‘Shutdown Corner’ offseason TPS report: Seattle Seahawks

Brian McIntyre
Shutdown Corner

After taking a few days to focus on the 2013 NFL scouting combine, "Shutdown Corner" resumes our TPS reports (Office Space), where we take a look back at each team's 2012 season and a look at what lies ahead for the 2013 offseason. We continue in the NFC West with the Seattle Seahawks.

2012 record: 11-5

What went wrong: An 11-5 season and coming within 30 seconds of appearing in the NFC championship game results in a fairly short list of complaints entering the 2013 offseason.

If there was a gripe, it was that it took a few games before the Seahawks unleashed third-round quarterback Russell Wilson. The Seahawks had an ineffective passing game for the first five weeks of the regular season and Wilson had more interceptions (six) than touchdowns (five). Second-year receiver Doug Baldwin, Seattle's top receiver in 2011, had just 29 receptions for 366 yards on the season. Tight end Zach Miller, who signed a five-year, $34 million contract after the 2011 lockout, caught just 38 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns.

Another issue was a defense that built to stop the run allowed 122.9 yards per game on the ground over the final 10 regular season games before allowing 271 rushing yards in two postseason games. Defensive end Chris Clemons, who had 11.5 sacks in the regular season, suffered a torn ACL in the playoff win over the Washington Redskins and may not be 100 percent by the time the 2013 season begins.

What went right: According to Football Outsiders' opponent-adjusted metrics, the Seahawks finished first in team efficiency, placing among the top four teams in offense, defense and special teams DVOA (Defense-adjusted Value Over Average).

The biggest story out of Seattle was the rapid development of Wilson, the No. 75 overall pick of the 2012 NFL Draft who won the starting job in training camp and became a Rookie of the Year candidate. Wilson passed for over 3,100 with 26 touchdowns, tying Peyton Manning's single-season record for a rookie. Wilson also added 489 yards and four touchdowns, including three rushing touchdowns in the first half of a 50-17 win over the Buffalo Bills.

Marshawn Lynch earned Pro Bowl honors by running for 1,590 yards and 11 touchdowns, barreling over defenders like a player seeking a $30 million extension and not a player who had signed one in the offseason. The Seahawks ranked third in Football Outsiders' "Adjusted Line Yards" and placed two players – left tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger – in the Pro Bowl. The Seahawks also got a solid season out of Golden Tate, who had 45 receptions, 688 yards and tied for the team lead with seven touchdowns.

The Seahawks' were fourth in yards allowed per game and were the league's No. 1-ranked scoring defense. In a sign that "The Kid's Are Alright", Seattle's leader in tackles was second-round middle linebacker Bobby Wagner, who had 139, including a team-high nine for a loss, an impressive total for a player who logged 84.83 percent of the defensive snaps. 2012 first-round pick Bruce Irvin was second on the team with eight sacks in limited (43.41 percent playing-time) action. Second-year cornerback Richard Sherman had eight interceptions and the All-Pro emerged as one of the top corners in the league.

Coaching/front office changes: The Seahawks lost defensive coordinator Gus Bradley, who is now the head coach the Jacksonville Jaguars. Replacing Bradley is Dan Quinn, the Seahawks' former defensive line coach who spent the last two seasons as the defensive coordinator at the University of Florida. The Seahawks' front office saw the departure of vice president of football administration John Idzik, who was named the New York Jets' general manager.

Estimated 2013 cap space: $16.371 million

Possible cap casualties: The biggest question coming out of Seattle is what to do with quarterback Matt Flynn. The Seahawks signed Flynn to a three-year, $19.5 million contract last March with the idea that he'd compete, and possibly be the favorite, for the starting job. That didn't happen, Russell Wilson was sensational, and now the Seahawks have a backup quarterback who is due $5.25 million in salary, with $2 million fully guaranteed, and a $7.25 million. If the Seahawks traded Flynn, they'd save $5.25 million in cash and $3.25 million in cap space. If the Seahawks just released Flynn, they'd save $3.25 million in cash ($5.25 million minus the $2 million in guaranteed salary) and $1.25 million in cap space.

Since the Seahawks are in great shape, cap-wise, they could keep Flynn in case anything happens (injury, sophomore slump, etc…) to Wilson. Ideally your backup quarterback wouldn't be making nearly 10 times more than the starter, but depth at the quarterback position is a great thing to have and the Seahawks are currently in or approaching (after the Baltimore Ravens franchise or sign Joe Flacco) the bottom third in the league in both cash and cap dollars spent at the game's most important position.

One contract the Seahawks should address, even before Flynn's deal, is the one belonging to Zach Miller, who is scheduled to earn $10 million in cash with an $11 cap number, making him the highest-paid tight end in the NFL this season. Miller is due $6.8 million in base salary ($4 million is fully guaranteed) with a $3 million roster bonus due on March 21. Seattle could restructure this deal to lower that $11 million cap figure. Two other prime restructure candidates are Brandon Mebane and Red Bryant, who have large base salaries and currently have very low prorated amounts from their signing bonuses impacting the cap.

A potential cap casualty might be Ben Obomanu, a No. 4 receiver who is coming off a wrist injury and is scheduled to earn $2.3 million in the final season of a three-year extension he signed towards the end of the 2010 season.

Unrestricted free agents

Alan Branch, DT
Patrick Chukwurah, DE
Steven Hauschka, K
LeRoy Hill, LB
Jason Jones, DL
Ryan Longwell, K
Cameron Morrah, TE
Frank Omiyale, G/T
Marcus Trufant, CB

Restricted free agents

Clint Gresham, LS
Chris Maragos, S
Clinton McDonald, DT

RFA tender amounts in 2013 are:

• $1.323 million for right of first refusal and/or original draft round compensation

• $2.023 for right of first refusal and second round draft selection

• $2.879 for right of first refusal and first round draft selection

Franchise Tag candidates: Keeping Branch, who has played in 58.7 percent of the defensive snaps the two seasons, would be nice, but not on a franchise tag worth around $8.4 million, or nearly a $1 million more than his expiring two-year contract. Beyond Branch, the Seahawks do not have a free agent who would warrant the use of the franchise tag this offseason.

Previous installments of the "Offseason TPS Reports" series:

AFC East: New England Patriots, Miami Dolphins, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills
AFC North: Baltimore Ravens, Cincinnati Bengals, Pittsburgh Steelers, Cleveland Browns
AFC South: Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Indianapolis Colts, Houston Texans
AFC West: Kansas City Chiefs, Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers, Denver Broncos
NFC East: Philadelphia Eagles, Dallas Cowboys, New York Giants, Washington Redskins
NFC North: Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears, Minnesota Vikings, Green Bay Packers
NFC South: Carolina Panthers, New Orleans Saints, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Atlanta Falcons
NFC West: Arizona Cardinals, St. Louis Rams

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