How Mike Macdonald hire impacts Geno Smith, Riq Woolen, Jamal Adams
Good News and Bad News for current Seahawks after latest Head Coach hire: 1/31/2024
The Seattle Seahawks are starting anew with head coach Mike Macdonald, continuing an effort by the organization to change from the Pete Carroll era while keeping in place the parts of the franchise that were already working. Step one was to remove Pete from being the head coach and to take away his right as the final word on personnel moves, step two was to transfer power to John Schneider, and step three is Macdonald.
Seaside Joe is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
In the next week, we’ll hear more details on who Schneider and Macdonald choose as assistant head coaches—I saw this video on Tuesday of Chicago draft analyst Glynn Morgan giving his reasons for why assistant coaches are “vital” to the success of every team, which I thought was a good point—and then by February 16th, the Seahawks have to make a decision on the future of Geno Smith.
Ownership-GM-Head Coach-Quarterback. That is the backbone of any football team.
The Seahawks had a transition in ownership with Jody Allen already and could have one on the horizon when the team is sold, they “promoted” Schneider, they hired Macdonald, and soon we’ll get clues if not answers as to the future at quarterback. Plenty of other things matter too, a lot, and Macdonald/Schneider will be at the center of those decisions.
The Macdonald hiring is being praised around the league and viewed as “great news” for the Seahawks, but the change could be “bad news” for some. These are just some of the players on the team who I think are most impacted by Seattle’s decision to hire Macdonald, although this news will go far beyond these names. This is just the beginning…
Mixed News: Geno Smith
“New Defensive Coach” doesn’t mean the Seahawks won’t also be seeking “New Athletic Quarterback Prospect”. Macdonald coached a team with the most expensive/most athletic (although that title might be taken from him soon) quarterback in the NFL, so I wouldn’t say that Geno can sign a new 12-month lease in Seattle just yet.
The Texans hired DeMeco Ryans in 2023 and then drafted C.J. Stroud.
The Bills hired Sean McDermott in 2017 and drafted Josh Allen in 2018.
The Jets hired Robert Saleh in 2021 and then drafted Zach Wilson, then traded for Aaron Rodgers in 2023.
Macdonald, Ryans, McDermott, and Saleh were all originally linebackers coaches who worked up to being defensive coordinators. Another, Matt Eberflus, was hired by the Bears after they drafted Justin Fields and Chicago could select another quarterback first overall in April’s draft.
The Bears actually chose Shane Waldron and Karl Scott, another former Seattle coach, as the ones to potentially introduce Caleb Williams to the NFL. That’s just one an example of how the Seahawks will use their OC hire to be the baromete for what’s next at quarterback; the rumored favorite is Ravens quarterbacks coach Tee Martin, a former national champion quarterback at Tennessee.
Schneider hired Macdonald to be a head coach and certainly to work his magic on defense, but Schneider may not think this does anything to stop him from pushing all his chips on a quarterback of the future.
I am conflicted on how aggressive I think the Seahawks should be in their pursuit of a highly-rated quarterback prospect but to a degree it may not even matter: There are only three in the draft who analysts consistently rate as being worthwhile first round picks and the top three teams drafting may end up deadlocked on picking quarterbacks as they all have a need.
I don’t say that intending to start a debate on the merits of any quarterback being a first round selection, I’m merely pointing out that the perception is that after Caleb Williams, Drake Maye, and Jayden Daniels (any or all of whom could be busts) you’ll be considering options who some, if not most of the 32 teams don’t view as being worthy of a day one pick.
Barring a blockbuster trade up in the draft, the Seahawks are left with these options for starting quarterback:
Keep Geno Smith, see how the market looks in a year
Cut Geno Smith, save $13.8 million against the cap, take your chances with Drew Lock or a comparable veteran
Do either of these things and draft a quarterback at #16(ish) who might be able to start this season; actually the first example I can think of as a mid-first QB who started as a rookie is Joe Flacco
While option three is intriguing, I can’t help but think of your Kenny Pickett, Mac Jones, Dwayne Haskins type prospects who may just end up robbing Macdonald of the opportunity to add a fantastic player to his defense or Seattle having a chance to solidify the offensive line with another pick for that unit; if the Seahawks pick a tackle, they insure against the possibility that Abe Lucas will again miss a considerable chunk of the season or better yet move someone inside to fix two positions at once.
