Now that the season is over, there will be a lot of talk about what direction this team should be heading in next year. I'm going to paint a picture of how to improve on the 2009 Seattle Seahawks defensive unit for next season. This is a simple 1-yr plan via the draft, free agency, and signing / releasing current players.
This plan is dedicated to coach Carroll, it is simple, detailed, and has the potential to transform a defense that was horrible against the pass, mediocre against the run, and got stomped on by divisional opponents (except the St. Louis Rams). Now, what does that leave to you Pete (Carroll), coach em up!
Lets start in the trenches. The Defensive Line.
At the DT position we currently have Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane starting, with Red Bryant and Craig Terrill at the 2nd string. This unit is not bad, but failed to get significant pressure up the middle, set up the pass rush, or clog running lanes to verify being considered a top defensive unit.
In the free agent market there are two players who would make an instant impact and improve the overall defense, while freeing up the rest of our defense (including our DTs) to make plays. The best case scenario would be Vince Wilfork, a pro-bowl / all-pro NT and play maker. Since the odds of signing Wilfork after the Patriots released Richard Seamour are slim, a nice alternative might be Gabe Watson. Watson is a powerful NT who can occupy blockers and help sure up this unit against the run, while freeing up the rest of the defense to make plays. Either of these players would be a great addition, but we could seriously use the help and so we SHOULD sign one.
The unit would then look like this. Wilfork / Watson and Brandon Mebane starting, with Colin Cole and Red Bryant at the 2nd string. This would allow the team to release the unproductive Craig Terrill while upgrading the unit. The starting unit would be top tier in the league, and Red Bryant has shown his ability to play the 3technique by getting after opposing QBs. All in all, this unit didn't need much fixing, just a tweek with the rotation and a key signing.
At the DE position we currently have Patrick Kerney, Lawrence Jackson, Corry Redding, Darryl Tapp, Nick Reed, and Derrick Walker. This group has had very low production despite a serious investment in talented players. Let me start by saying that Corry Redding (and possibly Derrick Walker) should not be re-signed. He has had virtually no production and his roster spot could be filled by someone else. Patrick Kerney should be on the trading block. He is getting older, has a back-heavy contract, and could be packaged into a deal. This leaves the roster at Lawrence Jackson, Darryl Tapp, Nick Reed, and Derrick Walker.
This position should be addressed through the draft. With the #14 overall pick, we SHOULD take Derrick Morgan. Although he may / may not be there..
Allow me to inject a proposed trade. The ideal trade is Aaron Curry, Deon Branch, (possibly Patrick Kerney), and the #14 overall... to Jacksonville for the #10 overall and Rasheen Mathis. This way we unload players to free up cap space (which will come in handy in free agency), pick up a tall and solid CB in Rasheen Mathis, AND move up to the #10 spot where we will have a (probable) lock to draft to Derrick Morgan.
So, we have Derrick Morgan (the top DE in the draft, who is an impact player and would make a great asset to this team lacking a pass rush), Lawrence Jackson, and Darryl Tapp to rotate in the starting roles. This increased playing time will push each of these talented young players further down the learning curve at a greater rate than otherwise. To supplement this group, we have Nick Reed. Nick Reed has played harder than almost anyone else on this team and has proven his worth (and play making ability) on the field. He will also see increased playing time as a result.
The 4 DE roster leaves the possibility for the Seahawks to sign / draft one more DE. Although this isn't a necessity, I'm sure that can wait and we can pick someone up off waivers during the preseason. This is an incredibly minor detail, and is more a contingency issue in case of injury.
Next, to the most hyped-up group on the team. The Linebackers.
The group is composed of Leroy Hill, Lofa Tatupu, and Aaron Curry as the starters, while backing them up is David Hawthorne, Will Herring, and DD Lewis. This group doesn't appear to need much revamping, except for the elephant in the room. What to do with Aaron Curry?
Although this may seem startling (I did put him in my proposed trade) it makes sense to trade Curry if you consider the downsides to Curry's game which will prevent him from becoming a pro-bowl caliber player. He has slow hips in zone coverage, he hasn't been much of a play maker (in fact he's been more of a liability) against the pass, he has a mediocre ability to change directions, he occasionally gets too high when taking on blockers, and his hip fluidity is just mediocre.
