Seahawks close talent gap with 49ers following Jamal Adams trade
The 49ers were the class of the NFC last year and appear poised for another Super Bowl run in 2020. San Francisco impressively reloaded its roster this offseason despite being a bit cap constrained.
The Seahawks, despite going 1-1 against the 49ers in 2019 and being a literal inch from winning the division, were clearly the inferior team from an overall talent perspective. That was boldly illustrated by the point differential for each club – San Francisco was an impressive +169 while Seattle was just +7.
However, the Seahawks closed the gap on Saturday following a blockbuster deal with the Jets to acquire All-Pro safety Jamal Adams. The added star power, especially on a defense that was sorely in need of more premium talent, should pay major dividends for Seattle in 2020 and beyond.
So how do the Seahawks and 49ers match up following not just this trade, but the offseason as a whole? I took a position-by-position look at the two rosters to see where each team has an edge over its rival.
Quarterback – Seahawks (significant advantage)
While I’m higher on Jimmy Garoppolo than most, there’s no arguing that he’s in the same stratosphere as Russell Wilson. The Seahawks franchise QB was the great equalizer last year that leveled the playing field despite San Francisco being more talented top to bottom. Wilson’s second-half heroics in Week 17 nearly erased a 12-point deficit with just 5:51 left to play in the fourth quarter. As long as he’s healthy and under center, Seattle will always have a chance to beat the 49ers (or any team for that matter).
Offensive line – 49ers (significant advantage)
Pro Football Focus recently ranked the 49ers offensive line eighth and the Seahawks offensive line 28th. Seamlessly transitioning from Joe Staley to Trent Williams was San Francisco’s biggest win of the offseason. The tackle combo of Williams and Mike McGlinchey should be one of the best in the NFL. The 49ers interior o-line should be average to above average as well.
The Seahawks have far more question marks than sure things. Can Duane Brown stay healthy? Who is Seattle going to start at left guard? Are B.J. Finney and Damien Lewis capable NFL players? Is Brandon Shell more than a replacement level player? Seattle is really banking on its ability to evaluate offensive linemen in what is a patchwork group built on a strict budget.
Running back – Wash
I think Chris Carson is the best running back on either roster, but there isn’t a significant enough gap to give Seattle an edge (especially when you consider the disparity between the offensive lines). If anything, Kyle Shanahan’s diverse run schemes would give San Francisco a slight edge.
Wide receiver – Seahawks (slight advantage)
Tyler Lockett is potentially the most underrated receiver in football, and DK Metcalf is poised for a monster second season. Deebo Samuel is a certified baller, but until we see Brandon Aiyuk produce on Sunday’s, the edge remains with the Seahawks. Neither team has a go-to No. 3 receiver.
Tight end – 49ers (significant advantage)
This says more about how good George Kittle is rather than an indictment of Greg Olsen and Will Dissly. Kittle is the best tight end in football because his ability as a blocker is on par with his big play ability as a pass catcher. He’s the 49ers clear-cut No. 1 option in the passing game. I think the question marks about Olsen and Dissly’s ability to stay healthy makes this a significant advantage in San Francisco’s favor. That being said, health permitting, those two have tremendous upside.
Defensive line – 49ers (significant advantage)
It should come as no surprise as San Francisco’s biggest edges come in the trenches. Pro Football Focus ranked the 49ers defensive line third and the Seahawks dead last. Nick Bosa alone would give the 49ers an advantage. Similarly to San Francisco’s situation at left tackle, pivoting from DeForest Buckner to Javon Kinlaw on the interior of the defensive line was huge. The ceiling of the 49ers pass rush hinges on the health of Dee Ford.
Seattle is yet to sign a premier pass rusher, although Jadeveon Clowney’s return is still possible. As it stands though, there are just too many unknowns on the Seahawks defensive line. The depth is nice and much improved from a year ago, but who knows what the ceiling is for Benson Mayowa, Bruce Irvin, Jarran Reed or the rookies Alton Robinson and Darrell Taylor.
Linebacker – Seahawks (slight advantage)
Seahawks fans won’t like this being a mere “slight” advantage. I think the trio of Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and first-round pick Jordyn Brooks could be special. However, Fred Warner, Kwon Alexander and Dre Greenlaw are more on par than folks in Seattle would care to admit. Like Lockett, Warner is one of the game’s most underrated players.
Cornerback – 49ers (slight advantage)
This is hard to judge without knowing whether or not Quinton Dunbar will be playing football in 2020. If he’s cleared of wrongdoing in his armed robbery charges, this is probably a wash. If not, I’d give Richard Sherman and Emmanuel Moseley a small edge over Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers. K’Waun Williams is also a better option at nickel than Ugo Amadi at this point.
Safety – Seahawks (significant advantage)
I’d argue that Seattle now boasts a top three safety pairing with Adams and Quandre Diggs. Jimmie Ward and Jaquiski Tartt are fine players, if not a bit underrated, but they’re not on par with Adams and Diggs, and injuries have regularly been an issue for those two. The improved secondary should have a trickledown effect on the other levels of Seattle’s defense, especially given Adams’ ability as a pass rusher. He may legitimately be the Seahawks best pass rusher.
This is kind of like the comparison at tight end: Both teams have really good players, but only one has superstars.
Special teams – 49ers (slight advantage)
You can probably wash the pair of Aussie punters, so this comes down to whether you’d want Robbie Gould or Jason Myers with the game on the line. I’ll take Gould.
Overall – 49ers (slight advantage)
Even with Wilson’s greatness, the disparity along the offensive and defensive lines tips the scales slightly in San Francisco’s favor. The funny thing about this exercise is that it ultimately doesn’t matter much. If these teams lined up tomorrow, do you have any doubt that it would go down to the final possession? Of course not. That’s just how these two teams do business.
Fingers crossed we get treated to another NFC West title game this year in Week 17.