10 Biggest Issues Facing the Seattle Seahawks This Offseason

Nathaniel Reeves@@njr3701Correspondent IApril 9, 2014

10 Biggest Issues Facing the Seattle Seahawks This Offseason

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    Repeating as Super Bowl champion is one of the most difficult things to do in sports, but the Seattle Seahawks have the pieces to make another run in 2014. A loaded young roster that returns the vast majority of its core players will put the Seahawks among the favorites to again lift the Lombardi Trophy next February.

    Still, the Seahawks have lost some talent during free agency. They face a number of questions in the offseason while preparing for a tough NFC West division and a host of improved contenders around the NFL. The health of Percy Harvin will always be something to watch, and the Seahawks will also be looking for some answers on both the offensive and defensive line.

    Here’s a look at the 10 biggest issues facing the Seahawks this offseason, based on how likely they are to affect Seattle’s future and the severity of the impact.

Honorable Mentions

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    Otto Gruele Jr/ Getty Images

    These didn't make the cut, but are issues to watch nonetheless

    Can Anthony McCoy get healthy? McCoy missed all of 2013 with a torn Achilles and will likely begin this season behind Zach Miller and Luke Willson on the depth chart. Still, McCoy is a gifted athlete and the Seahawks felt it was worth re-signing him to a one-year deal this offseason, so it will be interesting to see where he fits with the team.  

    What do the offseason signings bring to the team? As expected, the Seahawks weren't very active during free agency, but they did add wide receiver Taylor Price, guard Stephen Schilling and center Jorgen Hus in the past month. None of those are exactly big names, but Pete Carroll and company have turned relative unknowns into productive players multiple times before.  

    Are Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse ready to step up? With the departure of Golden Tate, Baldwin and Kearse will be moving up the depth chart. Based on the way both closed out last season, they are up for the challenge. The Seahawks have bigger issues at the wide receiver position.

10. Will Marshawn Lynch Show Signs of Decline?

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    Elaine Thompson/Associated Press

    Lynch is entering his age-28 season and has had a heavy work load the past two seasons. He is entering the age where a running back’s production can start to decline, as illustrated by the data gathered by ESPN’s Kevin Seifert about the “running back cliff.”

    We can’t know for sure until the season starts, but Lynch will be worth keeping an eye on during the offseason.

9. Can the Coaching Staff Develop Another Cornerback?

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    Seattle’s starting cornerbacks are set for next year, with Richard Sherman and Byron Maxwell forming half of the best secondary in the NFL. The losses of Brandon Browner and Walter Thurmond means the Seahawks won’t be nearly as deep at corner in 2014.

    Three of those players were homegrown by Pete Carroll, and Browner had easily the best years of his career in Seattle. It will be interesting to see if the Seahawks head coach can continue his outstanding track record of developing cornerback talent this offseason.

    Having another dependable corner to come off the bench won’t make or break the Seahawks’ season, but it would be helpful. Jeremy Lane is a potential candidate, as he will likely get the biggest increase in playing time.  

8. Which Wide Receivers in the Draft Fit?

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    It’s become impossible to predict who the Seahawks will draft under John Schneider, but it seems likely they will select a wide receiver at some point. Tate, last year’s leading receiver, is now with the Detroit Lions, and Percy Harvin’s injury history is cause for concern.

    One thing missing from the Seattle’s roster is a big, physical receiver. Kelvin Benjamin and Jordan Matthews both fit that mold and could fall to Seattle at the end of the first round. Even an athletic tight end such as Jace Amaro is a possibility.

    Another name generating some interest is Brandin Cooks. While Cooks is only 5'10", he is an electrifying athlete and ran a 4.33 40-yard dash at the combine, per NFL.com. Putting Cooks and Harvin on the same field is an intriguing possibility.  

7. Can the Seahawks Find the Right Price for Sidney Rice?

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    If the Seahawks were to select Cooks or go in some other direction, bringing back Rice becomes a more critical priority. As expected, Rice was a cap causality at the beginning of the offseason due to an ACL injury and a decrease in offensive production.  

    While Rice is no longer a No. 1 receiver, he could provide the big target that the Seahawks need. An underrated part of Rice’s game is his downfield blocking ability, a key part of Seattle’s offense. He would be worth taking a flyer on at a reduced price.

    According to ESPN's David Newton (h/t the Seattle Post-Intelligencer's Stephen Cohen), Rice hasn't generated any interest outside of Seattle, so such a deal may be a possibility.    