Although these aren't glaring issues, his production has really emphasized his faults. Curry has been statistically dominated by David Hawthorne, who could make the transition from ILB to OLB with the departure (via trade) of Curry. Having the best group of players on the field could only benefit this group, which WAS (prior to the addition of Curry and the trade of Julian Peterson) the best LB corps in football. This maneuver would free up cap space, allow us to have significant leverage in a trade, and improve the quality of this group overall.
In the end, this group would be OLB Leroy Hill and David Hawthorne, with ILB Lofa Tatupu. Backing them up would be OLB Will Herring and ILB DD Lewis. Again, this setup leaves the possibility for the Seahawks to sign / draft one more LB. Although this isn't a necessity, I'm sure that can wait and we can pick someone up off waivers during the preseason. This is an incredibly minor detail, and is more a contingency issue in case of injury.
Finally, the enigma of the defense. The Defensive backfield.
The CB lineup is as follows; Marcus Trufant, Josh Wilson, Ken Lucas, Kelly Jennings, and Roy Lewis. This group has underperformed mightily, although a good deal of responsibility for this failure rests on the DL and LB's. However, some changes will have to be made. Kelly Jennings ought to be cut. He has shown that he has little value to this team, and gets embarrassed against the division rival Cardinals on a consistent basis.
With the trade for Rasheen Mathis, the group could start Mathis and Trufant (two talented CB's who should preform better under Pete Carrol). Josh Wilson has shown himself to be capable of making plays and should be kept as the nickel CB with Ken Lucas (who could also be a nickel or a dime back). This lineup is solid, and would enable this team to fare better against the vertical attacks that have caused so many problems last year.
Without the trade going through, Leigh Bodden would be a good player to replace Rasheen Mathis in this scheme, while retaining the scheme itself. In this instance the group would start Bodden and Trufant (who, hopefully, can get their acts together under Carroll) and have Josh Wilson and Ken Lucas playing behind them. This alternative isn't bad, but is more of a contingency in the instance that the trade doesn't happen. This also leaves the CB group of the Seattle Seahawks as, set for now.
The FS / SS position is also needing an upgrade, as the Seattle pass defense was 30th in the league. There is currently Jordan Babineaux, Deon Grant, Lawyer Malloy, and Jamar Adams. Lawyer Malloy signed a 1yr deal, and thanks to these moves, will not need to be retained. There are a pair of legitimate options.
If we bring over Mathis in the trade (and therefore don't take Bodden in the FA market) then we should consider pursuing FS Nick Collins. Nick Collins is one of the top safeties in the league and is also one of the youngest. An acquisition like this would resonate with the team for years to come, as would the alternative. If the team does bring in Bodden (via FA market) then we should consider drafting Eric Berry with the #6 overall. He is likely to fall there, and is the kind of player with speed and a knack for creating turnovers. I'm not completely sold on him, which is why this (as an option) is presented IN CASE the trade doesn't happen. Although I think you'd be crazy NOT to pull the trigger on a trade like that.
So, this is simple. The safeties will be Collins / Berry and Deon Grant to start (a solid unit, capable of ball-hawking and making plays) with Jordan Babineaux and Jamar Adams at the 2nd string. This unit will be a major upgrade over our current unit without having to do Too Much...
Let me explain what I mean by that... We will have made 1 trade (Aaron Curry, Deon Branch, (possibly Patrick Kerney), and the #14 overall... to Jacksonville for the #10 overall and Rasheen Mathis.) brought in 2 free agents (Vince Wilfork OR Gabe Watson AND Nick Collins OR Leigh Bodden) and used 1 (possibly two if we take Berry) draft pick... TO FIX A BROKEN DEFENSE!!!
In terms of what this team is looking to do, get the greatest (best) impact with the least number of moves, I'd say this plan works out nicely. Each of these moves was thought through, and that is the kind of thing this team needs to be doing going forward. From where we are this year, to where THIS defense can take us, I'd say there is a lot to look forward to in 2010.
To coach Carroll, your welcome!!