Make the Right Call  

 

Seattle Seahawks enjoying solid offseason after crushing defeat

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They were as close to winning another Lombardi Trophy as you can get. Only the "wide right" Bills and turn-of-the-millennium Titans could truly understand the feeling that's surely enveloped the Seahawks over the past three months.

Losing the Super Bowl on the last stanza -- on your own possession -- lingers more than watching the other team win the NFL's ultimate prize. Like Scott Norwood and Kevin Dyson before him, Russell Wilson came up short in the ultimate hero bid.

And yet, this was different.

Unlike the 1990 Bills or '99 Titans, the 2014 Seahawks saw their season end in crushing defeat with a highly questionable coaching decision. The vast majority of football fans place the vast majority of blame on Seattle's sideline for throwing the football on the 1-yard line instead of handing off to Marshawn Lynch. Simply put, Pete Carroll and Co. made the wrong call.

Elliot Harrison examines some of the busiest NFL teams this offseason and attempts to answer whether the moves they've made will pay off in the 2015 campaign.

This offseason, Carroll and John Schneider have been tasked with making the right calls, to get this franchise back to the promised land. The head coach and general manager collaborate on nearly everything. And the pair has made a number of critical personnel decisions over the past few months ...

Has the franchise operated in a shrewd manner since its Super sob story? That's what we're investigating, as we continue this "Make the Right Call" series with our first post-draft installment. Let's dive into the Seahawks' offseason undertakings!

The missing link?

It's crazy to think the Seahawks are missing much of anything, considering this team was one yard shy of going back-to-back. It would be even more delusional to think you're reading this and haven't heard a 70-yard-Jim-Zorn-spiral's worth of analysis on the Jimmy Graham trade. Thus, let me keep this brief -- three quick thoughts:

A) Graham provides the kind of red-zone (and in-between-the-20s) target the Seahawks have been lacking. Anywhere inside the 5, opponents will be forced to choose between stopping the run, stopping the back-shoulder throw to Graham and stopping Wilson keepers. Good luck.

B) While the price was steep -- costing Seattle a first-round pick and a top-notch center in Max Unger -- kudos to the Seahawks for making a move to try and secure a second Lombardi. When a team is as good as any other in the league, going for broke -- even in the short term -- makes sense. The window to win it all typically doesn't stay open very long in the salary-cap era.

C) Acquiring Graham guarantees nothing.

You can't unequivocally say the 'Hawks are better today than they were at the end of last season -- Seattle was quite good already. Part of that has been due to continuity on both sides of the ball, as Wilson's cheap rookie contract has allowed Schneider to apply some football glue to the rest of his roster.

At first blush, Graham seems to provide something the Seahawks have lacked: a true No. 1 weapon in the passing game. Still, there are plenty of examples from the past of a star player changing teams in his prime ... and significantly decreasing his production. There's Herschel Walker, Andre Rison, Joey Galloway, Kurt Warner (with the Giants), Jevon Kearse -- I could go on, but this roll call is depressing me. So let's wait and see how Graham fits in with his new squad before anointing the Seahawks Super Bowl 50 champs.

The (real) most important move of the offseason

While the Graham trade was sexy, and the want to extend Russell Wilson is there ... the biggest move of the offseason was giving Marshawn Lynch a deal he's happy with.

He's the best player on the team -- period. As I wrote before, he -- and not Russell Wilson or some botched onside kick -- pushed the Seahawks past the Packers in the NFC Championship Game. I've never seen a running back lift his defense the way Beast Mode does. He energizes the crowd and his teammates while demoralizing opponents.

Paying Lynch $10 million annually over the next three years isn't just wise, it's necessary.

Draft returns (of the somewhat limited sort)

Even with Lynch and Graham, the offense still could use a lift from the receiving corps. That's why I loved the pick of receiver Tyler Lockett in Round 3 of the 2015 NFL Draft. And, as NFL.com's draft researcher @MarkDulgerianOS pointed out to me, a plodding offense like Seattle's can really use the K-State product's support in the return game. Good field position = wins.

