Mon Jan 13 7:45pm ET
By TIM BOOTH
AP Sports Writer
Green Bay Packers' Preston Smith sacks Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson during the second half of an NFL divisional playoff football game Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Seattle Seahawks' Russell Wilson walks off the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 28-23 to advance to the NFC Championship. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
Seattle Seahawks' Shaquem Griffin and Shaquill Griffin embrace after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 28-23 to advance to the NFC Championship. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Seattle Seahawks' Marshawn Lynch sits on the bench during the second half an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 28-23 to advance to the NFC Championship. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Seattle Seahawks head coach Pete Carroll walks off the field after an NFL divisional playoff football game against the Green Bay Packers Sunday, Jan. 12, 2020, in Green Bay, Wis. The Packers won 28-23 to advance to the NFC Championship. (AP Photo/Matt Ludtke)
RENTON, Wash. (AP) It’s been six years since Russell Wilson raised the Super Bowl trophy. Five years since his fateful pass from the 1-yard line.
While he’s become one of the top quarterbacks in the time since Wilson was last in the Super Bowl, the gap without a championship game appearance is becoming more noticeable and tougher for the highest-paid player in the NFL to accept.
Some may say because of having a youthful roster as part of an overhaul that started two years ago, and a long debilitating list of injuries that the Seahawks overachieved by winning 12 games. They were inches from winning a division title and maybe a dropped pass away from rallying to beat Green Bay in the divisional round of the NFC playoffs before falling 28-23 to the Packers.
But at age 31 and having completed his eighth season, Wilson doesn’t see it that way.
“I think we underachieved in my opinion because I think the goal should be always winning the Super Bowl. That’s got to be our standard. That’s got to be our focus,” Wilson said on Monday.
“The reality is we’ve been really, really good the past eight years or so, and to go to the playoffs seven of the eight, and to do all those things are special, special things, to go to two Super Bowls, to win one. We’ve got to capture that through the whole entire season going into next year. We’ve got to find ways to get better. We’ve got to find ways just to get past the first and second round of the playoffs.”
Seattle was a flawed team that managed to be exceptionally good in close games and when playing away from home. Eleven of Seattle’s 12 wins were by one score or less. Their regular-season point differential was plus-7. They won eight games outside of Seattle and just four at home. Their defense ranked in the bottom third of the league in points allowed, pass yards allowed, rushing yards allowed and total yards for the regular season.
It was a very un-Seattle like team that did what has become the standard under Pete Carroll and made the playoffs yet again. But for the fourth time in Carroll’s tenure, Seattle’s journey ended in the divisional round.
“I really regret this thing is over,” Carroll said. “I love this team and loved the way they played and loved what they stood for and the character they demonstrated over and over again.”
ANSWERS UP FRONT
Seattle’s biggest questions going forward such as on the defensive line where Jadeveon Clowney, Jarran Reed, Ziggy Ansah, Quinton Jefferson and Al Woods are all unrestricted free agents. The results from the group were mixed at best. Clowney was a star that flashed in some of Seattle’s biggest games despite playing the second half of the season with a painful core muscle injury. Reed was suspended the first six games and never came close to matching his production from a year ago. Ansah played with injuries all season and mostly underachieved. Jefferson was Seattle’s best overall lineman not named Clowney, and Woods was serviceable as a run stopper before being suspended four games late in the season.
Even if none of the five return, the defensive front has to be a heavy focus of Seattle’s offseason.
Consider a few of the starters and key contributors Seattle played without against Green Bay: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Justin Britt, Will Dissly and Mychal Kendricks. Duane Brown played less than three weeks after knee surgery. Marshawn Lynch, three weeks out of retirement, started against the Packers. Phil Haynes was forced into the first extensive action of his career in the second half versus Green Bay. Bobby Wagner said Monday he’ll need some offseason work done to clean up injuries that were discovered to be worse than originally thought.
Injuries became a major part of Seattle’s story this season.
“We couldn’t stay healthy and it was a big deal,” Carroll said. “We were going so well late into the year ... we had six guys on the inactives that were healthy and then all of a sudden it just shifted.”
