Following the Seahawks loss to the Packers in the Divisional Round, several players referenced how the 2019 squad felt like the 2012 iteration of the club. The suggestion, of course, is that the current team is on the cusp of greatness, capable of multiple Super Bowl runs in the immediate future.
It’s not impossible. Seattle made it within two games of the Super Bowl this year and will have an inherently high floor for as long as Russell Wilson is under center. But can we leave the 2012 Seahawks out of it? I don’t mean to be the Debbie Downer here, but 2012 has become a crutch equivalent to the 1995 Mariners: a lazy reminder of better times and a regular source of false hope.
Outside of losing in the Divisional Round, the comparisons between 2012 and 2019 are loose to nonexistent. The 2019 Seahawks were carried by Russell Wilson while being largely void of game-changing talent. By comparison, Seattle was arguably the best team in the NFL during the second half of the 2012 season, displaying a level of dominance never seen in 2019. That team was budding with young perennial Pro Bowlers (or even All-Pros).
DK Metcalf and Shaquill Griffin are the only two young players who potentially share a similar trajectory to Richard Sherman, Doug Baldwin, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, Earl Thomas and Wilson (to name a few). The 2012 Seahawks didn’t have nearly as many question marks as Seattle currently has.
OK rant over. Now to the more important part. There is reason for optimism in Seattle heading into 2020. While the Seahawks have several holes to fill on the roster, they have north of $60 million in cap space in order to address those voids.
Here are the top five areas where the Seahawks must improve if they’re going to be legit contenders next season.
5. Wide receiver
It’s really a shame that Josh Gordon wasn’t able to stick in Seattle. Gordon, Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf could have been a formidable receiver trio for years to come. Instead, the Seahawks are in the market for a No. 3 wideout this offseason. Expect to see Seattle sign a veteran option to compete with David Moore (an impending RFA), John Ursua and potentially a 2020 draft pick. The loss of Will Dissly (Achilles) in Week 6 really accentuated the Seahawks lack of a reliable No. 3 receiver. All things considered, filling the other needs on this list is far more crucial, however, it is a need nonetheless.
4. Tight end
Seattle is banking on Dissly coming back and continuing to be a stud No. 1 tight end. But the reality is that the Seahawks need an insurance policy given that Dissly’s first two NFL seasons have ended prematurely due to serious injuries. Luke Willson (UFA) isn’t likely to be brought back this offseason. Jacob Hollister (RFA) is a nice complimentary piece, but he has some holes in his game from a blocking standpoint. There’s clear room for an upgrade at tight end, regardless of how Dissly is recovering from his torn Achilles.
I don’t think the Seahawks can go into 2020 with Tre Flowers as a presumed starter. Flowers, while impressive at times with two sacks and three interceptions in 2019, was far too inconsistent. He struggled in the playoffs with two long defensive pass interference penalties against the Eagles and a tough outing against Davante Adams and the Packers the following week. His 53.1 PFF coverage grade ranked 27th among NFL corners who played at least 80% of snaps.
Flowers fits Seattle’s mold of an ideal corner at 6-foot-3, and it’s far too early to give up on him all together. But there needs to be a training camp competition for who will start opposite Shaquill Griffin next season. Trae Waynes, Logan Ryan and Byron Jones are a few upcoming free agents (barring the franchise tag or re-signing with their current team) who could be on Seattle’s wish list. My guess is Seattle goes with someone with a lower profile option in the hopes that Flowers can beat them out.
2. Offensive line
The top two needs on this list far outweigh the other three. I’m of the belief that the Seahawks could spend all of their free agent dollars and draft capital in the trenches and it would be a successful offseason.
Seattle has several question marks along the offensive line. George Fant, Germain Ifedi and Mike Iupati are all free agents. Justin Britt is coming off a torn ACL, and the Seahawks could save nearly $10 million by cutting him. Pete Carroll insisted that he didn’t want to completely overhaul the offensive line this offseason. However, Seattle should see this as a prime opportunity to revamp a group that ranked 28th in pass block win rate in 2019.
Anthony Castonzo (if he’s willing to play right tackle) and Jack Conklin should be top priorities for Seattle. I doubt the Seahawks spend big at guard. My guess is D.J. Fluker will remain at right guard and Jamarco Jones and Phil Haynes will compete to start at left guard. That said, Joe Thuney and Brandon Scherff potentially hitting the open market has to at least make Seattle consider making an offer.
1. Defensive line
Contrary to the offensive line, Seattle has in-house options on the defensive line to bring back. Re-signing Jadeveon Clowney and Jarran Reed should both be priorities for the Seahawks. Clowney will cost anywhere from $18-21 million annually, but Seattle has more than enough cap space to afford him. Reed will come at half the cost due to his subpar 2019 season.
Beyond those two, Seattle should give Yannick Ngakoue and Arik Armstead a hard look as potential options to bolster a pass rush that ranked 16th in pass rush win rate in 2019 and ranked second to last in sacks (28).