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Seahawks Mailbag: Remembering John Clayton, Quarterback Questions & More

You had Seahawks questions; we have answers.

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Seahawks players are back in the building this week for voluntary offseason workouts, and next week the 2022 NFL Draft will get underway starting with Thursday's first round, which makes now a great time to dig into the mailbag and answer questions from you the fans. As always, thanks to everyone who asked questions this week, and apologies if I wasn't able to get to yours this time around.

Daisy McGuire from Panama City asks, "Do you have any fond personal memories with the late John Clayton?"

A: Thanks for this question, Daisy. It's been just over a month since Clayton, an absolute legend in the NFL world, died unexpectedly after a brief illness at the age of 67, and since then we've heard from so many of Clayton's friends and colleagues who shared memories of the longtime NFL reporter who came to be known as The Professor.

If you haven't read them already, a few of the best remembrances I've read are those from Mike Sando, Larry Stone and Dave Boling, all of whom worked with or competed against Clayton on the Seahawks and NFL beats.

By the time I started covering the Seahawks—before I had this job, I covered the team for the Everett Herald from 2009-2014—Clayton was already a national reporter who, while based in the area, was all over the country covering stories from around the league, so I didn't have quite as many interactions as those who were on the beat with Clayton. But that being said, I have plenty of great memories of the times I was lucky enough to interact with Clayton on the job.

Plenty of others have pointed this out in the month since Clayton died, but one of his best qualities was the way he, even after becoming such a huge deal in this industry, he went out of his way to help and uplift young reporters who weren't in his league. For me, that meant weekly appearances on his Saturday radio show to talk about the Seahawks. Doing an in-season Saturday radio hit meant having to get creative at times, and I did those interviews in airports, rental car lines, hotel lobbies and other less-than-ideal settings for a phone conversation, but I did my darndest to never miss out, because, well, it was John Freakin' Clayton. And even after going on his show for multiple seasons, I would think every single week, "Why the heck is John Clayton asking me about football?" At the time I figured it must of just been I was the only one available on the Saturday morning, but knowing now what I know about Clayton, I can't help but also feel like having me on was him doing a favor for a young reporter still finding his way.

Another memory that stands out was at a road game—I can't begin to remember what city—when I checked into a hotel one evening and saw John sitting alone at the hotel bar. He invited me to join him and we sat and talked football for a while over beers, me mostly listening and learning from a legend. John excused himself first to head to his room, then a while later after finishing my drink, I tried to close my tab, but somehow Clayton had discreetly already paid for me. If anything, I should have been paying for the football education I had just gotten over the last hour, but that's the kind of guy Clayton was.

Covering the NFL, particularly for ESPN, made Clayton a celebrity, and he didn't hide the fact that enjoyed elements of that fame, but he also never let it change who he was as dogged reporter, a genuinely nice guy who helped everyone around him, and most importantly, a devoted husband to his wife, Pat.

RIP John, we all miss you here at the Seahawks.

@CrzyPanda_ish asks, "Will the Seahawks draft a QB or wait until a better draft class?"

A: By re-signing Geno Smith and adding Drew Lock as part of the trade for Russell Wilson, the Seahawks believe they have two legitimate contenders for the starting job, meaning they won't go into the draft feeling like they absolutely have to come away with a quarterback with their early picks.

That being said, this is obviously a different situation than when, for a decade, the Seahawks had a Pro-Bowl quarterback on the roster, so yeah, there's definitely a good chance the Seahawks look to add to the competition at quarterback in next week's draft. That doesn't necessarily mean with the ninth pick, but there could be a player available in the second round or beyond that the Seahawks see as a good developmental option.

As for the notion of waiting for another year for a better QB class, there is definitely the perception out there that this year's crop of signal callers isn't as good as it has been in past years, but even if there's not multiple quarterbacks going in the top five, as was the case last year when the first three players off the board were quarterbacks, that doesn't mean we know what the Seahawks or any other team thinks of a particular player who might be available at some point in the draft. It's entirely possible—and it's important to include the disclaimer here that I'm not important enough to be in the loop on draft evaluations and therefore know nothing—that there's a quarterback who will be available in, say, the fifth round, who the Seahawks think is an absolute steal and a potential diamond in the rough, and if that were the case, they'd be silly to wait a year to draft a QB just because next year's class looks better at the top. And even if the Seahawks don't come away with a quarterback in the first couple of rounds, trying to find a player to develop could make a lot of sense, particularly because neither Smith nor Lock is under contract long term at this point.

