There is no third-year wide receiver rule and no single path a quarterback takes to competence. The Seattle Seahawks could employ any strategy this offseason and still not start a competent quarterback in 2010, 2011 and 2012. If it sticks with Matt Hasselbeck, it will commit itself to Hasselbeck's decline phase, starting him in his age 35, 36 and 37 year-old seasons. For perspective, a quarterback performs at 83.2% of total capacity at 34, but historically, that capacity drops to 76.8, 69.9 and 62.9% from 35 to 37. The Seahawks could attempt to offset that decline through building a better team.
Whoever drafts Hasselbeck's replacement, whoever that replacement is, and however that replacement is integrated into the offense, the Seahawks will most likely decline as a passing offense in 2010. Old quarterbacks lose ability in chunks. Young quarterbacks gain ability in leaps. The two cross paths sometime around an old quarterback's age 36 season and a young quarterback's age 24 season.
Hasselbeck will turn 35 next season. Seattle can retain him through the end of his contract while simultaneously adding the quarterback of the future. Hasselbeck would be the presumed starter and presumably better than his young replacement, help transition Seattle towards its future, and potentially resurrect his own career, should he desire.
That's why I dub this the "Graceful Exit Plan." Seattle could draft a quarterback in the top ten, but is less likely to with Hasselbeck under contract and costing $10 million against the cap. In the last ten drafts, two quarterbacks have been selected in the top ten five times. In the last twenty drafts, two quarterbacks have been selected in the top ten ten times. It's difficult to project a draft so early in the process, but it is likely Jimmy Clausen will join Sam Bradford, Colt McCoy, Tim Tebow, Tony Pike, Dan LeFevour and Sean Canfield atop this year's quarterback class.
Clausen is the most likely top-ten pick. The impact of keeping Hasselbeck is that Seattle is unlikely to select a quarterback within the top ten, and therefore we will assume Clausen is unlikely, Bradford could likewise be unlikely, but the remaining five will be available. The remaining five represent the most likely pool of replacements for Hasselbeck.
Canfield's age is not publically listed, Rotoworld lists him at 108, but he is a senior now and graduated from high school early to attend spring drills. It's most likely that Canfield is 22, and like most of the rest of his class, will be a 23 to 24 year-old rookie.
It's ridiculous to discuss a quarterback prospect's upside. Every legitimate prospect is capable of making Canton or selling Cadillacs in five years. Likewise, the age guidelines presented by Pro Football Reference evidence that quarterback development is initially about experience. The greatest single delta is between age 21 and age 22, when a quarterback jumps 22.2%, and the second greatest is between 22 and 23, when a quarterback jumps 18.5%. Most 22 year old quarterbacks are rookies. All 21 year old quarterbacks rookies. After the sophomore sprint growth is more gradual.
The Plan Might Be Enacted Thus:
Hasselbeck is a lame duck. The media loves to pick on such situations and tease out whatever controversy possible. The ownership, management and Hasselbeck must agree to bury the subject and unite behind a common plan. That starts the day after the draft, when the team provides a unified front: Hasselbeck is the starter, but his drafted replacement, the future.
If Greg Knapp is still Seattle's offensive coordinator, Seattle's pick will most reflect his personal preferences in a quarterback. Tim Ruskell has deferred to his coaching staff, sometimes smartly, and sometimes, like when re-signing Shaun Alexander, stupidly. It will reflect Knapp's system and Ruskell's eye for talent. Let's quickly vet potential candidates.
Tebow could fall off Knapp's list and Canfield appear on Ruskell's. The most likely candidate is McCoy. He fits Knapp's system and passes Ruskell's standards. Tebow is the second most likely candidate and then maybe Canfield. I'll run with Tebow and McCoy, because the two are similar types and would be built around in a similar fashion.
We'll assume Seattle's spends its first overall pick on McBow. Seattle would not likely spend additional early picks on the offensive line. Knapp would protect the quarterback by moving the pocket, establishing the run and extending the short passing attack. It would want a top receiver to pair with T.J. Houshmandzadeh, replace or eventually replace Nate Burleson (2010 is voidable), grow with McBow and one day power the McSeaBow's offense. Or, should that talent be unavailable, an elite running back prospect to lead Seattle's developing committee of backs.
Knapp likes speed and Ruskell likes polish. The two might settle on Brandon LaFell. Many players are faster than Lafell, but few are more polished. Lafell does not satisfy Knapp's desire for speed, but he can be a deep threat. He's a big player, known for his blocking ability, that passes Ruskell's standards and can fit within Knapp's system.
If Seattle retains or re-signs Burleson, or postpones its need at wide receiver, it could address its defense or add a running back. The one thing it will not likely do is invest heavily into its offensive line. Another GM might.
Seattle will face a difficult free agency before it reaches the draft. Retaining Hasselbeck means a major chunk of its salary cap is invested into a player very unlikely to contribute to its future. It could cut Patrick Kerney and Walter Jones, either, but it would be hard pressed to retain all three. It must cut someone or be dragged down by sunk cost.
That period will determine who Seattle targets in the draft, but skill position and defense should populate their prime targets.
How it Works: Seattle's coaching staff and executives buy themselves a stay of execution. Emphasis is on the future and Seattle's existing offense is culled for talent. One of Chris Spencer and Rob Sims will join Deon Butler, Max Unger, Justin Forsett, John Carlson, McBow and Sparkly New Skill Position Player to form Seattle's offensive core going forward.
McBow starts for most of the preseason and subs if Hasselbeck is injured or grossly ineffective. Hasselbeck endures his victory lap with statesman-like aplomb and tutors his young understudy, to whatever undetermined effect. Seattle is not a true contender in 2010, but it could contend for the NFC West. The defense gels and Seattle's young offense shows flashes.
How it Fails: If Seattle cannot sooth Hasselbeck but feels compelled to retain him, it will struggle to keep the media hounds at bay. Management accepts 2010 as a season spent towards its future, but the media exploits the fanbase's impatience, growing dissatisfaction and entitlement, and not so subtly splits the franchise between Hasselbeck and management; The past and the future; winning and the losing it takes to win again.
McBow struggles in the preseason and is stuck behind Mike Teel or Seneca Wallace on Seattle's depth chart. The offense, built to be cheap and good, versus expensive and dominating, like the Seahawks of yore, is cheap and bad. The defense does not pick up the slack. The Seahawks spiral towards their third straight losing season, a little older, and further wedged between a full rebuild and mediocrity.