2021 Seahawks Offseason Preview

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Hayden Winks
·11 min read
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My goal with the Offseason Preview series is to get caught up with each team’s 53-man roster, offensive and defensive schemes, team needs, and offseason capital within a 10-minute read. The basics will be at the top -- cap space, draft picks, cut candidates, notable departures -- and the film and analytics takes will be at the bottom. I hope to write these in a way that they’re referenceable throughout not just free agency and the NFL Draft, but also the 2021 season as we look into weekly matchups. The offseason is the time for me to get outside of our fantasy football bubble and learn more about what’s going on at the other positions. You can read the rest of my 2021 Offseason Previews here and can follow me on Twitter (@HaydenWinks).

Seahawks 2020 Recap

Seahawks2020
Seahawks2020

Patrick Daugherty summed things up perfectly in his 2020 Season in Review: “The Seahawks failed to win a playoff game for only the third time in nine years with Russell Wilson under center. It would have been a stunning outcome had you watched just the first five games. Less so if you stuck around for the final 11. Wilson cooked, collapsed and never really recovered as the Seahawks finally tried to shed their run-first identity. They lost their nerve during a mid-season Wilson interceptions binge and a back-up plan never materialized. 28 of Wilson’s 40 passing scores came during games 1-8, as did 60 percent of his yardage. The Seahawks still managed to secure the NFC’s No. 3 seed with a 12-4 record, but they limped into the Wild Card Round with a series of unconvincing victories. That’s where a thumb-hobbled Jared Goff put the final nail in their coffin as Wilson was held to fewer than 250 yards passing for the eighth time in nine starts. In the fallout, OC Brian Schottenheimer was fired and Sean McVay disciple Shane Waldron was hired. Coach Pete Carroll is trying to evolve. Hopefully there’s still enough of Wilson’s prime left to take advantage of it.”

Seahawks 2021 Offseason

Notes

Seahawks Cap Space

$4.4 million (18th)

Seahawks Draft Picks

2.56, 4th, 5th, 6th, plus compensatory picks

Seahawks Departures

DT Poona Ford, LB K.J. Wright, CB Shaquill Griffin, RB Chris Carson, EDGE Bruce Irvin, C Ethan Pocic, RG Mike Iupati, EDGE Benson Mayowa, CB Quinton Dunbar, WR David Moore, TE Greg Olsen, TE Jacob Hollister, RB Carlos Hyde, LG Jordan Simmons

Seahawks Cut Candidates

EDGE Carlos Dunlap ($14.0M cap savings), DT Jarran Reed ($8.5M), RT Brandon Shell ($3.4M), CB Tre Flowers ($2.2M)

Seahawks Depth Chart

Position

Base Offense

Notable Backups

Personnel

11

-

% of Passes

71%

-

QB

Russell Wilson

WR

D.K. Metcalf

WR

Freddie Swain

WR (Slot)

Tyler Lockett

John Ursua

TE

Will Dissly

Colby Parkinson

RB (Early Down)

Rashaad Penny

Travis Homer

RB (Third Down)

DeeJay Dallas

LT

Duane Brown

LG

???

Jamarco Jones

C

???

RG

Damien Lewis

Phil Haynes

RT

Brandon Shell

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Trade Rumors: Is Russell Wilson big mad that Pete Carroll runs the show and doesn’t want to give him more control over the offense and personnel? Yup. Is it realistic for a trade to happen right now? Nope. Trading Wilson right now would incur a record-breaking $39 million in dead money and add $7 million more to the Seahawks' cap, so the earliest a trade could realistically happen is after June 1. And even then, it would be complicated. The most likely scenario is the Seahawks giving into Wilson’s demands of adding more offensive line talent in 2021 and playing for at least one more season together. Wilson’s 2022 contract is far more tradable if things don’t cool.

Offensive Coordinator: The Seahawks were leading the NFL in neutral pass rate through nine weeks of the season (61%), but Pete Carroll ended the fun after a few Russell Wilson interceptions and fired ex-OC Brian Schottenheimer after the season. New OC Shane Waldron is a relative no-namer without NFL play-calling experience, likely making him a yes man for Carroll. The offense unfortunately projects to be more balanced in 2021, and Seattle has never played up-tempo (22nd in neutral pace). It’s not the best formula for a high-scoring offense, but doubting Wilson, DK Metcalf, and Tyler Lockett has backfired plenty.

