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.
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
- Running back
- 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:
Merry Draftmas Eve, we’re going to do some damage. #DawgPound
— Scot Mccloughan (@MccloughanScot) April 25, 2018
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.