So, long story short, I don't think the Seahawks will feel like they have to come away with a quarterback in the first two rounds—though if the right player's there, it could make sense—but it does seem pretty logical for them to draft a quarterback at some point, even if that player isn't ready to beat out Lock or Smith for the starting job in 2022.

@Rogervanoo asks, "Several NFL commenters, including Cliff Avril, have suggested moving Jamal Adams to outside linebacker given his pass-rush and run defense abilities. Is this a possibility?"

A: During his first press conference as Seattle's defensive coordinator, Clint Hurtt was asked about trying to maximize Jamal Adams' unique skillset as a pass-rusher and said, "How we use him, that's going to be on me. It's our responsibility, my responsibility to make sure we put him in positions so he can be at his very best, and we know how great he is at doing that."

So yes, getting the most out of Adams, who had 9.5 sacks in 2020, a record for an NFL defensive back, is top of mind for everyone on Seattle's defensive staff. But would getting the most out of Adams mean making him a full-time linebacker? Not likely. As physical and hard-hitting as Adams is, he's listed at 213 pounds, which quite frankly isn't big enough to hold up to the physical nature of being an every-down linebacker. And in a Seahawks defense that looks to be transitioning to more of a 3-4 front, playing outside linebacker means lining up on the line of scrimmage as an edge player who will not just rush the passer, but also have to set the edge in run defense and mix it up with 300-plus-pound tackles on a regular basis.

Keeping Adams on the line of scrimmage all the time would also diminish the impact of his incredible speed and open-field playmaking ability—and for all the overblown concerns about his coverage, don't forget that he had two interceptions in his final three games before getting injured last season as he got more comfortable in what Hurtt explained was a different role for him.

Now if you're asking if Adams could be used in the box more like an off-ball linebacker, that's a scenario I could see play out, particularly if the Seahawks are in nickel or a three-safety "big nickel" look. Overall, my guess would be that if Adams is at his best next season, it will be a role that's hard to define with one position, because for a player with his unique and diverse skillset to be most effective, he'll need to be deployed in number of different ways.

@ellioosss asks, "Is Geno Smith QB1 now or is he going to have a competition with Drew Lock?"

A: If anything, Smith might have the slight edge right now having familiarity with the Seahawks' system, and Pete Carroll has said as much this offseason, but Carroll and Schneider also have a lot of belief in Lock, a former second-round pick who had an up-and-down three years in Denver, so he too is very much in the mix. As mentioned above, the Seahawks likely aren't done adding to this position, whether they address it in the draft, free agency or a trade, so it's way too early to predict who the frontrunner will be heading into training camp.

But whoever is added, Carroll has said on a couple of occasions that he wants the competition to look similar to the one that played out in 2012 between Russell Wilson, Matt Flynn and Tarvaris Jackson, who got pretty even first-team reps in camp and the preseason before Wilson eventually won the job.

@brandon91702 asks, "What is the mood/feeling from players on the Russell Wilson trade?"

A: Good timing on this question, because Tuesday was the first day players were back in the building to talk about things like the mood of the team. With the Wilson trade in particular, players understand, probably more than fans or media ever can, that the NFL is a business in which rosters change every year, sometimes in unexpected ways. So while I doubt a lot of players left for their offseason last January predicting the trade, most were probably able to come to grips with it pretty quickly and shift their focus on the current roster and the task at hand in 2022. None of that is to diminish what Wilson or Bobby Wagner, who was released last month, meant to the team over their decade in Seattle—both will go down as two of the best to ever wear Seahawks uniforms and both will almost certainly end up in the Pro Football Hall of Fame someday—but if current players are dwelling on who isn't in the locker room in 2022, it can only hurt their ability to prepare for the upcoming season.

As Will Dissly noted Tuesday, ""We love Russ and Bobby forever and always, they're Seahawks legends through and through, but this is our year, this is what we have to work with, and we're going to go out and do the best we can and try to win as many games as we can."

Or as Jordyn Brooks put it when asked about the mood of the team, "There's a lot of excitement," said third-year linebacker Jordyn Brooks, who last season set a franchise record with 183 tackles. "It's just a new feel—a lot of change has been made this offseason. It looks like a young team, so there's a lot of excitement about the youth right now. So we're just trying to put our best foot forward this offseason and let it transition into training camp."

Seattle Seahawks players have their first offseason workout at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center on April 19, 2022.

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