Seattle Seahawks 2015 NFL Off-Season Preview

Position of Need

Wide Receiver

The Seahawks traded Percy Harvin to the Jets mid-season. It was a good move, as he was reportedly a team cancer and either way they were probably going to cut him this off-season, as his play on the field was not living up to his non-guaranteed 10.5 million dollar salary for 2015. Credit them for getting something for him. However, whiffing on the trade that sent Harvin to the Seahawks from the Vikings for a 1st and 3rd round pick has left them stuck with Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse as their top-2 wide receivers. Baldwin is a solid player, but Kearse can be upgraded and neither is a #1 receiver. The Seahawks like 2014 2nd round pick Paul Richardson’s long-term potential, but, he tore his ACL late in 2014 and his 2015 is in doubt as a result.

Guard

Left guard James Carpenter is a free agent this off-season and, after grading out below average in all 4 seasons he’s been in the league since the Seahawks drafted him in the 1st round in 2011, he could easily not be back in 2015. Meanwhile at right guard, JR Sweezy has graded out below average in all 3 seasons he’s been in the league since being drafted in the 7th round in 2012. Guard help is needed this off-season.

Defensive Tackle

Kevin Williams, Tony McDaniel, Jordan Hill, and Brandon Mebane were the Seahawks’ top 4 defensive tackles in terms of snaps played in 2014 and all 4 graded out below average, a weakness on an overall strong Seattle defense. Williams is a free agent going into his age 35 season. McDaniel and Mebane could be cap casualties, as the Seahawks would save 3 million and 5.5 million respectively on the cap by letting them go, though both were significantly better in 2013. Hill, meanwhile, is a 2013 3rd round pick with only 431 career snaps in 2 seasons. This is easily somewhere they could add this off-season.

Cornerback

Byron Maxwell is widely expected to be out of the Seahawks’ price range as their #2 cornerback opposite Richard Sherman. With Jeremy Lane doubtful for the start of next season after somehow breaking his arm and tearing his ACL on the same play in the Super Bowl, cornerback help is needed this off-season. Tharold Simon is a 2013 4th round pick with 305 career snaps in 2 seasons and was horrible in the post-season for the Seahawks, while Marcus Burley has played 328 snaps in 2 seasons since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2013. The Seahawks usually rely on the draft and promoting from within at cornerback, but they could sign someone like Tramon Williams in free agency. The veteran would come relatively cheap and John Schneider was in Green Bay when the Packers brought him to town.

Tight End

Zach Miller missed 13 games with injury in 2014 and is expected to be a cap casualty this off-season. In his absence, Luke Willson, Tony Moeaki, and Cooper Helfet saw the majority of the snaps at tight end. Willson has been solid thus far in his career, grading out around average on 415 snaps as a 5th round rookie in 2013 and on 579 snaps in 2014, but they need another tight end. Moeaki was signed mid-season and will be a free agent this off-season, while Helfet has played 249 snaps in 3 seasons since going undrafted in 2012. When the Seahawks were trying to trade Percy Harvin, they tried to get Julius Thomas from Denver and Jordan Cameron from Cleveland. Both of those players will be free agents this off-season so the Seahawks could make a run at one or both of them to pair with Willson.

Offensive Tackle

Center Max Unger was the only Seahawks offensive lineman to play a snap last season and grade out above average, so guard isn’t the only problem spot on Seattle’s offensive line. Russell Okung is probably locked into the left tackle position for his contract year in 2015, though there’s a small chance that the oft injured former 1st round pick could be a cap casualty. Justin Britt was a 2nd round pick in 2014 and will probably get another chance at right tackle. However, Okung has graded out above average on Pro Football Focus just once in 5 seasons and has missed 21 games in those 5 seasons with injuries, while Britt was Pro Football Focus’ 74th ranked offensive tackle out of 84 eligible in 2014.

