Seahawks’ priority this offseason has to be building around Geno Smith

If not for recent reporting and the quarterback’s confidence that he was returning, the headline for this column would have been: Bring back Geno Smith? Only at the right price. 

Storybook as the signal caller’s 2022 season was, he won just three of his final nine games and, though still serviceable, was underwhelming in the second half of the year. But when insiders such as the NFL Network’s Ian Rapaport are writing that Smith is expected to come back to Seattle, and Geno himself spoke with self-assurance that he’d be donning blue and green next year — a new question emerges: What do the Seahawks need to do to build around the 32-year-old? And perhaps just as significantly, what shouldn’t they do? 

The hot topic over the past few weeks — particularly given Denver’s tumble — is whether the Seahawks should use one of their early draft picks on a quarterback. Thanks to the Russell Wilson trade last offseason, Seattle owns the Broncos’ No. 5 pick in the draft, the Broncos’ No. 38 pick — and will have their own selections in the middle of the first and second rounds. Considering there are three quarterbacks — Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud and Will Levis — that many consider to be top five picks, along with fellow first-round projection Anthony Richardson, there might be temptation for Seattle to take a quarterback early.

Remember, Seahawks general manager John Schneider has been open about his previous interest in drafting Chiefs superstar QB Patrick Mahomes despite having Russell Wilson under contract. But if the Seahawks want to win now — and are ready to pour a significant amount of money into Smith — then it seems frivolous to waste an early pick on a QB. There are just too many other needs.

What needs, you ask? Most urgently — the front seven. The Seahawks finished the season with the third-worst rushing defense in the NFL. And they gave up a whopping 181 yards in their 41-23 loss to the 49ers on Sunday. The running “D” became particularly porous in the second half of the year, starting with the worst running team in the league (Tampa Bay) dicing them up for 161 rushing yards in Week 9. 

To their credit, they were a respectable 11th in the NFL in sacks — with Uchenna Nwosu and Darrell Taylor each racking up 9.5 of them this season. But a nonexistent run defense mixed with a slightly-better-than average pass rush doesn’t make a champion. 

This is where defensive linemen such as Will Anderson Jr., Jalen Carter, Myles Murphy, Bryan Bresee and Tyree Wilson — all projected as top-20 picks — become appetizing to the Seahawks.

One player won’t fix the problem. But a great edge rusher can go along way toward solving it. The 49ers and Eagles are two of the best teams in football because of the way they beefed up their D-lines.

As far as offense goes — Smith needs another weapon to throw to. DK Metcalf showed out against San Francisco Saturday by catching 10 passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns, but his regular-season stats — 90 receptions, 1,048 receiving yards and a career-low six touchdown — were subdued by his standards. Tyler Lockett’s numbers, meanwhile, dipped from 2021, as he racked up 1,033 receiving yards this year compared to 1,175 in the previous season.

Neither member of this duo is dragging the Seahawks down per se, but neither has established himself as a marquee pass catcher, either. There are productive receivers in free agency, but there are also dynamic talents entering the draft such as Quentin Johnston, Jordan Addison, Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Jalin Hyatt. Maybe the Seahawks use their assets to trade up. Maybe they wait for someone they like to fall to them. Either way, they need another speedster with a set of hands. 

There are other areas to address as well. Running back Kenneth Walker III might end up winning Offensive Rookie of the Year after posting 1,050 rushing yards on 4.6 yards per carry, but he was inconsistent this season. And Seattle’s offensive line isn’t up to par with the rest of the league, as analytics site Pro Football Focus ranked the unit near the bottom of the league.

So there are holes — but also a whole lot to be excited about. The Seahawks are loaded with draft picks and seem to have settled on a quarterback who showed flashes of brilliance throughout the season. They also may have had the most productive rookie class in the NFL.

Perhaps some 12s jumped ship after the Seahawks traded Wilson away, but the team managed to build back its fan base. Now it’s time to build up its roster.

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