Now that the 2022 NFL season is over, it's time to look ahead to an offseason that will help shape the Seahawks' fortunes in 2023 and beyond. With free agency kicking off next month and the draft following in April, Seahawks.comis taking a position-by-position look at where the team stands prior to the start of the new league year. So far we've covered, quarterback, safety, running back, cornerback, receiver, linebacker, tight end, defensive line/outside linebacker and offensive line, and today we wrap things up with a look at where things stand on special teams.
The Seahawks were once again one of the NFL's best teams in 2022 when it came to special teams play. Kicker Jason Myers led the NFL in scoring on his way to a second Pro-Bowl selection, a "terrific season" as Seahawks coach Pete Carroll put it, that saw him make 34 of 37 field goal attempts, including 6 of 6 from 50-plus yards; punter Michael Dickson was once again one of the NFL's best, ranking second in the league in net average (44.4 yards per punt), while his 48.5 yards-per-punt gross average was the second best of his five-year career. Helping both of those two thrive was long snapper Carson Tinker, who took over the job from an injured Tyler Ott, and filled in admirably for the entire season.
With veteran special teams captain Nick Bellore leading the way, Seattle's coverage units were again among the best in the NFL, and by being strong across the board on special teams under the leadership of special teams coordinator Larry Izzo, the Seahawks finished second in analyst Rick Gosselin’s annual special teams rankings, which are based on where teams finish the season ranked in 22 different special teams statistical categories. It was the Seahawks' third straight season finishing in the top three of Gosselin's ratings.
Question to answer this offseason: Who handles the return roles in 2023?
The Seahawks have rotated several players through the return jobs in recent years as veteran receiver Tyler Lockett has stepped back from those roles—though he has filled in on punt return at times. DeeJay Dallas has handled both jobs at various times, while Dee Eskridge was returning kicks before landing on injured reserve with a hand injury. Tre Brown hasn't yet been on returns in a regular season game, but he returned kicks regularly in college and has been mentioned by Carroll as a possible option at various times.
Finally, there was Godwin Igwebuike, who took over the kick return role initially as a practice squad elevation, then eventually earned a spot on the 53-man roster after multiple big returns. Igwebuike finished the season averaging 28.0 yards per return, fourth best in the league among players with at least 10 kick returns.
Igwebuike is set to become an exclusive rights free agent when the new league year begins, meaning the Seahawks can bring him back should they choose to—and as well as Igwebuike did returning kicks, it's hard to imagine they wouldn't want him back—so if he does re-sign, he would be the front runner for the job to open camp. As for punt returns, Dallas could very well end up in that role again should he re-sign, but he's set to become an unrestricted free agent next month, so there are no guarantees there. Offseason comings and goings will be a factor in what happens at the return spots in 2023, but regardless of how things shake out, those should be some interesting competitions in training camp and the preseason.
Biggest reason for optimism in 2023: Continuity.
By signing Bellore and Myers to contract extensions this offseason, the Seahawks will head into 2023 with their special teams captain and a Pro-Bowl kicker back for another season, and they are just two of several key special teamers returning from one of the league's top units. Michael Dickson, one of the NFL's best punters, still has multiple years left on the extension he signed in 2021, and several young core special teamers will be back, including Dareke Young, Joey Blount and Jon Rhattigan. Tanner Muse is a restricted free agent, so he very well could be back as well. The Seahawks do have a few key special teamers set to become free agents next month, including Cody Barton, Travis Homer, DeeJay Dallas, and long snapper Tyler Ott, as well as his injury replacement, Carson Tinker, so it may not be the same group across the board in 2023, but given the players who will be back, as well as the young talent that can be added in the draft—the Seahawks currently hold 10 picks—special teams should once again be a strength of the team.
Take a look back at some of the best photos of Seahawks linebacker Nick Bellore from the 2022 season.