By John Boyle Herald Columnist
The NFL scouting combine is underway this week, with more than 300 NFL hopefuls getting weighed, measured, timed, interviewed and otherwise tested by potential employers, and it’s hard to imagine that anybody will be having more fun in Indianapolis than John Schneider and Pete Carroll.
And not just because the Seahawks’ general manager and head coach are two of the more positive, fun-loving types you’ll find in an NFL front office. Or because they can remind 31 other teams that they found a stud quarterback in the draft’s third round last year. Or because they know they’re going to identify somebody this week that will have everyone else scratching their heads come April’s draft. Or because they’re still chuckling about Wednesday’s silly Twitter feud between Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman and New York Jets corner Darrelle Revis
No, the Seahawks’ top decision makers should be enjoying themselves at the combine this week because, quite frankly, few teams are heading into this stretch of combine/free agency/draft in a better position than the Seahawks.
When Schneider and Carroll headed to their first combine as the Seahawks’ brain trust in 2010, they went there knowing they absolutely needed to find a left tackle, knowing they had a ton of holes to fill, and knowing that their team’s long-term future at quarterback was murky. Three years later, the Seahawks are not just a team coming off of an 11-win season, they’re a team with very few holes on its roster, which means Carroll and Schneider will have tremendous freedom in this draft process, unburdened by glaring needs.
Though he couldn’t say it at the time, Schneider later admitted that the Seahawks were absolutely going to take a left tackle with the No. 6 pick in 2010. The Seahawks liked Russell Okung, and they were also high on Trent Williams, and they were pretty certain at least one of those players would be available. Okung was still there, and he turned out to be a great pick, but imagine how much more Carroll and Schneider will enjoy knowing that they can justifiably use their first-round pick on just about any position.
Do the Seahawks need to upgrade their pass rush, especially because they can’t assume Chris Clemons will be back for the start of the season? Of course; Carroll has said as much.
“We need to improve our guys,” Carroll said. “We need another pass rusher, we really do.”
Would a big-play threat at receiver upgrade a position that took a big step forward in 2013? You bet.
But we are still talking about trying to upgrade a defense that allowed the fewest points in the league last season, and about adding to an already solid receiving corps of Sidney Rice, Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin, not about filling a huge hole in the starting lineup.
So yes, there are needs, but not the kind that would make this a stressful, we-gotta-identify-the-right-player-or-this-team-is-in-trouble type of weekend for Carroll, Schneider and their scouting department. Making things even more favorable for Seattle is that there are pretty intriguing options in free agency that could help in both of the aforementioned areas. So, even if a pass rusher or a receiver is a must find, that player doesn’t necessarily have to be found this week.
“There is nobody in our building that doesn’t think that this is going to be an extraordinary offseason for this club,” Carroll said a day after his team’s season ended in Atlanta.
And fans should be enjoying this offseason as well.
For the first time in forever, you don’t have to wonder about the plan at quarterback. You don’t have to watch your team dump veterans who could still help the team because of salary cap concerns, something the Jets did just two days ago. (Having a Pro Bowl quarterback and an All-Pro corner who make just over $1 million combined certainly helps). Y
ou don’t have to sweat about the Seahawks losing a star player in free agency. Instead, you get to sit back and have fun speculating about who your team might draft without all the stress. You can debate whether Osi Umenyiora or Dwight Freeney is the better pass rusher available in free agency. You can wonder whether aging star Charles Woodson could make an already great secondary even better. And you can do all of that with far less to worry about than in past offseasons.
Sure, you might be a little upset if the Seahawks don’t sign free agent X, Y or Z, or you may not love their draft (though we should know better by now than to make snap judgment on a Carroll-Schneider draft), but these are good times. And you’d better believe Carroll and Schneider are aware of that, even as they work to make the team better over the next few months.
“Coming to grips with what we were capable of doing and the kind of play we were able to put out there week after week has placed us, as we go into this offseason, with a good feeling about this year, and a pride that if we do the right things this offseason and comeback in full force, and have a heck of a draft with a bunch of picks, we can take a step forward and put ourselves in position that we can be playing some of those (playoff) games at home,” Carroll said.
That’s a very Carroll-esque, long-winded way of saying, “We like what our team did this season, and with a good offseason, we can be even better.” That offseason kicks into full gear this week in Indy, and in the situation they’re in, Carroll and Schneider should enjoy every moment of it.
Herald Writer John Boyle: firstname.lastname@example.org.