Better, worse or the same? How the Seattle Seahawks' offense changes without Russell Wilson

RENTON, Wash. -- In addition to whomever replaces quarterback Russell Wilson, the Seattle Seahawks' offense will have a new primary target at tight end, a new No. 2 running back who figures to get plenty of work and, in all likelihood, three new starters on its offensive line.

Indeed, the changes the Seahawks made on that side of the ball this offseason go well beyond quarterback.

But we'll start there as we take a position-by-position look at Seattle's offense with a verdict on whether each is better, worse or the same compared to 2021.


Additions: Drew Lock

Losses: Russell Wilson

Returners: Geno Smith, Jacob Eason

Better, worse or the same: Worse

When you go from a likely Hall of Famer to a pair of replacement options who haven't been able to hold down starting jobs, it isn't a question of whether you're going to be worse at quarterback but of how significant the drop-off will be.

After all, Wilson's career-low 54.7 Total QBR in 2021 is better than what Lock has managed in any of his three NFL seasons. Smith has posted a higher QBR only once in nine seasons (2015).

Which begs two questions: Why didn't the Seahawks make a stronger run at Baker Mayfield, who was acquired for next to nothing? And could they still go after Jimmy Garoppolo?

The former 49ers starter hasn't been medically cleared following shoulder surgery and with the start of training camp only two weeks away, he'd have to learn a new offense and build chemistry with a new group of pass-catchers quickly. Also, the Seahawks -- even with mediocre defenses in recent seasons -- have had his number since his trade to San Francisco. So how big of an upgrade would they consider him to be over their current options?

The Seahawks believe Lock has much more upside than the shaky start to his career suggests and think a different coaching style can help coax better play out of him. But he'll have to beat out Smith first, and Lock was behind in that race when the offseason program ended.

Running back

Additions: Ken Walker III, Darwin Thompson

Losses: Alex Collins, Adrian Peterson

Returners: Rashaad Penny, *Chris Carson, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Josh Johnson

Better, worse or the same: Better

Carson's place among the returners comes with an asterisk because while he's still under contract, he hasn't been medically cleared following neck surgery. And the fact that it hasn't happened yet suggests his chances of returning are more doubtful than questionable.

But remember, Carson played in only the first four games last season, so he would hardly count as a loss from 2021. If he returns, he would effectively be an addition.

If not, Penny would be the No. 1 option after his stellar finish to last season. His health is the other big variable in Seattle's backfield equation, as Penny has missed 30 of a possible 69 career games (including playoffs) due to injury. Whether it's because Penny misses more time and/or because the Seahawks manage his touches to prevent overwork, Walker should factor heavily into the rotation. ESPN's Todd McShay rated Walker, a second-round pick, as the best running back in this year's draft.

Wide receiver

Additions: Marquise Goodwin, Bo Melton, Dareke Young, Deontez Alexander, Kevin Kassis

Losses: None

Returners: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Dee Eskridge, Penny Hart, Cody Thompson, Cade Johnson, Aaron Fuller

Better, worse or the same: The same

Barring a Metcalf holdout or trade in the absence of an extension, Seattle will return its top three of Metcalf, Lockett and Swain.

Eskridge is the X factor. Last year's second-round pick could overtake Swain as the No. 3 and give Seattle's receiver corps a speedy and versatile option if he's healthy, but that has been a challenge. A toe injury and a concussion led to a nondescript rookie season. Then he was sidelined for part of this year's offseason program because of his hamstring, prompting coach Pete Carroll to openly lament about the time Eskridge has missed.

Goodwin, added on a minimum-salary deal, isn't assured of making the team. Ditto for rookie seventh-rounders Melton and Young.

As for Metcalf's contract, the Seahawks still sounded optimistic about getting a deal done after the receiver skipped mandatory minicamp. But given where the market has gone, it doesn't seem like a slam dunk.

Tight end

Additions: Noah Fant, Cade Brewer

Losses: Gerald Everett

Returners: Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Tyler Mabry

Better, worse or the same: Better

Fant, part of Seattle's return package in the Wilson trade, is a clear upgrade over Everett. He and Dissly give the Seahawks their best tight-end duo in years.

There's a widely-held belief within the organization that tight ends will benefit from the Wilson trade because whichever quarterback starts for Seattle will throw the ball to the short-middle area of the field more than their predecessor did.

Offensive line

Additions: Charles Cross, Abraham Lucas, Austin Blythe, Shamarious Gilmore, Liam Ryan

Losses: Duane Brown, Brandon Shell, Ethan Pocic

Returners: Gabe Jackson, Damien Lewis, Dakoda Shepley, Kyle Fuller, Jake Curhan, Stone Forsythe, Phil Haynes, Greg Eiland

Better, worse or the same: Better

Tough call between "better" and "the same."

Because while the Seahawks might have solidified the future bookends of their offensive line by drafting Cross with the ninth pick and Lucas at No. 72 overall, there will likely be growing pains as those two transition to the NFL from pass-heavy college schemes in which they didn't play from a three-point stance.

Then again, the aging Brown and the banged-up Shell were 26th and 27th, respectively, in pass block win rate among tackles last season. So it's realistic for Seattle to be better in that department.

The Seahawks would be in barely charted territory if Lucas beats out Curhan and Forsythe on the right side to join Cross in the starting lineup. According to ESPN Stats & Information, only two teams since 1970 have started rookie tackles in Week 1.

Blythe, the projected starter at center, has a background with offensive coordinator Shane Waldron and O-line coach Andy Dickerson. But it remains to be seen how much of an upgrade, if any, he is over Pocic.