sacks to third downs to completion percentage to touchdowns, everything. We'd like to pick up where we left off, we'll see if we're able to do that. We've seen that over the years, we've seen a pattern like that."
The Seahawks very well could look to add to their line in the draft—Seattle has drafted at least one O-lineman in every draft and 12 overall under Carroll and Schneider—but finding somebody ready to step in and contribute right away is harder now that it has ever been thanks to the proliferation of spread offenses in youth and college football.
"Absolutely, it's in grade schools now," Schneider said. "When you go to colleges, it's hard for them to find high school kids."
Added Carroll "Just the style of play is different. There are guys we're looking at who have never been in a (three-point) stance before. They've always been in two-point stances. There are transitions that have to take place. And we've seen in the past couple of years pretty strong adjustments by college offensive coordinators to adjust the way guys are coming off the ball. They're not as aggressive and physically oriented as we'd like them to be and try to make them become. It is different and there is a problem. I looked a couple of guys this week, and I couldn't find a running play where a guy came off the ball and had to knock a guy off the football—there's not even a play in a game—so it's hard to evaluate what a guy is going to be like."
3. Having a franchise QB is "a great relief."
In the weeks leading up to the draft, the Los Angeles Rams and Philadelphia Eagles have traded away numerous draft picks to move up to the No. 1 and No. 2 spots in the draft, presumably to pick quarterbacks. Other teams have spent huge money on free agent quarterbacks, also looking for a permanent solution at the most position in the sport.
The Seahawks, on the other hand, are going into this draft knowing they have a Pro Bowl quarterback who is just starting to enter the prime of his career, and as an added bonus, they landed Wilson with a third-round pick in 2012. Early on, having Wilson on a rookie deal meant the Seahawks had money to spend elsewhere.
"It freed us up to do a number of things in free agency that we normally wouldn't have early on, based on where he was acquired," Schneider said. "We did a new deal with him last year, so moving forward we have to have a clear plan in place."
And even with Wilson now taking up more of the salary cap, the Seahawks are more than happy to spend that money knowing they have one of the league's best quarterbacks under contract while much of the league struggles to find the solution at that position.
"It is a great relief," Carroll said. "To have a quarterback that's played for us and knows our system and knows us, we know him, and that's been so effective, we're lucky to have Russell. It's a secure feeling, we like it, and we're fortunate to be in that position."
4. The Seahawks re-signed two "really special competitors" in Brandon Browner and Chris Clemons.
The Seahawks recently re-signed two players who were starters for them in the past, defensive end Chris Clemons and cornerback Brandon Browner. In terms of Clemons, the hope is that he can be productive as a situational pass-rusher, perhaps taking over some of the snaps played by Bruce Irvin last season.
"With Chris, last year (Jacksonville) wanted him to be a little bit more of a situational pass rusher, but they ended up having to play him more than they wanted to, and we recognized that, you could kind of see it on tape," Schneider said. "But he's been here, he's got a specific attitude about him. Losing Bruce, some of those reps that Bruce was taking as a situational rusher, that's really kind of how we see Chris."
On Browner, Schneider said, "With Brandon, it was really a situation where the last two places he's been—New England and then New Orleans—he's been a strong leader for them. When you have to make those decisions to move on from a guy because you can't afford him and yet they still want to come back to your family, your team, your organization, that's big for us. So it was a way for us to accentuate that. Now how we use him, that's still to be determined."
Carroll noted that in Clemons and Browner, the Seahawks added two players who are "really special competitors and they're really tough-minded guys, and we loved them when we had them, we hated when we had to lose them. So the opportunity arose and John figured it out and jumped at it. Both guys come back and they bring something special to us. Clem is a really adept rusher, and he'll be good to help our young guys learn, too. If we can keep it in the mode that we want to and the numbers of plays we want to, we think we can really keep him effective. Brandon's got some special skills as we know, and he's very aggressive coverage-wise and makes things happen. So we're going to do some different things with him you'll see in the future, but we have a nice plan for it. So we're excited about both those guys coming back, they're fun to have in the building."
5. "Everything is going well" with Jimmy Graham and Thomas Rawls.
Tight end Jimmy Graham (knee) and running back Thomas Rawls (ankle) continue to make progress from season-ending injuries suffered in 2015, and while there is no definitive timeline for either player's return just yet, Carroll remained optimistic about their recoveries.
"Everything is going well," Carroll said. "Everything's really in good shape. It's just as they push to get back, we'll just have to see what the timeline tells us. It's going good."
Go inside the Seahawks draft room at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center (Seahawks Headquarters) and watch how Pete Carroll and John Schneider work their magic on the most hopeful days of the offseason.