Happy Tuesday from the slushy mess otherwise known as the Seattle neighborhood I haven't left since Friday. Since I'm trapped inside with two little kids whose daycare is closed… again… today seemed like a good day to dive into the mailbag and answer questions from you, the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked a question this week, and apologies if I couldn't get to yours this time around.
@Noa10114 asks, "What are the Seahawks' draft/free agent priorities?"
A: When asked about team needs in his end-of-season press conference, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll noted that he and general manager John Schneider, "don't feel like there are big voids or big holes" when it comes to the roster, so the overall goal is to make the roster more competitive across the board rather than target any one or two positions.
That beings said, how things play out with some of Seattle's free agents will affect the level of need at different positions. For example, both starting guards in 2018, J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker, are set to become free agents when the new league year begins if they aren't re-signed before then, so if one or both signed elsewhere, that position would become a bigger need than if they re-sign. The same can be said for a few other positions, most notably weakside linebacker, where both K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks are set to become free agents next month.
As for priorities from a timing standpoint, the Seahawks will focus on free agency first, both in terms of re-signing their own players and adding outside talent, then turn their full attention to April's draft. In general, it's only after that process that the focus shifts to contract extension for players still under contract in 2019—we'll get more into that a few questions from now—so don't be alarmed if you're not hearing much about contract extensions for players like Bobby Wagner and Russell Wilson.
@RichardBoas asks, "It takes 20 minutes to prepare our kids to play in the snow. Inevitably they start crying after being in the snow for five minutes because they're cold. Do you take them back in at first cry or make them wait longer due to the long prep time?"
A: This question hit a little close to home. So far each attempt at getting our two daughters, ages three and one, out in the snow has involved a ton of getting ready, a few minutes of fun, then a lot of crying/complaining. I don't know how old your kids are, Richard, but we take ours back in when the tears start, because few things are worse than a three-year-old's tantrum. Also, our one-year-old won't keep a hat or gloves on, so that's a problem.
On a related, totally hypothetical note, how many episodes of Llama Llama and Chuggington are too many for a three-year-old?
@bulut_sbulut asks, "Do you think the Seahawks draft a kicker this year?" @RainyCityGamer also asks about what the Seahawks will do at kicker.
A: Seeing as the Seahawks have limited draft capital this year, heading into the draft with just four picks, I have a hard time seeing them use one of those picks on a kicker. Then again, if you'd have asked me at this time last year if the Seahawks would use a fifth-round pick on a punter, I wouldn't have seen that as a likely outcome, so you can never say never if there's a kicker out there the Seahawks really love, and especially if they trade back early in the draft to add more picks.
As for what the Seahawks will do at kicker if they don't add one in the draft and/or re-sign Sebastian Janikowski, they did add Sam Ficken after the season ended, and they'll almost certainly bring in another kicker or two to compete, be it a veteran free agent or an undrafted rookie. I'd suspect that one way or another, there's a competition in training camp just as there was last season.
@StephenOkamoto asks, "What position should the Seahawks target in the draft with their first selection?"
A: As mentioned in the answer to the first question, the Seahawks aren't heading into the offseason feeling like there's one obvious and huge need (though even if they did feel that way, they probably wouldn't want to make that public knowledge, lest they tell the rest of the league what they're targeting in free agency and the draft). In general, the Seahawks draft with an approach that, in addition to evaluating a player's overall talent, also weighs how that player will fit into the competition on Seattle's roster at a given position, so need is something of a factor, though more so in assigning that player a grade ahead of time than in making a decision on draft day. As Schneider described it in 2016, "How we do it is we don't grade for the league, we grade for our team. And when you do that, that represents what your board ends up looking like. So you're going to have specific needs at different positions based on people that you lost in free agency, or if a guy that you drafted isn't coming through at a specific position. So it's really kind of a combination of the two. This is not something that we've developed. This is like Dick Steinberg, Ron Wolf, Al Davis, we're just kind of carrying it on."
What does that all mean with regards to this year's draft? It means that what happens in free agency could be something of a factor when making the board, but that overall the Seahawks feel pretty good about their roster, and will hope to head into their first pick feeling like they have good options available to pick at multiple positions.
And Seattle's draft history doesn't give you a ton of help in guessing its first pick, though under Carroll and Schneider they have tended to pick linemen on both sides of the ball more than any other area with their first picks, taking offensive linemen first in 2010 (Russell Okung), 2011 (James Carpenter) and 2016 (Germain Ifedi), and defensive linemen first in 2012 (Bruce Irvin), 2015 (Frank Clark in the second round) and 2017 (Malik McDowell in the second round).
Carroll has said on a number of occasions that a defense can never have too many pass-rushers, so that wouldn't be a big surprise if they went that route, but there are a plenty of other positions could make sense as well if the right player is available.
@MHKogath asks, "Do you think Shaquem Griffin will get more starts next season?"
