The Seahawks' season unfortunately came to an end in Atlanta Saturday, but the mailbag is still open—and will remain so from time to time throughout the offseason—so with the season behind us and a busy offseason coming up, it's time once again to answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who took the time to ask a question, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.
@soccer15matt2k asks, "What is the team going to look like going into next year?" @gpargas81 also asks about possible offseason moves.
A:Every NFL team has a certain level of turnover each offseason, so it's a given that the Seahawks roster will look somewhat different next season than it did when the year ended. But the Seahawks are in pretty good shape in terms of having almost all of their core players under contract, so there shouldn't be a ton of drastic change.
In general the Seahawks haven't been huge players in free agency, but they'll keep an eye out for veterans who can help them, particularly if they see a good value signing to be made after the initial frenzy of the first couple days of free agency dies down. More significantly, the Seahawks will add players in the draft and as undrafted free agents, bringing in more talented youth to compete for jobs. And no matter how many players are back, the Seahawks won't go into the offseason assuming they can't make moves to get better. As Seahawks coach Pete Carroll likes to say, "You're either competing or you're not," and that definitely goes for roster building as well as on-field competition.
"Our roster is pretty well set right now, we're in pretty good shape," Carroll said. "Money-wise we're in good shape, we're solid and we know where we are. We're going to add a draft class to it and see how far those guys can take us. I think we should be hopeful about the makeup of our team right now. We certainly are. We have a guys in a lot of great spots that are ready to go and healthy and ready to turn it on, and guys coming back off injuries that are going to impact us as well. There's a rolling transition to this, as it goes there will be some guys, there's an attrition and guys will leave. There's always difficult, tough decisions, John (Schneider) has echoed that for years. At the end of the year there are big-time decisions to be made and where we go and what we do… I think we're in a pretty strong position right now and I think we have a chance to really be good again."
@KingZlatan013 "How do you think we are going to address the O-line issues? Likely to sign a free agent or cover it in the draft?" @tarmoking94, @okaken300 and a few others also asked about potential offensive line additions.
A:Understandably, there are a lot of questions about the Seahawks offensive line heading into the offseason. The Seahawks had a very young and inexperienced line in 2016, and while that group showed flashes of very encouraging play, there were also some inevitable growing pains.
If the Seahawks return the same group of starters that ended the season—from left to right, George Fant, Mark Glowinski, Justin Britt, Germain Ifedi and Garry Gilliam—they'll be counting on seeing a lot of improvement just based on the natural growth that happens for young players as they gain experience, as well as because of the way continuity could help that group. But that doesn't mean the Seahawks will go into the 2017 season just assuming that's their starting five. Seattle has selected at least one offensive lineman in every draft under Carroll and Schneider, including six linemen over the past two drafts, so it's probably a safe bet they'll look to add to the competition there. Carroll has praised the play of Rees Odhiambo when the rookie did get on the field, so he could push for more playing time with a good offseason and camp, and while Carroll indicated on Monday that they won't just throw money at the line, that doesn't mean they won't look to free agency if the right piece is available at the right price.
"I don't think that way. That's not how we think, like, 'OK, let's take money and put it here and all of the sudden you're going to be better.' … I don't think you can just buy your way to it. We're not going to do that, we're not going to go out and spend a ton of money on free agency on one guy to try to save day. That's not how we function at all. We're going to bring the young guys up, keep developing them and make them be part of this program. Then as they go and they earn their opportunities, we'll reward them as we can. I hope that it's really clear that that's the way we've done this with really clear intent. John (Schneider) has done a fantastic job of managing that, and we're in position to have another really good team coming back in another year. Not every team can say that and we're proud of that but we're not satisfied. That's just where the starting point is as we embark on this next year coming up."
Along those lines, @mooseheadbond asks about the value of continuity on the offensive line.
A:Continuity is arguably as important for an offensive line as it is for any position group, which is one reason the Seahawks are optimistic about their line moving forward. The Seahawks lost two starters in free agency after the 2015 season, and have in general had a lot of turnover on their line in recent years. With so many young players starting this year, the Seahawks have a chance to return a very similar, if not identical, starting line should they so choose, which would help that group hit the ground running next season.
"We've been through that transition of guys, and that can't just keep happening, we can't keep going and going," Carroll said. "So you have to make some adjustments, which we did and we're working our way back. It has been a challenge though, there have been changes and it happens for reasons that it does—money gets too high, you can't afford to keep a guy because you don't have room to do it. You have young guys come up to take guys spots, you can see the future through the young guys, there's all kinds of reason and we've kind of been through it all. I don't think we're in that mode right now. I think we have a chance now that this is maybe one of the two or three years out of the seven or eight where we have had a chance to come back with kind of the same group and have a chance to build with that. We're going to try to but we're going to challenge the heck out of those guys too. We're not going to be satisfied.
As Carroll notes when he mentions trying to "challenge the heck out of those guys," there are no guarantees that the line won't change, but unlike years past when starters left, a change next season would come about because someone stepped up and took a job from an incumbent.
@sarah_Seattle12 asks, "Which player could most likely be a pro in a different sport?"
