Seahawks general manager John Schneider met with some of the local beat writers who cover the team at the NFL Annual Meetings in Phoenix Tuesday, discussing the Seattle's offseason moves that have taken place since the new league year began earlier this month. Here are seven things we learned from his interview with Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times, Curtis Crabtree of Sports Radio KJR and Sheil Kapadia of ESPN.com:
1. The Seahawks hope Eddie Lacy helps with "getting back to establishing that power run game."
When preparing for the 2013 draft, the Seahawks did their homework on Alabama running back Eddie Lacy, but he ended up going to Green Bay one pick before the Seahawks made their first selection of that draft. Four years later, the Seahawks landed Lacy, and in doing so they hope he can help them regain a physical element of their running game that wasn't always there last season.
"Obviously we studied him very hard at the University of Alabama," Schneider said. "Big back, power guy, really, really good balance for a guy his size, and we stayed tracking him and had an opportunity to acquire him on a one-year deal. We'll try to help him out as much as we can with our sport science staff and everything and see where he can take it. But it's kind of getting back to establishing that power run game that you guys are used to seeing."
2. The Seahawks are excited about landing safety Bradley McDougald.
Even though the Seahawks have a pair of Pro Bowlers starting at safety, when they saw a chance to sign Bradley McDougald, who was previously a starting safety in Tampa Bay, they felt like they couldn't pass on that chance to add another talented player to their secondary. Schneider even went as far as to compare it to the signing of Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in the 2013 offseason, moves that are widely regarded as two of the best free-agency additions the Seahawks have made under Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll.
"He was just too good of a player for us," Schneider said of McDougald. "It was very similar to when we ran into Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril several years ago, it was just a player who we had rated very highly as an unrestricted guy. We loved what he did last year with 90-some tackles and the guy was still out there (in free agency). It's one of those deals where, again, we have a good relationship with his agent, they reached out to us, his market didn't exactly go exactly where he wanted, so that's where we were able to kind of work out a one-year deal with him and see where it goes."
How exactly McDougald fits into the secondary remains to be seen, but Schneider indicated he very well could have a role in the defense beyond just serving as a backup to Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
"Honestly, he's got coverage skills, too—he could play wherever you want," Schneider said. "But at the very least he's going to compete at free safety, strong safety, he could play some nickel, he could play all over the place. It's going to be, can he take that step with our defensive staff and all the teaching and everything, all the different technique that goes into it, the work that those guys do to improve his game? As of last year he had a really nice season."
3. Where Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi could fit in, and possibly a new position for Germain Ifedi?
The Seahawks have added a pair of offensive linemen in free agency, former No. 2 overall pick Luke Joeckel, and guard Oday Aboushi, a part-time starter during his career but a player the Seahawks are excited about based on some more advanced metrics they use.
On Joeckel, who began his career as a left tackle but moved to left guard last season, Schneider said, "We feel like he can play left tackle. He actually in our opinion played a little bit better at guard last year, so he's got the ability to play both spots, so there's utility value there. He's got a veteran presence about him. He's played a lot of football."
On Aboushi, who started 18 games over four seasons with the Jets and Texans, Schneider said, "He's going to compete at right guard at this point. A real efficient guy. He was one of those guys that stood out from just a pure numbers standpoint, he really kind of flashed. We were able to do a lot of work on him and it worked out.
"All the Theo Epstein stuff, analytics. Just from an analytics standpoint, all these different reports people throw at you, he was really efficient. So he just stood out. With all the analytics stuff we do it's more about like kind of asking more questions and kind of going back to the film, and that's what we did with him. Just talking to a bunch of people he's been with just led us to a really good place with him. He came in that day and had a great visit and we have a great relationship with his agent and he was ready to roll. He wanted to do it."
Schneider mentioning Aboushi as a possibility at right guard brings up a question as to whether or not Germain Ifedi could possibly move to right tackle, a position he played in college before the Seahawks made him their first round pick a year ago.
"Yeah, there's a chance," Schneider said of Ifedi potentially going from right guard to right tackle. "The thing we loved about Ifedi in college was that he had played guard, he had played some left tackle, right tackle. We all thought he was a heck of a right tackle, so he's got the ability to go play both."
