Predicting Seattle Seahawks Starting Lineup Post-Week 1 of Free Agency
The Seattle Seahawks are going for the Super Bowl.
Whether they actually get to go remains to be seen but following last week's free-agent frenzy, the 'Hawks made it clear that they aren't content with four All-Pros, two Rookie of the Year contenders and 10 draft picks.
With each passing day, the front office, led by general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll, made one move after another to help reshape the team's roster. The team added receiver Percy Harvin via a trade with Minnesota, as well as defensive linemen Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett through free agency.
With the dust settling on the first week of free agency, how do these changes affect the team we will see on the field next season?
While it's safe to say that most of the starting lineup will stay intact, the new moves should change a few things, at least on paper.
So, without further ado, here's my projected starting lineup post-Week 1 of free agency.
Quarterback: Russell Wilson
So, who will be the Seahawks' starting quarterback in 2013?
Russell Wilson, plain and simple.
Not sure about you, but I think it's nice that, for the first time since Pete Carroll came to town, the quarterback situation looks to be fairly solid for this year and hopefully for a long time to come.
Of course, I can imagine Carroll will say that everyone will need to compete, including the man who put the football world on its head. But let's be honest: It's not like Wilson is going let anyone have the chance to beat him.
Running Back: Marshawn Lynch
And to whom will Russell Wilson be handing off?
All-Pro Marshawn Lynch. Beast Mode was everything and then some last year, but this year, I think he will get a little more help carrying the load.
With Robert Turbin entering his second year and Percy Harvin added to the mix, I can see the Seahwks' run game kick things up a notch or two.
To me, that's a good thing, as I think the 'Hawks need to give Beast a breather occasionally and get Turbin more involved to see if he has what it takes to become a feature back.
Meanwhile, Harvin is the wild card here. It depends on what offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell decides to do with him while opening up the playbook.
Fullback: Michael Robinson
When he's not hosting the The Real Rob Report, Michael Robinson occasionally dabbles a bit in the 'Hawks backfield.
Joking aside, I think Robinson sticks around for another season at fullback.
However, don't be shocked if the team uses a late-round draft pick or invites an undrafted free agent to camp this summer to challenge him.
Wide Receiver: Sidney Rice
Can you believe that Sidney Rice stayed healthy a whole season?
If he can play a full schedule again in this year's offense, it's quite possible that he can gain 1,000 yards.
Even if he doesn't, I still think he will remain one of Russell Wilson's clutch options. Rice may not have posted huge numbers in 2012, but whenever Wilson needed a big catch, he always seemed to dial up his No. 1 receiver.
Of course, there could be a change in the pecking order based on the addition of Percy Harvin.
Wide Receiver: Percy Harvin
Speaking of Percy Harvin, depending on your point of view, this is either the Seahawks' ticket to the Super Bowl or an expensive mistake.
The move itself raises a lot of questions, but if we assume that Harvin is 100 percent healthy and fully plugged in, the possibilities of how he can help reshape the offense are endless.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell probably keeps pinching himself each morning when he wakes up—and then he begins devising new and exciting ways to incorporate Harvin in the grand scheme of things.
You have to imagine Russell Wilson is keen on adding Harvin to the mix as well, alongside Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and perhaps Doug Baldwin?
For today, I think Tate stays based on his growth last year while working with Wilson. As for Baldwin, I see him as the odd man out while the team considers using a draft pick on a receiver in the later rounds.
Tight End: Zach Miller
Or do the 'Hawks draft a tight end instead of a receiver?
When I posed this question, along with a possible restructuring of Zach Miller's contract or release, last week, I came to realize that Miller has more than a few fans lobbying on his behalf.
One of those fans is probably Russell Wilson, as Miller emerged as one of his favorite targets during the course of the season.
Similar to Sidney Rice, Miller seemed to have a knack for being in the right place at the right time to either sustain or finish drives, especially in the postseason.
With all of that said, I think Miller stays and hopefully earns every penny the Seahawks owe him.
Left Tackle: Russell Okung
As we move on towards the offensive line, we find a mix of good and not so good.
For a time, it was hard to tell where exactly Russell Okung landed in that mix based on his uneven performance and injuries through his first two seasons in Seattle.
It seems like ages ago when Okung was general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll's first draft pick in 2010. Three seasons later, Okung finally put it all together with a Pro Bowl season.
Can he do it again?