GET OUT OF THE BLOCKS
For whatever reason, Seattle has played terrible in the first half of three of its divisional road games in Carroll’s tenure. In the 2012 playoffs at Atlanta, Seattle fell behind 20-0 at halftime, rallied to take the lead, but lost 30-28. In 2015 at Carolina, Seattle fell behind 31-0 before a late rally fell short in a 31-24 loss. And on Sunday, the Seahawks were down 21-3 at halftime to Green Bay.
Seattle has played five total divisional round playoff games on the road under Carroll. It has been outscored 112-13 combined in the first half of those five games.
HOW TO GET IT RIGHT?
Seattle clearly needs some changes on defense. Carroll likened this season to 2012 and it was the following offseason that Seattle went out and landed pass rushers Michael Bennett and Cliff Avril in free agency. A similar haul is needed again to solve the Seahawks biggest defensive issue. The other area to watch will be how Seattle approaches its offensive line. Germain Ifedi, George Fant and Mike Iupati are all free agents. Duane Brown will turn 35 before the start of next season. Britt is coming off an ACL injury. Making sure the line of scrimmage is addressed appropriately on both sides of the ball will be the key whether Seattle can make a similar jump as it did from 2012 to 2013 when it went from a divisional round playoff loss to Super Bowl champs.
“Guys need to go into the offseason with a chip on their shoulder. They have to make sure they feel that loss. Don’t just throw it away, really feel that loss the whole offseason and how close we could have been,” Wagner said.
The Minnesota Vikings have been actively discussing a possible long-term contract extension with safety Anthony Harris, according to sources. There has been speculation that the Vikings were looking to trade Harris after putting the franchise tag on him, but they may wind up keeping him after all. There is an increasing belief that the 28-year-old, the NFL's top safety in 2019 per Pro Football Focus, will play for the Vikings in 2020, whether it's on the franchise tag of $11.441 million or on a new long-term deal. Harris' preference is to stay in Minnesota. He wants a deal that would put him among the highest paid safeties in the league, which could be an average of around $14 million per year. The combination of Harris and Harrison Smith give Minnesota one of the best safety combinations in the game. That is, if Harris remains with the Vikes. They'll need a strong safety duo after losing four cornerbacks during free agency.
Denver Broncos general manager John Elway was non-committal on whether the Broncos would entertain signing running back Phillip Lindsay to a long-term contract extension. Lindsay has been playing for a bargain rate the last two seasons after going undrafted, but not the Broncos had Melvin Gordon III in the backfield as well after they landed him in free agency. In comparison, Gordon is the sixth-highest paid running back in the league. Lindsay, 26 in July, came out of nowhere in his rookie season and made the Pro Bowl, and he's rushed for over 1,000 yards in both of his two seasons. But with Gordon now in tow, Lindsay won't see as many touches, especially in the passing game. It's clear the Broncos don't see him as a three-down back in this league, but they could still keep him around long-term if they can agree on something that compensates him fairly. Fantasy-wise, Lindsay will likely become a low-ceiling RB3/flex in standard-scoring formats while sharing touches with Gordon and Royce Freeman.
The New York Jets re-signed backup quarterback David Fales to an undisclosed one-year deal on Tuesday, according to a source. Fales was Sam Darnold's backup for most of last season and will continue to fill that role after playing for head coach Adam Gase and offensive coordinator Dowell Loggains in both Chicago and Miami. Since being drafted in the sixth round of the 2014 draft by the Bears, the 29-year-old has played in parts of just five games and has never started a game. He'll continue to hold the clipboard for Darnold in New York and will have zero fantasy appeal.
Washington Redskins three-time Pro Bowl offensive guard Brandon Scherff is signing his $15-plus million franchise tender on Tuesday, according to a source. If there is a training camp, he will be required to be there. Scherff, 28, has missed most of the past two seasons due to injuries -- 19 games played over that span -- but he is one of the better offensive guards in the NFL when he's on the field. Locking him up long-term is next on the agenda for Washington, and his services will be needed on the offensive line with young quarterback Dwayne Haskins under center.
