TAMPA, FL - SEPTEMBER 11: Kellen Winslow #82 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks on during the season opener against the Detroit Lions at Raymond James Stadium on September 11, 2011 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
The Seahawks made news this week by trading for veteran tight end Kellen Winslow, and though we've discussed and analyzed the move a good amount here, we've yet to hear much from the team on their motivation and vision for the transaction. I've taken the time to transcribe sections of a couple interviews - from John Schneider with PFT's Mike Florio and Tom Cable with Ian Furness and Jason Puckett - and wanted to share them here because they might shed a little light on the team's point of view.
Florio started his PFT Live interview by asking Schneider what had led to the decision to go out and make the trade. Schneider responded, "First and foremost, we've been looking for that position. We've been looking for a guy that can get down the field. Obviously, Kellen's been very productive the past couple of years down in Tampa Bay, I think second only to Jimmy Giles in team history. Secondly, I have a great relationship with Mark Dominik, we've known each other probably fifteen, twenty years now. When you have a strong relationship with someone like that, you're able to share situations, share experiences, and be able to work rather quickly with each other, and we have a specific trust level in place, and we were able to work it out."
So, who initiated the discussion?
"I reached out to them. Like I said, Mark and I talk often. Throughout the offseason, there are certain players with your team that you're always discussing, you know - 'there's a possibility that this player could become available if certain things happen' - and you know, they're going through a change down there. They're in the first year of a new program, and obviously they wanted to go in a different direction, so we're in the third year of our program and just felt like, obviously, this is a good fit."
Were there other teams involved in the bidding? Schneider: "I was under the impression that there were a couple of teams, but, like I said, Mark and I have known each other for a long time, so it was pretty cut and dry."
One obvious point of contention is the Seahawks' decision to not restructure Winslow's contract before trading for him. He'll be a significant cap hit for the Hawks in 2012 and down the line. Schneider addressed that, saying, "We picked [his contract] up, but I'd rather not get into [talk of a restructure], in terms of what we're thinking about there. Obviously, we picked up his contract and we're comfortable with it. We're comfortable with the terms of the trade itself, and the contract, and John Idzik's done a nice job, and his staff, of creating enough cap room for us to be able to acquire a player like this."
Now, the more interesting question becomes how the Seahawks are planning to use Winslow in their offense, and more particularly, why they felt strong enough about him to go out and use a draft pick for his rights (though, Mike Sando did indicate that the terms of the deal might be conditional on Winslow even making the roster. Sando made it sound like if Winslow is cut, the Hawks don't even have to give up their 7th rounder). On the question of whether the Seahawks continue to heavily feature 2+ TE sets in 2012.
"I would say that's safe to say. Much like receivers, a lot of these guys are very different in their styles. In Zach, you have a guy that's an excellent run blocker, a very underrated pass blocker as well, a guy that can stay in and block one-on-one with a defensive end. You know, against some speed guys he does a real nice job of dropping his hips and shuffling his feet. And, he's an excellent short to medium area receiver. Obviously, he was very productive in Oakland and we'd like to get him more involved in our offense."
"Now, with Kellen, you've got a guy that can spread out a little bit, spread the defense, stretch the defense down the field, and has excellent hands."
Tom Cable joined the Ian Furness/Jason Puckett Show on KJR on Tuesday as well, and shed more light on their take, their plans for Winslow. On what the Seahawks are getting in this trade, Cable responded, "You know, what I think Kellen is going to bring to us, we hope, is some explosiveness, in terms of throwing the football. He's kind of proven throughout his career that he's been a playmaker, and explosive playmaker, and he's going to allow us to get into some personnel groups that maybe make it tough for the defense."
Schematically speaking, how will he be utilized? Cable - "Zach Miller is what we call the 'Y' tight end. So, he's the guy that's going to line up, most of the time, on the line of scrimmage. Kellen will be what we call an 'U' tight end, or an 'H-Back.' So, he'll be the move around guy, you can split him out like a wide receiver, motion him around, shift him around, where Zach's job will be to do the tough guy work and the grunt work. And, catch more balls than he did last year, but he's a guy that will create matchups with linebackers when you put him in space."
When you talk about two tight end sets, the Patriots invariably come up, and when asked to compare what the Hawks plan to do with their schemes to what the Pats do, Cable replied, "There's a lot of similarities [to what New England does with their tight ends]. Our mindset of trying to pound on you and run the ball, what this is going to allow us to do is to get both of those guys in some space down the field to get your explosive plays and your chunk plays and help that run game. So, it's going to be very similar to what New England is doing in terms of what you might see formationally and that sort of thing, but obviously our mentality is to try to beat on you a bit and then throw it over your head, so I think Kellen kind of helps Zach be what he can be, and what he was in Oakland."
On the lack of production in the passing game from the Seahawks' tight ends in 2011, Cable noted, "You want to be smart when you're struggling and growing, and when you help chip on the way out, and that slows the tight end up on the way out, and that doesn't get him downfield as much . You might leave him in as part of the offensive line in protection, and then of course [you leave him in to help] with the run game."
"So, I think last year, we didn't use or utilize that position the right way, but we had to. We had to do what was best for the team. Then, as we got going, I think you saw the receptions pick up a bit at the tight end spot in the second half of the season. With the addition of Kellen, I think we can start off where we left off and hopefully be a little better."
Cable delves more into the schematics, specifically with respect to how the Seahawks plan to utilize the combination of Miller and Winslow:
"I think you have to make a decision as a defense now - do you want to play these guys in base defense? If you do, then you're going to have a linebacker covering those tight ends. If you're going to go the other way, say, we're going to put nickel in the game, then we're going to try to shove the ball down your throat running it. For us, it kind of puts us back into a position of power, where we're going to play off of how they want to substitute and how they want to match up. If they stay in base, you might see us attack them more and throw the ball more, if they get in nickel, you might see us run it more."
"Anytime on offense you can kind of dictate a little bit, then you're ahead of the defense. When your'e the punching bag, and you're taking shots from the defense, you're really behind it. And, you know, for seven games, we were really behind it last year. From Week 8 on, I think we really started to be more of a dictator, and tell the defense, 'here's how we're going to play this game.' I think we got better at doing that."
"In terms of the "U" tight end, [Winslow] is certainly going to have some responsibility to block, but I think on a list of the top important things for him, on a list of five - fifth. He's going to be moving around, blocking on the move, but he's probably going to be more thought of as a playmaker/receiver type."
Anyway, I know a lot of this is spin - of course they're excited about Winslow and of course they have big plans for him. But, I thought both conversations were at least a little interesting in the specific ways they envision using Winslow and the role they see him playing.