Saturday, July 30, 2011

Grading Seattle's Free Agency: Offense

Tarvaris Jackson (#7): C+

Signing the former Minnesota backup isn't exactly a coup in and of itself. Despite his tools, starting experience, and spotty handling by Brad Childress, the fact is that Jackson struggled in Minnesota despite being protected by an awesome offense. He's a popular example of how a good team doesn't necessarily elevate a bad QB.

But the signing looks better when you compare it against the other options. Seattle could have overpaid for Kevin Kolb, risked Vince Young, courted the Carroll-misfit Kyle Orton, or become the next victim of Donovan McNabb. Instead, they went for the best combination of value, experience, cost, and system familiarity in Tarvaris Jackson. His 2-year, $8 million contract leaves Seattle free to keep looking without settling for Derek Anderson-type ineptitude in the present. Jackson should be a little better than that.

I am a little surprised that Carroll just up and handed Jackson the starting spot based on system familiarity. But it's not as if Charlie Whitehurst was likely to pick up the new system with such a short time to practice. Call it "lockout fallout". Hee hee.

Friday, July 29, 2011

What to Do with Brandon Mebane

After months of suspense, the Conundrum has finally been resolved. DT Brandon Mebane, one of the most underappreciated talents on the team, has been re-signed by the Seahawks, who have avoided what could have been the worst mistake of this offseason: letting him go and relying on Alan Branch.

Mebane's contract is for 5 years, $25 million. That's pleasantly manageable, considering Seattle had to beat away offers from Denver, St. Louis, New Orleans, and who knows who else. It's in keeping with John Schneider's excellent haggling work so far this offseason, no doubt helped by Mebane's latent desire to remain in Seattle.

It's still, however, disproportionate to the unremarkable production Mebane achieved in his last two years playing out of position. That's why I'm mildly stunned that Seattle kept him. All through his contract year of 2010, he didn't seem to be producing anywhere near enough (1 sack, 1 QB hit) to justify a bigger payday. Mebane's return is big for Seattle, but not if he just keeps getting used the same way.

Which suggests one of two possibilities to me:

1. Pete Carroll and John Schneider are chumps.

2. Pete Carroll and John Schneider are planning some changes for the defense.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Why the Carson Palmer Trade Isn't Dead Yet

The long-percolating rumors of Carson Palmer's impending trade to Seattle seem to be growing fainter with each passing day of this (very young) offseason. Bengals owner Mike Brown recently went on record saying that they had no intention of "rewarding", with a trade, Palmer's decision to walk away from the team.

Makes sense. As much as the dots connect, I've found it hard to stay optimistic about the likelihood of this trade based on our knowledge of the notoriously stubborn Brown. It's not really even that pigheaded for Brown to reject Seattle's offer of a conditional third-round pick, which, in draft terms, isn't that big a haul for a franchise QB.

But based on a couple of cryptic tweets from Pete Carroll (here and here), the optimistic fan could conclude that the QB hunt isn't over yet.

I certainly hope not. Tarvaris Jackson makes for quite the anticlimax.

To be technical, the Palmer trade saga doesn't end until he files retirement papers with Cincinnati. That hasn't happened. So where do we stand? Was Brown's presser a call of Palmer's bluff? And is Palmer bluffing?

Until the Bengals QB officially retires, he and the Seahawks still have bullets in their gun. Palmer can show up to compete at a training camp that will now also feature former Raider Bruce Gradkowski. That'd be an expensive and distracting logjam for Brown to contend with. Could force a trade. Brown is truly a blockhead, but he's never had to deal with a player with Palmer's amount of leverage before.

Seattle, for their part, could up their offer; a conditional second-round draft pick and an extra fifth-rounder (or a player in trade, which is a rumor I've seen) in 2012 would be a pill I'm willing to swallow. It wouldn't be surprising if Brown had decided at the 11th hour to demand something along those lines.

The media silence on this issue isn't necessarily an indication of its unlikelihood. It could be that the Seahawks are waiting to finalize another offer until they give Palmer a physical, which can't happen until Friday. If that were true, both teams would naturally be staying quiet in their attempt to stare the other down.

