Ethan Hewett | February 4th, 2020
In a year where expectations varied, Russell Wilson once again put the entire Seattle Seahawks team on his back and nearly took them on a deep playoff run. The Seahawks suffered several injuries throughout the season, but Wilson and this Seattle offense somehow found a way to win a few big games on their way to an 11-5 regular season record, finishing second in the NFC West.
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The Seahawks then went into Philadelphia and won against the Eagles in a close wild card matchup 17-9. Despite the momentum, Wilson and this Seahawks team weren’t able to sneak past the Green Bay Packers as Aaron Rodgers and the Packers escaped with a 28-23 win. Despite not making it to the big dance, Seattle and the 12s should be very happy with how this season turned out despite all odds.
What Went Right
If Lamar Jackson didn’t take the league by storm, Wilson would most likely be the Most Valuable Player of the National Football League. For once the award would go a team’s most valuable player as Seattle probably doesn’t even sniff the playoffs if not for Wilson.
On top of that, Wilson also had one of his better statistical seasons posting his second-best completion percentage (66.1), his second-highest passing yardage (4,110) and threw 31 touchdowns to only five interceptions. Wilson also led the NFL in 4th quarter comebacks (4) and game-winning drives (5).
The Seahawks also finally had life on offense outside of Wilson for the majority of 2019. Seattle boasted one of the best running games led by Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny. Seattle finished fourth in rushing yards in the regular season, tenth in yards per carry, and had the ninth-best run success rate in the NFL (51%), according to Sharp Football Stats.
Seattle had D.K. Metcalf fall right into their hands with the final pick of the second round in the 2019 NFL Draft. The former Ole Miss Rebel was a big-play threat all season long and put up 900 receiving yards (third amongst rookie receivers) paired with seven receiving touchdowns. Metcalf served as a solid number two for Tyler Lockett and the Seahawks had a formidable offense in 2019. For good measure, Seattle finished top-five in points forced, yards gained, and offensive success rate.
While Metcalf was a solid offseason pickup, the Seahawks also made a trade midseason for former Detroit Lions safety Quandre Diggs. Diggs was a quality addition for the Seahawks defense picking up three interceptions, a forced fumble, and 21 tackles throughout ten games. Diggs is also under a cap-friendly contract through 2021 making just over $5 million in both of those years.
What Went Wrong
While the offense was starting to find its stride in 2019, the defense was not. Outside of All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner and Diggs, there wasn’t much production from this year’s Seahawks defense. A lack of experience in the secondary led to a lot of miscommunication and big plays for opposing offenses. Seattle was ranked 27th in passing yards in 2019 paired with a 48% opposing offense success rate, according to Sharp Football Stats which put them 25th. After their bye week was even worse as the team fell to 30th in the NFL sitting at 51% success for opposing pass offenses.
While the secondary struggled, the front seven wasn’t helping them out much as Seattle finished with only 28 sacks and 126 pressure, 29th and 26th respectively. Rasheem Green led the team with a whopping four sacks in 2019 with a couple of players sitting at three on the year. The run defense was no better as they finished the regular season 22nd in rushing yards and 28th in yards per carry. The run defense also saw a big fall in the latter half of the season as opposing run success rates went from 45% (11th) pre-bye to 55% (28th) post-bye week.
Injuries Piling Up
The Ezekiel Ansah signing turned into a big-time bust as he tallied only 2.5 sacks and dealt with injuries limiting him to 11 games. Seattle dealt with a good amount of injuries including Ansah along with starting tight end Will Dissly finding his way onto the injured reserve in week 7. Fellow tight end Ed Dickson also sat out the entire season in the injured reserve. Injuries also tortured the running back room as both Carson and Penny found themselves on the injured reserve by season’s end.
Wilson continued to run for his life behind an offensive line that did better than last season but still gave up 48 sacks on the year which tied them for 9th in the NFL. While Wilson is very good at extending plays and he has made some miraculous plays, Seattle needs to upgrade the offensive line if they want to see more success in the future.
Outlook for the Offseason
The front office and coaching staff seem to be in a decent place right now with Pete Carroll as Head Coach, Brian Schottenheimer as Offensive Coordinator, and Ken Norton as Defensive Coordinator. The Seahawks also sit with a comfortable projected cap room of $50.7 million according to Over the Cap. This team needs to reload on defense this offseason both in the open market and free agency. With that kind of room, they have they should be able to do so while also retaining a couple of key in-house players.
The Team’s Free Agents
Seattle needs to find a way to keep Jadeveon Clowney this offseason. His market value is sitting right around the $20 million a year mark and Seattle is in a position where they have both the draft capital and the space to do that. Seattle’s defense was consistently better with him on the field and he led the team in forced fumbles (4) and quarterback hits (13). Fellow EDGE defender Ezekiel Ansah, who is also set to be a free agent, will most likely not be in a Seahawks uniform next season as he has once again dealt with several injuries last season. Depth at the EDGE position will also need to be addressed in the open market and the draft as well.
