Now that they “are kind of past” the Richard Sherman trade talk, now that Marshawn Lynch has indeed returned to the NFL, the Seahawks are finally ready to move on.
To the most important, transitional draft of the Pete Carroll-John Schneider era.
The Seahawks’ core players, especially on the defense upon which they’ve won championships, are starting to show signs of aging.
Time to reload.
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Seattle has the 26th pick in Thursday’s first round of the 82nd NFL draft, being held this year outdoors in Philadelphia. Seattle owns five of the first 106 selections, including three in Friday’s third round. The team also owns picks late in rounds six and seven on Saturday.
But in the middle? Zilch.
Because of previous trades, plus the NFL’s penalty last September of a fifth-round pick due to too much contact in offseason practices, Seattle has seven selections entering this draft. That’s the fewest since Schneider and Carroll began wheeling and dealing the Seahawks to Super Bowls and NFC West championships in 2010. Seattle currently has no picks in rounds four and five on Saturday.
“When you look at the teams and you look at your team, and there are no picks there in four and five, it hurts,” Schneider said when reminded of that this week. “Thanks. Appreciate that. Little punch in the gut.
“Yeah, you want to have picks all the way through.”
So yes, odds and history say Schneider makes a trade to add picks in the middle of the draft — for depth to address Seattle’s needs at cornerback, offensive line, safety, the pass rusher or two Carroll always likes, defensive tackle, tight end and perhaps backup quarterback and running back.
Other than that, this draft isn’t very important to the Seahawks.
In seven years as Seahawks GM, Schneider has acquired 30 picks through 14 trades.
Whether there will be more this week, or the Seahawks moving down from 26th overall, largely depends on what remains the glamour position in this — and any — draft. If teams that want quarterbacks find top ones such as Clemson’s Deshaun Watson are still available when Seattle is picking Thursday night, the Seahawks could trade down. This is considered a weak QB class.
“I think two out of the last three years we’ve moved back (completely out of the first round), people were coming up for (quarterbacks) Teddy Bridgewater and Paxton Lynch,” Schneider said, accurately, of Minnesota and Denver. “So when you’re picking where we’re picking down there, you also have to be aware of what’s happening at the top.”
The QB-needy Cleveland Browns may dictate whether Schneider trades out of 26. The Browns could draft hometown passer Mitch Trubisky from the University of North Carolina with one of the picks they own earlier in the first round, at No. 1 or 12.
“We have to know what those teams are thinking at the top of the second round or the bottom of the first round,” Schneider said. “There are several teams that have two ones. … Cleveland has two (second-round picks). So you have to be very aware, watch what they’re doing.”
If the Seahawks don’t trade — or even if they move down to No. 31 via a first-round picks swap with Atlanta, as has been rumored — they are likely to draft an offensive lineman or defensive back first. Seattle’s hands-on line coach Tom Cable reportedly was in Salt Lake City last weekend working out Utah offensive tackle Garett Bolles for a final time before the draft.
Yes, Seattle signed Luke Joeckel to play left tackle in March and fellow veteran Oday Aboushi to play right guard. But each are signed for just one year. The short- and long-term needs to improve on the offensive line remain.
If Bolles or one of the other two top offensive tackles, Wisconsin’s Ryan Ramczyk and Alabama’s Cam Robinson, are gone when Seattle first picks, expect the Seahawks to look to their aging, injured secondary.
Kevin King of the nearby University of Washington has the size (6 feet 3, 200 pounds), long arms and rugged skills in press coverage the Seahawks covet in cornerbacks. And a starting job is open at the position in Seattle. DeShawn Shead is recovering from major knee surgery and likely out until at least October, following an injury in mid-January. Sherman is 29 and has two years left on his contract at the other corner spot.
If Connecticut’s freakishly athletic safety Obi Melifonwu is available, he will likely get a long Seahawks look. He is 6-4, Kam Chancellor size, and his vertical jump of 44 inches at the combine led all defensive backs. Fellow Husky Budda Baker would be an attractive, attacking option at safety in the second round, if he is still there when the Seahawks pick 58th overall on Friday.
Earl Thomas is coming off his first major injury, a broken leg. Fellow Seahawks safety Chancellor, 29, is entering the final year of his contract after consecutive seasons with injuries.
Another UW defensive back, Sidney Jones, intrigues Seattle. He was likely to be a top-15 pick until he tore his Achilles tendon in March at Washington’s Pro Day. Dr. Robert Anderson performed the surgery to repair the tendon four weeks ago. Last week he sent a letter to all 32 NFL teams informing them Jones will begin weight-bearing activities within two weeks — and that he’s on target of return to full activity by August, September or October. Still, drafting Jones seems more for 2018 than for this year.
Anderson’s letter to NFL teams said Dr. Ed Khalfayan has been overseeing Jones’ post-operation progress. Khalfayan is the Seahawks’ head physician. So the team is intricately aware of Jones’ situation and prospects of returning to being an elite defender.
Schneider and his scouts and coaches met with the team’s medical staff Tuesday night for a final update on whom they want to include in Seattle’s draft consideration despite injury concerns, and whom they won’t consider for that reason.
Do the Seahawks have an edge over other teams on evaluating the Huskies’ DBs?
“I don’t think there’s an edge,” Schneider said. “I think you need to be careful not to overevaluate the guys, because we see them so often. We zip over there and watch practice or their pro days. You see them play so much and they’re talked about so often that you have to be careful not to be too hard on them.”
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
NUMBER OF SEAHAWKS DRAFT CHOICES UNDER JOHN SCHNEIDER
2010 – 9
2011 – 9
2013 – 11
2014 – 9
2015 – 8
2016 – 10
2017 – currently 7