By Russ Lande
Sports on Earth's NFL writers Mike Tanier, Dan Pompei, Russ Lande and Robert Weintraub will be providing an offseason assessment of all 32 NFL teams -- identifying the most pressing problems facing each one and proposing the best solutions. Click here for links to every entry in the series.
Obviously a team that just won the Super Bowl does not have huge holes to fill in order to be a playoff team next season, but there are still areas for Seattle to address. After hitting a home run in free agency last offseason with bargains like Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, the Seahawks made the smart move by re-signing Bennett to a big-money deal. Thinking back to the end of Pete Carroll's first season in Seattle, rumors were rampant that he and GM John Schneider were not getting along and one would have to go. Clearly their working relationship has led to great success, while focusing on building a team for the long term.
Problem: Improve their interior offensive line and possibly right tackle.
Solution: Add depth at guard or right tackle.
While it was great to see James Carpenter starting for Seattle again, he has yet to start every game in a season as he enters the final year of his rookie contract. J.R. Sweezy has made huge strides in two seasons at guard -- he was a DT in college -- but he is not a star. The Seahawks need to acquire another guard to prepare for Carpenter's potential departure and provide competition for he and Sweezy. In addition, starting right tackle Breno Giacomini is a free agent who will depart if he receives a big-money offer, so finding a replacement will be important. At the end of the first round, UCLA's Xavier Su'a-Filo could bring athleticism to the position and blocks with good technique making him a potentially dominant player. He would give them insurance if Carpenter leaves a season from now, and, more likely start as a rookie, forcing Carpenter and Sweezy to compete for one starting job. Su'a-Filo's athleticism makes him a potential starting right tackle if Giacomini leaves.
Another guard to keep an eye on in the second round is Mississippi State's Gabe Jackson. He is a good athlete who plays aggressively. An excellent player in college, he did not have a good combine workout. The Seahawks have done an excellent job of drafting good college players while not focusing on timing/testing/workouts, I think he could be a target and I believe he would win a starting job as a rookie.
In terms of right tackle, Seattle could grab Virginia's Morgan Moses in the first round or aim for someone in the middle rounds. Moses is an athletic kid with good strength who was very productive at Virginia. Turner is a top athlete who dominated at a small school, despite not consistently using good technique. One other name to keep an eye on is Miami's Seantrel Henderson, who likely will not be selected until the middle rounds. Despite an up-and-down college career, he has rare physical talent. I could see Carroll believing he can get him to play up to his talent level.
Problem: They need to add a receiver.
Solution: Draft one of this year's good receivers.
Golden Tate signed with the Lions as a free agent and despite his big impact in the Super Bowl, Percy Harvin has durability problems. Additionally, Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse are good, solid receivers, but neither is a game-changer. Seattle needs a receiver who can bring a consistent, big-play element to its offense. There are many good receivers in this year's draft, but three jump out as potential fits for the Seahawks. At the end of the first round, they could grab Penn State's Allen Robinson. He plays faster than his times and has consistently shown the strength, balance and run instincts to make big plays after the catch. If they choose to wait until the middle rounds, there are two prospects who make sense for Seattle. Saginaw Valley State receiver Jeff Janis is 6-foot-3 and 219 pounds. He was a dominant small-school receiver who made a ton of big plays and eased concerns about his athleticism and speed with a strong showing at the Senior Bowl and combine. LSU's Jarvis Landry was an outstanding receiver in the best conference in the country, but after running in the high 4.7s at the combine, he is not a first-round pick. He reminds me of Keenan Allen, who fell to the Chargers in the third round for the same reason.
Problem: A lack of young talent/depth on defensive line.
Solution: Sign a free agent at the right price or draft a young talent.
After releasing starting defensive linemen Red Bryant and Chris Clemons and losing backup defensive tackle Clinton McDonald in free agency, the Seahawks need to add some young defensive linemen to make up for these losses. Obviously, resigning Michael Bennett was huge, but he is not young and Cliff Avril will be a free agent after the 2014 season. Pat Sims could be a great, low-priced addition later in the free-agency process, similar to how the Seahawks cherry picked Avril and Bennett a season ago. He is a tremendous athlete with the strength to dominate blockers. He does lack consistently good technique and aggressiveness, which is something the Seahawks' coaches have had success correcting. In the draft, I think Oregon State's Scott Crichton would be a great fit. He is talented enough to be a productive starter and has the character and demeanor to fit their defense perfectly.
Problem: An upgrade is necessary at tight end.
Solution: Take a gamble.
Early in his career Zach Miller caught a lot of passes, but has not been a dynamic, big-receiving threat lately. Luke Wilson, Kellen Davis and Anthony McCoy aren't that type of player, either. Additionally, Miller is due a $1 million bonus on March 20, so there is speculation the Seahawks will cut him before then. While Eric Ebron will not be available when they draft, I could see them taking a shot on Texas Tech's Jace Amaro at the end of the first round because he has the size to be a solid blocker, outstanding hands and good all-around receiving skills. Jermichael Finley is scheduled to visit the Seahawks, but I believe recently released Owen Daniels would likely be less of a risk and cost less money, so I would go in that direction. Also, former Oregon tight end Colt Lyerla is an immensely talented tight end who likely would have been a first-round pick if not for his numerous off-field/drug issues. Carroll has shown a willingness to gamble on players with character issues late in the draft, thus I would not be shocked if they went in this direction. He is a potential game changer.
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Russ Lande writes about college scouting and the NFL draft for Sports on Earth. He is GM jr. scouting and college scouting director for the CFL's Montreal Alouettes and the Big Ten Network. He is a former scout for the Cleveland Browns and former scouting administrator for the St. Louis Rams. You can follow him@RUSSLANDE.