If the Falcons releasing all of their players is any indication, then we really are getting underway in the offseason! I would not say that I eagerly anticipate finding out what Seahawks and players we call "friends" (to ourselves, while no one is watching) get fired but it's going to happen and I think we want to know where we stand. I think that we also hope that it's done with a hilarious "You're foiyed!" in the Trump voice, just to ease the tension in the room.
Seattle is going to be doing things (and maybe even doin' thangs) in free agency and possibly the trade market, and I think we have a vague idea of where their heads are at. I started outlining a few of the needs in this article and the possibilities of filling those needs, but when I got to receiver I realized it warranted a lot more words than I anticipated.
So what you have before you is a lot of words on the receiver position followed by less words on two other positions.
Drafting a receiver is kind of an exciting thing to do because receivers are usually making the most exciting plays. Here are the reasons why I think that Seattle is about to draft one and make you all "football horny":
Rice is making a base salary of $8.5 million with a bonus of $1.2 million for a $9.7 million cap hit. Seems like a lot for a player that finished the season with 50 catches for 751 yards, but keep in mind that Rice was targeted 82 times, 73rd most in the league. Compare that to say, Vincent Jackson, who had 1,384 yards but was targeted 147 times. Jackson caught 49% of his targets, Rice caught 62% of his targets. Jackson had 9.41 yards per target, Rice had 9.15 yards per target.
Tate was targeted 67 times and finished with 682 yards (10.17 yards per target) and caught 67% of his targets. Compare that to say, Wes Welker: Caught 67% of his targets for 7.73 yards per target. Or Jordy Nelson: 67% caught, 10.20 yards per target.
It was really Baldwin who had a rough time acclimating to Wilson (or vice versa, whichever) and he finished with 58% targets caught, 7.32 yards per target. Baldwin also costs nothing right now and is currently slated to make $555,000 in the final year of his deal. He'll be here and he'll be fighting to secure a starting position in the slot and prove that it was last year that was the fluke, not his rookie year.
So the question then becomes, if all three players are going to be here then what do the Seahawks have and what do they need? We know that they will return their top three receivers, plus Jermaine Kearse and Phil Bates if they feel like it. Ben Obomanu is slated to make some amount greater than $50.00 so then we know he must be released. It wasn't like the Seahawks ran a shootout offense and then had no player top 800 yards receiving and drop a bunch of passes. If you released Rice and/or replaced Tate, you'd have to ask yourself, "What would the new guy do if he took over that place?" So, if you replaced Tate with Mike Wallace, are we guaranteeing that Wallace would get more than 67 targets? How much more? If you gave Tate those extra targets, what would he do with them? How does it compare to Wallace and does it make up for the salary difference? Tate is slated for a cap hit of $880,000. Eight-hundred-and-eighty-thousand. That is a hell of a lot of money for you and me, but it is a pittance in the NFL. Wallace has been a fantasy star, but he was targeted 119 times last year and had 833 yards with a 54% catch rate. Terrible, really.
Seattle ran a conservative offense last year centered around the run and even if they did open it up next season, how much do you really anticipate them to do so year-over-year? Wilson only attempted 393 passes last year, do you think that all of a sudden that's going to be 600 passes? Not likely, and not when they were so successful by the end of the year. I'd say about 480 pass attempts would be reasonable, good for abut 3,840 yards passing if Wilson hits 8.0 yards per attempt. If Rice stays healthy and increases his targets to about 100, there could be a 1,000-yard season for a Seahawk again.
So I don't necessarily see the need for Seattle to spend any free agent money on a receiver other than what they did last year with Braylon Edwards and attempted to do with Terrell Owens and Antonio Bryant. They will look at veterans to compete in camp with Tate and Baldwin, but that's the most I expect. Still, the real fear here is that they have no depth and would probably like to get a fourth receiver to work in more snaps. You can't anticipate that Kearse will be the guy to do that, and that's why I would think that Seattle is going to use a first or second round pick on a receiver. John Schneider is used to this from his days in Green Bay, and those dividends paid off this year in the likes of Randall Cobb and James Jones, after Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings were hurt and/or ineffective. The Seahawks are going to at least prepare for the fact that Rice and/or Tate will get hurt or be ineffective and they aren't prepared for that as of now.