In addition to talking about the signings the Seahawks did make, Schneider also reiterated something Carroll talked about earlier this offseason, which was that the Seahawks were close to landing former Packers guard T.J. Lang before the Pro Bowler instead signed with his hometown Detroit Lions. Schneider mentioned that he and Lang go back to when Schneider worked for the Packers and Lang made a pre-draft visit, saying they had "kind of an older-brother, younger-brother relationship."
"We gave it a really good run, he had a great visit, but at the end of the day, the contract was so close, he might as well play for his hometown team that he grew up watching," Schneider said. "But I will say it was a very hard decision for him."
Take a look back at newly-signed Seahawks offensive lineman Luke Joeckel's NFL career.
4. Two recent signings could be options at strongside linebacker.
The Seahawks have added three linebackers in free agency, all of whom have primarily been inside linebackers up to this point in their careers, and while Arthur Brown likely will stay at that position, both Michael Wilhoite and Terence Garvin could be options at strongside linebacker if the Seahawks don't re-sign last year's starter, Mike Morgan.
"Wilhoite could play all three in our defense, and really Garvin could too," Schneider said. "… Mike (Morgan) is still out there seeing what his market looks like. Wilhoite played very well last year, he has always been a core special teams player for (the 49ers). Garvin is just really, really tough, his short-area quickness is really good, good instincts, just a guy we felt like—we're looking at a specific type of person, and both those guys fit that category. We definitely added some toughness, at the very least, to our special teams."
5. Add cornerback Pierre Desir to the list of names to watch in 2017 training camp.
With starting right cornerback DeShawn Shead recovering from a serious knee injury sustained in the final game of the season, cornerback depth will be important for the Seahawks heading into next season, which is why re-signing free agent Neiko Thorpe earlier this offseason was an important move. Another name most fans might not be aware of, but that Schneider brought up Tuesday was Pierre Desir, a member of Seattle's practice squad last season.
"Neiko and Desir were really important," Schneider said. "Pierre right at the end of the season had an opportunity to go somewhere else and stayed with us. Just being able to have those two guys—they joined us late last year—to have those guys back, then you look at McDougald, he's just such a good athlete, he's going to be in the mix somewhere."
Desir started six games with Cleveland in 2015 and spent the beginning of last season on San Diego's roster before landing on Seattle's practice squad. Schneider said Desir could have joined Detroit's 53-man roster late last season but elected to stay in Seattle.
"He had an opportunity to go to Detroit towards the end of the season, but stuck with us and we were lucky to be able to keep him," Schneider said. "He's experienced, he's played safety, he's played corner."
6. The Seahawks are "really excited" to have Luke Willson back.
Tight end Luke Willson tested the waters in free agency, but ultimately chose to return to Seattle on a one-year deal, a move that Schneider and the Seahawks are excited about.
"It was awesome, it was great," Schneider said. "He's one of our core guys. He got a little bit banged up this year, but he's a real quick healer, so when anything happens to him, he comes back really fast. It was great to have him back in the building… He's like a total character on our team. He's just a great guy to have around. We would have understood if he would have moved on and gone somewhere else and we would have wished him the best, but we were just really excited he chose to stay with us."
7. Why the Seahawks have signed so many players to one-year deals.
For the most part, all of Seattle's free-agency moves have been one-year deals, which have the potential to be beneficial both to the player and team. For the player, a one-year deal acts as something of a prove-it year, and if that player has a good season, he can set himself up for a big payday either in Seattle or elsewhere. And for the Seahawks, one-year deals provide flexibility and the potential for compensatory picks if those players move on after one year.
"I think it's just more of a situation where we were at from a cap standpoint and guys who were interested in playing for us and being able to—Coach Carroll and his staff do such a great job of coaching these guys up, and I think people realize we have a pretty intense but fun atmosphere too, and Seattle's a great place to play," Schneider said. "People want to play in front of the 12s. So it's just one way to recruit a guy, like, 'Look, you can come here, try to take off and hopefully you can stay with us, or you're going to be moving on somewhere else because we're not going to be able to afford you.' And if that happens, you have to look at the whole compensatory system."
Photos of Seahawks general manager John Schneider meeting with the media on Wednesday, March 1 at the 2017 NFL Combine in Indianapolis, Indiana.