Or it might all be a load of bunk and Mike Brown really is that arrogant. I don't know. But why, then, hasn't Palmer officially filed his walking papers? With Vince Young far more likely to end up in Philadelphia and Kyle Orton in Miami, the only real remaining QB option out there that Carroll could be hinting seems to be Palmer. The theory still fits the facts. And I don't quite believe that a potentially top-flight receiver like Sidney Rice was signed to catch passes from Tarvaris Jackson.

So I'm not going back to the drawing board just yet. But although the rumor isn't quite dead, I think we can consider it on life support.

Lockout Hangover: Seattle's Defensive Free Agents

Continuing a look at Seattle's own free agents waiting to be re-signed, starting with the most important.

Brandon Mebane, DT

Mebane, now a full free agent with the new CBA voiding his earlier third-round tender, is an above-average defensive tackle who exceeds the usual definition of "jack of all trades": he can do everything, but can also do most of them well. He's also the only player that qualifies as anything like a starter at 3-tech defensive tackle; the next best still on the roster is Barrett Moen. Coupled with Mebane's experience with Seattle's schemes, this should theoretically tie Seattle's hands and make him a shoo-in to be resigned.

Alas, that may not be. Inexplicably, the Seahawks have refused for two years now to play Mebane at over tackle, where he has an established record of success in both pass-rushing and run-stuffing. Both were diminished when Seattle moved him over to under tackle and replaced him with Colin Cole, an exclusive run stuffer whose inability to rush the passer continues to hold the defense back. Pete Carroll's gap tweaking did little to alleviate this. With his mis-use clouding his performance, Mebane is made to look less valuable than he is.

The league isn't fooled. You shouldn't be either.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Hawks and Hasselbeck: The Eulogy

Longtime Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck has moved on from the Emerald City, signing a lucrative contract with the Tennessee Titans as many outlets have been speculating he would. (Stay tuned for my thoughts on the Tarvaris Jackson signing.)

For the first installment in my "Hawks and Hasselbeck" series, in which I ruminate on Hasselbeck's achievements in Seattle and hopefully demonstrate why I'm not a hater, click here.

It was time. The franchise needed to part ways with Hasselbeck. It needed to look like it was operating with an eye towards the future, rather than having its identity rooted in the past. Allowing Hasselbeck to walk at the natural end of his Holmgren contract, coming off the high note of a good playoff run, was the right move at the right time. Now his legacy as a Seahawk will be protected, and despite the worries of whoever created this, there is no chance he will retire as anything but a Seahawk.

There will remain a contingent of loyal Hasselbeck fans who will keep wondering whether he still had a chance to rebound, who keep blaming the QB's troubles on the dearth of surrounding talent. Give him a decent O-line, a running game, and better receivers, and could he have improved his play?

The answer is yes.

It's always been yes.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Seahawks UDFA Tracker

Be aware that some of these have yet to be confirmed, and may be taken down.

QB Josh Portis, Cal

Portis has all the tools of an NFL quarterback and all the red flags that typically prevent QB's from succeeding in the NFL. Size and arm strength are there, as well as rare straight-line speed that allows him to salvage broken plays. Workable accuracy, but nothing eye-catching. Played in a simplified offense and will face the usual learning curve with progressions and reads, as well as questions about decision-making and difficult throws. Apparently tends to stare down his receivers.

DE Pierre Allen, Nebraska

Consistent, aware, disciplined, plenty of experience, Allen looks like another mid-round rotational player who's a bit of a scheme guy. Probably solid against the run but not much in the way of pressuring QB's, lacking elite quickness and pass-rush arsenal. Has good size and could find a spot on PC's unconventional defense. Kind of intriguing.

FB/TE Ryan Travis

Looks like a system product. Put up good numbers as H-back in West Liberty, but lacks the size, speed, and blocking to make it in the pros. Could be a good weapon in the short passing game, and does have a good determined attitude.

G Zach Hurd, UConn

"A guard trapped in a tackle's body", as one scouting report has it. Strong, durable, sounds like a solid road-grader type, although he's 6'7" and may struggle with leverage as such. Stock was kept low by technique issues all across the board, a lack of fluidity, and difficulty in pass protection. Could have been drafted in the middle rounds otherwise, and may be good depth for our running-focused OL. One of our best UDFA signings so far, I'd say.