And this tackle class is supposed to be really good: J.C. Latham, Taliese Fuaga, Troy Fautanu, Tyler Guyton, Kingsley Suamataia, Amarius Mims, and Jordan Morgan are names you’ll hear mentioned after Joe Alt and Olu Fashanu.
If Schneider comes to me and says, “Joe, I have an offer on the table to move up in the draft for a quarterback who I think will impact this franchise as much as Josh Allen does for the Bills, what should I do?” I must admit that I’d be intrigued by the possibility and wouldn’t be as scared of sacrificing future assets as more level-headed people would be. However, since I don’t expect that, I’m inclined to tell the Seahawks to draft the best player available—if not trade down—and mull over the quarterbacks again on day two.
While there will be a push for the Seahawks to pick Bo Nix, Michael Penix, or J.J. McCarthy in the first round, you will find analysts who tell you that any of these quarterbacks could be available in round two, if not round three.
My pick: Cut Geno Smith, re-sign Drew Lock to a two-year, $15 million contract, draft a quarterback between rounds 3-5
The Colts didn’t just get through an entire season with Gardner Minshew, they kind of thrived….for a team starting Minshew. A thought that will terrify most fans is that if the team hires Higgins, his quarterback for several years at USC was Sam Darnold, another 2024 free agent like Lock. If the team gets Lock on a two-year deal, it gives them flexibility to hold his rights if he performs above expectations. But without any guaranteed money next year, the option to release him if he doesn’t.
Good News: Riq Woolen, Coby Bryant
A cornerback couldn’t ask for a better head coach and teacher than Pete Carroll, but Woolen’s second season with the Seahawks was so regressive that I admit I’ve contemplated what his trade value would be this offseason. The hiring of Mike Macdonald is the change-of-scenery that Woolen needed without needing to actually change locations.
I’m going to have more to share from All_22_Films, a Ravens YouTube channel that I shared several times last year in Seaside Streams because his breakdowns are so good, but if you want to start diving into Macdonald’s “artistic” defense you can start here based on how Baltimore did against Seattle:
When I asked All_22 about the Macdonald hire, he immediately noted that this move would be GREAT for Woolen and Coby Bryant.
“Great hire, I think Macdonald's system will weed out the less multiple guys in terms of coverage (CB & Nickel guys). I think most of the guys there are going to thrive. Really think this could be great for Woolen and Bryant”
If you have questions for Ravens All-22, tell me in the comments and I’ll try and get them answered for you:
Woolen’s attempts at tackling were not even good enough to merit the entire word; he didn’t “tackle”, per se. He ackl’d, at best. Teams have been running at Woolen since his Pro Bowl rookie season and while some of his coverage numers actually improved (6.3 Y/Target allowed in 2022 to 5.4 Y/T in 2023), this could be a byproduct of teams knowing that they could throw in front of Woolen and then let the receiver run over him.
In his defense, I’ll add that tackling was relatively shitty across the NFL last season and this could be a correctable issue that helps one of the most athletic players in the league rebound from his second campaign. However, what I REALLY want Macdonald to do for Woolen is make him care about football like his life is on the line.
I didn’t see a player who cared that much that his team’s defense was among the worst in the league or that he played a huge part in their demise. From getting burned by Puka Nacua for a touchdown, a receiver who should be more than a few ticks slower than him, in Week 1 to not even trying to tackle Najee Harris for a touchdown in Week 17, Woolen spent the whole year as a point of frustration for fans…but was still smiling for photos in the locker room after the Seahawks were eliminated from the playoffs.
Hopefully Macdonald will be the type of coach who has the respect of players to think that they’ll want to shape up or fear they’ll be shipped out and early reports from Ravens are unsurprisingly positive. ESPN’s Brady Henderson tweeted out these quotes courtesy of colleague Jamison Hensley:
As to Coby, All_22 emphasized the benefit of being “multiple” aka versatile and we know that Bryant now has experience at nickel and safety with maybe some ability to move outside in a pinch. Bryant’s missed tackle rate was even worse than Woolen’s (18.2% to 14.9%) but he spent most of the year injured and could be in a better position with Seattle’s new defensive coaches.
