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O’Neil: Seahawks shouldn’t just be better this season — they have to be

The Seahawks made big moves ahead of Russell Wilson's 10th season as their QB. (Getty)

The Seahawks entered last season hoping to be better than the year before.

They were, winning one more regular-season game and reaching the second round of the playoffs.

This year, though, they absolutely have to be better than they were last season.

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It’s a big ask as Seattle was 11-5 and won a playoff game. It reflects the big bet Seattle made when it acquired a truly big-time player in safety Jamal Adams, giving up its next two first-round picks not to mention a 2021 third-round choice. It’s the kind of move a team makes for right here, right now and that raises the stakes on the outcome of this season.

The expectations that Seattle is facing are not new. They’ve been considered favorites before. What’s new is the urgency because Seattle gave up its next two first-round picks with an eye toward an immediate payoff. If Seattle isn’t better this season than it was in 2019, it will be significantly harder to get better next offseason given the fact it has already traded two of its top three picks in the 2021 draft.

That’s not a criticism of the trade but an attempt to provide the proper framing. Seattle is going for it. Right now. The Seahawks have a quarterback who is one of the two best at his position. Russell Wilson is in his prime and he’s coming off what is probably the best season of his career, and with that in mind the Seahawks decided they weren’t going to wait for incremental improvement on a defense that was demonstrably bad last season.

So they traded their best pick in each of the next two years for Adams. It was the NFL equivalent of promising to pay you on Tuesday for a hamburger today. Except in this case, Seattle has promised to pay for the next two years in exchange for an All-Pro safety who was a top-10 pick. In other words: The kind of player they didn’t expect to have a chance at drafting any time soon.

This is the kind of move a team makes when it thinks it’s a player away from taking the next step. Seattle didn’t entirely mortgage its future to acquire Adams, but if this deal isn’t enough to make the Seahawks’ defense at least adequate, it’s hard to see how Seattle is going to get there without a first-round draft pick the next two years.

We’re not going to have to wait to see how this deal pans out. We’re going to see starting Sunday in Atlanta when Seattle begins its season against a team known for a passing game operated by Matt Ryan and featuring Julio Jones.

Seattle hasn’t exactly distinguished itself in road openers during Pete Carroll’s 10 years as coach. The Seahawks are 2-8 in their first road game of the season under Carroll, with one of the two wins coming last year in Pittsburgh in Week 2. Points have been the problem in those games, too. Seattle has scored fewer than 20 points in six of those 10 road openers and failed to reach double figures in two of those games.

But points aren’t supposed to be the problem for Seattle this season. The offense is expected to be a strength of this team. The question is whether the defense can hold up its end.

The Seahawks gave up 381.6 yards last season, seventh-most in the league. Opponents averaged more than 6 yards per snap. The Seahawks shouldn’t just be better than that this season; they have to be better. The trade for Adams just raised the stakes.

Follow Danny O’Neil on Twitter.

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