An incredibly high standard has been set for the rest of the NFL. On Sunday evening Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs won their third Super Bowl in the last five years, officially making them the league’s latest dynasty – one that has no end in sight so long as Mahomes’ throwing arm remains attached to his shoulder.
How do the Seahawks and the other 30 teams around the league intend to catch up with Kansas City? The path to the Lombardi trophy is different for every team, of course. For Seattle it’s going to take a serious upgrade in coaching (check) and a couple offseasons of roster-building to even get into the Super Bowl conversation. Let’s begin with what needs to be done over the next few months, culminating with the 2024 NFL draft.
In honor of the team’s new defense-first head coach Mike Macdonald, we’ll begin on that side of the ball.
Re-sign DL Leonard Williams
In broad strokes, our strategy on defense is to keep mostly the same personnel and rely on Macdonald’s schematic genius for improvement – at least for now. After 2024 they can decide on whether or not to blow it up. The top priority for this franchise at the moment has to be re-signing star defensive lineman Leonard Williams. Seattle gave up two draft picks to get him and Williams was their best defender in the second half of the 2023 season after the trade. Signing Williams to a new multi-year contract won’t come cheap, but it’s the single-best move they can make to make sure their defense doesn’t fall off where it matters the most.
Trade DL Dre'Mont Jones
While it’s true the Seahawks need to put more resources into their interior defensive line, the details matter. In the case of Dre’Mont Jones, they simply aren’t getting enough production to justify his Pro Bowl-sized contract, which comes with cap hits totaling over $41 million the next two seasons. Jones is still a solid defender who’s only 27 years old, so they should be able to find a trade partner somewhere around the league, assuming that they’re willing to eat some of his salary.
Sign Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy
After re-signing Leonard Williams odds are the front office will have to go bargain hunting for outside free agents. The best destination might be Baltimore, where several excellent defenders are about to hit the market and might want to follow Macdonald to Seattle. Last season outside linebackers Jadeveon Clowney and Kyle Van Noy combined for 18.5 sacks, 28 quarterback hits and 35 pressures while costing the Ravens less than $4 million total. The Seahawks should try to sign both, and if they can do it in the same price-range it’d be a superb return on investment.
Re-sign Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks
What to do at linebacker may be the most difficult decision for general manager John Schneider this year. We’ve gone back and forth but right now we’re leaning towards keeping both Bobby Wagner and Jordyn Brooks. For the price Wagner is the league’s best value at the position, and while keeping Brooks in town won’t come cheap it would be less expensive than signing Patrick Queen. Bringing back Devin Bush isn’t a bad idea either and they should plan to draft a promising inside linebacker at some point, as well.
Cut Jamal Adams, restructure Quandre Diggs, extend Julian Love
The biggest changes on the roster need to come at the safety position, where the Seahawks are spending far more than any other team in the NFL but got below average results. It’s time to move on from Jamal Adams and doing so will save a ton of cap room. There’s a case to cut Quandre Diggs as well but we feel he deserves another chance after a rare off-year in 2023. He’s worth keeping if he’ll play on a restructured deal, anyway. Seattle should also extend Julian Love, who blossomed into a true playmaker this past season.
Trade QB Geno Smith (if you can)
On offense the plan should be to embrace the ongoing youth movement, especially at the premium positions. That includes quarterback, where the Seahawks have to make a decision on Geno Smith before Friday when $12.7 million of his salary becomes gully guaranteed. If they can swing a deal to get a good young quarterback like Justin Fields or a Day 2 draft pick, they should pull the trigger on a trade. If not, we have no problem keeping Smith and planning to start him in Week 1. His contract is still team-friendly and they can definitely make a deep playoff run with Geno leading the offense – assuming the defense is radically improved.
Target an OT at No. 16 overall in the draft
The team’s greatest asset heading into this offseason is their first-round pick, currently slated for No. 16 overall. That puts them in no-man’s land as far as quarterback prospects go, so they should look to target their next-greatest long-term need. Right now that’s tackle, where both Charles Cross and Abe Lucas disappointed for different reasons in 2023. Washington’s Troy Fautanu would be an upgrade over Cross at left tackle and should probably be their No. 1 target given his familiarity with new OC Ryan Grubb’s system. Cross could then move inside to left guard so their top-10 pick isn’t completely wasted.
Sign OT Trent Brown in free agency
The Seahawks also have to do something about RT Abe Lucas’ ongoing knee issue – which put him on the sidelines for 11 games this past season. Last year they tried to sign Trent Brown and there’s no reason not to try again in March. Brown would bring some much-needed experience to what will be a very young offensive line and would allow Lucas to slide inside to right guard, where he would likely dominate if he can stay healthy.
Cut Will Dissly, draft a TE
The Seahawks are absolutely loaded at running back and wide receiver, but they could use a true playmaker at tight end if they’re going to catch up with the 49ers and the Chiefs of the world. Cutting Will Dissly would save a bunch of cap room and allow them to target a replacement in the draft – hopefully a prospect who has a higher ceiling as a pass-catching threat.
Draft QB Michael Penix Jr.
Finally, the Seahawks should plan to draft the man who’s the most-qualified to run Ryan Grubb’s offense – the same guy that’s been doing a splendid job of it over the last two years. Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. isn’t the best quarterback prospect in this class, but his ceiling is more than high enough to target him on Day 2 of the draft or late in Round 1. In addition to his experience with Grubb’s system Penix has several pro-quality traits, including a high football IQ, accuracy, touch and an A+ long ball.