Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 1/26/12
Two years ago the Seattle Seahawks squeaked into the Playoffs by winning the NFC West with an 8-8 record. Not only that, but they managed to knock out the New Orleans Saints in the first round. This season, a surprising San Francisco team made plenty sure that no team was going to win the NFC West with an even record, which worked because Seattle actually finished 7-9, slightly worse than the year before.  However, Seattle wasn't exactly a dead duck in the water.  Up until the final few weeks of the season, the Seahawks were still an outside shot for the sixth seed in the NFC.  They also played much better toward the latter part of the season, putting together a three-game winning streak starting in December against  the Eagles, Rams and Bears, but unfortunately lost the last two games against the 49ers and the Cardinals.  The Seahawks have potential to become a Playoff team next year, but they are lacking pieces to help get them to that next level.  Here are the five most pressing needs that the Seahawks will have to address in the off-season.

1.Re-Sign Marshawn Lynch:  Let's face it, Lynch was their offense last season.  Until the quarterback issue gets resolved (we'll discuss this later) Lynch is going to have to carry this offense.  Lynch has got tools that make him as dangerous as Matt Forte.  He has the ability to both carry the football and catch the football successfully. There were two games in which Lynch was both the leading rusher and receiver for the Seahawks. The difference between Forte and Lynch is that he doesn't seem to mind attempting to run over defensive backs and some linebackers.  Lynch can be a nightmare for defenses, especially defenses with poor tackling fundamentals as he is a difficult runner to bring down.  

After a back spasm injury forced him out of a game in Week 8, Lynch rushed for over 100 yards on six of the next nine games, finishing with 1,204 yards and 12 touchdowns on the season.  If Lynch can carry over that "Beast Mode" attitude into next season, it would be well worth the re-signing.  Lynch is currently an unrestricted free agent and made 1.74 million last year.  Which, put him as the 8th highest-paid Seahawk.  Which means Lynch is due for a pay raise.  Now, the Seahawks have cash, they also have some players that are getting older that are going into free agency they could let go to make more room for Lynch, however there is always a hesitation signing a running back to big money and long-term deals (ask the Titans how the Chris Johnson deal turned out for them).  

One thing the Seahawks could do is slap a franchise tag on Lynch, see if his monster success late in the season carries over and then re-sign him long term. If not, they have a viable player they could trade for Draft picks.  But the mindset should be win now, and honestly this offense is not going to succeed and win without Lynch in the lineup.  Put it this way, when Lynch had 20 or more carries the Seahawks were 5-2, under 20 carries 2-7, obviously, Seattle needs to continue to feed the "beast" if they want to win.

2.Tarvaris Jackson and Charlie Whitehurst Are Not the Answer: This I realize is a bold statement.  Some of you may vehemently disagree with this, which I understand completely.  The Seahawks have Jackson signed to next year, in which he will make about 4 million bucks. However, the 4-million dollar man this last season threw 13 touchdowns and 14 interceptions while getting sacked 42 times.  He also displayed his inability to read defenses successfully, scrambling too quickly and the inability to convert third-and-long multiple times.  You can argue that last season was Jackson's first year as a real starter, but just watching his play has led me to believe he's nothing more than a suitable backup.  Whitehurst is completely frustrating to watch and should be a welcome departure as this last season was in the final year of his contract, which will actually free up 4 million dollars (you did read that correctly, Whitehurst was making 4 million). 

I know what you are thinking (maybe) who's going to play quarterback?  There's a guy in Green Bay named Matt Flynn who looks awfully impressive.  Despite only starting two games and going 1-1 he looked like a professional NFL quarterback.  He has confidence, a strong and accurate arm and looks like he has the ability to be a true leader on the field.   The inability to convert third-and-long last year killed a lot of Sehawk drives, it seemed that if Lynch couldn't get it on second down or third-and-short, it wasn't going to happen.  Flynn will give you that opportunity, and he won't cost the Seahawks an arm and a leg.  

Now the argument can be made that Flynn has only played two games and that's not enough experience, what if he turns out to be Matt Cassel?  You're right he could, but I'm willing to put money down that he is a better option than Jackson or Whitehurst, come to think of it, Cassel is a better option than Jackson or Whitehurst.  You can argue that Seattle has already invested too much money to have Jackson sit on the bench, my thought process on that is, you are never pot committed, you can always get out.  

The Seahawks could always draft a quarterback, but like I said, the focus should be win now.  With a rookie quarterback you take the chance of having to develop him, and you shouldn't be developing a quarterback when you are trying to make a run at the Playoffs. Plus with the 11th or 12th pick in the Draft (depending on the coin flip with Kansas City), there's really no one way that Robert Griffin III falls that far.  Even if he does you always run the risk of either getting an Andy Dalton or a Blaine Gabbert. The smart money is to let Whitehurst find a new home, sign Matt Flynn, stick Jackson as the backup and draft a quarterback late in the Draft as the eventual backup to Flynn. 

