The NFL Combine in Indianapolis provided the first chance to hear from Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider since significant changes were made to the team's coaching staff in January.
In total, the Seahawks have eight coaches not returning to the staff next season - including each of Carroll's top four assistants from last season - six new coaches on staff and three coaches changing roles for 2018.
There's a real possibility that the player roster will experience a pretty significant upheaval this offseason as well. Seattle's defense, which has been a massive part of the team's success over the last many years, is getting older and faces several question marks moving forward.
Carroll and Schneider spoke about the offseason to date and some of the views for the team's future over the last two days. Here are some of the highlights.
1. Carroll: "I just felt it was time" to make changes to coaching staff
Darrell Bevell, Tom Cable, Kris Richard, Michael Barrow, Dwaine Board, Travis Jones, Heath Farwell and Ricky Manning Jr. are all out. Brian Schottenheimer, Mike Solari, Ken Norton Jr., Jethro Franklin, Larry Izzo and Steve Shimko are in, and Carl Smith, Dave Canales and Nate Carroll all have new roles this season.
It's the most significant turnover experienced on Seattle's coaching staff since Carroll took the reins as head coach in 2010. While some coaches have left for other jobs and Carroll has made the occasional change to the staff through the years, nothing has come close to matching the upheaval experienced this winter.
Carroll said Thursday it was just time for change.
“Wanted to make sure to challenge the opportunity to get better,” Carroll said. “Wanted to find ways to make… and there was some tough decisions here to get that done, but I wanted to work at changing just kind of the approach to it so that maybe we can find our ways and maybe some newness to uncover. It was difficult to make those choices, because the guys that left we have done so much together and worked together in great fashion. But I just felt it was time. It really just comes back to competing and just trying to find a way to get a little better. That’s why we made those choices.”
The team hired Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator and Mike Solari as the offensive line coach. Ken Norton Jr. returns to the team to take over as defensive coordinator after three years with the Oakland Raiders. The team also hired Jethro Franklin as assistant defensive line coach, Larry Izzo as assistant special teams coach and Steve Shimko as an offensive assistant.
Seattle also moved Carl Smith from quarterbacks coach to associate head coach, moved Dave Canales from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, and promoted Nate Carroll to wide receivers coach from the assistant position.
“I’m really excited about the guys that are here and how it’s working out so far,” Carroll said. “We are seeing the new energy. I am energized by it. The whole group is. And we are looking forward to working to see how it’s going to turn out.”
2. Report: Michael Bennett being floated in trade discussions.
Brady Henderson of ESPN.com reported on Thursday that the Seahawks are shopping defensive end Michael Bennett in trade talks while at the NFL Combine.
Bennett, 32, had 8.5 sacks last season with Seattle but saw his production wane later in the season as he was playing through plantar fasciitis in his foot.
The Seahawks would save approximately $2.2 million against their salary cap by trading or releasing Bennett, who signed a three-year extension with the team in December 2016.
Carroll didn't have much to say regarding Bennett on Thursday.
"I haven’t talked to Mike in a while now but it’s the time of year, conversations going in all directions," he said.
Frequently when reports of a team trying to trade a player surface it can tend to be a precursor to an outright release of the player. While it's not an absolute indication of the player's status, it can be a fairly reliable data point. That could ultimately be Bennett's face is a trade partner isn't found.
Bennett is reportedly due a $3 million roster bonus on March 18, which is four days after the start of free agency. Any decision on Bennett, via trade or release, will likely occur before that bonus can go into effect.
"We don’t get into people’s contracts but I understand why that’s out there," Schneider said. " ... We’re just constantly talking to people all the time. Part of our challenge right now is --- how do I say this appropriately? – is sustaining our level of success that we’ve had, and we’re just open to anything.”
Schneider also said no one on their roster is untouchable at this point.
"I told you guys this when we got here in 2010, we’re going to be in every deal and you want to be able to walk away," he said. "You don’t want to miss any opportunity and that’s how we built this thing and that’s how we’re going to continue to build it. Now, do we have some challenges this year? Absolutely. We’re pretty disappointed the way the season ended. We went 9-7 and you would have thought that we won two games. It’s a pit that sits in your stomach and really fuels ya. We’re excited about the challenges ahead because we feel like we want to get rolling on this thing."
