JAKE AND STACY

Jake & Stacy: 4 important Seahawks player decisions this offseason

Dec 28, 2021, 9:54 AM | Updated: 10:08 am
Seahawks Rashaad Penny...
Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny (carries against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)
(carries against the Chicago Bears on Sunday. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

The Seahawks are now 5-10 and are officially out of playoff contention for the first time since the 2017 season after losing 25-24 to the Chicago Bears on Sunday.

Rost: Seahawks now face uncertainty after decade of success

With a sub-.500 record and playoffs out of the picture following back-to-back losses, many eyes are shifting to what’s next for the franchise.

When it comes to the current Seattle roster, Jake Heaps and Stacy Rost say there are four players who are making that “what’s next?” question very interesting for the Seahawks – two for good reasons and two for bad ones. Here’s what they had to say about those players during Monday’s edition of Jake and Stacy on 710 ESPN Seattle.

Seahawks RB Rashaad Penny

Running back Rashaad Penny, the Seahawks’ 2018 first-round pick, has been a frequent target of fans and media members as he’s never lived up to that first-round billing due to inconsistency and, more largely, injuries.

This season has been extremely up and down for Penny as he started the year banged up with various leg injuries. But over the last three weeks, Penny has rushed f0r over 300 yards and three touchdowns, including two games with over 130 rushing yards. He is on the last year of his rookie contract and is a pending free agent.

“This is a player who I still think that after even two games where he surpassed 130 rushing yards, people still have their doubts, and I do not blame them for that,” Rost said. “Rashaad Penny has not been available to this team. He’s a player who didn’t struggle with injury at all, not just in college but (also) in high school, and yet hasn’t been able to stay on the field for Seattle.”

Penny has tied his career high in rushing touchdowns with three, which Rost says “kind of says what you need to know about Rashaad Penny.”

“We know he’s talented. We know what he can do. But can he be available?” she asked.

Heaps said that it needs to be made very clear that what Penny has done over the last few weeks “isn’t nothing.”

“The reason why you can’t just write it off and say, ‘Oh, who cares? These games are meaningless. Rashaad Penny, don’t bring him back’ … He’s showing what his talent has always been,” Heaps said. “He has been a talented football player, a talented running back that is capable when healthy. When he’s at his best and putting performances like this together, he is an explosive running back that can make big plays. And when you give him a crease, a clear crease, he can make something happen.”

Heaps said that Penny isn’t the same player as Chris Carson, the team’s No. 1 back who also has a lengthy injury history, but Penny is still very talented and “can absolutely be a successful back in this league.”

But Heaps said it gets difficult to decide on Penny’s future as both he and Carson have “talent versus availability” issues.

“This great run of production that we’re seeing from Rashad Penny, is it encouraging? Would you want to bring him back? I think so,” Heaps said. ” … But no way would I be going into (next) season banking on Rashaad Penny’s production. It would have to be supplemented by somebody else that I believe is reliable and somebody that can really get the job done. And unfortunately with where you’re at with your running backs, can you say that about Rashaad Penny and Chris Carson heading into 2022? The answer is no. And that’s the hardest part about it.”

Pro Bowl FS Quandre Diggs

The Seahawks have not been the best when it comes to generating turnovers the last two seasons, but they’ve gotten plenty thanks to Pro Bowl free safety Quandre Diggs.

Since coming to the Seahawks in a midseason 2019 trade, Diggs has 13 interceptions in 36 games and two Pro Bowl nods.

Diggs is a pending free agent who didn’t get a long-term extension despite sitting out most of offseason training camp in search of a new deal.

“He has five interceptions in each of the last two years, and both years that leads the team,” Rost said. “He’s still got games left to play this season so he has a chance to set a career high in interceptions this season. Not only that, not only the interceptions, he’s been a great player for you. He has been your most consistent defensive player and he’s also going to be a free agent.”

The issue with Diggs comes down to the fact that the Seahawks already made strong safety Jamal Adams the NFL’s highest-paid safety last offseason.

“Are you prepared for the Seahawks to be paying the league’s most expensive safety contract? And another certainly top 10 safety deal?” Rost asked.

Rost said the Seahawks have shown in recent years that they’re willing to go on the cheap end when it comes to defensive backs, and that by not paying Diggs, they could instead focus on the pass rush and offensive line, which have been major weaknesses for Seattle for years now.

“I think there’s certainly a world where Quandre Diggs finishes the year as one of your best – if not your best and most consistent – defensive player, and also a world where he moves on from you next year,” she said.

Heaps said that unless the Seahawks undergo “big changes” and a full rebuild “tearing this thing down to the studs,” then the Seahawks should pay up for Diggs even though they’ve invested a lot at safety in Adams’ deal.