Los Angeles Chargers cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said that general manager Tom Telesco, head coach Anthony Lynn and defensive backs coach Ron Milus told him that he will be playing the slot in 2020. "That was the main thing that they brought to me," Harris said. The 30-year-old was asked to cover the opponent's best receiver in his final year in Denver, and he notably struggled after making the Pro Bowl four times (All-Pro in 2016) since 2014. There's no denying that Harris is the most comfortable in the slot, and he could rebound in an all-around sold Chargers Defense in his first season with the Bolts. How Harris' presence affects Desmond King remains to be seen, but this secondary might be one of the best in the NFL on paper.
The future of kicker Adam Vinatieri remains unknown, according to Indianapolis Colts head coach Frank Reich. Vinatieri has not made a decision on whether he wants to return to kick for a 25th season in the NFL. The 47-year-old future Hall of Famer has been rehabbing his knee following season-ending surgery last year, and the Colts are waiting for his rehab to progress before making a decision on whether they want to re-sign him. The Colts already have Chase McLaughlin on roster, so it will be a tough decision if Vinatieri wants to come back and kick, especially since he wasn't performing up to his standards before he was placed on Injured Reserve. He missed 14 kicks -- eight field goals and six extra points. If Vinatieri returns to the Colts or another team, he won't be worth drafting in most standard fantasy leagues.
Arizona Cardinals owner Michael Bidwell said that general manager Steve Keim has had talks with wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins about his contract. Hopkins was unhappy with his contract in Houston, which is one of the reasons he was dealt to Arizona for pennies on the dollar. The All-Pro wideout will be a bargain at his current salaries for the next three seasons, but the two sides might negotiate something and reach a middle ground eventually. Money aside, the Cardinals got one of the best receivers in the game, and he should make quarterback Kyler Murray even more desirable in fantasy in 2020 and beyond. Hopkins makes a case to be the first receiver off the board in fantasy drafts.
The Seattle Seahawks released tight end Ed Dickson on Tuesday, according to a source. Dickson was due $3 million in 2020, and the Seahawks will save most of that money with his release. The 32-year-old veteran played in just 10 games (one start) in his only season in Seattle, catching 12 passes for 143 yards and three touchdowns. He has had trouble staying healthy in recent seasons and will be, at best, a depth option for another team on the open market. Dickson's release was expected after the team signed Greg Olsen in free agency. They also have Will Dissly and Jacob Hollister returning.
Former Minnesota Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen has interest in joining the Seattle Seahawks, according to a source close to Griffen. The Seahawks could also be interested in Griffen if they don't re-sign Jadeveon Clowney, who is asking for close to $20 million a season. Clowney will likely have to sign with another team before Griffen signs, so it might be a while. The 32-year-old Griffen is on the wrong side of 30, but he has had at least eight sacks in five of the last six seasons with the Vikings and has been to the Pro Bowl four times since 2015. He'd be a great fallback option for Seattle if they don't want to meet Clowney's asking price. Griffen is older, but he's also shown more durability than Clowney.
The Houston Texans are in active contract talks with Pro Bowl left tackle Laremy Tunsil, according to league sources not authorized to speak publicly. Houston has offered Tunsil $18.5 million per season, but Tunsil's counter-offer is "significantly higher." After the Texans traded two first-round picks and a second-rounder for Tunsil and wide receiver Kenny Stills last year, Tunsil is fully expected to become the highest paid offensive lineman in the NFL. He's under contract for $10.35 million in 2020 and is seeking a deal that averages more than $20 million per season. The good news is the Texans have around $35 million in salary cap space, which is the second-most in the league behind the Browns. Having Tunsil around long-term will be great news for quarterback Deshaun Watson.
The Cincinnati Bengals released cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick on Tuesday. The Bengals went all out to improve their defense in free agency, so Kirkpatrick is being shown the door. The 17th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Kirkpatrick should still see significant interest late in free agency now that he's available. The 30-year-old hasn't played in a full season since 2015 and started just six games in 2019 due to injuries. He recorded one sack, 33 tackles (27 solo), four passes defensed and one fumble recovery. In the right situation, Kirkpatrick could be an effective veteran presence for another team's secondary.
