Seattle Seahawks' Complete 2011 Offseason Report Card

Charlie TodaroAnalyst IIIAugust 1, 2011

Seattle Seahawks' Complete 2011 Offseason Report Card

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    Another year, same story. Drastic turnover to the Seahawks' roster and coaching staff.

    Their offseason has been a wild ride to this point, creating widespread buzz about the direction of the team.

    The organization, as usual, feels good about their transactions and believe they are on the way up. Though the team is younger, there is a focus on having another strong season. 

    Now, as we are fully immersed in free-agent madness and rosters are becoming full for training camp, it's time to look back at the offseason and see how Seattle got here, and where the program is going.

Coaching Changes

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    The Seahawks were aggressive making changes to the coaching staff with big signings on offense and electing to let more inexperienced coaches take control of the defense

    Assistant head coach/offensive line coach Tom Cable brings an attitude that will permeate throughout the team.

    Cable brings the approach and philosophy that Seattle lacked when Alex Gibbs retired during camp in 2010 and new offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell brings the balance that Jeremy Bates lacked in his approach as well as a different personalities to run the offense.

    A power, zone-based running game and a West Coast passing attack are changes made to further align Carroll and the offensive philosophy he wants in Seattle.

    Carroll has been clear from the beginning that it's important they are both speaking the same football language. Add former Patriots—with Carroll—and Trojans QB coach Carl Smith into the mix and Seattle has an experienced, innovative staff in place on offense.   

    The defensive changes carried a different tune, an NFL-unproven group. Todd Wash was brought in to fill the whole left by the departure of Dan Quinn, and Kris Richard and Rocky Seto were promoted to secondary/defensive backs and defensive backs/safeties coach, respectively, though Seto reportedly face-booked himself out of a job at UCLA.

    Wash and defensive coordinator Gus Bradley's football relationship has spanned more than two decades, first as defensive teammates; then Wash succeeded Bradley in multiple positions, as both an NCAA and NFL coach, finally coming to Seattle. 

    The expertise of linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. and the staff should help the continuity of the front seven, as Seattle looks to further their hybrid 4-3, under front.  

    Richard was responsible for the pick-six Carroll believes turned around the USC program. Seto came from USC with Carroll.

    They both understand the Carroll lingo and have experience working with a young group. The deep safety is Carroll's former football position, and he called the secondary play "shabby, at times" in 2010. This will be an area he will want to really improve going forward.

    Overall Grade: B+ 

Pre Lockout Re-Signings and Futures Contracts

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    The Seahawks made Matt Hasselbeck a main priority heading into the offseason, and we know how that story ended.

    On the other hand, the organization did make a few moves to sure up loose ends of the programs' core in all three phases of the game. 

    Isaiah Stanback, WR

    He's been working vigorously to rehab from his ACL injury and was the first Seahawk at HQ when the doors opened. I highlighted him previously as a veteran who could step up in camp, a hard working, locker room-leader by example type. 

    Roy Lewis, CB

    He was special teams captain and a solid sub package corner in 2010. He ended the season on IR, but his leadership and improving on field play was more than enough reason to bring him back on a one year deal. 

    Kennard Cox, CB

    Cox was strong on special teams in 2010—blocking a punt—and still has yet to develop as a corner. Seattle likely brought him back as insurance for a young group of corners and to play a role on special teams. His cheap contract also makes him expendable.   

    Leon Washington, RB

    The Seahawks pre lockout splash; his attitude, athleticism, versatility and a hunger to win—for a negotiable price of four years, $12.5 million, up to $16 million with incentives but only $3.5 guaranteed—will be an asset for the Seahawks, hopefully in a more expanded and explosive role, now nearing two years removed from his leg injury. 

    The following players were signed to futures deals before the lockout, and remain with the team: Brandon Browner (DB), Jay Alford (DT), Caz Piurowski (OL), Dominique Byrd (TE), A.J. Schable (DE), Dominique Edison (WR), Chris Carter (WR), Patrick Williams (WR), Paul McQuistan (OL)

    Browner is a three-time CFL All-Star and is a player I've highlighted this offseason as a contender for playing time. Alford won a Super Bowl with the Giants but has struggled since with injuries; he could see playing time on a thin line. Piurowski is a tight end, converting to tackle. Byrd played for Carroll at USC.

    Beyond those four, it's unclear who will remain with the team, or if they will play a role. Contributions from one or two—notably the first two—would be an unexpected boost to the depth chart.

    Overall Grade: B- 

Draft and Undrafted Free Agents

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    After the draft, I gave the organization a B, with an upside of B+/A- for their draft weekend efforts.

