While the rest of the NFL is focused on Peyton Manning, Matt Flynn, Andrew Luck, and Robert Griffin III, the Seattle Seahawks are quietly putting together the pieces of a winning franchise. Pete Carroll and John Schnieder have drastically upgraded the talent and the overall depth of the roster since taking over the franchise in January 2010. Not only are the Seahawks built to win now, but they are built to become a team that is regularly in the championship conversation.
In professional sports, every franchise has the proverbial "window" in which they have the capability to win a championship. Some franchises, like the Los Angeles Lakers, or the New York Yankees, always seem to have this "window" open to win. Other franchises, like the Kansas City Royals or the Cleveland Browns, never seem to have one at all.
Thankfully for the 12th Man, the "window" for the Seahawks is starting to open.
Obviously, the dark cloud hovering over the Seahawks is the hole at the quarterback position. While I do think Tarvaris Jackson has the talent to win games, he hasn't shown up when the spotlight is on him. My faith in his ability to get the job done was waning over the late period of last season. The optimist in me thinks that T-Jack can carry the franchise to the playoffs. But once that happens, I'm not sure I have the faith in him to out-perform opposing QBs and lead the Seahawks to a Super Bowl run. But then again, you have to wonder what a 100% healthy Tarvaris Jackson and Seahawks offense could look like.
T-Jack deserves props for suiting up and competing last year despite the fact that he had a torn pectoral muscle in his throwing arm for most of the season. The grittiness and guts that he played with has to be commended. It's not impossible to think that a healthy Tarvaris in 2012 could have a career year. However, Tarvaris might not even be the Seahawks' starting QB next year. With Peyton Manning presumably about to hit the open market, and with upstart Green Bay quarterback Matt Flynn on the open market, it's not crazy to think that either QB could become a Seahawk. With the NFL Draft approaching in April, the Seahawks might be inclined to take a QB in one of the early rounds such as Ryan Tannehill from Texas A&M or Kirk Cousins from Michigan State.
Last season, some of the Seahawks' weapons had disappointing seasons, like Sidney Rice and Zach Miller (two former Pro Bowl selections). The down years of Rice and Miller might actually be a blessing in disguise because their lack of availability and lack of production led to the development of other offensive weapons. Doug Baldwin, Golden Tate, and Ricardo Lockette are three young receivers who played as if last year could be a launching pad for future success. Doug Baldwin showed that sometimes getting drafted is overrated, as he led the Seahawks in receptions and yards with 51 catches for 788 yards.
Golden Tate finally flashed the rock star talent that he showed at Notre Dame and that resulted in him getting drafted with the 60th overall pick in the second round of the 2010 draft. Although Ricardo Lockette had only two receptions last season, they were two clutch catches and two big gains. His first catch came in the opening drive of the Week 16 game against San Francisco and resulted in a 44-yard gain that sparked an opening touchdown drive, and his second catch was a 61-yard TD against the Cardinals in Week 17. I know it's a small sample size, but Ricardo Lockette could be a guy who develops into a deep threat for the Seahawks offense. If Sidney Rice and Zach Miller can return to their former Pro Bowl forms, the Seahawks offense could see a flourishing 2012 aerial attack.
All signs point toward the Seahawks re-signing last year's 1,204-yard rusher and infamous Skittles gobbler, Marshawn Lynch. There is something about the way Marshawn runs that seems to inspire the offense. With the punishing running game setting the tone for the offense, a healthy T-Jack (or a new franchise QB), and bounce-back years for Rice and Miller, the Seahawks offense could be diverse and filled with options for the 2012 season.
"Defense wins championships," and it's on this side of the football where I really see the Seahawks developing into a perennial power. Even with three players from the defensive backfield already in the Pro Bowl last year (Brandon Browner, Earl Thomas, and Kam Chancellor), this defense is going to get better. All of the main pieces are young. The secondary is one of the best in all the NFL. The only defensive back that wasn't in the Pro Bowl last season was Richard Sherman, and even he played as if he will be in Hawaii one day.
The defensive line seems as if it will stay in place, if not get upgraded. NFC West personnel told ESPN's John Clayton they believe the Seahawks will be aggressive in trying to obtain Mario Williams in free agency. Mario Williams was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 Draft by the Houston Texans. The Texans are limited by their finances this offseason, and they are not expected to be able to re-sign Williams. Mario Williams is an absolute specimen at 6'6" and 283 pounds. He would immediately give the Seahawks a nightmare type of defensive player that is a force when it comes to the pass rush. If the Seahawks are unable to sign Williams, then I'm led to believe they would draft a defensive end or outside linebacker with their 12th overall pick.
The defense lacks a true force in the pass rush and I think the Seahawks will rectify that lack of pass rush this offseason either in the draft or via free agency. The bottom line, though, is that the Seahawks were the seventh-best scoring defense in the NFL last year. Whether the Seahawks are upgraded through the draft, free agency, or both, this defense will only get better.
The importance of a stable front office in professional sports cannot be overstated. Even though Pete Caroll and John Schnieder have been on the job for only two years, they have provided stability in the organization and they expect to win. They have cut off the "excess fat" of the organization and trimmed down the dead weight. Even though they have made some unpopular moves for the fan base, like getting rid of franchise QB Matt Hasselbeck, it's clear that the rejuvenation of talent on the roster is guiding this team in a championship direction.
The Seahawks have most of the pieces in place to become a legitimate threat to contend for a future Super Bowl. The roster is always evolving and every position has to be continually evaluated and analyzed. If the Seahawks can find the franchise QB either through free agency or the draft, then the Hawks could be headed for greatness in the near future.