A:This is a fun question, because since NFL players are some of the very best athletes in the world, it's easy to imagine a lot of them excelling in another sport had they focused on that sport instead of football. There are probably at least half a dozen players in Seattle's locker room who think they could have played in the NBA—seriously, darn near every football player thinks he's great at basketball—but Jimmy Graham and George Fant, who both played college basketball at a high level, likely could have at the very least played professionally overseas had they not turned their focus to football.
As pretty much everyone knows by now, Russell Wilson was selected in the Major League Baseball draft out of high school and again in college, and he played minor league baseball, so it's not too farfetched to imagine him still playing baseball had he put all of his efforts into that. Luke Willson was also an accomplished baseball player, playing for Canada's junior national team, so maybe he could be a power-hitting lefty in the middle of some team's lineup if he weren't instead an NFL tight end.
I have no clue if Earl Thomas could hit or not, but I'm convinced he could be a great defensive centerfielder. Brock Coyle was a pretty accomplished ski racer before turning his attention to football, so maybe in an alternate universe, he could be in Kitzbuehel, Austria this weekend for the famed Hahnenkamm downhill.
Also, does Irish dance count as a sport?
@KBottom2 ask, "Do you see the team adding some depth during the offseason to back up Earl Thomas?"
A:The expectation is that Thomas will be back for the start of next season, but that doesn't mean the Seahawks won't look to add depth there and elsewhere in the secondary, especially with DeShawn Shead facing a long recovery from the knee injury sustained in Saturday's game.
Carroll pointed to the secondary, as well as linebacker, as places where the Seahawks will be looking to add depth this offseason: "We've got to get Earl back, we have to get that corner thing squared away, I think that's one of them. We'll certainly be looking at that in the draft. We need some youth at the linebacker spot. Bobby (Wagner) and K.J. (Wright) played thousands of plays this year between the two of them and were extremely successful. We need to address that. We didn't get anybody that made a difference in the last couple of years that can really fight to take those guys jobs. Think if someone can battle K.J. and Bobby for their starting time; that's what we need to draft towards. We'll be looking there, the offensive line will continue to be an area of focus. We're looking at everything, but I'm trying to give you guys something so you can walk away with the obvious focal points."
@mindyourbizness asks, "What should we expect from our first-round pick?" and @TruthisTold2U asks, "Is it time for the Seahawks to draft a cornerback in the first round?"
A:To the first question, predicting who the Seahawks will pick in the first round is an exercise in futility—they've been one of the least predictable teams in the league when it comes to the draft—though if you're looking for a prediction, it's not a bad bet to guess they'll trade back, something they have made a habit of doing with their first pick under Schneider.
As for cornerback specifically, as mentioned in the above answer, Carroll mentioned secondary and cornerback depth as an area of focus, so you certainly can't rule that out. That being said, it's also worth noting that the Seahawks have not drafted a cornerback higher than the fourth round (Walter Thurmond in 2010) since Carroll and Schneider took over.
@CyndeB78 asks, "Do you have a thought on how special teams can improve next year?"
A:The Seahawks did deal with a few more issues on special teams this year than they would have liked, most notably in the kicking game where several extra points were missed or blocked. Kicker Steven Hauschka is a free agent, so the status of that position is up in the air, but if he is back, the Seahawks will obviously be counting on him to clean up those issues on extra points and get back to being what he has been for most of his tenure in Seattle—one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL.
In the return game, Tyler Lockett was limited by a knee injury early in the season, then finished the year on injured reserve, so whenever he gets back to health, he could help improve that element of Seattle's special teams play just by being healthy.
The Seahawks also can get better by cleaning up some of the penalties that cost them field position.
@Stretchjohnsen asks, "What is the timeline for the return to full health on Earl Thomas, Tyler Lockett, DeShawn Shead and Troymaine Pope?"
A:It's too soon to put any exact timelines on any of those players, though Pope's ankle injury that landed him on injured reserve shouldn't be an issue going forward. Carroll has said he expects Lockett and Thomas to be back for the start of the season, though their exact returns from broken legs could differ since Lockett's injury required surgery while Thomas' did not.
Unfortunately for Shead, he has what Carroll described as a "significant ACL injury with some of the other things," and given how late in the season that happened, that's quite possibly an injury that could carry into next season.
@MonkTraneParker asks, "Who do we have at defensive tackle besides Ahtyba Rubin and Tony McDaniel? Any free agents?"
A:With teams allowed to expand their rosters to 90 players in the offseason, the Seahawks will have plenty of defensive tackles on the roster aside from those two players, but the one name that stands out is Jarran Reed, who played a big role as a rookie, and figures to only get better going forward.
As for the idea of adding free agents, defensive tackle is a position where the Seahawks have had a lot of success finding good value in veteran free agents signings, including Rubin, a 2015 signing, and McDaniel, who they signed as a free agent both in 2013 and again in 2016, so it's certainly possible they could look to find free agent help at that spot again this offseason.
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the Seattle Seahawks' trip to Atlanta for the Divisional Round of the playoffs against the Falcons.