The NFL scouting combine, as well as the ridiculous Seahawks media combine, are both in the books, so now it's time to look ahead to free agency, which begins next week, as well as next month's draft. And of course, there's always time for some random stuff as well. As always, thanks to everyone who submitted questions, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this week.
@kibbykibbykibby asks, "Do you see the Seahawks trading up in the first round of the draft?"
A: While I'd never rule anything out, I do not see that as a likely scenario for Seattle. Over the course of six drafts under general manager John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, the Seahawks have traded back to acquire more picks far more often than they have moved up in the draft. In fact, only twice have the Seahawks moved up, and never in the first round—in 2013 they moved up in the fifth round to pick Jesse Williams and Tharold Simon with back-to-back picks, and last year they traded four picks to acquire Tyler Lockett early in the third round. Other than that, every trade the Seahawks have made in the draft has been to move back and add picks, including moving out of the first round in 2014 (Seattle traded its 2013 and 2015 first-rounders before those drafts to acquire Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham, respectively). The Seahawks also moved back three spots in the first round in 2012 before picking Bruce Irvin at No. 15.
@Ty_Reed asks, "If you could pick five Seahawks, past or present, to be the next boy band and then sing the National Anthem at a Sounders game, who would you pick?
A: Let's see, I could spend a few minutes trying to come up with a clever/funny answer… Or…
@jojofoall asks, "How is a team's schedule decided?"
A: When it comes to deciding a team's opponent, each team plays its division opponents at home and on the road each year, so in Seattle's case, that's two games each against San Francisco, Los Angeles and Arizona. Teams also play an entire NFC and AFC division each year, rotating through the divisions year by year. This season, Seattle plays the NFC South (home against Atlanta and Carolina, at Tampa Bay and New Orleans) and the AFC East (home against Buffalo and Miami, at New England and New York). So that gets us to 14 games, all of which are determined well in advance of a particular season. The final two games are decided by where a team finishes in the division. Because Seattle finished in second place in the NFC West, they face the two "like finishers" in the other NFC divisions they don't already face that year, which means in 2016, Seattle will host Philadelphia and play at Green Bay, the second-place finishers in the NFC East and NFC North. The "like finisher" part of the schedule is why teams often face a non-divisional opponent year after year, such as the Seahawks and Panthers playing every season since 2012.
As for the actual schedule of when those games are played, that's put together by the league and announced in April, usually a week or two before the draft.
@sarah_seattle12 asks, "Doesn't it seem a little crazy how much NFL players get paid when they have five months vacation?"
A: I understand on the surface why people think this way, because yes, NFL players make significantly more money than most of the population, but there's a couple of things to address in this question. For starters, players don't get five months vacation. Yes, there's more downtime once the season ends, but players put in a lot of work either at the team facility or away from it to stay in shape, rehab injuries, etc. Then, starting in April, they are here quite frequently for offseason workouts, minicamps and OTAs throughout the spring until July, which is the closest thing to an extended break that they get, but again, everyone is still working out to stay in shape. Once training camp starts in late July, players are putting in very long hours, missing holidays and giving up a lot of their social lives, family time, etc., until after the New Year.
And regardless of how much players work—and it's a lot—they are also worth a lot of money because they are the stars in a sport that makes billions of dollars. Players are a big reason why the NFL is so popular and lucrative, so they should get a significant share of the profits.
@DennisGill10 asks, "Was the media combine really that painful?" And @TheCrappyTotals asks, "Is Bob Condotta still running his 40 at the media combine?"
If you missed it, the Seahawks held a media combine in which local reporters, media and TV folks, as well as yours truly, went through several of the drills that college prospects do (in much more impressive fashion) at the NFL scouting combine. First off, let me stick up for Bob here, because no, Bob didn't run particularly fast, but he was a good sport about it and was willing to risk embarrassing himself for a good time and a story, which was really the point of this event for everyone involved. As for if it was really that painful, it was, both in terms of watching us try to go through these drills, and also for my hamstrings, which were sore for a couple of days after.
@ravsriram asks, "How is Rawls shaping up? Will he be 100 percent for the start of next season?"
