Plenty of questions loom for Seattle Seahawks in the offseason
When a season goes sideways the way the Seattle Seahawks' 2021 did, the cries for quick fixes tend to get loud.
But, reaching for quick fixes can lead to long-term pain. Imagine the crying if Russell Wilson is traded and leads Denver, New Orleans or Philadelphia to several Super Bowls over the next decade?
After going 7-10 in 2021, the questions facing this franchise are significant. The biggest, naturally, is the future of quarterback Wilson. But the status of coach Pete Carroll and his coordinators and the future of players such as linebacker Bobby Wagner, running back Rashaad Penny and receiver D.K. Metcalf also loom.
Ultimately, the future course for the Hawks depends upon Wilson's future. Does he really want out of Seattle? Is he over playing for Pete Carroll? Does he think his shot at his previously-stated goal of three more Super Bowl wins can't happen in Seattle? Does he feel he needs to be in a different market to build his brand?
Any or all of those might be the case. The way he lingered to interact with fans after the Hawks' final home game certainly heightened speculation that Wilson might play somewhere else in 2022.
What we do know: Wilson will turn 34 next November; he has two seasons left on his current contract and becomes an unrestricted free agent after the 2023 season; Wilson has a full no-trade clause in the four-year, $140-million extension he signed prior to 2019; he missed three games with a broken finger and had a major weapon — Metcalf — who was hobbled much of 2021.
Seattle was 6-8 this season in games Wilson started, and is below .500 in the last 25 Wilson starts. Still, it was only last season Seattle won the NFC West, in part because Wilson was a legitimate MVP candidate midway through 2020.
From Seattle's perspective, the central question is whether or not the Super Bowl window remains open. If salary cap limitations prevent the Seahawks from building a winner around Wilson, a trade and rebuild makes sense.
But, if the plan is to continue to fight for championships, trading Wilson would be a mistake. Most NFL games come down to the fourth quarter and, until this season (when Seattle went 3-5 in one-score games), Wilson's ability to navigate fourth-quarter drama made Seattle wins a safe bet.
What about Carroll? The coach turns 71 in September but, from the outside, seems as energetic as ever. If his rah-rah style is no longer connecting with players, particularly leaders such as Wilson, then maybe a coaching change revitalizes the team. Still, as with the Wilson discussion, it needs to be asked: who's next? Is this a rebuild, or will the coach be expected to win now?
Then there is Wagner. A key contributor for the Seattle defense for a decade, the inside linebacker made his eighth Pro Bowl in a row this season. The question is, is spending more than $20 million for another season of Wagner the best move, or is it better to free up cap space and get younger?
Similarly, has Rashaad Penny's strong finish to the season priced him out of Seattle's budget for running backs? Is Metcalf an elite receiver? Can he be paid at that level?
Such high-profile decisions challenge general managers annually, as do less talked-about personnel moves. Quarterback is the position that most directly impacts a team's championship potential, but even the best QBs need a serviceable offensive line and have no control over the quality of play from his own defense.
The NFC West will have three teams in the playoffs. Finishing at the bottom of the division, while disappointing, doesn't mean the Seahawks can't rebound in 2022. But it does make the challenge tougher than in most other divisions, which only adds to the importance and intrigue of the offseason that began sooner than Seattle and its fans are used to.
The Seahawks know their 2022 opponents: in addition to playing division foes Arizona, Los Angeles and San Francisco home and away, Seattle's home opponents will be the Broncos, Raiders, Jets, Giants, Falcons and Panthers. The other road games will be against the Chiefs, Chargers, Buccaneers, Saints and Lions.
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