The Seattle Seahawks are in good shape as the Pacific Northwest looks forward to the 2013 NFL season. Still, there is work to do. There is always work to do.
Winning a playoff game is not enough. This team has the potential to represent the NFC and bring the Lombardi Trophy back to the Emerald City. Pete Carroll and John Schneider have built an exciting young team that may be even better next year.
However, there are still needs. The Seahawks may not have any obvious or glaring deficiencies, but there is certainly room for improvement, and there is always value in building greater depth.
Decisions must be made, and there is little time to rest.
With that in mind, here are some of the biggest offseason priorities for the Seattle Seahawks.
There has been a lot of chatter regarding the defensive line. Specifically, Chris Clemons suffered a tough injury and is aging. Bruce Irvin had his moments during his rookie season, but he is still regarded as undersized and arguably not suited to be a consistent pass rusher.
Then there is the lack of interior pass rush, which was arguably the weakest part of the defense in a few games.
What to do? Do the Seahawks spend the big dollars on a free-agent defensive tackle or defensive end? Or, should Seattle use one or more of its draft picks to reload the line with rookie talent, knowing that there might be a learning curve?
Carroll and Schneider must decide whether they believe the youth movement can continue to return success or if some veteran help is justified.
Michael Bennett? Richard Seymour? Henry Melton?
Or, draft picks such as Sheldon Richardson, Sharrif Floyd or Ezekiel Ansah?
Whatever management decides to do, this is arguably Seattle’s top priority for the offseason.
For Seattle, discussion of the wide receiving corps solicits some very contrasting viewpoints. Some fans see this as the actual top priority. Others suggests that the Seahawk receivers are actually underrated. Which is it?
Would it be fair to suggest that the receivers are “solid?” Obviously, that is a vague designator, but it is, perhaps, the best way to categorize this group.
Sidney Rice and Golden Tate had some great catches in 2012, though neither one of them put up huge numbers for the year. Doug Baldwin took a step back, and hardly any other receivers made a major impact.
If Carroll and Schneider believe that Tate will continue growing, Baldwin will rebound and Rice will stay healthy. Seattle may have a decent group that just needs some depth. Otherwise, it may be appropriate to draft a receiver or two.
It is true that Seattle does not have a true speed guy or a big-bodied leaper who can go up and pull down a jump ball. There are a lot of intriguing free-agent receivers this year, but all are likely to be expensive.
This will come down to the level of faith that management has in the current group.
Along with wide receiver, the offensive line is a much-debated group. Did the Seahawks find success late in the season because the line started playing more as a unit, or did Russell Wilson excel in spite of the line?
Yes? Maybe? Not sure?
The offensive line position is one of contrasts.
If the line is doing their job, they can go virtually unnoticed compared to the quarterback, running back and wide receivers. However, when your team completes a 24-yard pass on third-and-23, only to have it brought back on a holding penalty by one of the lineman, that individual will instantly be put on the scapegoat list.
Seattle’s offensive line is arguably a work in progress, and certain players have been questioned and defended throughout the year. Linemen like Breno Giacomini, John Moffitt and J.R. Sweezy have their critics and defenders, while James Carpenter could not stay healthy.
It didn’t help that players had to be moved around a bit due to injury, and there are certainly those who suggest the worst thing you can do to an offensive line is keep switching out parts.
Therefore, Seattle may feel a need to upgrade the line or provide some depth. Or, if Carroll and Schneider believe in this line, they may give them another year to solidify their play.
Over the last few seasons, the defense has been rebuilt, and Seattle has added some impact athletes. This has included talented linebackers such as K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. The future looks bright for this particular duo.
Then, there is Leroy Hill. There are the personal issues (via Danny O'Neil of The Seattle Times), but that may not cost him a job with Seattle. Hill will be 31 in September, and the Seahawks may decide to move on and replace him with a speedy rookie.
Older defenders have been replaced in the past once they reach a certain age.
Malcolm Smith may develop into a solid starter, but depth at linebacker is never a bad thing in the NFL. Therefore, Seattle may spend a draft pick or two on a physical linebacker.
Do not be surprised if Seattle finds another linebacker in the later rounds. This is a need for the team, but the Seahawks can afford to do a bit of experimenting.
The Seahawks need to address their backup quarterback situation. And yet, they don’t.
Realistically, Seattle is in a good situation with Matt Flynn because it really does not have to work hard at trading him away. If Flynn is the backup going into 2013, that is just fine.
To a certain extent, Seattle has the luxury of sitting back and listening to offers from other teams that are more desperate for a quarterback. Given that the quarterback class in the upcoming draft is not terribly strong, there may be some interest in Flynn’s services.
Flynn continues to be an intriguing, but still unknown, quantity.
Ultimately, Flynn becomes an item that needs to be addressed only if Seattle receives an offer that is worth taking. At that point, it will be time to shop for a new backup quarterback, either in free agency or through the draft.
Seattle has rebuilt its team by going with a youth movement, and so far, the plan seems to be working. Should the Seahawks fill all of their needs with more draft picks, or is it time to spend some cash on the free-agent market?
Obviously, this question must be addressed on a position-by-position basis, but Carroll and Schneider must decide if they are going to stick with a particular philosophy or adapt to the development of this team.
Rebuilding a team with young, talented athletes is always a good plan, particularly when it actually works.
However, there is also the theory that winning a championship requires assembling a squad that has enough veterans to handle the mental rigors of the playoffs.
Stick with the youth movement? Or bring in some battle-hardened warriors? We will find out once the free-agent period begins whether Seattle will be doing much shopping.
Russell Wilson turned a lot of heads in 2012. He showed that he could be a smart runner, but he also proved that he was an effective and accurate passer.
What is the game plan in 2013? It seems reasonable to assume that the Seahawks will still rely on Marshawn Lynch and work hard to establish the running game as long as Beast Mode’s back holds up.
The question is whether the read-option can be an ongoing strategy for Wilson and Pete Carroll. Wilson ran for 489 yards in 2012. Should he run more in 2013, or would that be asking for an eventual injury?
Or, will fans start seeing consistent 300-yard passing games from their young quarterback?
Wilson is an intriguing athlete, so the offseason will include some strategizing about the best way to use him going forward.
There is ample optimism about this team going into 2013 for obvious reasons. This is a young, talented squad that will not be able to sneak up on anyone next season. The Seahawks are a known quantity around the NFL.
Still, expectations must be managed. Confidence should abound, but there is much work to be done. The NFC West will be a very tough division, and Seattle has a difficult road schedule. Unfortunately, the Seahawks will not be able to simply show up and finish with a 14-2 record.
Therefore, a priority for the offseason is to instill an attitude of humility to balance out the swagger. Pete Carroll should continue to preach an upbeat message of confidence, but hard work must accompany the attitude.
Excitement for 2013 is justified. It should just be counterbalanced with a little cautious optimism. The NFL is an unforgiving league.