BY Art Thiel 06:34PM 04/25/2018

Thiel: So many holes, Seahawks need a big move

Sure, Seahawks can trade back to get another draft pick. But with so many holes to fill, they need to talk big with Browns, who have six in top 65.

Is it just another draft, or are big doings afoot at Seahawks headquarters in Renton? / Art Thiel, Sportspress Northwest

If you’re scoring at home the eight Seahawks drafts of the Pete Carroll/John Schneider era — and with the first round for draft No. 9 starting at 5 p.m. Thursday, who isn’t? — here’s my scorecard for handy reference.

First three drafts: Good to great. The next five: Mediocre to poor — with an asterisk that the most recent two classes lack enough playing time for fair judgment.

So that’s a semi-gruesome losing streak. When the weak drafts are added to the aging of some top players, as well as the size of some contracts, plus some career-threatening injuries, it’s evident that events have overtaken the Seahawks.

If missing the playoffs for the first time in six years — including the worst thrashing of Carroll’s tenure, a 42-7 loss to the Los Angeles Rams — didn’t prove the point, the palace purge of assistant coaches did. Then came the off-loading of two core players, CB Richard Sherman and DE Michael Bennett, with injury departures likely for SS Kam Chancellor and DE Cliff Avril.

The upshot for this draft: The Seahawks have the most needs and the fewest resources to solve those needs than at any time since Carroll/Schneider’s first year in 2010.

And yet . . .

Schneider at the Seahawks’ annual pre-draft presser had the temerity to raise the bar on character and behavior for this draft.

“You have to have certain criteria to be on our board,” he said. “We’re making less excuses for players (to be draftable), I’d say.

“At some point, there’s red flags, usually on everybody. But what happens is you end up kind of ignoring some of those red flags, if you feel like you have a specific need or fit for a player. I think it’s happened in the past, it’ll probably happen in the future. But we just want to limit those. You never truly know the whole package, right?”

Wait, what? NOW the Seahawks decide to have standards about character and behavior? If ever there was a time to assemble a ruthless crowd straight out of the movie The Dirty Dozen, it is this draft, including finding a latter-day Jim Brown.

Ah, we kid. A little.

But irony looms large: It took a self-inflicted, non-football injury to their top draft pick in 2017 for the Seahawks to raise the draft bar. Malik McDowell’s severe concussion from an ATV accident — a representative incident based on the pre-draft red flags of immaturity and entitlement that dropped him out of the first round — is the precisely the kind of behavioral knuckleheadism that the Seahawks now seek to avoid.

The apparent absence of McDowell from the Seahawks’ future, and the certain absence of his expensive replacement, Sheldon Richardson (lost in free agency to Minnesota), means that a pass rusher is the need that screams the loudest.

But barely.

Imagine the Seahawks position coaches as a nest of  a half-dozen baby birds, all demanding the same worm from mom.

Here’s one guy’s view of the team’s current post-free-agency needs, in descending order, based on Carroll’s strategic priorities:

  • Pass rusher
  • Cornerback
  • Running back
  • Receiver
  • Tight end
  • O-line depth

But if you reversed the list — or turned it inside out — I wouldn’t put up much of an argument. There’s a lot of relatively equal needs for a team that a couple of years ago seemed at or near the top the hill in terms of talent. But the past five mostly unproductive drafts have made this draft critical beyond the standard.

Free agency produced no big splashes.

LG D.J. Fluker, a 350-pound snow plow at 27, fills the one O-line void. Otherwise Carroll is committed to the other four O-line returnees. Kicker Sebastian Janikowski may prove to be a shrewd move after his physical exam apparently established he was over the back problems that kept him out of the 2017  season. Carroll at the owners’ meetings spoke glowingly of LB Barkevious Mingo’s ability to rush the passer and defend the run.

Aside from that, the rest of the new hires are just guys who will help on special teams.

Despite the cautious spending in free agency, overthecap.com reports the Seahawks have $7.5 million left in cap room. Only nine teams have less, and the Seahawks have yet to conclude possible extensions for Earl Thomas, Duane Brown and Tyler Lockett.

Then there is the absence of second- and third-round picks, which ratchets up in importance with every hour that passes before the draft.

