BRANDON GUSTAFSON

Future of Carroll and Geno among 10 biggest Seahawks offseason storylines

Jan 7, 2024, 5:52 PM | Updated: Jan 9, 2024, 9:41 am

Seattle Seahawks Eagles Geno Smith Pete Carroll Shane Waldron offseason...

Seattle Seahawks QB Geno Smith talks with Pete Carroll, Shane Waldron and Drew Lock. (Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

(Steph Chambers/Getty Images)

The 2023 season is a wrap for the Seattle Seahawks, who will not be in the playoffs.

Seattle Seahawks miss playoffs for just 4th time in 14 years under Carroll

The Hawks’ season ended with a win as they beat the Arizona Cardinals 21-20, but because the Green Bay Packers beat the Chicago Bears 17-9, Seattle’s Week 18 victory ultimately didn’t matter.

With a 9-8 season officially in the books, that means it’s on to the offseason for the Seahawks.

The offseason always has plenty of intrigue for every team, and that’s especially true for Seattle this year.

Here are the 10 biggest offseason storylines to follow for the Seahawks over the next few weeks and months.

1: Pete Carroll’s future

This is the biggest potential storyline with the team this offseason, and the key word there is potential.

A few years ago, head coach Pete Carroll signed an extension through the 2025 season, but according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero, Carroll is actually signed through 2024 with an option for 2025 “that can be exercised in the offseason.” Those two also reported that the Seahawks are “always” evaluating and planning for life after Carroll, who just finished his 14th year in charge of the team.

At 72 years old, Carroll is the oldest head coach in the NFL, even if he doesn’t act like it. That also means that if he indeed coaches through 2025, Carroll would be 74.

While the Seahawks haven’t gotten close to a Super Bowl in quite some time, the team has been a regular playoff contender and it seems unlikely that Carroll would be forced out prior to his contract ending and would instead be allowed to go out on his terms. Carroll could decide to call it a career, though.

But based on what he said after Sunday’s win, it sounds like Carroll will be running the show again next year.

When asked if he wants to come back for 2024, Carroll told reporters, “Yeah, of course I do. Of course I’d love to do that.”

Wanting to do that is one thing. Does Caroll expect to be back with the Seahawks as head coach next season?

“I do. I do,” he said. “At this point, I do.”

This may not be the offseason where the Seahawks hire their next head coach. But if it is, that will be the most important piece of business the Seahawks have to take care of.

2: What happens at quarterback?

Head coach is pretty darn important. So, too, is the quarterback position.

Geno Smith didn’t replicate his Pro Bowl season from a year ago and he missed time with injury. The dip in production isn’t all on Smith’s shoulders as the Hawks had no consistency in the run game in 2023 and had a mix-and-match offensive line. But Smith also didn’t play as well as he did a year ago.

The Seahawks could easily keep things status quo at QB for next year as Smith has two years left on his contract. But the easiest time for the Hawks to get out of Geno’s deal is this offseason.

Per Spotrac, if Smith is cut or traded with a pre-June 1 designation, the Hawks would eat $17.4 million in dead cap and save $13.8 million. If he’s cut or traded post-June 1, there’s dead cap hits of $8.7 million each of the next two seasons and Seattle would get $22.5 million. And according to ESPN’s Brady Henderson, Smith is owed a notable roster bonus if he’s still on the team on the fifth day of the next league year, which starts in March.

The Seahawks, per OverTheCap, have very little cap space for next season at the moment.

Backup quarterback Drew Lock also didn’t show he’s a viable long-term starting option, and he’s a pending free agent.

So what happens with those two, particularly Smith and his contract?

And is this the year the Hawks draft a quarterback early? Seattle flirted with the idea last year when the team had the No. 5 overall pick, but all three first-round quarterbacks were selected before the Seahawks made their choice of cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

This year is another good quarterback class, headlined by USC’s Caleb Williams, UNC’s Drake Maye, LSU’s Jayden Daniels, Michigan’s J.J. McCarthy and a trio of Pacific Northwest signal callers in UW’s Michael Penix Jr., Oregon’s Bo Nix and WSU’s Cam Ward.

The Seahawks will pick 16th overall in the first round and may not be in play for some of the top quarterbacks, but might someone fall to them?

Seattle could trade up in the first round, something the franchise hasn’t done under Carroll and general manager John Schneider, but the team doesn’t have a second-round pick due to a midseason trade.

Another interesting thing to watch? What the Chicago Bears decide to do at quarterback.

The Bears hold the No. 1 pick thanks to last year’s trade with Carolina. Should Chicago fall in love with one of these quarterbacks, the Bears could move on from Justin Fields, who just finished his third NFL season and has plenty of promise.

Would Fields be someone the Seahawks are interested in if he’s available via trade?

3: Is Shane Waldron back?

The Seahawks had one of the NFL’s best and most efficient offenses in 2022. That wasn’t the case this year.

The term “identity” is big for NFL teams, and at least offensively, the Seahawks struggled to establish one in 2023. There are a lot of factors at play, and play-calling is certainly a key part of that.

Offensive line play was all over the place due to injury, and that played a direct role in the Hawks’ inability to run the ball. And running the football is a must under Carroll. Seattle was one of the worst rushing teams in the NFL in 2023.

Does that mean the Seahawks may be looking for a new offensive play-caller this offseason? Whether or not Carroll returns, that could be on the table.

4: What about Clint Hurtt?

Clint Hurtt’s second year as defensive coordinator started off well, especially against the run, where the Seahawks were horrid in 2022.

But run defense and overall tackling plagued the Hawks down the stretch, playing a key role in missing the playoffs after starting the year 5-2. It was especially evident over the team’s final two games.

Hurtt is a longtime Carroll assistant, joining the organization in 2017 and serving as an assistant head coach for much of that time. Carroll is also loyal to his staff, sometimes to a fault, and gives coaches longer leashes than some on the outside may expect.

Hurtt is likely back in 2024 for his third year as defensive coordinator, especially if Carroll returns. But given the defense’s lack of growth and Carroll’s clear frustration with how that side of the ball performed late in the season, anything could be on the table.

5: The Jamal Adams questions

Sticking with the defense, one of the team’s biggest names and highest-paid players had a year to forget.

Safety Jamal Adams missed all but one game in 2022 due to a quad injury. That ultimately led to a knee injury this year that cost him to miss much of the season again as Adams played in just nine games.

And when Adams was on the field, he was hardly the impact player the Seahawks were hoping for when they traded two first-round picks to New York and made Adams the highest-paid safety in the NFL.

While Seahawk fans may be done with Adams, the team doesn’t have a great path to end his time in Seattle.

Adams has two years left on his contract with a $20.8 million dead cap hit if he’s cut this offseason. That dead cap number goes down if he’s traded, but given Adams’ contract, injury history and lack of production, that seems unlikely.

So if Adams is back, the questions then turn to whether a full offseason with less rehab helps him, if he may be better-served as a true linebacker going forward, and do they still see him as a focal point on defense or a luxury if he can stay on the field?

6: Leonard Williams

The Seahawks acquired big defensive tackle Leonard Williams from the New York Giants for second- and fifth-round picks ahead of the NFL Trade Deadline.

The Hawks struggled defensively after the acquisition, though many of those issues were starting to come about before Williams got to Seattle.

But because of what the Seahawks gave up for Williams, who’s a pending free agent, it seems like a necessity to bring him back this offseason. If not, that’s a steep price to have paid for half a season, especially considering 2023 didn’t result in a playoff berth.

7: The other safeties

Adams is a big question mark, and the future of Seattle’s other two safeties could come up this offseason, too.

Quandre Diggs has one year left on his contract, and cutting ot trading him would create $11 million in cap savings and $10.2 million of dead cap.

Julian Love, a surprise Pro Bowler, would create $5.69 million in cap savings for the Seahawks and $2.4 million in dead cap should he be moved.

Neither of those seem too likely right now, but given Seattle’s defensive struggles, an overhaul isn’t out of the question, even if these two really weren’t the problem for the Seahawks.

8: Inside linebacker

The Seahawks’ two go-to inside linebackers could both be on new teams next year.

Franchise icon Bobby Wagner, who returned to Seattle this offseason, was on a one-year deal and is a pending free agent. The 33-year-old Pro Bowler led the league in tackles again and told reporters that he plans to play in 2024.

Jordyn Brooks, the Seahawks’ 2020 first-round pick, is also a pending free agent as the team didn’t give him the fifth-year option last offseason due in part to him coming off an ACL tear suffered late last season.

Wagner is a legend and leader, but also isn’t the same player he was a few years ago, particularly in the passing game.

Brooks is younger and more explosive. He’s also been banged up this season and it’s unclear what his market would be, though it’d probably be more promising and lucrative than Wagner’s.

And just for good measure, Devin Bush, who joined the team this offseason and has mostly been a reserve linebacker, is also a pending free agent.

9: Interior offensive line

Going to the other side of the ball, the Seahawks feel good about their two young offensive tackles as Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas will be returning for their third NFL seasons next year.

The other three O-line spots? That’s less clear.

Left guard Damien Lewis, who has started 61 games for the Seahawks since being drafted in 2020, will hit free agency for the first time. Starting center Evan Brown is also set to hit free agency, as is right guard Phil Haynes, who missed nine games due to various injuries.

The Seahawks have natural in-house replacements for two of those players with fourth-round rookie Anthony Bradford appearing in 13 games this year at guard and fifth-round pick Olu Oluwatimi also seeing time at center.

10: Tight end

Seattle has loved its tight end trio of Noah Fant, Will Dissly and Colby Parkinson, but that room may look very different next year.

Both Fant and Parkinson are pending free agents while Dissly has just one year left on his contract. Cutting or trading Dissly would save the Seahawks $7 million with a $3.1 million dead cap hit.

More on the Seattle Seahawks

Rost: Seahawks left with a lot of same questions from last year
Instant Reaction: Seahawks’ season ends despite win in Arizona
Salk: Seahawks aren’t executing their philosophy due to compromises
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