Seattle Seahawks Offseason Roster Analysis

by Brian Umbaugh, @NFLRosters

SeahawksAfter a Week 7 loss to St. Louis, Russell Wilson provided some hope that better things were on the way for a Seahawks team that was an unexpected 3-3. “I believe it’s going to turn our way,” Wilson said at the time. It turned out to be a very prescient statement, as Seattle went 9-1 the rest of the way and stormed into the NFC’s #1 seed and a Super Bowl berth. Despite falling short on that endeavor, the Seahawks will remain favorites for another playoff run in 2015.

To do that, the Seahawks must answer some roster-related questions. If Marshawn Lynch decides to play, will they extend him? When they extend Russell Wilson, will he receive a raise for 2015? Does the team desire an upgrade to its receiving roster? Will they re-sign incumbent starters Kevin Williams, Byron Maxwell, and James Carpenter? Will they upgrade their depth, or just continue to assume an absence of injuries?

Seahawks Depth Chart

Offense

Quarterbacks

Russell Wilson, Tarvaris Jackson (UFA), B.J. Daniels, R.J. Archer

Wilson is not the most effective passing QB, especially when the defense can get pressure. When that happened last season, he completed only 46% of his passes and was much more likely to run than without pressure. Seems obvious, right? Well, QB’s like Cam Newton run a lot of designed scrambles; Wilson’s running is a function of pressure. Therein lies the problem for the defense; if they can’t bring him down, his running ability is the best in the league. If you contain him without pressure, he is more likely to find his downfield receivers, who are not good enough to make room, but will find it eventually. He uses the “run to open the passing game” plan well, and is generally a good decision maker.

Jackson is only similar to Wilson in that he can run. He’s not as accurate or as good at decision making. In his last extended playing time (Year 1 B.R.), he threw 14 TD’s against 13 INT’s and average less than 7.0 YPA. However, he is consistently prepared as the backup and has enough experience that the team can feel confident if they lose Wilson for a game or two. It is tough to find a backup QB that has experience, yet seems satisfied to be the backup. He is worth the re-sign.

Running Backs

Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Demitrius Bronson, FB Derrick Coleman, FB Will Tukuafu (UFA)

Lynch is rated as the best runner in the game. Le’Veon Bell is better overall, but when considering just running the ball, Lynch is on top. He’s the only full time starter that averages 3.0 YPC after contact. He tied for the league lead in TD’s with DeMarco Murray. He was responsible for causing a league-high 88 missed tackles, 21 more than the second place Murray. This total was the highest in PFF’s eight years of records on this stat. Second most in the last eight years? Lynch, in 2013.

The problem is that the team doesn’t seem to able to count on him long-term. Last offseason was the holdout. This season, there is rampant retirement talk. Just Marshawn being Marshawn, they say. Well, that doesn’t help John Schneider put the best team on the field. Backups Turbin and Michael both seem to have potential, but neither has produced much yet, and it’s Turbin’s last year to prove his worth. Fullback Will Tukuafu, an ex-defensive lineman, was signed in October to combat Coleman’s injury and did his job, but there’s no point in having more than one fullback on the roster. It comes down to Coleman or Tukuafu. Coleman is the better athlete, Tukuafu is the better blocker. I would go with Tukuafu, but I don’t think the Seahawks will agree, so let’s presume Tukuafu is moving on.

Wide Receivers and Tight Ends

WR: Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse (RFA), Paul Richardson, Ricardo Lockette (ERFA), Chris Matthews, Kevin Norwood, Bryan Walters (RFA), David Gilreath (RFA)
TE: Zach Miller, Luke Willson, Cooper Helfet, Tony Moeaki (UFA), Anthony McCoy (UFA)

Although this roster does not have a prototypical #1 wideout, Baldwin is considered the top dog here. He generally works the middle of the field on short and intermediate routes, while Richardson worked horizontally and Kearse and Lockette worked vertically. While nobody other than Baldwin was better than average, each had a job that represented a small piece of the overall passing game. It’s important to note this when determining their value during contract negotiations. I think Kearse should get a 2nd round tender as he tries to prove any hint of long-term production; anything less will result in no compensation. Lockette was the speed guy playing flag football, and as long as he’s not running any more slants on the 1 yard line, he’s worth the inexpensive ERFA tender. Walters is not necessary, since he has not separated himself from the other depth players. Speedster Gilreath is also worth a what-the-heck 1 year minimum deal, though he’s unlikely to make the 2015 roster.

