The Seattle Seahawks entered the offseason a bit earlier than they wanted. They had made a furious comeback to take a one-point lead over the Atlanta Falcons in the divisional round of the playoffs only to relinquish it in the final 31 seconds. The team they would have faced next, of course, was their divisional rival San Francisco 49ers -- the same club Seattle had crushed 42-13 a month earlier.
Needless to say, the Seahawks feel confident that they are on the verge of special things, which is why Monday's aggressive trade for wide receiver Percy Harvin makes sense.
Head coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider built a cohesive, talented roster. The club has shown a willingness to spend big money in free agency to acquire new talent (WR Sidney Rice, QB Matt Flynn), pay their own stars (RB Marshawn Lynch, OC Max Unger) and unearth prospects in the mid and lower rounds via the draft (QB Russell Wilson, CB Richard Sherman).
While their draft-day exploits have generated the most acclaim, it was the trade for Lynch in 2010 that arguably played the biggest role in Seattle's turnaround.
Lynch played well initially for the Bills after being their first round pick in 2007 but durability and off-field concerns, as well as the rise of Fred Jackson and selection of C.J. Spiller made him expendable. He's since resurrected his career in Seattle and become the foundation of Seattle's power-running game.
The Seahawks are clearly banking on similar success for Harvin, a versatile playmaker whose agility, toughness and explosiveness instantly improve an offense that showed flashes of brilliance a year ago but lacked depth at receiver behind starters Rice and Golden Tate. This was a significant cause for concern considering that 2012 was the first of Rice's six years in the NFL in which he was healthy enough to play all 16 regular season games. Tate is scheduled for free agency after next season.
Just like Lynch, Harvin brings with him plenty of baggage. The Seahawks are likely more prepared than most to handle it. Not only is Carroll well known as a player-friendly coach, he also has Darrell Bevell as his offensive coordinator. Bevell served in this same capacity with the Vikings from 2006-2010, coaching Harvin (and Rice) for the last two years of his time there.
With their biggest need on offense now filled, the team can focus their offseason attention on the defense, Carroll's specialty.
The Seahawks led the NFL a season ago in scoring defense, allowing just 15.3 points per game. The statistic is a bit misleading, however. The Seattle's lack of ideal depth along the defensive line was exposed in the second half of the year when the team allowed an average of 120 rushing yards a game after giving up just 80 over the first eight games. Rookie Bruce Irvin justified Seattle using the No. 15 overall on him a year ago by leading all first-year players with eight sacks, but with the team's best pass-rusher, veteran Chris Clemons, suffering a torn ACL in their playoff victory over the Redskins, the team will once again be looking to add a pass rusher in the off-season.
While the 2013 draft class might lack in sure things at the "skill positions," there is good depth along the defensive line. Seattle could see a variety of talented run-stuffers still available on the second day of the draft, including Purdue's Kawann Short, North Carolina's Sylvester Williams, and Missouri Southern State's Brandon Williams, among others.
In terms of pass-rushers, the Seahawks' hybrid attack calls for a "LEO" end, which can be a defender much lighter than most traditional 4-3 defensive ends. With Clemons and Irvin measuring in at an average of 6-3, 250 pounds, the Seahawks could be looking at pass rushers like Auburn's Corey Lemonier, Georgia's Cornelius Washington or TCU's Stansly Maponga, among others.
Outside linebacker and nickel cornerback are also areas of concern for the Seahawks. Considering the solid depth at these positions, however, as well as Schneider and his scouting staff's ability to land talented players at these positions in recent years, it is hard to find fault with the Seahawks trade for Harvin.