Related column: Bold Seahawks make statement with Percy Harvin tradeThere was one point I wanted to make in today’s Harvin column that I wound up axing because it was too much of a tangent. So, let’s discuss it here.
It’s about how the Seahawks have used their resources with John Schneider and Pete Carroll in charge. Here are the exact words omitted from today’s piece:
Looking at how the Seahawks have built this contender, they have spent big on offense and used the draft mostly to create that oversized, aggressive defense. Their biggest acquisitions through trade and free agency have been for the offense, most notably wide receiver Sidney Rice, running back Marshawn Lynch and tight end Zach Miller. But all of those additions were productive players in their mid-20s who still had room to grow with a young team.
Even when you consider the draft, the Seahawks have used a large portion of their highest picks on offense under Schneider. The list of offensive players taken in the first three rounds of the past three drafts: left tackle Russell Okung, wide receiver Golden Tate, tackle/guard John Carpenter, guard John Moffitt and, of course, quarterback Russell Wilson. Schneider also leveraged some high draft assets to take an ill-fated chance on quarterback Charlie Whitehurst.
No matter how you look at it, building the offense has come at a high cost for the Seahawks. The defense has been built on scouting gem after scouting gem, which is perhaps a result of the collaboration between Carroll, the defensive guru who knows what he wants, and Schneider, the GM who values every pick he makes.
The Harvin trade and re-signing is a continuation of the Seahawks’ trend to spend big on offense. They’ve built the roster so consistently in this manner that you have to consider it their formula. Clearly, they’re confident in their ability to find good defensive players anywhere — early or late in the draft, in the Canadian Football League, under a rock in Nowheresville, USA. Anywhere. And on offense, particularly at the skilled positions, they have preferred to throw money or draft high to fill their needs.
It makes sense. The Seahawks have one of the best defensive minds in the game leading them, and he has a clear vision of what works on defense, so the team should have an advantage there. Unlike defensive-minded head coaches like Rex Ryan who overspend on free agents in their area of speciality, Carroll and his defensive coaches have been able to create a style of play that they can fit young players into and not suffer as many growing pains. This is what makes what they are doing special and enables Schneider to invest so much in the offense. It’s an interesting and unique use of Carroll’s talent. The Seahawks don’t have to feed the beast, so to speak, to make the coach happy and potent on D. The beast is the system and the coach’s ability to see what others might not.
Quality offensive skilled players are always going to require a ton of investment, and the Seahawks have been smart and very particular about making sure they invest in young players who made an early impact but still have upside. Still, when you look at some numbers related to their team-building model, it’s stunning to see.
Tapping into the brilliance of my omnipresent and prolific Twitter pal, Davis Hsu (@DavisHsuSeattle), who also does some fine work for FieldGulls.com, we can project that the Seahawks figure to spend about 58 percent of their salary cap on the offense, which is an eye-popping number, especially when you consider how much better the less-expensive defense has been compared to the offense.
Now, consider that 19 of the team’s 28 draft picks under Schneider and Carroll have been used on defense. The overwhelming majority of the Seahawks’ projected starters on offense are high draft picks (most of them used to build the offensive line) or pricey free agents. On defense, the Seahawks have only one former first round pick starting for them, which is a remarkable way to build a unit that allowed the fewest points in the NFL last season.
In the future, if the Seahawks are to keep this defense together, they will spend significant dough to retain their talent. It means that, as they evolve, they’ll have to place a higher importance on getting cheaper talent on offense through the draft. For now, though, this is the approach that has enabled them to build a legitimate contender.
It’s as effective as it is fascinating.