Even before the 2020 regular season began, the Seahawks knew the 2021 draft for them was not going to be a celebratory sort of pre-Cinco de Mayo festival. Indeed, it turned out to be a safe and sane three days that was more of a Seafair parade, minus pirates, clowns and alcohol.
They couldn’t improve on the number of picks, so the three stood as the fewest in the NFL since 1999 and a club-record low. They ended up with backup players with solid potential — WR D’Wayne Eskridge of Western Michigan, CB Tre Brown of Oklahoma and LT Stone Forsythe of Florida.
Nevertheless, the subdued outcome was, to the surprise of no one who knows him, zero match for coach Pete Carroll’s weapons-grade enthusiasm.
“If the new guys and a couple of these free agents can come in here and make a spark and give us a little flash or something, we’re gonna be a very, very competitive team,” he said on his final Zoom chat of the weekend Saturday afternoon. “We really have firepower, we’ve got big plays, we’ve got a pass rush, we’ve got the leadership, and we have competitive depth.
“I thought this off-season was really successful at situating the roster where we felt good going into a draft without the normal volume of picks . . . It came to the point we felt like we had guys at every spot. We didn’t have any holes going in. We had concerns for depth.”
Some may disagree about the absence of holes, particularly at cornerback. But given where the Seahawks were four months ago, reeling not only from a gruesome playoff exit but an unprecedented public display of laments from Russell Wilson that included a veiled threat of departure, things have picked up.
With Carroll’s claim earlier in the week that Wilson is in a “fantastic” place with intent to remain, Seattle is certainly better off than Houston and Green Bay, which, for widely different reasons, are having Franchise Quarterback Radioactive Meltdown Festivals. Each has applied to the NFL to switch from standard player uniforms to haz-mat suits.
But back to Seattle and the unresolved matters at cornerback.
Speaking of tumult: How about the return of Richard Sherman?
“We’re always open,” Carroll said. “I’ve talked to Sherm quite a few times over the off-season. We have stayed in contact. He’s out there, and I know he’s thinking about it.
“I saw where he said there’s three or four teams (including the Seahawks) that he’s considering. We’ll see what happens. He’s been a great player and he’s still got some ball left in him, I’m sure. At this point, we’re going to clear through this day and figure out what happens with the (rookies). We’ll see where it sits later on.”
Before the reunion committee orders up balloons and crepe, Carroll’s elaboration sounded more like courtesy than curiosity. Sherman, 33, was let go by the 49ers, who signed him after an acrimonious departure from Seattle in 2017, for a reason.
“I’m just going along with the conversation right now,” Carroll said. “That’s not one of our thoughts, that we’re going out and getting another guy at this spot. But we’re going to keep looking. In that sense, I leave everything open. That’s just one of them.
“Go ahead and do whatever you want with it, but that’s where it is.”
OK, then. Let’s upload it into the app on our phones marked Marshawn Lynch Memorial Health Emergency Plan, and not look at it until needed.
More tangible is the selection of Brown, a 5-9 maker of big plays taken in the fourth round (137th overall, after the Seahawks traded back with Tampa Bay from 129), to join the CB competition.
Seattle has five veteran outside corners on its roster — returnees Tre Flowers, D.J. Reed and Damarious Randall, and newcomer free agents Ahkello Witherspoon and Pierre Desir. None of them were the designated starters from a year ago. The two that were are gone, lost to free agency — Shaquill Griffin to Jacksonville and Quinton Dunbar to Detroit.
The best 2020 season among them was had by Reed, who is also 5-9, and a Big 12 Conference grad from Kansas State known to Brown.
“I have actually been familiar with his play, him being at K-State,” said Brown via video conference. “I see that we have a lot of similarities. We’re the same size. He did kickoff returns; I did that stuff. So, we have a lot of similar play.”
Carroll’s preference for tall corners with long arms has been nearly a mandatory condition of employment. Did Reed’s success change the coach’s mind, and open the door for Brown to join Reed in the starting lineup?
“Not necessarily, because I’ve coached a lot of guys over the years, all different kinds of sizes and shapes,” he said. “It could go the other way — do you want guys that are both 5-9 out there playing? We’ve had guys that have been All Pro that were 6-2, and we’ve had guys in the past that were under six feet tall. It just depends on the kid and the style of player.
“If it works, it works. But I would say that the fact that D.J. did such a nice job, it gave us a little bit more of a mold of guys: What does it take to be a smaller guy that can be successful? They have to have this mentality about them — they’re aggressive and they make plays because of the way they are athletically.”
That would be Brown. A 4.4-second 40-yard sprinter, he had 33 starts for the Sooners over four years and was a special-teams star, returning 55 kickoffs in his career for 1,207 yards. He has a history of making big plays, including decisive plays in each of the past three Big 12 championship games.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 10, 2020
“When you say what position I play, I just say I’m an athlete,” Brown said. “I do special teams really well. When I get on the field, I’m going to give it my all — kickoff return, guarding you on the punt return. Every time I get out there I’m going to try to destroy you, be the fastest guy and just make those plays. So I pride myself on special teams just like defense.”
Brown’s innate aggression had led scouts to call him grabby — he had 14 penalties for holding or pass interference.
“That is kind of how I was taught,” he said. “Our coaches used to tell us that if we’re not getting penalties, we’re not being physical enough. I think I took that too literally. That’s something that can definitely change.
“Hands or no hands, I’m still going to be who I am, regardless.”
The Seahawks used their pick in the sixth round — their original seventh-rounder at 250, bundled with the 217 they received from Tampa, to the Bears for No. 208 — on Forsythe, a 6-9, 310-pound “monster of a man,” according to general manager John Schneider.
Forsythe was seen by some forecasters as a mid-draft talent with great pass-blocking skills but little run-blocking experience. Mysteriously, he kept falling until the Seahawks jumped up to burn their final two selections on him.
“That’s a question I kind of want to find out myself kind of why it took so long for everyone,” Forsythe said. “But I’m still grateful to get the chance to hear my name called.”
He’ll be the understudy on the left side for venerable Duane Brown, 35, who is in his final contract year.
“Duane’s been famous for that stuff for us,” Carroll said. “This will be a really competitive opportunity for Stone, but the big part of the competition is he has this great example right there in front of him to show him how to play the game. This should work out really well.
“For a big man, Stone runs well. You wouldn’t think a guy that tall would be as fast as he is. He can block on the perimeter. We’ve seen him get out and stay on his feet. He’s not on the ground much at all for a big guy.”
Nor were the Seahawks on the ground long after the Rams’ embarrassment. With relatively little salary cap room, a quarterback in a mid-career crisis and few draft picks, the Seahawks have reached the first of May in reasonable condition.
Perhaps only a Clydesdale or two short of being parade-ready.