The tight ends are also mostly specialized. There are run blocking TE’s (Willson and Moeaki) and pass catching TE’s (Helfet). Zach Miller is able to do both well enough, so it seems the best idea would be to keep Miller and one each of the niche guys. If your name is not Miller, Helfet, or Willson, you are not really needed here.

Offensive Line

L to R: Russell Okung, James Carpenter (UFA), Max Unger, J.R. Sweezy, Justin Britt
Top Backups: T Alvin Bailey, G/C Lemuel Jeanpierre (UFA), G/C Stephen Schilling (RFA)

Another gold star for Marshawn Lynch for having to run behind this line. The return of center Max Unger for the playoffs was great timing, because he was rated #4 in the NFL for centers by PFF, by far the best showing of a Seattle lineman this year. On the right side, guard J.R. Sweezy was good when he was the aggressor, like run blocking and screens, but his pass blocking was below average. A similar tale can be told for rookie RT Justin Britt, who was rated #81 of 84 tackles with respect to pass blocking. On the left side, tackle Russell Okung had another inconsistent year in which above average pass blocking would be offset by below average run blocking (or vice versa, in previous years). Other than 2012, he has not put together a memorable season and has been disappointing for being the #6 overall pick in 2010. LG James Carpenter is not a good run blocker and his pass blocking has not been good enough to make up for it. He should probably be re-signed, though, because he’s not terrible overall, the Seahawks have no quality backups that deserve his spot, and any free agents will probably be of similar quality.

The backups all rated a little below average last season. This offseason, interior linemen Jeanpierre and Schilling are free agents…are they worth re-signing? How much are interior linemen worth if they don’t run block all that well? They both have position flexibility, so I suppose minimum deals for both should work. If Carpenter doesn’t re-sign and no outside guards are brought in, Bailey may take over LG, although he’s not the best run blocker either. Seattle better hope there are no injuries on the line next season.

Defense

Defensive Line

DE: Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, O’Brien Schofield (UFA), Cassius Marsh, David King
DT: Brandon Mebane, Kevin Williams (UFA), Tony McDaniel, Jordan Hill, Greg Scruggs (RFA), Jesse Williams, D’Anthony Smith (UFA), Jimmy Staten, Demarcus Dobbs (UFA), Landon Cohen (UFA)

Michael Bennett was rated #1 in the NFC as a 4-3 DE, and #1 in the NFL at his position against the run. When he’s not jumping offsides (for which he was also ranked #1 in the NFL at his position), he is dominant. He has finished in the top 7 at his position every year he has been a starter. On the other side, Avril is just average against the run, but he wreaks similar havoc as Bennett against the pass. After these two, the rest of the roster had an average to below average season.

To back up Bennett and Avril, Schofield has shown a little ability as a pass rusher and should be inexpensive to re-sign. 2014 4th round pick Cassius Marsh had little success before spending the last half of the season on IR, so he and the rest of the young DE roster will battle it out in a wide open competition to see who can snap up the last couple of spots.

At tackle, Mebane did not do much after a stellar 2013, and eventually hit the IR. The Kevin Williams we all respected in Minnesota spent this season in Seattle and did little. At 35 years old, he shouldn’t be re-signed. In addition, they are already paying Tony McDaniel a starter’s wage. As a frequently used member of the DT rotation, McDaniel disappeared too often and did not defend the run nearly as well as the previous year. Jordan Hill got 6 sacks, but also had problems against the run. Teams were more likely to run right through the middle against Seattle, so it’s important that the DT’s stiffen against the run, especially with stellar players on the outside. Scruggs, Smith, and Cohen may fit this need according to their scouting reports; Dobbs does not, so he can walk.

