STACY ROST

Rost’s Seahawks Takeaways: Where does Seattle currently rank in NFC?

May 11, 2021, 10:21 AM
Seahawks...
The Seahawks will once again play in the NFL's toughest division in 2021. (Getty)
(Getty)

You didn’t expect the NFL headlines to slow down just because the draft ended, did you? Credit to Aaron Rodgers for keeping the news cycle alive and hectic in the first week of May. Here’s a look at two NFL headlines right now, tailored just for Seahawks fans:

The story: Broncos to make a run at Aaron Rodgers if he’s available

The question: How can Seattle avoid the situation Green Bay is in with Rodgers?

The saga in Green Bay continues.

Unlike Russell Wilson, who in a radio interview earlier this year lamented the number of times he’s been sacked in his career, Aaron Rodgers hasn’t clearly levied a critique of his team. Rather, the source of the rumors of his unhappiness in Green Bay is two-fold: first, Rodgers publicly questioned his future with the Packers after his team was ousted in the NFC championship, framing it as a decision that lay with Packers leadership in a league where no future is guaranteed.

Months later, ESPN’s Adam Schefter issued a now-infamous draft day tweet stating, to paraphrase, that Rodgers wants out of Green Bay.

To find out how Seattle can avoid a sticky situation like this, you’ve got to first understand how Green Bay got here.

While the NFL is a cutthroat business where the futures of most players are uncertain, it’s hard to lump the doubts and worries of 2020’s MVP (and one of the league’s richest players) in with a pool of second- and third-string guys, or practice squad hopefuls. Instead, most saw Rodgers’ end-of-season admission as him vying for power and leverage, dropping a veiled public message to his team: I don’t need you, and I’m not afraid to move on.

Jump back months before that NFC championship loss, and you’ll find the catalyst for that message.

On night one of the 2020 NFL Draft, the Packers traded up from No. 30 overall to No. 26 to select Utah State quarterback Jordan Love. It had been nearly a decade since the Packers selected an offensive player in the first round, and you can bet their veteran quarterback wasn’t pleased to see the pick was used on neither a top tier receiver nor a guard, but rather on his eventual replacement. (As an interesting aside, the Seahawks were in talks with the Packers to trade back from No. 27. That trade ultimately fell through, and Seattle made the selection of linebacker Jordyn Brooks.)

It seems simple, but if the Seahawks don’t want to be in a situation like this, follow this one easy rule: don’t draft a first-round quarterback, and especially don’t do it without telling your tenured franchise quarterback beforehand.

For all of Seattle’s rumored interest in quarterbacks over the last few years – namely, Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes – the team never made a move to secure either of these picks. They certainly could have; look at San Francisco trading away part of their future for a chance at No. 3 overall. Whether or not their interest in these players has bothered Wilson, the truth is they’ve chosen to stick with him, which to their credit is notable and important.

Pete Carroll and John Schneider’s decision to stick with Wilson rather than acquire a new quarterback avoids the messy fallout Green Bay is in. But is it solution enough? Take this last bit with a grain of salt – Wilson has avoided making any similar comments since then, and Carroll assured reporters in April that Wilson is “in a great place.”

As a general observation about the evolution of a quarterback’s relationship with his team, it’s also fair to assume that a quarterback in his 30s, having spent a decade in the league, would advocate more than his 20-something-year-old self.

We’ve seen this with veteran quarterbacks around the league, some wielding more power and sway than others based on their career accomplishments, but all developing the growing sense of self that comes with experience, the growing sense of urgency that comes with age in a physical sport, and a growing sense of value in communication, transparency, and a shared goal.

If the Seahawks and Wilson have that relationship, then it’s likely an impending breakup is something not experienced, but rather watched from 2,000 miles away.

The story: TB odds as favorite to win Super Bowl keep rising

The question: Where are the Seahawks in the NFC power rankings?

The Buccaneers have managed what can feel like an impossible feat: they’ve returned all 22 Super Bowl starters for 2021. Bring back the same championship roster, and you’ll find yourself championship favorites.

But where do the Seahawks stack up compared to the rest of the NFC?

First, that depends on the futures of a few playoff stalwarts.

Given Aaron Rodgers’ cap hit, the Packers are unlikely to trade him before June 1 – but that cap hit becomes a bit friendlier after that date, and a trade can’t be completely ruled out. Rodgers was the best part of that Packers team in 2020 and without him, they’d be running a talented squad with an inexperienced passer in Jordan Love. Intriguing, sure. Guaranteed? Far from it.

The Saints are still a stacked roster, but Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill hardly boast the accuracy and experience of Drew Brees.

The Falcons racked up more weapons in this year’s draft – led by tight end Kyle Pitts – and will make things tough if the defense can stay more consistent than it was in 2020.

Washington boasted the second-best defense in the NFC last year. Will a combination of Kyle Allen and Ryan Fitzpatrick be enough on offense?

The NFC East as a whole should take a step forward from last season – not that it’ll be tough to do – with the return of Dak Prescott in Dallas.

Uncertainty with a few NFC powerhouses make an easier path for the Seahawks, but they’ll need to get out of their own division first.

That’s where things get interesting. If you hadn’t clicked on that story link, you may not have noticed the other four teams rounding out the top five NFL teams by money wagered. The defending AFC champion Chiefs are No. 2 and the Cleveland Browns are No. 4. The other two teams are in Seattle’s division: the San Francisco 49ers (No. 3) and Los Angeles Rams (No. 5).

The Rams bring back the bulk of last year’s top defense (without their defensive coordinator this time around) and an upgrade at quarterback with Matthew Stafford. The 49ers, perhaps the most snake-bitten team of 2020, will see much of their roster return, and the Cardinals will roll out a defensive line featuring former Texans All-Pro J.J. Watt and a healthy Chandler Jones.

The entirety of the NFC West will likely rank near the top of the conference power rankings as a whole, and where the Seahawks land as favorites will depend almost entirely on how dominant they can be against their divisional foes.

Here’s to a fascinating battle in league’s toughest division!

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