BY Art Thiel 06:30AM 03/27/2014

Thiel: No way to know about Seahawks’ pursuits

As with all Super Bowl champions, the Seahawks must stand still as others pick off their feathers in free agency. They are not yet naked.

Doug Baldwin is a prime example of an edgy talent/personality the Seahawks seek. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Seahawks fans: Be you doomsayers, or pollyannas?

Doomsayers believe the predations of free agency left the roster vulnerable, beyond off-season repair and likely consumed in the fall by the hellfires of the NFC West. Pollyannas believe that the losses were mere flesh wounds, easily salved by the potions of Pete Carroll and John Schneider, who have nearly divine knowledge of football talent scorned by others.

My guess is the doomsayers moved into the lead Wednesday after news that free agent defensive end Jared Allen found a better financial deal with the Chicago Bears, failing to sufficiently value in the intangibles of the lakeside grasslands of Renton and the pitiless roar that consumes opponents foolish enough to play football downtown.

Allen was to have helped fill holes created by the departures of ends Chris Clemons and Red Bryant. Instead, he opens holes in the 12th Man’s chainmail.

In regard to the Seahawks’ ability to successfully defend their NFL championship, I will take a position rarely assumed in the instant punditry demanded in sports media industry: I can’t tell whether personnel losses, and the subsequent inability so far to back-fill from free agency, are collectively major or minor.

I would submit no one else can, either.

That’s not only because the draft isn’t until May. It’s also because no one can assign any form or template to which talents GM John Schneider or coach Pete Carroll will select, then draw out successfully.

We have seen that they can do it. But observable metrics, and even a vigorous divining of intangibles prior to the fact, cannot plumb the mysteries of Seahawks talent acquisitions.

Sure, some have been no-brainers: Earl Thomas, Russell Okung, Golden Tate. Others had proven themselves in the NFL: Marshawn Lynch, Zach Miller, Chris Clemons.

But finding two Pro Bowl defensive backs with fifth-round picks in Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman? Getting another Pro Bowler, Brandon Browner, out of Canada? Snatching Breno Giacomini off the Packers’ practice squad, and grabbing Michael Robinson after the 49ers cut him?

Then there is, of course, Angry Doug Baldwin, the metaphor for all things dime-store about the Seahawks selections: An undrafted free agent who wakes up mad and gets hotter as the day progresses. Not to mention Malcolm Smith, the Super Bowl MVP who was a seventh-round selection in the 2011 draft.

All splendid successes.

Yet the Carroll/Schneider system is hardly perfect: They have expended first-round draft picks on James Carpenter and Bruce Irvin and a second-rounder on Christine Michael, and spent millions on free agent quarterbacks Charlie Whitehurst and Matt Flynn.

Followers of the Seahawks know the story well: Carroll and Schneider are willing to gamble on guys with unusual, specific talents who may have screwed up or otherwise have an itchy-burn to disprove naysayers.

The Seahawks made a move two months ago already long forgotten: They signed out of the CFL Chris Matthews, a 6-5, 220-pound receiver who was the CFL’s rookie of the year in 2012 out of Kentucky from Los Angeles, where Carroll knew him from high school. I have no idea if he can be made into NFL caliber. If he can, I suspect Carroll knows how to push the buttons.

A guy doesn’t win two national titles in college and one in the NFL without knowing how to help people reach their full potential.

Nevertheless, Matthews is a relative unknown, and the Seahawks will need to fill their roster holes with many of similar mysterious pedigree, because knowns, like Jared Allen, have options to get more money elsewhere.

Fifteen point five million dollars guaranteed for a soon-to-be 32-year-old defender in the NFL is sweetness defined. Congratulations to him. Under the salary cap with big salaries to pay on the horizon, the Seahawks weren’t going to match the Bears’ offer.

According to overthecap.com, the Seahawks are $15.2 million under the $133 million cap for 2014. Giving half of that to Allen would have limited their ability to plug other holes from free agency losses, and giving him a second year, as did the Bears, would have made it worse in 2015 for paying Earl Thomas, Richard Sherman and Russell Wilson.

The Seahawks will make a priority of replacing the two losses on the offensive line: Giacomini and Paul McQuistan. In seventh-round pick Michael Bowie and undrafted Alvin Bailey, they may have them in house already. Both showed promise in a Super Bowl season, and they have the requisite Baldwin-esque mad-ons.

But their progress awaits training camp, as does the case for in-house defensive linemen Greg Scruggs and Jesse Williams, both hurt last year and both capable of providing the D-line depth Carroll cherishes.

As for now, there are no answers, no grades, as a team that already reached the pinnacle gets picked apart. So feel free to weep or cheer about this time on the NFL calendar, but a shrug is not only legal, it’s wise.

