Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider met with the media Monday for what, by their own admission right off the bat, wasn't going to be the most informative press conference.
"This is one of those press conferences," Schneider quipped. "Like listening to a coach before a game: 'This is what we are going to do. It's all about time of possession, and turnovers.'"
With the draft kicking off on Thursday, Schneider and Carroll were understandably going to be careful with their words, but that doesn't mean there weren't plenty of interesting nuggets in their last press conference before the draft kicks off in Nashville on Thursday evening.
Here are seven things we learned from Schneider and Carroll's presser:
1. "It's not fun" having just four picks.
As things stand right now, the Seahawks are scheduled to pick just four times in the 2019 draft, the result of sending a second-round pick to Houston as part of the Duane Brown trade, a sixth-rounder to Green Bay for 2018 backup quarterback Brett Hundley, and a seventh-rounder to Oakland for safety Shalom Luani.
"Well, it's not fun," Schneider said with a laugh when asked about having just four picks. "But we build our team all the way through the year, and that's just part of the process. Not having the six and the seven stems from having a backup quarterback and a core special-teams player, and obviously the second-round pick is a Pro Bowl left tackle. It's just part of the process. We'll continue to do it when we go to the 53-man (roster) this year."
The Seahawks are currently in position to have multiple compensatory picks next season due to free-agent losses this year, which Schneider said could factor into things this week: "I think it definitely helps, when you are talking about moving around the board. Yeah, it helps. It's just another nugget out there for people."
The Seahawks haven't used their original first-round pick since 2011, and the fact that they have four picks this year would seemingly make another trade back likely this week if they can find a willing partner, and other teams will be aware of Seattle's openness to moving back if the right deal is there to be made.
"I think people recognize that we're obviously open to moving back," Schneider said. "This year is unique having four picks… It's not like you just pick up the phone and people are like, 'OK, yeah, we'll come up.' It's a process that starts several selections ahead of where you're currently sitting. But our guys do a great job of calling everybody trying to get scenarios all set up—they're trying to figure out where we can go and move back to. I think the fact that we have done it a lot I would think invites people a little bit."
2. The lack of picks makes rookie free agency even more important.
The Seahawks have always considered their rookie free agent class—the undrafted players signed just after the seventh-round ends—to be part of their draft class since those players come in and compete for jobs just like everyone else. And over the years, the Seahawks have acquired eventual starters and even Pro-Bowl players in undrafted free agency, most notably Doug Baldwin, so it's not as if they've ever not taken that process of talent acquisition seriously. But with limited draft capital at their disposal this year, Schneider noted that this year in particular, "rookie free agency is going to be huge for us."
"It's going to be a huge focus for us," Schneider said. "We're going to have a lot of people looking at us right away. I'm sure a lot of these players, their representatives are going to be looking at us as a very attractive place, not only because Pete and his staff are so open to competition and development… I just think it's obviously going to be an attractive place."
3. Schneider's "instincts and his sense" are crucial to Seattle's draft success.
This will be Carroll and Schneider's 10th draft together, and of all the different traits that make Schneider a good general manager, one that has impressed Carroll the most over the years is how Schneider is able to see the big picture prior to and during the draft. Having a successful draft isn't just about evaluating talent, it's also about knowing where that talent will come off the board, and Schneider's feel for what other teams might do has allowed the Seahawks to do things like trade back with confidence that they'll still get their player a few picks later. Or most notably, his feel for the draft allowed the Seahawks to wait one more round to go after the quarterback they really wanted in 2012, meaning they still were able to get Bobby Wagner in the second round while waiting for Russell Wilson in the third.
"We've been through a lot of stuff together," Carroll said. "I've learned how much to rely on him and count on his instincts and his sense. His awareness in the draft, where guys are going to go, has been uncanny over the years, and that's why we've been able to pick guys the way we've picked them. That's knowledge of not just the players; that's knowledge of the system, it's knowledge of other factors from other teams—who's calling the shots at other places, the needs of other teams—processing all of that stuff. It's just part of our makeup that is pretty steady. He's really good at it, so as we go through and we have our stages—today's a really important day for us, we meet with the owner today, and these are the steps that we've always taken. Wednesday is a really big day for John and I. Everything is set up like it's supposed to be for us with all of the processing that we've gone through to get to this point, so here we go again.
