Kentwan Balmer is two months older than Cam Thomas. He is a month and half younger than Art Jones. Jones and Thomas were selected in the 2010 NFL draft. Balmer joins the inaugural 2010 Seahawks shadow class. He is the latest reclamation project for Pete Carroll. Carroll is not making a habit of providing amnesty for draft busts; Carroll is making a management philosophy out of providing amnesty for draft busts.
The 2010 Seahawks Shadow Class
First Round: Mike Williams (Selected 10th overall by the Detroit Lions)
First Round: Kentwan Balmer (Selected 29th overall by the San Francisco 49ers)
Second Round: Matt McCoy (Selected 63rd overall by the Philadelphia Eagles)
Third Round: Quinn Pitcock (Selected 98th overall by the Indianapolis Colts)
Fourth Round: Leon Washington (Selected 117 overall by the New York Jets)
Every team cycles through a few former busts. Some of what constitutes NFL talent is innate: never able to be gained through even the hardest work and never able to be lost but through age or injury. The same characteristics that made a player attractive as a prospect can linger even after the prospect has failed. So I wouldn't confuse a little roster churn for a radical approach to building a team.
What makes Carroll's approach different, and it is very different, is the caliber of talent Seattle has attracted and specifically the reason that talent is available.
Balmer was not a Tim Ruskell pick. He wasn't polished, hard working and he didn't fit the scheme. He was a bag of tools that might turn into something special and might bust. Bad. He has busted for the 49ers. Balmer was a minor rotational player his first two seasons. He is now a Seahawk.
His tools are quality, but not sensational. Balmer's slotting as a first round pick always confused me. If he were a tight end, he might be Anthony McCoy: young, talented, quality tools but not a ton of production and some serious character concerns. Neither Balmer nor McCoy are bad people, but sometimes a bad person can be a good prospect. And a good person just doesn't have it in them to kill kill kill. The NFL is paranormal world where a personality like Lawrence Taylor fits a certain kind of ideal.
Balmer is approaching 24. If he sticks, he gives Seattle a legitimate rotational mate for Brandon Mebane. He isn't a disruptive type, per se, and he isn't a plugger, per se, but he is big, powerful and relatively quick and agile lineman that can push piles and improve the performance of his teammates. He gives Seattle something they need, further solidifies the three man defensive line Seattle seems committed to building around, and has a lot of untapped potential. Much more than you are likely to find in a sixth round pick. Much, much more.
Seattle has reportedly traded a sixth round pick for Balmer. A sixth round pick is not worth very much. A player selected in the sixth round in an average draft averages about a third of the value of a player selected in the third round. So far from worthless, but sixth round picks are a wager and a wager with little sure return. Another way to look at it is, a player selected in the sixth round averages less than a full season starting over their career. I think a reasonable argument can be made that a sixth round pick has little more value than a non-drafted free agent -- especially for a mecca like Camp Carroll.
Balmer does not have to be great to fulfill his price. He is young enough that his potential is still limitless. I do not think he is a first-round prospect, judging by talent, tools, skills and desire, but he is very good talent and a far and away better talent than one can realistically expect from the sixth round. This is a good move. Carroll adds another reclamation project, and more than Carroll's charisma, his less grueling practices, his openness to new things and his eye for coaching talent, his welcome for wayward talent and how it has transformed the team's roster, has made me excited for this season and the future of the Seahawks. Talent wins and Carroll has found a novel market inefficiency he is specially able to exploit.