The lack of assets to improve the team in a substantial way leads to an obvious conclusion that the Seahawks will trade back from 18th in the first round to get additional picks.

That is what the Seahawks often have done. But because they are in a paradigm-busting mood, out of desperation to stay relevant, there’s a decent chance they instead do something big.

That likely would include the much-discussed trade of Thomas, the linchpin free safety who wants to be compensated with an extension that would make him the highest paid at his position (about $14 million).

I don’t know the kinds of offers the Seahawks are getting for Thomas.

But I do know that Scot McCloughan is working this draft with the Cleveland Browns.

When Schneider, a good friend, hired him in 2010 to join the remade
Seattle front office as a senior personnel executive, McCloughan had a hand in the selection of many of  the players that made up the Seahawks’ Super Bowl teams, including Thomas, Sherman, Chancellor and QB Russell Wilson. In his previous gig, he helped get the the 49ers to the Super Bowl with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback.

He left the Seahawks in April 2014  in part because of an alcohol problem, which reportedly chased him from the 49ers job, as well as his subsequent post as Redskins general manager. But his skill as a talent evaluator has been described as savant-like.

The Browns, who have 12 picks, including six in the first 65 as well as the first and fourth overall, hired him as a consultant. Here are their picks, in order:

1st round: 1, 4 (from Houston)

2nd round: 33, 35 (from Houston), 64 (from Philadelphia)

3rd round: 65

4th round: 101, 123 (from Carolina)

5th round: 138, 159 (from Kansas City)

6th round: 175

7th round: 219

Here was McCloughan’s cryptic tweet Wednesday afternoon:

When that much draft ordnance is put in McCloughan’s hands, the proper holiday analogy  is the Fourth of July. I expect the fireworks will be visible from Seattle, where old pal Schneider can see great use for several of the Browns’ picks.

It’s possible the Browns could use a veteran free safety at the top of his game. Who knows? The Browns might even need a veteran quarterback at the top of his game.


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YourThoughts

  • woofer

    What more is there to say? Pretty devastating analysis. To me the most fascinating question is exactly how Carroll and Schneider went so quickly from early success to being so deeply mired in failure. Were they just lucky at the outset? Did early success make them cocky and reckless? Sort of like the race track gambler who on the first bet scores a win on a 50 to 1 shot and then throws all caution to the winds.

    • art thiel

      Luck always has some influence, but they simply drafted poorly after 2012. Then they had the bad break of extending Chancellor just he was seriously hurt. Harvin and Graham cost them first round picks, as did McDowell.

      The Times’ Bob Condotta took a good look at the misjudgments in the draft. Only three players remain from 13-15.

  • Cameron Loss

    Good work as always, Mr. Provocateur, but stop with the Wilson out of town. I realize what he will cost, but he has the right attitude, he has the ability, and we see what happens to teams with less than great QB play. Imagine what last year, or the last couple years, would have been like with someone else behind that O-Line. Chances of getting lucky with another QB is slim. That is unless you consider the Charlie Whitehurst era the golden age, in which case send #3 out of town.

    • art thiel

      As I’ve said before, trading Wilson is not a diss on his play. It’s about managing the roster under the salary cap. He’s been great, will continue to be great, but he won’t be affordable after 2019 for a team that puts defense first.

  • Ron

    I’ve warmed up to the idea of trading Russell Wilson if we receive a bonanza in return. Russell has been a good member of the team, but he hasn’t won us a Super Bowl. First one was won by the defense, not Russell, unless you say that Russell’s low salary allowed the large expenditure for defensive salaries. His interception cost us the second Super Bowl.

    • Effzee

      Not only that, but he’s yet to show that he can run an offense as designed (without Beast Mode and the RPO).

      • art thiel

        I think he’s had many games where he’s run the offense, and just as many where he had to run for his life.

    • art thiel

      Wilson was a big part of the SB win and all the Seahawks success. It’s not about his play, although no QB is perfect. It’s about a business decision to get a top-flight QB on an affordable rookie contract.

    • 2nd place is 1st loser

      Uh excuse me, but hanging 43 points on the Broncos was not all entirely on the defense. Yes the defense played lights out, but Wilson had a great game and should have been the MVP.

