Seahawks Offseason Primer: The big player and coaching decisions for 2021
Jan 15, 2021, 1:48 PM
In less than a week, the Seahawks have already had a pretty eventful offseason.
General manager John Schneider signed a long-term extension, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer has been let go and Vice President of Football Operations Scott Fitterer is leaving Seattle to become Carolina Panthers general manager, but the team still has a ton of big decisions to make going forward.
The Seahawks have some key names set to hit free agency and they currently don’t have picks in the first or third rounds of the 2021 NFL Draft. Additionally, the salary cap is expected to go down by roughly $20 million due to revenue loss from the COVID-19 pandemic, so that makes this offseason that much harder to navigate.
With Seattle’s season over, let’s look at what’s ahead for the Seahawks.
(Note, all salary amounts are from Spotrac.com.)
Potential restructured contracts or extensions
• Players: SS Jamal Adams, FS Quandre Diggs, DE Carlos Dunlap, DT Jarran Reed
The Seahawks’ defense had an impressive turnaround in the second half of 2020, and the players listed above were all key reasons why. They’re also all in play for contract extensions.
First up would be Adams, 25, who the Seahawks sent two first-round picks, a third-round pick and safety Bradley McDougald to the New York Jets to acquire. Part of why Adams wanted out of New York was because he wanted a long-term deal that the team wouldn’t provide him. He and the Seahawks reportedly haven’t discussed a new deal yet, but that likely will change this offseason after the safety set an NFL record for sacks by a defensive back with 9.5 in 12 games, which led the team. He was also named a Second-Team All-Pro and made the Pro Bowl. Budda Baker of the Arizona Cardinals is the NFL’s highest-paid safety at $14.75 million annually while Adams is entering the last year of his rookie contract.
Adams isn’t the Seahawks’ only Pro Bowl safety as Diggs, 29, also earned that honor after recording a team-high five interceptions. The Seahawks traded for Diggs before the 2019 trade deadline, and he’s made a ton of plays for the defense. He is set to make roughly $5.5 million on the last year of his current contract in 2021.
While Adams led the Seahawks in sacks, two other key members of the pass rush were Dunlap and Reed.
Dunlap, 31, came to the Seahawks through a midseason trade with the Cincinnati Bengals and was a key member of the defense, recording five sacks in eight games. He moved money around on his deal that allowed the trade to Seattle happen, and he’s set to make $14.1 million in 2021.
Reed, 28, signed a two-year deal to stay with the Seahawks last offseason after missing six games in 2019 due to a suspension. He didn’t record 10.5 sacks like he did in 2018, but he did finish second on the team with 6.5 sacks. He is set to make $13.5 million.
With Reed and Dunlap’s larger contracts, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Seahawks had to restructure one or both of their deals or even release one. Releasing Reed would cause a dead cap hit of $5 million, while Dunlap has no guarantees for 2021, so releasing him would save $14.1 million outright.
If the Seahawks were to sign one or both of them to longer deals, they could backload the contract to later years to help with the decreased salary cap in 2021.
Seahawks unrestricted free agents
One of the key parts of Seattle’s offseason will be whether or not the team is able to retain players heading into free agency. Per Spotrac, the Seahawks have 23 players who will be unrestricted free agents this offseason, and a few names stand out among the rest.
• “The big three”: RB Chris Carson, LB K.J. Wright, CB Shaquill Griffin
These will be the main players to watch.
Carson, a 2017 seventh-round pick, is a two-time 1,000-yard rusher who head coach Pete Carroll loves, but he’s had some injury concerns – he missed five games in 2020 and has never played a full 16-game season. Carroll said he wants to get back to running the football more in 2021, and of the three running backs signed for next season, Rashaad Penny has the most experience and is a former first-round pick but has injury concerns of his own. That could lead to Carson, 26, staying on for at least one more season in Seattle.
Wright, the Seahawks’ longest-tenured player, re-signed with the team after playing just five games in 2018 and has since had a fantastic two-year stretch. He had a career-high 133 tackles in 2019, and a move to strongside linebacker in 2020 put Wright in position to make plays on a regular basis. Per Seahawks PR, the 31-year-old Wright was the only player in the NFL this year with 10-plus pass deflections and 10-plus tackles for loss. Josina Anderson reported Wright will be looking to be paid well for that level of production, which could lead to him leaving Seattle, the only team he’s played for in the NFL since entering the league in 2011 as a fourth-round pick.
Griffin 25, has been Seattle’s top corner since 2018 and may be a franchise tag candidate. He missed four games in 2020 but also recorded a career-high three interceptions. The Seahawks selected Griffin in the third round of 2017 and he’s been a starter outside ever since. Though he has made a Pro Bowl in his four-year career, he’s not considered a true No. 1 shutdown corner, which he may try to get paid like. Seattle has D.J. Reed and Tre Flowers on the roster for 2021, but if the Seahawks let Griffin walk, cornerback would have to be a priority in free agency and/or the NFL draft.
• Starting-caliber names: TE Greg Olsen, CB Quinton Dunbar, DE Benson Mayowa, DE/LB Bruce Irvin, TE Jacob Hollister, WR David Moore, LG Mike Iupati, C Ethan Pocic, RB Carlos Hyde, WR Josh Gordon
While Carson, Wright and Griffin will dominate most discussions when it comes to players the Seahawks may or may not re-sign, Seattle also has other 10 starting-caliber players who are set to hit the open market.
