The final whistle of the Super Bowl marks the end of the 2021 season. That solidifies all draft positions and gets us looking to free agency as the next chance for teams to make significant changes to their rosters. In this series, I’ll break down the needs and goals of every team as it relates to the 2022 offseason. Included will be cap space, cut candidates, positions of need, and plenty of other useful stats and notes as we prepare for free agency and the 2022 NFL Draft. Special thanks to Over the Cap, Pro Football Reference, Pro Football Focus, and Ben Baldwin’s RBSDM.com for all of the useful stats they track and house.
Seahawks 2021 Recap
After a tumultuous offseason painted with tweets of #LetRussCook and a leaked list of teams Russell Wilson would accept a trade to, the Seahawks had a chance to quiet all of the noise with a solid playoff run. Instead of silencing the haters with a return to form, Seattle posted their first losing season since 2011. The 7-10 outing closed out the longest active streak of winning seasons in the NFL. Though there are dozens of reasons that the Seahawks didn’t live up to expectations, Wilson’s finger injury is the easiest to point to. Wilson suffered a mallet finger injury that cost him three games and appeared to severely limit him for many more, collapsing an already-fragile offense. The defense, many years removed from their Legion of Boom heyday, was middling at best and unable to support a team missing its star quarterback.
Key Offensive Stats
- Points per game: 23.2 (16th)
- Dropback EPA: .05 (18th)
- Passing yards per game: 202 (23rd)
- Rush EPA: .03 (2nd)
- Rushing yards per game: 122 (11th)
Just looking at the Wilson weeks, things were still grim. When he was active, the team averaged 23.9 points and 231 passing yards per game. Pete Carroll continued with his balanced approach despite being on the losing end of games more often than not. The Seahawks finished the year 20th in pass rate with a negative pass rate over expectation. For his part, Wilson looked as mortal as he ever has. Normally hyper-efficient, Wilson posted a 3.1 percent completion rate over expectation. That was still fifth-best among qualified quarterbacks but it was also the worst mark of his career. The one bright spot on this otherwise dim offense was Rashaad Penny’s breakout. The fourth-year back put his name atop many free-agent rankings with 92 carries for 671 yards in the final five games of the season. He led the NFL in yards per attempt (6.3) and breakaway run rate (12.6 percent).
Key Defensive Stats
- Points per game: 21.5 (11th)
- Dropback EPA: .11 (24th)
- Passing yards per game: 266 (31st)
- Rush EPA: -.11 (10th)
- Rushing yards per game: 114 (17th)
The defense was a sieve for opposing quarterbacks, allowing more passing yards than every team but the Ravens, who were ravaged by injuries to their secondary. The Seahawks were also 24th in yards per attempt allowed. This was all despite investing four first-round picks and two second-round picks in their defense over the past three years. Two of those firsts were spent on acquiring Jamal Adams from the Jets. The latter pick was Seattle’s top selection in the upcoming draft, the tenth overall selection. Though Adams is one of the best safeties in generating pressure and defending the run, he has been a liability in coverage and an anchor on Seattle's cap situation.
Seahawks 2022 Offseason
Total Draft Value
Notable Free Agents
LT Duane Brown, RB Rashaad Penny, SS Quandre Diggs, CB D.J. Reed, TE Gerald Everett, TE Will Dissly, C Ethan Pocic, C Kyle Fuller, RT Brandon Shell, DT Al Woods, CB Sidney Jones, DE Rasheem Green
LB Bobby Wagner ($16.6 million in savings), K Jason Myers ($4 million), DE Kerry Hyder ($2 million), RB Chris Carson ($3.4 million)
Notes: Seattle's total draft value is the sum of the value of every pick they own using the Fitzgerald-Spielberger NFL Draft Trade Value Chart. The values are only estimates until the NFL announces compensatory picks. Cap savings are listed assuming the player is cut before June 1st.
The shocking move to trade Wilson restored the Seahawks' draft capital in 2022 and gives them a massive edge for the 2023 draft as well. In return for Wilson, they received two first-round picks, two second-round picks, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant, and DT Shelby Harris. This assets plus a wealth of cap space allows them to move on from the Wilson era with no strings attached.
Both starting tackles are under expiring contracts and the caliber of replacements chosen will likely depend on whether or not Wilson is back. If he stays in Seattle, the team could opt to break the bank to protect Wilson. If Wilson demands a trade, don’t expect the team to spend tens of millions on the position.
Lock isn't the answer. He threw 25 touchdowns and 20 interceptions while looking like the definition of a backup quarterback during his three years with the Broncos. He will ultimately serve as the placeholder for another quarterback, most likely a rookie.
The Seahawks could use help in a number of spots in their front seven. With Green headed for free agency, Seattle’s biggest need in the box will be at defensive end. The Seahawks defense ranked 21st in sacks and PFF ranked the squad 30th in pass-rush grade.
After a dismal defensive performance, the Seahawks moved on from defensive coordinator Ken Norton Jr. in favor of Clint Hurtt, the team’s defensive line coach. To accommodate changes in personnel, Norton shifted the team from a 4-3 base to 3-4. Teams don’t stay in their base package nearly as much in the current age of football but it still had a noticeable effect on the line. Carlos Dunlap logged a career-high in coverage snaps while playing a ten-year low in pass-rush and run-defense snaps. The shift in approach trickled down to Adams, who excels when used as a situational pass-rusher. The safety saw his pass-rush snaps cut in half compared to 2021 while playing in as many games. Norton was unable to match his team's talent to an appropriate scheme and it cost him his job, though Carroll deserves some of the blame given his defensive background.
Hurtt’s biggest job will simply be to maximize the big-play potential of Seattle’s defensive weapons. In his opening press conference, he made note of this and even called out the team’s strategy of dropping lineman into coverage last year. We obviously won't be seeing any more of that in the coming season. Hurtt also voiced his plan to be more aggressive, saying that Seattle’s blitz rate would be up from its 22 percent clip in 2021. The Seahawks won't be going back to a 4-3 base permanently but they will find a middle-ground between Hurtt's background with Vic Fangio, who ran a 3-4 defense, and Carroll's history with 4-3 and Cover 3 looks. There's no skeleton key to winning on defense and Hurtt seems committed to mixing smart concepts with the talent present on his roster.
It's hard to see Carroll, now over 70 years old, committing to a tank for at least a year. However, the Wilson trade and Bobby Wagner's release make a single year of losing an appealing option. The Seahawks can take a rookie quarterback at No. 9 overall in this draft or sign a veteran and coast to another high draft pick next year. Either way, opting for a rookie over gambling on a veteran as a short-term fix is the only way forward for Seattle. Their roster has too many holes to compete with the likes of LA, San Francisco, and Arizona within their division. Even getting a surprising year from a free agent such as Marcus Martiota wouldn't be enough to push them past the reigning Super Bowl champs. If the Seahawks can stomach one year of trading for future picks and testing out young players, it will pay dividends in the future.