Let me begin by saying that we do not necessarily know what the Seattle Seahawks biggest needs are in order to be successful in 2013. We can use our better judgment based on educated guesses of where they struggled in 2012 and what players are either on their way out or a year older, but we are often surprised by future results anyway. Case in point is that "one of the Seahawks biggest needs is a receiver" and "they won't be able to move the ball if they don't add a receiver."
These aren't just statements people are making today, these are the statements that we emphasized a year ago. It's something that I myself emphasized a year ago, and I would have gathered that a receiver was perhaps the biggest need for Seattle. Except that they didn't draft a single one. They brought in players like Phil Bates and Jermaine Kearse from the UDFA pool, but neither was going to be the next Doug Baldwin. They brought in free agents like Terrell Owens, Antonio Bryant, and Braylon Edwards. None of the moves at that position were inspiring in the slightest, and indeed, none of them really paid off in the way that we would have expected it needed to pay off.
As usual, John Schneider didn't force an issue like "need" just because there was pressure to get better immediately. And as usual, he smart and me dumb. Schneider and Pete Carroll have never been ones to place need over talent and they will spend money and high draft picks only on the players that they feel are the best for this team. I was personally a fan of Mohamed Sanu out of Rutgers, and I still am, but do you know what he would have cost? Do you know where he would have had to be drafted? The third round. Do you know what we got in the third round instead?
/looks it up. /holy shit, Russell Wilson? /seriously you guys, I was only joking! /that's pretty good.
The Seahawks had Matt Flynn and while Flynn is far from a guarantee, it really de-emphasizes the need of a quarterback, especially one that had come with enough doubts to drop him down to the third round. Seattle had bigger needs, but Wilson was the player that Schneider absolutely had to have, and so we had two possible starting quarterbacks (which meant that one of them was likely to not play at all) and still had a need at wide receiver. Again, that need was never addressed in the draft because Schneider didn't care enough for any of the players available. Were we really going to go with Sidney Rice, Golden Tate, and Baldwin?
Yup. And what happened? Though the yardage isn't what you would call impressive, Seattle was 4th in the league in passing by DVOA. The receivers did what they were asked to do and the Seahawks were very successful in the passing game despite not really addressing one of their biggest "needs" of the 2012 offseason. All of which brings me to this:
Umm... well, I still think Seattle needs a wide receiver! Why do I write anything at all? (Many of my colleagues wonder the same thing about me.)
I would not necessarily call it the most pressing issue that needs to be addressed right now, especially considering that Rice, Tate, and Baldwin are still under contract and that Rice is the oldest at 26, I think many people are in agreement that the offense could be even better. Especially if the Seahawks add speed to the outside at the wide receiver position. Rice makes incredible catches. Tate has incredible mid-air body control. Baldwin has been known to get behind a defense and make some outstanding catches. But not only is there an element missing in that equation, but there really isn't much talent that you can count on beyond those three. As good as I think Seattle was at passing the ball, there is potential there for it to be a high-powered 4,000+ yards passing offense (Wilson had 3,118 in 2012) in the style of the Saints. But that's going to require more than three receivers and I think that Tate would be better served playing on the inside more often.
That's going to lead a lot of people to looking toward the draft and mocking a receiver to the Hawks at pick 25, or in later rounds, which is entirely plausible but don't underestimate the fact that the WR position is one of the deepest available in free agency. And even the best at the top seem less likely to draw franchise tags right now, which means it will only cost the signing team money and not a draft pick or trade.
Of course, many people reading this right now might be wondering if it's worth it for Seattle to spend $50 or $60 million on a wide receiver, especially considering that Rice is on a $41 million deal with three years left. How much money do you want to commit to that unit?
As much as it takes, I guess.
