Which Seahawks departure will be the toughest to overcome this season?
This offseason saw the Seahawks lose several major veteran contributors on both sides of the ball. With the departures of so many Pro Bowl-caliber players, which position will be the toughest for Seattle to fill?
On offense, key departures included tight end Jimmy Graham (who led the team with 10 touchdown receptions) and wide receiver Paul Richardson (Seattle’s No. 2 receiver who finished with 713 yards and six touchdowns).
But Seattle’s jaw-dropping moves came on defense, where the team released All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman, traded defensive end Michael Bennett, and released defensive end Cliff Avril with a failed physical. Pro Bowl defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson signed with the Vikings in free agency, and question marks surround the futures of both starting safeties (as Kam Chancellor waits to make a decision on what was a season-ending neck injury, and Earl Thomas continues his holdout).
Which former player will Seattle have the hardest time replacing? 710 ESPN Seattle’s Dave Wyman and John Clayton each offered their opinions.
Dave Wyman: Michael Bennett
“No question about that. The pass rush – that’s the one thing that is missing this year. You saw about 15 to 20 sacks go out the door with the trade of Michael Bennett and then Cliff Avril retiring because of injury. That’s going to be the one thing.”
Bennett finished his final year in Seattle with 8.5 sacks and 25 tackles, and played nearly 85 percent of all defensive snaps (only linebackers K.J. Wright and Bobby Wagner played more). With the loss of Avril and Richardson, Seattle is looking at a defensive line with just one remaining starter from Week 1 of last season.
John Clayton: Richard Sherman
“He was your lock-down cornerback on the left side and a guy that was performing, really, at a Hall of Fame-type level. Here he is coming off the Achilles injury and he was able to make the NFL Top 100. He adds such an element of smarts and skills to that cornerback position. And also, as good as the defensive line has been, the heart of that defense became the secondary. When you look at Sherman, you’re lucky to get maybe 60 passes thrown on him a year, and maybe lucky to get 30 or 32 completed. He was that shutdown corner – so good on the fade passes, as good a cornerback as I’ve ever seen as far as positioning his body, doing the kick steps, the hands and all those things that were able to prevent those long passes from going in.
“That’s, I think, a very tough one to replace … They were lucky that (second-year cornerback) Shaquill Griffin turned out to be so good. We’ll see if he’s going to be able to fill in at that left corner spot, because normally the left cornerback is going to draw the best wide receiver.”