The Seahawks are excited about the future after a surprise playoff run

RENTON — Moments after ending his season in the first round of the playoffs, Pete Carroll was already looking ahead to what the future might hold.

The oldest coach in the league has no plans to slow down, and for good reason. The Seattle Seahawks have rebuilt their foundation and head into the offseason with unexpected excitement about what’s next.

“What’s happened over the course of this season is the tremendous progress we’ve made,” Carroll said. “We’ve grown so much and there’s so much more to do here in the next turn.”

Seattle’s season ended with a 41-23 loss to San Francisco on Saturday, but even making the playoffs was one of the NFL’s biggest surprises this season. After trading quarterback Russell Wilson to Denver and releasing linebacker Bobby Wagner, the Seahawks were expected to be doormats.

Instead, Carroll and his team won just enough to sneak into the postseason, relying on a group of young players who would eventually form the foundation of Seattle’s future.

The Seahawks also believe they have resolved their quarterback situation in the short term thanks to the play of Gene Smith, though the two sides must find common ground on a contract that makes sense moving forward.

Seattle’s challenge this offseason will be to improve its talent along the line of scrimmage and address some of the defensive issues that cost the team games during the regular season, all of which could help close the gap with the 49ers in the NFC West.

“As long as we’re consistent in our approach and what we do, I think guys can really grow and guys can understand what we have to do,” Seattle safety Quander Diggs said. “I just think guys have to understand that you can’t come back the same player you were this year. You have to be the best.”

QB QUESTION

All the attention that Smith’s breakout season has received will likely include a continued future in Seattle.

Smith will be an unrestricted free agent, but it will be a bummer if he becomes a free agent when the new league year begins. Seattle wants Smith back, and that could come via a multi-year deal or potentially a franchise deal if the two sides can’t come to an agreement.

Smith’s final month of the regular season included some shaky moments, but his overall play was a revelation. Smith set franchise records for yards, completions and led the NFL in completion percentage.

Smith has never been able to cash in on the bigs in his career, and this may be the only time it happens. And it appears to be a priority for Seattle to stabilize the position, as Drew Lock is also an unrestricted free agent.

“I think our quarterback position is great, but he’s going to be a free agent, so we’ve got some work to do,” Carroll said. “We’ve never had a chance to see Drew, but I’ve seen him a lot and I love what he’s doing, too. I think our quarterback situation, if we can sign (Smith), it’s a great situation going forward.”

YOUTH MOVEMENT

The 2022 draft for Seattle could end up being seen as the same impact as the 2012 draft. The Seahawks turned to their youth and they thrived. Running back Kenneth Walker III could be the Offensive Rookie of the Year after rushing for over 1,000 yards. Cornerback Tarik Woolen is in the Defensive Rookie of the Year conversation after tying for the NFL lead with six interceptions. Charles Cross and Abraham Lucas were the first rookies to start the first 15 games of a season since 1970. Kobe Bryant was Seattle’s starting nickel cornerback, while Boye Mayef had three sacks in limited playing time.

The Seahawks even got contributions from seventh-round wide receiver Darick Young late in the season. A generous class has a chance to be the foundation for Seattle’s future.

“From when I first got here to now, it’s crazy because I’ve made a lot of strides and surpassed a lot of odds and expectations,” Woolen said. “People thought I was going to be an experiment, and I still have a lot of work to do.”

FREE AGENCY

Seattle will have some key questions to answer in free agency, but very few of them will be at the skilled positions. Key unrestricted free agents will include defensive lineman Poona Ford, center Austin Blythe, guard Phil Haynes, linebacker Cody Barton, kicker Jason Myers, running back Rashaad Penny and wide receiver Marquise Goodwin. Safety Ryan Neal is also a restricted free agent.

NEXT STEPS

Seattle holds an absolute bounty of draft picks through the first two days of the draft, setting the stage for another influx of young talent to go along with what looks to be a very successful 2022 draft.

It took Seattle three draft classes when Carroll and general manager John Schneider first arrived to turn the Seahawks into Super Bowl contenders, and they could go the same way again. Seattle will have two first-round picks, including No. 5 overall, and will have three picks in the top 40.

There could still be drama surrounding the quarterback this offseason, but it will have more to do with the structure of the deal he’s trying to work out with Smith.

Expect Seattle to focus on the line of scrimmage as well. Seattle dominated the interior at times on both offense and defense. The overhaul of these spots could be the most significant change to the position group roster this offseason.

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