6. Does Anyone Get an Extension?

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    Last April, the Seahawks got an extension done with Kam Chancellor. It would not be surprising to the team do the same thing with another of its young stars before training camp begins this year.

    According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, an extension for Earl Thomas is Seattle’s “top priority” of the offseason. The  Seahawks would obviously also have be thinking about extending Richard Sherman, but all indications point to Thomas being more likely.

    Extending Thomas won’t necessarily have an impact for the coming year, but it will have a big impact on the team’s future as its multiple young stars approach free agency.

5. Who Emerges on the Defensive Line?

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    Elaine Thompson / Associated Press

    Besides wide receiver and offensive line, the defensive line appears to be the biggest question mark for the Seahawks heading into the season. The losses of Red Bryant, Chris Clemons and Clinton McDonald will have an impact on the deep rotation that Carroll likes to use at the position.

    The Seahawks do still have Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, so it’s not like the defensive line is a weakness all of a sudden. But Seattle will need some linemen to emerge during training camp to help replace the lost depth.

    One player to keep an eye on is Greg Scruggs, who missed all of last season with an ACL injury. Scruggs has bulked up to 300 pounds during the offseason, and he has the athleticism to add a versatile option on the line

    Also injured all of 2013 was 325-pound defensive tackle Jesse Williams. Williams was a monster with Alabama and could slide into Bryant’s run-stopping role, but we are yet to see him in an NFL game.

4. Can the Sophomores Step Up?

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    Young players have made key contributions in every year of the Schneider and Carroll era. The Seahawks surprisingly did not really have an impact rookie a season ago, but their 2013 draft class is a talented group that will look to excel during training camp.

    Three candidates that could have an increased role in 2014 are Willson, the aforementioned Williams and Christine Michael. Willson has incredible speed for a 252-pound tight end, as showcased in the Seahawks’ Week 14 loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Michael showed excellent downfield running ability in college and in limited preseason carries.

    Those players could help solve some of the previous issues. Willson is not a receiver, but he could be the big target the Seahawks need and is a nightmare matchup for safeties and linebackers. If Michael can work on his pass protection, he could begin to take some of the load off of Lynch and even be a punt returner. Williams has the potential to be an anchor in run defense.

3. Can the Seahawks Have Another Excellent Draft?

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    Kirby Lee / USA TODAY

    Schneider has had an incredible track record in the NFL draft since arriving in Seattle. Not only has Schneider drafted the key building blocks to a potential perennial contender, he has gotten some use of nearly every pick no matter the round.

    The Seahawks have become the most unpredictable team in the NFL in terms of the draft and will likely have some reaches or head-scratchers again this year. So far, they have worked out alright.

    Another strong draft could help resolve some of the previous depth issues while setting up Seattle’s future should it be unable to reach a new contract with Thomas, Sherman or any number of players in the next two to three years.  

2. Can Percy Harvin Stay Healthy?

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    USA Today

    After a flurry of excitement following his move to Seattle last March, Harvin was diagnosed with a labrum tear in his hip during training camp. It was unclear for an extended period of time how long the injury would last. Harvin ended up missing every game apart from one regular-season game, part of the divisional round and the Super Bowl.

    Much of Harvin’s injury history is either with his hip or is concussion-related, both of which can be long-term issues. His health will always be a concern for the Seahawks as long as he is in Seattle.

    We saw the impact Harvin can have on Seattle’s offense and special teams during his brilliant performance in the Super Bowl. His health is a bigger issue than drafting a receiver or re-signing Rice.

    Wide receiver is already the second-biggest positional concern for the Seahawks heading into 2014, and another injury to Harvin during the offseason will have a huge impact on the coming season.  

1. Where Does Help on the Offensive Line Come From?

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    Above all, the Seahawks’ biggest concern in 2014 will be pass protection from the offensive line, also the weakest part of the team a year ago. The line was obviously good enough to win a Super Bowl but will look to do a better job of protecting Russell Wilson this season.

    The Seahawks also lost Breno Giacomini, the primary starter at right tackle for much of last year. Giacomini is a flawed player, but he performed decently at the position in 2013.

    Again, the sophomores will be key. Alvin Bailey and Michael Bowie got more and more involved as the season went on, and a strong offseason for both would be reassuring. Drafting a guard, possibly even in the first round, would not be a surprise either.