To the average NFL observer, the idea of the Seahawks not rebuilding seems completely absurd. And there is no shortage of valid reasons why they would feel that way. Seattle moving on from future Hall of Fame quarterback Russell Wilson to a literal punchline in Drew Lock seems like an insurmountable challenge for this team to overcome.
But while it’s valid (and fun) to debate about whether the ‘Hawks should be in a rebuild, an equally important question is whether Pete Carroll and John Schneider think they are. Bizarrely, it seems clear that they don’t think of this year as a rebuild.
That’s not just lip service, it showed in the moves the team made in the offseason. And more importantly, it showed in the ones they didn’t make. The team held on to 29-year-old Tyler Lockett even as receivers like Davante Adams, Marquise Brown and A.J. Brown were traded for incredible returns. The team similarly didn’t seek to move any of the other pieces like Jamal Adams or D.K. Metcalf. And on top of that, they resigned 29-year-old safety Quandre Diggs to a big extension. After all that, also remember that Pete Carroll is the second oldest head coach in the league at 70. He probably doesn’t have the time left in his career for a full scale rebuild.
Now the fun part: let’s look at the two scenarios that could lead to this team being a bottom dweller in the NFC West or a surprise contender.
The Case for Rebuilding
This is naturally the easiest scenario to project. It isn’t just that the Seahawks are going into the season with Drew Lock as their quarterback, it’s that they didn’t even really explore creating a healthy competition. Geno Smith simply isn’t a realistic competitor, despite playing serviceably in a few games last year. They had plenty of chances to draft one of the top quarterbacks this year, most painfully in the third round with Malik Willis and Desmond Ridder still available.
The bad news about Lock is that he underperformed with solid weapons around him in Denver. The weapons in Seattle are probably slightly better with Lockett and Metcalf, but Lock had Jerry Jeudy and Courtland Sutton to go with Noah Fant last year. Lock was disappointing in three starts before getting injured and permanently replaced by Teddy Bridgewater. That doesn’t feel like a guy who will simply perform better in a different city.
The other issue with the Seahawks is that while Pete Carroll wants to adjust the focus to a defensive-centric approach, the defense still lacks talent. The team’s top pass rusher coming into the season, Darrell Taylor, had a pedestrian 6.5 sacks last year. They added Uchenna Nwosu on the other side, who has upside, but only had five sacks last year. For a team that struggled with a weak pass rush the last few years, there is no imminent improvement looming. The best hope is that Boye Mafe explodes as a rookie, but realistically he’s a developmental rusher at this point.
And the defense has another problem at the linebacker position. Former first round pick Jordyn Brooks had a breakthrough season last year and will take over for Bobby Wagner in the middle. But they have two unproven starters on the outside in Cody Barton and Joel Iyiegbuniwe. Ideally, Alton Smith will beat out Iyiegbuniwe and improve as a pass rusher in in training camp.
There’s just a lot of holes in this Seattle team right now. And neither the offense nor the defense feels like a potential strength for this team next year. One bright spot is the Seahawks will have no shortage of quarterback options as they have two first round picks in the 2023 NFL Draft.
The Case for Reloading
Believe it or not, the Seahawks have a precedent for outperforming expectations while in the midst of an apparent rebuild. In 2011, Seattle ended another decade-long run at quarterback with Matt Hasselbeck and went into the season with Charlie Whitehurst and Tarvaris Jackson. Those two were even less proven than Drew Lock and Geno Smith, yet the Seahawks scraped their way to a 7-9 record. It’s even more remarkable considering the team similarly had virtually no pass rushers and the only bright spots were Marshawn Lynch and the first year of the legion of boom secondary.
Seattle learned their lesson the following year. They brought in Russell Wilson to challenge Matt Flynn for the starting job and the rest is history. But it’s important to remember Pete Carroll’s track record of overachieving with young teams.
One positive is Drew Lock really does have a tremendous set of weapons in Fant, Lockett and Metcalf. The team also will rely heavily on rookie running back Kenneth Walker and veteran Rashaad Penny. Penny had a career year, but most of the excitement is what Walker could bring with his speed and size. The offensive line is retooled with maybe the best pass blocker in the draft in Charles Cross, and if you don’t believe that then go watch him destroy every Alabama defender in pass protection.
The defense may lack pass rush, but adding Shelby Harris in the middle will help sure up the run defense. The team still has two really solid veteran safeties in Jamal Adams and Quandre Diggs. But for this team to succeed, either Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant will have to step up at corner. There’s reason to believe they can, Bryant won the Thorpe award last year as the top defensive back at Cincinnati.
The best case scenario still isn’t Seattle winning the NFC West, that’s just not going to happen. But when remembering what Carroll was able to do in 2010 and 2011, there’s room for hope that this team could pull out a 9-8 record and sneak into the final wild card spot in the NFC.
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