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SEATTLE – The Seattle Seahawks experienced life without quarterback Russell Wilson for the first time in 2021.
It did not go well.
And he did not get better when he returned from the broken finger that marked the most significant injury of his 10-year career. When Wilson started playing like himself again, the Seahawks were in too deep a hole to have any chance in a charged division that sent three teams to the playoffs – including Super Bowl LVI champion Los Angeles Rams.
Who knows how the Seahawks’ 7-10 season would have gone if Wilson hadn’t had a fracture and tendon rupture on his middle finger on his throwing hand in Week 5. They lost that game after Geno Smith took over and went 1-2 in his three starts. Wilson returned remarkably quickly from the operation, but was not himself, his uncharacteristic failure indicating that his finger was not ready. Seattle lost its first three games back to fall to 3-8, ending any hopes of another playoff game.
They would certainly have fared much better than 1-6 in that stretch with a healthy Wilson.
Then again, their attack was inexplicably bad on the third attempt before his injury and remained so for much of Shane Waldron’s first season as offensive coordinator. Meanwhile, their defense could not generate enough pressure or takeaways, even after rebounding from yet another historically poor start. Coordinator Ken Norton Jr. and defensive pass coordinator Andre Curtis was fired as a result.
Coach Pete Carroll – whose job security came up – also parted ways with offensive line coach Tom Solari after the Seahawks ended their worst season in more than a decade.
Expected salary cap: $ 38.49 million
Top Free Agents: LT Duane Brown, RT Brandon Shell, C Ethan Pocic, RB Rashaad Penny, RB Alex Collins, TE Gerald Everett, TE Will Dissly, FS Quandre Diggs, CB DJ Reed, CB Sidney Jones IV, DE Rasheem Green, DT Al Woods
Potential cutback candidates: Linebacker Bobby Wagner had another very productive season on his way to his eighth Pro Bowl career. But the Seahawks may decide that he is not playing enough to justify the non-guaranteed $ 16.6 million he will earn and the $ 20.35 million he will count on in the final year of his contract when he turns 32. The longtime defensive captain and six-time first-team All-Pro acknowledged his uncertain future late in the season and later said he is optimistic about returning in 2022. If that is the case, it will likely be on something other than his current appointment. Running back Chris Carson is coming off a neck operation, but the Seahawks said they expect he will recover fully in 2022 and will not save much against the cap by releasing him.
The big question: Will Wilson stay seated? An out-of-season trade seems unlikely for several reasons, but not out of the question. The tensions that boiled over last low season have cooled, so it does not appear that the relationship has become useless. That enables the Seahawks to make a tough trade, as they did last offseason when they had legal trade negotiations with the Chicago Bears.
It can take three choices in the first round to get their attention, and most importantly, any offer should give the Seahawks a clear path to a replacement who could help them win a Super Bowl. But they probably do not think that guy exists in such a weak quarterback draft, nor are they likely to see him sitting on the trading block. For his part, Wilson said he hopes to stay in Seattle. But his non-definitive wording – he has a no-trade clause and could guarantee he stays seated – suggests he is unsure how he will feel later. And Carroll has strongly suggested that the Seahawks will once again listen to trade deals. So you never know.
What you need to know: Diggs is the Seahawks’ best free agent. He led the team with five interceptions, matching his total from 2020, when he was named his second straight Pro Bowl. His work patrolling the rear of their defense was a major reason Seattle was one of the best teams to curb explosive passing games. He could have been the Seahawks ‘MVP in 2021. But Diggs’ situation is complicated by a few factors. He comes off a broken fibula and displaced ankle from week 18. And even before that, it was not certain that the Seahawks would pay him as they refused to give him the extension he wanted last year. That reluctance may have been tied to the mega deal they eventually gave others security Jamal Adams. Losing Diggs would be a huge blow to a defense that already lacks players who can generate revenue.
Best offseason scenario: There are the obvious checklist items: upgrading their O-line and passing rush, re-signing Diggs and adding another ballhawk in defense, etc. They also need Waldron and defensive coordinator Clint Hurtt to come up with schedule-related fixes. But the Seahawks could also use help from the rest of the NFC West, and if we’re talking best-case scenarios, what about Aaron Donald and / or Sean McVay both going away from the Rams?
Worst-case scenario for offseason: The absolute worst case scenario would be to be ripped off in a Wilson trade, heralding a full-on rebuild. But that’s not going to happen. Still, their usual approaches to free action (where they avoid megadeals in favor of added value) and the draft (where they often switch back to add choices) would backfire if they failed to land enough players to keep up with the rest of the NFC. West.
Early look at the NFL draft from ESPN analyst Jordan Reid: Without a first-round pick due to the Jamal Adams deal, there are still plenty of routes general manager John Schneider could choose to take. Whatever happens to Duane Brown, the Seahawks should look at tackling offensive tackle. They must continue to build the offensive line. Depth along the defensive line is another place that needs to be upgraded.
Top needs: OT, EDGE, CB
Top picks: No.41