With the Seahawks' 2021 season coming to an end with an impressive victory in Arizona on Sunday, players were back at the VMAC on Monday for a final team meeting, exit interviews and to pack up their belongings before heading into the offseason feeling optimistic about the team's future despite a disappointing 7-10 record that saw them miss the playoffs for just the second time in the past 10 seasons.
Prior to heading off to start their offseason, several players met with the media Monday to talk about their 2021 seasons, free agency, and thoughts on the future of the team. We'll dig deeper into several of these topics over the next couple of weeks, but for now, here are some highlights from Monday's press conferences:
WR DK Metcalf
Metcalf's 2021 season was a challenging one at times, both because he had to manage a foot injury for much of the year, limiting his ability to practice, and because inconsistencies with the offense led to a dip his production for part of the year. Even so, he still emerged from the season with a very solid season, catching 75 passes for 967 yards and a career-high 12 touchdowns, an his three-season total of 3,170 yards is the most in Seahawks history through a player's first three seasons. And with the offense getting on track late in the season, producing 30 or more points in four wins over the final six weeks, Metcalf has high hopes for what the offense can look like in its second year under offensive coordinator Shane Waldron.
"I'm very confident in what the offense can be and what it can really look like," Metcalf said. "People really saw what the Seattle Seahawks offense can look like these last few games, especially with (Rashaad) Penny back there at running back. He really had a great stretch of games here to just end off the season. (Russell Wilson) was cooking back there. Tyler (Lockett), Gerald (Everett), everybody was getting involved in the offense. That's what we like to see, everybody contributing and doing their part. It really just shows what we have to look forward to for next year."
Metcalf's offseason could include surgery to address the foot injury—he said he and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll would discuss his options on Monday—and it is also sure to include contract negotiations, and Metcalf, heading into the final year of his rookie contract, is in position to get an extension to avoid him becoming a free agent after 2022. While those negotiations are likely a ways off—the Seahawks usually focus on this year's free agency before moving on to extensions for players still under contract—Metcalf is confident he and the Seahawks will get something done to keep him in Seattle long-term.
"It's going to get done in my opinion," he said. "I'm just going to let the chips fall where they may, and let God and the Seahawks and my agent take care of the rest, and I know everything's going to work out just fine."
LT Duane Brown
This season, Brown's 14th in the NFL, was a bit up and down, Brown said, but he finished the season playing strong, and hopes to go into his 15th season still a member of the Seahawks, the team that acquired him in a midseason trade in 2018.
"I think my season was OK," Brown said. "I had some rough patches against strong competition. I wasn't my healthiest at all times, but again, I finished on a strong note against a really good opponent on the road. I'm feeling healthy enough now, so I plan on continuing to play. Obviously when I signed my extension, I said that I wanted to retire here. I didn't know what I would feel like at 36, I didn't know what I would feel like finishing my 14th year, and there a lot of things to weigh out, but I would love to stay here. This is a business, and you don't know quite how it's going to shake out, everything is not in my control, so we will see how that plays out. Again, I'm grateful for the season. Like I said, I feel like it was up and down at times, but I feel like I did all right."
And like Metcalf, Brown heads into the offseason encouraged by what he saw from the offense to close out the year.
"I think the sky's the limit," he said. "I think the sky's the limit. The guys up front, we had a lot of young guys come in and play, and they did a great job for us. We have a lot of veteran leadership. Obviously I think the run game you saw what we're capable of out there. I can't say enough about Rashaad Penny and the way he's run the ball—the confidence and attitude that he runs with. You look at our receiving corps, one of the tops in the league, the way that DK and Lockett complement each other, Freddie Swain, the tight end group. And Russ is Russ. The sky's the limit. We just need to try to keep guys healthy, and it's just playing with confidence. I think everyone did that."
RB Rashaad Penny
Penny's finish to the 2021 season was one of the biggest highlights of a disappointing year. The former first-round pick who battled injuries throughout his career didn't just stay healthy over the final month and a half of the season, he was the NFL's most productive running back over the final five games, rushing for 135 or more yards in four games, including 190 yards against Arizona on Sunday, and 170 yards a week earlier against Detroit.
"I think this is really the start of my journey," Penny said. "It has been a long time coming, it's been a frustrating one, but these guys have had my back through it all. I'm really thankful to be around a great organization and they showed that there was no quit in me, they pushed me, and they kept pushing me, so I'm just thankful for what I have been doing over this past month or so."
The question of course now becomes one of what will happen with Penny in 2022. If he and the Seahawks don't agree to a new deal before the new league year begins in March, Penny will become a free agent, and based off his recent play he figured to have some suitors. As is the case for any free agent, there are plenty of business factors in play, but Penny is hopeful he can return to Seattle and try to build off of a phenomenal finish to the 2021 season.
On Sunday, Penny referred to Seattle as home and said he hopes to stick around, and asked about that sentiment a day later, he said pointed to the way the Seahawks stuck with him through all the injuries, leading to him getting a chance at a breakout month to close the season.
"It's just the way they handle business," he said. "I've never been anywhere else, and I pray I don't, but it's just the way they handled things. Through the time I've been here, I've battled injuries, and they just never gave up on me. I think it showed yesterday and this whole month, that they kept sticking with me sticking with me, and then finally, they really believed in me that they carry the load for the RBs with the few injuries we had. So I'm thankful for that, and I really love this place. The training staff does an amazing job with us, the medical guys and girls, they really look after us. I love being here."
RB Adrian Peterson
While Peterson's time in Seattle was brief—he signed to the practice squad on December 1, then appeared in one game in which he injured his back, leading to him eventually landing on injured reserve—the experience with the Seahawks left a lasting impression.
