The season is over. A loss to the Titans capped off a 5 - 11 season and a 4 game losing streak. Not much has changed from this same time a year ago, when the Seahawks franchise was staring down the barrel of a 4 - 12 record and faced with a similar situation. Now that the year is over, what can be done to turn things around. And although this is a contentious issue, I'd like to think I have the answer.
Lets look at the current roster and the team options in the draft / free agency, which can help rectify this teams failure in terms of the W - L columns these past few years.
In terms of free agents that need to be acquired, the list is short. If we could manage each of these four players (two offense and two defense), our team would be greatly improved.
1. LT Marcus McNeill is a talented player who could replace Walter Jones on the left side and help sure up this OL. 2. NT Vince Wilfork / Gabe Watson are talented players, I'm uncertain about our teams ability to get Wilfork so I mentioned Watson as an equally viable option. 3. RB Mike Bell is not only a power back and a compliment to Justin Forsett, but can be brought in at a decent price 4. CB Leigh Bodden is a ball-hawk, and would be a tremendous asset to any defense.
At QB. Matt has been under a lot of pressure of late, but has also shown himself earlier on in the season and throughout his career to be able to lead this team and play at a high level. Matt has been (and can still be) a pro-bowl kind of player. His intangibles and experience are a key part of any success this organization has had.
In terms of finding a replacement, there aren't any out there who can play at his level right away, and as far as a long term solution goes, the QB situation is not as pressing an issue as some of the other problems facing this team. I'd say that things are fine, at least temporarily, and until the OL is fixed, there will be problems at the QB position no matter who is playing.
At RB. Julius Jones is not the answer, and its that simple. With a tandem of Justin Forsett and Mike Bell, this team would have a solid one - two punch. Forsett has shown his ability to shoulder the load, and this team could use powerful running style that Bell brings to the table. Each of these players are low-cost, and this pairing could mean an upswing in team running productivity.
If I were to draft a RB also, the most viable option would be to use a 5th rounder and take Mike Smith from Arkansas, Noel Divine from West Virginia or Brandon James from Florida. Both are productive and have crazy speed, each with a solid build but a small stature.. to be used like a Darren Sproles 2.0
At OL. This is poor situation to begin with, but thats alright. Marcus McNeill will play the LT, Mike Iupati (whom we will draft with our 2nd rounder) will play the LG, Max Unger will play C, Ray Willis will play RG, and Sean Locklear will be back at RT. This solution places the OL back in a solid place.
I wouldn't (although I do think they could be used for other things) be opposed to drafting Russel Okung in addition to these moves, if he fell to us with the 6th overall pick. Because its just so unlikely, I decided not to put Okung in the picture. But, if I did it would look something like (from LT to RT) McNeill, Iupati, Unger / Willis, Locklear, Okung. But this just isn't going to happen, so don't worry about it. I'm against the prospect of Bruce Campbell, because the last thing this team needs is another injury prone OL.
At WR. The WR are a fairly solid group. With the end of the Deon Branch years in Seattle, I think this group will preform nicely. They have TJ Housh, Nate Burleson, Deon Butler, and Ben Obomanu. This group is very solid, and doesn't need much help in terms of personnel. I think that with the improvements to the OL, QB, and RB this group will play at a high level. There just isn't much to say about this group, except maybe that they are good enough to be let alone for now. The best way (at this point) to help the WR are to upgrade the OL and the RB's ((this means good production from Justin Forsett FA - Mike Bell and (possibly drafting CJ Spiller)).
At DL. This team needs to have stellar play from the DL in order for the rest of this defense to preform at a high level. The lineup should look something like 1st string Vince Wilfork/Gabe Watson with Brandon Mebane and 2nd string Colin Cole with Red Bryant on the interior. This will allow us to cut the unproductive Craig Terrill. This lineup will sure up the run game and free up the DE's to make plays.
On the ends, we should keep Lo Jack, D Tapp, and N Reed. Then draft Derrick Morgan with the Denver pick. This will give us three solid starters plus a great situational guy in N Reed, who should be playing more often than he gets the chance. This setup is also solid against the run and will increase playing time (which means skill development time) for each of them. This lineup will be more rotational than 1st and 2nd string, but is also one I can see working. This will also allow us to trade P Kerney.
At LB. The situation at LB is tricky. Last year we traded Julian Peterson and drafted Aaron Curry, which turned out to be two steps in the wrong direction. This year we can rectify that decision. I suggest the lineup we Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, and David Hawthorne. Hawthorne has clearly outproduced Curry, and has made a serious impact on the field. Also, this team has just too much invested in 4 - 3 coaching and personnel to make the transition.
This opens up the doors to trade Curry, and puts him in a group with Patrick Kerney, Chris Spencer, and Julius Jones who should be traded or released. However, the concept of releasing Curry at this point would be ridiculous, the prospect of trading him to get a draft pick AND upgrading our LB corps as a result would be a fantastic move. Its a pride thing, and just as simple as saying we made a mistake in drafting him and try to get something good in return for him to a team that could use his skill set. For further proof of Curry as being on his way to bust, see http://bleacherreport.com/articles/296072-was-aaron-curry-the-right-pick-a-look-back-at-the-4th-overall-pick
At DB. Our DB's have been yet another problem area for this team. We should keep Josh Wilson, Marcus Trufant, and possibly keep (its a 50/50) Ken Lucas. Picking up Leigh Bodden is a good start to fixing this group, and he should be able to fill one of the starting roles. Its hard to say at the 6th overall pick who we should be taking before the combine, so I'll leave it to the best player available who might be Eric Berry, CJ Spiller, Russell Okung, or Joe Haden. I'm not advocating drafting anyone in particular here, but simply disappointed that there aren't any standout #1 CB's to take here, because this would fill one of our greatest needs. However, there are other needs and perhaps the best player available is the best way to go.
The best #2 option I can see would be to trade down from the 6 with Deon Branch and Patrick Kerney ((Jacksonville at the 10/11 and Rasheen Mathis (or a 2nd rounder) would be nice)) Shoot, I'd be willing to put Curry up instead of Kerney if it put the deal through for Mathis and 10/11. In terms of trades (though) speculation gets us nowhere, and so for now this pick will have to be an actual pick.
Its not my ideal choice, but I could see this franchise taking Berry with the 6th overall. Given the history (Curry not filling a need) I could seriously see Berry being selected here. Its not that Berry isn't talented, but that we have greater needs along the OL, DL, and CB positions. However, Berry does have the potential to be an Ed Reed - type - of - player, and certainly wouldn't be the worst pick this team could make.
These alterations (with Berry as the temporary 1st rounder) to the roster could be a legitimate plan to improve this team and possibly create a good core (through the draft and targeting younger players in free agency) for years to come.