Linebackers

OLB: Bruce Irvin, K.J. Wright, Malcolm Smith (UFA), Kevin Pierre-Louis, Michael Morgan (RFA)
MLB: Bobby Wagner, Heath Farwell (UFA), Brock Coyle

The starting linebackers (Irvin, Wright, Wagner) are all well-rounded players that can get a little pass rush, defend the run well, and drop back in coverage when necessary. However, none of the backups have shown the same run defending ability or pass rushing moves. Pierre-Louis was the only backup rated above average in any aspect of linebacker responsibilities (coverage). Smith, Farwell, and Morgan are free agents, but with only 11 linebackers signed, they will probably all return. Smith is, after all, a Super Bowl MVP. The others have been merely average, but the Seahawks generally pride themselves in being a unit, not just a bunch of random guys stuffed into roles. All those guys have been around since 2011.

Defensive Backs

CB: Richard Sherman, Byron Maxwell (UFA), Jeremy Lane, Tharold Simon, Marcus Burley
S: Earl Thomas, Kam Chancellor, DeShawn Shead (ERFA), Jeron Johnson (UFA), Steven Terrell

Richard Sherman was rated the #16 CB in 2011…as a rookie 5th round pick. Since then, he’s been in the top five every year. His coverage abilities are not understated (especially by him), but he is also a good run defender. Maxwell, on the other hand, has had better years than 2014. Opposing wideouts caught more of their targets for more yardage, and QB’s had a decent QB rating against him. Is Maxwell the 16th best CB, as in 2013, or the 45th best, as he was last year? He’s worth re-signing, but not for big money. The range from the 16th and 45th largest CB contracts is $2.6 mil to $7 mil. If he would accept the halfway point, he’s worth the $4.8 mil. It’s probable he doesn’t sign for that because he knows he can make more elsewhere. If Lane or Simon were to take his place, Seattle will be fine. They have decent coverage ability.

At safety, Thomas and Chancellor have had a track record of balanced, excellent play for the last few years, and they are signed for the next few. The backups Shead and Johnson should both be re-signed because they have performed well enough in limited snaps.

Special Teams

Kicker Steven Hauschka was rated by PFF as #8 overall at his position, but he has some weaknesses. His kickoffs are long and low, resulting a high return rate. He did not have the best year kicking FG’s from 40+, either. However, he had a good year in 2013 and will likely turn it around. Punter Jon Ryan is in the bottom third of the league. His punts are generally high, short, and straight, leading to an abundance of fair catches. UFA Long snapper Clint Gresham will probably be re-signed, but has some competition this offseason in ex-Steeler Luke Ingram.

Initial cap space: $23.2 million

Re-sign: T. Jackson ($1.3 mil), Kearse ($2.0 mil tender), Lockette ($585K tender), Gilreath ($585K), Carpenter ($2.5 mil), Jeanpierre ($745K), Schilling ($745K), Schofield ($745K), Scruggs ($745K), D. Smith ($745K), Cohen ($745K), Smith ($1.0 mil), Morgan ($745K), Farwell ($970K), Maxwell ($4.8 mil), Shead ($585K), J. Johnson ($745K), Gresham ($745K)

Let walk: Tukuafu, Walters, Moeaki, McCoy, K. Williams, Dobbs

Best cap cuts to clear up room, if desired: McDaniel ($3 mil)

With a net $2.8 million needed to sign draftees, these moves are projected to leave approximately $6.7 million in cap space for external free agents and extensions.

Biggest Team Needs: WR, DT, OG, OT

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Other team analysis reports and depth charts can be found in the archive.