"We're going to go into the draft really confident that we can kind of follow in his lead and know what's going to happen, then we'll make our decisions accordingly. That's been part of the magic of John's ability to sense when it's time to move and to go down and do those things, and what we can possibly get, and we have in our minds some historic moves that we've made to get really key players for us. That's the stuff we've come to understand, and he's going to try to find some guys to help me coach better and make me look better, so that's something I'm counting on."
4. A smaller draft board has helped clean up the process.
At this time a year ago, Schneider explained how for the 2018 draft, the Seahawks had cleaned up their draft board, meaning there were fewer players with draftable grades on their board heading into the weekend. One year is not enough time to evaluate a draft class, but the early returns on that 2018 class are encouraging, and Schneider said Monday that that process of cleaning things up will help them again this year.
"Yeah, it has helped," Schneider said. "It's made it much more clean. We kept adding more and more players (in previous years), it seemed like. What we've done is, we've done a better job categorizing what a Seahawk player looks like, and would you draft him or not? Not making any excuses for players. We've taken guys who are really free agents—we always focus on accentuating the positives in players—and so what we ended up doing is we took guys who were over on the free-agent board and putting them in the seventh round. We just kind of started accumulating in that way. We've pulled off of that."
Asked what a "Seahawks player" looks like, Schneider said, "Smart, tough, reliable, competitive, guys who come in ready to go after somebody's job. Coaches buy in from a developmental standpoint, personnel department buys into from an evaluation standpoint."
5. Continuity in the scouting department is important this time of year.
While the Seahawks have lost a few members of their scouting department over the years, usually to promotions with other teams, there has for the most part been a lot of continuity in that department for the Seahawks. As someone who works closely with Schneider throughout the year, Carroll has seen up close how much that continuity can pay off in the draft.
"Watching them work—and I've watched John and his guys for years—and there are strengths to guys and ways that guys have and they've got their areas and they've got all the nuances about their processing," Carroll said. "John has kind of honed the edges so that we really can get the best that guys have to offer. It's just an ongoing, big monstrous process that they go through. And as always, knowing your players is so important so that you put them in a position to do well, and that's what they've done. It's cool to watch. It's a big orchestration. To John it's old hat, it's no big deal, but it's really exciting to see it happen, because it's months and months and months of work, accumulation of stuff. All of those opinions—he knows who to count on, when a guy gets a bug up his butt about some guy or whatever, he knows why he's doing it and he knows where that comes from. Then another guy is championing a guy's cause, and he knows where he's coming from and the background of all that stuff. The continuity is really valuable, because you know your people. His ability to translate that information is what's so important. Particularly, as we get close, and stuff starts happening, and now you're in the draft, and now you're in the middle of the rounds, and things are happening with the picks and stuff, that ability to function at a really high level and make sense and look at each other and know what the other guy is thinking, they've got that kind of chemistry because they've been together so much."
6. This is the time of year for trade speculation.
For the third straight year, the Seahawks head into the draft with trade rumors surrounding one of their top defensive players. In 2017 it was Richard Sherman, last year it was Earl Thomas, and this year there is speculation that the Seahawks could trade Frank Clark, on whom they placed the franchise tag earlier this year.
While Schneider obviously isn't going to get into specifics on any trade talks, he said, as he always does in these situations, that he and Carroll wouldn't be doing their jobs if they didn't at least listen when trade talks come up.
"This time, and the trade deadline, there's some speculation about a lot of players," Schneider said. "We're involved in a lot of deals. We take a lot of pride in that. We wouldn't be doing our jobs if we weren't listening to everybody… We take a lot of pride in having relationships through the league and understanding what's going on as much as we possibly can."
7. Doug Baldwin is "making good progress" recovering from his latest surgery.
Receiver Doug Baldwin played through a number of injuries in 2018, and this offseason he has had multiple surgeries, the latest of which was to repair a sports hernia. Asked about Baldwin, Carroll said, "He's working at it every day. He is here in the building. I didn't see him today, but he was here and he is working at it and making good progress. It's a long haul."
Photos from the Seattle Seahawks' 2019 voluntary offseason workout program on Monday, April 22 at Renton's Virginia Mason Athletic Center.