Olsen, Dunbar, Mayowa and Irvin were four of Seattle’s biggest additions this offseason, but they all missed time due to injury, with only Mayowa playing more than 12 games.
Olsen signed a one-year deal to be a key part of the Seahawks’ tight end room and offense, but in 11 games he caught just 24 passes for 239 yards and one touchdown, which came in Week 1. At 35 years old, it wouldn’t be surprising if 2020 was Olsen’s last run in the NFL, especially since he signed with FOX Sports last year to be a commentator once he retires.
Dunbar, 28, was acquired via trade from Washington to be Seattle’s No. 2 corner, but he played just six games due to a knee injury. That came after an offseason where Dunbar was accused of armed robbery, though he ultimately wasn’t charged. If Griffin walks, the Seahawks could try and get Dunbar back on a one-year “prove it” deal so he can reset his value.
Irvin, 33, and Mayowa, 29, were signed to help a Seattle pass rush that tallied only 28 sacks in 2019. While the Seahawks had 48 sacks in 2020, Irvin had none before tearing his ACL in Week 2. Mayowa had six in 13 games, which ranked third on the team. Irvin’s versatility to play both defensive end and strongside linebacker could lead to him re-signing, especially if Wright opts to go elsewhere. Mayowa’s showing as a capable rotational pass rusher shows he has value for the Seahawks going forward, as well.
After emerging as the Seahawks’ No. 3 target in 2019, Hollister had just 209 yards in 2020, though he had three touchdowns. His snaps were all over the place with Olsen and Will Dissly on the roster, but Russell Wilson trusts the 27 year old, so he could be a priority to return for 2021.
While Hollister was the No. 3 target in 2019, that title belonged to Moore in 2020. He finished the season with 35 catches, 417 yards and six touchdowns. A 2017 seventh-round draft pick by Seattle, the 25 year old took a pay cut to stay with the team in 2020 and earned a bonus in Week 17 for catching his 35th pass of the season.
On the offensive line, the Seahawks brought back Iupati and plugged him in as the starter yet again, but he battled injuries just as he has most of his career, missing six games in 2020. At 33, his career may be done. The Seahawks also let Justin Britt go last offseason and gave Pocic, 25, his first extended look as a starter at center, where he was solid in 14 games played.
Two former 1,000-yard players who Seattle signed to one-year deals last offseason had remarkably different 2020 seasons. Hyde, a running back, had 356 yards and four touchdowns as the Seahawks’ No. 2 back behind Carson while Gordon didn’t play a single down because of a suspension.
The 30-year-old Hyde could be back in the fold if Carson walks and the Seahawks opt for a veteran who knows the system to assume the lead back role. Gordon’s situation is trickier. He was activated from the Commissioner’s Exempt List late in the year and the belief was he would play Week 16, but then word came out Gordon was not actually eligible to return and as a result he hasn’t played since Week 15 of 2019. The 29 year old is a former First-Team All-Pro dating back to his time with the Cleveland Browns.
On Friday, ESPN’s Field Yates reported that Gordon’s conditional reinstatement had been rescinded and he’s once again suspended indefinitely.
• Reserve players: OT Cedric Ogbuehi, QB Geno Smith, CB Neiko Thorpe, FB Nick Bellore, DE Branden Jackson, S Damarious Randall, WR Phillip Dorsett, DL Damontre Moore, S Lano Hill, CB Jayson Stanley
The Seahawks have some bigger names set to hit free agency, but they also have a number of depth pieces that could leave the team as well.
Of the 10 listed above, only Ogbuehi, 28, started any games in 2020. The former first-round pick started three games at right tackle.
Bellore, 31, is listed as a fullback but barely played on offense in 2020. He made his mark on special teams, though, where he was named to the 2021 Pro Bowl.
Perhaps the biggest wild card of these names is Dorsett, who is a former first-round pick who didn’t play in 2021 due to a foot injury. Dorsett, 28, was signed to be a No. 3 receiver and deep threat but never saw the field. If the Seahawks lose Moore or are looking to secure more depth at receiver, Dorsett could be a “buy-low” option.
For a full breakdown of Seattle’s pending free agents, visit this link.
The Seahawks will likely have a fairly new-looking offensive staff next season with at least two key positions needing to be filled.
The big news is that Schottenheimer was fired after three seasons running Seattle’s offense. There’s no telling when his replacement will be named, or who it will be. That will likely be the biggest hire the Seahawks make this offseason.
Seattle will also have to fill at least one more hole on the offensive coaching staff, and perhaps even two.
Head coach Pete Carroll’s son Brennan, who was the Seahawks’ run game coordinator in 2020 and a member of Seattle’s coaching staff since 2015, has been hired as the new offensive coordinator for the University of Arizona. If Seattle decides to keep run game coordinator as a coaching position, the team will need to find someone to take over that role.
Additionally, pass game coordinator Dave Canales could end up going elsewhere. Canales joined up with Carroll as part of his USC coaching staff in 2009 and has been with the Seahawks since Carroll was hired in 2010. Canales was Seattle’s wide receivers coach from 2010 to 2017 and then quarterbacks coach in 2018 and 2019. He was promoted to pass game coordinator in 2020.
Canales may be a candidate for the Seahawks’ current offensive coordinator spot, but his name hasn’t been reported in that discussion. Canales has, however, interviewed with Vanderbilt to become the school’s offensive coordinator, so he may join a staff other than Carroll’s for the first time since 2008.