NFL

How the Seahawks will (or won't) stay on top

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How the Seahawks will (or won't) stay on top

Written by Julian Rogers 

It’s much easier to reach the top of the mountain than it is to stay on top of the mountain. Given the Seattle Seahawks’ most recent two-year run, NFL observers consider the Seahawks to be on the top of the heap. Or at least within about one yard of it.

Offseason prognostications unanimously list the Seahawks as one of the top, it not the topmost, team to beat in the 2015 NFL season. The outlook for the blue birds’ immediate future is quite rosy. Beyond that, it’s anyone’s guess. The Seahawks’ organizational prowess will be put to the test in ways they haven’t yet been tested.

Securing difference-makers

There are guys who get the job done. And then there are difference-makers. On offense, you need at least three.

Right now, the Seahawks have secured what they believe to be the necessary difference-maker trinity on offense: quarterback Russell Wilson, running back Marshawn Lynch and elite receiving threat tight end Jimmy Graham. With those three in hand, plus the continuing production from the rest of the offensive core, the Seahawks look poised to sport the most balanced offensive attack they’ve had since before Lynch arrived in 2010.

Assuming the Seahawks are able to successfully plug two holes in the starting lineup of the offensive line (LG, C), Seahawks opponents are faced with a new dilemma when the trinity is on the field: nickel defense to stop the Wilson-to-Graham combo, or load the box to stop Beast Mode?

Recent Seahawks history shows failing to load up against Lynch is the surest way to defeat. Recent NFL history reveals failing to match up either a brutish defensive back hefty enough to manhandle Graham or a linebacker fleet of foot enough to keep up with Graham is also a fast track to surrendering six scoreboard points. Those types of defenders are not common.

Wilson, for all his gifts, has yet to be able to lift the Seahawks’ passing offense out of the lower third of the NFL rankings in his three seasons. Without question, the Seahawks now expect that to change. A tight end in name only, Graham will line up all over the field, as he did when he had Drew Brees pulling the trigger in New Orleans. While Wilson has not yet produced at the same passing level as Brees, with Graham in the fold, there’s every expectation that he will as he enters the prime of his career.

Why it’s going to get harder

In the NFL, when you have a top-tier quarterback, you usually have to allocate a vast sum of money both to his bank account and your cap space. The Seattle Seahawks have been getting a free ride in that realm for the past three seasons. That’s about to end.

Now that Wilson has accrued three NFL seasons, his rookie contract (which has paid a total to date of around $2.2 million and is scheduled to pay out $1.542 million in 2015) can be renegotiated. Both parties want to negotiate a new long-term deal.

Estimates vary, but it’s a safe bet Wilson’s new deal will be north of $20 million per season. When that happens, be it May, June, August or after this season (the Seahawks could refuse a new deal for this year and use the franchise tag in 2016 and 2017) 31 NFL general managers will do a little dance. The Seahawks will now finally be working on a level playing field.

Wilson’s new contract is going to eat roughly $20 million-plus of cap space they previously had to play with. Several current Seahawks are richer because Wilson isn’t. Most recent estimates show the Seahawks have around $11 million of space currently. It’s going to get tricky.

Wilson isn’t the only complicating factor. As for the other two members of the offensive trinity, Graham is locked up through 2017 (and paid quite handsomely, thanks to the Saints) so he should be a cap factor that the Seahawks will work around. Lynch, on the other hand, is an expensive wild card with almost certainly a short-term future in Seattle.

Some are surprised he’s still here for 2015. He’s demanded renegotiations and threatened retirement enough that it’s a very unsafe bet he’ll play out any contract. The Seahawks strategically re-signed Lynch in March to a three-year, $31 million contract (the final two years are year-to-year). So Beast Mode has been paid. Again. He will have no standing with any more contract complaints.

The Seahawks’ salary cap is buckling under the weight of new money for Lynch, Graham and soon-to-be big bucks for Wilson and deserving defensive stalwart linebacker Bobby Wagner. Defensive end Michael Bennett wants a raise, which he almost certainly won’t get. But then I said that about Lynch, too and they re-negotiated with him. Twice. It’s the Seahawks, after all.