    Their staunch committment to getting better on the offensive line in days one and two complemented a defense heavy day three. Toughness, strength and size on offense; athleticism, versatility and intelligence on defense.

    Seattle turned heads with their offbeat approach but found players that fill specific roles. On the end of day three, the organization was pleased with their 2011 draft results. 

    Where do these players fit in 2011?

    James Carpenter, OT (Rd. 1): The powerful, durable tackle can play four positions along the line but is slated to start at right tackle.

    John Moffitt, OG (Rd. 3): Moffitt can play left guard and center but is slated to start next to Carpenter. He is a road paver in running game and a tone setter in the trenches.

    K.J. Wright, LB (Rd. 4): A versatile, smart, hard working player. He could see time in a variety of roles but could see more time at the strong side linebacker spot if Aaron Curry's role is altered.

    Kris Durham, WR (Rd. 4): 6'5" size, deep speed, strong hands, strong work ethic. Durham could make an impact if he can gain playing time on a crowded receiving corps. 

    Richard Sherman, CB (Rd. 5): Carroll tried to recruit him to USC, then was successful the second time around in Seattle. Length, athleticism, toughness and IQ make him an attractive option as a developmental corner. 

    Mark LeGree, S (Rd. 5): A combination safety that could compete for time at both spots and bring versatility to the secondary, notably allowing Earl Thomas to play a more versatile role. 

    Byron Maxwell, DB (Rd, 6): A safety converted to corner, he is big, strong, physical and fast and a special teams maven. He will help bring physicality to a young secondary.

    Pep Levingston, DL (Rd, 7): He can play with both hands down, a team-first player. His experience against big time competition was also a factor. 

    Malcolm Smith, LB (Rd, 7): An extremely athletic weakside linebacker. He has experience with Carroll and linebacker coach Ken Norton Jr. at USC. So far, he's seizing the opportunities given to him in camp. 

    I highlighted the majority of Seattle's undrafted players here. Since then, they've brought in middle linebackers Neal Howey and Blake Sorenson.

    Though Seattle missed out on some premier undrafted players, they did sign a balanced group with a handful of potential contributors.

    Twenty-two players total, to fill 22 unrestricted free agents' spots? Not exactly but a strong effort to find talent.

    Overall Grade: B   

Re-Signings

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    The Seahawks made a few major re-signings, but the new regime appears to be continuing the full-fledged roster turnover, job security for some long-time Seahawks clearly in question though 17 old regime players remain (with the signing of Jennings).

    Here's who the team has re-signed, so far.   

    Michael Robinson, FB

    "M-Rob" is a versatile team leader and a special teams presence. His re-signing has greater importance with the loss of other higher salary team leaders. There is a chance he is not the team's only backfield blocker, depending on how the younger players perform in camp.

    Brandon Mebane, DT 

    The 26-year-old tackle will now help anchor a massive defensive line, potentially in a featured role. If he moves around more in 2011, his production could increase.

    Seattle didn't break the bank—five years, $25 million—and this re-signing became more imperative as free agency went on.

    Matt Mccoy, LB 

    A strong special teamer and will be depth at linebacker for a minimum salary. If he makes the roster over a large group of athletic, first-year linebackers.

    Leroy Hill, LB

    Hill's past few seasons have been up and down with a trip to the IR in 2010 coupled with off-field disicplinary problems. With the loss of Will Herring, Seattle brought Hill back believing those personal issues are behind him.

    He could challenge at weakside linebacker, and Carroll is looking forward to seeing him on the field.

    Junior Siavii, DL

    He played decently as a depth player last season. His attitude and ability to play multiple spots helps Seattle build their rotation. A smart move.

    Kelly Jennings, CB

    This move was reported this morning and comes as somewhat of a surprise. Seattle needed experience, but Jennings didn't appear to be an ideal fit as a starter in 2010. Do they see him as a sub-package corner? 

    Tyler Polumbus (OL)

    Polumbus was a restricted free agent. Now signed, he provides depth at multiple positions.

    Overall Grade: B/B-

Seahawks That Have Been Released or Remain Free Agents

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    The story here is the departure of mainstays on both sides of the ball. During his interview John Schneider described the rest of free agency as a process, noting that the second and third waves are still yet to come.

    However, Seattle's roster is nearing its capacity. Most 2010 players who haven't re-signed likely won't.  

    Matt Hasselbeck, QB

    Hasselbeck is not fit for the style of play the Seahawks are looking to implement, as evidenced by the addition of Tarvaris Jackson.

    I offered some thoughts on Hasselbeck's departure earlier last week. While some wished he would stay, there was a case to be made for both sides.