Key Free Agents

CB Byron Maxwell

The “other” member of the Legion of Boom, Maxwell broke into the starting lineup in 2013 in the middle of the 2011 6th round pick’s 3rd season in the NFL. Maxwell played 494 snaps in 2013, made 5 starts in place of a suspended Brandon Browner, and graded out 16th among cornerbacks on Pro Football Focus. The Seahawks let Browner walk the following off-season and Maxwell became a full-time starter in 2015, making 13 starts (missing 3 with injury). However, he was only a league average starter when on the field, according to Pro Football Focus. Widely considered the top cornerback on the open market, Maxwell is expected to get more than 10+ million dollars annually, which would be a massive overpay. He’s still inexperienced. He hasn’t played as well as people think. And he could easily struggle outside of Seattle’s system and supporting cast.

OLB Malcolm Smith

Malcolm Smith was Super Bowl MVP in Super Bowl 47, one of the more anonymous Super Bowl MVP’s in NFL history. Smith played a good game, but there were more deserving candidates, as Smith didn’t even play half the snaps in that game (34 of 71). He just happened to make a few splash plays that we remember. Smith also wasn’t even a starter that season, playing just 490 snaps. However, he was still Pro Football Focus’ 6th ranked 4-3 outside linebacker that season, despite the limited action, with no one playing more snaps and grading out better. He’s still inexperienced and he struggled in 2014, but he’s overall played well when given a chance and could be starting somewhere next season.

DT Kevin Williams

Kevin Williams was available into June last off-season, even though he had graded out above average in 7 straight seasons on Pro Football Focus, including in the top-9 from 2007-2012 and 27th in 2013. The reason for that is because he was going into his age 34 season and had a hard time finding someone who would pay him what he wanted. He eventually agreed to a 1-year, 2.1 million dollar deal with the Seahawks. He came within a play of his first Super Bowl victory, but he graded out below average for the first time in Pro Football Focus’ existence (since 2007) and played just 445 snaps. Now going into his age 35 season, he could be close to the end of the line. He’ll have to settle for a cheap, one-year deal somewhere this off-season if he wants to keep playing.

G James Carpenter

James Carpenter was a surprise 1st round pick by the Seahawks in 2011 and he’s been a rare mistake of the John Schneider front office. He’s started just 39 games in 4 seasons (31 at left guard, 8 at right tackle, where they originally wanted him to play). That’s a result of several injuries and overall poor play, as he’s graded out well below average in all 4 seasons. His versatility could serve him well on the open market, but it’s debatable whether struggling at multiple spots counts as versatility. He shouldn’t be guaranteed a starting spot for 2015.

Cap Casualty Candidates

TE Zach Miller

Zach Miller was signed to a 5-year, 33 million dollar deal four off-seasons ago, but he was forced to take a pay cut down to 6 million over the final 2 years of the deal last off-season. Miller followed that up by missing 13 games with injury in 2014. Owed 3 million non-guaranteed in 2015, Miller is not expected to be back in his age 30 season. The Seahawks can save that whole amount on the cap by letting him go.

DT Brandon Mebane

The Seahawks signed Mebane to a 5-year, 25 million dollar deal four off-seasons ago. He was great in 2013 on the Super Bowl team, grading out as Pro Football Focus’ 3rd ranked defensive tackle, but that wasn’t the norm for him, as he graded out below average in the other 3 seasons of the contract. In 2014, he missed 7 games with a torn hamstring and played just 289 snaps. Going into an age 30 contract season, Mebane is owed 5.5 million guaranteed, which might just be too much for him, as good as he was in 2013. The Seahawks would save that entire amount on the cap by letting him go.

DT Tony McDaniel

Like Mebane, McDaniel had a strong 2013 season that looks fluky when you look at the rest of his career. He graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 15th ranked defensive tackle in 2013, but that’s one of just two seasons where he’s graded out above average in the last 8 years. In 2014, he ranked 72nd out of 81 eligible defensive tackles. All of the guaranteed money on the 2-year, 5.75 million dollar deal he signed last off-season has been paid out, so the Seahawks can cut him ahead of an age 30 contract year and save 3 million in cash and cap space.

OT Russell Okung

Russell Okung was the 6th overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft and he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 8th ranked offensive tackle, but that type of dominance has been rare from him and he generally hasn’t lived up to his potential. He’s graded out below average in his other 4 seasons in the NFL, never played all 16 games in a season, and missed 21 games in 5 seasons with injury. He’ll probably be back for his contract year in 2015, but the Seahawks can save 5 million in cash and cap space by letting him go, so it’ll probably be a consideration.

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