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NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - INSIDE SLANT
After three seasons of roster building, Pete Carroll's primary goal has changed slightly heading into 2013.
While the overarching theme remains competition in a Carroll training camp, this season will be more about refinement and staying healthy than roster churn, as the Seattle head coach and general manager John Schneider believe they have built a team that can finally compete for a Super Bowl.
The Seahawks have found their franchise quarterback in Russell Wilson, shrewdly snapping him up in the third round of last year's draft.
And the addition of receiver Percy Harvin in an offseason trade with Minnesota gives Wilson yet another playmaker on an already-loaded offense.
But the key for the Seahawks will be how much the team has improved in getting after the passer. Seattle had trouble generating a consistent pass rush last season, finishing tied for 18th in the league in sacks with 36.
The additions of Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency should help bolster Seattle's pass rush. And new defensive coordinator Dan Quinn has hinted that the Seahawks will play more man coverage in the upcoming season, allowing the front seven to blitz more.
How Seattle handles being the front-runner also will be a main storyline in 2013, particularly with the recent rash of player suspensions the team received, with six players being suspended during Carroll's tenure for violating the NFL's policy on performance enhancing drugs.
The Seahawks, one of this year's favorites to advance to the Super Bowl, will not sneak up on anybody in 2013.
On the hot seat: Golden Tate is coming off a breakthrough season in 2012, as he finished with a career-high 45 receptions for 688 yards and seven touchdowns. The Notre Dame product is in a contract year, and might not receive as many targets with the addition of Harvin. However, if Tate has another good year, the Seahawks could have a tough decision to make in free agency next season, with Sidney Rice due to make $8.5 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2014.
Cause for concern: Although they have two Pro Bowlers in tackle Russell Okung and center Max Unger, Seattle's offensive line still has question marks at both guard positions. Former first-round draft choice James Carpenter has yet to come back from offseason knee surgery, and is expected to compete for the left guard job with Paul McQuistan during training camp. And on the other side, second-year pro J.R. Sweezy is competing with third-year pro John Moffitt for the starting right guard job. The Seahawks need to solidify both of those spots to create some cohesiveness along the offensive line.
Breakthrough star: An undrafted rookie free agent out of Henderson State in 2012, tight end Sean McGrath will be called upon to have an impact in the run game and the passing game with Anthony McCoy lost for the season. McGrath has sticky hands and is a good route runner, but he has to prove he can be effective as a blocker in the pass game, in case something happens to starting tight end Zach Miller.
Position battles: Rookie fifth-round draft choice Jesse Williams and veteran free agent Tony McDaniel will compete for the starting defensive tackle job next to Brandon Mebane, replacing the departed Alan Branch. With veteran outside linebacker Leroy Hill not returning to Seattle in free agency, third-year pro Malcolm Smith is battling with Bruce Irvin for the starting outside linebacker job opposite K.J. Wright.
NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - NOTES, QUOTES
--The offseason is nearly over, and the banter between Seattle and San Francisco continued, fanning flames of the budding rivalry between two NFC West teams expected to compete for the division crown.
Asked about the six Seattle players recently suspended for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing drugs, San Francisco head coach Jim Harbaugh said cheating should not be part of the NFL.
"It has no place in an athlete's body. Play by the rules," Harbaugh told San Francisco-area reporters. "You want to be above reproach, especially when you're good, because you don't want people to come back and say, 'They're winning because they're cheating.' That's always going to be a knee-jerk reaction in my experience, since I was a little kid. We want to be above reproach in everything and do everything by the rules."
Cornerback Brandon Browner, one of the suspended Seattle players, responded to Harbaugh's comments about how you would expect.
"I don't have anything for it," Browner said, when asked by a Seattle-area radio station to respond to Harbaugh's comments. "At the end of the day we gotta win football games. He's a coach. He's never gonna be out there lined up against me. I wish he would; I'd put my hands around his neck. At the end of the day, I'm about winning football games."
Seattle receiver Golden Tate also chimed in, saying he would put the type of hit he leveled against Dallas linebacker Sean Lee, a blind-side block that resulted in a $21,000 fine by the league, if Harbaugh ever took the field against him.
"Well, I'd be on offense trying to score a touchdown on him. Defensively, that's a little different because they tackle and they can really be aggressive," Tate told a Seattle-area radio station. "But I would try and give him the Sean Lee treatment. I would do that."
Seattle's nationally televised home opener against San Francisco in Week 2 of the regular season on Sept. 15 can't come soon enough.
--It went unreported at the time, but the recent revelation that Seahawks owner Paul Allen signed general manager John Schneider to a contract extension through 2016 after his initial, three-year deal expired at the end of 2012, is good news for Seattle fans.
Schneider, 42, has done a masterful job pairing with head coach Pete Carroll in revamping Seattle's roster, and quickly turning the franchise into a winner. Speculation is that Schneider had received some interest from other teams, prompting Seattle to get a deal done.
Next in line will be Carroll, who's heading into the fourth year of a five-year deal that pays him $7 million annually. If Seattle continues on an upward trend and reaches the playoffs for a second straight season, expect Carroll and the Seahawks to get something done at the end of the 2013 season.
