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NFC West Draft Needs: Seattle Seahawks

OVERVIEW

The Seahawks are entering a new era under head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider. The franchise wiped the slate clean by firing previous head coach Jim Mora and the general manager who hand-picked him, Tim Ruskell. Now, Carroll and Schneider are assigned the task of rebuilding a roster that is one of the league's most talent-depleted units. Even Seattle's 5-11 finish is misleading considering the team has the luxury of playing the St. Louis Rams twice a year and ended up losing to the 3-13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers at home late in the season. Returning the Seahawks to greatness will be no easy task for the new front office, but the path to rebuilding starts with the draft.

Seattle will have two first-round picks after acquiring the Denver Broncos' top selection during the 2009 draft. They will make nine choices spread over every round with exception to the third. They currently hold picks 6, 14, 60, 104, 127, 133, 139, 176 and 245.

The top need on the priority list is finding an heir apparent to surefire Hall of Fame left tackle Walter Jones. The protection on the left side was horrid last season and Seattle ranked 23rd allowing 41 sacks. Jones has talked about returning in 2010, but can't be relied on at 36 years old and coming off of two knee surgeries. The Seahawks passed on drafting a tackle last April, but could opt to select one of the elite prospects with one of their first-round picks. Help is also needed on the inside. Starting left guard Rob Sims was traded to Detroit in the offseason and second-year center Max Unger looks like the only promising player in the group.

The Seahawks desperately need to upgrade the skill positions. There are no dynamic threats at receiver. T.J. Houshmandzadeh is the best of the group, but isn't a real game-breaker. Nate Burleson signed with Detroit after the team declined to re-sign him. Deion Branch has been a major disappointment since coming from the Patriots and struggles to stay healthy. Deon Butler was drafted in the third-round last April, but did little as a rookie outside of running deep. Seattle needs a playmaker in the receiving corps.

Running back is an issue as well. Julius Jones is no more than an average back and gained just 3.7 yards per carry last season. Justin Forsett looks like the most promising of the group, but is too small to be used in a feature role. Quinton Ganther was signed in the offseason, but averaged just 3.2 yards per carry with the Redskins last year. The rushing attack should see a natural improvement under zone-blocking guru Alex Gibbs, but a talented runner is a desperate need.

The Seahawks need help at every defensive position besides linebacker. The most glaring need is at safety, as no one on the current roster is a capable starter. Deon Grant was their best performer in the secondary and tied for the team lead with three interceptions, but was cut in the offseason. Jordan Babineaux is a decent situational player, but isn't a legitimate starter. That leaves Roy Lewis and Jamar Adams, two third-year players who have never started a game. The Seahawks need a ball hawking safety to ease the pain of unit that recorded just 13 interceptions last season.

After ranking dead last against the pass in 2008 and 30th in 2009, Seattle needs to find a talented cornerback. Marcus Trufant returned from a back injury in week eight but struggled as he led the league with eight defensive penalties. Kelly Jennings has proven time and again that he is too small to match up with the big receivers of the league. Josh Wilson is opportunistic, but also lacks size and would be better in a nickel role. Talented corners are needed more than ever coming off a season that set records for most players with 4,000 or more passing yards and 25 or more touchdown passes.

Along the defensive front, Seattle will employ a new scheme similar to what Carroll ran at USC. They will feature two defensive tackles, a standard defensive end and a fourth pass rusher that lines up where another defensive end normally would, but won't put his hand on the ground. The position is referred to as the "elephant" and may be filled by Aaron Curry, Nick Reed or the newly acquired Chris Clemons. The Seahawks tallied the fifth-lowest number of sacks in 2009 and are desperate for a pass rusher no matter where he lines up. Patrick Kerney's five sacks were a team high last season. Even worse, Kerney retired in the offseason. Lawrence Jackson has shown little in two seasons and is bordering on being labeled a bust. The team added a few potential ends in Robert Henderson and CFL-star Rickey Foley, but Seattle should be in the market for an elite edge rusher. On the interior, Colin Cole and Brandon Mebane are decent players but more depth is needed. Mebane finished with one sack after leading the team with 5.5 a season ago. The backups are Craig Terrill and Red Bryant. Terrill is a decent situational player, but Red Bryant has done nothing to warrant more playing time.

OFFSEASON REPORT

FRANCHISE PLAYER: K Olindo Mare (franchised at $2.814M and signed)

TRANSITION PLAYER: None.

UNRESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: WR Nate Burleson (wasn't re-signed), DE Cory Redding (wasn't re-signed), LB D.D. Lewis (wasn't re-signed), K Olindo Mare (franchised), S Lawyer Milloy (wasn't re-signed), CB Ken Lucas (wasn't re-signed), T Damion McIntosh (wasn't re-signed), FB Justin Griffith (wasn't re-signed), LS Kevin Houser (wasn't re-signed), LS Jeff Robinson (wasn't re-signed)

RESTRICTED FREE AGENTS: C Chris Spencer (received original-round tender at $1.226M and signed), Darryl Tapp (received original-round tender at $1.176M and signed, traded to Philadelphia), G Rob Sims (received original-round tender at $1.176M and signed, traded to Detroit), WR Ben Obomanu (received original-round tender at $1.101M and signed), T Brandon Frye (wasn't tendered), LB Lance Laury (wasn't tendered)

EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS FREE AGENTS: LB David Hawthorne (tendered and signed)

PLAYERS RE-SIGNED: P Jon Ryan (re-signed for six-years at $9.1M), QB Charlie Whitehurst (signed for two-years at $8M), K Olindo Mare, C Chris Spencer, WR Ben Obomanu, LB David Hawthorner

PLAYERS ACQUIRED: TE Chris Baker (signed for two-years at $4.75M), WR Ruvell Martin (signed for one-year), LB Rickey Foley (CFL), DT Patrick MacDonald, P Tom Malone, Charlie Whitehurst (via trade with San Diego), DE Chris Clemons (via trade with Philadelphia), RB Quinton Ganther (signed for one-year), WR Sean Morey, DE Robert Henderson (via trade with Detroit), FB Ryan Powdrell, WR Mike Williams, CB Kennard Cox, G Mitch Erickson, WR Reggie Williams, LB Matt McCoy (signed for one-year)

PLAYERS LOST: S Deon Grant (signed with New York Giants), DE Matt Overton, RB Xavier Omon, TE John Owens, DE Patrick Kerney (retired), Darryl Tapp (via trade with Philadelphia), G Rob Sims (via trade with Detroit), WR Nate Burleson (signed with Detroit), DE Cory Redding (signed with Baltimore), LB D.D. Lewis, S Lawyer Milloy, CB Ken Lucas, T Damion McIntosh, FB Justin Griffith, LS Kevin Houser, LS Jeff Robinson, T Brandon Frye, LB Lance Laury (signed with New York Jets)

DRAFT NEEDS

LEFT TACKLE -- Seattle passed on drafting a replacement for Walter Jones last season and paid the price. Seahawks quarterbacks were pummeled at times and the protection on the left side was atrocious. The team can't afford to pass on a left tackle again this season, and will more than likely select one with one of their top three picks.

SAFETY -- No one on the current roster is a capable starter. Deon Grant was released and Jordan Babineaux is no more than a package player. The Seahawks need a major upgrade at safety and could use multiple bodies.

WIDE RECEIVER -- Seattle spent good money on T.J. Houshmandzadeh last offseason and needs a playmaker opposite him to take full advantage of his ability. Deion Branch has been a bust since Seattle sent a first-round pick to New England in exchange for him. Deon Butler is a burner but rarely saw action as a rookie. When he did make it into the game, all Butler was asked to do was run straight. The Seahawks need to upgrade their weapons with a playmaking receiver.

CORNERBACK -- Marcus Trufant struggled when he returned from a back injury last season and was always better as a No. 2 corner anyways. Kelly Jennings is constantly outmuscled for receptions. Josh Wilson is opportunistic and can make plays, but he lacks size and would be better as a nickel back. Getting a shutdown corner in a division that features Larry Fitzgerald, Steve Breaston and Michael Crabtree would not be a bad investment.

DEFENSIVE END -- Lawrence Jackson will get a chance to start at end, but so far he has been a disappointment. This team needs to get a lot more pressure on the quarterback. Some added pressure may come from the new "elephant" spot, but a quality end who can rush off the edge is needed.

RUNNING BACK -- Julius Jones continued his mediocre play last season as he averaged 3.7 yards per carry. Justin Forsett flashes potential, but isn't a feature back. Seattle needs to add a dynamic running back, but may not address it until later in the draft.

OFFENSIVE GUARD -- Rob Sims was traded to Detroit in the offseason and Mike Gibson was listed as the top left guard at the team's recent minicamp. Gibson has played in just three games and has never started a contest. Seattle desperately needs to sure up their left side at guard and tackle.

DEFENSIVE TACKLE -- Colin Cole is average as a starter. Brandon Mebane showed a lot of promise in his first two seasons but took a step back last year. More depth is needed at this position to push the starters.