The Seattle Seahawks have
several holes to fill, but they have stated their No. 1 priority is to fix an
anemic running game that abandoned them last season. They have started to address
that by signing left guard Mike Wahle when he became a street free agent and
hiring Mike Solari as offensive line coach.
But they still need a No. 1 running back for the future, which could come in a draft that is deep at the position.
The Seahawks have the 25th pick in the first round, and if one of three running backs is available -- Darren McFadden, Rashard Mendenhall or Jonathan Stewart -- then the Seahawks would have a difficult time passing them up.
However, most experts believe those three will be gone by then, and none of the other backs seems to warrant a selection in the first round. That would leave the Seahawks with a choice. In a draft deep with offensive tackles as well as tight ends, do they take the ultimate replace for All-Pro Walter Jones now, or did they fill a glaring need at tight end?
It is rare that a team could find a starting left tackle this deep in most drafts, so it may make sense to do that now and get it out of the way for when the time comes for Jones to retire. He has had shoulder surgery in two consecutive offseasons.
However, coach Mike Holmgren stresses how important it is to have a productive tight end in his offense, and right now the Seahawks do not have that. They allowed 35-year-old Marcus Pollard to go after last season, when he caught only 28 passes.
With tight ends Fred Davis, Martellus Bennett, John Carlson, Brad Cottam and Dustin Keller available, the Seahawks may think about drafting a long-term option at such an important position and hope that he works out better than Jerramy Stevens did after they took Stevens in the first round in 2002.
The Seahawks partially addressed the running game when they signed their first recognizable free agent, running back T.J. Duckett. The 254-pound former first-rounder will help the Seahawks in short-yardage situations, a part of their offense that was miserable last season. Where exactly Duckett will be used is in question because the Seahawks still have Shaun Alexander on their roster, as well as Maurice Morris and Leonard Weaver.
They also signed tight end Jeb Putzier, though the former Houston Texan is probably going to be in the mix with Will Heller and whomever the Seahawks acquire in the draft -- and contribute on special teams.
Special teams took a hit when kicker Josh Brown left via free agency, and when linebackers Niko Koutouvides, the special teams captain, and Kevin Bentley departed in free agency.
1. Tight end: Starter Marcus Pollard becomes a free agent after a season in which he caught only 28 passes and had two drops and a costly fumble in the divisional playoff game against Green Bay. He likely will not be back. Coach Mike Holmgren stressed after the season the importance of the position in the West Coast offense. The team signed Jeb Putzier, but he is projected as a third tight end behind Will Heller.
2. Kicker/long snapper: The Seahawks lost kicker Josh Brown to the St. Louis Rams two years after Brown beat the Rams will two last-minute kicks. There are really no quality free agents on the market, meaning the Seahawks are likely to take a kicker in the sixth or seventh round of the draft. They also went through three long snappers last season, and 37-year-old Jeff Robinson will not be back. That means they likely to have find one who is not drafted, or a veteran who is released by another team.
3. Defensive line: By signing Mike Wahle at left guard, it takes away some of Seattle's concern about their offensive line and allows them to focus more on their defensive line, which was decimated by injuries last season. Rookie Brandon Mebane did a nice job stepping in, but the return of Marcus Tubbs is uncertain and the team needs more depth at the position. Chuck Darby signed with Detroit, Ellis Wyms is visiting Tennessee, and there is a good chance that Jason Babin is released. They are likely to take a defensive tackle in the draft.
DRAFT COUNT SKINNY
The Seahawks could go one of four ways in the first round of the draft, where they have the 25th pick. If Rashard Mendenhall, Darren McFadden or Jonathan Stewart are available, it would be difficult for the Seahawks to pass up the long-term replacement for Shaun Alexander.
If one of those three backs is not there, the Seahawks need to determine if drafting a tight end for the foreseeable future is more important than getting a potential starting left tackle in a draft that is deep at the position.
If the Seahawks decide tight end, they will likely look at Fred Davis from Southern Cal or Texas A & M's Martellus Bennett, the two highest-rated tight ends. If they decide tackle, they hope that Jeff Otah will slip to them.
The other option is that if a talented player slips to No. 25, general manager Tim Ruskell could take that player regardless of needs at a position. He has said that he could find a quality tight end or offensive tackle in the third or fourth round that has the capability of starting at some point.