12 Early Winners and Losers of the Seattle Seahawks' Offseason
The Seattle Seahawks have weathered free agency, the 2012 NFL draft, a round of Organized Team Activities (OTAs) and just completed their third and final mini-camp. Players will return to the field on July 28th for training camp, but there have already been several winners and losers this offseason.
Some players are winning by the absence of others, while others are winning simply by showing up.
As for the losers...they have their own set of baggage with which to contend.
The following 12 players have seen their fortunes change in 2012.
Winner: Kellen Winslow, Jr.
It was a very poor secret that Kellen Winslow, Jr. wasn't going to be a good fit with the new regime in Tampa. This made the asking price very low for a team willing to accept his payroll figure and able to carry all of his baggage.
It is expected the Seahawks have helped him check some of his bags at the entrance to the Virginia Mason Athletic Center (VMAC), but some of his unique style has certainly made it to the field of play.
Clare Farnsworth, blogger for Seahawks.com, provided the summary of some exchanges Winslow has been having with the defense.
Winslow has "had a few choice words" for defenders after making three impressive catches during a mini-camp practice...one from each quarterback. While the defense doesn't like giving up the plays, at least Richard Sherman is happy to see some life out of the offense.
It’s amazing. He’s definitely brought a different element out there. And I think we appreciate it on defense. He makes it real lively out there. When he makes a catch you can hear him. We finally have somebody to go back (and forth) with, because sometimes we’re kind of going back with ourselves–it’s kind of one-sided.
They’ll make a catch, then there’ll be a little bit of talk. But it won’t be the kind like we’re doing. But Kellen, we’ll bring some of the trash. … He plays with a lot of swagger, and I like that. I like his style of play.
Tight ends making big plays against the Seahawks defense is nothing new. While they were able to shut down runners and wide receivers, tight ends and running backs catching balls out of the backfield were the nemesis of the unit in 2011.
The addition of Winslow will help the defense learn, not to mention improve the offense and hopefully breathe new life into his own career.
Losers: Cameron Morrah and Anthony McCoy
When the Seahawks opted against adding a tight end in the draft it appeared that Cameron Morrah and Anthony McCoy could be competing with a few undrafted free agents for playing time behind Zach Miller.
There was speculation they would still pursue options at the position, including free agent Visanthe Shiancoe.
Instead, the acquisition of Winslow leaves the two likely competing for one roster spot and very little opportunity to produce on the field barring injury to a starter.
I would give the early nod to Morrah. He is more athletic than McCoy, and the latter led the team in dropped passes last season (five) with just 13 receptions.
Winner: Matt Flynn
Matt Flynn looked past his draft status and outplayed a second-round pick in his draft class to earn the right to back up Aaron Rodgers in one of the best offenses in the NFL. He earned $1.7 million over his four-year deal.
Flynn was signed to a three-year contract with the Seahawks and could end up with the same position, only this time to Tarvaris Jackson or Russell Wilson.
His base salary in 2012 is $2 million, along with a $6 million signing bonus in a $19.5 million deal. With escalators he could earn an additional $7 million.
Regardless of Flynn's ability to earn the starting role, he's already a winner in 2012.
Winner: Russell Wilson
Russell Wilson was difficult to peg on draft weekend. A few analysts saw him as a second-round pick, while most had him going in Round 3 or Round 4.
Wilson couldn't have asked for a better situation in which to fall.
The Seahawks lack a clear starter or a quarterback of the future. As such, he's being given the opportunity to compete as a rookie.
It is unlikely Wilson will be a part of the starting solution in Seattle in 2012, but he is gaining the experience he'll need to make a push to overtake Seattle's starter next season.
In an interview with KIRO 710 ESPN radio in Seattle, Michael Robinson offered his take on Wilson. Robinson was a Heisman-candidate quarterback at Penn State.
"Russell Wilson can play," Robinson stated. "You don't look at him as a rookie. You get the sense that he's been around for a while, and I think that's gonna help him going down the road."
Brock Huard, also of 710 ESPN, stated "by all accounts Russell has really held his own. I think the general consensus of everybody that's watched all those practices that's been there is this kid's ahead of the curve."
Look for Wilson to continue to show why he was the most successful FBS* college quarterback ever, based on his record-setting quarterback rating.
Wilson's long arms and high release point adequately compensate for his 5'11" frame. He has the talent to be a great quarterback and is being given the tools and opportunity to grow into that role.
*FBS is the Football Bowl Subdivision of the NCAA, or what was formerly known as Division 1. The prior Division 2 is now known as the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).
Loser: Chris Clemons
The Crickets, The Bobby Fuller Four and The Clash all sang the perils of fighting the law. The law won.
Chris Clemons took on Pete Caroll and John Schneider and met a similar end.
Clemons enters the 2012 season in the last year of a contract he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles as a struggling linebacker/defensive end. The five-year, $12.6 million contract was appropriate for a player that had never recorded more than 20 tackles in a season and had just 13.0 sacks in his first three years.
After notching just 26 tackles and 7.0 sacks in two seasons for the Eagles, Clemons was a throw-in when they sent a fourth-round pick to Seattle for Darryl Tapp.
Clemons performed as expected in Carroll's Leo defensive end position. He recorded 11.0 sacks in his first two seasons and felt he was due for an increase over his $4.5 million 2012 salary.
Fox Sports reported that the Sports Exchange found out what the Seahawks offered Clemons. He turned down a deal that would have paid him $8 million in 2012 and up to an additional $10 million over the following two seasons.
