With a finger on the trigger at all times, (metaphorically speaking of course), Seahawks overlord Pete Carroll has never been gun shy about aggressively pursuing players to assemble the deepest roster in the NFL and the youngest roster (significantly younger), then the other contending teams in the league. It appears that in year four of the Pete Carroll program national perception of the Seahawks has quickly shifted from them being a mediocre team on the rise to them being the team everyone loves to hate because they’re so damn stacked and difficult to game plan for. Its no different then my youngest nephew being upset my older nephew beats his ass in video games all the time; no one enjoys losing as opposed to winning.
The “USC Seahawks”, or as commonly referred to in comment board banter as the “Seadderall Seahawks”, because of the loose ship Pete Carroll runs; are the model franchise in the NFL and an admitted blueprint for rebuilding teams are attempting to trace as best they can. The “loose ship” run by Carroll is obviously an incredibly fast ship more sustainable and prolific then any other ship in the league. A ship that can be operating at 66 percent of its full capabilities and still almost outperform another prolific and fully functioning ship boasting a supposed NOS injection (cough, Indianapolis, Trent Richardson).
Of the 32 teams Seattle boasts the fifth youngest average age per player, though that statistic will slightly change with the future signing of veteran cornerback Antoine Winfield for the stretch of their Super Bowl run. At an average of 25.3 years of age Seattle only trails the rebuilding Rams, Bills, Jaguars, and Browns in their collective youth. This depth was further showcased with a maligned Seahawks secondary missing pro bowler Brandon Browner and nickel defender Walter Thurmond (reportedly coveted by many teams as a No. 1 cornerback in free agency), shutting down arguably the leagues most prolific passing offense in a 34-7 thumping on Monday Night Football. The defense stymied Drew Brees into his worst performance as a Saint as he and the New Orleans offense failed to surpass 200 yards for the first time in the Sean Peyton era. The Saints, along with the Carolina Panthers (who the Seahawks beat 12-7 week 1), both considered the next best thing to the Seahawks in the NFC, boast the 22nd and 26th oldest rosters in the league. The Denver Broncos of the AFC, Seattle’s old divisional foe and the opponent most favored to square off against Seattle in the Super Bowl, owns the 28th oldest roster in the league. Of contending teams, the Chiefs (8th) Eagles (10th) Patriots (11th), are the only teams ranked within the top half (or 16), youngest rosters in the league.
Being younger and deeper then any other contender in the league is what afforded Seattle to be aggressive to trade draft selections away for the 2013 draft for receiver and multi-positional weapon Percy Harvin. While Seattle fans have to wait to the postseason to see whether or not the flash of brilliance he teased them with against the Vikings was worth it or not; the team is the cream of the crop in the league without him on the field and appears capable of reaching the Super Bowl even without his services. It’s what afforded them the luxury of selecting maligned Texas A&M running back Christine Michael with their first selection of the draft in the 2nd round to be the heir apparent to “Beast Mode”. Michael has only played a handful of snaps in mop up duty as they appear to be preserving him behind change of pace running back Robert Turbin who is having himself a fine season in his own regard.
It’s also a factor in what afforded them the additional luxuries of having been able to add premium pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril on short term cost effective contracts while simultaneously making Harvin the leagues third highest paid wide receiver; Bennett for one year, $5 million, Avril for two years, $13 million.
Bennett and Avril have proved themselves worthy of long term extensions with their stellar play this season and it is unlikely the Seahawks will be able to keep both players in the future with a glut of massive extensions on the horizon for franchise cornerstones Russell Wilson, Richard Sherman, and Earl Thomas. All whom are about to see their incredibly modest rookie deals expire in the near future and that list doesn’t even include pending free agents Brandon Browner, Walter Thurmond, and Golden Tate, along with Bobby Wagner, Russell Okung, and James Carpenter, many key players and starters are set to see an increase in salary and if it doesn’t come from Seattle someone will shower each of these players with significant money to lure them away from the Pacific Northwest.