Worst case / best case

Worst case scenario for the Seahawks’ trinity is that only one (Graham) is on board beyond 2015. Lynch may be gone (retired, traded, cut because he hits the mileage wall) and Wilson might be at odds with the Seahawks to the degree that they cannot meet his demands or he sits out.

This ugly scenario signals an organization that will be in total rebuild mode. Will 64-year-old Pete Carroll stick around for that? This might be more “win now” than Seahawks fans realize.

Most likely scenario: Graham and Wilson are on board for multiple years. Lynch is probably a memory beyond 2015. The Seahawks can work around that. But misfire on locking up Wilson, which forces veteran Graham to break in another new quarterback, and the Seahawks’ offensive future is as unknown as Michael Bennett’s thought process.

On the surface, it’s odd that the Seahawks, who recently have tossed around dollar bills like they’re daisies in the wind, are at loggerheads with their franchise quarterback. But then again, maybe those profligate ways have finally caught up to them. The rest of the NFL hopes so. They’re also very interested in seeing how the Seahawks will attempt to maintain a championship-level roster now that they have to pay fair market value for a franchise quarterback. They got to the top. How does this team plan to stay there in the salary cap era?

Few get there. Even fewer stay there. It will be a lesson for all: How long can a team afford the view from the top of the mountain?

Ducks and Beavs in the NFL

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USA Today

Ducks and Beavs in the NFL

The Ducks and Beavers both took to the gridiron on Saturday. On Sunday, a handful of former Ducks and Beavers showed off their talents at the NFL level. 

Here is how some of them did:

OREGON STATE BEAVERS:

Jordan Poyer: Buffalo Bills

Poyer put on a show in the Bills' 17-16 season-opening victory over the New York Jets. He led both teams with nine total tackles, six solo, and a sack. 

Brandin Cooks and Johnny Hekker: Los Angeles Rams

The Rams came out victorious on Sunday in Carolina. Johnny Hekker only had to punt three times, but when he was called upon he averaged 46 yards per punt. As for Brandin Cooks, he had just two catches on the night for 36 total yards, but his 24-yard reception was the longest passing play of the game.

Steven Nelson: Pittsburgh Steelers

Pittsburgh had a rough go in Week 1, losing to the Patriots 33-3. Steven Nelson ended the game with three tackles, one solo.

OREGON DUCKS

Marcus Mariota: Tennessee Titans

Mariota was on point in the Titans' 43-13 victory over the Browns. Mariota was 14 of 24 for 248 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed three times for 24 yards. 

Kenjon Barner: Atlanta Falcons

Barner didn't see any touches on offense, but he was a standout on special teams. He had four punt returns for 46 yards, and two kick returns for 44 yards. 

Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner: San Francisco 49ers

Arik Armstead and DeForest Buckner helped anchor a defensive line the held the Buccaneers to 295 yards of offense in the 49ers' 21-17 victory. Armstead had five tackles, two solo, and a sack. Buckner had two solo tackles, one of them for a loss. 

 

Don't worry, there will always be those willing to play football, and watch it

Don't worry, there will always be those willing to play football, and watch it

Would you want your child to play football?

That’s the question I found myself asking this morning, in the wake of the sudden retirement of Andrew Luck.

I was lucky. My son got through high school concentrating on basketball and baseball, two sports he played well. He never asked to play football and that was fortunate because I might have said yes.

But we know a lot more about the long-term consequences of playing the sport now than we did a few years ago. And when we see someone like Luck walking away from the game, it has an impact.

He was raised in a football family. His father, Oliver, was an NFL quarterback. The kid became a better quarterback than his dad, earning a scholarship at Stanford and eventually becoming the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

But then the injuries started to mount.