In order for the 'Hawks to fly high, they will need Okung down in the trenches protecting Russell Wilson's blind side and helping pave the way for Marshawn Lynch.
And if he can perhaps help the guy next to him, that would be great too.
Left Guard: James Carpenter
In some ways, James Carpenter reminds me of Russell Okung, so will Carpenter finally get in gear during his third season?
In 2011, the Seahawks used their first-round pick to find someone to pair with Okung on the right side of the offensive line, drafting Carpenter to play tackle.
Over time, though, it's become clear that Carpenter isn't cut out for the task. So where exactly does he fit?
So far, Carpenter has been one of the few blemishes on John Schneider's resume. But I remain hopeful that he can find a home between two Pro Bowl talents in Okung and center Max Unger.
If not, feel free to plug in another questionable third-year guard, John Moffitt.
Center: Max Unger
In case you missed it, Max Unger was not only a Pro Bowler in 2012, but a first team All-Pro. I like to believe his job is safe.
With all the hype and excitement surrounding the Seahawks' young up-and-coming lineup, it's strange and almost sad that he tends to get lost in the mix.
Unger may not be flashy or offer entertaining sound bites, but he is the old-fashioned grinder you want to anchor the offensive line week in and week out, year after year.
Right Guard: J.R. Sweezy
On the right side of the line, things start to get a little dicey, if you ask me.
Last season, Paul McQuistan played guard for the 'Hawks, but rookie J.R. Sweezy showed promise as a quick learner after converting from the defensive side of the line.
It will be interesting to see how this positional battle is fought out in training camp.
I can picture Sweezy taking the starting job away from Paul McQuistan or perhaps moving over on the left side if either James Carpenter or John Moffitt go bust.
Perhaps it sounds crazy, but it's something to ponder, as I think Sweezy will get some serious looks this year.
Right Tackle: Breno Giacomini
When it comes to his play, Breno Giacomini is someone you can either take or leave.
With few options available in free agency, a few weeks back, I assumed the 'Hawks might take a look at Cincinnati Bengals right tackle Andre Smith. However, that seems less and less likely with each passing day.
Moving forward, the 'Hawks need to draft someone here—and they'll likely do so this year, but I'm doubtful that player will push Giacomini out of his starting spot.
Feel free to roll your eyes and grind your teeth, but Giacomini probably isn't going anywhere.
Kicker: Carson Wiggs
As for someone who may be out of a job, what should the Seahawks do with kicker Steven Hauschka?
Should the 'Hawks sign him to a deal? Should they let him walk? Will someone else sign him?
I think Hauschka is good, but he's not irreplaceable. Until they make a decision, I'm going to pencil in Carson Wiggs for the job.
Punter: Jon Ryan
So long as Jon Ryan keeps doing his thing, I see no reason for the 'Hawks to make a change.
Expect the Redmond, Washington, native to be back, booming punts next season.
Kick Returner: Golden Tate
Leon Washington is gone.
He's so far gone that he's already on the other side of the country after signing with the New England Patriots.
So who should take over primary return duties?
Percy Harvin is tempting, but Golden Tate is someone I think everyone will feel more comfortable putting in the line of fire.
Tate has the hands and speed to make people forget about Washington pretty quickly, not to mention that he will also played a far greater role in the offense than Washington ever did in Seattle.
Left Defensive End: Red Bryant
On defense, the personnel upfront will vary depending on the situation, but when it comes time to shutting down the run, Red Bryant will likely be working from the left side.
He may not post big numbers, but he is the emotional leader in the trenches for the 'Hawks.
Meanwhile, don't be surprised to see second-year man Greg Scruggs getting some snaps as well here.
Left Defensive Tackle: Michael Bennett
At left defensive tackle, I'm going with recent free-agent acquisition Michael Bennett.
Bennett will essentially fill Jason Jones' shoes, taking snaps wherever and whenever necessary as a three-down lineman capable of stopping whatever comes his way.
Let's hope his second stay in Seattle is far more memorable than his first.
Also, keep an eye on whether or not Jaye Howard gets some snaps.
Right Defensive Tackle: Brandon Mebane
During the first half of the 2012 season, Brandon Mebane looked solid, as the Seahawks' front line came on strong. During the second half of the season, though, he regressed, as the front line struggled a bit.
Could there be a connection?
What's even stranger is that Mebane's decline coincided with the team's winning streak to finish the season.
