Seahawks' priorities begin with O-line
RENTON, Wash. (AP) The Seattle Seahawks’ offseason priorities were obvious in previous years.
Getting extensions done for key stars like Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas, Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner – some of those taking a little longer than expected – were clearly a key. Adding depth in specific areas like the defensive line was a priority one year, while other seasons it’s been going after one specific player.
This offseason is far broader for the Seahawks. There is no overarching, glaring need for a team that has reached at least the divisional round of the NFC playoffs in four straight seasons and played in Super Bowls twice during that span, with one exception. Pete Carroll acknowledged questions on the offensive line need to be answered before next season.
”I don’t think we’ve nailed it yet,” Carroll said. ”I think this needs to be a really competitive spot again, and we’re going to work really hard to build it up. For the course of the season, we weren’t consistent enough.”
Seattle’s offensive line could see the biggest makeover because of contract situations. Starting left tackle Russell Okung and starting right guard J.R. Sweezy are unrestricted free agents. Center Patrick Lewis, who moved into the starting role just before midseason, and versatile backup Alvin Bailey are restricted free agents.
Issues with Seattle’s offensive line were partly to blame for the Seahawks’ 2-4 start and that’s not something Carroll wants to repeat.
”I think that’s a real area of focus again so we’ll be talking about it. We’ve got a couple unrestricted guys there. We’re going to have to deal with how that works out. There’s just stuff we’re going to have to work through,” Carroll said. ”But we are young and we are athletic and we do like our guys.”
Aside from the offensive line, the Seahawks’ biggest free agent questions are on the defensive side, where they could end up trying to fill three or four starting spots.
Seattle had the best run defense in the NFL this season, giving up 81.5 yards per game on the ground. Two key parts of that success were defensive tackles Brandon Mebane and Ahtyba Rubin, both of whom are unrestricted free agents. Carroll raved about both players throughout the season, but money will ultimately determine whether either returns.
Mebane just turned 31 and made $5.5 million in base salary this season. Rubin, in his first year with Seattle, made $1.35 million in base salary and would appear in line for a raise.
Seattle must also decide what to do with outside linebacker Bruce Irvin after declining to pick up his fifth-year option last spring. Irvin has gone from being strictly a pass rusher as a rookie in 2012 to a versatile linebacker with the ability to rush off the edge and also play on the line of scrimmage and help in the run game.
Irvin said that in his exit conversations with Carroll and general manager John Schneider he was asked if he’d take less money to return. That’s a possibility in theory, but the reality is that this may be Irvin’s best shot at a big contract.
”I want to be here. That’s as simple as it is,” Irvin said. ”I understand the business side of it, but if I happen to be somewhere else I will always have a genuine appreciation for (Schneider) and (Carroll) for sticking their neck out there and taking me when everybody said I was a reach and had a lot of baggage.”
Seattle’s other defensive decision is at cornerback opposite Sherman and whether Jeremy Lane returns. The team can move forward with DeShawn Shead or the Seahawks can look elsewhere. Seattle has shown it prefers cornerbacks who have come up in its system like Lane and Shead. The most recent example of that was the midseason release of veteran Cary Williams.
Lane is an unrestricted free agent while Shead is an exclusive rights free agent, which all but assures his return.
”I’d like to think our guys, because they know our system,” Carroll said, ”they’ve been well-schooled.”
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