That's not to say that you want to commit a ton to it, but I don't think you entirely dismiss the idea because one of your biggest free agent deals went to a receiver. Money is money. Not only that, but Rice is your best receiver and I'm not sure how many times you want to spin the "He'll play a full season" roulette wheel with a player that is constantly laying out full eagle for a catch. I appreciate the highlight reel, but it's at least partly responsible for his myriad of injuries and sort of in the same vein of why you cringe every time Robert Griffin III gets hit, Rice is a concern on many of his targets.
Now I feel like I'm spending a lot of time and energy on convincing you why Seattle needs a receiver even though I think most people already agree that Seattle needs a receiver. It's like I'm writing an expose for GQ magazine titled, "Come on dudes, you really need to try this thing called sex!"
Let's just get to the list of free agents, starting with the most notable names first (current age listed):
Dwayne Bowe, 28
Mike Wallace, 26
Greg Jennings, 29
Wes Welker, 31
Danny Amendola, 27
Brian Hartline, 26
Notes: Before anyone gets cut or traded, these would have to be the six most popular names in free agency and there's a reason to believe that all six will be on new teams in 2013. One theory that I have had for a very long time is that the Patriots are going to cut ties with Welker and simply plug in Amendola (or Hartline if they must) and that guy will be the next Welker. Amendola with Tom Brady in that offense would be just as ridiculous as Welker, I believe.
Of course, we were talking about Seattle adding a burner on the outside and Welker/Amendola/Hartline do not fill that need. To add a slot receiver, you're not really addressing something that you can't find for much cheaper, such as Baldwin in UDFA or Welker back in the day that he originally went to New England. I would also cross out Jennings, a player that turns 30 in September, was injured for most of 2012, and who is not a burner.
Bowe could provide a nice physical presence opposite of Rice, but again, is not known for his speed. He would, however, provide a red zone and third-down threat that could be very beneficial to Wilson. That's another emphasis in the passing game that I haven't mentioned yet, but can't be ignored. However, that's also something that could potentially be found at the tight end position or slot position and might not be worth $50 million or whatever Bowe would cost. There's also the chance that Bowe wants to stay in Kansas City now that Andy Reid is there.
Which of course leads us to Wallace. After averaging 20.3 yards per catch over his first two seasons in the league, Wallace hasn't been the deep threat he once was over the last two years. At least, not in terms of "YPC" which was down to 13.1 in 2012. But Wallace took a backseat to Antonio Brown and at this point the Steelers might be willing to part ways with him. Are they willing to put a franchise tag (expected to be $10.3 million for a receiver) on a player that had just 836 yards in 2012? Would Wallace like the financial security of a long-term deal finally? Are the two sides going to be far apart because of Wallace having a down year?
I don't know the answer to any of that, but I know that Wallace (4.33 40 yard dash at one time) fits the mold of what I think Seattle could be looking for. Now, would that be worth a 5-year deal? Is there a player like Wallace that you think you can grab in the draft? Would Seattle need to make a trade to acquire Wallace and would it be worth it on top of the the money? If there is a high-profile player that fits one of the Hawks apparent needs, it's Wallace.
Then again, how often are the most successful receivers players that you had expected to be successful? Just look down the list of 2012 receiving leaders and ask yourself how many were expected to be that good. Victor Cruz, Eric Decker, Marques Colston, Randall Cobb, Stevie Johnson, Hartline, Brandon Lloyd, Steve Smith, Vincent Jackson, Miles Austin, Antonio Brown, Anquan Boldin, Lance Moore, and so on... My only point being, at what cost is it an appropriate cost for a certain position and should Seattle instead seek a cheaper cost in free agency or through the draft, even though Wallace is much closer to being a sure thing?
Cheaper free agent options:
Josh Cribbs (could be interesting in special teams)
We don't know for sure what Seattle needs. We have our best guesses and there are some obvious holes that will need to be addressed. Receiver isn't even the most obvious, but it's a unit that is probably going to have 2 or 3 new names next season and at least one of those could be "high profile" whether it's a free agent or a rookie. The question is, which solution would be the best and at what cost? Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to read more about this whole "sex" craze.