Saturday, July 30, 2011
Grading Seattle's Free Agency: Offense
Signing the former Minnesota backup isn't exactly a coup in and of itself. Despite his tools, starting experience, and spotty handling by Brad Childress, the fact is that Jackson struggled in Minnesota despite being protected by an awesome offense. He's a popular example of how a good team doesn't necessarily elevate a bad QB.
But the signing looks better when you compare it against the other options. Seattle could have overpaid for Kevin Kolb, risked Vince Young, courted the Carroll-misfit Kyle Orton, or become the next victim of Donovan McNabb. Instead, they went for the best combination of value, experience, cost, and system familiarity in Tarvaris Jackson. His 2-year, $8 million contract leaves Seattle free to keep looking without settling for Derek Anderson-type ineptitude in the present. Jackson should be a little better than that.
I am a little surprised that Carroll just up and handed Jackson the starting spot based on system familiarity. But it's not as if Charlie Whitehurst was likely to pick up the new system with such a short time to practice. Call it "lockout fallout". Hee hee.
So much for Schneider's reputation of avoiding free agency, eh? After chasing but ultimately abandoning Brandon Marshall and Vincent Jackson, Seattle finally has their big-play guy.
Whenever I investigate a new free agent, one thing I'll often do is browse forums of his old team to get a feel for popular opinion of him. Fans aren't always the best source of objective analysis, but neither are they completely worthless. There's always smart guys mixed in. (Hint: If you want to stand out amongst the rabble and noise of an NFL forum, at least use good capitalization and punctuation. And don't speak in empty, simplistic absolutes like "OMG that guy sux, good riddance".)
Anyway, the debate over Rice amongst Vikings fans seems to boil down to one of two things: 1. he's fragile, and 2. did he make Brett Favre in 2009, or did Favre make him? There's a distinct "sour grapes" feel to the proceedings, so that tells us something. Rice passed his physical. Favre declined without him. He's got all the tools, including the intangibles, to be a deep threat. And the tape shows him being one.
My take: Seattle wins. Good QB's elevate bad WR's much more than vice versa, but Rice has the potential to make life at least a little easier for the offense. His deep speed and reliable catching will keep defenses honest instead of letting them stack the LOS and apply undue pressure on Jackson and the O-line. Mike Williams and the other receivers will see less coverage as well. Good receivers commonly create this kind of upward spiral effect.
That spiral won't be fully realized in Seattle until a true QB comes along, of course. But Rice's youth and his history with Seahawks (and formerly Vikings) OC Darrell Bevell give the team some time to find one. This is an excellent signing.
Gallery was a bust at left tackle in Oakland before he revived his career by moving inside to guard. It's one of the O-line revolutions commonly credited to Tom Cable, who's now flogging Seattle's O-line to greater heights. His experience will be welcome on this wet-behind-the-ears line, as will the strength and mobility that make him a solid run blocker. His pass protection is iffy though improving, but with mobile QB's now playing in Seattle, that's slightly less of a concern.
For those with visions of Mike Wahle and Ben Hamilton dancing in their heads, fear not. Gallery is younger, healthier, and cheaper than either of those guys were when signed. His contract is for a modest three years. Overall, the team most likely stands to improve from this.
Quality depth at multiple positions. Carroll and Schneider are better at every imaginable aspect of O-line stewardship than Tim Ruskell ever was. And anyone willing to race 67 yards downfield and block for a running back is a winner in my book.
Michael Robinson (#26): B
I wouldn't assume that Robinson is meant to be the primary fullback. Another could easily be signed (Vonta Leach has been named as a candidate). In the meantime, however, Seattle has retained Robinson's vastly underrated blocking, special-teams prowess, and veteran leadership. Good move.
Matt Hasselbeck (to Titans): B+
John Schneider's recent comments indicate that allowing Hasselbeck to walk in free agency was not done lightly. I'm glad they appreciated the gravity of losing the face of the franchise and the experience and familiarity that came with him. I do think there were worse QB options than keeping Hasselbeck.
But still, it shows that Carroll and Schneider are able to make the tough business calls that reflect a good NFL franchise. That encourages me more than anything else I've seen from this front office. It sucks that it came at Matt's expense, but for me it was never about Matt. It was about moving forward.
Stacy Andrews (cut): B
I was still thinking that Andrews might provide good competition at the right tackle spot, where he started his career fairly well. Perhaps his decline is absolute, rather than position-related. Or maybe he was just too expensive, I dunno. I suppose Ray Willis becomes depth now. At least we'll have fewer dumb red zone penalties.
Chris White (cut): I
I don't know who this guy is.
Next time, the exciting conclusion: defense and special teams!