INDIANAPOLIS—Seahawks general manager John Schneider met with a group of Seattle-area reporters Wednesday at the NFL Scouting Combine, providing insight on some of what's going on with the team this offseason.
Among Schneider's takeaways from this year's combine so far is that things are starting to feel more normal after the COVID-19 pandemic cut down on what teams could do at the combine, limiting the event to mostly medical evaluations and virtual meetings.
More on that topic, and other things we learned from Schneider's session with the media:
1. The combine is "getting back to normal."
A this time last year, NFL teams couldn't meet in person with draft prospects or watch them work out on the field, nor could executives like Schneider meet with agents to have conversations about contracts. But this year things are getting back to normal in Indianapolis, which means, among other things, Schneider and his staff can have meetings with agents to discuss the future of players headed towards free agency like Quandre Diggs, Duane Brown and Rashaad Penny, to name a few.
"It feels really exciting, it feels like we're getting back to normal again," Schneider said. "We're able meet face to face with these agents and listen to what their expectations are and what the goals are for their players in terms of fit and finances. This time of year is always really exciting. You've got the meetings going on at (Lucas Oil Stadium), meeting with other clubs, meeting with the agents… This week in particular is really cool because it's like you're going to class all week basically, then you've got to cram for your final. Next week we're able to take in all the information and just try to learn, try to figure out, 'OK, we learned this here, we learned that there at this position, this position is going to be strong, this player's expectations are going to be higher than we think.' It's all over the place, so we're basically adjusting our landscape next week. I had a meeting that started at 7 yesterday morning, then it's 'til midnight, 1 o'clock, so every day you're just learning so much, it just gets packed into this one week. Then we kind of take a deep breath, look at our boards again, study where we're at, then we're able to move forward."
2. What isn't all the way back to normal is the evaluation of the draft class.
The 2021 draft was a tricky one for teams given how much less information they had on players, many of whom played incomplete college seasons in 2020 if they played at all. More players than normal elected to come back for another year of college football as well, making last year's class smaller. And while teams will have a lot more information on players in this year's draft, Schneider doesn't feel like it's totally back to normal in that regard.
"I think we're about a year away from getting back to normalcy," he said. "With this draft, there's a lot of numbers (of prospects) this year… I think next year will be more normal than even this year. The last two year, we knew, 'Whoa, we're going to be off.' that's one of the primary reasons we went for it with Jamal (Adams), because we knew things were going to be kind of wonky. We didn't know it was going to be two years in a row, but we knew it was going to be a pretty funky situation."
Even so, there is some good that has come out of the past two drafts in terms of how the Seahawks evaluate players.
"We've learned a lot just from a process standpoint," Schneider said. "From a background standpoint with Facetime and the zoom meetings and all of that, it's really helped out."
Check out photos from the 2022 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana on Wednesday, March 2.
3. Schneider isn't worried about having two highly-paid safeties if the Seahawks can re-sign Quandre Diggs.
Diggs, a Pro-Bowler each of the past two seasons, is set to become a free agent later this month when the new league year begins, and Pete Carroll and John Schneider have both made it clear that they'd love to have Diggs back if they can get a deal done that works for both sides.
"Since we acquired him from Detroit, he's been awesome," Schneider said. "He's a darn good player."
Re-signing Diggs, however, would mean having both starting safeties under pretty big contracts having signed Jamal Adams to a lucrative extension last summer. And while some might wonder if the Seahawks should spend big on two safeties, Schneider looks at it simply as the Seahawks trying to keep their best players in Seattle, even if two of them happen to play similar positions, not unlike when the Seahawks had three of the highest paid defensive backs in the league in Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
"We've always just tried to keep our best players," he said. "Everybody was on us for a little while about our offensive line, but we were paying Richard Sherman and Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas and Bobby Wagner and K.J. (Wright). You try to keep all your best players, so that's what we're going to try to do is to keep everybody."
As for the arguments about positional value, Schneider said, "At safety, people say, 'Well he's not involved in the play.' Yeah, he is involved in the play, because the quarterback is checking him out and see what he's doing. So we're going to try to keep all our players."
4. Dakoda Shepley is a name to watch at center.
Speaking of trying to re-sign free agents, the Seahawks will also have a decision to make with Ethan Pocic, their starting center for each of the past two years. And while Carroll and Schneider both said they want Pocic back, one name to watch if he does sign elsewhere is Dakoda Shepley, a player Seattle claimed off of waivers last summer.
"Ethan had a really nice year, (Kyle) Fuller played in there, then nobody's even seen Dakoda Shepley yet," Schneider said. "He was a guy we were really excited about claiming… I was happy for Ethan having the year he had. He's overcome a lot with his surgeries and stuff. But yeah, Dakoda Shepley is a guy we claimed last year, he just hasn't had a chance to play yet. We're fired up about him."
5. No decision yet on the franchise tag.
The Seahawks haven't often used the franchise tag in recent years, using it only twice since Carroll and Schneider took over. In 2010, they franchised kicker Olindo Mare, then in 2019 they franchised defensive end Frank Clark, who they then traded to Kansas City prior to the draft.
Whether the tag gets used for just a third time under Carroll and Schneider remains to be seen, and Schneider said that decision has not yet been made with the March 8 deadline approaching soon.
"I don't know that yet," Schneider said.
With the 2022 NFL Combine underway, take a look back at Seahawks Legends at previous NFL Combines through the years.