      • Ron

        Broncos 8
        Seahawks defense 9

        • 2nd place is 1st loser

          I don’t recall Haushka playing defense, refresh our memory.

  • Kevin Lynch

    It’s a wild, wild, wild, wild world out there when urgency gets magnified. I’m thinking the Hawks trade the first round pick and deal Thomas in the next 20 hours for other picks. Of course, I could be wrong. Wilson is not going anywhere. Next year may be a different story.

    • art thiel

      Wilson’s value is highest now, and the potential good replacements are high in the first round.

      • John M

        Can’t disagree, Art, but trading Wilson now, although it makes business sense, is going to leave a lot of people feeling hollow. He’s the best QB the Seahawks have ever had. He regressed last year along with the rest of the team. Nothing seemed to go right for long. But this is a rebuild no matter what anyone says and there will be blood . . .

  • cadrethree

    Trade Russell Wilson for a haul this year and bring in Manziel for a year to run the show. At best Russell Wilson is Drew Brees and the Saint’s. Teams are built the same both qb’s are short and both won one Superbowl. How many times did the Saint’s make it to the Superbowl? How many have Drew Brees won? That’s the Seahawks future…

    • art thiel

      The analogy to Brees starts and ends with height. Winning an SB requires lots more than a good QB.

  • Effzee

    I think its extremely improbable, but If I was Scott McCloughan, I would not want to be the guy who drafted the wrong QB to Cleveland yet again. They need something solid for once. Something to rally the city around. I would totally give up the #1 pick, and a couple others, for Wilson and his Super Bowl ring, in his prime. There is no way Wilson is in Seattle past next year anyways. Pete and John will not pay any QB $30M/year. Its just not going to happen. If they can move on from Sherman and Bennett without batting an eye, they can certainly see a future beyond Wilson. Plus, they know better than anyone that they can win (and win quickly) with a rookie QB. I bet they have the guts to try to prove they can do it a second time.

    • art thiel

      Carroll’s view has always been that a top defense always makes a game easier to win, and has invested accordingly. The market for QBs is beyond his control, but who plays QB is not. We’ve seen some rookie QBs beyond Wilson do well enough to make the move plausible.

    • Ron

      Russell and Earl for all of Cleveland’s first and second round picks.

  • Martin

    I think Wilson is a good person and all that but I’m just not as convinced that he’s as good a QB as everyone seems to think. He was the one who threw that interception. He’s the one that runs the offence that never seems to want to score before half-time and then always tries to win on the last play of the game. On countless occasions the O-line gets castigated for pass blocking poorly but Wilson scrambles around for 8 seconds before he’ll throw. My observation is that too often he is protected but won’t throw the ball within 3-4 seconds and then takes off so the O-line then gets blamed. Are our receivers that poor at getting separation?

  • Theyfinallyfiredcable

    Art , do you really see another Carson Wentz or Deshaun Watson at quarterback in this year’s draft ? If so , and the entire team is sold on that evaluation , AND you get a top pick that you know FOR SURE will secure that player for your team ( there’s more than one in this draft ?! ) , then you trade Wilson ..

    Can you imagine the season ticket holder revolt that would go along with moving Wilson ? Every pundit in the league would scream “full-on rebuild” , and that’d be hard to argue with little left in the tank except Bobby Wagner and KJ , assuming Earl is also traded .

    I understand where you’re coming from Art , I get it ; a franchise quarterback at rookie wages for the next 5 years is a beautiful thing , as we’ve seen . But to assume there’s a Deshaun Watson in every year’s quarterback class is looking through rose colored glasses me thinks . Again , I’m no talent evaluator and maybe one of the Big 5 this year is that . But for every Aaron Rogers , there’s 6 or 7 Dan McGuire’s or Rick Mirer’s out there . And we’ve seen enough of that .

  • Ron

    https://www.msn.com/en-us/sports/nfl/pete-carrolls-pre-draft-tweet-sends-seahawks-fans-into-tizzy/ar-AAwnLIU?li=BBnb7Kz

    Judging by that clue, my guess is that we are keeping our pick this year and not trading.

  • Husky73

    Rashaad Penny…..bet ya didn’t see that one comin’………

  • Ron

    So, Art, the “big move” turned out to be trading up for a punter?