With the 2021 NFL Draft starting tomorrow, Seahawks general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll sat down for an hour-long session with the media that covered a wide range of topics, not just about the upcoming draft, but also about the moves they've made in free agency, their new offensive coordinator and the future of this year's "first-round pick" Jamal Adams, and yes, there was a lot of talk about quarterback Russell Wilson.
Here are seven things we learned from Wednesday's press conference, which began with Schneider paying tribute to Ted Thompson, the longtime Packers general manager who was Schneider's mentor when the two worked together in Green Bay. Thompson, who passed away in January, also worked in Seattle's front office under Mike Holmgren and had a big role in the Seahawks acquiring Matt Hasselbeck in a trade with Green Bay, and with drafting future Hall of Fame guard Steve Hutchinson.
1. This is a unique draft, for several reasons.
The Seahawks head into this weekend's draft knowing it won't be a typical one for them, for a number of reasons. For starters, the COVID-19 pandemic made preparing for this draft more challenging than usual, and also unusual is the fact that the Seahawks have only three picks having traded away the rest to acquire Jamal Adams, Carlos Dunlap II and Gabe Jackson.
"We have an amazing number of draft choices—three," Schneider deadpanned. "The guys have been busting their tail. It's been a unique year. Really proud of Matt Berry and Trent Kirchner and the whole staff, everybody that's involved in this. Without having a first round draft pick, it's always difficult for guys to dive in and focus, but they've done a great job. We've had great meetings the last several weeks. We're really happy to be able to be in the draft this weekend and be together. So, yeah, we're getting ready for an exciting draft. Tomorrow night's going to be really interesting without a pick, but yeah, we're ready to roll. We're excited about the future. We're excited about what we did in free agency, and now we're going to keep building our team, and this is just one avenue."
A common assumption is that the Seahawks will try to trade to add more picks, something they've regularly done under Schneider, but there are no guarantees it'll be easy to do so when their first pick is No. 56 overall as opposed to most years when they are moving back from a pick in the mid-to-late 20s.
"It depends on the draft, and it depends on how other teams feel about the draft as well," Schneider said. "Everybody looks at it differently, right? So everybody usually sees the first round pretty similar, and maybe half the second round or three quarters of the second round. But then really it really starts jumping all over the place. So that's been our experience, and it's just a matter of how aggressive teams are and what their needs are and how they view certain players, if they think they have to jump other teams to get to a certain spot.
"When you start out, philosophically you may want to do that, but it's not necessarily an easy thing. It's not something that is necessarily preplanned."
2. The Seahawks were comfortable trading picks in part because of the uncertainty about this draft.
In trading for Adams, the Seahawks added a game-changing player who has been first or second-team All-Pro three times in four seasons and who was only 24 when Seattle acquired him. Adding a young player of that caliber is something every team wants to do, but it doesn't come cheap, and the Seahawks gave up first-round picks this year and next, this year's third-rounder and Bradley McDougald to acquire Adams and a 2022 fourth-round pick. Trading away that much isn't an easy decision to make, but one factor in that decision was the understanding that this year's draft class would have more uncertainty around it, and far less depth.
"Right back when the (trade) conversation came up and the possibilities of all of this happening, John was already making reference to this draft and understanding what it was going to be like, and we made a major decision to go ahead and do that with all of that information in our back pocket," Carroll said.
Said Schneider, "There's no question it's been a unique year. It definitely came into the equation. It was part of the equation with Jamal last summer as we were reviewing and trying to project. Reviewing the juniors that were going to be seniors and trying to project what the fall was going to be like. Working with the Jets, Joe Douglas, it just became apparent if there was a chance to go for it, this was probably the year to go for it.
"When you look at this Draft, in particular, we had to ask ourselves what kind of questions are we going to have answered by the time we get to next spring? What's that going to look like? And things just felt too hazy. So, yeah, we just made an organizational decision. Jody (Allen) was great. She was super supportive about it. Obviously, Pete and the staff, everybody was super excited to be able to acquire Jamal."
And speaking of Adams…
3. The Seahawks plan on keep Jamal Adams around for a long time.
As things currently stand, Adams has only one year left on his rookie contract, but the Seahawks hope to change that and lock up the player who Carroll referred to as "our No. 1 pick" in this year's draft.