I don’t need to list them all now, but when he said he’s spent the last four years in year-round rehab, that should tell the story. This game is a legalized crippler. If you’ve ever watched an NFL game from the sideline, you know what I’m talking about. Every play sounds like a head-on collision, which it often is. I will try to be delicate here, but the fact is, it’s played by a lot of people who are crazed physical specimens who thrive on contact and even pain.

You don’t want to be there in the middle of that. And I doubt you want your children there, either.

Yes, the talent pool will inevitably shrink for this league and even for college football. But don’t worry about the long-term viability of the sport. There will still be people who need the money so bad they’re willing to take their chances with the injuries or simply those crazies who just love legally hitting people.

And, of course, there will still be plenty of people willing to spend good money watching them do it.

DeShawn Shead happy to be ‘home’ with Seahawks

DeShawn Shead happy to be ‘home’ with Seahawks

The Seattle Seahawks brought back a familiar face over the weekend, signing defensive back DeShawn Shead to a one-year deal on Saturday. Shead spent six seasons with Seattle from 2012-17.

“It feels good to be back. I was telling everybody I’m back home,” Shead said. “Just to be back, a lot of familiar faces, but a lot of faces I don’t know, it’s a whole new team. But still the same feeling of being in Seattle, so definitely happy to be back on the team.”

Shead, at one point a starting cornerback opposite Richard Sherman, had an unfortunate ending to his first tenure with the Seahawks. He tore his ACL in a playoff game against the Atlanta Falcons in January 2017.

The injury limited him to just two games in 2017, and Seattle parted ways with Shead the following offseason. Shead added that it wasn’t until late in 2018 when he was with the Detroit Lions that he felt he was finally turning the corner.

“I feel night and day better,” Shead said. “From even over a year ago. And this offseason I actually got to train instead of rehab. There’s a big difference.”

Shead remained unsigned this offseason as camps opened throughout the league. He had a workout with the Saints last Tuesday before flying to Seattle for a workout on Saturday.

The Seahawks loved what they saw from the veteran defensive back and signed him immediately.

“He came out here on the field the other day and he looked great, he looked as good as he’s ever looked,” Pete Carroll said. “Quick and strong and fit and in shape. He brings us the versatility of playing safety and corner. He can play in the nickel package, (and) he’s an excellent special teams player.

“Better than that he’s a great competitor, and to have that guy battling here with our young guys and show them what it’s all about will only make us better.”

Shead originally signed with the Seahawks in 2012 as an undrafted free agent out of Portland State. He spent that season and the bulk of 2013 on the practice squad before making his NFL debut. Shead was with the club through 2017, appearing in 54 games (22 starts) with 150 total tackles and two interceptions.

He’ll play safety during training camp as the Seahawks are still without the injured Lano Hill and Marquise Blair. Shead will vie for a spot on the 53-man roster, and, given his clean bill of health and experience in Seattle’s defense, he hopes to push Tedric Thompson and Bradley McDougald for playing time.

“I don’t think twice about my knee, my breaks, in and out of breaks, I’m more elusive, my speed is back,” Shead said. “Now it’s just putting it back on the field.”

Bobby Wagner sought advice from Michael Jordan during negotiations with Seahawks

Bobby Wagner sought advice from Michael Jordan during negotiations with Seahawks

A learning experience. That’s how Bobby Wagner continually referred to representing himself in contract negotiations with the Seattle Seahawks. His acumen as an agent proved to be on par with his All-Pro ability as a linebacker.

Wagner signed a three-year extension on Friday worth $54 million – the richest contract ever for an inside linebacker. He’s set to make $18 million annually from 2020-22 with more than $40 million guaranteed.

“For me to be in this position, on my third contract, something that statistically nobody gets to do, I’m grateful,” Wagner said after making his training camp debut on Sunday. “I’m humbled. I’m blessed. There’s nothing that anyone can say to take that away from me.”

A trip to France in late June proved to be a pivotal few days for Wagner in his pursuit of becoming the best possible agent for himself. The linebacker signed with Jordan Brand two years ago, and over the summer, Michael Jordan took Wagner and the rest of the brand’s athletes on a little Euro trip.

