Pending free agent defensive end Frank Clark had a big season with a team-high 13 sacks
The Seattle Seahawks saw their 2018 season come to an end on Saturday night at AT&T Stadium as they lost 24-22 to the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC Wild Card game. It was a campaign that surpassed expectations as Seattle was expected to go through a very difficult rebuilding season. Head coach Pete Carroll did one of the best coaching jobs of his career to squeeze 10 wins out of this young team. Now, it’s the offseason and Carroll and general manager John Schneider have issues to address as they construct the 2019 edition of the Seahawks. Here is a quick look at three of the biggest questions that face Seattle as they have a projected $63 million in cap space according to overthecap.com.
Three Biggest Offseason Questions Facing the Seahawks
1. Continued transition of the defense
K.J. Wright heads off into free agency and with the Pro Bowl linebacker turning 30 and having missed 11 games this season due to a knee injury, it's no guarantee he will be back in a Seahawks uniform. Wright did some good things on Saturday night against the Cowboys as he had nine tackles, an interception, but also had a costly pass interference penalty in the fourth quarter. Frank Clark, another pending free agent, has continued to emerge as a quality pass rusher with a team-high 13 sacks (tied for seventh in the NFL). At 25 years old, he's sure to have a market should Seattle not come to terms with him before then.
All-Pro safety Earl Thomas is almost assuredly done in Seattle after missing the majority of the season with a broken leg. His departure will signal the end of the Legion of Boom. The emergence of Bradley McDougald and Tedric Thompson in the secondary, as well as the combination of young cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers, leaves the Seahawks in decent position to move forward although expect the team to look to the draft to add to the depth of this unit.
The bottom line is the top priority for the Seahawks on defense is to sign Clark to a long-term deal, probably in the neighborhood of four or five years around $17-18 million per season. Wright is a different situation as he's been a model teammate and a valuable contributor, but the combination of his age and contract demands may not make sense as it relates to the overall picture. Cornerback Justin Coleman is another player to watch as he has been a steady member of the secondary for the past two years and could be someone the team tries to bring back either prior to or after free agency starts.
2. Solidifying the offensive line
D.J. Fluker did a nice job at right guard when he was healthy and was a big part of the offensive line’s development as the running game evolved into the best in the NFL. Re-signing Fluker will be costly, so the front office will have to be careful with those negotiations and make sure they don't overspend just to bring him back. George Fant and J.R. Sweezy also are free agents along the offensive line, which means Seattle's front could undergo a lot of change depending on how things go.
Fant should be a higher priority than Sweezy as he has more versatility (caught a pass in the regular season) and has been used at left tackle. The Seahawks used 10 offensive linemen during the season, so while this is an important group that could use stability, the team also has to be careful how they distribute their resources to this group. Fant should be relatively easy to re-sign. Sweezy played on a prove-it deal and credit to him for gutting it out against Dallas with a foot injury that was initially projected to keep him from playing. However, he turns 30 in April and probably only comes back if it's a short-term, team-friendly deal. How Seattle addresses its offensive line in free agency will likely determine how much of a focus the position will be in the draft.
3. Sebastian Janikowski
Janikowski was a definite improvement over Blair Walsh as far as making kicks (22 of 27 on field goals, 81.5 percent) is concerned. However, if you factor in Janikowski’s age (turns 41 in March) and the fact he suffered a thigh injury just before halftime against Dallas that left the Seahawks behind the eight ball from a kicking standpoint in what ended up being a two-point game. The question has to be asked if that injury was the final blow for him physically. Also, there was the issue of a pair of subpar efforts on kickoff returns that cost Seattle down the stretch. Does Janikowski even want to return if given the opportunity? Is bringing him back in the best interests of the team? Either way, it would behoove the Seahawks to bring in some another kicker or two as to introduce some competition for the position, similar to what happened last offseason when they drafted punter Michael Dickson, who ended up beating out veteran Jon Ryan and went on to make the Pro Bowl.
If history is an indicator you can expect Seattle to keep the focus on taking care of their own younger free agents and looking to the draft to add to the roster's overall depth. The Seahawks will enter the 2019 NFL Draft with just four picks, which means that it is a stone-cold lock that they will do everything possible to trade back from the 21st pick in the first round to get more selections. Overall, look for a less eventful offseason for Seattle, but at the same time a very productive one to set up another playoff push in 2019.
— Written by Scott Whittum, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @ScottWhittum.