Passing Offense: In the video above, DK Metcalf blames the Seahawks’ late-season struggles on defenses figuring out that their passing offense was primarily downfield shots (10th in aDOT) off of play-action (15th). Russell Wilson deserves some of the blame for why there hasn’t been a successful quick passing game, but ex-Rams OC Shane Waldron should bring in those Sean McVay short-yardage passing wrinkles to the offense in 2021. This could mean more week-to-week consistency but fewer ceiling games. Slot man Tyler Lockett is a winner on paper, but Metcalf is unquestionably the top dog after finishing as the WR9 per game in his age-23 season. The ancillary receiving options are up in the air with WR David Moore and TEs Greg Olsen and Jacob Hollister unsigned. It’s unlikely that a third pass-catcher enters fantasy consideration given the projected dip in overall volume.

Rushing Offense: Russell Wilson can make the Seahawks’ offensive line worse by holding onto the ball for too long, but it’s hard to argue that Seattle’s OL hasn’t been one of the worst for multiple seasons in a row. Of the five starters last year, the Seahawks have two quality returners (36-year-old LT Duane Brown and 2020 third-round RG Damien Lewis), one fringe starter (2016 fifth-round RT Brandon Shell), and two holes vacated by free agents (C Ethan Pocic and RG Mike Iupati). To keep Wilson around long-term, these spots need to be priorities. At running back, the Seahawks will be replacing free agents Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde. Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, and Travis Homer are under contract but project as backups.

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SeahawksNeutral
SeahawksNeutral

Position

Base Defense

Notable Backups

Coverage

Cover 3

-

% of Plays

30%

-

CB

D.J. Reed

CB

Tre Flowers

CB (Slot)

Marquise Blair

Ugo Amadi

SS

Jamal Adams

FS

Quandre Diggs

LB

Bobby Wagner

Cody Barton

LB

Jordyn Brooks

Ben Burr-Kirven

DT (1T)

Poona Ford (if tendered)

DT (3T)

Jarran Reed

Rasheem Green

Edge

L.J. Collier

Alton Robinson

Edge

Carlos Dunlap

Darrell Taylor

Defensive Coordinator: As always, the Seahawks played with a single-high safety in 2020. They were fourth in Cover 3 zone snaps (30%), and when they went to man, it was usually Cover 1 (28%). Largely because of early-year injuries, the Seahawks were getting toasted through the air but got healthier and tightened things up down the stretch, ultimately finishing 15th in points against. They did so by blitzing at the 11th-highest rate (34%) and trading for EDGE Carlos Dunlap, who likely has to take a paycut to stay with the team ($14.0M cap savings if released). There’s enough front-seven depth to let some veterans walk, but outside cornerback is a team priority with both starters unsigned. With some offseason shuffling, the Seahawks could have a top-10 defense on paper ahead of 2021.

Passing Defense: Both CB1 Shaq Griffin and CB2 Quinton Dunbar are free agents. Losing both would hurt, and it’s unlikely that the Seahawks will find cap space to retain both, meaning the Seahawks will be in the rookie market for outside corners with Cover 3 zone experience. The rest of the secondary is set, however, with slot CB Marquise Blair (ACL), backup slot CB Ugo Amadi, SS Jamal Adams, and FS Quandre Diggs all signed. Up front, the Seahawks have a lot of potential between 2019 first-rounder L.J. Collier, 2020 second-rounder Darrell Taylor, 2020 fifth-rounder Alton Robinson, and veterans DE Carlos Dunlap and DT Jarran Reed. The Hawks also get some pass-rush out of NT Poona Ford, who will likely be tendered as a restricted free agent. Even if Dunlap is released, it’s easy to see how Seattle can generate an average to above-average pass rush.

Rushing Defense: The Seahawks have been the only defense in the NFL to actually use three linebackers instead of a nickelback, but that should really change in 2021 with starting nickel CB Marquise Blair (ACL) expected back and OLB K.J. Wright unsigned. For now, Seattle has future Hall of Famer Bobby Wagner and 2020 first-round Jordyn Brooks as the starting linebackers with Cody Barton and Ben Burr-Kirven as depth options. It’s a strong spot even without Wright. The defensive tackle rotation will be good, too, assuming restricted free agent NT Poona Ford is retained. Seattle has spent eight Round 1-3 picks on front-seven defenders over the last five years. The Seahawks’ No. 9 rushing EPA defense from last season shouldn’t come as a surprise.

