INDIANAPOLIS -- The Seahawks' biggest issue from last season continues to be their biggest issue as they get set to augment their roster this offseason.
Seattle's young offensive line struggled significantly throughout the season and remains the biggest weakness the team has. George Fant - a converted basketball player - is the only tackle currently under contract for next season with Garry Gilliam being a restricted free agent and Bradley Sowell an unrestricted free agent. The rest of Seattle's starting line remain within their first four seasons in the league. Fant and Germain Ifedi played as rookies while Mark Glowinski became a starter for the first time at left guard in his second season in Seattle.
The Seahawks will have to add at least one tackle to the roster through free agency this offseason in addition to addressing the problem through the draft. The problem for Seattle is that good offensive line talent is becoming increasingly more difficult to come by.
"Well, there's just a dearth at the position," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said. "There just has been for a number of years now. There aren't a lot of guys that. ... I mean, you just have to be really careful to figure out those guys that have the mental aptitude, first, to come in and learn everything. I think you saw it throughout the season with our younger guys. There's a lot of stuff happening in there. And they have to figure it out. They have to be able to communicate. They just have to gel."
The Seahawks are not in a position where they can overturn their whole offensive line. The interior trio of Justin Britt, Glowinski and Ifedi will likely remain in the same starting positions next fall. However, the tackle spots have to get more consistent and productive.
Adding talent and competition to the group is important, but Schneider wants to also add more of a veteran presence.
"I think we got in a position where we probably got a little bit too young," Schneider said. "I think we'd like to add some experience to that position."
Seattle had Jahri Evans in training camp only to release him during final cuts. Evans re-signed with the New Orleans Saints and started all season for them. J'Marcus Webb flamed out as a free agent signing as well leaving Sowell as the only veteran as a part of Seattle's offensive line.
In retrospect, Schneider wishes they held on to Evans.
"Yeah, I'd be lying to you if I said different. His leadership would have been outstanding for us," he said.
Seattle has more salary cap flexibility than it did a year ago, which gives them some ability to chase help in the free agent market. They'll need to pursue multiple avenues to improve the group this offseason.
--For the first time in several years, the Seahawks elected to make voluntary changes to its coaching staff. While Gus Bradley and Dan Quinn each poached a few assistants when they were hired for head coaching jobs in recent years, the Seahawks mostly kept their coaching staff intact without any major changes. This offseason has seen three separate assistant coaches leave the staff for various reasons.
Rocky Seto, who served as an assistant on Pete Carroll's staff ever since he took the head coaching job in Seattle in 2010, elected to leave the team to pursue a career in the ministry. He had worked with career for 15 years dating back to their time together at USC. Seto served in four separate roles with the Seahawks. His last post was as Carroll's assistant head coach for defense.
Running backs coach Sherman Smith was let go and assistant running backs coach Chad Morton was promoted into the primary role with the team. Smith said in a radio interview that he had not made a decision whether to return for next season or not when Carroll informed him the team would be going a different direction.
Smith was an original member of the Seahawks expansion team, playing in Seattle from 1976-82. He predated Carroll as a coach in Seattle as he initially served on Jim Mora's staff in 2009 before Carroll took over the following year.
Assistant linebacker coach Lofa Tatupu is also not returning to the staff. Tatupu played for Carroll at USC and in his final two seasons in the NFL with Seattle in 2009-10. Tatupu played for the Seahawks six seasons and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection and earned first-team All-Pro honors in 2007.
The Seahawks added defensive line coach Clint Hurtt to the staff. He had previously served as a linebacker coach for the Chicago Bears the past two seasons.
--The signing of Blair Walsh in February seems to strongly indicate that the Seahawks will have a new kicker in 2017.
Whether that kicker will be Walsh is yet to be determined.
Steven Hauschka has served as the Seahawks kicker each of the last six seasons. However, he had his worst season since joining the Seahawks via a waiver claim from Denver during final roster cuts prior to the start of the 2011 season. Hauschka missed 10 kicks (four field goals and six extra points) last season. Six of those 10 misses were blocked as Hauschka routinely had difficulty getting enough elevation on his kicks.
With Hauschka set to be an unrestricted free agent, the signing of Walsh indicates Hauschka's tenure has come to an end.
Walsh reportedly signed a non-guaranteed one-year deal worth up to $1.1 million if he makes the team to start the regular season.
"He was a very confident guy on his visit," Schneider said. "The year before he was a Pro Bowler, I believe. He's gone on a streak where he's hit 17 of 17 (kicks). He's got a lot of talent."
While Seattle could easily bring in additional competition for the spot this offseason, it seems unlikely the Seahawks would re-sign Hauschka - likely with some guaranteed money involved - and then have him compete for the job. The more likely route is that the Seahawks hope Walsh can recapture his past consistency in a new environment while adding a young kicker through the draft or free agency to compete for the job.
"We'll be looking for somebody else to come in and compete as well," general manager John Schneider said. "It could be Steven. I'm not sure. ... (Walsh) was still out there. A number of teams wanted to sign him. We brought him in, worked him out and got a deal done."
Walsh's signing is no guarantee he will be the team's kicker in September, but it almost certainly closes the door on Hauschka.