Two themes that emerged from Pete Carroll and John Schneider's time with the media at the NFL Annual Meeting this week are that the Seahawks coach and general manager like the moves they have made so far this offseason, but also know they also still have work to do, particularly on defense.
So it hardly came as a surprise that Carroll, when asked how close his defense is to being where he wants it to be, he responded, "I don't know that. I don't know that."
Without hesitating, however, Carroll then added, "We're on the right track though. I know we're on the right track. I'm really excited about the experience that we just went through and how we're going to grow from that and take the best out of it and continue to grow and build, make it our defense. So I'm looking forward to that whole process. And I like the moves that we've made."
The moves the Seahawks have made so far include several free-agent additions, including defensive linemen Dre'Mont Jones and Jarran Reed, linebackers Bobby Wagner and Devin Bush, and safety Julian Love, all players Seattle expects to upgrade the defense in 2023. Seattle's offseason moves also included, however, some tough salary-cap related decisions, including the release of defensive linemen Al Woods, Shelby Harris and Quinton Jefferson.
So while the Seahawks feel like they've made some strong additions to the secondary and at linebacker, they also know their defensive front needs to add some more pieces either in free agency or next month's draft—or very likely both. And just as much as the Seahawks are looking for the newcomers to make their mark, they're also counting on young talent that began to emerge last season to do even more in 2023, especially last year's rookies who contributed on defense.
"I like the growth that we can anticipate from our guys," Carroll said. "I love getting Bobby back too, that will help us retain some of the stuff we need to retain. But I'm really excited about the young guys coming from the (2022) draft—Coby (Bryant) and Boye (Mafe) and to see what Tariq (Woolen) can do, as well as the new guys we just added. We're going to have a really good juice about us and have great energy. We've got really good leadership already. Quandre (Diggs) and Jamal (Adams), they're just such fierce competitive guys that they just bring it. And it's obvious. And so, giving them a better stage to show what they can do and how they can contribute, mixing Julian in there, man, it's going to be something. So I'm really, really hopeful for the potential of it. But we got to go do it. We got a lot of work to do."
Schneider agreed with Carroll's assessment, both in that the Seahawks have helped themselves with some additions, and that they still have spots to fill, particularly on the D-line.
"It's coming along," Schneider said of the defense. "It's definitely coming along. We definitely need three, four more guys that need to help out on that side, but the quality of guys we've added, I'm really happy about it."
Ignoring for a moment the emotional part of the Wagner addition—which is significant—his signing and that of Bush help the Seahawks bolster their depth and talent at inside linebacker, which was a must after Cody Barton left in free agency and with Jordyn Brooks still facing a long recovery from a late-season ACL tear. The additions of Reed and Jones on the defensive line will, the Seahawks hope, help the team accomplish one of Carroll's stated goals after last season, which is to get more disruptive on the defensive line. Jones in particular represents the type of interior pass-rush threat the Seahawks have been looking for for a long time.
"We've been searching for that big, long 3-technique, a guy that can be an inside pass rusher with length," Schneider said. "We were playing against Calais Campbell in Arizona for so long, we were like, 'That body type, that physicality, we need that.'"
Carroll even compared Jones to one of the best defensive linemen he has coached in more than a decade in Seattle.
"I'm really excited about Dre coming to us," Carroll said. "He's got such a style and a knack in playing 3-technique and rushing and passer, and he has versatility to do other things as well. But he's got such a knack that we've been looking for for some time. And really, I go back and I keep giving Michael Bennett a little shout here—when Mike was with us, he was a real factor. He caused people problems. And he didn't cause people problems just by the basic fundamental technique he played, but by the other aspects of the game that he brought, and Dre has a variety of things. His expertise in using his body and movement and willingness to take a shot and take chances shows that he's got a knack that goes beyond a lot of other players. And so I think he's going to add a tremendous amount. He's going to enhance the relationship with the speed guys that we have on the edge, and the more factor they have to play off of him, the more opportunity and spacing it creates for the other guys. I think it's going to fit really, really well. I love the kid, he's serious, loves the game, has a really good mentality about studying it, working and all that. So that's going to fit in, and our guys are going to love him."
The addition of Love, meanwhile, feels almost like a luxury addition—though there could be more of a need at safety early in the season if Jamal Adams isn't back right away—and it's a move the Seahawks were very excited to make. In 2022, the Seahawks went into the season expecting to regularly play with three safeties on the field, allowing Adams to play in the box almost like a linebacker, but his season-ending injury in Week 1 derailed those plans.
"The opportunity to get Julian, who's a remarkable player, he had a remarkable season last year—I can't remember a guy who played over a thousand snaps and played over 200 snaps on special as well. That's an unusual mix," Carroll said. "That's just one aspect of what Julian brings. He's a really versatile football player, he called their defenses—he had the green dot—he's a captain. It's a very rare opportunity to get a guy like that, so we jumped at it."
Having already added several impact players this offseason, the Seahawks have a great opportunity to add more help in this year's draft. Seattle holds 10 total picks, including four in the first two rounds, and will no doubt use some of those picks to help the defense, and very likely a defensive front that needs to be strengthened. And regardless of how they add to their defensive line, the Seahawks know that has to be an area they address going forward.
"There's a lot of work to do still, we know that," Carroll said. "We're faced now with different circumstances to deal with, just because we've spent a lot of money already and all of that, but we have a lot of work to do. We have a couple of great spots for guys who want to come here. This will be more of a recruiting process than anything, and I'll need the players to really help us on that as well as the coaches. We've got some spots that we need to fill, and they're going to be crucial. I'm hoping some guys will see that this is a great opportunity for them to come in and be part of something really good."
The Seahawks hosted a Mental Health panel, in partnership with Cigna, at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, Wash. on March 7, 2023. Seahawks Legend K.J. Wright, team clinician Roy Fisher and mental health professionals participated, and a BIPOC student pursuing a mental health profession was presented with a $10,000 check.