SeahawksDEF
SeahawksDEF

Seahawks Team Needs

1. Center - 2017 second-rounder Ethan Pocic is a free agent and has been a fringe starter since coming in the league, partially because of core and back injuries. To alleviate Russell Wilson’s pass-blocking concerns, this is a clear spot to find a short- and long-term upgrade.

2. Offensive Guard - Veteran guard Mike Iupati retired and his backup (UDFA Jordan Simmons) is a free agent. The Seahawks are in the market for a long-term starter to pair with 2020 third-round RG Damien Lewis who is more of a physical lineman than athletic pass-blocker.

3. Outside Corner - 2020 Week 1 starters Shaq Griffin and Quinton Dunbar are free agents, and the rest of the Seahawks’ returners project as backups. Last year, the Seahawks ranked 18th in passing EPA defense, a number that could drop further if cornerback isn’t properly addressed. Seattle is specifically looking for Cover 3 zone defenders.

4. Offensive Tackle - 36-year-old LT Duane Brown only has one year left on his contract, and RT Brandon Shell is a fringe starter set for free agency in 2022. Long-term starters are needed at both spots, even if both Brown and Shell could start games this season. Allowing Day 2 prospects to learn on the bench from these veterans would make a lot of sense.

5. Running Back - Both Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde are free agents, and we know coach Pete Carroll wants to run the ball whether we like it or not. Rashaad Penny has only played 374 snaps across three seasons. Given his injury history, Penny shouldn’t be counted on as a starter. Perhaps he’s a valuable rotational back after three-straight forgettable seasons.

2021 Fantasy Football Rankings

Consider these my way-too-early 2021 fantasy football ranking ranges ahead of free agency and the 2021 NFL Draft, and here’s where each player ranked in PPR points, expected PPR points, and PPR points over expected last year.

DK Metcalf (WR1/2) - As a 22-year-old, Metcalf finished as the WR9 per game (17.9 PPR points) and looked like a rare vertical threat on tape. There are risks (Russell leaving, volume decreasing, etc.), but Metcalf already is one of the 15-best receivers in the game heading into year three.

Russell Wilson (QB1/2) - Volume is the concern for Wilson. He only averaged 32.6 pass attempts and 209 passing yards across his final eight games once the play-calling turtled last year, and there’s no reason to expect the offense reverting back to letting Russ cook given the new OC hire. If Wilson were to have a career-average season (19.7 fantasy points per game) in 2021 -- that seems reasonable with his rushing numbers likely declining in his age-32 season -- then Wilson would merely be on the QB1/2 border. That 19.7 FPPG average would’ve made him the QB12 per game in 2020.

Tyler Lockett (WR3) - Between the inconsistent passing volume and his own injuries, Lockett has turned into a boom-bust fantasy asset in recent seasons. He only averaged 10.8 PPR points on just 10.7 expected PPR points from Weeks 10-16 when the offense became more balanced and when Metcalf undoubtedly took over as the No. 1 receiver. There’s always upside (career 9.4 YPT), but Lockett unfortunately comes without a floor. He was the WR17 per game including his two historic performances in 2020.

FA Chris Carson (RB2) - It’s unknown if Carson, 27 in 2021, will return to Seattle. As the Seahawks’ feature back last year, he was the RB8 per game (17.2 PPR points). That’s his ceiling, and there’s a good chance he’s a starter even if he leaves. Nick Mensio listed him as the No. 2 free agent running back.

Rashaad Penny (RB5) - Penny needs both Chris Carson and Carlos Hyde to walk in free agency to begin climbing up rankings, but there are arguably bigger needs on the roster than re-signing them. Injuries have derailed each of Penny’s first three seasons. There’s a ceiling to chase late in drafts just in case the coaching staff and front office is holding out hope that their 2017 first-round pick can turn things around in 2021.

Colby Parkinson and Will Dissly (TE3/4) - The Seahawks are set to lose Greg Olsen (retirement) and Jacob Hollister (free agency) this offseason, leaving Dissly and 2020 fourth-round sleeper Parkinson as the top-two tight ends. Give me Parkinson over Dissly, who is in the final year of his contract and has torn his Achilles and both of his patella tendons already.