One of the best traits of the John Schneider and Pete Carroll-era Seahawks is that they’re always looking forward.
Sometimes when we’ve questioned or criticized them, it was because we were seeing the immediate and the most obvious, while they were making moves that were a couple steps ahead of our imagination.
All along, they have liked replacing expensive vets with young draft picks they’d groomed and ripened as backups to take over when the time was right.
The preference for replacing rather than recycling kept the roster young and trending upward.
So when they brought in a pair of retread veterans, as they did last week with Brandon Browner and Chris Clemons, it seemed to raise a red flag.
Because the Seahawks have proven they know what they’re doing, I’ll downgrade that flag to slightly pink.
But it still begs interpretation.
On the surface, the moves appear to be low-risk in terms of contract costs. But roster spots are valuable, too, and in the past, they’ve liked to use them on players who are either currently producing, or those who have the potential to grow into producers in time.
Clemons is a 34-year-old defensive end who was at his best when in possession of that quick-twitch get-off that withers in the 30s.
And by the time the season starts, Browner will be a 32-year-old cornerback whose top-end speed never was really the strength of his game. It seems reasonable to think he’s even lost some of that speed.
Both were key performers on the Super Bowl XLVIII-winning Seahawks team.
Browner, especially, was a major figure in establishing the physical tone of the original Legion of Boom secondary. A stretch cornerback at 6-4, he manhandled receivers — even the tall and strong ones.
Clemons was cut after two years with Jacksonville, starting seven games and getting three sacks last season. And Browner earned another Super Bowl win with New England over the Seahawks before struggling last season with the Saints.
Last season, Browner was flagged for 21 accepted penalties, most in the NFL for more than a decade. That seems mitigated somewhat by the report that he’d played all season with a balky knee.
What can be the upsides of these guys?
Clemons is not going to replace Cliff Avril at the Leo position, so his best chance is as depth and some situational pass-rush use.
Should he be needed for that? If recent draft picks like Cassius Marsh and Jordan Hill had proven their ability to stay healthy and consistently productive, defensive line depth might not be such a concern.
They have retained young and promising corners Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead. But if draft-pick Tharold Simon had stayed healthy and rising, Browner might not be needed.
These things happen.
Maybe Clemons and Browner step in, enjoy a revival and become factors in the fall.
I’d think, though, their primary value could be more subtle.
These two men are fiercely competitive and great practice players who totally understand the Seahawks’ culture of non-stop competition.
And both are not only physical, but also tough. And there is a distinction between those two qualities.
The Seahawks’ defenders were talented last season, as the statistics support without debate.
But were they as tough as they’d been in previous seasons? Did they manhandle opponents? I think that slipped a bit last season.
Clemons and Browner may not have a big impact on the field in the fall, but they certainly should on the practice field and in the meeting rooms.
And that should make their return about something more than just nostalgia.