Brock & Salk: Where the Seahawks’ roster building has come up short
As the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals get ready to meet in the Super Bowl on Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks will be at home watching after missing the playoffs for just the second time in the last decade.
What can the Seahawks learn from the two teams playing for a title this weekend?
The path taken by the Rams, Seattle’s NFC West rival, is known pretty well. They’ve dealt top draft picks in splashy trades for players like quarterback Matthew Stafford and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, all the while doing well with the draft picks they’ve kept. Oh, and having fearsome defensive tackle Aaron Donald to build around doesn’t hurt.
The Bengals’ story is different from the Rams’, and while it’s a little less publicized around these parts, it’s an easy one to understand. They’ve also done extremely well in the draft in recent years, and that carries more weight because they’ve kept their top picks, the most notable example being quarterback and 2020 No. 1 overall pick Joe Burrow. But where they really differ from the Rams is how much they’ve spent in free agency for players like Pro Bowl defensive end Trey Hendrickson.
How do the Seahawks fit in all of this? As discussed on this week’s Brock and Salk Podcast from 710 ESPN Seattle, their preference of acquiring players has been closer to Los Angeles, but generally Seattle is trailing behind in all three phases of player acquisition – the draft, trades and free agency.
Free agency, though, is where they’ve really come up short. When they’ve had salary cap space to work with, Mike Salk said, they went the route of quantity over quality. And that jumps out after a 7-10 season and with franchise quarterback Russell Wilson nearing his mid-30s and only two years left on his contract.
“The Seahawks did have money (in previous offseasons), and this is the most easy way of looking at it: Rather than getting a star tackle like Jack Conklin, they got three stiffs,” Salk said. “There’s no other way to say it. They spent the same money they could have spent on a good player on three not very good players. That is the end of the story, and it is seeming to come back and bite them.
“You would sure like to see them start to make some changes to the way they do that because they have not brought in an impactful free agent in Seattle since Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett.”
Avril and Bennett made Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with Seattle, but those signings came in 2013 and both are now retired. So yeah, that’s a long time ago.
“The acquisition phase is interesting,” responded Brock Huard. “In the draft, (the Seahawks) believe in volume. In free agency, they believe in volume. And the trade side of things, that is where they’ve gone for it. That is where they’ve traded for Percy Harvin. That is where they traded for Jimmy Graham. That is where they have said, ‘No, no, we’ll give away (top draft picks) for impact.'”
Some of the Seahawks’ trades have worked, such as for Pro Bowl left tackle Duane Brown. Moves for defensive linemen Jadeveon Clowney and Sheldon Richardson helped for the one year each were in Seattle but didn’t get the team over the hump. The most recent big trade, a 2020 blockbuster deal for safety Jamal Adams, is trending the wrong direction.
So why has Seahawks general manager John Schneider shied away from big-name free agents while embracing trades for superstars? Salk shared his read on it.
“The market for free agents, it spirals on you, and because there are a lot of teams – many of whom with more money than you to spend – bidding at the top of the free-agent market, you can lose value there because you’re overspending on the guys, especially on the first day of free agency. Whereas in the trade market, more NFL teams are very hesitant to jump into it because of how highly they value their draft picks (and) because they’re spending so much money in free agency. So if you’re spending a lot in free agency, you have to make sure you balance that off with hitting on the draft, right? Well, the Seahawks have been willing to give up draft picks in order to acquire talent in trades, and the reality of that is that they then don’t get involved in the same level of bidding in free agency.
“So if John Schneider were here – I’ll talk for him, and I think he’d make a pretty compelling point. ‘Hey, I get what you’re saying. You want me to go spend more money in free agency; here’s why I don’t. There’s too many teams bidding, the price gets driven up, I don’t get the kind of value I want, whereas there’s a much smaller group of teams that are even willing to make trades in the NFL so I capitalize where there’s value.’ And I think John would be right about that.”
But Salk also understands that with the results the Seahawks have received in recent years and the example being set by the Bengals, now might be the time to adjust that strategy.
“You know what the answer to John would be? ‘John, you’re still spending the money in free agency. You’re just not getting enough impact,'” Salk said. “No one is telling you that you just need to spend more. They’re saying spend it on better players.”
This is just a snapshot of the entire conversation, which covers much more about the Seahawks’ situation and concludes with a bit of a revelation from Huard that may be a reason Seattle acts with a sense of urgency this offseason. You can hear it in the first segment of the Brock and Salk Podcast at this link or in the player below.