The Seahawks' Pro Bowl contingent this year was set up largely because of moves made in the 2009 and 2010 drafts -- and, like it or not, former general manager Tim Ruskell gets some credit for it.
In the 2009 draft, Ruskell had the misfortune of being the guy who picked "the safest player in the draft," linebacker Aaron Curry, with the fourth overall pick. No one could have imagined at the time that Curry would be a major bust and the move would be the nail in Ruskell's Seattle coffin.
First, he traded out of the second round, pulling a 2010 first-round pick from the Denver Broncos. Then he traded back into the second round to draft Unger.
Ruskell was not around to exercise the extra 2010 first-rounder, but John Schneider and Pete Carroll benefitted from Ruskell's deal and wisely used the pick -- the 14th overall -- on Thomas.
Schneider and Carroll took Thomas after they had picked Okung sixth overall.
The Earl of Seattle
Thomas has quickly become a leader in Seattle -- a two-time Pro Bowl player with wisdom beyond his 23 years.
He displayed some of that moxy in words to Seahawks.com's Clare Farnsworth:
“Russell (Okung) and I have had a lot of talks about how we want this team to be and what kind of leaders we want to be, and I think we’re doing a great job of just being pros,” Thomas said. “We’re very young, but at the same time we’re very mature. We know what’s at stake. We also know in this league, your time here is very limited. In my mind and his mind, we want to be the best.”
Thomas knows he is taking the mantle of best safety from Ed Reed, Baltimore's future Hall of Famer, and Troy Polamalu, Pittsburgh's dynamic but injury-prone star.
"A lot of guys talk about Ed and Troy, but definitely they’re starting to notice 29 here in Seattle," Thomas told Farnsworth. "Like I told Ed, I respect him and I think he’s probably one of the best safeties I’ve ever seen. But his time is up.”
Okung vs. Williams
In that 2010 draft, the Hawks really wanted a tackle, and they basically were at the mercy of the Washington Redskins, who were going to take either Okung or Trent Williams with the fourth pick.
The Skins took Williams, and the Hawks were happy to get Okung. As it turns out, both are in the Pro Bowl this year, but Williams is not playing after he was injured in a bar brawl earlier in the week.
Williams also was the guy who smacked Richard Sherman in the face after the Seahawks beat Washington in the playoffs earlier this month.
The Hawks probably got the better player -- now that Okung managed to stay healthy for a full season. He gave up just two sacks while Williams surrendered 5.5 this season.
Scouting Pro Bowl free agents
The Pro Bowl is always a great place for players to stump for pending free agents to sign with their teams. Who knows whether the Seahawks did any recruiting during the week, but there are a few players the Seattle front office might be interested in.
Chicago defensive tackle Henry Melton (6-3, 280) has become one of the top interior pass rushers -- exactly what the Seahawks need. The 2009 fourth-rounder had seven sacks in 2011 and six this season. The Bears might choose to use the $8.3 million DT franchise tag on him, but if they don't, he will certainly have plenty of suitors.
(Coincidental aside: The Bears drafted Melton with a pick they got from the Seahawks when Seattle moved back into the second round to draft Unger.)
Miami's Randy Starks (6-3, 312) is another good inside pass rusher (4.5 sacks in each of the past two years). He is 29, but he would be a second option if the Hawks wanted to add an interior rusher via free agency. He also would be cheaper -- $5 million a year or so.
Dallas' Anthony Spencer, a first-round pick in 2007, could be a great fit for Seattle's Leo position. He has played outside rush linebacker for the Cowboys in their 3-4, but he also can play end at 6-3 and 261 pounds. He had 11 sacks this season while playing for the $8.9 million franchise tag. The Cowboys could tag him again, for $10.6 million. But if they don't re-sign him, he is worth a look.
Carroll has said he wants to "double up" on pass rushers, which probably means one inside guy and one outside guy. And it probably means signing someone in free agency and drafting a guy.
Melton, Starks and Spencer are all worth checking out if they make it to free agency.