A good number of underclassman receivers have made this a class strong in it's depth, even if it's weaker at the top. None of these players have that "can't miss" label, but you could see 10-12 of them taken in the first three rounds, if not a few more than that. Really, you could see that many go in the first two rounds.
I feel very strongly that one of those names will be a Seattle Seahawk. Austin gets talked about a lot, really because he might be the most exciting player in this draft, but at 5'9", 174 lbs, what role would he fill for Seattle? Well, I anticipate that like Percy Harvin, there isn't a role that he fills so much as there is a role that you make for him. He could be on the field for 50 snaps without actually taking away snaps from someone that would have had them instead, in a manner of speaking. But he could also fill in for the 5'11" Tate if needed and even usher out Tate, who is in the last year of his rookie deal.
Going back to the Packers, both Jennings and Cobb are under 6' tall. While Austin would be among the lightest players in the league, Wheaton (5'11") , Bailey (5'10") and Goodwin (5'9") are closer to the weights of Jennings and Cobb. Goodwin as a track star might also resemble Cobb a bit more too and be an explosive player that would develop in 2-3 years. Frankly, don't expect much out of the rookie in that group above that comes to Seattle in his first year. This is a long-term plan to keep stocking the position.
If the plan were to be finding a player that could fit the Rice role, then Hunter (6'4", 196), Dobson (6'3", 210), or Rogers (6'3", 217), might be the guy.
The Seahawks are going to use one of the first three (probably one of their first two) picks on a receiver, and I truly believe that. I would expect that the player is either going to be Austin earlier or perhaps a player like Wheaton a little later on. They aren't going to rest on their laurels on the position, but you should also recognize that they have talent there already.
They just don't use it as much as other teams. Don't expect that to change over night either.
One thing that is consistently overlooked when talking about trading Matt Flynn, is that Flynn plays an important role on the team. In some ways it is almost as important to have a good backup quarterback on your team as it is to have a good starting quarterback. Every year teams Super Bowl or playoff hopes are dashed by a quarterback injury, and most every year that team seems to be the Bears. For all intents and purposes, Flynn is a high-end backup quarterback. For all intensive purposes, he is really intense about his purpose to be a starting quarterback.
- Matt Moore
- Jamarcus Russell (Top priority)
Those are just a few. I'm also intrigued by third-string QB Pat Devlin from the Dolphins, though he might be a priority for them with Matt Moore hitting free agency too. There is a reason that the Seahawks aren't in a rush to trade Flynn, it's probably not going to save them significant cap money in 2013 if they have to sign his replacement and he's arguably the best "available" QB on the market. For a good return though, it will be worth it.
They don't have to sign one of course, and we just saw the Washington Redskins draft two quarterbacks last year, with Kirk Cousins doing a fine job as a rookie backup. While this class of quarterbacks isn't all that intriguing at the top, it could be considerably deep. There's players available with question marks that could develop into solid options and come at a very cheap price. Imagine spending a million dollars at the QB position and still sending your starter to the Pro Bowl.
Late round QB options:
- Landry Jones, Oklahoma
- Zac Dysert, Miami (Ohio)
- Matt Scott, Arizona
- Sean Renfree, Duke
- Jeff Tuel, Washington State
- Collin Klein, Kansas State
- Colby Cameron, Louisiana Tech
Klein isn't the same scenario as Russell Wilson. He's 6'5", 226, but he just isn't seen as a passer. Wilson was just short. That's it. (It's amazing to say that in retrospect. Wilson was almost perfect, just short.)
Options at backup QB
- Keep Flynn
- Trade Flynn, sign free agent
- Trade Flynn, draft replacement
Kick and punt returner
Leon Washington has been a hell of a steal in his three years with the Seahawks, making the Pro Bowl in 2012. However, he's no longer a part of the offense (83 yards rushing, 31 yards receiving) and that's just not something you normally anticipate spending a few million dollars on. Leon has a base salary of $2.5 million and carries a cap hit of a reported $3.875 million.
We love you Leon, but I think a re-negotiation is going to be in order. Or we'll draft Ace Sanders or something.