Seattle's once formidable wide receiver depth has cracked, crumbled and washed away. With Deion Branch injured, no lock to return in any capacity in 2008, and having suffered an injury, ACL tear, notorious for predictable recovery but unpredictable return of skills, the Hawks are without a #1 receiver. Exacerbating this already glaring deficiency is the fact that Mr. Steady Bobby Engram must be expected to decline next season. Perhaps dramatically. Before 2007, Engram only twice topped 65 receptions; he missed extensive time in both of the following seasons. Engram's game, working the middle for tough third down receptions, was not built for 94 reception seasons. Nor is his recently 35 year old body built for much more life in the NFL. That leaves only the supremely talented but equally inconsistent Nate Burleson and not-ready-for-Sunday Ben Obomanu to power Seattle's passing attack. If Seattle drags its feet in free agency, saddled with a glaring need and win now expectations, it could be forced into a corner in the NFL draft.
Complicating this mess is two recent coach hirings (Mike Solari and Bill Lazor) perhaps signaling a move away from Mike Holmgren's modified Walsh offense towards some form of downfield passing attack. Both studied under noted Air Coryell adherent Al Saunders. Seattle's next wide receiver must be able to function within Holmgren's exacting, timing based system, and a deep passing attack that emphasizes height, speed and jump ball ability.
The Hawks' unenviable mix of sunk cost (Branch), age (Engram), inconsistency (Burleson) and inexperience (Obomanu, Jordan Kent and Courtney Taylor) leaves Seattle with little stability and even less ability to attain it. Seattle, with a limited budget, likely needs both a stopgap and a draftee. We'll cover potential draft picks another day, for now let's delve into the free agent pool. Age at the start of the 2008 season in parentheses, 2007 DPAR and DVOA follow.
Muhsin Muhammad (35): Muhammad's a tough guy, but old and with old player problems. He's molasses slow and his hands are beginning to fail him. In a timing based system that emphasizes run after catch, Muhammad would be as tenable as pure sodium in water. He won't be around for Seattle's next system. 2007 DPAR: 7.2 DVOA: -1.7
Dante Stallworth (27): Inferno just turned 27 and has three straight seasons of interesting DPARs: 2005: 16.2 2006: 12.3 2007: 15.9. The chance that he turns into a complete wide receiver is fading fast; he's almost certainly a deep threat and little else. That's not without merit, it could be argued Seattle is replete with underneath possession guys, but almost no one who can stretch the opposition vertically. He's one of the only free agents who could produce for the 2008 squad and stick if Seattle does transition to a deep passing attack. Stallworth's current contract is worth an insane 11 million against the cap if all paid, but it won't be. Regardless, someone is going to price him out of Seattle's budget. 2007 DVOA: 16.2%
Marty Booker (32): Books posted a 26th ranked DPAR of 16.9 in 2006, but fell below replacement level in 2007. Trent Green, Cleo Lemon and John Beck say hello. Booker is stopgap receiver incarnate, with little upside, minimal downside and a packed resume of average play. Hooray. 2007 DPAR: -4.5 DVOA: -21.6%
Jerry Porter (30): It's been a long time since Porter has played with an even league average quarterback making it very hard to assess him. Like Stallworth, mostly a deep threat. Porter isn't a character guy and won't be contacted by Tim Ruskell. 2007 DPAR: 4.1 DVOA: -8.9
DJ Hackett (27): Hawks fans know Hacks' skill and production - when healthy. It's assumed by many that Hackett is in line for a big payday, but that's not likely so. Hackett had only 32 receptions last season and only 105 over his entire career. Given the dearth of value available in free agency, it might be worth it for Seattle to retain their injury-wracked, should-be star. He knows the system, has excelled within it and has the skills to work in a downfield attack. 2007 DPAR: 8.2 DVOA: 10%