The Seahawks 2020 season unfortunately came to an abrupt end in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, so it's time for an end-of-season mailbag that is coming a little earlier than most folks, the team most of all, were expecting after a 12-4 regular season that saw the Seahawks capture their fifth NFC West title under Pete Carroll and John Schneider.
@TheCrappyTotals asks, "What position will the front office prioritize to upgrade?" @PremelsBrick and others asked similar questions.
A: Can I get back to you after we know what happens to some of Seattle's free agents?
OK, so you probably want an answer now, but in truth it's hard to say without knowing what might happen with some of Seattle's top players heading into free agency, a group that includes linebacker K.J. Wright, running back Chris Carson, cornerback Shaquill Griffin, and starting offensive linemen Ethan Pocic and Mike Iupati. For example, if Carson and Carlos Hyde, also a free-agent, re-sign, then that's probably not a huge priority with Rashaad Penny, Travis Homer and DeeJay Dallas all under contract in 2021, but if both of them were to sign elsewhere, then suddenly that becomes a position of more need.
Not knowing what will happen in free agency, we can safely assume the Seahawks will look to bolster their interior offensive line, because Pete Carroll said as much in his end of season press conference, saying "We need to make sure that the inside three guys, that we grow and get better there."
Cornerback could be a priority as well if Griffin were to leave. The Seahawks will have Tre Flowers and D.J. Reed back, and could look to re-sign Quinton Dunbar as well, but if Griffin and/or Dunbar leave, the Seahawks will want to add competition there.
Carroll also mentioned in his end-of-season presser that he wants to try to keep the pass-rush intact which would mean trying to re-sign Mayowa.
@brycetacoma asks, "Do you see the Seahawks busy in the free agent market or are they more likely to try to acquire compensatory picks to make up for the lack of picks this year?"
A: A quick refresher on compensatory picks, which are awarded to teams that lose more and better free agents than they sign—it's a bit more complicated than that, but that's the gist of it—the formula for picks is based off the previous year's free-agency period, so the 2021 comp picks, which have not yet been announced, will be based on last year's free agency, and based off of last year's activity in free agency, the Seahawks probably won't get any. In other words, what they do or don't do in free agency this spring won't affect their 2021 draft capital.
As for how busy the Seahawks will be, a lot of that will depend on A. on what happens with some of their own top free agents like Griffin, Carson and Wright, and B. on where the salary cap ends up following a year in which revenues were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Regardless of how things shake out, one thing you can probably count on is that the Seahawks won't likely be in the bidding wars for top free agents on the first day or two of free agency. Following advice he learned in Green Bay from his mentor Ted Thompson, Schneider has tended to stay out of those bidding wars that tend to lead to overspending, and instead look for value in the days and weeks that follow the initial frenzy. That's how the Seahawks last offseason landed the likes of Benson Mayowa, who contributed six sacks, and Brandon Shell, who played very well at right tackle.
@RubeHHMcAleer asks, "Do you think it's time for the Seahawks to start planning for post Pete Carroll and post Russell Wilson? Why or why not?"
A: No. Because both are among the very best in the world at their jobs, and both are under contract for several years.
Erin Rodgers from Lewiston, Idaho asks, "Seeing how the Seahawks lost to the Rams, and then how badly the Green Bay beat the Rams, isn't it obvious that the Seahawks are nowhere near the top of the NFC hierarchy?"
A: I'm not saying the Seahawks would or wouldn't have gone to Lambeau and beaten the Packers in the NFC Championship Game had they advance that far, but what I can tell you with certainty is that the transitive property doesn't apply to football. Just because the Packers beat the Rams somewhat comfortably doesn't mean anything in terms of what a Seahawks vs. Packers game would have looked like. Some teams just match up better with others, sometimes teams have bad days. Take, for example, the two-week stretch in December in which the Seahawks beat the Jets 40-3, then the Jets went to L.A. and beat the Rams. The Seahawks also beat Minnesota and the Rams in the regular season, two teams that beat the teams at the top of the NFC hierarchy that are playing this weekend.
None of this is to say the Seahawks don't need to get better in the offseason, or that a one-and-done playoff appearance wasn't disappointing, but just because the Seahawks struggled against a defense and a team that has historically given them trouble doesn't mean they couldn't have advanced further in the postseason had they gotten past the Rams, or had they not had a different Wild Card matchup.
@Rogervanoo asks, "Who will be starting at right and left cornerback in 2021?"
A: As mentioned above, there's some uncertainty at cornerback with both Shaquill Griffin and Quinton Dunbar headed towards free agency, but the good news is that Seattle has at least two players under contract for next year who have significant starting experience in Reed and Flowers, so if Griffin were to leave, that could be your starting duo. If Griffin re-signs, then you're likely looking at Flowers, Reed and possibly Dunbar, should he re-sign, competing at right corner. Of course the Seahawks could also bolster that spot in free agency or the draft, or you can never rule out a young player like Jayson Stanley or Linden Stephens making a leap in 2021 and throwing their names into the competition.
Melvin Minerva from Chewelah, Washington asks if the Seahawks have cap space to re-sign free agents or extend players like Jamal Adams or Carlos Dunlap, both have one year left on their contracts.
A: Again, we don't yet know what the salary cap will be for 2021, and things could be tight for teams around the league, but this is a good topic to cover because it serves as a good reminder that extending players or re-signing them to long-term deals doesn't have to hurt the camp. And in cases of veterans on the last year of their deals, an extension can actually help the cap, depending on how a contract is structured. If a player were to sign a deal with a big bonus and a smaller first-year salary, that bonus gets spread over the contract, for up to four years, from a cap-hit standpoint. So let's say a player were due $10 million in 2021 on the final year of his existing deal, and he is instead signed to a new four-year paying him $14 million over four years, but the first year is a $2 million base salary with a $12 million signing bonus. The players gets his money now, but that $12 million bonus is now divided up over four years from a cap standpoint, meaning the 2021 cap hit for that player would go from $10 million under the original deal to $6 million, freeing up $4 million in 2021. Now it's obviously worth noting that doing that just pushes the cap hit into the future on those later years, so it's not free money to play with without future repercussions, but it does illustrate that cap space can always be created if necessary, particular if the cap is tight this year with the expectation that it will grow as things get back to normal in the world.
@ThiccRickFlex asks, "Do you think the offense will be able to get back on track and have Russell Wilson playing at an MVP caliber again?"
A: Even if the Seahawks don't lead the NFL in scoring like they did through eight games last year, I absolutely expect them to be a lot better than they were in the second half of last season, and the same goes for Wilson. Wilson's nine-year body of work is just too good for me to believe defenses suddenly figured out a fatal flaw or anything like that. Whoever is hired as the new offensive coordinator will obviously be expected to be a part of the solution, but given the talent around him and what we've seen from Wilson throughout his career, I fully expect Wilson and the offense to be much improved in 2021 relative to where they were to finish the year.
Following their 30-20 season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the Wild Card round of the playoffs, the Seahawks cleaned out their lockers at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.