As for the rest of Seattle's draft haul ... I'm less excited. Defensive end Frank Clark has nice upside in the Seahawks' scheme, but the off-the-field issues remain. When you're missing a first-round pick (albeit for a fantastic reason), is it wise to take a risk on a guy with domestic-violence questions -- especially in today's climate? Offensive guards Terry Poole and Mark Glowinski, both selected in the fourth round, should provide options in an area of weakness: the now-Unger-less interior O-line.

Unfortunately, the Seahawks failed to draft for the interior defensive line, where age is a small concern (both starters are 30-plus).

The Legion loses some Boom

Byron Maxwell played very well these last couple of years -- well enough to earn himself over $10 million per year in Philly. He played hard, won a ring and ultimately will make a boatload of cash (including $25 million guaranteed).

Here's the bottom line for anyone who wants to criticize Seattle for not making it work with a halfway-out-the-door Maxwell: You don't pay the fourth-most-important member of your secondary $63 million. It's that simple.

More comings and goings

» Not re-upping Maxwell leaves money for a potential Wilson extension, in theory. It also left some greenbacks for a new right cornerback: Cary Williams. The veteran will make considerably less money ($6 million per year) on a shorter-term deal (three years) than Maxwell. While Williams was burned early and often last year in Philadelphia, the rest of that Eagles defense was not nearly up to snuff, at least not compared to the Seahawks' personnel. And Williams -- who stands 6-foot-1 -- fits the size profile for the LOB.

» Despite the health problems Seattle had up front last season, I don't think anyone with a Max Unger or Blair Bush jersey is going to miss offensive lineman James Carpenter. The former first-round draft choice never lived up to, well, being a first-round draft choice. The headaches stemming from his weight troubles are now gone. Oh, and the club was never going to pay him nearly $5 million per, like the Jets are.

» The departures of linebacker Malcolm Smith and defensive end O'Brien Schofield are also worth noting. Smith won a Super Bowl MVP award with Seattle, but frankly, he isn't the player that K.J. Wright (or Bruce Irvin) is. Schofield was part of the defensive rotation, but he played just 341 snaps last season, collecting two sacks. It's always helpful to have a guy like Schofield in the pass-rush rotation, but he's not irreplaceable. Cassius Marsh, a fourth-round pick in 2014, Demarcus Dobbs and the newbie, Frank Clark, should help here.

Backup plan?

If the season started today and Russell Wilson went down, here's your choice of quarterbacks with which to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory:

1) B.J. Daniels, who was on the practice squad last season.

2) R.J. Archer, an undrafted free agent out of William & Mary back in 2010.

Combined NFL passes thrown: 0.

Word is, the Seahawks would be interested in bringing back Tarvaris Jackson, who has flirted with the Dolphins, and T-Jax could indeed be on his way back to the Pacific Northwest. But right now, no team in the NFC West would be in worse shape should its starting quarterback go down.

Did the Seahawks make the right calls?

For the most part, yes. The club acquired a top-flight tight end who can help it win the Super Bowl this season. When a team is one player -- or no players -- away from a title, management should make the kinds of moves Schneider made to get Graham.

Extending Lynch was as big as anything that happened in the NFL this offseason. Extensions aren't sexy, so of course the news wasn't covered that way. Yet, in terms of relevance to wins, Lynch > Graham.

The draft was not the most impressive in team history -- but then, after the Graham trade, it wasn't going to be. Regardless, it would be hard for any rookie to start on this loaded club. Another "downside" to the offseason was the loss of Maxwell. But I think the Seahawks played even that correctly.

Oh, and one last thing: the Michael Bennett situation. Apparently, he wants a new contract. Well, I can't blame Seattle for standing pat. He just inked a four-year deal last offseason and is not any better as a player now than he was then. He's merely a year older.

All told, Schneider and Carroll have had a nice run so far this offseason -- even if they didn't run when everyone wanted them to.

Follow Elliot Harrison on Twitter @HarrisonNFL.

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