JOE FANN

Fann: 3 notable takeaways from Seahawks GM John Schneider’s interview

Jan 20, 2023, 10:40 AM
Seahawks 49ers Geno Smith Arik Armstead...
Arik Armstead of the San Francisco 49ers sacks Seahawks QB Geno Smith on Jan. 14, 2023. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

Seahawks general manager John Schneider joined Wyman and Bob on Seattle Sports on Thursday and spent nearly a full half hour discussing his thoughts on the 2022 season and his expectations moving forward.

Here are my three main takeaways from the interview.

Multiple mentions of the 49ers being the gold standard

There’s a parallel between the Seahawks and Mariners in that their respective league’s superpower resides within their division. The Seahawks overachieved this season, going 9-8 during the regular season and squeaking into the playoffs.

But the Wild Card loss to the 49ers provided a harsh reminder that there’s still a sizeable gap between the Seahawks and 49ers.

“It was really good for us, for all these young guys and where we want to go, to play against, in my opinion, the biggest, fastest, most physical football team in the National Football League, and we’ve got to get back to that,” Schneider said. “No questions asked. Now they know what it looks like and we know what it feels like and guys have lots of experience, but we know what we need to do to attack this thing and take the next step.”

Saying the Seahawks need to close the talent gap with San Francisco is stating the obvious, but what was notable to me was how Schneider essentially pointed to the 49ers as a blueprint for how he wants Seattle’s roster to look.

That will certainly require a significant investment in the trenches, both in free agency and via the draft. Seattle is in good shape with two young offensive tackles in place but every other spot on both the offensive and defensive lines could use an upgrade.

Schneider made a second reference to San Francisco when discussing the poor performances from Tariq Woolen and Coby Bryant last weekend in what was an otherwise promising season for both rookies.

“They know they have to play against Aiyuk and Deebo and Kittle and what that looks like,” Schneider said. “That’s a bar that they know they have to improve upon.”

A preview of negotiations with Geno Smith

Schneider echoed Pete Carroll’s sentiments from earlier in the week in his desire to keep Smith in a Seahawks uniform next season.

“First and foremost, we want Geno back,” Schneider said. “There’s a balance when building a team, and Geno knows that. He’s been to a number of different teams, and he’s seen it firsthand. He understands the process, and we’ve had clear communication with his agency and Geno himself. He knows where we stand.”

But, as Schneider pointed out, all negotiations feature a “drop dead number” the team won’t go above. And that’s why we all can’t assume Smith’s return is a foregone conclusion. The Seahawks are a team loaded with draft capital but thin on cap space. And while they can always get creative in order to add to their projected $34 million in space, it remains something worth keeping in mind.

On Smith’s side, he’ll be looking for a payday he’s not only earned, but has had to wait a full decade for since entering the NFL in 2013. He’s sure to have his own number in terms of annual value that he won’t go below.

Both sides will be at an impasse if Smith’s number is higher than the team’s drop dead number, and that scenario is absolutely possible.

The best-case scenario for the Seahawks is to agree upon an extension so that Smith’s 2023 cap hit can be reduced and pushed back into future years compared to a franchise tag that would be a firm $32 million cap hit next season.

There’s also a chance that Seattle lets Smith walk with the belief that it can find another undervalued quarterback and make him serviceable. Such a decision would be a major gamble. It would also diminish Smith’s success in 2022 while chalking up most of it to the system the Seahawks have in place. I’d be wary of any assumption that the Seahawks could replicate Smith’s success with another journeyman QB, whether it be Drew Lock or otherwise.

Dareke Young a 2023 dark horse?

Schneider was asked about which rookie people aren’t talking about enough. He gave an emphatic response in support of one of the team’s young wideouts.

“Dareke Young for sure. I would have loved to see him have more opportunities down the stretch,” Schneider said. “Any of those (receivers that are willing to) run down as a gunner or are willing blockers and will come downhill and crack you and will get to the second level and take on linebackers like that, I love that. He’s a big man. He’s confident. He’s really smart. I’m really excited to see his future.”

Seattle’s GM compared Young to former Jaguars star Jimmy Smith, a player Schneider called one of his favorites to ever scout. Smith posted nine 1,000-yard seasons in Jacksonville and made five consecutive Pro Bowls from 1997-01.

At 6-foot-1 and 213 pounds, Smith is actually a touch smaller than the 6-foot-2, 223-pound Young. Seattle made Young a seventh-round pick in the 2022 NFL Draft out of Lenoir-Rhyne. He certainly has the physical frame and skillset to be that imposing presence Schneider described.

Young posted three catches for 35 yards this season, playoffs included. He caught two passes against the Rams in Week 18 and another against the 49ers last weekend. He’ll be one of Seattle’s top players to watch next summer.

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