    The team could miss his leadership, but his departure was the only way the team could move onto the future, especially if the two sides couldn't come to common terms.

    Based on his play the past few seasons, Seattle may not miss him much. Off the field, he'll be missed greatly by teammates, staff and much of the 12th man. The jury will be out on this move for a couple of years.  

    Lofa Tatupu, LB (released)

    Earlier in the offseason, I brought up the possibility that Lofa could indeed move on from Seattle if there was no way to restructure his deal, especially if the emerging David Hawthorne received an opportunity in camp to gain the starting job.

    I'll admit, I wasn't expecting the "mutual" parting. Tatupu was still the general on defense and keeping him around for a reduced rate made sense.

    But, Seattle ultimately made another future oriented move; they didn't belabor the decision in deciding the middle linebacker of the future, and as of now, Hawthorne is beginning a one year audition to prove he can man the middle for years to come. Personally, I believe he deserves this opportunity.

    I think Seattle made a bold decision in releasing Tatupu, but I give the organization credit for starting the future on both sides of the ball.

    They realized the talent waiting in the wings at linebacker, also understanding another unhealthy season for Lofa—still recovering from his knee surgeries—would be detrimental to the defense.   

    Stacy Andrews, OL (released)

    This is a move I was not surprised by. A player I've consistently highlighted this offseason as one potentially on the way out. His poor play in 2010, injury history and $5.25 million cap number for 2011 created a recipe for release and the acquisition of Robert Gallery.

    Olindo Mare, K

    Mare previously said he would give the Seahawks a hometown discount, but Carolina offered him $3 million a year over four years, and Seattle believed they couldn't match the offer.

    He was among the NFL's most consistent kickers the past three seasons, but his value on kickoffs could be limited by the new kickoff rules. If Seattle is competitive in 2011, this move could become more and more under the microscope as the season progresses. 

    Chris Spencer, C

    A former first-round pick and career Seahawk who never quite lived up to lofty expectations. Spencer was not expected back in Seattle, and he signed with Chicago over the weekend. 

    Will Herring, LB

    A former fifth-rounder, Herring has provided consistent leadership and attitude on special teams, as well as depth at multiple linebacker spots. He played a lot for Seattle in their "big" Nickel package in 2010, and the team was hoping to retain him, for the right price.

    He ended up leaving for New Orleans and a three-year deal. As noted, his departure played a role in the signing of Hill. Not a main role player but a secondary leader who needs to be adequately replaced. 

    Still on the market: Jordan Babineaux (S), Lawyer Milloy (S), Sean Locklear (OT), Brandon Stokley (WR), Ruvell Martin (WR), Craig Terrill (DL), Jay Richardson (DL), Raheem Brock (DE), J.P. Losman (QB), Chester Pitts (OL), Ray Willis (OL)

    Overall grade: B-/B 

Free-Agent Signings

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    The Seahawks went into free agency with a lot of money to spend and plenty of questions to address.

    Which direction to go at quarterback, youth or experience at left guard, where do the priorities lie on defense and more.

    So far, Seattle has made a strong effort in acquiring guys who raise the upside of the program but has also taken decent risks in making those moves.

    Overall, it's been a week of big-splash signings and mostly players that will likely start full time in 2011.

    Tarvaris Jackson, QB

    Heading into free agency I explored the prospects of T-Jax to Seattle and why it made sense. Not as a sure-fire plan to find the quarterback of the future but rather to create a strong competition at the position.

    Jackson signed for two years, $8 million, nearly the same price as Whitehurst. 

    Whitehurst had the job to open camp, but just a day later, Carroll named Jackson the starter. Whitehurst still needs to learn the system, so Jackson brings more continuity to the offense.

    Whitehurst will get his chance to "compete" once he's learned the offense. 

    Jackson has good feet, a strong arm and potential. John Schneider believes Jackson can thrive in the positive environment created by Pete Carroll, as he mentioned on Seattle radio last Friday.

    Schneider mentioned he has first hand experience with young quarterbacks getting "Favred" and understands it's a tough situation for a young player to encounter.

    Seattle gave up no picks and top-dollar backup compensation for what appeared to be their No. 1 choice and current starter. A low to medium risk, high reward manner to move on from Matt Hasselbeck.    

    Sidney Rice, WR

    If healthy, Rice brings everything to the table. Catching radius, leaping ability, ball skills, strong hands.

    But, he's played only one full NFL season. A history of knee injuries before his breakout 2009 and micro-fracture hip surgery shortened his 2010. 

