State of the Franchise
Whether the Percy Harvin trade is the most significant in Seahawks' history ultimately will be defined by what the team accomplishes the next few years. But it's already significant enough to make the team a legitimate title contender for the first time in a long while.
Despite coming within a half a minute of the NFC Championship Game last season, the Seahawks didn't have a championship roster. The front office, to its credit, didn't let a surprisingly successful 2012 campaign delude it into ignoring the significant need for one more playmaker, a game-breaker to join QB Russell Wilson, RB Marshawn Lynch and WR Sidney Rice. With Harvin added to the wideout corps, the Seahawks suddenly look like a pick-your-poison offense. Stopping Lynch can no longer dominate defensive game plans. Double-teaming Rice all game is no longer an option. Giving Wilson another high-powered weapon makes him that much more dangerous.
Seattle's other glaring need, defensive line depth, was addressed a few days after the Harvin trade by the signing of DE's Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett. The line was exposed in the team's playoff loss, especially pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin, who saw few second-half snaps after getting pushed around in the first half as a replacement starter for injured DE Chris Clemons. The Seahawks ranked 23rd in YPC allowed (4.5) and 18th in sacks (36). Fixing those blind spots makes a defense that led the league in fewest points allowed per game (15.3) even more formidable.
Of course, pushing farther into the playoffs requires continued development from Wilson. The third-round pick beat out presumed starter Matt Flynn in training camp last year, but struggled early and was kept on a tight leash by a conservative offense. Defenses used interior linemen to disrupt passing lanes for the undersized (5-10) Wilson, who was quick to dump the ball off or abandon the pocket if his first read wasn't open. Wilson, though, dramatically improved as the season progressed and earned more trust from the coaching staff, which slowly took the training wheels off. In their first nine games, the Seahawks completed 10 passes of 25-plus yards (29th in the NFL). In the last seven games, the offense posted 17 such plays (eighth). Wilson's yards per attempt in those spans improved from 7.0 to a league-leading 9.3.
The Seahawks are still a run-first team (Wilson ranked 25th in passing attempts) with Lynch in full beast mode (5.0 YPC, fourth) behind a vastly improved offensive line anchored by All-Pro center Max Unger and Pro Bowl left tackle Russell Okung. But the addition of big-play Harvin, who was on pace for 1,200 receiving yards before a season-ending ankle injury, seems to be the final piece to the offensive puzzle, meaning the time is now for the Seahawks.
Percy Harvin - WR, Vikings
The explosive playmaker will play all over the field, lining up in the slot, on the outside and in the backfield, while also returning kicks.
Cliff Avril - De, Lions
After notching 9.5, 11 and 8.5 sacks the last three years, he is just entering his prime at age 27 and provides a solid pass-rush upgrade.
Michael Bennett - De, Buccaneers
Coming off a career-high nine sacks, he will help fortify a defensive line that was exposed in the playoffs.
ANTOINE WINFIELD - DB, Vikings
Won't have 100 tackles again, but his veteran leadership bolsters an already fierce secondary.
Christine Michael - RB, Texas A&M
(ROUND 2, 62ND OVERALL)
Viewed by some as a luxury pick for a team with Marshawn Lynch and Robert Turbin, though Michael could displace the latter on the depth chart at some point.
LEROY HILL - LB, FA
Injuries, age and off-field troubles made letting him walk a fore-gone conclusion.
LEON WASHINGTON - RB/KR, Patriots
Arguably the best kick returner in the league, he became expend-able when the Seahawks acquired Harvin.
Matt Flynn - QB, Raiders
Overpaid as a backup, yes, but was a nice insurance policy behind starter Russell Wilson.
THE Percy Harvin EFFECT
With the Harvin acquisition, the Seattle playbook becomes a phone book. Harvin will line up in the slot, on the outside and in the backfield, while bringing a game-breaking dimension to the offense that it lacked. Harvin was fourth among wide receivers in yards after the catch last season with 551, despite playing only nine games. And he was just 70 yards behind league-leader Calvin Johnson in yards after contact despite Megatron's seven-game advantage. Don't be surprised if Harvin's presence opens space for Sidney Rice, previously the top playmaker among the team's receivers. Rice scored seven touchdowns last season, but he totaled more than 70 yards receiving only three times. The knock on Harvin, of course, is that he's an injury risk. But that seems overstated. Before last year's season-ending ankle injury, he missed three games in three seasons for the Vikings. He's also been known to be temperamental, but playing in a winning environment with the familiarity of former Vikings in Rice and offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell should keep him happy.
SO THE DEFENSIVE LINE PROBLEMS ARE SOLVED THEN, RIGHT?
Not so fast. Seattle made a significant push to upgrade its defensive line, but questions persist. DE Chris Clemons (ACL) likely won't be ready for Week 1. Free-agent acquisition DE Cliff Avril has a plantar fascia issue that while seemingly minor could linger. Fellow DE Michael Bennett will play with the same torn rotator cuff he played with last season, hoping not to aggravate it. Backup defensive end Greg Scruggs (knee) likely will miss the season. And pass-rush specialist Bruce Irvin is suspended the first four games for taking a performance-enhancing drug. Those are ominous clouds for a Seattle defense that needs a better effort from its D-Line. While Seattle allowed a league-low 15.3 points per game last season, the defense was prone to breakdowns at times, such as allowing the Falcons to go 41 yards in two plays to kick the game-winning field goal in the playoffs. Much of the problem rested on a lack of a pass rush. Seattle's defensive line accounted for 30.5 sacks, 19.5 of which came from two players, Clemons (11.5) and Irvin (8), who won't be in the Week 1 lineup. And when Irvin returns from his suspension, he can't be counted on as an every down player. He's simply not big enough to play against the run. In fact, he totaled eight tackles that weren't sacks last year. In addition to Avril and Bennett, new defensive tackles Tony McDaniel (free agent), Jordan Hill (third-round pick) and Jesse Williams (fifth-round pick) should help mitigate the problems Seattle faced last season, but health might end up being the most important factor.
Rising: Russell Wilson wasn't much of a fantasy threat last season, but a better offense this year should help his passing and more read-option calls could increase his rushing numbers.
Declining: Golden Tate is a perennial “breakout” pick in some quarters because of his athleticism, but the addition of Percy Harvin likely will cost him most.
Sleeper: Sidney Rice could benefit the most from the addition of Percy Harvin as secondaries no longer will be able to roll coverage to his side and/or double-team him throughout games.
Supersleeper: Zach Miller was once a Pro Bowl tight end and still has those receiving skills should the Seahawks decide to work the position into the offensive game plan this season.
RICHARD SHERMAN - CB
His fantasy value is depressed by a lack of tackles (63 last year), but eight interceptions and a league-leading 24 passes defensed go a long way.
Bobby Wagner - LB
Had a huge rookie season with 139 tackles, three interceptions and two sacks.
KAM CHANCELLOR - S
Failed to crack 100 tackles last year (92) and didn't have an interception, but he has IDP upside.
RotoWire Rank: 1