Season grade: Above average. The Seahawks far exceeded outside expectations after an offseason roster retooling and a few serious injuries claimed some of the most impactful players in franchise history. They were hardly devoid of talent as some of the more pessimistic projections seemed to assume, but getting 10 wins and a playoff appearance qualifies as a significant accomplishment after losing or moving on from the likes of Richard Sherman, Michael Bennett, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, Jimmy Graham, Earl Thomas and others. If the only positive development to come out of this season was the emergence of the next group of core players, 2018 would have felt like a success even in the absence of a playoff berth. The Seahawks got both.
Season in review: The Seahawks' turnaround from an 0-2 start coincided with the emergence of their running game, which finished atop the league after bottom-third rankings the past two years. Reigniting that part of their offense was a primary offseason goal, evident in personnel moves and in some of the hires coach Pete Carroll made after overhauling his staff. More running meant much less was asked of Russell Wilson, who attempted his fewest passes since 2013 but still tossed a career-high 35 touchdowns while tying his career low with seven interceptions and edging his previous best with a 110.9 rating. All their key departures meant the Seahawks needed a next wave of stars to emerge, and they did. Chris Carson became their first tailback since Marshawn Lynch in 2014 to top 1,000 yards, Tyler Lockett scored 10 touchdowns, Frank Clark and Jarran Reed combined for 24.5 sacks, and Michael Dickson made the Pro Bowl. Seattle also got Pro Bowl-caliber seasons from veterans Bobby Wagner and Duane Brown, all of which shows why general manager John Schneider referred to the Seahawks' offseason shakeup as a reset and never a rebuild.
He said it: "There's an emotion to it that's deep, and it's because there wasn't very many people that thought we could do this. Most everybody thought we didn't have a chance." -- Carroll, after the Seahawks clinched a playoff berth with their win over the Chiefs in Week 16.
Key offseason questions
Will Clark get the franchise tag or a long-term deal? It's going to be one or the other because there's no way the Seahawks are letting their best pass-rusher leave in free agency. Clark did not want to do what Minnesota's Danielle Hunter did last summer, which was to take a deal in the $14-15 million range then have the type of season that would have gotten him a much bigger payday had he waited. Clark bet on himself and finished the regular season with 14 sacks, which was the sixth most in the league and a half-sack behind Hunter. Given the year he just had and the fact that Clark has already shown he's willing to wait for the right deal, it's hard to imagine him taking one that averages much less than the franchise number for defensive ends, which should be upward of $18 million. Will the Seahawks be willing to make that kind of long-term commitment?
What will happen with Wilson's contract? He had perhaps his best season, and the extension Carroll recently signed shows that business is running as usual following the passing of owner Paul Allen. But remember, Wilson's last deal didn't get done until the eve of training camp in 2015, which was the deadline his side had set. He was prepared to play out the final year of his rookie contract, then play the franchise-tag game. Might he be even more willing to go year-to-year with his contract after seeing how that worked for Kirk Cousins? As ESPN's Mike Sando noted, Wilson had made only $2.2 million in career earnings when he was negotiating his current extension, so there may not be the same financial incentive to do a deal now that he's banked more than $72 million in NFL money since then. His 2019 salary is $17 million. This could get interesting.
What other changes are coming on defense? Seattle re-signing safety Earl Thomas seems exceedingly unlikely given what's happened over the past seven months: Thomas holding out all offseason, refusing to take part in a few practices upon his return and then flipping the team off after breaking his leg for the second time in three years. Like Thomas, linebacker K.J. Wright will be an unrestricted free agent. He'll be 30 this summer and missed all but five regular-season games because of a knee injury that required surgery and then an out-of-town treatment. That will work against another multiyear deal from Seattle, though Wright signing a one-year deal with the Seahawks to reset his market value seems conceivable. Earlier comments from Carroll suggested the Seahawks want to bring back Mychal Kendricks, who helped fill in for Wright before landing on IR. That assumes Kendricks will be available; he's facing potential prison time for insider trading and is scheduled to be sentenced later this month. Seattle's other UFAs include guards D.J. Fluker and J.R. Sweezy, nickelback Justin Coleman, defensive end Dion Jordan, defensive tackle Shamar Stephen and kicker Sebastian Janikowski.