Missing playoffs could equal personnel changes for Seahawks
RENTON, Wash. (AP) - Pete Carroll knows after eight seasons in charge of the Seattle Seahawks that his message always needs to evolve.
Much like Carroll's messaging, the Seahawks' roster could see some major changes going into next season after missing the playoffs for the first time since 2011.
"We all have to keep changing and growing together. That's why I always come back to compete, you know," Carroll said. "Keep competing to find a way to make sense and help a guy and pushing him to have success. Then we will do what we can do. Sometimes we do it better than others. Sometimes we shock the heck out of this, with all kinds of things that happen."
There's no denying Seattle's core group is getting older, which coupled with salary cap concerns could lead to major overhauls at some positions.
Here are some positions to watch in the offseason:
JIMMY EFFECT: Despite catching 10 touchdown passes and finally becoming the red-zone threat Seattle hoped for, don't expect Jimmy Graham to be back. It's likely Graham's last chance at a big contract and Seattle appears to have more pressing needs. The tight end position remains an important piece of Seattle's offense, but both Graham and Luke Willson are free agents. Willson spoke hopefully of returning to the only team he's played for. Seattle would be smart to get a tight end who is a premier blocker with pass-catching skills, similar to Zach Miller. But that's easier said than found.
ON THE LINE: Michael Bennett was bluntly honest at the conclusion of the season that the NFL is a "young man's game," and at age 32 he may be cycled out.
Even if Bennett does return, Seattle's likely to see an overhaul along the defensive line. Cliff Avril appears to be leaning toward retirement. Sheldon Richardson played well in his one year with the Seahawks but is now a free agent.
The Seahawks have a decent foundation to build around with Frank Clark, Quinton Jefferson, Nazair Jones and Jarran Reed. They should bring back Dion Jordan after the former first-round pick's performance once he became healthy. Bennett could return, but if so should take on less of a load. Despite playing with a foot injury the second half of the year, Bennett still played 84.7 percent of the snaps this season.
OFFENSIVE SKILL: Seattle has high hopes next season for the running back duo of Chris Carson and Mike Davis. Still, expect the Seahawks to add another ball carrier to the mix and move on from Eddie Lacy and Thomas Rawls. At wide receiver, there is a big decision to be made with Paul Richardson, who will be an unrestricted free agent. Richardson finished with 44 receptions and flourished early in the season, but faded late with just nine receptions in the final five games.
WITNESS PROTECTION: Seattle's offensive line woes have been an issue for three straight seasons. Youth, injuries, inconsistency have combined to make the Seahawks line a constant problem and brought plenty of criticism for offensive line coach Tom Cable.
But don't expect massive changes. Part of the beauty of the deal for Duane Brown was having him under contract through 2018. Seattle immediately started playing better once Brown arrived. Justin Britt has proven a capable center and Seattle has high hopes for Ethan Pocic. The big question will be what Seattle does with George Fant. He was the presumptive starting left tackle before suffering an ACL injury during the preseason. Seattle could opt to put Fant at right tackle and move Germain Ifedi to guard after he struggled at tackle.
UNSPECIAL TEAMS: No, Blair Walsh will not be back.
At least that's an obvious early indication with Seattle already signing former Jacksonville kicker Jason Myers to a futures contract. Walsh became a convenient person to blame after missing kicks in three games, leading to Seattle losses.
While Seattle is likely to make a change at kicker, it's likely to be a low-cost move. This is why punter Jon Ryan may be in trouble. The veteran had an up-and-down season, will turn 37 next season and the Seahawks can save $2 million against the salary cap by releasing Ryan.
Ryan is the only player remaining on Seattle's roster from before Carroll's arrival.