“I don’t know how you can move on without Quandre Diggs,” he said. ” … He’s a guy that has stabilized everything. He’s been a true leader for this organization, and he’s been a true playmaker. He’s been producing and you can’t move on from that. And if I’m the Seahawks, you’re going to have to make sacrifices somewhere. You’re going to have to make a move somewhere on this roster to alleviate that contract for Quandre Diggs. I don’t think you can keep the roster that you have now and add Quandre Diggs to it. I don’t think that’s what you would do in this situation. That’s why it’s such an intriguing conversation.”

Heaps also said the Seahawks need to improve the offensive and defensive lines and that paying another safety wouldn’t help in that regard.

“But tell me, what other good options do they have out there at free safety?” he asked. “I would say that there is none and Quandre Diggs has solidified himself within this organization as a piece that you have to have on this team moving forward … I think Quandre Diggs is one of the best free safeties in the game, and he’s someone that loves it here in Seattle.”

Seahawks K Jason Myers

The first of two players under contract for the Seahawks for 2022 who Heaps and Rost discussed is kicker Jason Myers.

After a Pro Bowl 2018 season for the New York Jets, Myers signed with the Seahawks in 2019. After a rather bumpy start to his return to Seattle (he previously spent the 2018 offseason with the Hawks), Myers didn’t miss a field goal from Week 10 until the end of the season. He carried that play over to 2020, where Myers made all 24 of his field goal attempts.

But 2021 hasn’t been as kind to Myers as he’s made just 13 of 19 field goals, including a 39-yard try in the snow on Sunday that played a big part in the Seahawks’ loss to the Bears.

Rost was blunt and said Myers has “been struggling this year” and, as a result, his spot on the roster in 2022 may be up in the air.

Heaps dove into Myers a little deeper.

He called Myers’ career “wildly inconsistent” and compared his 2021 season to that of 2017 Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh, who missed a number of important kicks that helped result in Seattle missing the playoffs.

“He has cost the team a lot of wins this season because he has missed field goals,” Heaps said of Myers.

Myers is signed through next season and will be one of the NFL’s highest-paid kickers at $5 million. That’s part of why Myers’ struggles are so frustrating, Heaps said.

“In this situation, Jason Myers has not lived up to (his contract),” he said. “However, do you really want to go down that road where you get into this kicking fiasco, which they got themselves into moving on from Stephen Hauschka?”

Hauschka was Seattle’s kicker from 2011-16 and was incredibly effective, but the Seahawks chose not to pay him in free agency after a Pro Bowl 2016 season and wound up having two different starting kickers, including the aforementioned Walsh, after he left and before signing Myers ahead of 2019.

“It took them a while to find a guy that they felt could be consistent,” Heaps said. “That’s the problem and that’s the risk you run. And I do think that there is a possibility that you may run it back with Jason Myers, even though his cap hit is $5 million.”

QB Russell Wilson

Of course, no Seahawks player has a bigger question mark next to their name when looking at their future in Seattle than quarterback Russell Wilson.

Heaps: One play shows disconnect between Wilson, Carroll

Wilson, who is signed through the 2023 season, missed games for the first time in his career this season due to a right middle finger injury. He sat out three games while recovering from surgery and came back after Seattle’s bye, but he has struggled overall since returning to action. In 2021, Wilson has completed 64.9% of his passes for 2,639 yards, 18 touchdowns and five interceptions in 12 games.

Wilson made waves last offseason when it was reported he was upset with how often he’s been hit and sacked in his career and that he would consider waiving his no-trade clause to four teams.

Now, whether Wilson and the Seahawks part ways this offseason will be among the biggest NFL storylines until he’s either traded or the 2022 season begins.

“There’s also Russell Wilson under contract for you. He has a no-trade clause, meaning he’d need to approve the team he was sent to,” Rost said. “But his play this year, if we’re being honest, is certainly making things interesting for Seattle.”

Heaps said when it comes to Wilson, “obviously things are not right” and that Seahawks ownership and management face a big dilemma when looking at why that has been the case this year.

“How do you get Russell Wilson back on track? That, to me, is the biggest question,” he said. “Does this organization with the powers that be want to truly solve that issue? Or is it more of, ‘Hey Russell, you’ve got to play better. You’ve got to be in this position where you bail us out and are having to keep the walls together’? I think that to me is the biggest question of all when it comes to Russell Wilson.”

Heaps said he wants “this whole thing to work out” between the Seahawks and Wilson, and there are a few different ways this upcoming offseason may play out.

“With Russ, maybe the the best thing (for the Seahawks) is to move on and to try and start anew and rebuild your roster,” Heaps said. “Or maybe it is to try to retool this roster and revamp this roster to put him in better positions (to succeed going forward). As I’ve said before, that is the first question that I’m asking if I’m (Seahawks chair) Jody Allen is trying to answer and solve what I do next (with Wilson).”

Listen to the full conversation from Monday’s edition of Jake and Stacy at this link or in the player below.

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