2024 Draft Needs: Linebacker is first until it isn't
What the current Seahawks roster tells us about the future Seahawks needs: Seaside Joe 1652
The 2024 NFL Draft is still about eight months away, but the Seahawks-Rams vision board that I posted on Friday feels like the last word I want to give about the game until Seattle’s Week 1 is in the books. However, we can still talk about next year’s draft AND the current Seahawks roster at the same time by addressing what future team needs appear to be based on the current players and Seattle’s upcoming contract situations.
Then we can assess needs several more times between now and the 2024 draft, which will allow us to go back to the previous data points to see what was right, what was wrong, and what needs were most consistently an issue.
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Seahawks apparent 2024 draft needs (9/9/2023)
1 - Linebacker
I should kick this off with a note about needs and the order of needs: Just because something could be assessed as the biggest need, it doesn’t mean that the team has to pick that position first. Or second. Or third, and so on. A team might have a good-to-great starter at every position and a terrible kicker, it doesn’t mean that the team is going to draft a kicker first.
A second note about needs: I’m going to play it safe by assuming that free agents are free agents and that they could leave. Even if we think the Seahawks will bring somebody back, that’s not as guaranteed as the fact that said player is set to be a free agent.
What about if a player looks like an obvious cap casualty? Well, I will assume that the player could stay, but in the NFL almost every player in danger of being cut as they get more expensive because the one thing that nobody can avoid is: Time. The aging process.
So now that we’ve established some ground rules for needs, here’s a fact: The Seahawks don’t have any linebackers signed past this season except for waiver wire claim Drake Thomas. Bobby Wagner and Devin Bush signed one-year contracts, Jordyn Brooks didn’t have his fifth-year option picked up. I can’t make the assumption that Seattle will bring back one, two, or all three of these players, so for now linebacker is a bigger need than, for example, defensive tackle. Which is what I assume a lot of people would put first.
Especially because the Seahawks have two defensive tackles signed for at least two more years in Jarran Reed and Cameron Young.
First round linebackers have had less success than first round running backs and about as much success as first round tight ends, so I don’t think that Seattle needs to draft the position with their first pick. A day two pick would be a huge investment, just as it was with Wagner in 2012 as a mid-second rounder.
But when I look at the defense and see that there’s one position that has a 33-year-old star, two players with ACL injury histories, and all three are pending free agents, then that has to be the number one need until it is addressed. Maybe Brooks is an extension candidate if he looks to be back to form, but I’d be surprised if the Seahawks didn’t wait until after the season to address the free agents here.
Pop Quiz Hot Shot: In 2010, Pete Carroll drafted a player who had a sack in his NFL debut in Week 1 of his rookie season against the 49ers. Without looking it up, can you name that player?
2 - Tight End
In a very similar situation, the Seahawks have two pending free agent tight ends in Colby Parkinson and Noah Fant. Meanwhile, Will Dissly is one of the most expensive tight ends in the NFL next year at $10.1 million and he could catch all 30 targets this season, it still may not be worth it for a player averaging 300 yards and two touchdowns over the past three campaigns.
The Seahawks could save $7 million by releasing Dissly, which is even more than they’d get for releasing Jamal Adams.
The player who seems most likely to get an extension after Uchenna Nwosu was completed is Fant. He’s only 25 and he could be the ‘F’ to Dissly’s ‘Y’.
Similar for the tight end spot. There's the "Y" tight end, which is the name for the in-line tight end, and then there's the "F" tight end, who is comparable to the Z; the F is moved around the offense from slot receiver, to fullback, to even wide receiver.
Or maybe Seattle sees Parkinson as a more valuable-per-dollar ‘F’ than Fant.
There’s the scenario in which the Seahawks keep two of these players. There’s the scenario in which the Seahawks keep only one of these players. What I don’t think will happen: I don’t think Seattle will keep all three or none of these tight ends. They should be focused on keeping one or two, but it could be any two.
Pete Carroll also seems to like Tyler Mabry, who is back on the practice squad, but getting another tight end on the roster in 2024 seems like an inevitability. Like linebacker, it wouldn’t have to come in the first round. Seattle could use a fourth or fifth round pick and still get a great prospect.
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3 - Quarterback
I am weighing in position value in this ranking, obviously, because otherwise we would probably say that defensive tackle or guard is a bigger need. I just can’t—for my own sanity and history of supporting the philosophy that most teams need to get better at quarterback—ignore the Seahawks present and future situation at quarterback.
Right now it seems more important to be on the QUARTERBACK market next year than the guard or run-stuffing defensive tackle market.
Drew Lock is a 2024 free agent and he hasn’t played in a regular season football game since the end of the 2021 season.
Geno Smith is going to be a cap casualty if he shows a significant drop-off from his play last year, or even if he plays about as well as he did in the last eight games.
Even if Geno plays a little bit better this year than he did in 2022, he’s going to be 34 next year and Seattle will have a big fat nothing behind him if Lock walks. I was never against the Seahawks using their first pick on a quarterback if that’s what happened, I just didn’t think that any of the good prospects would still be available at five.
We can’t just move past how much the Seahawks appeared to invest in scouting quarterbacks this year simply because they didn’t pick any of them. I assume that John Schneider is 100% open to using Seattle’s first pick on a quarterback and the 2024 class is shaping up to have good prospects at the position outside of the top-10.
Before Week 1, there are probably a lot of fans who say, “No, the Seahawks need to commit to Geno Smith!” But how true that is and how committed those fans are to Geno will be a lot more relevant when we re-visit this discussion in Week 7 and Week 17.
4 - Guard
Damien Lewis and Phil Haynes are both free agents. Anthony Bradford didn’t show us much in the preseason to think he’s going to challenge either of them for a starting role this year. Seattle’s other guards on the roster are Jake Curhan and Ben Brown.
The Seahawks picking a guard in the first round would be surprising because they haven’t really intentionally done that under Pete Carroll. (Germain Ifedi, James Carpenter were supposed to be tackles.) But then again, the Seahawks could have a top-five offensive line if they gain people’s trust with their decisions at center and guard; maybe Evan Brown, Olu Oluwatimi, and Seattle’s current guards can still do that.
5 - Defensive Tackle
Not number one? Truth be told, safety and defensive end were also considerations here. The Seahawks have Reed and Young, maybe they just need to get one more guy, someone who is a little more stout, but I don’t see it being as big of a concern (yet) as some other positions that are also a little or a lot more valuable.
Let me know your top-5:
Answer: Dexter Davis. The 7th round LB/DE had a sack in Week 1 and then completely disappeared.