A: Understandably there is a lot of interest in Rawls' health, both because of how well he played in his rookie season, and also because Marshawn Lynch retirement leaves a void at running back. Rawls, who suffered a broken ankle in Seattle's Week 14 win at Baltimore, is progressing well, and Carroll gave an encouraging update while addressing the media at the combine last week.
"Thomas is going to get a great shot at it," Carroll said when asked about the starting running back job. "He did everything he could his rookie season to make a statement that he belongs. We love the style, he's a great kid. I can't imagine that he's not going to be right in the middle of it. I don't know who else is going to be added to the team, but he's coming in as the guy that we're looking to him to give the ball to and he's recovering really well. I just saw him two days ago, he's in really good shape right now, he's getting ready for it. It's going to be a haul for him but he'll make it for camp and be ready to go and we'll expect a lot out of him."
@kozy_familyfun asks, "What free agent would the Seahawks like to acquire?"
A: It's too early to say what the Seahawks might do in free agency, especially without knowing what players they might lose to other teams, so I'm not going to speculate on specifics. That being said, it's easy to look at positions where the Seahawks have unrestricted free agents who were starters last season—offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, linebacker, receiver—and figure those could be areas of interest depending on how things shake out.
Also worth remembering when it comes to free agency is that the Seahawks might not make a ton of noise when the new league year kicks off next week. The Seahawks have made some very important additions in free agency in recent years, most notably signing both Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on consecutive days in 2013, but almost all of those moves have come after the initial free agency frenzy that takes place right after the new league year begins. As Schneider put it last week, "We've just gotten ourselves to the point where we're a draft-and-develop, then supplement-through-free-agency kind of team." So yes, the Seahawks will almost certainly add players in free agency, but that doesn't mean they'll make a big splash next week.
And speaking of free agency…
@joerg_fabian asks, "What's going on with Bruce Irvin?"
A: Right now, not much, but very soon, Irvin is sure to have a lot of suitors when players can begin negotiating with other teams, starting on Monday. Irvin has made it clear he'd love to be back in Seattle, and the Seahawks would love to have him back, but both sides also understand that money is a big factor here. If there's a huge market for Irvin, as there was for a player like Byron Maxwell last year, then Irvin might move on if he receives offers that go beyond what Seattle can afford.
"I have met with Bruce individually, and he knows how we feel about him as an organization and he knows that we are either going to be able to make it work or give him a big hug and congratulate him," Schneider said at the combine. "That's just the way this league is right now. There's no question it's built on parity, and the more players you acquire, the more players you are going to lose at a certain point. We would love to have all of our guys back, unfortunately we are not going to be able to have all of them back. We have to set up a pecking order based on what the landscape looks like in the draft and free agency.'"
It's too soon to know what will happen, but it's worth remembering for fans that players have a very limited window to maximize their earning potential, so it's unfair to expect Irvin or any player to take a "hometown discount," hence Schneider's "give him a big hug and congratulate him," comment.
@wolfmeister27 asks, "When T-Jack leaves, will the Seahawks look in the draft or for a veteran in free agency?"
A: First of all, I don't think it's a given that Tarvaris Jackson, who is about to become an unrestricted free agent, will be gone. Jackson could find employment elsewhere, but it's worth remembering he also hit free agency last year before eventually re-signing with Seattle in the summer. If Jackson does leave, however, the Seahawks will need help at quarterback beyond Russell Wilson. The Seahawks did sign Phillip Sims, who went undrafted out of Winton-Salem State last year, to a future contract this offseason, but they'll likely be looking for another arm or two to bring into the competition even if Jackson were to come back (teams prefer to have more than two quarterbacks in camp and for preseason games even if they only have two on the 53-man roster).
Whether that help comes in the draft, free agency or both remains to be seen.
@Seattlefspain asks, "OL or DL in the first round?"
A: While offensive or defensive line looks like a logical direction for Seattle to go in the first round, especially with two starters on each line heading for free agency, I don't think we can assume that the Seahawks will simply draft the best available lineman when the 26th pick rolls around. Seattle has been unpredictable with their picks under Carroll and Schneider, and if there's a player they really like sitting there who happens to play a position of lesser need, it wouldn't be a surprise at all if they take that player rather than reaching to address a need.
The Seahawks hosted the Inaugural Media Combine at VMAC, with media members, Sea Gals and Blitz competing against each other in six different skill drills.