Jarran Reed is a player who might get slapped with the franchise tag if they can’t work out a cheaper 2-3 year deal as he has been somewhat inconsistent throughout his career and he missed the first six weeks of 2019 due to a suspension. Reed hasn’t been as productive with his pass rush abilities which Seattle lacked in general, but seeing how he and Poona Ford can grow together next season could be interesting.
The third guy that Seattle should look into bringing back is Mychal Kendricks. He led the Seahawks defense in tackles for loss (8) and he also was able to rack up 71 total tackles in 14 games. Kendricks did deal with injuries late and was eventually put on the injured reserve for a knee injury taking him out of the playoffs. With K.J. Wright becoming a free agent in 2021, Seattle would be wise to hold on to their solid trio of linebackers while they can. Cody Barton played admirably in his place, but Kendricks was missed in the playoffs. Other players the Seahawks should consider would be defensive back Akeem King, offensive tackle Germain Ifedi, and tight eight Luke Willson.
Open Market Free Agents
With Clowney taking up a big chunk of the Seahawks cap space, Seattle maybe a little less aggressive but they should still try and make at least one splash free agency signing this offseason. Yannick Ngakoue should be on everybody’s open market list as he is a big threat off the edge in getting after the quarterback. If Chris Jones for some reason doesn’t get signed by the Chiefs, he would also be a big splash for the Seahawks.
Cornerback is a big need for this team with little depth behind Shaquill Griffin, and big names like James Bradberry or Byron Jones would both be big splash signings for a team that needs playmakers in their secondary. Bashaud Breeland has been a solid corner for the Chiefs and if they don’t bring back the veteran corner, he could provide solid run support for Seattle. Kevin Johnson from the Buffalo Bills would also be a veteran name to bring in on the cheaper side.
With the injuries that Seattle has dealt with at the tight end position, names like Austin Hooper or Hunter Henry would be more expensive but bring a lot of talent to a position that has lacked for Seattle lately. Eric Ebron would be an interesting fit in Seattle while if Greg Olsen doesn’t retire, that is always a cheaper option. The only worry there would be injuries.
One could also argue for Seattle to pursue a new right tackle to pair up with Duane Brown at left tackle. Jack Conklin of the Tennessee Titans would be an expensive yet big upgrade while if they want to search for more value they would look at Bryan Bulaga possibly from the Green Bay Packers.
Projecting the NFL Draft
Seattle comes into the 2020 NFL Draft with three for sure picks in the top 100 with a projected compensatory pick in the 3rd round. The Seahawks have a considerable amount of draft capital which is good considering the amount of need that this team has on both sides of the ball.
1.27 – Pass Rusher
Whether this is on the edge or from the interior, Seattle needs help getting after the quarterback. Bringing back Clowney and Reed won’t fix that and picking up your biggest need here is vital and the smartest move. Yetur Gross-Matos would be a solid pick coming off the edge and a nice pairing with Clowney. If they want to go interior, at this spot a good pick up would be Auburn lineman Marlon Davidson, who can play all over the defensive line.
2.59 – Wide Receiver
Josh Gordon most likely isn’t going to stick around in Seattle as he is up for free agency this offseason and continues to struggle with his demons. With this vacancy, the Seahawks need another outside receiver to pair with Metcalf. Lockett is the versatile guy from everywhere, but adding a guy like Michael Pittman Jr. out of USC or if Justin Jefferson should fall to them here would both be solid additions.
2.63 – Defensive Back
The secondary was probably the second biggest weakness on this Seahawk defense behind the pass rush. Griffin started to look alright, but outside of him and Diggs, it was just inconsistent. Picking up a player like Damon Arnette out of Ohio State would be a huge get if he falls here, or targeting Bryce Hall out of Virginia. Cameron Dantzler out of Mississippi State would also be a good pick up here.
*3.100 – Interior Offensive Lineman
With Mike Iupati up for free agency, the Seahawks need an upgrade on the interior offensive line. Ben Bredeson out of Michigan State seems to be a very good pick up here. He is aggressive from the point of attack and has the tools to develop into a strong guard in the NFL.
*Denotes Projected Compensatory Pick
2020 has the potential for Seattle to once again be a very good football team. Wilson carried Seattle this past season in what was supposed to be a rebuilding year and nearly took them to the NFC Championship. As long as they can bring back Clowney, make a couple of big open market signings, and draft smart, this football team could make a case for the NFC West title in what is going to be a very competitive division next year. I would say that they find themselves at 11-5 next year and once again making a deep playoff run and potentially going after Super Bowl 55.
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Main Image Credit: Embed from Getty Images