3.Draft A Pass Rusher:  The Seahawks' defense was great last year finishing in the top 10 of the NFL.  They were adequate at stopping the run thanks to David Hawthorne who led the team with 115 tackles   They were also fantastic in the secondary picking off 14 passes led by a surprising Brandon Browner who picked off six of the 14.  However, one area that lacked was pass rush.  The Seahawks had 33 total sacks in 2011, 11 of them (that's 1/3 for you math geeks) was by Chris Clemons (not a household name yet). Leroy Hill finished second on the team in sacks with four.  This is quite distressing.  Clemons has proven he is a force, but to continue he is going to need help, otherwise teams will scheme to focus block on Clemons and not have to worry about anyone else knocking the quarterback over (just look at Clay Matthews production in Green Bay this season).

Drafting would be the safer route as opposed to paying out big money for free agents.  Mario Williams hits the free agent market this season, and is considered to be the No. 1 defensive end on the market.   He could get huge Julius Peppers money, but I think (and I am more than likely wrong) that he will stay with the Texans.  

Plus there are some pretty good Draft options at the spot where Seattle is at. At defensive end, I like Whitney Marcilus from Illinois.  He had 16 sacks last season which tied a Fighting Illini record for most in a single season.  He also forced nine fumbles which broke not only school but Big Ten records.  He has the ability to play both inside and outside and is a tenacious pass rusher, reminiscent of Justin Tuck.  Otherwise, Nick Perry looks to be an obvious choice.  Mainly because Pete Carroll recruited him when he was at USC.  Perry did lead the Pac-12 in sacks with 9.5, however he seems a little undersized and may end up moving to outside linebacker, which still may work  

If they went for an inside pass rusher, Michael Brockers form LSU or Fletcher Cox from Mississippi State are attractive options.  Both are raw players but Brockers is an excellent run defender with pass rush ability, while Cox is an extremely versatile lineman who can play any technique and is difficult to block.

Either of these four player would help the Seahawks tremendously in the pass rush department.  In my opinion Marcilus is the most attractive option if he is still there. He's a risk/reward type of situation, he could be a J.J Watt or a Jamal Renyolds. However, Perry being one of Carroll's former boys may end up the most obvious choice.

 4. Re-sign David Hawthorne: They are going to have to pony up and pay Hawthorne.  As mentioned earlier he led the team in tackles this last season with 115, third year in a row he has led the team in tackles.  He has also posted over 100 tackles in the last three seasons.  Hawthorne has been one of the most consistent defenders for the Seahawks, and they have been getting him at a discount, only 1.7 million this last season. Hawthorne is a cornerstone of the defense, and at the age of 26 and in his prime, he should have another seven seasons left in him.  Hawthorne would be totally justifiable to sign to a long-term deal, either five or six years.  It would shore up the middle of the defense and give Seattle a load off of their minds for next half a decade.  Hawthorne might not be the best middle linebacker in the NFC or the most feared, but he is for sure one of the most consistent, and should be an important part of the Seattle defense for years to come.

5.Get a Play-making Wide Receiver: This might be the most difficult thing to accomplish, but it's going to have to happen.  It's difficult because if they re-sign Lynch, sign Matt Flynn, re-sign Hawthorne and use their first round pick on a defensive lineman, that's a lot of money that's clearly not available anymore.  But the receiving corps that the Seahawks have trotted out onto the field in 2011 were not spectacular.  For one, undrafted rookie out of Stanford, Doug Baldwin, was the team's leading receiver with 51 receptions and 788 yards with four touchdowns.  Sidney Rice was brought in to be the main main last season, hoping he could duplicate his 2009 performance of over 1,400 receiving yards.  However, injuries (which seems to happen to him every year) caused him to miss the final five games of the season.  Rice only had two 100-yard receiving games and only three games where he caught more than three passes.

The reason for the lack of production from the wideout spot was partially because of bad quarterback play, but mainly because there are no real threats to worry about.  Seattle will either have to sign a mid to upper-tier wide receiver or hope to get lucky and draft a good one in the second round.  If they go through free-agency DeSean Jackson from the Eagles may be a nice fit.  He could provide Seattle with a dangerous deep threat and take loads of pressure off Rice, Golden Tate and second-leading receiver Ben Obomanu (Baldwin is a free agent so who knows where he will end up).  He does carry an attitude with him which you would have to be prepared for, but because he didn't have a great final year of his contract, he might be willing to lower his asking price.

If Indianapolis cleans house, Reggie Wayne or Anthony Gonzalez might be great options.  Wayne is towards the end of his career, but if Manning goes Wayne might follow.  Gonzalez may be tired of playing second or third fiddle, (depending on how you view the order of the Colts receiving corps) and could be looking for a fresh start.

One option I think is highly doable is Harry Douglas from Atlanta.  Terrific No. 3 receiver and when Julio Jones went down, he showed he was a very capable No. 2 guy that could both open the other receivers up to make big plays, or he could make the big play if left to exploit a match-up.

This is of course if these guys don't re-sign with their respective teams.  The other option is the Draft.  It is unlikely but Seattle could pray that Kendal Wright from Baylor drops into the second round.  Wright is a speedster and legit vertical threat.  Mohamed Sanu from Rutgers could be a dark-horse that could fall to the second round.  Sanu is not the fastest guy in the world but is extremely strong at 6'2 and 215lbs, and has awesome hands.  He is also a phenomenal blocker that could immediately help in the Seattle running game.   This would be my choice, but who knows if he falls into the second round?  But one thing is clear, Seattle will need big play wide receivers if they are going to make a push into next season's Playoffs.

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