Matt Flynn to Seahawks: Seattle's Free-Agency and NFL Draft Plans Clearer
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On March 18, 2012, the Seattle Seahawks finally did what fans have been waiting for since the end of the 2008 season; acquire via the draft or sign the team's next fixture at QB.
Since 2008, 'Hawks fans have watched Matt Hasselbeck face mounting injuries due to sacks, Seneca Wallace be nothing but a mildly capable backup, Charlie Whitehurst be the worst throwing QB this side of Tim Tebow, and Tarvaris Jackson be decent but still underwhelming.
This offseason, like last offseason, hopes were extremely high that the Seahawks would draft or sign a more permanent fixture at quarterback. Last year fans were disappointed by the Seahawks being unwilling to go the full nine yards to acquire Kevin Kolb (a good move in hindsight) or move up and draft a guy like Blaine Gabbert (again, a good move).
So when this offseason's most interesting QB in the non-Peyton division visited the Seahawks and left town without a contract, it was a fairly unsurprising turn of events. In fact, many even wrote off the Seahawks' chances because Matt Flynn was headed to beautiful Miami and it was unlikely that he would leave the Dolphins facilities without a contract.
However, it was reported that Miami refused to show Flynn the money, and he instead decided to sign a contract with Seattle.
While Matt Flynn is not guaranteed to start right away—Jackson knows the system better—his presence on the roster dramatically changes what the Seahawks will do in both the draft and free agency from here on out.
What Needs Do the Hawks Still Have?
Pete Carroll and Pro Bowl fullback Michael Robinson
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Pete Carroll has said: “We need to get faster on D, more speed from LB core, speedy insider/outside rushers. We’d like to add more competitive guys in our secondary.”
The Seahawks' biggest needs are on defense.
Seattle finds itself with little quality depth at linebacker, with only K.J. Wright as the only tested NFL player amongst the group right now. Seattle's other starters from last year, David Hawthorne and Leroy Hill, are unrestricted free agents and the Seahawks have shown little interest in retaining the duo so far.
Hawthorne has led the Hawks in tackles each of the last three seasons, and Leroy Hill is one of the longest tenured Hawks, so the team will likely be looking for talented replacements.
In the secondary, the Seahawks will focus on corners, because Pete Carroll draft picks Earl Thomas and Cam Chancellor are two of the best players on the team. However, don't expect any expensive free-agent corners or high draft picks because the Seahawks like Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner.
On the defensive line the Seahawks have added Jason Jones, a defensive tackle who played for the Tennessee Titans since 2008. He is likely to start along side Brandon Mebane, Red Bryant (whom the team re-signed recently) and Chris Clemons for Seattle. Any defensive line additions the Seahawks make will be to the pass rush, which did not do well last year.
After signing Flynn and re-signing Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawks have no glaring need on the offense—save for depth at running back and a quality backup on the offensive line.
Seattle cut Robert Gallery so that its top backup a year ago, Paul McQuistan, could become the starter at right guard; however, Pete Carroll loves competition so the team will likely look to add a quality player to the offensive line corps.
Another reason they may add a quality lineman is the severity of the injury to James Carpenter, last year's first-round pick. Carroll said, "We don’t know if we’ll have him back for camp. It’s usually a nine-month deal."
Quarterback is not a need, but the Seahawks might look to draft a young player anyways.
The Seahawks like this year's late-round draft prospects, and the team is only committed to Flynn for three more years.
Seattle general manager John Schneider said: "At quarterback, I think it's a very unique class. From Brock Osweiler all the way down with Russell Wilson. You've got a 6-8 guy and a 5-10.5 guy. You've got Kellen Moore who's a phenomenal field general. You've got (Ryan) Tannehill. It's a very unique class. Every guy has this niche to them. Kirk Cousins. Tannehill. RG III. I think it's a pretty cool class."
The NFL Draft
Linebacker Zach Brown at the NFL combine.
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Now that the Seahawks have their QB of the future on the roster, there will be no more pressure for them to use a first- or second-round draft pick on a QB.
The Seahawks' first pick in the draft this year will be the 12th overall; however, when considering their needs and history, I expect the Seahawks to trade the pick to gain additional high choices.