"We're going to be celebrating Jamal tomorrow evening," Schneider said, referring to the first round in which the Seahawks don't have a pick. "We want him to be a long time for sure. He's a great player. We're glad we made the trade to get him, and he's going to be a very important part of our future."
Said Carroll, "Our No. 1 pick is Jamal Adams, and that's a heck of a pick… We're really excited about the future too.
"He had a terrific football season, and he's going to play as a legit starter. It's an enormous pick that we gained value in. I'm just thrilled that Jamal is a part of our team. He's going to get way better too. He's going to improve a tremendous amount. That's going to be really exciting to see how that goes down the road."
4. The door is still open to for a K.J. Wright return.
With veteran linebacker K.J. Wright available on the free agent market for so long, a lot of people are surprised another team hasn't signed him by now, and that includes Schneider, who figured that with so many former Carroll assistant scattered around the league running similar schemes, Wright would have been snapped up by another team.
But with that not happening, the Seahawks remain in touch with Wright and the door remains open to him coming back for an 11th season.
"I had a really good sit down with him just the other day to bring it all together where we're coming from," Carroll said. "We needed to hear where he's coming from and talk about the future and what's possible moving forward. We're right on the nose with this deal. Like John said, K.J. is one of the classiest players you could ever expect to have in your program and been a fantastic player. The door is not closed to us for what we're doing moving forward. We've been really clear about that, and we feel good about where we are with K.J."
5. The Seahawks feel like they addressed a lot of needs prior to the draft via free agency.
While the Seahawks obviously would love to have more than three picks this weekend—and there's always a chance they trade to add more—they will head into the draft feeling like they don't need to force anything with however many picks they make thanks to the moves they already made in free agency.
By re-signing the likes of Chris Carson, Carlos Dunlap II, Ethan Pocic, Benson Mayowa, Poona Ford, Geno Smith and Cedric Ogbuehi, and by adding players like Gabe Jackson, Kerry Hyder Jr., Gerald Everett, Ahkello Witherspoon, Al Woods and Pierre Desir, the Seahawks have added to positions that otherwise might have felt like clear needs heading into the draft.
"We're not going into the draft with great needs, big spaces we need to fill and all that because of the great work the personnel department put together to get ourselves in position to situate the roster," Carroll said. "We're in a really good place. We feel really good about that now."
6. Darrell Taylor should be ready to go whenever players return to the field.
While it's unclear due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic when players will be on the field again for full-team offseason workouts, the Seahawks should have 2020 second-round pick Darrell Taylor on the field whenever that does happen, and that's good news for Seattle's already deep pass rush.
Taylor missed all of last season due to a leg injury sustained in college, but he drew rave reviews from Carroll in his one week of practice at the end of the season.
"I just saw him in the hallway the other day," Schneider said. "He seems to be doing a great job. Talk to our trainers. He's working his tail off, and he's really excited to get going."
Said Carroll, "It looks like, if everything just continues to progress, that he'll be full-go in any of the work that we go at. That's a big positive plus for us, and we're excited about it. He's here in the building every day. So that really helps us know that he's being taken care of really well, and all of the best should lie ahead for him."
7. New OC Shane Waldron has been "really, really impressive."
While the Seahawks have yet to hit the field for a practice, Carroll has already been impressed with what he has seen out of new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, who was hired earlier this year after previously serving as the Rams' passing game coordinator.
"Shane has done a marvelous job of jumping in," Carroll said. "We're almost two weeks into completing our first virtual go rounds here. That's when Shane's had his first chance to really get to the players. The time spent with the coaches, the time spent in the process of getting here has only been accentuated by his fluent way of dealing with the communication part of the teaching and the learning that has to take place now. He's been really, really impressive. He's already deep in with the quarterbacks of course, but he had to get through the coaching staff first. It's been a joy to watch. He's got a great brain on him about this game of football and how the system works together and fits together and the communications of it, but that's part of it. The real crucial part is can you convey it? We'll see. We have to get on the field and all that kind of stuff, but to see how fluent he is and how agile he is in the way he deals with the information and the transference of that has really been impressive. So I couldn't be more excited about it."
"We're able to find the strengths that we've had in the past and things that we've done really well, and they're all incorporated into the new format that we're unveiling. So I've been around a lot of coordinators and a lot of games and a lot of off-seasons and all. I'm as impressed with this process as much as I've ever been and as excited as I've ever been. I really feel like he's got it in command, so it's really fun to watch."