Jordan, a part owner of the NBA’s Charlotte Hornets, consulted Wagner as to how he’d deal with a player who wanted to represent himself. The advice was invaluable.

“It was dope,” Wagner said. “He took us out to France, and we got a chance to sit down and have a conversation. We talked about his playing days. We talked about his mindset. We talked about training. We talked about a bunch of different things. … It’s just really cool to have a guy like that in your corner.”

The learning experience ended up being a successful (and lucrative) one, but Wagner admitted he feels the peace of mind now that the burden of negotiations is behind him.

“It’s definitely taxing,” Wagner said. “Just like when you’re playing, it takes a certain level of focus to be great. Trying to get a deal done, there was a certain level of focus that I had to have to ultimately get the deal done. But you had a guy who wanted to be here and a team who wanted him here. There was respect on both sides, and that’s always a good recipe to get a deal done.”

Pete Carroll was effusive in his praise of how Wagner handled himself throughout contract talks. It was simply one more example of how exemplary Wagner is in all facets.

“He’s been such a treasure in so many ways,” Carroll said. “He’s meant so much to our franchise. He’s an extraordinary player on the field and a great competitor and just tough as nails to always show up and always be there for us.

“Better than that, he’s a great guy to have on your club to represent your franchise. If a guy is going to get paid, you want it to be a guy like this. He just stands for so much positive and so much good.”

The four-time All-Pro is now signed through 2022. He’ll make $10.5 million in 2019 before the new contract kicks in next season.

Upon signing the deal, Wagner couldn’t help but reflect on the loss of his late mother. His mom passed in 2009 from a heart attack while he was still at Utah State. Wagner said he gave serious consideration to quitting football and returning home to California. Now he’s a Super Bowl champion, a five-time Pro Bowler and he just signed his third NFL contract – a rarity for any player.

“She (taught) me to finish what I started,” Wagner said. “I gave her my word that I’d finish what I started. Today I feel like she’d be proud.”

Report: Seattle Seahawks DT Jarran Reed suspended 6 games

Report: Seattle Seahawks DT Jarran Reed suspended 6 games

The Seattle Seahawks roster took a big hit on Monday, just three days before the team's first practice of training camp.

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Seahawks defensive tackle Jarran Reed has been suspended the first six games of the 2019 season for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.

Rapoport said the suspension stems from an incident in early 2017, and Reed's appeal was denied last Friday. Reed faced a domestic-violence charge in April 2017, where a woman alleged that Reed assaulted her in a Bellevue home. Reed was never charged or arrested in the incident.

The Seahawks issued the following statement Monday morning: "We are of the situation involving Jarran Reed and have followed league and law enforcement protocol since the alleged incident in April of 2017."

Reed's suspension will have massive roster implications. At the top of the roster, it leaves a void at defensive tackle. Reed is Seattle's top interior defensive lineman having posted a career high 10.5 sacks in 2018. Poona Ford, Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods are likely candidates to assume an expanded role in Reed's absence.

Other defensive tackles who are on the roster bubble now also have a better shot at making the Seahawks final 53-man roster at the end of August. Reed will be able to participate in training camp and the preseason, but he'll be moved to the suspended list once cuts are made ahead of the 1 p.m. PT deadline on Saturday Aug., 31. That will open up a roster spot for guys like Nazair Jones, Jamie Meder, Bryan Mone, Jay-Tee Tiuli and Demarcus Christmas.

Reed will miss games against the Cincinatti Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Browns. He'll be eligible to return to the active roster ahead of a Week 7 home game against the Baltimore Ravens.

NFL reporter Joe Fann joins NBC Sports Northwest as NFL and Seahawks Insider

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NBC Sports Northwest

NFL reporter Joe Fann joins NBC Sports Northwest as NFL and Seahawks Insider

PORTLAND, Ore. – July 16, 2019 -NFL reporter Joe Fann has joined NBC Sports Northwest as an NFL and Seattle Seahawks Insider, effective immediately. A Seattle native, Fann will cover the Seahawks and create multiplatform content throughout the year.  Duties will span weekly Seahawks reports with coaches and players, weekly power rankings, news around the league and custom content on-air; on digital via NBCSportsNorthwest.com and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app; social media; and podcasts.

