BY Art Thiel 03:46PM 03/02/2018

Thiel: Seahawks makeover fun? So says GM

GM John Schneider talks about the “fun” challenge of remaking the Seahawks with limited resources, perhaps including a trade of Michael Bennett.

GM John Schneider and coach Pete Carroll are plotting the greatest makeover of their Seahawks tenure. /

John Schneider’s view of fun may differ from the view held by many, unless you think that walking across the swamp on the backs of alligators is a hoot. On the other hand, the Seahawks general manager’s multiple uses Friday of the phrase “fun,” to describe the attempt to recover from 2017’s plummet from the NFL summit, may signal a bit of  post-traumatic stress.

I’m guessing the latter.

“We entered training camp thinking we were a damn good football team,” he told reporters Thursday at the interview podium at the annual NFL combine in Indianapolis. “Didn’t see ourselves going 9-7 . . . We’re pretty disappointed the way the season ended. We went 9-7, and you’d have thought we’d won two games. It sits in your stomach.

“We feel excited about the challenges ahead. We want to get rolling on it.”

Part of the “excitement” includes breaking in six new assistant coaches, including both coordinators, only $14 million of space currently under the salary cap and no choices in the second and third rounds of the April draft, a result of emergency trades in 2017.

It’s a definition of excitement only Pete Carroll could love.

“We went for it,” he said of the deals that brought DT Sheldon Richardson and LT Duane Brown at high cost in the draft. “We always will. It’s a kind of fun challenge — how do we compensate for that?”

One way might be a trade of DE Michael Bennett for draft choice(s). ESPN cited an anonymous source Friday saying the Seahawks are looking to move Bennett, who will be 33 next season and is coming off an injury-hampered 2017.

As Carroll did the day before in Indianapolis, Schneider skirted the topic of Bennett’s future, which suggests that they’re ready to move on from one the team’s core players, who also made himself into a national figure with his candor and humor.

“I was reading about that last night,” Schneider said. “We don’t get into people’s contracts. I understand why that’s out there. This combine has developed a lot like the baseball meetings. I’ve been in meetings the whole time.”

Which is GM-speak for: Yes, we seek to move him.

A trade would save Seattle $2.2 million against the cap, but with two years left on his deal, it seems unlikely that a team would part with a high draft pick, or any pick at all if they believe the Seahawks are willing to cut him.

Schneider made it clear the Seahawks wanted to return to the top shelf and will consider everything.

“Part of our challenge now is sustaining the level of success we’ve had,” he said. “We’re open to anything. We’re going to be open to every deal. You don’t want to miss any opportunity. That’s how we built this thing; that’s how we’re going to continue to build it.”

That’s not really anything new with the Seahawks, but context is everything. This is the first time in the Carroll-Schneider era that the combination of aging, expensive veterans and an absence of younger replacements creates a roster low on peak-career producers.

In a wordy sort of way, Schneider acknowledged the obvious lack of quality drafts recently, but also defended himself by saying his first drafts provided immediate starters that precluded playing time for more recent draftees.

“It’s a fun re-set,” he said, with a straight face. “How did we get here? We got here drafting players and putting them on the field (right away). It’s been hard over our last several drafts — don’t get me wrong, we haven’t made some great decisions, the best decisions in certain situations, I don’t think anybody does — it’s been hard (for more recent draftees) to get out there, especially on defense.

“We played young players right away . . . it’s a challenge to put (younger guys) out there. Nobody’s talking about (2017 DB draftees) Delano Hill or Tedric Thompson, but those guys are good football players. No disrespect to the guys we’ve drafted in the past, but it’s been hard for those guys to get out there.

“(Our draftees) now are saying, ‘Wow, I get to play with Kam Chancellor.’ (No) you get to compete with Kam Chancellor. That’s the mindset we got to get back to. They’re a little bit in awe. They were in eighth grade” when the Seahawks rose to prominence.

Another way to put it is the Seahawks defense became older and more injured nearly at once, and unproven players could be asked to fill several spots in the fall.

One guy the Seahawks would like to keep is Richardson, acquired from the Jets to fill in for the colossal bust of Malik McDowell, the top 2017 draft choice who missed all of last season with a severe concussion following a summertime ATV accident.

