Only two days removed from a disappointing end to their season after a 24-22 loss to the Dallas Cowboys in the Wild Card round, the Seattle Seahawks have already shifted gears towards preparation for 2019.
As you’d expect from Pete Carroll, positivity flowed from the lips of Seattle’s long-time head coach, who built upon his post-game comments about his team “just getting started.”
Seeing parallels to his 2012 team that lost a heart-breaker to the Falcons in the Divisional Round, Carroll said, "You can tell the nucleus, the core, of a championship team is here."
Carroll and the Seahawks have plenty of reason for optimism after reaching the playoffs with a reconstructed roster that wasn’t supposed to be good enough to contend in the NFC. It truly was a “season of growth” in the Pacific Northwest, which should bode well for the future.
But while the roster won’t experience as much turnover as it did last winter, Carroll also made it clear the organization plans to continue constructing the roster and bringing competition to the field, which means several familiar faces could be playing elsewhere next season.
The Seahawks enter a new offseason with more than $60 million in available cap space, giving the organization financial flexibility it hasn’t had in years.
The issue? Seattle has 14 players currently set to become unrestricted free agents on March 13, including starting guards J.R. Sweezy and D.J. Fluker as well as star pass rusher Frank Clark, linebacker K.J. Wright, and safety Earl Thomas. Other key role players such as running back Mike Davis and slot cornerback Justin Coleman will also be able to sign with other teams.
When asked about retaining Fluker and Sweezy, Carroll said, “We’d love to keep those guys with us.”
As for Wright, there’s no guarantee he’ll be back coming off an injury-marred season and nearing 30 years of age, but Carroll also made it clear the Seahawks “would love to have K.J. back with us.”
While there’s a good chance players such as Fluker, Sweezy, and Wright will be back in Seattle, Thomas has had one foot out the door since his season ended back in Week 4. Since giving a “friendly” gesture in Carroll’s direction as he was carted off in Arizona, he’s been away from the team and the relationship between player and team seems far too strained for reconciliation.
Even with all of the aforementioned cap space, the Seahawks are already looking ahead with quarterback Russell Wilson and linebacker Bobby Wagner entering the final seasons of their respective contracts, leaving less money available to retain current free agents such as Fluker, Wright, and Coleman.
As Carroll pointed out multiple times, the Seahawks have plenty of “issues” to work through in coming months. Like a year ago, tough decisions will have to be made, which could lead to some unpopular departures.
Still, Carroll isn’t wrong believing the nucleus is in place to take another step forward next year. Wilson will be back under center, Clark and defensive tackle Jarran Reed should be back as the cornerstones of the defensive line, and a young secondary headlined by cornerbacks Shaquill Griffin and Tre Flowers will have another offseason under their belts heading into training camp.
The Seahawks will also have another chance to add talent through the draft after receiving major contributions from their past two draft classes this season. Recent trades to acquire tackle Duane Brown, backup quarterback Brett Hundley, and safety Shalom Luani have left the team currently with only four picks in April, but general manager John Schneider will likely try to recoup some picks by trading out of the first round again.
This season, the Seahawks aimed to build a foundation and they managed to make the playoffs while doing so. Much like 2012, the front office will now have a chance to build on that groundwork with the goal of reclaiming the NFC West and earning at least one home game next January.
“It was a marvelous season of work with our guys. It was so much fun to see these guys grow and to see them see the future and to go for it and not take a step back at any time as far as how they went about it and took to the challenges and all. We come out of here with a great feeling about our future. Our guys are excited about it.”