DRAFT REVIEW: The Seahawks failed to accomplish their primary goal in the draft. That doesn't mean their efforts were wasted, only that Seattle emerged from the draft without the impact pass rusher the team wanted desperately to land. "It wasn't a flashy, media kind of draft," new president Tim Ruskell said, "but these were building-block guys, high-character guys that are going to come in here and work hard, compete for positions, help this team."
Seattle tried feverishly to trade up from the No. 23 spot in the first round. The price of poker was too high, however, and Ruskell simply wasn't willing to part with a second-round choice, among other considerations. That left the team without an elite pass rusher to choose from at No. 23, leading the Seahawks to move back three spots and draft Mississippi C Chris Spencer.
The Seahawks entered the draft with extra picks in the third and fourth rounds. Trading partners were unimpressed.
New Orleans was able to move up three spots to No. 13, but Seattle was in a much tougher spot holding the 23rd pick. After the Saints chose an offensive lineman, Seattle watched five pass rushers come off the board over the next seven picks. The Seahawks wanted Troy State's Demarcus Ware, Georgia's Thomas Davis and Wisconsin's Erasmus James. "Those were the targeted guys in the league," Ruskell said. "You knew they were going to run out at a certain number. Would that number be before No. 23 or would that number be after No. 23? It was before No. 23 and that's just the hand we're dealt. We tried to move up and it didn't happen, so we took the guy that best suited us. That's just the way it went and we're happy with the guy we got."
In Spencer, the Seahawks found their long-term successor to 35-year-old starter Robbie Tobeck. Seattle thinks Spencer has the tools to be a 10-year starter with Pro Bowl potential. The team also likes the mean streak that will help Spencer fit into a line already featuring tough-guy LG Steve Hutchinson.
Given so many defensive needs, however, the Seahawks surprised a lot of people by drafting for offense with two of their first three picks. Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes, while admitting disappointment over the team's inability to move up in the first round, spoke glowingly of second-round pick Lofa Tatupu, the MLB from USC. Rhodes had the inside track on Tatupu because USC's LB coach is former 49ers LB Ken Norton Jr. Seattle expects Tatupu to challenge for playing time right away. The team already has LB Jamie Sharper, who played the middle for Houston the last three years. But Sharper can play all three positions, freeing up a spot for Tatupu if the rookie wins the job right away.
Seattle also picked up Georgia QB David Greene and Clemson OLB LeRoy Hill in the third round; Florida State OT Ray Willis in the fourth; Arkansas DE Jeb Huckeba in the sixth; and Alabama MLB Cornelius Wortham and Oregon State OL Doug Nienhuis in the seventh round.
Ruskell wasn't lying before the draft when he downplayed the importance of drafting for defense.
"You all know the success ratio of the rookies -- it's not great initially," he said last week. "So if we're going to get better next year, it's probably not going to be from these guys. They're going to fill some roles and do some things on special teams, but to have an immediate impact, that's rare. A lot of what we're going to try to do with our defense is going to be an attitude adjustment. We've done that, I think, with some of the people that we've brought in, with the participation we're seeing in the offseason program, with the enthusiasm of those coaches. I think we're already starting to see that. That will play a bigger role in the improvement of the defense than who we might draft - initially, right off the bat."
BEST PICK: Spencer. The team's failure to land a pass rusher can't be held against this rock-solid interior lineman. Spencer has the ability to play all three positions inside. He'll be anchoring the line by 2006, if not sooner, and should enjoy a long run as a starter.
COULD SURPRISE: Willis. Seattle isn't worried about the shoulder problems that sent this massive tackle tumbling into the fourth round. They see him as a potential starting RT with a world-class mean streak and plenty of talent. He'll challenge for a starting spot right away.
A closer look at the Seahawks' picks:
Round 1/26 -- Chris Spencer, C, 6-3, 309, Mississippi. He'll get plenty of grooming from classy veteran mainstays Robbie Tobeck and Chris Gray. Tobeck will fight hard for the starting job and he's the favorite for 2005, but Spencer won't be far behind.
Round 2/45 -- Lofa Tatupu, MLB, 6-0, 238, USC. Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes knew all about Tatupu from his conversations with the junior-eligible's position coach, Ken Norton Jr. Rhodes thinks Tatupu can contribute quickly and Seattle will need him to do just that. "The thing that jumped out on film is that he is very instinctive, he understood the game extremely well," Rhodes said.
Round 3/85 -- David Greene, QB, 6-3, 226, Georgia. This marks the third consecutive year that Tim Ruskell has drafted a backup QB in the third round. Seattle's new president did the same thing while with Atlanta (Matt Schaub, 2004) and Tampa Bay (Chris Simms, 2005). Greene will battle for the No. 2 job unless Seattle signs a veteran.
Round 3/98 -- LeRoy Hill, OLB, 6-1, 229, Clemson. Seattle envisions Hill emerging as a threat on the weak side. The team likes his pass-rush potential, which Hill flashed while collecting 16 sacks over his final two seasons at Clemson.
Round 4/105 -- Ray Willis, OT, 6-6, 327, Florida State. The Seahawks view Willis as a starting-caliber talent. They aren't particularly worried about a history of shoulder trouble. Willis will compete for playing time at right tackle.