Clemons is expected to play out the final year of his contract and then test the free agent waters for a 31-year-old defensive end that has only had success in a system-based role.
There is a very chance another team will offer him a contract in the neighborhood of the 34-year-old John Abraham, who re-signed with the Atlanta Falcons on a three-year deal. But he only received $16.7 million over three years.
Robert Mathis is the same age and similar size to Clemons, and has logged 30.0 sacks over the last three seasons with the Indianapolis Colts. He was given $36 million over four years, a contract Clemons will likely be seeking.
The problem is Mathis has excelled and continually produced in a traditional 4-3 set. Clemons hasn't.
The Seahawks are the real winner here.
They will get a hungry Clemons on the field needing to prove he is deserving of a big contract, and they get him at a relative bargain rate. Should he continue to produce they can bid for his services...if they don't have another option waiting to take over for him.
Winner: Breno Giacomini
Breno Giacomini landed a two-year, $6 million contract in the offseason. He earned the deal thanks to solid play down the stretch in 2011 when he was filling in for James Carpenter.
Carpenter has not been able to return to the practice field, giving Giacomini the first-team reps with Seattle's young offensive line.
The more time he spends with the starting unit, the better acclimated they get to him being there.
The success of an offensive line has as much to do with continuity as talent. Giacomini has the talent to start and is developing the familiarity with the rest of the line.
He could be tough to oust from the starting lineup when Carpenter returns.
Loser: James Carpenter
The Seahawks have 11 players that missed their full mini-camp with injury issues. 10 of them are expected to be ready for training camp.
It doesn't take much of a guess as to who the last one is.
I don’t think he’s going to make it for the start of camp. We’re not going to push him for that. That’s not important to us. We want to get him back when he’s right. He’s making good progress at this time. But it will be somewhere down the road from there.
Pete Carroll on James Carpenter, who was lost after nine games in 2011
The re-signing of Breno Giacomini will ease the pain of Carpenter's absence. Alex Barron will also get an opportunity to compete for a roster spot, and increased depth at guard will ease Carpenter's transition should that be his eventual target position.
Carpenter will be given a chance to earn his spot back, but a prolonged absence will make that difficult as the rest of the offensive line acclimates to a different blocker.
Winner: Bobby Wagner
Lingering injury issues have kept Barrett Ruud, the Seahawks newly signed middle linebacker, out of offseason drills. He's expected to be on the field for training camp, but Bobby Wagner has been all too happy to fill the spot during the offseason.
The expectation was that is Wagner won the starting role in the middle that K.J. Wright would take over play-calling duties for the defense. However, Wagner has been handling those duties in mini-camp.
The extra work Wagner is receiving has put him as the front-runner in the middle. It is also setting him up to run the defense, giving the Seahawks a positive outlook in their linebacker corps.
Loser: Ben Obomanu
Ben Obomanu will be in a very competitive group come August. Sidney Rice and Doug Baldwin are the only "locks" at the receiver positions, with Golden Tate and Ricardo Lockette having inside tracks to being the same.
That could leave Seattle with as few as two additional spots for receivers in a group that also includes Mike Williams, Deon Butler and Kris Durham, not to mention the undrafted free-agent acquisitions of Jermaine Kearse, Lavasier Tuinei and Cameron Kenney.
Obomanu needed to have a clean camp but didn't. Mike Sando, NFC West blogger for ESPN.com, noted that Obomanu struggled with dropped passes in camp, including an accurately thrown deep ball from Russell Wilson.
Obomanu had too many dropped passes last season when asked to step into the starting lineup. The continuing trend for the seven-year veteran could have him well down the depth chart when training camp opens.
Winner: Bruce Irvin
Perhaps simply being drafted in the first round would be enough to make Bruce Irvin a big winner this offseason. It will bring big expectations for the pass-rush specialist, but the extra few million in his paychecks over the next four years will certainly ease the burden.
Irvin's real reason for making this list lies elsewhere. While many looked at him as being a defensive end/linebacker tweener, the Seahawks actually have a role that is ideally suited to his talents.
The Leo defensive end position currently being manned by Chris Clemons is Irvin's intended spot in the Seahawks defense, even if Pete Carroll thought that transition was at least a year off. Clemons is involved in a contract dispute, though, and has held out of OTAs and mini-camps.
This has given Irvin the added advantage of taking the first-team reps at the Leo position, working on his pass-rush skills and run defense. The only downside is he hasn't had Clemons there to learn from.
Clemons is expected to report for training camp and play out the final year of his contract, leaving Irvin to platoon with Red Bryant opposite Clemons...at least for 2012.
The high draft pick and placement in a defense well-suited for his skill set could make Irvin the biggest winner of anyone in the 2012 offseason.
Losers: Tarvaris Jackson and Josh Portis
While this could just be a temporary setback, the addition of Matt Flynn and Russell Wilson reveals a different plan at quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks.
Last season the possibility of Tarvaris Jackson growing into a starting quarterback and Josh Portis progressing to being his backup and eventual replacement seemed plausible...even if remotely.
Jackson was off-and-on last season and some of his struggles were understandable given his ailing pectoral muscle.
However, Jackson wasn't able to come through in the clutch last season. He had five opportunities to gain a fourth-quarter victory last season and failed in each attempt.
While I had mused since the 2011 offseason that Matt Flynn was the expected quarterback of the future, a good season from Tarvaris Jackson could have been enough to alter plans.
He failed to take advantage of the opportunity, though, leading to the new additions. This points to a transition with the starting position and could also point to the release of Josh Portis.