MIKE SALK

Salk: The 5 biggest Seahawks storylines to watch this offseason

Mar 2, 2022, 9:10 AM
Seahawks Russell Wilson, Bobby Wagner...
Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner react during a Seahawks-Titans game. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)
(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

As the best college players arrive in Indianapolis this week to get measured, weighed, interviewed and tested, the NFL officially begins its offseason. Rosters will be redesigned, contracts will be signed, veterans will be cut, young replacements will be drafted and we might even see a trade or two. We’ll also get the free agent rush, the occasional holdout, a quarterback or two making sure they get their share of the spotlight, and probably an unfortunate incident or arrest. Yes, the NFL offseason is underway. As for the Seahawks, they find themselves at crossroads.

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It’s been eight years since they advanced past the second round of the playoffs, their quarterback has shown signs of frustration, they’ve turned over their assistant coaching staff, and they have plenty of cap space despite no first-round pick.

With that in mind, here are the five biggest storylines to watch this offseason.

1.  What (or maybe where) is Russell Wilson’s future?

I know, I know, Russ probably isn’t going anywhere. He has a no-trade clause and the Seahawks have shown no willingness to make a deal. But that doesn’t mean we won’t be hearing the rumor mill set on high.

Other teams need quarterbacks and many of them would want Russ to tilt their room. What if someone makes an offer that no one can refuse? It’s unlikely, but it isn’t impossible. And after an injury, a down season and some uncomfortable back-and-forth moments of accountability with his coach, this story isn’t going anywhere.

It’s also worth noting that the decision not to deal Russ is a storyline unto itself. If he is truly unwilling to resign in two years when his deal is up, that makes their window awfully short. And if they can’t build a better product around him before then, they will have wasted their opportunity to rebuild and plan for their future.

2. How serious are the Seahawks about winning ASAP?

The only reason to keep Russell Wilson is if you believe you can build a winning roster around him. Yes, the 2021 Seahawks suffered injuries that derailed what could have been a more successful campaign. But you are what your record says you are and 7-10 is well below the competitive standard we have come to expect.

To build that winning roster, they need to not only bring back important pieces but add to them in a significant way. That could mean taking a different approach to free agency and getting more high end talent. To do so would mean being aggressive on day one of free agency and spending money on the first wave of talent rather than waiting for the next group of picked over items left on the shelf.

The Seahawks have always managed their cap responsibly. But watching the Rams and others spend freely and kick the can down the road by restructuring veteran contracts should present a blueprint on how to handle the remaining years of the Pete/Russ duo.

3. Which free agents return? How can the roster drastically improve through free agency?

Now we are getting into specifics.

The Seahawks have seven players from last year’s roster that they might want back: Quandre Diggs, Duane Brown, D.J. Reed, Gerald Everett, Sidney Jones, Rashaad Penny and Brandon Shell. How many return?

And which free agents will they target? They need help on the edge where Chandler Jones is the biggest name, but Harold Landry and old friend Jadeveon Clowney are options as well. They need a disruptive interior defensive tackle. They need to improve their offensive line. And depending on which free agents walk away, they may need to patch holes in their secondary and on the offensive line.

4. What do they want to do with Bobby Wagner?

This is still the most uncomfortable conversation, but that doesn’t make it any less important.

Bobby Wagner is a fantastic leader, a pillar in the Seattle community, and he has had a Hall of Fame career here with the Seahawks. He also makes a huge salary, plays a position that has seen its value decline significantly and hasn’t made enough impact plays the last few seasons.

Do they continue to pay him money that could be used to improve other positions of needs? Do they renegotiate his salary and drop his playing time? Or do they move on entirely, spending that money elsewhere and relying on a younger player like Cody Barton to grow into the role?

5. What can they learn from the league?

The NFL, as much as any league, is known for its copycat tendencies. Every couple of years it seems one team builds a new mousetrap and a dozen others scramble to try the same plan. Usually, the followers fizzle out.

While I’m generally not a proponent of following the leader and I think teams are better off zigging where others zag, you have to balance that with the need to not get left behind. Be innovative, not stagnant. Learn from others without copying them.

The Rams tried a new approach, not just in their offensive aggressiveness, but in the way they approached building a team, handling the draft and respecting the cap. The Bengals got their quarterback and spent like crazy in free agency. What can you learn from these successful approaches without straight up trying to steal them?

Those are the primary conversations we’ll be having this offseason. And the answers to these questions will dictate both the immediate and long-term future of the franchise.

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Salk: The 5 biggest Seahawks storylines to watch this offseason