Securing Geno Smith, improving run defense key for Seahawks this offseason

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Seattle Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider are moving forward on a turnaround project that began with the trade of franchise quarterback Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos and the release of All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner last year.

To the surprise of many around the league, Carroll led the Seahawks to a 9-8 record and a postseason berth in 2022. Wilson’s replacement, Geno Smith, had his best season as a pro, finishing with a franchise record 4,282 passing yards and making the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.

For his effort, Smith was named the Associated Press Comeback Player of the Year.

Armed with plenty of draft picks and cap space, Schneider’s job this offseason is to continue adding pieces to a young, hungry group that could make a deep playoff run in 2023. That starts in earnest in NFL Scouting Combine this week in Indianapolis.

For the Seahawks, that means locking up Smith, who is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent when free agency begins at the start of the NFL’s new league year on March 15.

“We got our guy,” Carroll told reporters when asked about Smith late in the season. “We need to, hopefully, work things out for him to be with us. There’s business to be had, of course, but there’s no cap on what he can do. The sky’s the limit.

“He’s very important to us. I couldn’t be more tickled with how everything turned out and how he handled it. Really, as we look to the future, he’s a big part of why we’re looking at such a bright future.”

Geno Smith wins ‘NFL on FOX’ Comeback Award.

Geno Smith wins "NFL on FOX" comeback prize

Mark Sanchez and Chris Myers presented Seahawks QB Geno Smith with the Comeback Player of the Year Award.

Three hot topics

1. Sign Geno Smith

Smith led the league in completion percentage (69.8), throwing 30 touchdowns and only 11 interceptions. His passer rating of 100.9 ranked No. 9 during the regular season.

However, after a strong first half in which Seattle sprinted to a 6-3 record, Smith’s play petered out in the second half and the Seahawks finished 3-5 on the back of the regular season

Smith struggled through the final eight games of the regular season. As of Week 10, he completed 66.4% of his passes for 2,083 yards, with 15 touchdowns and seven interceptions. Smith was sacked 25 times, with a passer rating of 94.7 during that time span.

Key issues for the Seahawks as they negotiate a new deal include Smith’s age (32) and the fact that he’s only put up impressive numbers for one season, causing concern that he can continue to play at that level moving up the system. Seattle.

So far, negotiations between the team and Smith’s representation appear to be progressing well.

“Where we’re at with Geno, so far there’s been good conversations,” Schneider told Seattle Sports Radio 710-AM. “We’re in it. We’re just trying to figure out what’s best. We’re going to do what’s right.”

Smith echoed those sentiments during an appearance on SiriusXM NFL Radio while attending the Pro Bowl in Las Vegas earlier this month.

“We’ve had conversations and we’re in the process of fixing all of that right now,” Smith said. “We feel great. We think we can do some things, but obviously those things take time.”

Former NFL agent Joel Corry, a CBS Sports salary cap expert, told KJR-AM Sports in Seattle that if he represented Smith, an acceptable deal would be a three-year, $90 million deal, with $65 million guaranteed the first two. years of the deal.

The Seahawks could also use the franchise tag on Smith, picking up a one-year rental through the 2023 season while drafting a quarterback of the future. While Smith likely wants and deserves a multi-year deal, getting paid $32.4 million at the franchise tag wouldn’t be a bad consolation prize for the West Virginia product who has earned quite a bit more of $17 million during his 10-year NFL career.

The franchise tag window closes on March 7. If the Seahawks tag Smith, they have until July 15 to work toward a new deal.

2. Improve the defensive line

Seattle was young on defense and showed improved production in the secondary, but needs to do a better job of stopping the run next season. Part of the problem was a learning curve in switching to a base 3-4 defensive scheme.

The Seahawks need to find more talented players who fit the team’s overall defensive philosophy. Last year the team allowed 150 yards per contest during the regular season, 30th in the NFL. Seattle allowed nine different players to rush for 100+ yards in 2022.

“We’ve got to clean things up,” Carroll said of his defense. “We have to be sharp and we have to get back to where we can effectively play the run game.”

