The Seahawks joined 29 other NFL teams Sunday in watching the Super Bowl, jaws clenched, to try to imagine how to span the distance between themselves, the Kansas City Chiefs and the Philadelphia Eagles.
With four choices among the first 52 spots in the April draft, and with the seventh-most dollars to spend in free agency under the salary cap, the Seahawks have a rare chance for an abrupt improvement from a 9-8 team that oozed into the playoffs, then dried up quickly.
Coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are well aware of the roster’s weaknesses. Little in the Chiefs’ splendid second-half rally that produced a 38-35 triumph in Glendale, AZ, offered revelations about what passes for ultimate success.
Two game developments, however, did prioritize what seems the mandatory minimum for sustained offensive success these days in a business with both high personnel turnover and a ruthless consumer demand for instant gratification (making it identical to nearly every other aspect of 21st-century life).
(If you insist on discussing the 50/50 penalty of holding against the Eagles that helped the Chiefs’ game-winning drive, please talk among yourselves. Tedium is disallowed here.)
- Eagles QB Jalen Hurts ran for seven first downs, three touchdowns and a two-point conversion. His 20 points tied a Super Bowl record, and his 70 rushing yards broke the mark for a QB. He became the third QB in Super Bowl history with at least 300 pass yards and 50 rush yards.
- Against an Eagles defense that had the second-most regular-season sacks in NFL history, the Chiefs, with three Pro Bowl selections in their offensive line, allowed no sacks of QB Patrick Mahomes in the second half. That was critical since Mahomes, voted MVP of the game (and the regular-season), was operating with a sore right ankle that was further squished in the second quarter.
The two feats suggest virtues that should dictate the Seahawks’ player pursuits.
While it’s true that a great pass rusher for a mostly bad defense remains the highest priority, the chance to draft a substantial young QB on a less expensive contract with virtues similar to Hurts is close to irresistible. Carroll even said so.
“The quarterbacks in this draft are extraordinary players,” he said at his most recent press conference last month. “You don’t get opportunities like this. We are really tuned in to all those options.”
As you likely know, the renaissance of Geno Smith, 32, in replacing Russell Wilson was one of the NFL’s best storylines. Voted Comeback Player of the Year, Smith is a pending free agent but seems as if he and the Seahawks will strike a deal soon for a contract north of $30 million in average annual value. That would allow a rookie QB to learn behind him for two or three years.
The Seahawks have the fifth and 20th picks in the first round, and the 37th and 52nd in the second round, providing unusual flexibility. Here’s my suggested scenario:
Trade down a few spots in the first round and select well-regarded Texas Tech edge rusher Tyree Wilson. With the acquired draft capital, and the expectation that the two top-rated QBs, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young, will have been chosen, pursue either of the next two highest-rated QBs, either Kentucky’s Will Levis or Florida’s Anthony Richardson. Both are 6-foot-4, fast and have power arms. They share the virtues of Hurts and Buffalo QB Josh Allen – the ability to rush from multiple scheduled plays, which become profound vexations for defenders.
Should the Seahawks draft either, they next need to pursue a center, an unglamorous position that they have for years patched seemingly with longshoremen, fired cops and bouncers. The answer here could be the draft’s top-rated guy at the position, John Michael Schmitz of Minnesota. At 6-4 and 320 pounds, he looks the part and is said to have the necessary smarts and athletic skills to be a long-termer.
Solving in one weekend for an edge rusher, the future QB, and a stud O-lineman between the creditable tackles in last year’s rookie class, Charles Cross and Abe Lucas, would make for a team-wide uptick. In 2022, the Seahawks were part of the NFL’s massive mediocre middle, which, given the expectations following the trade of Wilson, wasn’t bad. But the bounty from the trade with the Denver Broncos has provided a rare opportunity to launch back into steady contention.
That’s about all that can be asked in the NFL. Here’s a query to test that point: Without looking it up, can you recall the most recent winner of back-to-back Super Bowls? Tom Brady is the easy and correct guess, but that was back in 2004-05. Since the advent of free agency in 1994, only one other team has won the game consecutively – the John Elway-led Denver Broncos of 1998-99.
The Chiefs have now won it twice in the past four years. This time it was more impressive, because Mahomes’ $35.8 million salary occupied 17.1 percent of KC’s money under the salary cap, a record, and a feat few believed was possible. Next year his fee is $46.8 million, which is projected to be 21 percent of the cap. Andy Reid may be the game’s best coach, but nobody’s THAT good.
Paying those premium dollars at the premium position was a large reason for the Seahawks’ decision to trade the face of the franchise last March. Yes, Wilson wanted the admiral’s suite, command of the bridge and the final decision on firing the guns, but the ship would have sunk under his Seahawks contract. And he made it clear he was leaving after the contract’s expiration following the 2024 season, no matter what.
When trying to move ahead, it’s always easier at sea level than at ocean’s bottom.
The Chiefs pulled off a remarkable feat. Hail to them. And farewell. Someone new will win the next Super Bowl. The Seahawks, having absorbed the lessons of Hurts’ arrival and the Chiefs’ protections, are in as good a position as almost anyone else. They just need to avoid screwing up. As do we all.