LB Michael Morgan, USC 

Didn't have the senior season he needed to really grab NFL attention. Had a solid junior campaign in which he managed to temporarily nail down a starting job, which on USC isn't a small accomplishment. Flashed some pass-rush ability in 2009 that didn't return the following year. Fast (4.4 40 time) for a big and heavy linebacker (6'4", 220 lbs), so maybe some potential there.

DT Ladi Ajiboye, South Carolina

Finally, Pete Carroll remembers that we need a defensive tackle.  Ajiboye doesn't look like much more than a situational player, though. He looks like an excellent penetrator when given a clear shot at the target, but struggles to disengage and fight through blockers. This is partially because of technique issues and partially because he's undersized (6'1") for a DT and possesses short arms. Looks more suited for one-gap schemes than the two-gap Carroll has instituted.

FS/CB Jesse Hoffman, Eastern Washington

The local kid and hybrid defensive back is also pretty small for the pros. He merited a visit from Jacksonville, but projects as a free safety in the NFL and bears very limited measurables. Had some impressive stats as a returner.

S Ricky Thenarse, Nebraska

Not sure what this guy brings to the table. 6'1", 210 pounds, not a lot of intelligence available on him. Most college experience seemingly came on special teams. 

WR Ricardo Lockette, Fort Valley State 

One of those all-tools-no-polish prospects that require a ton of development, Lockette has prototypical NFL size (6'2"), speed (4.37), hands (9 5/8), and athleticism. The rest - messy routes, lack of concentration, low competition - is unremarkable. Sounds like a project athlete from other sports disciplines, not unlike Jordan Kent or Jameson Konz. Gunner upside, probably. 

S Jeron Johnson, Boise State 

Surprisingly short for a Carroll defensive back, the 5'10" Johnson posted one of Combine's best 40 times and is known for physical play and solid tackling. His instincts in zone coverage and his lack of size appear to be largely the things holding him back, though he was something of an under-the-radar star at Boise State. Seems decent in the turnover department. 

OT Brent Osborne, Harvard

The senior tackle from Harvard is 6'5" and started plenty of games in his last two seasons, mostly at right tackle. One of the few scouting articles I found on him says that he plays with "a very physical, violent temperament on the field" and "tries to punish people". With listed weights ranging from 277 to 295 pounds, however, he's probably far too underweight to play in the pros.

Stay tuned on my Twitter account for further updates. With the extra emphasis on UDFA's this year, their signing period could turn into a mini-draft.

Lockout Hangover: Seattle's Offensive Free Agents

The long, dark lockout is extinguished at last.

To those of you who were enjoying the blog's initial run earlier this spring, I do apologize for my unannounced absence. I got discouraged from writing by a lot of factors, such as the pall cast by the lockout over any kind of real news or analysis for the offseason. When I started 17 Power, I'd regarded the offseason as an opportunity instead of an obstacle, a chance to fill the void with off-the-beaten-path opinion, but I hadn't envisioned trying to do so without the help of any actual football developments.

Plus, some genius back in April decided to over-click my Google Adsense advertisements (you might have noticed their disappearance back in April), prompting Google to assume that I was abusing them for the revenue and pull them. That sucked.

But...I'm back. Nothing keeping me down now. Our beloved Seahawks are going to get talked about again, and I'm gonna be part of it. I hope you'll be around to enjoy my bizarre blather and participate in the discussion, as we charge headfirst into the craziest NFL free agency likely to be witnessed in our lifetimes.

Adam Schefter is reporting that free agency will return Friday. Contrary to earlier reports, Seattle's free agents will hit the market at the same time as everyone else. Still, they're as good a re-entry point as any.

Matt Hasselbeck, QB

Let's this one for later.

Chris Spencer, C

After years of dismissal from media and fans alike, Spencer steadied himself out in 2010 and became the team's most consistent lineman. That's not damning with faint praise, either. "Consistent" may not have made Rob Sims popular with fans after 2009, but I daresay a lot of people wish he'd stuck around after 2010. He's now doing well in Detroit.