3. Add a center, attacking players

The Seahawks selected two rookie tackles who anchored the offensive line last year in left tackle Charles Cross in the first round and right tackle Able Lucas in the second round.

Veteran Austin Blythe provided leadership under center with his experience in offensive coordinator Shane Waldron’s offense. However, Blythe is a bit undersized (6-foot-2, 298), and the Seahawks could be looking for a younger, more physical player in the middle of the offensive line. Blythe, 30, has said he is considering retirement this offseason.

Seattle could also use a guy who can make people loose in space to help create more explosive plays in the passing game. The Seahawks finished with 50 passing plays of 20+ yards in 2022, tied for 14th in the league.

The best free agents to hit the open market

Seattle had 26 players set to hit free agency, but has already begun the process of keeping some of them in the fold, including signing kicker Jason Myers (four years, $21 million), standout d ‘special teams Nick Bellore (two years, $6.6 million). and right guard Phil Haynes (one year, $4 million).

Other players the Seahawks could look to keep include defensive tackle Poona Ford and restricted free agent safety Ryan Neal. On the other hand, the Seahawks could opt to move on from oft-injured running back Rashaad Penny, though the San Diego State product has been productive of late when healthy.

According to Over the Cap , the Seahawks have $24.4 million in salary cap space, so Seattle could make some reasonable signings in free agency.

Wagner is expected to be released by the Los Angeles Rams. However, the ship has likely sailed on a possible return of the Pro Bowl quarterback from Seattle, with the Seahawks looking for younger, less expensive options at the position. Meanwhile, Wagner is looking to finish his career with a team that has a legitimate chance to win a Super Bowl.

Other possible targets for the Seahawks include:

WR Robert Woods: Recently released by the Tennessee Titans, Woods is familiar with Waldron’s offense and offers the ability to make plays after the catch in the passing game and run game.

DT A’Shawn Robinson: The Alabama product finished the year on the Rams’ injured reserve with a torn meniscus. However, when healthy, the 28-year-old Robinson is one of the best stuffers in the league.

OL Daniel Brunskill: The 29-year-old San Diego State product split at right guard last season, but can also play center. Brunskill played in a similar offense with the 49ers and at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, he would provide a bigger body at the interior anchor position for Seattle.

Seahawks and the draft

The Seahawks have nine selections in this year’s draft, including two in the first round and two in the second round, giving them four selections among the top 52 picks. According to Tankathon, the Seahawks have the second-highest value in this year’s draft.

And based on the team’s impressive draft last year, which included finding six impact players as rookies in 2022, there’s reason for optimism that Schneider and Carroll can continue to build on a strong base established last year.

Schneider generally likes to move down to acquire more picks, but this year the Seahawks will have the flexibility to move up or down depending on the players they want.

“This is a dream opportunity here,” Carroll said. “Is [Schneider] pumped for it. We’ve had enough experience together with our guys in our system that we’re very open to what the options might be, whether it’s the lead players or whether the opportunities to move around or whatever. We’ve done everything to some degree.”

Potential targets for Seattle heading into the draft include:

Georgia DT Jalen Carter: Carter probably won’t be when Seattle selects at No. 5, but the Seahawks could use a commanding presence in the middle of their run defense like the Georgia product, and they need to find him early in the this year’s season. draft.

Tennessee QB Hendon Hooker: Still recovering from ACL knee surgery, Hooker can make all the throws and would give Seattle a developmental prospect behind Smith as a Day 2 pick.

Alabama RB Jahmyr Gibbs: Finished with 1,370 all-purpose yards and a career-best 10 touchdowns for the Crimson Tide last season. Gibbs would give Seattle a type of gadget to use in the run game and passing game.

Wisconsin C Joe Tippmann: He has prototypical size (6-foot-5, 317 pounds) and played in a pro-style offense for the Badgers.

Eric D. Williams has reported on the NFL for more than a decade, covering the Los Angeles Rams for Sports Illustrated, the Los Angeles Chargers for ESPN and the Seattle Seahawks for the Tacoma News Tribune. Follow him on Twitter at @eric_d_williams.

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