"The experience was top notch," he said. "I've been blessed to play with a lot of different organizations. I can say this is probably the best experience I've had. From the ownership on down to the cafeteria, it's good people. It's a different mentality that I experienced coming into this building with the team having the record that they had and just kind of seeing how the coaches, the players, and the team approach each week. Just really grinding and focusing on one week at a time and looking at it as another opportunity to get better. It was an amazing experience for me, and I really enjoyed it."
Peterson turns 37 in March and already has a Hall of Fame resume, but he hopes to play a 16th season in 2022.
"I just can't fathom my career ending the way that it did," he said. "So with that, I'm going into the offseason with the mindset to continue to play. I've still got love for the game, I feel like I can compete at a high level still… As of today, I'm definitely looking forward to playing again."
But while Peterson isn't ready to retire yet, his experience in Seattle, particularly with mentoring Penny, and conversations with Carroll have opened his eyes to the possibility of coaching, something he really wasn't considering before his time in Seattle.
"The funny thing is, I never really envisioned myself coaching, not on this level or the college level. Maybe my son's little league team or something. But after talking to Coach Pete, it's something that I've been kind of thinking about. I talked to my wife as well, and she was like, 'Adrian, you're just a different person when you're around football, so it's something you really should think about and consider.' So for the first time, I've actually thought about it and considered going that direction when I'm done playing football. So we'll see where the chips fall."
CB D.J. Reed
Reed was visibly upset late in Sunday's game when safety Quandre Diggs went down with a dislocated ankle, an injury that requires surgery, not just because it's always upsetting to see a teammate get injured, but because of Diggs' contract status. After putting back-to-back Pro Bowl seasons together, Diggs was minutes away from wrapping up the 2021 healthy and headed into free agency looking to land a big, multi-year deal. And while Diggs is expected to be back on the field next season and no doubt still deserves to be rewarded financially for his play these past two-and-a-half seasons, his teammates still couldn't help but think about Diggs' future and the potential financial ramifications of the injury.
"It was tough," Reed said. "For me it really hit home because he didn't have to play in that game. We weren't going to the playoffs, obviously he's on the last year of his contract, he's already had a Pro Bowl season, he's already put everything that he had to put on tape, he literally went out there for his brothers, not to leave us out there, and for the love of the game. That's the risk that we take that fans and most people don't understand, we really go out there and sacrifice our bodies. For him to go out there and do that, on the last game at the end of his contract, it's a testament to him and his love for the game, but it's unfortunate that it had to happen to such a good person."
As for Reed's future, he too is headed towards free agency this offseason unless he were to sign an extension before the new league year begins in March, and he said he spoke with general manager John Schneider Monday and is hoping things work out for him to stay in Seattle.
"I just talked to John, we had a good conversion," he said. "I definitely want to stay here, but obviously the price has to be right. I'm going into free agency like, I'm not saying the highest bidder, I want to look at everything as far as the organization, what type of scheme I'm going into, am I setting myself up for success, et cetera, et cetera. But for me personally, I love Seattle, so we'll see what happens."
DT Al Woods
With a pregnant wife at home and the COVID-19 pandemic underway, Woods elected to opt out of the 2020 season, then signed with Seattle in free agency last offseason. What followed was one of the best seasons of Woods' 11-year career, one that saw him record a career-high 50 tackles while anchoring one of the league's best run defenses. With that strong season now behind him, Woods, who will turn 35 in March, is ready to come back for a 12th season and hopes to do so in Seattle.
"It was awesome," Woods said of his 2021 season. "All I can say is awesome. I had God on my side the whole time. It was one of those things where it was like everything was just clicking. I feel good. I still feel good. I just had a conversation with John Schneider and them fifteen minutes ago, and they asked me what I wanted to do, and I told them I wanted to come back. We're going to see how that works. I'm still ready to roll."
Asked what makes Seattle special having played for four other teams, Woods said, "For one, it's just the honesty. The honesty and level of communication that we have that you can be honest with them. You don't have to lie and try to limp your way through something. If you say, 'Hey man, my shoulder isn't feeling good today. I think it's best that I rest today and I practice tomorrow.' It's like, all right. Cool. No problem. Just make sure you're out there for the run periods so you can see your plays and see what you need to see, and then go get in the pool and work your shoulder out and make sure you're good for Sunday.' That's one of the main things that I think is a great thing here is the level of honesty and respect they have for us and we have for them. Just the pure energy. It's never a dull day. That's the awesome part, it's never a dull day. You come in and always have fun and express yourself. That in itself is unique."
C Ethan Pocic
Pocic's 2021 season got off to a challenging start, with injuries causing him to lose the starting center job to Kyle Fuller. Pocic took back the starting job in October and started the final 10 games of the season, playing what Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said recently was the best football of his career, and is now hoping to continue his career with the team that drafted him in the second round of the 2017 draft.
"I expect to be back, I'm trying to be back," he said. "I love it here, a lot of great memories and everything, and I'm hopeful to have some more moving forward. I've just had a lot of fun with my guys, and I'm looking to continue to do that."
LB Cody Barton
Barton has been a mainstay on special teams throughout his three-year career in Seattle, but with players like Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright—and more recently Jordyn Brooks—ahead of him on the depth chart, playing time at linebacker has been tough to come by for most of his career. But with Wagner injuring his knee on his first play of Seattle's Week 17 win over Detroit, Barton played all but one defensive snap of that game at middle linebacker, then started in Arizona, playing every defensive snap while recording 12 tackles. That experience taking over for Wagner will only give Barton more confidence heading into next season, whatever his role may be.
"I think that playing in these two games was a big confidence booster," he said. "It was great exposure, great experience, and something to build on this offseason to get better."