A: Understandably there is a lot of interest in Griffin and what kind of role he will have going forward—he was, after all, one of the best stories of the 2018 NFL season for reasons bigger than his on-field production.
In 2018, Griffin started the season-opener in place of an injured K.J. Wright, but after that his playing time came primarily on special teams. Having to start out on special teams isn't unusual for a rookie, especially one drafted in the later rounds, so Griffin's rookie season was hardly a disappointment, especially considering he was playing a different position than he did at UCF where he thrived as an undersized pass-rusher.
Griffin did start to see playing time on defense late in the year in certain sub packages or to spell Wright after the veteran weakside linebacker returned from a knee injury, and Carroll noted after the season that the rookie “has come miles from where he started." So it's safe to assume that Griffin will report to offseason workouts in 2019 much better prepared to compete for playing time on defense. But Griffin's development is part of the equation when it comes to playing time at weakside linebacker in 2019. Both Wright and Mychal Kendricks, who started three games at WLB when Wright was injured, are set to become free agents when the new league year begins, so if one of those two is re-signed, it might be tougher for Griffin to win that job, though Carroll is always willing to let competition play out if Griffin shows he's ready to push for the job. If neither Wright nor Kendricks comes back, then Griffin could be competing with Austin Calitro (an exclusive rights free agent, making him likely to be back) and any new additions via free agency and/or the draft, in which case the competition would seemingly be wide open.
@Lougheed_E, @GrantMarcum and @RadkeJaden all ask if Russell Wilson will sign a contract extension before the 2019 season.
A: As I mentioned earlier, the fact that nothing has happened with Wilson (or Bobby Wagner for that matter) isn't really something to be concerned with as of now. Under Carroll and Schneider, the approach to the offseason has always been to focus on free agency first, then the draft, then later address potential extensions for players heading into the final year of their contracts. Obviously the front office has to be thinking ahead in all of those areas at all times, but the priority for now is what is coming up first, which is free agency. For example, when Wagner and Wilson were heading into the final years of their rookie deals in 2015, Wilson signed an extension just before the start of camp, and Wagner signed one a few days later.
Both Wagner and Wilson made it clear at the end of the season that they hope to stay in Seattle long-term, and Carroll has likewise expressed a desire for that to happen. Contracts for top players are never easy to get done, especially when it comes to quarterbacks, so it could take some time to get a deal done with Wilson, but my guess is that yes, something will likely get done before the start of the year.
When asked about Wilson and a potential extension two days after the season came to an end, Carroll said, "Russ and I met yesterday and we're talking about the future and we're talking about where we're going and what we want to get done. That's very much in our plans."
That being said, Wilson's professionalism is top-notch, so even if a deal didn't happen before the 2019 season, I wouldn't foresee that being a problem for him or the team during the season.
@MarkKachler27 asks, "What is the main concern this offseason?"
A: As we've already discussed, who comes and who goes in free agency will help determine the level of urgency when it comes to adding players at any given position, but from a big-picture standpoint, the biggest concern will be trying to make sure the team picks up where it left off late in the 2018 season. After some early-season struggles, the Seahawks played very well down the stretch to get into the playoffs and, as Carroll put it, "took a big jump" towards establishing a new young nucleus that can add to the veteran group that took on leadership roles last year. The Seahawks didn't just finish the year playing very well, they also formed a level of team chemistry that coaches and players alike said was pretty unique. So more than anything, recapturing what carried the team to so much late-season success will be an important part of offseason workouts and training camp.
"That connection that they have to what we're asking them to do and the willingness to practice on a regular basis and to meet and to bring their attitude, bring their energy all the time—that's rare and it's special," Carroll said in his end-of-season press conference. "I think that's what gives me the thought that I can go back a few years—I said the same thing five or six years ago, whenever it was. You can tell that the nucleus and the core of the team that you need to be a championship club is here. These are the guys that we're going to build it around. I couldn't be more adamant about that right now. That's where we are."
@The_Twelf asks, "What's the news on Jamarco Jones? How's he doing with his rehab? I'm looking forward to seeing him make his mark in 2019."
A: Jones, a fifth-round pick out of Ohio State, made a good early impression with the Seahawks, showing the ability to play both tackle spots, with Carroll saying early in training camp that Jones "has been a real surprise in that he has been able to pick stuff up so soon. Mike (Solari) is real impressed with him."
Unfortunately for Jones and the Seahawks, his rookie season ended before it had a chance to really get going due to an ankle injury that required surgery, landing him on injured reserve before the start of the regular season. The good news for Jones is that because the injury happened so early, he has had plenty of time to rehab and should be ready to go when the team returns for offseason workouts.
"He looks great," Carroll said when asked about Jones last month. "He's in great shape, he has gained weight, he's stronger than he has ever been. Now he's already raring to go. He'll be back and there should be no hesitation with his return."