3. Injury updates on Richard Sherman, Malik McDowell, George Fant and others.
Carroll said cornerback Richard Sherman had his second surgery on his other leg after sufficiently healing from his first surgery to repair is ruptured Achilles in November.
"He is doing well he just had his second surgery on the other side, which was a much more minor surgery, just cleanup but also in his Achilles," Carroll said. "Very positive, he’s had a seemingly great process up until now. It’s a bit of a setback for a couple of weeks now because he is in the boot on the other foot but he is not slowing down he is working like crazy. He is having a fantastic off season his mentality is good. He’s competing like crazy right now."
The surgery wasn't to fix his Achilles in his other leg. It was to address bone spurs that had caused discomfort in the area of his Achilles recently.
Carroll said there is no new updates on Cliff Avril, Kam Chancellor or Malik McDowell at this point.
(on Avril and Chancellor) "Those guys are still in process and we are waiting for the word where they have their stations along the way where they check in with the docs and all that. Really holding out hope that things work out."
(on McDowell) "Nothing new. Same kind of thing. He’s got a process he is going through, we get information rarely in his case but there will be a time when you will hear more. Don’t have much for you now, sorry."
McDowell recently posted a video on his instagram account saying he's feeling better. However, there still appears to be a way to go to return from injuries sustained in an ATV accident last July.
Tackle George Fant is also making progress from his torn ACL.
"He’s having a great offseason, seeing him almost every day as he runs through the building working out and, he’s really excited about it and we’ll see how far he can take it," Carroll said. "George was just on the rise and just coming and he had a tremendous start to last season and we were really excited about him. We’ll just see where that fits together."
4. Likely no franchise tag coming for Sheldon Richardson, though Seahawks hope to keep him.
Schneider said on Friday that the team would not being using the franchise tag "at this point" on defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson.
However, that doesn't mean the Seahawks don't want him as a part of their team going forward.
"We’d love to re-sign him," Schneider said.
The injuries to McDowell prior to training camp last year led to the team trading for Richardson before the start of the regular season. With questions still hanging over McDowell's availability moving forward, the desire to keep Richardson remains a big piece of Seattle's offseason puzzle.
"He’s a really good ball player, really instinctive, he’s really tough," Carroll said. "Has a knack for being around the ball. He caused a lot of good stuff that happened for us last year when he didn’t necessarily get the recorded sack and all but forced turnovers, turned the ball over got the ball himself. A good football player.
5. Schneider wants competition to ramp up again.
One of the more interesting comments Schneider made was regarding the mentality of young players that have joined the roster in recent years.
It has been hard for young players to crack the starting lineup on defense due to the presence of Pro Bowl level talent in all three layers of the defense.
“It has been hard for these guys to get out there, especially on defense,” Schneider said. “We put guys out there right away, particularly on defense. Look, Earl played right away. Sherm played right away. Maxie (Byron Maxwell) would have played right away if he hadn't gotten injured right away. Bobby (Wagner) played right away. K.J. (Wright). Those guys went, ‘OK, here we go.’ And so it's kind of a challenge and a mindset to get back to doing that—OK, let's go. Let's get these guys out there.
"Pete and I talk about it all the time—no one's talking about Delano (Hill) or (Tedric) Thompson. Those guys are good football players. … But it's been hard for those guys to get out there."
However, Schneider also said the young players they bring in haven't always had the correct mentality of how to go about their roles on the team.
“You are getting to the point where we are interviewing these guys at the combine or you are at the school interviewing them, and they are thinking to themselves 'Wow, I get to play with Kam Chancellor?' No, you get to compete with Kam Chancellor. That's the mindset we have to get back to. They are a little bit in awe, you know?”
Photo Credit: SEATTLE, WA - DECEMBER 31: Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll walks the sidelines before the game against the Arizona Cardinals at CenturyLink Field on December 31, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr /Getty Images)