INDIANAPOLIS – After months spent evaluating game film and grading NFL hopefuls, the Seattle Seahawks’ personnel department hits the road to get an up-close view at more than 300 college prospects beginning today at the annual NFL Scouting Combine.
The Seahawks currently have seven selections in this year’s draft, although that number might increase when the league awards compensatory picks in March.
During his season-ending press conference in January, Seattle coach Pete Carroll listed creating more of a pass rush, getting faster at linebacker and adding more playmakers on offense as priorities heading into the offseason.
And while this week in Indianapolis provides a good opportunity to evaluate the top players in this year’s draft crop, the Seahawks also have another option to improve the depth of one of the youngest teams in the league once free agency begins March 13.
The Seahawks will have the No. 11 or 12 overall pick depending on a coin flip with Kansas City at the combine Friday.
Draft analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network said if the Seahawks can’t convince themselves that there is a quarterback worthy of a first-round pick that high, then they have to look at wide receiver or defensive end.
Two defensive ends Seattle could consider in the first round are North Carolina’s Quinton Coples and South Carolina’s Melvin Ingram. But Mayock considers this year’s draft class weak at defensive end.
“I absolutely think when you’re drafting in that position that high you’ve got to get a great football player,” Mayock said. “And if you don’t like the defensive ends like I don’t then, yeah, you take the best player out there. And in that range there will be somebody available, maybe even a wide receiver.”
That said, here are a couple things at the top of Seattle’s to-do list this week:
TALENT UPGRADE AT QB
In his first year in Seattle, quarterback Tarvaris Jackson finished 7-7 as a starter, played most of the season with a torn pectoral muscle on his throwing shoulder, finished the season with five projected starters on the season-ending injured reserve and finished with a solid 85.3 passer rating in the final eight games.
Yet most folks would like Seattle to find a replacement for Jackson either in the draft or free agency.
No doubt, the Seahawks will be players in the Peyton Manning and Matt Flynn free-agent sweepstakes. But because they have a quarterback on the roster they believe they can consistently win with, don’t expect the Seahawks to make any desperate moves or overpay for a quarterback.
As Seattle general manager John Schneider has continually said, based upon his experience in Green Bay, panicking at the quarterback position can set a franchise back years in the rebuilding process.
Seattle remains an attractive destination for free-agent quarterbacks who do their homework because the Seahawks have many of the pieces that make up a consistent playoff contender – a young and aggressive defense, a top-flight left tackle and improving offensive line, and playmakers at running back, tight end and receiver.
However, Carroll has not selected a quarterback in his first two drafts with the Seahawks. Expect that to change this year. Seattle likely will not have an opportunity to move up to select either of the top two quarterbacks – Stanford’s Andrew Luck and Baylor’s Robert Griffin III. But expect the Seahawks to continue to take a close look at second-tier developmental prospects – such as Ryan Tannehill of Texas A&M, Michigan State’s Kirk Cousins and Arizona State’s Brock Osweiler.
LYNCH DEAL CLOSE?
The Seahawks and Marshawn Lynch continue to work toward a long-term deal. The team has made an offer to the bruising running back, which he continues to mull over.
While that offer has not been disclosed, a good guideline is the contract Frank Gore signed with San Francisco in 2011 – a $25.9 million, four-year deal, $13 million of which is guaranteed.
Both sides are hopeful of making a deal before the beginning of free agency – but Lynch still isn’t going anywhere. The Seahawks intend to franchise Lynch by the March 5 deadline if a multiyear deal is not reached.
Other free agents the Seahawks would like to get under contract before free agency begins include defensive end Red Bryant, linebacker David Hawthorne, fullback Michael Robinson and tight end John Carlson.
Bryant already has said he’d like to return to Seattle, and the Seahawks would like to have him back. According to a source with knowledge of the situation, the Seahawks have made Bryant an offer reportedly similar to the deal defensive tackle Brandon Mebane signed with Seattle last season – one that included $9 million of guaranteed money over the first two years of the contract. Bryant is weighing his options.
WANTED: PASS RUSHER
Three of Seattle’s four secondary members – safeties Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, and cornerback Brandon Browner – made the Pro Bowl for the first time this season.
The other member, cornerback Richard Sherman, finished with 54 tackles, four interceptions and a forced fumble in just 10 starts his rookie season, and could join the trio in Hawaii next year.
The Seahawks are pleased with the development of their secondary, but they’d like to add some explosiveness up front with an elite pass rusher.
The Seahawks finished with just 33 sacks in 2011, tied for 19th in the league. Seattle would like to re-sign Bryant, but they also might want to throw a little more money in the pot and go after Houston’s Mario Williams, the top defensive end in the league, should the Texans not franchise the former North Carolina State player and allow him to hit free agency. Williams would pair nicely with current Seattle defensive end Chris Clemons to give the Seahawks one of the better pass-rushing duos in the league.
HEADS NO, TAILS!
Seattle and Kansas City finished tied at 7-9 with the same strength of schedule, so the two teams will have a coin flip Friday in Indianapolis to determine which one gets the No. 11 and No. 12 overall picks.
And the decision could have an impact on either team’s ability to move up in the draft.
According to draft-pick value charts the differences is about 50 points – or a low fourth-round pick. So the team that gets the higher selection will earn some more buying power for a potential draft-day trade.