The Seattle Seahawks wildly exceeded expectations in 2022. A team that many projected to be one of the worst in the NFL turned the Russell Wilson trade into a heist that helped set this franchise up well for years to come.
Saturday’s playoff game was the perfect example of a team playing with house money. Just reaching the Wild Card Game was a stunning accomplishment for an organization that should be rebuilding. Instead, a young team gained postseason experience and that can have a huge impact on this roster in the seasons ahead.
Even a loss to the 49ers can’t diminish the long-term outlook for the Seahawks. Settle has its quarterback who can make this offense and he is surrounded by impact weapons and an offensive line that should keep improving over time. As for the defense, that’s something that can be addressed this offseason.
Let’s dive into four moves that will help the Seahawks take another step forward in 2023.
1. Place franchise tag on Geno Smith
Geno Smith played quarterback more effectively than Wilson did in his final two seasons in Seattle. The supporting cast was largely the same, with the biggest difference-maker being Smith buying into the system. Even if he isn’t the long-term answer, the Seahawks can return to the playoffs next season if Smith is under center.
Current projections from OvertheCap.com set the franchise tag for quarterbacks at around $32.445 million in 2023. It’s almost 11x the base salary ($1.26 million) Smith earned in 2022, but he earned the money with his play this season.
- Geno Smith stats (2022): 69.8% completion rate, 30-11 TD-INT, 100.9 QB rating
A multi-year contract extension is possible and that option would provide Seattle with a lower 2023 cap hit than if Smith receives $32 million fully guaranteed. However, the best long-term move for the franchise is to maintain long-term flexibility.
2. Restructure Tyler Lockett and Jamal Adams contracts
There’s no doubt that Tyler Lockett has a long-term future in Seattle. Entering his age-31 season in 2023, the 5-foot-10 wideout is coming off four consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and he ranked fifth in the NFL during the regular season in target separation (2.25 yards), per Next Gen Stats.
Under team control through 2023, a simple contract restructure would create $5.7 million in cap space this offseason. Seattle boasts the money to increase Lockett’s bonus and it can use that while providing him greater long-term security with a restructured contract.
Adams is the bigger question mark. Once an All-Pro safety, he has only played in 13 games over the past two seasons and never came close to repeating what we saw from 2018-’20. Instead of cutting him, Seattle could restructure his contract and create $6.6 million in cap savings. Combine those two moves with the tag placed on Geno and the Seahawks have $22.8 million in cap space.
3. Draft Myles Murphy and Trenton Simpson
Everyone expected the Seahawks to have a top-five pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and that happened, thanks to the Denver Broncos. Because of the Wilson trade, Seattle’s front office gets to add an elite talent to its defense and that will only be the first step towards overhauling this unit.
Related: 2023 NFL Draft order, picks by team
It all starts with Myles Murphy. The 6-foot-5 edge rusher only scratched the surface of his potential at Clemson and PFF still credited him with 76 [pressures in two seasons. Putting his athleticism into perspective, he ranked No. 3 on Bruce Feldman’s Freaks list this past season, thanks to a 10-foot broad jump, 405 bench press and 35-inch vertical. Oh, Murphy also graded as one of PFF’s highest-graded run defenders over the last two seasons, shoring up another weakness on the Seahawks’ defense.
We’re pairing Murphy up with his Clemson teammate. Seattle’s linebackers were awful in pass coverage this season, with Cody Barton and Jordyn Brooks allowing a combined 1,105 receiving yards on 105 receptions.
Simpson fixes that problem in a heartbeat. The 6-foot-3 linebacker thrived in pass coverage, often taking away the middle of the field. In the last two seasons, Simpson ceded just 44 receptions for 353 receiving yards in 535 coverage snaps. He fills a huge void in the middle of Seattle’s defense.
4. Seattle Seahawks sign Daron Payne
Seattle will likely come out of free agency with at least one starter added to fortify its defense. While linebacker Lavonte David is an enticing option, there is a realistic chance the Tampa Bay Buccaneers don’t let him leave. So, our focus shifts to the interior defensive line.
- Seattle Seahawks defense (2022): 20.8% pressure rate (19th), 150.2 rush ypg allowed (30th), 34% pass rush win rate (28th), 30% run stop win rate (20th)
Payne finished 20th among defensive tackles in PFF pass-rush grade (72.0) during the regular season, generating the ninth-most pressures (49) and the 17th-most hurries (27). The Seahawks desperately need interior pass rushers and Payne’s early years in Washington also suggest he can be a viable run-stopper. Turning 26 in Maye, he fits nicely into the Seahawks’ young defense and they can afford him. If he proves too expensive, though, Arizona Cardinals defensive tackle Zach Allen is a fantastic target at a much lower cost.