Some of the inevitable departures are going to create additional needs for the roster after the Super Bowl. However that roster currently has no glaring holes with a healthy offensive line stabilizing the offense and allowing Russell Wilson to stay in the pocket. The only loss sustained by the Seahawks came in a road contest against the Indianapolis Colts where they were missing seven starting players– four along the offensive front– and the game still came down to the final drive in a 34-28 loss. Since the beginning of the “Russell Wilson era” the Seahawks have not finished a loss behind more then seven points and every loss has come down to the final drive.
With the Seahawks bound to lose one of their defensive ends in their “two deep” group of Chris Clemons, Red Bryant, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett, addressing this loss should be one of Seattle’s primary concerns in the 2014 draft. This rotation is a key component to Seattle’s relentless pressing defensive strategy and allows the cornerbacks of the “legion of boom” secondary to play tight man-to-man defense and stack the box in a triangle defense resembling the 4-6. This allows safety Earl Thomas to freely ball-hawk in a robber-esque role and enables safety Kam Chancellor to creep forward and bottle up the football when anyone attempts to bounce it outside. The catalyst of this entire aggressive strategy is the ability of Seattle to consistently rush the passer with four down defensive lineman that are constantly being rotated and packaged to stay fresh.
While losing one of four defensive ends that are three-down starters on any other roster in the league doesn’t necessarily scream “crying need” with the way the Seahawks play defense they need to invest significant draft capital on the defensive end position to ensure the continuation of their ability to execute their current and almost unbeatable scheme.
Enter the undeniably controversial and self admittedly lazy South Carolina All-American defensive end Jadeveon Clowney.
Once considered the sure fire No. 1 overall selection before the 2013-2014 season after a stellar sophomore campaign (you can’t declare for draft as a sophomore) injuries and inconsistency have seen the supremely talented Clowney’s draft stock take a hit during his junior and presumably final college campaign. If the maligned Clowney ends up falling out of the top ten selections the Seahawks, presumably picking 31st or 32nd (unless someone can actually beat them at CenturyLink Field during the postseason in the loudest venue in professional sports on the entire planet), the Seahawks are in prime position to trade up for what amounts to a luxury commodity; but allows the defense to function without skipping its current but soon-to-inevitably-change beat.
Clowney is the sort of lazy unmotivated player who would be an absolutely perfect player for Pete to “take a gamble on” with his roster consistently churning with a “next man up” mentality that preaches competition and rewards stellar-play above all else. Unlike many other rosters in the league Clowney would by no means be considered by the coaching staff, fans, or local/national media to be a presumed starter on defense from day one on the Seahawks. He would be hand fed absolutely nothing with Red Bryant, Chris Clemons, and Cliff Avril all scheduled to be on the roster through at least the 2014-2015 season. He would not be coming in hailed as one of the top recruits in the country and will not have the ability to skate by purely on his sick talent and supreme hype as he did at South Carolina. Unlike the days where petulance from rookies had to eventually be tolerated because of training camp holdouts Clowney will not be able to sit back through training camp to demand more money with a rookie wage scale in place.
All of these factors seem to promote Seattle as one of the places where a supremely talented and lazy player like Clowney would be able to shed the perception he’s someone who “takes plays off” because in Seattle he would be forced to go 100 percent just to maintain a spot in the prolific Seahawks rotation. In addition to this, Clowney wouldn’t be expected to play three-downs consistently, and in essence, would be afforded the ability to “take plays off” anyway. Locked into a structured and reasonable four-year contract, he could be someone that eventually replaces Cliff Avril atop the rotation with Avril scheduled to hit free agency after the 2014-15 campaign.
If he slides on draft day, Clowney is a supremely talented player who would be worth packaging 1st and multiple mid-round picks to move up to select. If there is one undeniable trait about Carroll as a football coach; it’s that he is a supreme motivator, and all it appears Clowney needs is someone to keep a constant fire lit under his lazy ass.
Enter, Pete Carroll.