QUOTE OF NOTE: "Everybody's comfortable with him. The way he carries himself, and the way he studies and prepares, I don't think we want anybody else back there. He's taken control of this team." -- Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice, commenting on quarterback Russell Wilson taking control of the offense in his second season.
NFL Team Report - Seattle Seahawks - STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
QUARTERBACKS: Starter - Russell Wilson. Backups - Tarvaris Jackson, Brady Quinn.
For the first time since 2009, the Seahawks have an unquestioned starter in Wilson, who earned a Pro-Bowl invite after an impressive rookie season. Pete Carroll expects the Wisconsin product to be even better adjusting to defense and making play changes at the line of scrimmage, with a full offseason and training camp working with the first unit under his belt. However, Seattle still has competition for the backup quarterback position between Jackson and Quinn. Jackson has the edge here because of his experience in offense coordinator Darrell Bevell's offense, but the coaching staff also likes Quinn's work ethic and game management skills.
RUNNING BACKS: Starters - RB Marshawn Lynch, FB Michael Robinson. Backups - RB Robert Turbin, Christine Michael, Derrick Coleman, FB: Spencer Ware.
Lynch, coming off a career-best 1,590 rushing yards in 2012, remains one of the best runners in the game. However, the Seahawks drafted Christine Michael in the second round as depth in case Lynch begins to show the tread on his tires is wearing thin. Turbin looked impressive during offseason workouts, and will take over for the departed Leon Washington as the team's third-down back. Robinson, set to make $2.5 million in base salary, will have some competition for his starting job in Spencer Ware, a sixth-round selection in this year's draft out of LSU who offers some versatility because of his ability to play both tailback and fullback.
TIGHT ENDS: Starter - Zach Miller. Backups - Sean McGrath, Luke Willson, Darren Fells, Cooper Helfelt, Victor Marshall.
Tight end probably is the thinnest position group on Seattle's talented roster. With Anthony McCoy out for the year after suffering a torn Achilles tendon during OTAs, Miller is the only person in the position group who has a reception during the regular season. McGrath, an undrafted rookie free agent out of Henderson State who finished 2012 on the active roster, likely will take McCoy's role as the team's second tight end. McGrath is not as good an athlete as McCoy, but he's a polished route-runner with reliable hands. Willson, a fifth-round selection in this year's draft out of Rice, has elite speed and can stretch the middle of the defense. However, Willson still needs work as a run blocker.
WIDE RECEIVERS: Starters -- Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin. Backups - Golden Tate, Doug Baldwin, Jermaine Kearse, Phil Bates, Chris Harper, Bryan Waters, Stephen Williams, Justin Veltung, Brett Swain, Arceto Clark.
The addition of Harvin makes this unit one of the most talented in the league. Harvin's explosive playmaking ability on the perimeter will make it hard for defenses to stack the box against Lynch in the run game. Adding Harvin also will give Rice and Tate more favorable matchups on the outside. Baldwin, who led Seattle in receptions as a rookie two years ago, could have his targets affected because of Harvin. However, the Seahawks need Baldwin on the roster as a security blanket in case the oft-injured Harvin goes down.
OFFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LT Russell Okung, LG Paul McQuistan, C Max Unger, RG J.R. Sweezy, RT Breno Giacomini. Backups - G James Carpenter, G John Moffitt, C Lemuel Jeanpierre, G Rishaw Johnson, G/C Mike Person, T Michael Bowie, T Alvin Bailey, G Ryan Seymour, G Jared Smith.
McQuistan will have competition for the left guard spot with James Carpenter, Seattle's first-round selection in the 2011 draft. Carpenter finished last season on injured reserve, but had arthroscopic knee surgery to clean up the issue, and is the team's strongest lineman. Moffitt also will compete with Sweezy for the starting right guard spot. A converted defensive lineman, Sweezy quickly picked up offensive line play, finishing 2012 as Seattle's starting right guard. While not as strong and athletic as Sweezy, Moffitt is more of a technician. With Pro Bowlers Okung and Unger returning, if offensive line guru Tom Cable can solidify the guard spots, the Seahawks should have one of the better offensive lines in the NFL.
DEFENSIVE LINEMEN: Starters - LDE Red Bryant, RDE Cliff Avril, NT Brandon Mebane, DT Tony McDaniel. Backups - RDE Chris Clemons, NT Clinton McDonald, DT Jaye Howard, DT Jesse Williams, DT Jordan Hill, DE Michael Bennett, RDE Kenneth Boatright, DE Benson Mayowa, DT Michael Brooks.
With Clemons not showing up to minicamp because he's frustrated with his lack of a new contract, Irvin benefitted from the additional reps with the first unit. And he took advantage of it, looking cat-quick coming off the edge in passing situation, and more-than-holding his own against the run. Davis and Allen also took advantage of Clemons' absence. Also, undrafted rookie free agent Law has raised some eyebrows with his productive play during offseason workouts.
