INDIANAPOLIS -- The Seattle Seahawks face a slew of uncertainty this offseason for the first time in many years as they adjust to new members on their coaching staff, an aging defense and try to rebuild a broken rushing attack.
"I think the opportunity for it to be an altering moment for us is there," head coach Pete Carroll said at the NFL Scouting Combine. "But every offseason we approach it the same way: to compete as hard as we can to figure out the best ways to put our guys in the right positions, to do the right things, to make the right choices, to stay abreast at what's going on in the league. And sometimes you've got to make some tough calls to get that done and put it in the right order. I really feel confident that we've done that. But there is a lot of work here, a lot of stuff to get better on before we figure all that out."
Those changes began with an overhaul of the coaching staff that saw the team's top four assistants dismissed and replaced. Tough decisions could await on the defensive side of the ball as well as injuries to aging stars could complicate matters significantly.
Defensive end Cliff Avril and strong safety Kam Chancellor may never play again due to neck injuries sustained last season. Cornerback Richard Sherman ruptured his Achilles in November and had surgery to clean up damage to his other Achilles this offseason as well. Both Sherman and free safety Earl Thomas are about to enter the final year of their contracts with the team and Thomas has indicated he plans to hold out if he doesn't get a contract extension this offseason.
The injuries to the defensive side of the ball have left Seattle with serious questions to address moving into the future. Avril is likely headed toward retirement due to his injuries though he hasn't given up hope of playing again just yet. Chancellor's contract extension last year guaranteed money for injury that will likely keep him on the roster this season whether he can play or not.
Sherman is coming off a major injury, defensive end Michael Bennett will be 32 years old and had production slip late in the season as he dealt with plantar fasciitis in his foot, and defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent.
Seattle rolled over less than $600,000 in salary-cap space from last season to 2018 as they found themselves up against the salary cap for most of last season. While they aren't in dire straits from a cap standpoint, they will likely need to create some room to make multiple significant additions this offseason. Avril and cornerback Jeremy Lane are among the most likely candidates to be released to create cap space. Sherman would net more savings than any player on the roster, but is still viewed favorably by the team.
The Seahawks need to address issues with the offensive line and running back positions as they managed just one rushing touchdown from a running back in 2017.
"We didn't exactly get that done like we wanted to," Carroll said. "There's a number of reasons why. And it's not directed at the coaches, it's not directed at any one aspect of it. We had some unfortunate situations with injuries and personnel stuff that didn't allow us to stay with the direction we had the couple years before and hopefully we wanted to capture that and regain that. So we are definitely excited about getting the running game rolling and make it part of the game that can really be a focal point for us because everything feeds off of that."
The offseason has already produced significant change to the team's coaching staff. Potentially drastic changes to the roster could soon follow as well, though it's uncertain just how cavalier the team will be in reshaping their personnel for 2018.
--The Seahawks made the most significant changes to their coaching staff this offseason Carroll took over as head coach in 2010.
Eight assistant coaches were not retained, six new coaches were added to the staff and three coaches changed roles as the team overhauled their staff following the first season without a playoff appearance in six years. Seattle fired their top four assistants -- offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell, defensive coordinator Kris Richard, assistant head coach/offensive line Tom Cable and assistant head coach/linebackers Michael Barrow.
Additionally, senior defensive assistant Travis Jones, assistant defensive backs coach Ricky Manning Jr. and assistant defensive line coach Dwaine Board were not retained. Assistant special teams coach Heath Farwell also left to take a position with the Carolina Panthers.
"Wanted to make sure to challenge the opportunity to get better," Carroll said. "Wanted to find ways to make ... and there was some tough decisions here to get that done, but I wanted to work at changing just kind of the approach to it so that maybe we can find our ways and maybe some newness to uncover. It was difficult to make those choices, because the guys that left we have done so much together and worked together in great fashion. But I just felt it was time. It really just comes back to competing and just trying to find a way to get a little better. That's why we made those choices."
The team hired Brian Schottenheimer as offensive coordinator and Mike Solari as the offensive line coach. Ken Norton Jr. returns to the team to take over as defensive coordinator after three years with the Oakland Raiders. The team also hired Jethro Franklin as assistant defensive line coach, Larry Izzo as assistant special teams coach and Steve Shimko as an offensive assistant.
Seattle also moved Carl Smith from quarterbacks coach to associate head coach, moved Dave Canales from wide receivers coach to quarterbacks coach, and promoted Nate Carroll to wide receivers coach from the assistant position.
Both Schottenheimer and Norton are expected to have heavy influence as position coaches as well. Schottenheimer will be the primary voice for Russell Wilson in quarterbacks meetings with Canales assisting when coordinator duties take precedence. Norton will also be heavily involved with the linebackers, a group he coached for five seasons before moving to Oakland.
"I'm really excited about the guys that are here and how it's working out so far," Carroll said. "We are seeing the new energy. I am energized by it. The whole group is. And we are looking forward to working to see how it's going to turn out."