The 2016 league year is less than a week old, but already the Seahawks, like every NFL team, look a little different than they did at the end of last season. The Seahawks were able to retain important players like Jeremy Lane, Ahtyba Rubin, Jermaine Kearse and Jon Ryan, but lost Brandon Mebane, J.R. Sweezy, Bruce Irvin and Alvin Bailey in free agency. The Seahawks have also added some outside help, signing offensive linemen J'Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell and defensive tackle Sealver Siliga.
So with free agency underway, it's time to answer your questions on the Seahawks' comings and goings, as well as whatever other topics you all had on your minds this week. As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.
@etrujillo101 asks, "Possibility of Frank Clark replacing Bruce Irvin at linebacker?" And @ImTheSaiyanGod asks, "Will the Seahawks look for a pass rusher or someone who can drop back into coverage at outside linebacker?"
A: With Bruce Irvin leaving for Oakland in free agency, the Seahawks lost not just their starting strongside linebacker, but also one of their top pass rushers. And when it comes to replacing Irvin's playing time and production, the right questions might not be which player replaces him, but which players, plural. Irvin, who was always considered one of the best athletes on the team, had the ability to be a hand-in-the-ground rusher on one play and a standup linebacker who could drop into coverage on another play, but depending on how things shake out, the Seahawks might decide to divide those roles among multiple players.
The Seahawks have several pass-rushers who appear to be ready for bigger roles this season, including Frank Clark and Cassius Marsh—and don't sleep on Ryan Robinson, who was a standout in offseason workouts last summer before suffering a season-ending Achilles injury. And while none of those players necessarily project as a linebacker on first and second down, it's possible they could take the pass-rushing snaps Irvin played in the past, while another player could be the strongside linebacker in base defense. The Seahawks could re-sign Mike Morgan for that role, or perhaps Kevin Pierre-Louis could be a fit, though he has primarily been a weakside linebacker thus far. Or maybe K.J. Wright goes back to strongside linebacker in the base defense with Pierre-Louis or someone else playing on the weakside, though this seems less likely considering how well Wright has played at weakside linebacker. Obviously these scenarios don't account for what might happen in the draft or later in free agency, but the point is that the Seahawks might not simply be looking for one player to take on Irvin's role.
@tzahn asks, "March Madness time. Which current Seahawks would make up your starting 5 on the basketball court?"
A: Fun question, particularly because just about every Seahawks player I've talked to thinks he's great at basketball, so it's impossible to go off of their opinions. In light of that fact, this is mostly just a guess, other than one obvious inclusion on the team, tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham is a talented enough basketball player that he earned a scholarship to Miami, where he later shifted his focus to football, a move that has worked out pretty well for him.
I'll put Kam Chancellor up front with Graham, both because he provides size and toughness, and also because, based on locker-room reputation, he has some hoops game. We'll put Richard Sherman in the mix for length, defense, and if you believe Richard Sherman, shooting ability. Plus he can do this:
Russell Wilson often talks about facilitating the ball to the right player at the right time, and Pete Carroll has described a quarterback as being a "point guard" of the offense, so let's make Wilson the point guard of this fictitious team. Doug Baldwin, who Sherman once described as a "very explosive two-guard" can have that role on our squad, and we'll round it out with Earl Thomas as our sixth man, because any team in any sport can use that level of passion and intensity.
@TruthisTold2U asks, "With roster turnover and new opportunities arising, what Seahawks are most likely to breakout in 2016?"
A: Turnover is inevitable in a league with a salary cap, and one of the keys to sustaining success is finding players who can fill in and play well when those departures occur. Based on need, a few places where a breakout opportunity might exist include linebacker, pass rush, offensive line, and depending on Jeremy Lane's role, perhaps cornerback/nickel corner. At offensive line, Mark Glowinski figures to have a good shot at replacing J.R. Sweezy at guard, and depending on what Russell Okung decides in free agency, there could be an opportunity for a tackle to step up as well. With Bruce Irvin leaving, there are more snaps available for a pass rusher, and I could see Frank Clark and/or Cassius Marsh stepping into bigger roles. Irvin's departure also leaves a void at linebacker, as detailed above.
With Brandon Mebane leaving, the Seahawks will have an opening at nose tackle, so there's another chance for somebody (Sealver Siliga, Jordan Hill, etc.) to make his mark.
As for cornerback, we're going to address that separately, because there were a lot of questions about that position.
@legume_duprix asks, "Is Jeremy Lane expected to get the CB2 spot or is it going to be someone else?" @AGarrett90 asks, "Do you think the Hawks will go with Lane opposite Sherman or look to the draft to get that guy?" @RossRichendrfer asks, about internal options at defensive back such as Tye Smith and Mohammed Seisay, and @TomPage asks about George Farmer.
A: As I said, there's a lot of interest in what's going on at cornerback. Lane's re-signing is big for the Seahawks, because it offers them a chance at continuity at right cornerback for the first time in several years, whether that's in the form of Lane starting there or DeShawn Shead. Those two split time at right cornerback and in the nickel role last year after Lane came back from injury, and the Seahawks could continue to mix and match there and would probably feel pretty good about that if that's the case. That being said, however, there are other options to compete for time, which were mentioned in some of your questions. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has expressed excitement about some of the defensive backs on their roster who didn't get a chance to play last year because of injuries or just a lack of opportunity, a group that includes Smith, Seisay and Tharold Simon. As for Farmer, a converted receiver whom Carroll recruited while at USC, he is one of several practice squad players who signed to future deals after the season ended along with Stanley Jean-Baptiste and Trovon Reed. It's too early to know who of that group could emerge, but it's safe to say there will be some intriguing prospects in camp fighting for roster spots.
@GeorgeAustin316 asks, "Are you often confused with the 19th century congressman?"
A: Until now, I was unaware that a John Boyle from Kentucky served as a United States federal judge, and later as a member of congress in the early 19th century, so thanks for the history lesson, George. But no, I have not been confused for that John Boyle, just the 5th Earl of Cork John Boyle… OK, not really.
There have, however, been some mix-ups involving me and local Jet City Improv cast member John Boyle, especially since we are both from the area and have a few mutual friends.
@Ty_Reed asks, "In honor of Pi day, what's your favorite pie?"
A: The short answer: blueberry. The long answer (and old family joke) is whatever pie isn't available. I don't know where the tradition started, but for as long as I can remember, whenever there would be a big family dinner, my dad would sarcastically lament the absence of whatever kind of pie was not available: "Oh man, I was hoping for peach pie." Over the years, my grandma would make more and more pies to try to stump him, and he'd keep coming up with more requests. It's probably one of those "you had to be there" kind of things, but we found it amusing.
@Christian_Gin asks, "What becomes the Seahawks' biggest draft need after the first week of free agency?"
A: Carroll and general manager John Schneider have made no secret of their desire to get better on the offensive line, or more specifically, to avoid the early-season struggles that hindered the offense last year. So in light of that, the line figures to be addressed in the draft, even after this week's signings of J'Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell, but anyone who has watched Seattle's recent drafts should know better than to assume their early picks will fit obvious needs. If the right player who fits a need is there when the Seahawks are up, they'll go that direction, but they won't reach to force a fit and risk missing out on a better player, even if that player might not fit a glaring need.