LINEBACKERS: Starters - WLB K.J. Wright, MLB Bobby Wagner, SLB Malcolm Smith. Backups - SLB Bruce Irvin, SLB Korey Toomer, MLB Heath Farwell, WLB Kyle Knox, SLB Mike Morgan, MLB Allen Bradford, SLB Ty Powell, WLB John Lotulelei, MLB Craig Wilkins.
Second-round draft choice Wagner exceeded expectations by leading the team in tackles his rookie year, and Wright has turned into one of the better outside linebackers in the game. However, Seattle needs to find a replacement for Leroy Hill, who did not return to the team in free agency. Smith, who started four games last season, is penciled in as the replacement for Hill right now. However, he will have competition in Irvin. The West Virginia product led all rookies in sacks last year with eight, but Carroll will use Irvin more like Denver edge rusher Von Miller in an effort to get Irvin on the field more.
DEFENSIVE BACKS: Starters - LCB Richard Sherman, RCB Brandon Browner, FS Earl Thomas, SS Kam Chancellor. Backups - CB Antoine Winfield, CB Walter Thurmond, CB Byron Maxwell, CB Ron Parker, CB Tharold Simon, CB Will Blackmon, FS Chris Maragos, SS Winston Guy, CB DeShawn Shead, CB Jeremy Lane, SS Jeron Johnson, SS Ray Polk.
You won't find much argument from NFL observers that the Seahawks have one of the best defensive backfields in the league. Seattle allowed just 40 receptions of 20-plus yards in 2012, No. 6 in the league. Seattle also gave up just 15 passing touchdowns last season, tied for No. 2 in the NFL with Baltimore. The addition of veteran slot defender Antoine Winfield should help Seattle get off the field on third down. But Winfield will have competition for his job in Walter Thurmond, who finally looks fully healthy after three injury-plagued seasons. Seattle also has good depth at this position group, with Lane, Maxwell, Blackmon and Johnson all bringing starting experience.
SPECIAL TEAMS: K Steven Hauschka, P Jon Ryan, LS Clint Gresham, K Carson Wiggs, LS Kyle Nelson.
Hauschka will have competition for the starting job from Wiggs, a strong-footed kicker out of Purdue. Gresham, Seattle's long snapper since 2010, also will have to compete for his job with waiver-wire pickup Nelson (49ers). Harvin will take over kick-return duties, while Tate is expected to fill the team's punt-return role.
FRANCHISE PLAYER: None.
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS (not tendered offers)
--DE Patrick Chukwurah (not tendered as UFA).
--LB Leroy Hill (not tendered as UFA).
--K Ryan Longwell (not tendered as UFA).
--G Frank Omiyale (not tendered as UFA).
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: None.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
DRAFT CHOICES SIGNED (all picks signed)
--RB Christine Michael (2/62): $3,374,430/4 yrs, $834,132 SB/$1,014,132 guaranteed.
--DT Jordan Hill (3/87): $2,764,140/4 yrs, $544,140 SB.
--WR Chris Harper (4/123): $2,572,560/4 yrs, $412,560 SB.
--DT Jesse Williams (5/137): $2,371,052/4 yrs, $211,052 SB.
--CB Tharold Simon (5/138): $2,366,900/4 yrs, $206,900 SB.
--TE Luke Willson (5/158): $2,338,532/4 yrs, $178,532 SB.
--FB Spencer Ware (6/194): $2,257,432/4 yrs, $97,432 SB.
--G Ryan Seymour (7/220): $2,219,424/4 yrs, $59,424 SB.
--LB Ty Powell (7/231): $2,209,432/4 yrs, $49,432 SB.
--G Jared Smith (7/241): $2,205,896/4 yrs, $45,896 SB.
--T Michael Bowie (7/242): $2,205,896/4 yrs, $45,896 SB.
--LS Clint Gresham: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--K Steven Hauschka: UFA; terms unknown.
--S Chris Maragos: RFA tendered at $1.323M with no compensation; $1.323M/1 yr.
--DE Clinton McDonald: RFA tendered at 1.323M with seventh-round pick as compensation); $1.323M/1 yr.
--DE Cliff Avril: UFA Lions; $13M/2 yrs, $11M guaranteed.
--DE Michael Bennett: UFA Buccaneers; $4.8M/1 yr.
--CB/KR Will Blackmon: FA; $715,000/1 yr.
--WR Percy Harvin (trade).
--QB Tarvaris Jackson: FA Bills; terms unknown.
--DT Tony McDaniel: UFA Dolphins; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--QB Brady Quinn: UFA Chiefs; terms unknown.
--WR Brett Swain: FA; 2 yrs, terms unknown.
--CB Antoine Winfield: FA Vikings; $1.5M/1 yr, $500,000 SB/$1M guaranteed.
--DT Alan Branch: UFA Bills; $3M/1 yr.
--WR Deon Butler: Not tendered as RFA/Chargers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--DE Dexter Davis (released/failed physical).
--QB Matt Flynn (traded Raiders).
--DE Jason Jones: UFA Lions; $9.5M/3 yrs, $2.5M SB.
--TE Cameron Morrah: UFA 49ers; terms unknown.
--WR Ben Obomanu (released).
--CB Marcus Trufant: UFA Jaguars; terms unknown.
--RB/KR Leon Washington (released).