 


YourThoughts

  • RadioGuy

    Yes, the Seahawks have suffered quite a few losses to free agency, but most of those players are replaceable and if Schneider and Carroll have proven anything, it’s that they know how to find guys OTHER teams found expendable who can help them. Seattle has become a magnet for players who’ve been passed over elsewhere for one reason or another because they know they’ll get a fair shot here. Between the draft and the training camp waiver wire, I’m not overly concerned.

    • art thiel

      Stamped on the 12′s foreheads: “In Pete We Trust.”

  • Matt712

    It is the team’s depth that has taken the hit. The Seahawks had the luxury of starting-caliber talent in backup roles and/or playing much less than every down.

    I think Scneider and Caroll saw most of the ablation coming since last year. To wit, their biggest cast off IMO (both figuratively and literally) was Red Bryant, and that was self inflicted. If big #79 can be adequately replaced, and I don’t see anything wrong with Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril getting more than 57% of the snaps (nor, do I suspect, will they), the D-line should be good to go and perhaps less ‘platooning’ going on.

    On the other side of the line, the player I most hated to see leave was not Golden Tate; it was Breno Giacomini. Big, mean, and finally playing more mistake-free on the trouble right side.

    But overall, call me a ‘Pollysayer’ or a ‘Dommyana’ …I think the Hawks will field a starting lineup every bit as good as last season’s. beyond that is where it gets murky. I think team health will be a much bigger factor in 2014. So yeah, Art, it is too early to tell. And 8 games into the season, it may still be too early to tell.

    • Jeff Shope

      Y I’ll miss “the big russian” as lynch calls him tate can go steal donuts in detroit

      • art thiel

        I keep telling people Lynch is highly quotable.

    • art thiel

      Pollysayer and Doomyana . . . very good. I hope the fence you’re stradding isn’t barbed wire.

  • http://www.t-sides.com TaylorTSides

    Exactly, Art. If there’s anything PC & JS have proven, it’s their ability to pull guys out of nowhere and help them find the way to becoming quality players. I’m not concerned.

    • art thiel

      You go, Polly.

      • http://www.t-sides.com TaylorTSides

        The way I figure it, they got us the Lombardi… no reason to doubt them just yet!

  • notaboomer

    jared allen really just came to seattle to see if paul is his birth father. and the only thing that’s certain is that football causes brain damage. (paul to jared: “no, jared, i’m your faaaather.”)

    • Bob Rhodes

      Props!! LMAO!!!

    • art thiel

      And P. Allen has a center for brain science. His players should request a seat now.

  • Joe Fan

    In Pete and John I wholeheartedly trust. Can’t wait for the draft where I believe we have 7 picks. I’m hoping the CFL guy will be a huge pick up at wide receiver, and Deshawn Shead looks like an up and coming, big corner. I’m really looking forward to seeing what last year’s injured and practice squad players can do this year to help the team. If guys like Allen want to go for the big bucks somewhere else – can’t blame them and se la vie. We are smart not to overpay.

    • art thiel

      Financial discipline is mandatory, but hard to do in a win-now culture. But Carrioll has never wavered in its value.

  • Brian

    Willing to gamble on guys with unusual, specific talents who may have screwed up or otherwise have an itchy-burn to disprove naysayers >>>> Kenny Britt!!

    • art thiel

      Or would you prefer LeSean Jackson?

      • Brian

        Britt would be about 1/3 of the price. Limited upside compared to DJax but just as many question marks

  • jafabian

    Several mock drafts that I’ve seen online are saying FSU’s Kelvan Benjamin will be avaialble when the Hawks draft. He’s a 6′ 5″ WR with good speed however average hands. Might be a downgrade from Golden Tate but maybe Pete can fix that if they can get him.

    Getting Allen would have been great but I think the OLine needs more attention. They still have Bennett, Avrill, Mebane, McDaniel and others. But they’ve lost two starters from an OLine that was having problems throughout the season. IMO, that should be addressed first.

    • art thiel

      Agreed. O-line comes first. They have a better chance of filling D-line from within.

  • Jeff Shope

    we didn’t lose anybody we couldn’t afford to

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    a shrug is not only legal, it’s wise.

    Good words of advice. As Art alluded to in some of his points there are hidden gems in the waiting as in waiting for playing time. It wil play out in training camp and we will be treated to the 2014 version of the Seattle Seahawks.Chances are we will like that version , too. Comforting is the fact that there is no Steve Hutchinson the sky is falling squack going on among the fan faithful after this super bowl… we lost guys that can be replaced. Watch Pete and John prove that.

    • art thiel

      Yeah, I don’t see Schneider making a Ruskellian-level mistake a la Hutchinson.

  • Bruce McDermott

    I think that implying Christine Michael was a bad pick is a tad premature… Irvin isn’t lighting the house on fire. Carpenter is the closest to a mistake among those three.

    Charlie Whitehurst probably takes the cake, though. He cost the Hawks a third rounder. Of course, so did Wilson…

    • art thiel

      You’re right, Michael isn’t yet a mistake. They didn’t need him yet, although he’s been mistake prone in practice. Inexperience.