Round 5/159 -- Jeb Huckeba, DE, 6-4, 252, Arkansas. Some scouts projected Huckeba as an outside LB in the 3-4, but Seattle sees him as a DE all the way. Huckeba came to Arkansas as a 210-pound former receiver. He played linebacker for two years and more recently emerged as a promising pass-rush threat as a DE.
Round 6/196 -- Tony Jackson, FB, 6-2, 266, Iowa. Seattle needs to line up a replacement for aging FB Mack Strong. Jackson will compete with as-yet-unsigned free agents, and also injury-prone FB Chris Davis. Jackson played tight end in college.
Round 7/235 -- Cornelius Wortham, LB, 6-1, 236, Alabama. Seattle doesn't have much depth at linebacker, but the odds seem long for this undersized prospect.
Round 7/254 -- Doug Nienhuis, G, 6-6, 307, Oregon State. The Seahawks have lots of depth on the offensive line. Nienhuis could have a very difficult time winning a roster spot.
--The release of LB Chad Brown went almost unnoticed amid a flurry of activity late last week. Seattle will miss what he brought in terms of energy and pass rush, but injuries had prevented Brown from playing at a high level consistently. "He's been a great person and a great guy in the community and been a great player," Seahawks president Tim Ruskell said. "But we've got to do what's best for the team and we've got to get better. We talked about being 26th (on defense in 2004). We've got to get better. He's a proud player and been a good player." The Denver Broncos and Green Bay Packers are looking at signing the 34-year-old linebacker.
--Signing WR Jerome Pathon gives Seattle 11 receivers heading into minicamps. The 29-year-old veteran also provides a measure of insurance for WR Koren Robinson, whose off-field problems have raised concerns. By adding Pathon and WR Joe Jurevicius, Seattle now has six receivers with at least four years of NFL experience.
--Seattle remedied its situation at cornerback by agreeing to terms with former Titans CB Andre Dyson just before the draft. The team had already signed RFA CB Kelly Herndon from the Broncos. "Dyson started since he walked into Tennessee, and he's a good cover guy," defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes said. "Kelly Herndon, the last couple of years he has started, and he has played well for Denver and made plays for them. Both are pretty aggressive players."
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Quite naturally, we tried to address it earlier in the draft, but no one would let us move (up in the first round)." -- Defensive coordinator Ray Rhodes on not drafting a DE until the fifth round.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
--RB Shaun Alexander (tendered at $6.323M - tender not signed).
TRANSITION PLAYER: None.
UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--QB Brock Huard is looking like the fourth-best option on a team that keeps three passers.
--LB Curtis Randall (not tendered as ERFA).
--P Ken Walter performed poorly last season and won't be back unless Seattle suffers through more problems at the position.
RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS
--DT Rocky Bernard (tendered at $656,000 with 5th-round pick as compensation) shows pass-rush potential but hasn't been very consistent.
EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: None.
--WR Alex Bannister: UFA; $4M/4 yrs, $1M SB.
--SS Terreal Bierria: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--RB Kerry Carter: Potential ERFA; $380,000/1 yr.
--OG Chris Gray: UFA; terms unknown.
--TE Ryan Hannam: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--QB Matt Hasselbeck: $49.4M/6 yrs, $16M SB, $1M roster bonus..
--LT Walter Jones: UFA; $52.5M/7 yrs, $16M SB; 2005 cap: $4.9M.
--S Marquand Manuel; RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--TE Itula Mili: UFA; $6M/4 yrs, $1.5M SB; 2005 cap: $1.175M.
--CB Kris Richard: RFA; $656,000/1 yr.
--DE Ron Smith: $305,000/1 yr.
--C Robbie Tobeck: UFA; $1.785M/2 yrs, $250,000 SB; 2005 cap: $890,000.
--WR Jerheme Urban: $305,000/1 yr.
--WR Jason Willis: $305,000/1 yr.
--OL Floyd Womack: UFA; $5M/2 yrs, $2M SB; 2005 cap: $2M.
--P Leo Araguz (FA; terms unknown).
--LB Kevin Bentley: UFA (not tendered as RFA by Browns); $650,000/1 yr, $150,000 SB.
--DT Chartric Darby: UFA Buccaneers; $3M/3 yrs, $800,000 SB.
--CB Andre Dyson: UFA Titans; $17.5M/5 yrs, $3M SB.
--DE Bryce Fisher: UFA Rams; $10M/4 yrs, SB unknown.
--CB Kelly Herndon: RFA Broncos; $15M/5 yrs, $3.6M SB.
--WR Joe Jurevicius: FA Buccaneers; 1 yr, terms unknown.
--WR Jerome Pathon: FA Saints; 3 yrs, terms unknown.
--LB Jamie Sharper: FA Texans; $17.5M/5 yrs, $1.5M SB.
--LB Chad Brown (released).
--FB Heath Evans: UFA Dolphins; $540,000/1 yr.
--MLB Orlando Huff: UFA Cardinals; $2M/2 yrs, $400,000 SB.
--CB Ken Lucas: UFA Panthers; $36M/6 yrs, $13M bonuses.
--DE Brandon Mitchell: UFA Falcons; terms unknown.
--DE Chike Okeafor: UFA Cardinals; $25M/5 yrs, SB unknown.
--WR Jerry Rice (released).
--S Damien Robinson (released; failed physical/shoulder).
--P Tom Rouen: UFA Panthers; terms unknown.
--LB Anthony Simmons (released; failed physical/wrist).
--OT Chris Terry (released/failed physical).