STACY ROST

Rost: How Seahawks can address biggest areas of need this offseason

Feb 16, 2021, 8:40 AM
Seahawks RB Chris Carson...
Seahawks RB Chris Carson is hitting free agency after four seasons in Seattle. (Getty)
(Getty)

The Seahawks this week were linked to a trade rumor surrounding Philadelphia Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, and while the potential move was initially criticized – Seattle did just spend $8 million for a single year of service from Greg Olsen – a top-tier tight end is also a weapon the Seahawks are missing.

Heaps: What’s going on with Wilson complicates things with Adams

Seattle’s tight end usage (or lack thereof) in 2020 was an issue that flew largely under the radar. With 1,000-yard seasons from DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett, it hardly felt as though the Seahawks needed weapons early on in their 2020 campaign. But as the high-flying unit stumbled through the second half of the season, the tight ends felt like an underutilized position. No single tight end finished with more than 251 yards and Olsen finished with 239 and a single touchdown. Rookie Colby Parkinson – who Seattle will depend on for a bigger contribution in 2021 – tallied just 16 yards on two receptions.

Tight end isn’t the only missing piece for Seattle, nor is it the biggest. Here are the other areas of need the Seahawks should look to fill this offseason.

Left guard

Veteran left guard Mike Iupati is a free agent who, at 34, is likely done in Seattle.

Quarterback Russell Wilson drew heat for his comments about a lack of protection up front over the course of his career, but he’s also not wrong. While he’s responsible for a portion of sacks, there have also been money-saving efforts or draft misses on the O-line that have become more costly as Wilson has aged (meaning, he’s become less mobile).

By the close of the regular season, the Seahawks’ offensive line graded out as the 14th-ranked unit by Pro Football Focus. It’s not bad, but it’s not particularly good; consider that of the teams who ranked in the top five in O-line grades from PFF, all but one appeared in the divisional round of the playoffs and one of those four, Tampa Bay, went on to win Super Bowl LV.

What the Seahawks could do: Sign a pricey free agent or draft a guard (or both). Brandon Scherff and Joe Thuney are two of the best available, but both feel more like wish list items and less like realistic signings. Scherff, 30, played primarily at right guard and will carry one of the largest price tags (his market value from Spotrac is $12.7 million per year). Thuney, 29, is a favorite of my co-host Jake Heaps. Thuney has been a starter at left guard for New England – which was also one of the highest-graded units from PFF – and will also command a hefty deal.

There are a few cheaper, underrated options, like Nick Easton, the versatile Cam Erving, and Austin Blythe, who has experience at both guard and center.

As far as the draft goes, Heaps talks about a Senior Bowl prospect here.

What they might do: Re-sign Ethan Pocic to bolster the interior and hope for additional development from Phil Haynes.

Running back

This is an interesting one. Pete Carroll reiterated his focus on bolstering the run game during his end-of-season press conference, but stopped short of committing to free agent starter Chris Carson.

Carson is the perfect halfback for Carroll: a bruising, downhill runner who breaks tackles. But after three years as Seattle’s best running back, he could also command more than the Seahawks are willing to offer.

If the Seahawks lose Carson and Carlos Hyde to free agency, they’ll still have 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny and two Miami products in DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer. Problem is, Homer and Dallas have limited experience, while injuries have kept Penny from meeting lofty first-round expectations. That might be enough for an offense that leans into the pass. For the offense Carroll prefers, though, they’ll need a reliable starter.

What they could do: Bring in another starter. Simple enough, right? Well, it’s worth noting Seattle has just $4.1 million in cap space. That can, and probably will, change as the offseason progresses, but it makes it hard to acquire a talent like Aaron Jones or Kenyan Drake. A player expected to sign in the $3-6 million per year range, like New England’s James White or Pittsburgh’s James Conner, will be a more affordable option.

What they might do: Re-sign Carlos Hyde, hope for a breakout year from Penny, and use a late draft pick (or look to undrafted rookie free agency) to add depth to the running back room.

No. 3 receiver

Whether it be a tight end or another explosive wide receiver, Seattle needs a third option behind Lockett and Metcalf. They’ve got a nice slot guy with John Ursua, though he’s spent most of his career on Seattle’s practice squad. It’s a packed class in both free agency and the draft, so even with limited salary cap and draft capital Seattle can satisfy this need.

What they could do: Where do you even start? Quite a few of these players will be eliminated for Seattle on cost alone, but just for fun: the free agent class includes Allen Robinson, Chris Godwin, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Sammy Watkins, and Will Fuller. Can you afford most of them? No. Can you dream about it? Knock yourself out. A few realistic options for Seattle could be LA’s Josh Reynolds or Jacksonville’s Keelan Cole.

What they might do: Re-sign Phillip Dorsett.

Cornerback

Starter Shaquill Griffin is among Seattle’s top free agents. If they lose him, they’ll need to add depth to a thinning cornerback room. Richard Sherman and Patrick Peterson will command most of the attention, but Seattle could look to an NFC West rival for some help here.

What they could do: When it comes to its defensive backs, the first priority for Seattle should be to sign safety Jamal Adams to an extension. But if they’re looking for cornerback depth, which they should be, they can find options in their own division. Rams cornerback Troy Hill was overshadowed by stars on LA’s top-ranked defense, but would be a nice fit for the Seahawks. Other options are William Jackson III and Ahkello Witherspoon.

What they might do: Re-sign Quinton Dunbar and roll with Dunbar and Tre Flowers or D.J. Reed as starters.

Follow Stacy Rost on Twitter.

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