The Cleveland Browns are likely to have free-agent defensive end Everson Griffen on their radar given his connection with the Browns coaches from their time together in Minnesota. Griffen is 32 years old but had 13, 5.5 and eight sacks in the last three seasons with the Vikings and can still be effective on the wrong side of 30. If the Browns sign him for one or two years, they could cut defensive end Olivier Vernon and save $5 million against the salary cap. Griffen would be a nice complement to Myles Garrett on the defensive line as the Browns look to boost their pass rush heading into the 2020 season.
The Jacksonville Jaguars have heard from multiple interested teams about a potential trade for defensive end Yannick Ngakoue, who is turning 25 years old on Tuesday. The Jaguars place a lot of value in the pass-rusher and won't just give him away for a little return. But the former third-round pick in 2016 was unhappy with receiving the franchise tag and isn't interested in a long-term extension with the team. He'll be a prime IDP target no matter where he's playing in 2020 after recording 37.5 sacks in his four seasons in the NFL. Last year he had eight sacks, 41 tackles (36 solo), 13 tackles for loss, 15 QB hits, an interception returned for a touchdown, six passes defensed, four forced fumbles and a fumble recovery in 15 games.
Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Tyrod Taylor, who is training this offseason with free-agent quarterback Cam Newton, thinks he can make a lot of noise with the Bolts if he's given the chance to be the team's starter under center. Things could change, but as of now, Taylor is at the top of LA's QB depth chart. The 30-year-old former sixth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011 has one year left on his deal and will make a base salary of $5 million in 2020. The Chargers are moving forward with Taylor, but they haven't given him any assurances of a starting job, and they could very likely take a QB with the sixth overall pick in the draft. Taylor has a strong arm and is mobile, so he could do some damage with the weapons the Chargers have around him, but he'll primarily be a QB2 for fantasy owners with upside for more if he's handed the starting gig.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Jason Licht said that the team doesn't think quarterback Tom Brady's skills have diminished or that he'll have any trouble playing in head coach Bruce Arians' vertical passing scheme. "Well, the tape to us showed that he had plenty of arm," Licht said. "We felt that he had the ideal arm for Bruce and his system. He can still throw it deep." The GM also said that they think Brady could play for them for over two years. No. 12 had one of the worst statistical seasons of his career in 2019, but in all fairness to him, he didn't have much to work with in the passing game outside of Julian Edelman. With Mike Evans and Chris Godwin as his new top receivers, Brady has a real chance to bounce back, even at his age. However, don't just assume he'll return to his glory days either. He'll be a great fantasy backup with the chance for some nice QB1 games along the way.
The Pittsburgh Steelers are expected to draft a running back this year with James Conner headed into his contract season. The Athletic's Ed Bouchette doesn't think that the Steelers will give Conner a new deal before the start of the 2020 season, so he'll have to prove his worth and stay healthy to remain with the organization beyond the upcoming season. The 24-year-old has RB1 potential when he's on the field, but he just hasn't been able to stay healthy consistently since he took over the lead-back role from Le'Veon Bell. Conner played in just 10 games in 2019, rushing 116 times for 464 yards (career-low 4.0 yards per carry) and four touchdowns. He could bounce back with better health and a full season with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger under center, but fantasy owners will take more caution when drafting Conner as more of an RB2 this year.
Cincinnati Bengals CB Dre Kirkpatrick was released Tuesday, March 31.
Jacksonville Jaguars DE Yannick Ngakoue has had several teams inquire about landing him, but the team values him and won't give him away.
Fantasy Spin: Ngakoue had a "down" season with 41 total tackles and eight sacks. However, his six passes defended, one pick, four forced fumbles and one recovery kept him as a midrange DL1. He should be drafted as such in 2020 regardless of where he plays.
Seattle Seahawks QB Russell Wilson was blitzed 221 times - second-most in the league - and hurried an NFL-high 71 times in 2019.
Updating a previous report, Buffalo Bills WR Isaiah McKenzie officially signed an undisclosed contract with the team Monday, March 30.