    As I noted last week, Seattle didn't need to make this strong of a move at a deep position for a player with injury concerns, but, I acknowledge this is type of go big or go home, championship move Carroll will inevitably make for Seattle.

    Rice also has the flash to urge a fan base to see the upside of losing Hasselbeck.

    The organization's aggression is commendable, but it's a bit disconcerting their new "franchise" receiver has shown his downside more than his upside during his career.   

    With all of their cap room, Seattle had the chance to make a major risk/reward signing—for five years—that could pay major dividends down the road.

    Robert Gallery, OG

    With the connections to Tom Cable and Cable's trust in Gallery, this signing was not unexpected. The fact that it was for three years and speculated to be for a non-premier price is a plus, and Seattle has given themseleves a leader up front.

    Durability has been a question, his play suffering at times the past two years as a result.  When healthy, he is a powerful blocker on the left side. If not able to stay healthy, his attitude and experience should still have a positive effect on the group as a whole. 

    Alan Branch, DL

    A monster, space eating lineman with the versatility to play across the defensive line, the addition of Branch—with the re-signing of Mebane—is a big move for Seattle, no pun intended.

    Carroll on Branch, “He’s a unique body type. He’s a monster of a guy (6'5", 330). It was really difficult to find that guy in the draft, (so) all from the draft on we’ve been looking for this guy to come to us, because we thought he had the ability to give us that dual role.”

    I noted heading into last week the signings on the defensive line would begin to bring clarity toward what we can expect up front in 2011. The signings could give a hint toward potential wrinkles in an evolved defensive scheme.

    More on this later. 

    Ryan Sims, DT

    A top-10 pick in 2002 by Kansas City, he signed a four-year, $8 million extension after the 2008 season with Tampa. His stint starting in '07, and he was released after six games in 2010.

    Sims looks the role of more depth at the nose or 5-tech, his experience with new defensive line coach Todd Wash likely contributed to the signing. Sims looks to be an experienced camp body, for now.

    He's produced marginally in the past, but can he show enough to remain with the program into the season?

    Note: this signing is yet to be officially confirmed by Seattle. 

    Brandon Coutu, K

    Coutu was drafted by the Seahawks in the 2008. A premier college kicker, he was unable to beat out Olindo Mare for the job.

    Now, Mare is gone, and Seattle needs a kicker. Coutu has a strong leg and converted 79 percent or more of his kicks in all three years with more than 10 field goal attempts at Georgia. A smart, cheap pickup by Seattle.

    Overall Grade: B 

    Update: Seattle has since signed TE Zach Miller and DE Jimmy Wilkerson. These signings raise the grade to B+/A-.

12 Thoughts to Carry Forward

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    Heading into the offseason, Seattle had many concerns to address. Even after a successful draft, key positions still remained unfilled.

    Last week I highlighted eight post-lockout priorities for the Seahawks.

    Now, through about one week of free agency and NFL business, the picture is beginning to gain clarity. Injury concerns, roster changes and role tweaking are all beginning to occur, and coaches are getting long awaited answers.

    Here is a general list of thoughts and concerns I am watching going forward into preseason. 

    1. Pete Carroll referred to Leon Washington as "just surviving" when trying to go through camp last year coming off his surgery. Now, he's in "full flow, full speed."

    This is big for Seattle. He had 151 carries his rookie year and his catches increased from 25 to 36 to 47 his first three years before injury. Get him involved in the passing game, interior screen game and as an all down running threat. 

    2. Lineage continues to matter for the Seahawks as they build. Tom Cable brings in his veteran offensive lineman, and Darrell Bevell brought in his quarterback, who then helped recruit their receiver.

    Three of Seattle's four big free-agent acquisitions have strong ties to the new coordinators. Not just Carroll has the power to bring in preferred players.

    I like the balance of power being displayed here; Carroll appears to trust his new staff.

    3. As always, Mike Williams helps shed light on the effects of the new offensive coaches. In this interview he talked about how Tom Cable got up during the first offensive meeting and set the tone, in terms of the attitude he wants from the offense.

    Williams also said he noticed the receivers working better with Bevell and his staff than they did with Bates and Co. These coaching changes are making a difference.       

    4.The Seahawks moved on from Matt Hasselbeck and Lofa Tatupu; the new regime is continuing to show that they are willing to make bold decisions and take the public backlash.

    Some fans were OK with Hasselbeck leaving, but the Tatupu release happened abruptly. The Seahawks are continuing to ignore the "white noise" of pundits and stick to their plan.

    It's a championship-building mentality. 

    5. Continuing on the championship building theme, it's becoming ever more clear that the Seahawks are following the youth building, Packer-like model.

