The Seattle Seahawks came a long way in a very short time last season. After looking like a disaster in the offseason with no hope at the quarterback position, the Seahawks found their man in rookie Russell Wilson. He led them to an 11-5 record, and looked like an MVP candidate down the stretch.
Seattle fell just short of a late comeback against the Atlanta Falcons, ultimately losing in the Divisional round of the playoffs. Still, the NFC West was one division that few gave any respect to, and the Seahawks challenged the San Francisco 49ers for the division crown down the stretch.
Now, all eyes will be on the team this offseason. Seattle has made the jump from bad to good to counting themselves among the NFL's elite. Now they need to work hard to fill what needs they have and make sure they don't regress next time out. Let's take a look at how things are shaping up.
Biggest need: Defensive tackle
Gauging what is actually Seattle's biggest need is tough because this is a relatively complete team. They have starters at all of the necessary positions, but one big weakness in 2012 was the pass rush.
While Seattle's defense has joined the NFL's elite, they weren't able to put consistent pressure on opposing quarterbacks last season. They had just 36 sacks on the season, which had them tied with the Buffalo Bills at No. 18 in the league.
Seattle would certainly benefit from adding an interior pass rusher at some point this offseason. Defensive tackle is set as their biggest need here but, really, adding any kind of pass rusher would be a good idea. Defensive tackle just happens to be the one that could use upgrading the most.
The good folks over at SB Nation's Field Gulls gave their opinion on Seattle's biggest need below:
Many believe that the Seahawks should upgrade their wide receiver and tight end units with more talent now that there's a legitimately dangerous quarterback there to throw them passes, and I would agree with this to some extent, but despite Seattle leading the NFL in defensive scoring last year, it's that side of the ball that I think needs the most attention.
With Jason Jones and Alan Branch hitting free agency, combined with Chris Clemons' ACL tear in January, the Seahawks' defensive line is severely depleted. I'd like to see Seattle make one or two (or three, even) mid-level signings of quality, young defensive linemen. Sammie Lee Hill, Desmond Bryant, even Sedrick Ellis or Ricky Jean-Francois offer some upside for this club. I wrote about that here, though several of my targets (Anthony Spencer and Fili Moala) are now locked up by a re-sign or franchise tag.
Other needs: Wide receiver, offensive tackle
The Seahawks could use another wide receiver. They don't actually have what you would call a "No. 1 receiver" on the roster. If Wilson is to continue his progression, the Seahawks need to get him some more players who can catch the football. Fortunately, they're in a good spot in the draft to bring someone in.
There's also a need at the right tackle spot. Breno Giacomini has struggled mightily and the Seahawks might look to draft a replacement at some point. He's not great in pass protection and commits a lot of penalties but is a decent run blocker, so the Seahawks might stick with him.
NFL Draft outlook: Seattle drafting late
The Seahawks haven't been a great team lately, so they have had some relatively high picks in the NFL Draft. Not anymore, as they made it into the Divisional round of the playoffs and are picking after every team that didn't make it and every team that lost in the Wild Card round.
This gives them the No. 25 selection in the first round of the draft. They also have picks in each of the first six rounds, including an extra fifth-round pick from the trade with the Oakland Raiders in which they sent away linebacker Aaron Curry.
SB Nation's Matthew Fairburn has the Seahawks using their first-round pick on Notre Dame tight end Tyler Eifert to complement/upgrade Zach Miller. Eifert caught 50 passes for 685 yards and four touchdowns last year as the Fighting Irish played for the national championship. Miller finished last year with 38 receptions for 396 yards and three touchdowns, although he did pull in his best game of the year in a playoff loss to the Falcons when he caught eight passes for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Salary cap outlook: Seattle in good position
The Seahawks have the fifth-most cap space available in the NFC in 2013, with around $17.1 million free. Now, this isn't enough to go out and sign every free agent out there, but the Seahawks definitely have some money to get things done if they need to.
That being said, big moves seem unlikely. The Seahawks, under their current front office, are known for going out and finding the guys they want in the NFL Draft, and taking them when they want to, and not where people think said player should go.
If they're looking to save more money, they would save approximately $3 million in cap space by releasing backup quarterback Matt Flynn, who is set to count $7.25 million against the cap next year.