The rebuilding is complete.
Now the focus is on retooling for the Seattle Seahawks.
With 12 of the team’s projected 22 starters for the upcoming season unearthed in the past three drafts, the Seahawks are staring at the opening of a three- to five-year window to compete for a Super Bowl title after finishing 30 seconds away from the NFC Championship Game last season.
Only three players drafted before general manager John Schneider took over in 2010 remain on the roster – defensive tackle Brandon Mebane (2007, third round), defensive end Red Bryant (2008, fourth round) and center Max Unger (2009, second round).
And with what appears to be a
franchise quarterback in place with Russell Wilson heading into his second season, this week’s draft is more about restocking positions lacking depth and planning for future seasons when players might leave in free agency than adding any front-line starters.
It’s a shift in focus and thinking from when Schneider and coach Pete Carroll cycled through 284 roster transactions in an effort to revamp the Seahawks’ roster in the first year the two were in Seattle together.
“John said from the start he hoped we would really make this a very, very competitive roster as soon as possible,” Carroll said. “We’ve been able to do that, and that means that we’ll have more difficult decisions.
“People might come after our guys a little bit more. They’ll claim guys when we release them. The first year, we released hundreds of guys that nobody claimed. Things have changed. It is a little more difficult. It’s more focused than it has ever been.”
Added Schneider: “If we do this the right way, then we’re going to have extremely tough decisions to make in the future, and that’s a good thing.”
The Seahawks addressed most of the team’s obvious concerns in free agency, trading for receiver Percy Harvin, adding much-need pass rush help in defensive ends Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril, improving their third-down defense with the addition of veteran slot defender Antoine Winfield, signing run-stuffing defensive tackle Tony McDaniel to replace the departed Alan Branch (signed by Buffalo in free agency) and replacing backup quarterback Matt Flynn (traded to Oakland) with 2007 first-round draft choice Brady Quinn.
Still, the Seahawks have holes, including at outside linebacker where Leroy Hill will not return (Seattle gave his No. 56 to Avril). Seattle also could use upgrades at defensive tackle, offensive line, a pass-catching tight end and a receiver who can stretch the defense.
The Seahawks do not have a pick in the first round because of the Harvin trade – only the fourth time in franchise history that has occurred. And with 10 picks overall, it’s likely the players selected will struggle to earn spots on an already talented roster.
“You have to make tough decisions along the way,” Schneider said. “But you have to have that core depth to be able to know you’re going to be able to sustain a certain level of success.”
Making the draft decision-making process even tougher for the Seahawks is a murky first round that lacks true consensus on which players will be selected in the first 10 picks.
“It’s very hard for us to say who the top five players are in this draft,” Schneider said. “We know who we think they are. But when you look at this draft, it’s very unique. It’s the most unique draft (I’ve been a part of) – and honest to God I’m not just saying this because we don’t have a first-round pick this year.
“I felt this a little bit when we made the deal with Percy. But now the closer we’ve gotten to this thing, it’s really kind of stood out that the first round is just a wide variety of players. And it’s really going to be what your favorite flavor of ice cream is, really.”
Schneider will choose his ice cream scoop wisely, because the players he and Carroll select this week could make the difference in his team playing for an NFL title in February.
“We don’t stop doing what we’re doing,” Schneider said. “We want to be good for a long time. And that’s the challenge on our end. For Pete, this is when he’s at his best, is managing these types of expectations that are put on you when you’re able to make acquisitions.”Eric D. Williams: 253-597-8437 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/seahawks @eric_d_williams