But since Schneider said they have no plans to place a franchise tag on Richardson (one year salary cost: $14 million), he will be an unrestricted free agent likely to draw interest from several teams.

Schneider said he wants to keep all of Seattle’s top free agents, including WR Paul Richardson, TE Luke Willson and LG Luke Joeckel, but the lack of cap room — unless Seattle moves an expensive veteran — precludes doing much to keep up with the market.

On the personal side, Schneider said there was nothing to the notion right after the season that he would bolt Seattle to fill the GM vacancy of his hometown team, the Green Bay Packers.

“I understood what was going on —  it’s natural (speculation), what happens at the end of every year,” he said. “We love it in Seattle, and we’ve create a high standard there . . . The city and the Northwest have embraced everything we want to do. We love where we’re at, and jacked about what’s going on.”

But he was less than jacked about having to fire coordinators Darrell Bevell and Kris Richard, as well as line coach Tom Cable, who helped the Seahawks reach two Super Bowls.

“It’s not fun; it’s part of our business,” he said. “They’re all really good people who worked their tails off. We’ve accomplished great things together, talked about a lot of things together.

“It just seemed like it was time, not that any one of those coaches can’t do something. It’s more about how do we move forward to the next level.”

Despite the changes to date, it remains unclear how the Seahawks, with such constrained resources, propose to move (back) to the next level. That must be the part about walking on alligators.



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  • ll9956

    My gut tells me it’s time to move Bennett. He’s a great player who has made extremely valuable contributions to the Seahawks. But his offside penalty tendency is quite damaging and as Art points out, he’s coming up on age 33. I believe he’s past his peak.

    Since Malik McDowell has yet to play a single snap, he may become a contributor–if he’s able to play.

    • Chris Alexander

      If McDowell had played this season, I’d be okay with the idea tht he “may become a contributor” but, at this point, it’s more likely that he’ll never play a down for the team than that he’ll become a contributor that can even start to THINK about reaching Bennett’s level. I get that the team may need to move on but I hope and pray that they’re not putting even one egg in the “maybe Malik can contribute” basket.

      • art thiel

        I think they’re resigned to thinking of any contribution from him will be a bonus, not an expectation.

        • John M

          Kind of in the same category as Schneider’s remarks about this being a “fun” time and the miracle is just around the blind corner of April . . .

    • art thiel

      McDowell remains no factor in their plans, and the departures of Bennett/Avril will leave holes too large to fill in one off-season. Which is why I don’t quite get Schneider calling it a “fun challenge.”

  • coug73

    Players and workers are commodities that need to be factored into the cost of business.

    • art thiel

      And your point is . . .

    • Tman

      That’s why college football is so profitable for the NFL. Owners pay nothing for their minor leagues (NCAA Schools).

      Once again, taxpayers are played for saps by business owners. This time it’s the billionaire owners of NFL Teams. NCAA schools are Taxpayer supported, are they not?

      It is easy to see why slavery is popular among business owners and sports monopolies.

      It is healthy for the bottom line when your hired help works for free, albeit against their will. Business owners in the South sent their sons to war to save slavery.

      It’s taken 150 years, but slavery is making a comeback.*

      * See: the NCAA, Private Prisons and a White House littered with unelected mobsters, bankers, oil and gas drillers and arms dealers …the Military Industrial Complex President Eisenhower warned us to beware in 1960.

      • coug73

        Power to the people.

  • jafabian

    I’m predicting Bennett returns. No one will want to take a high priced veteran DT who’s over 30. He’s still a productive player who was way overworked last season. Were he and Avril (who I’m assuming will retire.) to leave that’s about 40% of the defense gone. As with Richard Sherman last season the club is simply exploring the market for Bennett. I’m assuming they’re doing the same with Earl but ultimately he’ll return as well. However the core group have become the proverbial seasoned veterans and it’s time to bring in players who will at least push them. Not be content with backing them up. I remember fans being upset when Marcus Trufant and Lawyer Milloy were replaced with younger players but Sherman and Earl were more than capable. Schneider however has been unable to duplicate his early draft success. If he can find his draft mojo again then hopefully they’ll get that second Super Bowl that been elusive since their first one.

    • art thiel

      I think the Seahawks sense his health is too precarious, and that his post-career priorities are already upon him. His social conscience will drive him to good deeds, but the rest of the NFL wants no part of that.

