Pete Carroll sat Tuesday in the same section of the same stadium in the same state as he had just 12 months earlier.
That was nearly 300 transactions ago, though, back when he was in his first month as Seahawks coach. His team has won a playoff game since then and lost an offensive coordinator. As Carroll sat halfway up the stands at Ladd Peebles Stadium this week, watching Senior Bowl practice deep in the heart of Alabama, it wasn’t the similarities to last year that stood out so much as the differences.
“We’re so much further along than we were,” Carroll said after one of this week’s practices.
A year ago, the Seahawks were the great unknown in the NFL. They owned two of the first 14 picks in the draft, hired a first-time general manager in John Schneider and a coach returning to the NFL after an epic college run at USC.
They don’t have the same draft-day ammunition as a year ago. Their first-round pick — No. 25 overall — is one of only two picks Seattle now has in the first three rounds. Free agency is anyone’s guess at this point with a possible work stoppage looming.
But Seattle does have something that it was missing a year ago: a shared understanding of what everyone wants from the coaches to the front office.
A year ago, the Seahawks were a work in progress as Carroll and Schneider were working together for the first time.
“We were scrambling in a sense,” Carroll said. “John and I were together the whole time, just trying to figure out what he was seeing, what I was seeing, trying to make sense of it.
“So now, it’s much different in that regard.”
Before scrutinizing what exactly the Seahawks will do this offseason, spend a moment taking stock of what they’ve done. There are some important lessons.
These Seahawks are getting bigger, and nowhere is that more evident than at strongside defensive end and at cornerback.
A year ago, the Seahawks tried to play 271-pound Lawrence Jackson at the strongside defensive end and drafted E.J. Wilson to play the position. Neither worked out. Jackson was traded and Wilson cut. Seattle’s experiment of moving former nose tackle Red Bryant to defensive end worked so well that no one should expect to see anyone south of 300 pounds pegged to play that spot this season.
And when it comes to cornerback in Seattle, there’s a height requirement. That was evident after Seattle traded away Josh Wilson during training camp, and it’s just as clear by looking at the cornerbacks in Green Bay, where Schneider previously worked. Three of the six corners on the Packers’ depth chart are 6 feet or taller and none is shorter than 5-11.
The specs for Seattle’s teams are more clearly defined now.
“I just feel like the whole machine of the personnel department is really moving forward,” Carroll said.
Don’t expect Seattle to make nearly as many transactions as the 286 they did a year ago. That doesn’t mean they’re going to be idle, though.
Schneider has shown he’s not only willing to make deals, but he’s willing to change his mind when acquisitions don’t work out. He released LenDale White after 35 days, cut Wilson, a fourth-round draft choice, and fired Jeremy Bates as offensive coordinator after one season. From all indications, the latter wasn’t about schematics or strategy but about Bates’ approach to coaching, his demeanor.
Patience is one thing, but sitting around to see if a square peg will end up fitting in that round hole isn’t something this regime is going to do.
For the past year, the Seahawks took advantage of the lack of a salary cap to streamline payroll going forward. High-priced veteran safety Deon Grant was released. Tackle Sean Locklear and linebacker Leroy Hill had long-term contracts shortened so they ended after 2010.
In most years, those moves would have had prohibitive salary-cap consequences. Without a cap, Seattle put itself in position to make changes going forward.
A year ago, there was uncertainty surrounding the Seahawks. Now, the biggest question is at the league level, with the potential of a work stoppage beginning March 4 and halting free agency before it starts.
“We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen,” Carroll said.
But whatever happens, Seattle is more settled entering this offseason than it was one year ago.