The Hawks' top three choices currently are picks No. 12, 43, and 76. History shows us that moving down from No. 12 into the mid or late 20s would net the Seahawks an additional second-round pick probably close to their pick at No. 43. Since Carroll and John Schneider took over they have made numerous trades to acquire more draft picks by moving down.
In any case, the Seahawks will likely use their first pick on a linebacker. The top linebackers who have first-round pick potential available for a 4-3 defense are Zach Brown (pictured above) from North Carolina, and Luke Kuechly from Boston College.
Both these players are fast for linebackers and experienced tackling machines. Brown would be a serious reach at No. 12 while Kuechly is projected to go in the mid-teens and would be a reasonable choice at No. 12. However neither of these players would help the stagnant Seahawks pass rush.
One possible fit at outside linebacker, Courtney Upshaw, would be a huge upgrade to the pass rush, unlike Kuechly or Brown. However, there are problems with this potential fit as well.
Upshaw is best fit for a 3-4 defense where he would rush the QB most downs (think: Terrell Suggs) and likely struggle in pass coverage, which is a more necessary duty for 4-3 linebacker.
Also, I predict that some 3-4 team drafting before the Seahawks will draft him (Carolina) because of his polish in the 3-4 (he played as a 3-4 OLB for Nick Saban at Alabama). The best reason Upshaw would work though is because if the Seahawks think he could stick at weak-side linebacker (less coverage responsibilities), he would be the best option to help the pass rush while keeping the run-stuffing Red Bryant on the field.
That's the reason a pure defensive end like Quinton Coples is not likely for the Seahawks. Because of their love for Red Bryant's run-stopping abilities and his new contract, the Seahawks will look to add more pass rush in the form of a rotational player or linebacker. Another linebacker like Upshaw who could meet the Seahawks' needs would be Melvin Ingram or Whitney Mercilus.
So I expect the Seahawks to narrow the field down to Luke Kuechly, Courtney Upshaw or Melvin Ingram at No. 12. If they move down, they can consider Zach Brown and use the additional picks gained on a rotational defensive end who can rush the QB but do little else.
In their remaining picks, look for the Seahawks to make many trades as always and target an interior offensive lineman, a corner and another linebacker while grabbing a QB late like Russell Wilson or Brock Osweiler.
Curtis Lofton would help the Seahawks thin LB corps.
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I do not expect the Seahawks to do much more in free agency than they already have; however there are a number of possible upgrades available, especially to their defense or offensive line.
If the Seahawks want to make a big splash at linebacker, then Curtis Lofton is the guy they would look at.
He is 25 years old and has spent his entire career with the Atlanta Falcons. He would command a large salary and be a strong defensive presence. He had 147 tackles last season. The Saints have been the only team to schedule a visit with Lofton or any linebacker for the most part, the market on linebackers is moving slowly.
Due to the lack of development on the linebacker front around the league, the Seahawks may still consider bringing in one of their old linebackers, Leroy Hill or David Hawthorne. Hawthorne has visited the Saints.
Stephen Tulloch is another talented NFL veteran linebacker that the Seahawks would likely consider. If the Seahawks are serious about wanting speed, then Manny Lawson could be interesting.
I imagine that Seattle will choose to bring in at least one veteran linebacker; Manny Lawson or Leroy Hill would come cheap, but are only fits on the outside and I imagine the Seahawks want to draft an outside linebacker. That being said, I think that if the Seahawks can get either one for cheap, then that is that route they will choose like they did last year with Leroy Hill.
On the offensive line someone with experience at tackle would make sense. Kareem McKenzie would be a great asset if nobody sees him as a starter anymore, which may be the case. The Giants told McKenzie to go shopping, according to The Record, for a new contract and team; there have been no reported visits between McKenzie and any other teams.
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The Matt Flynn signing will allow the Seahawks to spend all of their remaining resources on the team's primary needs: linebackers, a pass rush, depth on the offensive line, a cornerback and perhaps another running back.
While the Seahawks are not yet better than the 49ers, they acquired a crucial piece of the puzzle in Matt Flynn and freed up their high draft picks to allow them to acquire playmakers at linebacker.
I imagine that the Seahawks will look to trade back in the first round, grab Zach Brown and gain additional draft picks, then select a pure pass-rusher to rotate in with Red Bryant at defensive end.
In free agency I imagine they will sign a cheap veteran linebacker like Leroy Hill and explore veteran offensive linemen due to James Carpenter's health issues.