For the first time in three years the Seattle Seahawks will not have to worry about the prospect of a new coach getting up to speed during the offseason.
Pete Carroll begins Year 2 of his rebuilding effort with the Seahawks after an unexpected playoff run in his inaugural season. And that task begins in earnest today at the league’s annual scouting combine in Indianapolis, where more than 300 college athletes will be put through physical, mental and medical evaluations with the ultimate goal of landing jobs in the NFL.
By virtue of making the playoffs, the Seahawks do not have a pick in the top 10 of the NFL draft in April for the first time in three years.
Instead, the Seahawks will select the 25th players. Had Seattle lost to St. Louis in the final game of the regular season and not advanced to the playoffs as the NFC West champion, the Seahawks would be selecting No. 8 overall.
But Carroll believes making the postseason was more beneficial to the growth of his team than draft position. Seattle’s needs are plentiful, so finding a player who can help late in the first round shouldn’t be an issue for the Seattle coach and general manager John Schneider.
However, finding the right player will take some time.
Among the top concerns for the Seahawks are finding a quarterback of the future, along with adding depth along the offensive and defensive lines, cornerback and receiver.
Seattle has seven picks overall in the draft, with no pick in the third round because of the Charlie Whitehurst trade with San Diego last year, and two picks in the fifth round after receiving a pick from Baltimore in the trade that sent cornerback Josh Wilson to the Ravens in August.
Rob Rang, senior draft analyst for NFLDraftScout.com, says that this year’s draft is deep in defensive linemen, with as many as nine potentially going in the first round.
“This year, where the strength is along the offensive and defensive lines and the depth at the quarterback position, sets up nicely for the Seahawks,” Rang said.
Rang projects Seattle selecting Florida interior offensive lineman Mike Pouncey at No. 25 in his latest mock draft. Pouncey could pair with last year’s No. 6 overall pick, offensive tackle Russell Okung, to once again give the Seahawks a formidable left side of the offensive line.
During his end-of-the-season press conference, Carroll discussed how the uncertainty of the league’s labor negotiations could affect what moves the Seahawks make during the offseason, particularly after the team made nearly 300 roster moves last year.
“We don’t have any idea what’s going to happen,” Carroll said. “We may have one week to do free agency somewhere in August, we may have a normal time period – we don’t know.
“So we just have to be ready for it. If it doesn’t present itself as the opportunity that we need, then we’re going to develop from within and we’ll develop through the draft and do the things that we can do.”
One area Seattle likely will address is quarterback. Carroll has said he’d like Matt Hasselbeck to return, and the veteran quarterback has reiterated his interest in staying in Seattle. But no deal has been consummated, although negotiations are expected to heat up this week.
So the Seahawks have to determine if they will re-sign Hasselbeck, who becomes a free agent in March. And do they believe reserve quarterback Charlie Whitehurst can be the quarterback of the future?
Mike Mayock, draft guru for the NFL Network, agrees that quarterback should be Seattle’s No. 1 priority, and thinks Washington’s Jake Locker could be a potential solution.
“There’s a guy right down the street who’s got first-round ability but hasn’t always shown that,” Mayock said. “So it’d be interesting to see what their evaluation of Jake Locker is, because that’s a really talented kid who has first-round potential but who’s struggled in the pocket. And a lot of people are writing him off, and I’m not. I think you’ve got to do a bunch of homework on him.”
The Seahawks haven’t drafted a quarterback in the first round since taking Rick Mirer with the No. 2 overall selection in 1993. However, the Notre Dame product failed to live up to lofty expectations in Seattle. He was traded to Chicago after four mediocre seasons with the Seahawks.