Russell Wilson and the Seahawks hope they have another Super Bowl run in them
Russell Wilson is the NFL's highest-paid player ever at $35 million annually, and he made that generous investment pay off in 2019, enjoying the finest season of his eight in Seattle. Yet it still wasn't enough to reward the franchise with another Super Bowl. Recognizing that Wilson won't be in his prime forever, the Seahawks spent the offseason addressing the most glaring needs around him.
They picked up four veteran offensive linemen and another in the draft in their continuous efforts to upgrade Wilson's inconsistent protection and beef up the depth. Often one pass catcher shy last season, they added tight end Greg Olsen and speedy wide receiver Phillip Dorsett II to plug this gap.
"The whole idea is to put it together to give him the best opportunities to strike you dead in the passing game," coach Pete Carroll says. "There's nobody over the last handful of years better throwing the ball down the field than Russell."
Since winning and losing Super Bowls with Wilson in charge in the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the Seahawks have never been far from a championship game return. They're still not, as long as their well-paid leader gets some help.
For much of last season, Wilson arguably was the best quarterback in the NFL. He was sensational throughout the regular-season schedule, completing 66 percent of his passes for 4,110 yards and 31 touchdowns, while throwing just five interceptions. He had a 106.3 quarterback rating, the third highest of his career. But he couldn't do it all alone. Wilson lost his center, left tackle, tight end and top two running backs to injury, and largely because of that, the Seahawks got only as far as the second round of the playoffs.
The Seahawks made it an offseason priority to replenish the O-line after Wilson was sacked a league-high 48 times. The most experienced newcomer is tackle Brandon Shell, a 40-game NFL starter and low-cost option. Chance Warmack also was signed, but he opted out of playing due to concerns about the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Ethan Pocic or Mike Iupati, both of whom struggle with injuries, will likely team with rookie Damien Lewis, whose leverage and strength coming from LSU made D.J. Fluker expendable, at the guard spots. Shell replaces the embattled Germain Ifedi, who wore out his welcome by becoming the most penalized man in the league. Shell committed just four penalties last season compared to Ifedi's 14. The newcomers join the lone returning starter, left tackle Duane Brown. Brown, a four-time Pro Bowl selection, is coming off knee surgery and will try to show he's got something left.
The Seahawks acquired B.J. Finney to man the center position. The former Pittsburgh Steeler has given up just two sacks in more than 1,000 snaps.
Seattle had one of the NFL's better running-back duos last season in Chris Carson and Rashaad Penny, the slasher and the improviser, until it lost both of them after they'd gained 1,600 yards and scored 10 TDs. Carson fractured a hip that didn't require surgery, and Penny suffered an ACL tear that did. For insurance purposes, Seahawks acquired veteran Carlos Hyde, who rushed for 1,070 yards and six scores for the Texans, and drafted DeeJay Dallas in the fourth round. They've learned, after bringing back Marshawn Lynch for the playoffs, that you can't have too many running backs.
While Wilson always does a nice job of utilizing the receivers he has on hand, the Seahawks keep trying to give him more support. Last year it was DK Metcalf, a steal in the 2019 second round who caught 58 passes for 900 yards and seven scores, and whose speed and size made him difficult to cover. This time it's Olsen, a three-time Pro Bowler and 14-year pro coming off a 52-catch season. Besides his exceptional pass-catching ability, he's a blocking upgrade and an insurance policy should promising but repeatedly injured tight end Will Dissly fail to bounce back from a torn Achilles or can't stay on the field for long. For good measure, the Seahawks threw in Dorsett, a 29-catch pickup from the New England Patriots. Pair these guys with Wilson's go-to receiver, Tyler Lockett, who's coming off a career-best 82-catch, 1,057-yard and eight-TD performance, and opposing secondaries might dread going up against this fleet group.
The Seahawks did everything they could to re-sign playmaking end Jadeveon Clowney except pay him what he wanted, so they made an aggressive move in free agency and the draft to try and boost the pass rush. Seattle brought back a pair of former Seahawks in Bruce Irvin, who left in 2015, and Benson Mayowa, who last played in Seattle as a rookie in 2013, and drafted Darrell Taylor and Alton Robinson. Irvin and Mayowa had a combined 15.5 sacks for Carolina and Oakland last season. Taylor might be the best of the four, coming in as a fierce rusher who toughed it out and played effectively with a stress fracture last season at Tennessee. The Seahawks also felt compelled to re-sign defensive tackle Jarran Reed, even though he had his worst season in Seattle, dropping from 12 tackles for a loss in 2018 to zero last year. He teams with Poona Ford, who's undersized and better coming off the bench, but has uncanny leverage.
The linebacking corps remains the strength of the defense, led by inside linebacker Bobby Wagner, the best at his position, and K.J. Wright, his reliable wingman. After eight seasons, Wagner remains in his prime and in 2019 was the league leader in tackles for the second time in four seasons, with 159. A nine-year veteran and similarly ageless, Wright comes off a season in which he rang up a career-high 132 tackles. The Seahawks used their first-round pick on Texas Tech linebacker Jordyn Brooks, a speedy player with a compact frame similar to Wagner's who will be groomed to someday replace him.
The secondary has been adequate, but nothing resembling the Seattle's vaunted and dominant Legion of Boom, and Carroll hasn't been afraid to continually tweak it, or just outright shake things up. The latter is exactly what the Seahawks have done by trading for All-Pro strong safety Jamal Adams a couple of days before the scheduled start of training camp. Adams, who made it crystal clear he didn't want to be a New York Jet anymore, didn't come cheap — Seattle traded a pair of first-round picks, a third-rounder in 2021 and last year's starting strong safety, Bradley McDougald, for Adams and a fourth-round pick 2022 — and he's looking for a new contract that will make him one of the highest-paid (if not the highest) safeties. But now that's he free from the Jets, Adams should provide a major boost to the pass defense, not to mention add a lot of swagger, as he seeks to show he's worth a lucrative new deal.
As for the rest of the secondary, cornerback Tre Flowers was victimized over and over in the playoffs and is a man on the spot. He started slow as well, and the Seahawks considered making a change. The other corner, Shaquill Griffin, was a different story. He didn't register an interception, but his stingy coverage skills earned him a Pro Bowl selection. Griffin finished with a forced incompletion rate of 21.2 percent that ranked second among all cornerbacks and elevated him to another level. The Seahawks went for a free safety upgrade at midseason, bringing in Quandre Diggs for five games, and he was sensational, intercepting three passes and returning one for a score. The coaching staff is eager to have him for 16 games. Diggs also may serve as the steadying influence in the secondary, which is a role McDougald filled the past three seasons since replacing Kam Chancellor.
Punter Michael Dickson and placekicker Jason Myers came off Pro Bowl seasons and weren't nearly as effective in 2019. Dickson saw his average drop from a prolific 48.2 yards per punt to 45.1, while Myers went from 91.7 percent accuracy to 82.1 in field goals. Both finished strong, though. Dickson tied a club record with 34 punts downed inside the 20, and Myers beat San Francisco with a field goal in overtime.
Had the Seahawks been able to keep Clowney, they might have been serious Super Bowl contenders. However, they'll have to use Wilson once more to try and outscore the opposition rather than shut it down, and that approach usually doesn't win championships. With this superlative quarterback, anything is possible, but Seattle is likely no better than a playoff team for a round or two without a dominant defense. That doesn't mean Wilson can't win the MVP prize in his ninth season.