This year, I think Mebane still stays in the starting role, but I will be curious to see if the team uses one of its early draft picks to get a tackle capable of competing right off.
Right Defensive End: Cliff Avril
Finally, it seems the Seahawks are going to give new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn no excuses when it comes to pass-rushers.
If and when Chris Clemons is healthy, Quinn could have three exciting options to play with when you include second-year man Bruce Irvin and recent free-agent signee Cliff Avril.
Feel free to toss Michael Bennett in here too if you wish, but no matter how you want to look at it, the 'Hawks should be able to ratchet up the pressure with this crew.
Right now, if I had to choose a starter to make the biggest impact, I'd go with Cliff Avril. Of course, this could all change, but for today, he seems the most capable of doing the job required of the position.
Left Outside Linebacker: K.J. Wright
Looking back this time last year, K.J. Wright was arguably the only sure thing the Seahawks had at linebacker.
With David Hawthorne signing last year with New Orleans and Leroy Hill unlikely to return next season, Wright, now entering his third year in the league, will likely become the "veteran" of the unit.
Wright finished second on the team in tackles last year, trailing only Bobby Wagner, the next starter on the team.
Inside Linebacker: Bobby Wagner
Bobby Wagner not only led the Seahawks in tackles last year, but, in my opinion, he also should have won Defensive Rookie of the Year.
As the team's second-round pick in 2012, Wagner took over the middle from day one and never looked back.
The Seahawks are currently loaded with quite a few defensive stars, but Wagner may end up being one of the biggest before long. He's a tackling machine capable of getting to the quarterback and picking off passes.
Right Outside Linebacker: Sio Moore
For the third year in a row, could the Seahawks find a starting linebacker in the draft?
I certainly think so, as the 'Hawks seriously lack depth at the moment and need to use one of their first two picks to address the issue.
My choice is University of Connecticut linebacker Sio Moore, but feel free to pencil in whoever you like still available at either the end of the second or the third round come April.
With all due respect to Malcolm Smith, Mike Morgan and Heath Farwell, I believe the starting job goes to a rookie capable of fitting in alongside K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner. That rookie would complete a trio that may work together for several years if all goes according to plan.
Right Cornerback: Brandon Browner
It was a weird year for Brandon Browner, to say the least.
One minute, he's starting the year coming off a Pro Bowl appearance; the next, he's finishing up the season suspended four games after testing positive for a banned substance.
After returning to the 'Hawks during the playoffs, Browner looked a bit rusty. In some ways it's understandable, but can he rebound in 2013?
Don't be shocked if Jeremy Lane pushes Browner a bit in camp, but ultimately I think he keeps his job.
Free Safety: Earl Thomas
First-team All-Pro, 'nuff said.
If you have a better suggestion than Earl Thomas at free safety for the Seahawks, I invite you to share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Let me know how that goes.
Strong Safety: Kam Chancellor
In my opinion, Kam Chancellor had a quiet 2012, even while finishing third on the team in tackles.
With all the talk last season surrounding his fellow "Legion of Boom" teammates, for reasons both good and bad, Chancellor somehow managed to slip through the cracks.
Chancellor will be the starter next season, but honestly, I'm not sure what to think of his performance. He came in second on the team in solo tackles, yet he didn't generate a single turnover.
Of course, statistics don't tell the whole story, especially when you watch Chancellor in action. But it still makes me wonder.
Left Cornerback: Richard Sherman
Last but certainly not least, whether you love him, hate him or are still debating it, Richard Sherman is All-Pro and is not about to let you tell him otherwise.
Either way, Seahawks fans are likely to be entertained by Sherman next year while watching him work with a giant bull's-eye on his back as one of the best players on the team, if not the entire league.
Which, when you think about it, is very exciting. As of now, the Seahawks already have a loaded roster thanks to the moves from Week 1 of free agency. But there are still a few holes open to competition, namely on the right side of the offensive line and at linebacker. Those holes may need to be addressed through the NFL draft.
If the team can find a starting linebacker, an offensive lineman and perhaps another defensive tackle or pass-catcher in the draft, the Seahawks should be good to make a serious run for the Lombardi Trophy next season.
Fingers crossed, but after three years in charge, Pete Carroll and John Schneider should be fairly pleased with their work. They've come a long way from seeing whether or not Charlie Whitehurst could be the team's franchise quarterback.