On the eve of the offseason, a dark cloud of uncertainty has engulfed the Seattle Seahawks.
Only three months on from the team looking like Super Bowl contenders with their quarterback, Russell Wilson, playing at an MVP level, the Seahawks crashed out of the playoffs in embarrassing fashion, losing to a Rams team that had a debilitated Jared Goff at quarterback, 30-20.
One month on from that loss, Wilson, the face of the franchise, appeared on the Dan Patrick Show.
Seemingly still simmering from a crushing end to a promising season, Wilson was uncharacteristically loose with his comments. The seven-time Pro Bowler stressed wanting to be more involved in personnel decisions as well as stating that he is uncertain about his future in Seattle.
‘I’m not sure if I’m available or not.’ Russell told the Dan Patrick Show, continuing, ‘That’s a Seahawks question.’
Moreover, Wilson told Curtis Crabtree of PFT, ‘I’m tired of getting hit too much’. The quarterback went on to further voice his displeasure with the lacklustre play of his offensive line in season’s past, ‘I’m frustrated with that. At the end of the day, man, you want to win, you know.’
With the deteriorating situation in Houston, the Seahawks front office should take Wilson’s words as a warning, even so far as a threat. Players, particularly star quarterbacks, are looking over to the NBA and emulating the ‘player power’ movement which is rapidly reshaping the landscape of basketball.
Instead of being ‘unhappy’ at Wilson’s comments to the media, the Seahawks should be unhappy at the level of recruitment that has occurred since the decline of the Legion of Boom.
So, here are three things the Seahawks organisation must do ahead of the 2021 season to ensure that Russell Wilson stays put and, in turn, increases the odds that the Seahawks reach the promised land for the first time since 2015.
Improve the offensive line
This should be on the top of general manager John Schneider‘s to-do list this offseason.
Per Ben Baldwin on Twitter, during Wilson’s tenure as the quarterback, the Seahawks have never had an offensive line grade higher than 18th out of 32 teams, ranking 30th four times.
Wilson has continuously stressed the idea of legacy, wanting to emulate the great Tom Brady and play until he is 45. However, Wilson’s current playstyle is not compatible with his long-term plan. Brady has operated on the basis of getting the ball out quickly and efficiently the entire second half of his career. Wilson prefers to hold onto the ball, evade blood-thirsty defenders and look for the home run ball.
Blocking for a scrambling quarterback is not easy, Wilson has the tendency to turn a clean pocket into the inverse by trying to make something out of nothing. Per PFF, Wilson was responsible for 14 out of his 47 total sacks this year, tied second-most in the NFL.
Ravens OT Orlando Brown wants to be traded to a team that will let him play left tackle, per @RapSheet
Baltimore would need a "major haul" pic.twitter.com/6AcOwVN2Fn
— B/R Gridiron (@brgridiron) February 10, 2021
With Wilson’s unpredictable playstyle in mind, it should still be in the Seahawks best interests to fortify their offensive line.
Trading for Baltimore Ravens tackle Orlando Brown certainly is one option as current Seahawks left tackle Duane Brown is 35 years of age and not getting any younger. However, trading for Brown would likely require handing over a bounty of picks – picks that could be used to bolster various positions along the o-line instead of just one.
The smarter and more disciplined approach would be to make astute signings in free agency, particularly at the guard spots, and spending significant draft capital on either the tackle positions or centre.
Seattle does not have to acquire five Pro Bowlers to protect Wilson. If new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron can implement some of that Rams play-action, quick passing game to help Wilson become more disciplined and efficient in his reads, then the quarterback will spend a lot of less time on his back.
Generate a pass rush
Echoing their need in the trenches on the offensive side of the ball, the Seahawks are weak along their defensive line.
While the Seahawks are getting production from blitzing Adams, that style of defence is inherently risky and best suited to being used once or twice a game to catch an offensive off guard, rather than being your main strategy to generate pressure on the quarterback.
People often undervalue the importance of the Seahawks defensive line during their Legion of Boom days. Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril were legit pass-rushing studs while Brandon Mebane was a huge presence in the middle.
You need balance within your defence and throughout your whole roster. Selling the house to acquire an in-the-box safety that can’t cover and then sending him on a blitz every other down because your pass rush is so anaemic is not a healthy long-term gameplan. In order to take the pressure off of Adams, and the rest of the Seahawks secondary, the team needs to get strong in the trenches.
When you look around at the rest of the teams in the NFC West and see Aaron Donald, Chandler Jones and Nick Bosa, you realise that the Seahawks are falling behind in the defensive-lineman arms race that is taking place in their division.
When hiring new offensive coordinator Shane Waldron, head coach Pete Carroll stressed the need for the Seahawks to run the ball more, in turn, achieving more balance in their offensive play-calling.
There is a misconception within the analytics community that running the football is bad no matter the context. This is misguided. Try telling Kyle Shanahan and the San Francisco 49ers in 2019, or even the Buccaneers this season that they should never run the ball. Running the ball is only ever not worth doing when it is done poorly.
Absolutely well deserved. 👏@DangeRussWilson is the 2020 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year!
— Seattle Seahawks (@Seahawks) February 7, 2021
Moreover, Carroll’s comments are not motivated by a need to only ever run the ball or to become a run dominated offence. In the latter half of the season, defences began to gameplan for Wilson’s pass-happy playstyle and the Seahawks passing game began to stall out. Especially when they began to encounter teams with solid secondaries and the Seahawks offensive line troubles continued.
Shane Waldron is coming from an offence that revolves around play-action and the short-to-intermediate passing game. If the Seahawks are able to marry the running game to the passing game, Wilson will have to play a lot less hero ball and face a lot less pressure.
The recipe for Wilson to achieve his goal of playing until he is 45 and cementing his legacy involves taking some of the pressure off his shoulders by leaning on the run game. Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay and Brady himself in Tampa have both been beneficiaries of this style of offence.