K.J. Wright, four-year contract extension. A day later, the Seahawks announce Cliff Avril has a new, four-year deal.
Seattle has invested $55.5 million on two more of the core pieces to defensive coordinator Dan Quinn's machine.
Quinn inherited half of this era of Seattle defensive excellence from predecessor Gus Bradley, now the first-time head man for the Jacksonville Jaguars. But his Seahawks credit Quinn with allowing them to play simply, and for being themselves on an off the field. The result is the NFL's top-ranked defense for two seasons now.
"He allows us to play fast and free," said middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, the man who receives the defense's play calls before each snap.
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It's one reason why the Seahawks have done this below, with the re-signing of Avril for $28.5 million and $16 million guaranteed on Friday an exception to this homegrown list because Seattle first acquired him as a free agent on a two-year contract from Detroit before the 2013 season:
For his part, Quinn said coaching these guys and working for head man Pete Carroll, who challenges his assistants and quizzes them in preparation for their own head-coaching possibilities, "is a blast. The learning never stops."
The Seahawks had a walkthrough practice in Renton today before they arrived in Phoenix late this afternoon and tomorrow night's showdown for the NFC West title at Arizona.
UPDATE: The Seahawks made a roster move today before the 24-hour deadline to set active rosters for games, and it's a nod to the need for depth on the offensive line: They waived TE RaShaun Allen and signed OL Keavon Milton from practice squad. He wears No. 66.
As for the timing of these deals, back to back in one of the biggest regular-season game weeks in years for Seattle, Carroll said general manager John Schneider had been working on these deals for a while and the end of the league's business year cleared up the team's financial plans to allocate money.
Here is all what Quinn said following Thursday's practice, before Avril's new deal:
December 18, 2014
(On K.J. Wright) Man, is he one of the teammates that our guys respect the most. Not only can he play two positions, he plays in base and nickel – he’s one of those guys that you can completely count on. From a coaching standpoint you feel his length in terms of the way he can cover and play man-to-man on tight ends. We certainly like when we get to match him up against those guys so one of our most versatile players we have just because of his size and length and one of the great teammates in our group of guys.
(On how K.J. Wright’s size and length shows up) Yeah, I guess on the man-to-mans and even in the zones too. For the guys who have a big catching radius – he can go match those guys. His arm length where he can go and track the ball when a guy is going up to compete for it along the lines of the big tight ends so he’s kind of built like a tight end in that way where he’s got long arms and he can really run. I think it’s those matchups that we covet the most for him where he can find himself on a tight end playing man-to-man.
(On how important is the continuity of keeping the core guys on defense together) Yeah, I think it’s huge and here’s another one that’s going to be part of this group moving forward so now when you talk about some of the guys who were new getting back to into it last year and now K.J. back into the mix – from the continuity standpoint and how much these guys are willing to work for each other – I can’t tell you how thrilled we are to have K.J. here and be a big part of that. I think it shows a lot of respect for him and regard for him in terms of what the organization is trying to do to say, ‘Okay. Hey, let’s make sure this guy is part of this group too’.
(On the four defensive guys who have signed extensions and what that says about the team’s ability to find guys and develop them) We talk about it a lot especially with Kris [Richard] and Ken [Norton] who had some of these guys from the very beginning in their development. I think K.J. is another one of those guys. In fact I talked to Ken about that last night, that nice contract also a sign for him – how hard he has worked. K.J. put the work in but the development, the mindset that he’s had to go after it. If you guys have been around Ken for one minute, you can feel his competitive fire. He really brings it out of guys and as Kris does as well. So I think guys in particular, not only the connection that they make with the players on the field, it’s off the field – all the things necessary to become good players. They’ve captured that with those guys.
(On how K.J. Wright, Bobby Wagner and Bruce Irvin can all do different things and how important it is to have that) I think that was what was so great about a month ago, getting Bobby back, we were able to allow guys to be in the spots that we try to feature them – where we can keep Bruce on the end of the line and use K.J. in the way that makes him so unique. Their uniqueness allows us to do a lot of different things so we’re really fortunate as a staff to be able to highlight some of these things that guys do well. Whether it’s Bruce – edge setting and rushing and using Wagner’s speed in the zone stuff and then K.J. where he’s able to matchup and play some man-to-man. When you have all these unique guys, man are we fortunate to know all these guys strengths and what they can do and try to feature them.
(On how well Bobby Wagner played when he returned) Yeah and that’s the thing, even though he was out, you could tell he was staying in everything mentally so really, when he got back there wasn’t a, ‘Well, I have to get back into the calls and the game,’ he was in the meetings. When he knew he was going to be ready, he really pushed it in the rehab to get back faster than anyone thought he could so I’m not surprised that he came back so quickly – really fit, in shape. I think his first game back I don’t think he didn’t miss one play so that’s typical for him.
(On Arizona looking any different than what has been seen previously) No, I don’t think so. Just because we know--been coaching against Coach (Bruce) Arians through the years, and Coach (Tom) Moore and those guys. They have a real style that they play, much like we do, where we try to keep it about our own self, and the way that we play. So we’re prepared in terms of their scheme, and what they do. Much like they did--we had this conversation when they went from Carson (Palmer) to Drew (Stanton), so that was in the same vein of that conversation, where it’s not a wholesale change. And I think that’s true with most teams in the league unless they’re just a completely different style of player that would come in. Maybe they’ll feature that guy more, but certainly you have another capable guy coming in, playing in their system and historically, the guys have done well in that system.
(On Arizona having Larry Fitzgerald back changing things for Seattle) Not necessarily for us. We have a lot of regard and respect for him and the way that he plays. He’s a tremendous competitor, and he goes and seems like he can contest for all the balls. His catching radius is so long. So we know it’s the match up. Through the years going against him is a battle, but one of the guys we love going against, just from the competitive side of it.
(On watching clips on Fitzgerald) I think it’s easier to do it--you can throw--it’s kind of two different ways. One, from a personnel evaluation, you can look at okay, here’s the clips that he had, and get a sense for the player, and then, it’s way easier than to go back and to say ‘okay, let’s look at the stuff that he’s had while he’s been it’. But really going through the system if that makes sense. So there’s two different ways to go about it.
(On Arizona playing a backup quarterback) Whoever’s in, we’ll be ready to defend. And all the unique stuff they gain. He’s unique in his own way, but if that’s the route they want to go, we’ll be prepared to get on that road as well.
(On when K.J. Wright’s ability to play behind the typically show up) I’d probably say, for him, in the run game. Where a guy who plays on the end of the line most of the time, you can set the edge and take all the action going to you. Now when you step behind the ball, now you’re behind the guys, there’s a lot more that can happen with backs moving and tight ends moving so those instincts will come in to play where you can read it. Where at the end of the line, you’re really focused on the tackle, or the tight end to the back field, where behind the ball, there’s so much more that can go on, so I think his strengths are behind the ball. Although he can play seem because his body is long and strong enough to do it. He’s best for us, we think, behind the ball.
(On talking to Pete Carroll about aspirations of being head coach) I think one of the great parts of being part of this organization is with him is we look to him as a mentor and somebody that we learn from all the time. So just being part of this organization and watching the guy interact with the team, help develop the coaches, to help develop the players. He’s been a huge impact on the philosophy; coaching wise, philosophy wise, it’s a blast working him with him. It really is. The learning never stops. He’s always constantly challenging us; think of this two minute situation, think of this; and he’s often times putting us as coaches against each other in that scenario, where we do tons of 2 minute work, all the stuff that we do against each other, offensively and defensively; he’s constantly challenging us. One of the fun parts about being a coach on his staff.