Am I shocked? No. In fact, I've had T.O. on the "***Market Watch***" list for a bit now, albeit he's been low on the list, but still the top WR available. So what does this mean? In two words..."competition" and "cuz you kinda need him...or someone like him". The former shouldn't be a foreign concept to anyone at this point. The fact is, Pete Carroll strongly believes in fostering competition that causes all "contestants" to up their game in pursuit of the spot being contended for.
The fact that a string of veteran wide receivers, each of whom have at least one season of elite performance on their record (Antonio Bryant, Braylon Edwards, Terrell Owens) have been "brought in" within a two week span, tells us that this is about more than just competition though. Clearly, the Seattle staff would like to have a veteran "primary target-type" in the mix. While letting the young guys compete for the No. 2 spot is a fun concept, it's far too speculative for a team that needs to start winning, and needs to be good on offense, soon.
As good as Golden Tate has been in camp, let's not forget about the rave reviews he got during his rookie camp. Sure, this one is different in that he actually appears to know where he's supposed to be, and I'll admit, the routes do look cleaner, he's stronger against press, and fundamentally, he's doing the right stuff with more consistency (i.e. plucking rather than chest-trapping, coming back to the ball rather than squatting, etc.).
All great stuff. But has he really proven it with consistency in actual games? Not yet. He certainly flashed toward the end of last year, but this staff is looking for someone with a track record of success to aid in the transition of the position over to the younger guys. And we're not talking the Brandon Stokely "slot" type, or someone in the Ben Obomanu "veteran in age" mold.
Sidney Rice has proven he can be a true No. 1 when healthy. Doug Baldwin has shown that he can be a slot guy. Both have put it together with consistency over a full season. Who else on this roster at the WR position, has done that? I'll help you...Not one.
So when we talk about a No. 2 receiver, we're talking about a guy who will see the ball a lot. And with Sidney Rice's tendency to get hurt, we're talking about that No 2. receiver going from "seeing the ball a lot" to "primary outside target". Thus, having a guy who has been that primary guy at some point, is important. That is, if winning now is important.
I like Pete Carroll. I love what he's done to overhaul this roster. Particularly on the defensive side of the football. I'm sure Paul Allen is elated as well. But even Pete Carroll needs to compile a winning season sooner rather than later. The offensive side of the ball needs to start coming together now, and I think the "no stone unturned" approach to finding another WR, and not just any WR - a veteran with prolific pass-catching experience - is an indication that the staff and FO in Seattle are of this same mindset. There is urgency to get good.
Ultimately, as I've stated already, it would make the most sense for Braylon Edwards to be that guy, assuming he's still physically capable of performing (health and shape-wise). At 29, he could have a few years left. He's only 2 years removed from a 900+ yard, 7TD season, and if you look at last year's Seahawks receiving corps, nobody really emerged as any type of red zone threat - something every team needs, particularly when the league is getting the hint that you'd rather run the football than throw it.
While Edwards has had his ups, downs (on and off the field) and a healthy portion of drops, one thing is clear...the majority of his career has been spent looking at passes thrown by relatively inconsistent and inaccurate QBs (Derek Anderson, Mark Sanchez, Alex Smith). Look at the numbers. Look at the per-season completion percentages of his QBs over the course of his career. They're consistently and undeniably low (with the possible exception of Alex Smith - although, one could argue that based on Alex Smith's "yards-per" metric, he should have had a much higher completion percentage in 2011 than he did).
And if you think Edwards has been the detriment to those QBs' low completion percentages (yes, the formula is somewhat circular), head over to Football Outsiders and check out the "Catch Rates" of the other receivers on those teams ("Catch Rates" measures the percentage of passes the WR completed - yes, drops are factored in although there are no official public "drop" stats), and you'll notice something - other "elite" receivers on those teams posted similarly low catch rates (see Santonio Holmes in 2010 as one example).
This article is getting pretty geeky, but it's for a purpose... I promise.
The point is this - the Seahawks need a receiver not named Sidney Rice who can line up on the outside and take a lot of throws. And in a year where you need the offense to get good, you can no longer operate on "speculative performance" at such a key position/role. You need to know what you're getting to some extent, and in-so-doing, you can effectively work your young, future receivers into the mix.
Terrell Owens coming in, even for a workout, should spark the competitive juices of guys like Braylon Edwards, Golden Tate and Kris Durham, and, in a perfect world, would cultivate an environment whereby either Owens or Edwards emerge as the clear-cut transitional No. 2 guy while youngsters like Golden Tate raise their play to a level that demands the coaching staff find ways to get them into the game more often.
Based on tape from last year, Tate still has plenty of work to do before I'm comfortable with him facing press on the outside, consistently. Just as well, I think you're robbing the offense of the ability to be creative and exploit some of his other abilities if you're not putting him in the slot at least 20-30 percent of the time that he's on the field, even if he is ready to man the outside. At this point though, I wouldn't lean toward the latter as even being "probable", until I see more from Tate in real-game situations that tells me otherwise.
Edwards and Owens, even at 75-80% of their 2010 respective "forms", could very well still be the better option as the team's No. 2 receiver in 2012, than the 2010 Mike Williams, the current Golden Tate or anyone else currently on the roster. Again, this is for 2012. I'm certainly allowing for the possibility that guys like Tate and/or Durham continue to develop, and end up in a position within a year or two, whereby one of them could hold down that spot consistently.
Let's not keep the corps young just for the sake of "getting younger". The overriding goal here is for the offense to "get better".
Finally, as for the potential damage to the locker room, with a guy like T.O. coming in, I'm not sweating it for a minute.
1. T.O. has been through the most humbling period of his professional life in recent years, and will come in hungry, and with a different approach than he has in the past. Whether he stays that way is another story, but at 38 (almost 39), you won't need him for long. Even if he makes the team (which I'd consider to be an unlikely scenario at this point) and you cut him mid-way through the year, the net loss should be effectively zero at that point because either he wasn't playing well enough to really miss him when he's gone, or other guys will have emerged to take over his spot.
2. Pete Carroll is no respecter of egos, and has no problems chopping a guy like Owens at the first sight of him reverting back to the old T.O. (the bad one).
Let the games begin.
DK Note -- Derek has transitioned from doing league-wide NFL Draft analysis at his blog to a more focused and specific, Seahawks-centric draft/free agency/pro player development site called "ScoutTheSeahawks." It's now up - and it's definitely a site you must bookmark.
He'll be simulcasting some of his analysis here, but make sure to head over there regularly as he continues his Seahawks Rookie Report this year, comments on some of the second year players for the Seahawks, and updates his Market Watch potential free agent list with explanations on fit of the different players still out there. Stephens does deep scouting of NFL Draft eligible players every year, so he has a really nice grasp on end-of-roster type players at every position NFL-wide that move from team to team throughout the season, so he really adds a lot of value there as well in my opinion.