      • Effzee

        While I think its important to not dismiss what guys who embrace and express their social conscience stances have to say, there may have been a tipping point last year. Its time to re-focus on the on-field team aspects of the game, to emphasize what they are paid to do on the field, and leave the off the field stuff for post-game interviews and off-season deeds. I in no way want these guys to shut and just play football, and I think what they offer to our society is of the utmost importance, but there has to be a time to recognize that being a part of the team, and putting your energy into the team’s success, is how they have the platform in the first place.

        • Tman

          There also comes a time when players need to feel they can walk down the street without fear of being shot by over armed, anxious policemen. Every policy proposal Bennetts group advocates needs to be implemented.

          In the meantime, good luck finding a better player.

          • Effzee

            I’m certainly not saying I think we should trade him. I’m merely theorizing that the front office may want to re-focus on football instead of leading the league in social justice advocates.

    • Ron

      Bennett was traded to the Eagles today.

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    I understand the team and it’s fans are in panic mode , for all the reasons Art listed above . Things like an aging core group of veterans and little salary cap room are certainly a big concern . But I’ve learned through 14 years of being a season ticket holder that , A ) never leave the stadium early , regardless of the circumstances , and B ) Pete Carroll and John Schneider are 2 of the most creative front office people in the entire NFL when it comes to building a roster .

    This is NOT a major rebuild from scratch you guys ; the team was 2 missed field goals away from 11-5 last year , and that’s with traffic cones for an offensive line and absolutely no running game . And a ( well ) below average kicker . I think we all agree those are the 3 main areas of concern . But this team still has a very solid group of core players many other teams would give their eye teeth for .

    I’m sorry to beat a dead horse , but with Cable gone , I’m praying we start using our draft resources on better lineman . James Carpenter , 1st round pick . John Moffitt , 3rd round . Ifedi , a first rounder . Justin Britt , a 2nd round pick that took 3 position changes to find himself as an ‘adequate’ at best center ( don’t give me that Pro Bowl alternate crap , I watched plenty of guys blow by him ) who was projected as a 6th or 7th round draft pick by the NFL ( ) . Cable had tons of high draft stock to spend despite the common notion that he was left “table scraps” .

    Surely Cable had ample input before Schneider drafted these guys ?! You simply can not strike out year after year on your high draft choices , hoping you make up for it with late round gems or some Frankenstein experiment of converting a Div. II college basketball player into a starting left tackle in the NFL .

    Carroll and Schneider are more than capable of a solid 2018 draft that nets the team immediate contributers . A wisely crafted trade or 2 that nets more draft capital and clears up cap space , a healthy Chris Carson , find an UDFA kicker that can put the damn ball thru the uprights , and this team will again contend for Division Champs this year . And we all know what happens when the Seahawks get home playoff games ..

  • Effzee

    The biggest thing, for me, is that they stop taking risks in the draft. They need to go get guys again who can play in the league, and quickly. Enough rolling the dice on knuckleheads and injury prone guys. They can’t keep wasting resources on guys coming off of two ACL tears, or with a history of arrests or near-misses. Enough with the Water Thurmond, Paul Richardson, CJ Prosise, “Magleek” McDowell, Bruce Irvin, Frank Clark types. They need to find that next group of solid NFL guys who don’t have too much of that “relying on them to be healthy” or “relying on them to grow up” stuff hanging over them.

    • art thiel

      It’s true the Seahawks have gambled too often on what I call asterisk guys who came up inadequate. As with many coaches, Carroll believes he can fix them. The worst case was Percy Harvin, a tremendous athlete who had big issues elsewhere.

      But every club does that to a certain degree. And it works about as often as it doesn’t. Wilson was an asterisk guy because of his height. Sherman and Chancellor were fifth-rounders. Tate was too small.

      Projecting how 21-year-old men will deal with sudden wealth, fame, expectations and loneliness is a hard thing. Metrics take scouting only so far.

      • Effzee

        Agreed. I think that this year its extra-important to avoid too many asterisk guys. Wilson worked out for a period of time when he had Beast Mode by his side, and before the league had years of tape on him. It remains to be seen if Schott can find a way to rekindle the magic. Sherman and Chancellor were deep finds, but not health or behavioral asterisk guys.

  • Ron