We don’t know who those are yet, but a name to watch is Ravens linebackers coach Zach Orr: A second-team All-Pro linebacker in 2016, Orr retired after that season due to a spinal condition and he’s been working his way up the ladder as a coach for the last six years.
New Coach=New Year at Seaside Joe=New Opportunity to join Regular Joes and support consistent daily Seahawks content like this…I’ll need to make a lot of new bonus articles now so join Regular Joes for only $5 per month or $55 for an entire year:
Bad News: Jamal Adams, Quandre Diggs
This offseason was probably always going to be “bad news” for two of Seattle’s three safeties, but the hiring of new coaches makes it that much easier for the Seahawks to cut ties with two of their most expensive players.
The Seahawks save $6 million by releasing Adams and $11 million by releasing Diggs. Given that Seattle is in dire need of cap space and the Seahawks just hired a defensive specialist to revamp their side of the ball with any personnel changes he sees necessary, Diggs and Adams must now feel like their odds of being cut just went up significantly.
At least, that’s what I would think. For a guy who is on social media every day, it’s probably not a coincidence that Nino hasn’t tweeted since the Macdonald news came out.
The 103.9 passer rating on throws in Diggs’ direction is the worst of his career. The 12% missed tackle rate is Diggs’ worst mark since 2019, the year the Lions traded him to Seattle. The $11 million in cap savings—literally more than they would need to sign a veteran quarterback starter—is too much to not think that Quandre Diggs is in danger of a release.
It doesn’t help that like Pete with Geno, there was nobody in the NFL who valued safeties to a higher degree than Carroll.
The explanation for releasing Adams probably isn’t even necessary, although I will say that if this was 2022 and the Seahawks hired Macdonald, Adams would be in a great position to revitalize a dying career. However, in Adams I didn’t see a good player on the field at any point in 2023 and must assume that he’s never going to be the same after his latest injury.
The combined savings of cutting Adams, Diggs, and Bryan Mone is over $21 million.
The versatility of Julian Love and his late season surge could be enough to make him the first man up to be Macdonald’s top safety next season, although he does have $5.7 million in savings if the coach doesn’t think he’s the right fit. The Ravens had two of the most valuable safeties in the entire NFL in 2023: Kyle Hamilton and Geno Stone.
I haven’t dug into the position yet for the draft, but a versatile safety like Hamilton might be a consideration in the first three rounds.
Good News: Uchenna Nwosu, Boye Mafe, Derick Hall
Another quote by All_22:
“You guys don't need OLBs if Nwosu returns to full health”
You may have seen this stat floating around on Wednesday:
The Ravens player who had the most pressures was defensive tackle Justin Madubuike (a free agent but I doubt one that will leave Baltimore), a 6’3, 305 lb third round pick out of Texas A&M in 2020. The Seahawks picked Damien Lewis two spots ahead of Madubuike. There are some pretty good pass rushing nose tackles in the draft, although Jarran Reed was also one of the better ones in the NFL last season and is signed through 2024.
But then there are the Ravens edge rushers, none of whom entered last season with much credibility as being of the elite: Odafe Oweh, Kyle Van Noy, and former Seahawks Jadeveon Clowney.
Van Noy and Clowney are also free agents. I suppose a Clowney reunion could be more attractive now if he’s coming along with Macdonald.
Clowney had 9.5 sacks and 23 pressures per PFR’s numbers, while Oweh had 5 and 15, and Van Noy had 9 and 12. (Pressures vary wildly from one site to the next.)
Isn’t it fair to say that Nwosu, Mafe, and Hall are no less than comparable edge rushers to Clowney, Van Noy, and Oweh? Hall has proven nothing in his career yet, but it’s not “a long road” to travel to get to Odafe Oweh. If the Seahawks are able to re-sign Darrell Taylor to a one-year “prove it” deal, he could be best matched for this defense now that Macdonald is running it.
While edge rusher is always a priority for NFL teams, the change from Pete/Clint Hurtt to Macdonald may be enough for Seattle to be able to focus their money and draft picks on other positions in 2024 knowing that the head coach got the most out of veterans who were left for dead prior to the season. Or to sign someone like Van Noy to an affordable contract.
But maybe they really don’t need to add any new pieces to the edge for now, although they probably still want to.
Are you “Super Excited”? Then join Super Joes! Now that the big news is out of the way, I can send out a new mailbag email soon, exlcusively for Super Joes/founding members here: