Seahawks’ GM Schneider: ‘The challenge is sustaining success’

Mar 2, 2018, 11:29 AM | Updated: 2:43 pm
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Seahawks' GM John Schneider will face an interesting challenge this year without a second- or third-round pick. (AP)

If there’s one lesson John Schneider learned last year, it’s that the Seahawks need to be able to push the envelope.

Sure, that’s an ambiguous answer from Seattle’s general manager. But it’s the best way Schneider could explain his biggest takeaway from 2017 when he sat down with 710 ESPN Seattle’s John Clayton.

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Schneider joined Clayton at the NFL combine in Indianapolis Friday morning to discuss looming free agent decisions and how he’s planning to move forward in 2018.

Tight end Jimmy Graham – who was Seattle’s touchdown leader in 2017 – and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson are two of the biggest Seahawks hitting free agency. Both players also carry big price tags. Seattle will likely be unable to retain both, with just over $13 million in cap room. (This is without considering the number of other vital Seahawks hitting free agency, including Bradley McDougald and Byron Maxwell.)

“It’s a challenge, but there’s a reason there’s parity in the NFL and there’s a reason people have a ton of cap room,” Schneider told Clayton.

“You don’t want to be one of those teams that has a ton of cap room and you don’t want to be picking high. We want to be a consistent championship-caliber football team and keeping as many of those players as we possibly can. And with that, be able to add as much young talent as we possibly can to put out there to compete at all those positions…

“Every year is a balance. It’s a challenge. You can plan for certain things but you have to have several contingencies. By the time we get through this weekend, we’ll have a much clearer view of what those specific contingencies will look like. Of how you manage what’s going to happen. As you and I are speaking, I don’t have enough of a picture yet to figure that out.”

‘We have to do a better job of protecting our own’

The Seahawks finished 9-7 in 2017 and missed the postseason for the first time since 2011. Seattle still finished second in the NFC West, but it was unfamiliar territory for a team that’s been one of the most successful in the league for the past several years.

“Our challenge is sustaining that success,” Schneider said. “When you’re building (a championship roster), it’s much different than when you get there. How do you stay a that specific level? And that gets back to the parity. We’re challenged with that success level, of being a consistent team … like I said, we finished 9-7 and you would’ve thought we won two games.”

The Seahawks went 4-0 in the preseason and, outside of an offseason injury to second-round draft pick Malik McDowell and a devastating ACL injury to starting left tackle George Fant, were healthy entering the regular season. In Week 4, though, Seattle lost running back Chris Carson and defensive end Cliff Avril for the season. In Week 10, they lost All Pro cornerback Richard Sherman and safety Kam Chancellor. Linebacker Bobby Wagner was finally forced to leave a game in Week 14 when an ongoing hamstring injury became debilitating.

To make matters worse, the Seahawks lead the league in penalties (148).

“It sounds like an excuse. But the truth is, look, we lead the league in injuries (and) lead the league in penalties,” Schneider said. “We have to do a better job of protecting our own and not playing against ourselves as we move forward in 2018. And that’s something we’re working on internally.”

As for what he learned last year?

“So much. Every year is very different. To say specifically from last year what we learned: There really isn’t one thing in particular. Just the challenge of knowing that at every corner we have to be able to push the envelope. We have to be able to be in every deal and be able to walk away if we can. We have to be able to provide for the coaching staff everything they possibly (need) to be able to succeed. And give them those players that they feel like they can work with and develop. And then, again, be able to have the confidence to put those young players out there.

“(We’re a) damn good football team,” Schneider added. “Our culture is a very strong culture. It’s a competitive culture. Seattle’s a great place to be … (but) there’s always more to do.”

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