    But as expected, Schneider has proven to be more aggressive in free agency. Mike Sando broke down teams by age (through July 29), and Seattle was second youngest to Tampa Bay.   

    6. The presence of Mebane and Branch—Carroll's previous comments about Branch's uniqueness are relevant here—with a healthy Bryant, can add a wrinkle to the defense.

    The Seahawks are massive on the interior, potentially scheme versatile because of it. Before the draft, I explored the improvement a massive, Red Bryant like lineman at the 3-tech could bring for Seattle to sandwich around Cole or whoever starts at nose.

    The wrinkle I mentioned as an oddball idea was a "46" type package. Then, Seattle clearly still in need of some major parts to execute the idea. 

    6A. Seattle now has some of those parts. They are big on the interior line, tipping the scales near half a ton with the big three up front.

    Seattle has a group of fast, versatile linebackers and big safeties that can be used interchangeably around the line. The focus has been on acquiring big, physical conrerbacks that can disrupt the offense and buy the rest of the defense time.

    Now, Seattle has a heat-seeking, young middle linebacker.

    The "Bandit" package surprised in 2010. If Seattle can find a way to use three massive lineman to eat space and Aaron Curry as a roaming pressure package, Seattle has built an athletic group in the back seven to begin tinkering with.

    Does the "Bandit" get a brother in 2011? 

12 Thoughts to Carry Forward Continued and Final Grade

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    7. During his interview, John Schneider called it cliche but true. Football is a big person game, and games are won and lost in the trenches.

    Furthermore, the addition of Tom Cable was the first move in reshaping the toughness and culture within the building. The win forever philosophy—we'll touch on this video in a later article—theoretically works better with more proficient facilitation of the principles.

    Seattle expects tremendous changes up front because of Cable's hiring and the effects of a Cable veteran on the line. The question is how quickly can the line gel? 

    8. For now, the quarterback competition isn't really a competition. But, there are other competitions to note. During his interview, Schneider said Seattle would re-evaluate over the weekend, but they were currently pleased with Brandon Browner—seeing first team reps—and Walter Thurmond.

    Does Seattle stay young in the secondary? Browner is no rookie and Thurmond feels back to 100 percent. They appear confident with Thomas, Kam Chancellor and Co. in the safety spots. Do they remain confident? 

    9. David Hawthorne gets his shot. He has big shoes to fill but was lucky enough to have been taught by a "selfless" leader in Tatupu.

    Hawthorne would not be in position to take this job without the help of Tatupu. Hawthorne proved in 2009 to be capable dropping in zone and his underneath coverage has improved.

    He is a punishing middle linebacker, and his move to the middle opens the competition on the weakside between Leroy Hill, Malcolm Smith and whoever else steps up.

    10. Camp is now pretty much full, Seattle is two players short of 90 based on the current roster.

    As I talked about last week, Seattle needed to make sure they trimmed the roster to get the most out of the free agency period.

    Tatupu's $6.116 million cap number is now gone.  They would be wise to find a versatile veteran for the linebacking corps. They also need help at the Leo spot. Where do they go next?

    11. Is Whitehurst going to get a shot to start? Though Carroll said he would compete with Jackson once up to speed with the offense, is Carroll willing to play flip flop the quarterback all season, especially if Jackson starts hot?

    If Jackson can assume command of the offense and build a rapport with the receivers, it may be his job to lose. But if he has trouble gelling with his new targets, does Whitehurst get his long awaited chance?

    This is a fluid situation, but it can't become an uncertain one. 

    12. How does the team handle this fast paced overhaul? Are any other old regime Seahawks gone?

    The organization appears focused on remaining competitive, as it's the simple nature of Carroll's always energetic, optimistic attitude.

    It's hard to predict success when both the offensive and defensive quarterbacks are being replaced, but neither quarterback comes into the position inexperienced and unfamiliar with the scheme either.

    The effort of the organization and the belief in the program mentality appear to be coming together to form a more well oiled machine than in year one. 

    Carroll has his guys geared up for a special season, but the downside is a major thud if they fall from atop the division. To remedy that potential fall, they have been aggressive this offseason and remained consistent in their approach towards improving for the future. 

    A solid draft and undrafted free-agent class. Decisive, bold proceedings at quarterback and linebacker.

    The continued effort at building continuity through coaching changes and free agency, especially through a rapid transition are all reasons to believe Seattle will continue to implement a unique plan as Carroll and Schneider try to bring a championship to Seattle.


    Seattle's current overall grade, B

    This team is not a finished product, nowhere near it. But they have a bold belief in building their vision. The offseason has brought them one step closer to becoming a contender in the years to come.