With the major free agent signings finally slowing, the Last Word On Sports NFL department will be looking at the top three needs for each team heading into the 2017 NFL Draft. Today, the Seattle Seahawks are in the spotlight. The Seahawks own pick #26 (and five in the first 106 overall) in the draft, and general manager John Schneider will continue to try and strengthen the roster after shopping in free agency.
Seattle Seahawks 2017 NFL Draft: Top 3 Needs
The Seahawks approached free agency aggressively. In his end of season press conference a few months ago, head coach Pete Carroll identified three areas of need: Secondary, linebacker, and offensive line. Culling the new acquisitions and re-signings provides some clarity to draft intentions.
Fresh faces include former Packers running back Eddie Lacy, ex-Jaguars tackle Luke Joeckel, linebacker Michael Wilhoite – previously with the division rival San Francisco 49ers – and guard Oday Aboushi, the prior Houston Texan. In addition, they brought in kickers Blair Walsh and John Lunsford; cornerback Perrish Cox (a Seahawk in 2013), safety Bradley McDougald; linebacker’s Terence Garvin and Arthur Brown; defensive end Dion Jordan; and receiver Cyril Grayson.
The team was aggressive in bringing back its own players, as well. Tight end Luke Willson, cornerback’s DeShawn Shead and Neiko Thorpe, linebacker’s Dewey McDonald and Kache Palacio, and running backs Troymaine Pope and Terrence Magee, were all with the Seahawks in 2016.
So, what does it all mean for the draft next week? First, after factoring in defections, four those players were offset signings: Walsh or Lunsford will replace kicker Steven Hauschka, who signed with Buffalo. Brown is in place of linebacker Brock Coyle, now a 49er, and Joeckel is the replacement for tackle Gary Gilliam. Gilliam was RFA tendered by the Seahawks but chose to sign with the 49ers. Finally, Willson returning alleviates the loss of tight end Brandon Williams, who is now a Colt. Despite these signings, the Seahawks still have spots on the roster they will look to strengthen.
Cornerback / Safety
The Seahawks approach the draft with some question marks in the secondary. Cornerback Richard Sherman is in place, for now. But after the mercurial All-Pro, the roster could use some more firepower. Shead re-signed, but he won’t see the field until late in the season as he recovers from an ACL injury. Thorpe will get a shot at starting opposite Sherman, as will veteran cornerback Jeremy Lane. However, the wild card here is a top corner selected in the first few rounds.
Cornerbacks Kevin King and Marlon Humphrey are very likely on the Seahawks draft boards, but the question is will they last until the 26th overall pick? Probably not. However, expect a cornerback to be selected. Safety is another position the team will look to add talent at. Although they added McDougald to back-up All-Pro free safety Earl Thomas (returning from injury), the losses of safeties Steven Terrell and Kelcie McCray creates a bit of a demand signal. The coaching staff seems high on Pierre Desir, who will be in the mix as well. Thomas flirted with retirement, although that was most likely just harboring doubt after his nasty leg injury. Strong safety Kam Chancellor is also entering the final year of his contract.
Strength in numbers certainly does not exist for the Seahawks on the offensive line. In what has become an annual dance of blind darts, the Seahawks continue to try and find cheaper/younger solutions up front. Somewhat surprisingly, Joeckel received an $8 million deal. However, like all the Seahawks free agency deals, it is only a one-year contract. It’s a “prove it” scenario, and the front office has commitment issues. If Utah tackle Garrett Bolles somehow trickles down the draft board, or if Alabama tackle Cam Robinson is stilll there in the first-round – Schneider and Carroll will have a decision to make.
This is not a glaring need with Jimmy Graham, Willson, and 2016 third-round pick Nick Vannett in place. So, why tight end? Primarily because Graham will be a free agent after this season. Don’t expect the team to re-sign him, since his price range will likely be prohibitive and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell still operates the offense with him more like a teenager showing supreme caution with his Dad’s Mercedes, than someone that realizes he has one of the NFL’s elite play makers. In all fairness to the beleaguered Bevell, often Graham is utilized as a blocker to help the offensive line. He managed to establish franchise records in receptions and yards for a tight end in 2016, but it doesn’t feel like a long-term fit. Also, Willson was only brought back on a one-year deal so he is also potentially an unrestricted free agent.
How far will Michigan tight end Jake Butt fall? Butt, a top tight end talent behind Alabama’s O.J. Howard and Miami’s David Njoku, faces some murky waters when the picks start rolling in, thanks to the torn ACL he suffered in the Orange Bowl. With three players in place on the roster, the Seahawks might cast a net for Butt as a luxury pick depending on where they are at with the draft board, leveraging the potential loss of Graham to free agency in 2018. Another player they could have interest in is Clemson tight end Jordan Leggett.