Seattle traded two of its best young players for draft picks. It engineered a deal to swap picks in the second but trade a 2011 third-round pick for Charlie Whitehurst. It's possible that rookie general manager John Schneider is not yet very skilled at negotiating. That alone does not explain the moves. The Boldin trade might.
Through the offseason two themes have persisted, not just in Seattle, but the greater NFL: lowball trades for veterans and teams hoarding picks. The Patriots have 12. The Eagles have 11. The Seahawks have 9. The Cardinals traded Anquan Boldin for a third and a fourth. Neither pick alone has huge value, but combined the two are worth as much as the thirtieth overall pick -- in a typical class. Likewise, the late-fourth and early-fifth round picks Seattle acquired for Sims and Tapp combined are worth as much as a late-second round pick -- in a typical class.
How good is this class? The possibility of a rookie salary cap supposedly pushed more underclassmen into declaring. I could run numbers on that, but it won't give us a definitive answer. I don't think a definitive answer is possible, but how about an educated guess.
This is an incredibly strong offensive tackle class. Russell Okung, Trent Williams, Bryan Bulaga and Anthony Davis would all likely rank ahead of last year's second overall pick Jason Smith. I would rank them that way, anyway. The depth runs deep and unlike last year, the best talents are not haunted by major injury, experience or character issues. This is an amazing defensive tackle class, among the best ever. It's a strong running back class. A strong outside linebacker class. An excellent safety class. The major positions of weakness are quarterback, offensive guard, center, cornerback, end and inside linebacker. None are strong, but none are particularly weak either. Seattle has added a quarterback, dropped a guard, has a young center, has youth at corner, turned its prized outside linebacker into an end and developed depth into a promising inside linebacker. For the most part, it's filled positions in which it detects weakness in this class, and opened positions it can fill through the draft.
In a vacuum, trading an established young guard for a fifth round pick, even the second pick in the fifth round, is a mistake. Rob Sims is the exception. In the fog of pre-draft optimism, every prospect seems a potential stud, but most picks never amount to anything. Sims was selected in the fourth but became a starter with above average potential. I don't know that this class is sufficiently better to warrant selling low on established players, but that is what Seattle is wagering.
A draft pick does not have absolute value. It's dependent on the strength of the class, the positions of strength within that class and the needs of the team with the pick. A team should never betray how much a pick is worth to them, just as it should never betray how little a signed player is worth to them, and it should always attempt to get as much value in trade as possible. It's hard to impossible for an outsider to fully evaluate a draft class. I rarely get to look at more than a 100 players in any sort of detail. Therefore, it's very hard to know how much an early fifth, or a late fourth is worth to Seattle. It's fair to say the Seahawks probably will not recover in trade what they shipped out, but I think it is also fair to say that Pete Carroll and John Schneider have a plan. That plan depends on the 2010 draft.
They traded a good young pass rusher for a fourth round pick. They traded a good young guard for an early fifth. Perhaps most tellingly, they overspent on Charlie Whitehurst, but overspent without spending a 2010 draft pick. Carroll and Schneider have punched holes all over this roster, but offset most of those moves with draft picks. I am not ready to buy into the plan, but it's good to know one exists. The Seahawks buy into this class. Big time. Big. Big. Time. They have invested heavily into maximizing their returns from this class. They will sink or swim based on the talent acquired in two weeks. We won't know right away, but a year, two years from now, we should have a good idea of the future of Carroll and Schneider, and the future of the Seahawks. They are banking on this class, and if that assessment is wrong, or they draft wrong, or just draft unlucky, when players like Sims and Tapp are in their prime for other teams and what veterans Seattle still has are gone or decrepit, the very core of this team will be dependent on the 2010 class, and if that class fails, if this class fails, Carroll and Schneider will be staring down the end of their short Seahawks careers. At least, it's a God damn good class.