“We’re excited to have Joe join the NBC Sports Northwest team,” said Diane Penny, SVP and GM, NBC Sports Northwest. “Joe has impressive experience, engaging presence, and unique insights. We’re eager to bring him back to his roots, and we’re confident in his ability to connect NFL fans to the teams, players and coaches they care about.”

“I am thrilled for the opportunity to join NBC Sports Northwest,” said Fann. “As a Seattle native, I’m eager to return home near friends and family in what is truly a dream role – both personally and professionally. I look forward to working with the NBCSNW team to build upon the fantastic things already taking place within the network.”

Previously, Fann has held positions as a reporter and writer with the San Francisco 49ers (2015-2019) and Tennessee Titans (2014-2015). He most recently worked as the 49ers’ Senior Reporter, serving as the primary writer and video host for 49ers.com, as well as the team’s social media platforms. Fann is a graduate of Chapman University, where he received a bachelor’s degree in television and broadcast journalism. He also has work experience with the Seattle Seahawks, Seattle Reign FC, University of Washington, Los Angeles Lakers, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Dodgers, and ESPN Seattle Radio. 

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson trains with the GOAT Serena Williams

Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson trains with the GOAT Serena Williams

When Russell Wilson isn’t launching perfect passes to Tyler Lockett in the endzone or visiting Seattle Children’s on “Blue Tuesday,” the Seattle Seahawks quarterback is spending his offseason training alongside seven-time Wimbledon champion Serena Williams.

“We were just in Cannes and I got to train with her actually,” Wilson said in an interview with Access. “We trained together, it was awesome. We’re fired up for her for sure.”

Wilson and his wife, Ciara, took the ESPYS red carpet on Wednesday evening in Los Angeles to support Williams, who took home the award for Best Female Tennis Player award.

They also gave us squad goals in this photo alongside U.S. women's soccer team co-captain Megan Rapinoe and reigning WNBA champion Sue Bird. 

Wilson wasn’t the only Seahawk to attend the biggest night in sports. The Griffin brothers, Shaquem and Shaquill, were also at the event promoting their new book Inseparable: How Family and Sacrifice Forged a Path to the NFL, which came out earlier this week.

The Seahawks head from the red carpet to the football field later this month when training camp begins on July 25. 

Russell Wilson bites: The Seattle Seahawks' QB touches on a variety of topics at minicamp

Russell Wilson bites: The Seattle Seahawks' QB touches on a variety of topics at minicamp

RENTON, Wash. - Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson met with the media following the second day of minicamp at the Virginia Mason Athletic Center and had plenty to say about his evolving relationship with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer, the receiving corps, the offensive line and facing the pressure brought by a signing a huge, new contract 

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Year two with offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer: Wilson went through the experimental phase with his new OC last year and the product turned out well. In year two, Wilson hopes to see the offense take another step because the synergy between the two has naturally improved.

Now, according to Wilson, when the two arrive for a meeting following practice they both have an idea of what the other is thinking and more easily share ideas. That enhanced relationship has helped the pair work on expanding the downfield passing game .

"How we're trying to attack defenses, how we're trying to make plays, it's very exciting," Wilson said. 

Last week Schottenheimer said he believed Seattle is the best play-action team in the league and that statement is not farfetched.

"Russ’s ability to throw the ball deep down the field, that was evident last year the last eight games, we were, I think, top three or four," Schottenheimer said. "He’s just got a great feel for it."

D.K. Metcalf and the rookie receivers: The shimmer and shine that covers rookie receiver D.K. Metcalf has yet to wear off. He's so far lived up to expectations this offseason, albeit in non-live action without pads.

"I think DK is looking really, really special," Wilson said. "He can do anything and everything. He's tremendous."

