The Seahawks made their free agency splash with the signing of Matt Flynn, and he’ll compete for the starting quarterback job with Tarvaris Jackson, a job he’ll almost surely win because $10 million in guaranteed money is a painful price tag for a backup quarterback.
Between Flynn and the support he’ll get from Sidney Rice and Mike Williams on the outside, and from Marshawn Lynch in the backfield, the Seahawks have an offense that’s primed to duplicate the 27.2 points per game they averaged over the last five games of 2011. It’s the other side of the ball that’s a problem, and specifically creating pressure. Seattle ranked 19th in sacks with 33 last year, despite 11 from Chris Clemons.
We talked to Keith Myers from 12th Man Rising and Kenneth Arthur from Field Gulls, and the ideal candidate in this year’s draft to help the Seahawks get the opposing quarterback on the ground more often is where our conversation began.
There’s a small gap that you’ll notice since I didn’t include one question in part of the digital conversation with Myers. I’m still trying to master this new-fangled e-mail gadget.
1. Upgrading the pass rush should be a high priority, and the Seahawks could be in prime position to draft arguably this year’s best 4-3 defensive end. Is Quinton Coples a good fit?
Myers: Coples is actually a really poor fit in Seattle. The Seahawks play a unique hybrid defense, and Couples just doesn’t fit any other spots along the defensive line. He’s too big and slow for the Leo DE spot, and too small for the 5-tech DE spot. On the Seahawks, he’d most likely end up as a pass-rush specialist 3-tech DT, or as well as a short-yardage DE on the Leo end of the line. That’s not something that you spend the 12th pick of the draft on.
Arthur: Getting a pass rusher should be the No. 1 priority for the Seahawks, although the question then becomes “what does priority really mean?” “Pass Rush” is a specific priority, but the general priority has to be “what move will make the Seahawks into a Super Bowl contender” or at least get them closer to that goal.
Just because Seattle lacks a complete pass rush, they shouldn’t reach on a player if it means passing on a much better player. If the right pass rusher is there for Seattle, then they should take him, but if they don’t have the confidence in someone like Coples they might have confidence in a linebacker or David DeCastro, and you have to take the best player available. If the players are generally neck-and-neck, though, then go with the bigger need.
Specifically on Coples, I think that unless a team sees Julius Peppers-tyle upside in him, then the “motor” issues and off-field concerns will drop him out of the top 15. There are issues with all of the pass rushers this year, and I think Seattle will either trade back or take the BPA at No. 12.
2. There’s also been a lot of discussion about Seattle’s need to improve at middle linebacker, but that was before Barrett Ruud was brought aboard after David Hawthorne left. If Luke Kuechly gets past the Chiefs where he’s widely projected, will he still be going to Seattle despite Ruud’s presence?
Myers: Ruud is insurance, but he’s not guaranteed the spot by any means. It’s actually more likely that the Seahawks move last year’s fourth-round pick, linebacker K.J. Wright, inside to the middle linebacker spot. Wright appears to be a natural fit for that position in this defense, so while he’s said that he would prefer to stay at the strong-side LB spot, the team might still choose to move him.
As for Kuechly, I’m not sure he’s what the Seahawks are looking for either. Pete Carroll said in his post-season wrap up that he wanted to get very fast at LB. Kuechly is a very smart and instinctual player, but he’s never going to be confused with someone who’s fast for his position.
Arthur: Ruud has no effect on Seattle’s decision to take a linebacker early or late, in my opinion. Ruud is a one-year option that still has to fight for a job. Hill and Wright should be entrenched as starters, but Ruud is trying to prove himself again. If Seattle is high on Kuechly then the decision to sign Ruud wasn’t made to avoid taking him, and instead it was only made to have depth, and obviously Seattle had none and they still need plenty more.
They’ll be drafting a linebacker, and I would be surprised if it wasn’t in the first three rounds.
3. What about more depth on the interior of the defensive line? It wouldn’t take much for Fletcher Cox to fall out of the top 10 and be available…
Myers: The Seahawks have paid a lot to get Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant in the past two years, and they really like Alan Branch as well. Cox would be really tempting if he fell all the way to No. 12, but I think he’d also be really tempting to another team that might be willing to give up a lot to get him. If Cox falls, it might allow the Seahawks to move back in the draft and get some additional picks.
Arthur: I would be mildly surprised if Seattle took an interior defensive lineman before the third round unless it was a dramatic drop from a prospect. Brandon Mebane, Jason Jones, Red Bryant, and Alan Branch all play inside or have the flexibility to play inside. Seattle also has re-signed Clinton McDonald. More depth needed? Sure, but you can always find some big fellas in the latter half of the draft.
4. In his MMQB column this week Peter King wrote that if Ryan Tannehill falls (which seems unlikely), the Seahawks would eagerly grab him. Is that realistic? Matt Flynn was just signed, and he’s expected to compete with Tarvaris Jackson in training camp…
Arthur: Tannehill is a possibility I’ve been suggesting that’s been shot down by more than a few fans, but it’s short-sighted to say that Seattle’s need for QB is over because they signed Flynn. They signed Flynn to a contract that’s basically only two years guaranteed. They are giving Flynn a chance, but this is not a situation in which they’re locking themselves into Flynn long-term. It’s basically a slightly fancier, more expensive version of the contract given to Jackson, with the idea that if he plays well he’ll definitely stay in Seattle.
Having two good franchise quarterbacks isn’t a problem; passing on a potential franchise QB because you just signed a guy to a nice contract even though he hasn’t proven anything yet is definitely a problem. I don’t know that Tannehill is a franchise QB, but if Pete [Carrol] and GM John [Schneider] feel that way, then I’ll buy into it., knowing that we probably won’t see him on the field before 2013.
5. Any other depth moves you’re hoping for in the later rounds?
Myers: Schneider has shown a knack for finding great talent in the later rounds. Richard Sherman last year and Kam Chancellor the year before were both fifth-round picks, and both played at a pro-bowl level this past season. They also were players that weren’t on my radar at all until they were drafted. I’ve learned not to doubt Schneider’s abilities when it comes to late round picks, and not to bother trying to predict them.
Arthur: Seattle needs a backup running back. If T-Rich fell for some reason, that would be interesting. But I’m looking more in the second and third rounds, as I don’t believe it’s smart to draft an RB that high. Many of the best in the league were taken in the second round or later. I have always been a LaMichael James fan, but I’ve got my eye on Ronnie Hillman.