After a typically Seahawk-ian draft — translation, you never knew what to expect and you’d better have never strayed far from your TV because they might have made a move — here are six impressions from what I heard and saw.
THE BATTLE AT RECEIVER IS GOING TO BE REALLY INTERESTING
Everything points to Doug Baldwin not returning in 2019, and boy won’t that make the receiving corps look one heck of a lot different. He’s been one of the team’s most dynamic players and most visible leaders since arriving in 2011, coach Pete Carroll’s second year.
Seattle drafting three receivers — D.K. Metcalf, Gary Jennings and John Ursua — told you all you need to know about what they think of Baldwin’s future (as well as wanting to give some help for QB Russell Wilson) as did the way the team made the move to trade back into the draft to get Ursua in the seventh round, giving up a 2020 sixth-rounder to Jacksonville in the process.
The question now is how it will all unfold on the field in the fall.
The three additions give Seattle 11 receivers, though if you remove Baldwin it’s 10. Seattle might keep only five or six, and Metcalf and Jennings — as picks in the top 120 — would seem to likely to make it along with Tyler Lockett, and you’d think David Moore would also be in good shape. That would leave Jaron Brown and Amara Darboh (the 2017 third-rounder who will return this year after missing last season) then battling Ursua and holdovers Malik Turner, Caleb Scott and Keenan Reynolds — and surely another undrafted addition or two — for the final spots.
“I think the receiver thing is going to be really competitive,’’ Carroll said.
And the hope will be that out of it emerges a group that can find a way to replace what Baldwin has given them for so long.
THE LINEBACKER BATTLE WILL BE INTERESTING TOO
Linebacker didn’t necessarily seem like the most urgent need for the Seahawks heading into the draft after re-signing K.J. Wright and Mychal Kendricks and with Bobby Wagner still manning the middle.
Both appear set to compete at the two inside spots, which for now appear loaded with candidates with Wagner in the middle, Wright and Kendricks (assuming he’s available) at the weakside, and then Austin Calitro and Shaquem Griffin behind them as well as Barton and Burr-Kirven.
The Seahawks say they will try to find ways to get Griffin on the field in some sub packages, so maybe he can forge a role other than just as a weakside linebacker, the spot he played last season and where the Seahawks say he will remain.
But the Seahawks seemed to send a strong signal that no one’s job at the linebacker spot is secure (other than the starters), not even the darling of the 2018 draft.
Neither Barton nor Burr-Kirven appear likely to get into the battle at strongside linebacker, where Barkevious Mingo was the starter last year. But Kendricks can play the strongside (and Wright began his career there) and the addition of two new linebackers could give the coaches more options to try players at different spots and see what happens. FWIW, the Seahawks could save $3.6 million against the cap releasing Mingo.
AND SO IS THE SAFETY BATTLE
Another position that the draft sent some signals to is safety.
Seattle appeared to set up its future there two years ago taking Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill, each in the first four rounds, as a potential heir apparent free and strong safety combo to succeed Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor.
But this weekend the Seahawks drafted another matched set of safeties, each in the first four rounds — Utah’s Marquise Blair in the second and Oregon’s Ugo Amadi in the fourth.
Those four join veteran Bradley McDougald, the only sure thing at safety. McDougald can play either free or strong, so the plan appears to find the best other player out of the other four to pair with him (Shalom Luani, acquired for a seventh-round pick last year, also remains).
“We need the competition,’’ Carroll said. “We need to keep it competitive and let that take care of most of the decision-making there through opportunity, let those guys go at it, because we are very, very young other than Bradley, and he’s a terrific leader for those guys … make it way more competitive and bring out the best in everyone.’’
THE SEAHAWKS WANTED TO BEEF UP SPECIAL TEAMS
The other strong signal sent in the drafting of the likes of Barton, Burr-Kirven, Blair and Amadi was that the Seahawks wanted to halt some of the inconsistencies in the special-teams units that crept up late last season (a kickoff return for a touchdown was critical in a late-season loss to the 49ers and two blocked punts made the season finale against Arizona closer than it needed to be).
Carroll said the signing of kicker Jason Myers to replace Sebastian Janikowski “really kick-started the emphasis to make the special-teams aspect of the club really be there and able to answer the call at a championship level.’’
But adding a lot of fast, aggressive, hard-hitters — which the team thinks it did in the drafting of the safeties and linebackers in particular – was another big step.
THE SEAHAWKS ARE PRETTY HAPPY WITH THE DIRECTION OF THEIR OFFENSIVE LINE
A lot of draftniks figured the Seahawks might address the offensive line more than they did — just one of 11 picks were spent up front and that in the fourth round on guard Phil Haynes.
But close observers may not have been surprised as Seattle has seemed generally content with the line after its resurgence last year in the first season for new position coach Mike Solari, which led to the Seahawks leading the NFL in rushing. Four of five starters return (tackles Duane Brown and Germain Ifedi, center Justin Britt and guard D.J.. Fluker) and Seattle signed free agent Mike Iupati to replace the one who is gone, J.R. Sweezy.
A fair number of young players also return such as tackles George Fant and Jamarco Jones, guard/tackle Ethan Pocic and guards Jordan Simmons and Jordan Roos.
Throw Haynes into that mix and that’s 11 players competing for what might only be eight spots on the 53-man roster.
Some had wondered if Seattle might draft a tackle with Ifedi entering the last year of his rookie deal and the Seahawks having yet to decide if they will pick up his fifth-year option (Schneider said again Saturday no decision has yet been made). But not adding a tackle — Haynes has played only guard — might indicate the team is leaning toward keeping Ifedi around.
The pick of Haynes itself also pointed to a happiness with the team’s current style of going with more physical maulers under Solari, compared to the emphasis on quickness and athleticism under Tom Cable.
“He’s going to be 340 pounds,’’ Carroll said. “We have shifted gears in the last couple years here and this is an indication of that. … specifically because of his makeup that kind of matched up with guys we have had success with.’’
EXPECT THE SEAHAWKS GET ACTIVE SIGNING A VETERAN PASS RUSHER OR TWO
The team’s biggest need that the draft didn’t really address was pass rusher, which many figured might be the first thing the Seahawks would do in the wake of the trade of Clark.
Collier obviously gives the team another end, but he’s expected to play five-technique (a la where Michael Bennett played in past years and Quinton Jefferson was the primary player a year ago) and not as a LEO, or edge rusher.
Both Carroll and Schneider said not drafting a pass rusher was in part because they went off the board so quickly.
Schneider said the team specifically felt that the best edge rushers were gone “after Chase (Winovich of Michigan) went.’’ Winovich was taken with the 77th pick by the Patriots that New England got from the Seahawks in the deal Seattle made to move up and get Metcalf (and maybe a sign right there of Seattle’s priorities in this draft).
But some veteran pass rushers remain available in free agency, notably Nick Perry (who has visited the Seahawks) and Ezekiel Ansah, and both Carroll and Schneider said the team will continue to explore options, hinting strongly a veteran will be added.
Schneider referred specifically to free agency having four phases and that phase three is coming up. That appeared to be a specific reference to May 7, when signing free agents no longer factors into the formula for determining 2020 compensatory draft picks. Seattle appears to have four for next year and wants to keep them, meaning signings of more vets could wait until May 7.
“There is work that we are engaged in,’’ Carroll said. “This is this stage of filling up the roster and we are very much involved with what is coming up next, too, so we are not done. We’ve got work to do and we are excited about what’s coming up and you guys will see in time.’’