Seattle also drafted Gary Jennings - banged up and out of practice - in the fourth round and John Ursua in the seventh round. Having three rookie receivers can often prove daunting but according to Wilson, all three have assimilated well. 

"To be honest with you, not in a negative way, I'm kind of shocked at how good we've been in terms of the young guys coming in...," Wilson said. "Just how everything has clicked in such a smooth way. I feel like I've been doing it for years with these guys and so that's a good thing."

Wilson said he's been impressed with both the intelligence and skill of the new receivers. 

"The amount of guys that we have across the board from left to right that can really make a lot of plays and do a lot of special things is exciting," Wilson said.

At the forefront remains Metcalf, who is impossible to miss at 6-foot-3, 228-pounds of blazing beastliness. But there's more to Metcalf than physical prowess. Wilson said Metcalf is a very cerebral receiver, which has helped him make a strong transition thus far. 

"How he processes information and how he quickly he understands it, he is really intelligent," Wilson said. "He understands the game really well. He takes coaching well. He gets extra work. He's a legit pro wide receiver. He's everything that everybody was talking about in terms of what he's capable of and more."

Wilson said he learned quickly what Metcalf had to offer during a 20-minute conversation with him shortly after the Seahawks selected him in the second round of April's NFL Draft. . 

"You can sense it," Wilson said. "When you've been around and you've played and you've understand and you've played yourself, you can tell the guys that really hunting for something special. And I think he is."

Of course, all of the praise now ultimately won't mean much if the rookies don't shine when things get real come late July. 

"The biggest things is, the reality...we'll find out a lot when we strap on the pads and make plays," Wilson said. "That's when you find the true stars and the true players."

Wilson said he plans to host the receivers to Los Angeles, Calif., later this summer for some additional work, something he's done since following his rookie year. 

Surging offensive line: Left tackle Duane Brown said last week that he believes Seattle's offensive line could develop into the best the NFL has to offer. Right tackle Germain Ifedi said yesterday that he didn't believe Brown's assertions were out of bounds. 

Wilson said today that the continuity of the line (four starters return) gives the group a chance to be great.

"I think that finally we've got some consistency upfront of what we know what we want to do and how we want to do it," Wilson said. "If we continue to run the football really well, pass protect and make our explosive plays but also just be great in clutch time, then there's nothing we can't do.

Does $140 million bring added pressure?: Wilson signed a four-year extension this offseason that made him the highest paid player in the NFL and gave him five years total under contract with the Seahawks. Such status, Wilson said, does not come with added pressure.

"No, not at all," he said. "I think I always put enough positive pressure on myself. You look forward to the moments, you look forward to the challenges, you look forward to the opportunity, you look forward to greatness, you look forward to having success, and then it doesn’t waver. My mindset from my first year to this year, it didn’t change anything. I always say pressure was when my dad was on his death bed. And this is a game I get to play. I get to throw a football for a living and get to do what I love to do and get to be around a lot of great guys and a lot of great fans. So I think there’s an excitement to do what you set out to do, and that’s to win a Super Bowl."

 

Houston Texans part ways with general manager Brian Gaine

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USA Today Images

Houston Texans part ways with general manager Brian Gaine

Brian Gaine’s tenure in Houston has come to a close.

A year and a half after Gaine was hired as the Texans general manager, the team announced Friday that he had been relieved of his duties.

“After a thorough evaluation of our football operations, we have decided to relieve Brian Gaine of his duties as general manager,” Chairman and CEO Cal McNair said in a statement. “Brian is a man of high character and we appreciate his contributions to our organization.”

In the statement, the Texans noted that “while the timing may be unusual, this decision was made in the best interest of our organization in our quest to build a championship team for the City of Houston.”

Houston will begin an immediate search for a new GM. Chris Olsen, senior vice president of football administration, will serve as the team’s interim.

The Seahawks and Texans last met at CenturyLink Field in October 2017 following Bob McNair’s controversial “inmates running the prison” comments. The two teams are not scheduled to meet this season.