The first week of free agency is in the rearview mirror, the draft is a little over a month away, the NCAA Tournament is underway, and the Mariners have the best record in baseball, which means now is a great time to once again dive into the mailbag and answer questions from you, the fans. OK, so those last two things don't have anything to do with the Seahawks, but I'm all for getting off topic in mailbags. Anyway, as always, thanks to everyone who asked a question this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to your question this time around.
@MarkKachler27 asks, "Which Seahawks players do you see having a breakout year?"
A: On offense, I'd start with running back Rashaad Penny, who as a rookie showed a lot of potential, including a 100-yard game at Los Angeles and several explosive runs that showed why the Seahawks picked him in the first round. As good as Penny looked in spurts, he was limited by a finger injury early in the season and by a knee injury late, but if he can stay healthy in 2019, he should have a chance to be a big part of the offense, especially with Mike Davis moving on in free agency. Another name I'd throw out on offense is receiver David Moore, who had a few big games and some big catches, but whose production fluctuated throughout the year. Given another year to grow and perhaps some more opportunities, he's a player who could take a big step forward.
On the other side of the ball, I think there are a few guys, mostly in the 2018 rookie class, with breakout potential. Cornerback Tre Flowers was a starter throughout the season, so his role won't get any bigger, but I could see him taking a big leap in Year 2 considering he was a safety in college who was learning a new position last year. On the defensive line, Jacob Martin finished the year strong and should be a bigger part of the pass-rush rotation next season, while Poona Ford, who played very well late in the year, should see even more playing time and will likely compete for a starting job at defensive tackle, especially with Shamar Stephen having left in free agency. Also, depending on how things shake out at safety, Delano Hill or Tedric Thompson, both 2017 picks, could be in position for a big year in terms of opportunity and improvement.
@g2mcc asks if the Seahawks will "wake up and do something?"
A: I'm answering this one because I got a few questions from people concerned about how the Seahawks are handling free agency, and in particular about how they haven't been overly active a week into the process.
I can assure you that the Seahawks front office is awake and well aware of the fact that free agency started last week, even if they haven't signed a bunch of big-name free agents from other teams. And if you've been paying attention for, say, the last decade, you'd know this was normal for the Pete Carroll/John Schneider-led Seahawks, who tend to avoid big bidding wars early in free agency and shop for value later in the process. That's how they landed players like Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril and Bradley McDougald, and it's the more financially-responsible way to shop, especially when you're trying to make sure you keep your best players. In general, teams that are successful and that draft well focus on retaining talent rather than spending big to keep it, which is why you rarely see playoff teams spending big early in free agency unless they are teams that are successful while their quarterback is still on his rookie deal.
So while the Seahawks haven't made a ton of big headlines, they have made some important moves, including the re-signing of linebacker K.J. Wright, guard D.J. Fluker and linebacker Mychal Kendricks, and the additions of guard Mike Iupati and Pro-Bowl kicker Jason Myers.
And don't forget that one upside of losing some players in free agency without signing a bunch of players is that the Seahawks are currently in line to receive multiple compensatory picks in the 2020 draft, though that ultimately will be affected by how many more players the Seahawks sign and how much those players are paid.
@WildJayAppears asks, "Should the Mariners retire Ichiro's jersey number?"
A: Absolutely No. 51 should be retired by the Mariners, but the real question is do you retire it just for Ichiro Suzuki, or for both him and Hall of Fame pitcher Randy Johnson? If I had any say in it, which I obviously don't, I'd honor both players because while some of Johnson's best years came in Arizona, he had a huge impact on the 90s teams that made the Mariners relevant and helped save baseball in Seattle. He also provided some iconic moments in franchise history, from throwing the first no-hitter in Mariners' history, to coming out of the bullpen in Game 5 against the Yankees in 1995, to dominating the Angels six days earlier to secure Seattle's first AL West title. So yes, retire No. 51, but honor both Ichiro and Johnson.
@ValeKunDo asks, "Ichiro slot receiver or cornerback?"
A: Slot receiver and corner both seems like a good fit given his speed, but don't rule out quarterback with that arm and his cerebral approach to the game. Anyone who obsesses that much over hitting while possessing that level of athleticism could probably master a lot of tasks in a number of sports, though he'd have needed to bulk up a bit to play football. Also, as much as he focused on the details of his swing, I could see Ichiro thriving as a kicker as well.
@Marquavis_Trill asks, "Who do you got making the final four?"
A: Duke, Gonzaga, Tennessee and North Carolina. Boring, I know, but when you get that far into the tournament, chalk is usually the way to go.
@ninjapro88 asks, "When will the Seahawks and Frank Clark agree on a new contract?"
A: The Seahawks placed the franchise tag on Clark prior to the deadline earlier this month, assuring he'll back for at least 2019, but the goal is obviously to keep him around longer than that. Seahawks coach Pete Carroll expressed confidence at the combine that the two sides would make that happen (this was before using the tag), but as is always the case when negotiating big contracts, that process can take time. And quite often, it takes a deadline for things to finally get done, which is why the most likely time for a contract extension to happen would be this summer. Teams have until July 15 to work out multi-year deals with franchise players, then after that Clark can only play under the franchise tag in 2019 and the two sides wouldn't be able to work on a new deal until the end of the regular season.
@Lougheed_E asks, "With Doug Baldwin's injuries and surgeries, do you think Seattle will look at drafting another receiver?" @garyhesse also asks about potentially drafting a receiver early in the draft.
A: Carroll said at the combine that Baldwin, who battled through a ton of injuries in 2018, has had knee and shoulder surgeries this offseason, but assuming he's healthy by this summer, the Seahawks would go into the year with two very good starters in Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, who is coming off a huge 2018 season. There's some quality depth on the roster beyond those two, including David Moore and Jaron Brown, but I definitely wouldn't rule anything out when it comes to drafting at that position or trying to add to it in free agency (and sorry, I can't address any reported free agent visits).
Even if the Seahawks do see receiver as a need, that wouldn't necessarily mean using a first-round pick to address it. Some of Seattle's best receivers of the Carroll/Schneider era have been undrafted (Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse) or mid-round picks (Lockett).
@Davard_ asks, "UK fan. You see the Hawks coming back here?"
A: While the Seahawks aren't heading back to London in 2019, I could definitely see it happening at some point given what a success their first trip to England was last season. Carroll raved about the experience his team had there, and probably more importantly from the league's perspective, the Seahawks were very well received in London. The Seahawks have a lot of fans in Europe, including robust Sea Hawkers chapters in the UK and Germany, and it showed both on the streets of London that week and at Wembley Stadium on gameday. Rob Staton from the BBC told me after the game that he had never heard Wembley even close to that loud for an NFL game, and he has covered most of them in London. So while geography presents an extra challenge for West Coast teams playing in London, everything went so well when Seattle was there last year, it would seem likely the NFL would want the Seahawks to go back eventually.
Team photographer Rod Mar shares exclusive images from the Seahawks' second day in London as the team prepares to take on the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.