The official start of free agency is just eight days away and the legal tampering period begins in less than a week, meaning that once again John Schneider will go to work recruiting players that we will all hope propel the Seattle Seahawks back to the Super Bowl.
In this series, I will be taking a look at some of the names on the market that could attract the attention of the Seahawks for a variety of reasons, no matter how unlikely it is that the team will sign the player in question. I’m not going to look at the positions everyone wants the team to pursue, nor will I evaluate any of the bigger names that are out there, since those either already have or are likely to soon be covered by the other media outlets. This is more a review of who could be some of the possible dark horse free agents the team might look to sign.
The players I will be looking at will be those free agents who have skill sets the team has shown to look for in the past and who could be impact players while not breaking the bank. Some of the categories the team has traditionally identified as important are:
- The ability to generate explosive plays
- Outstanding athleticism
- Special teams contributions
- Certain physical attributes for specific positions.
The first player who could potentially be an unexpected free agent signing for the Hawks checks off multiple of these categories. Following up on Kenneth’s recent article about the team potentially adding a wide receiver, this particular player is a big bodied (6-2, 216 pounds) receiver with explosive 4.42 speed who can contribute in a major way on special teams and who also happens to have a career average of 10.7 yards per carry on 31 rushing attempts. He also happens to have been selected by the Vikings with the third of their three first round selections in 2013:
Patterson is a game changer when it comes to kickoff returns, with five kickoff return touchdowns and an average of 30.4 yards per return in his four year career. For reference, that average is 16.9% higher than the career average of 26.0 yards per return of Seahawks Pro Bowl returner Tyler Lockett. Adding Patterson would allow Lockett to be removed from kick return duties, which would undoubtedly make Kenneth very happy, and would free up Lockett to focus offense and return punts.
Patterson’s size, speed and explosiveness would also allow him to be a dangerous threat in Darrell Bevell’s bubble screen game. Patterson weighs in almost the same as Alex Collins and Thomas Rawls, and while taller than either of those players, he would not be expected to be taking a pounding by rushing the ball up the middle, allowing for him to maintain a status as a dangerous playmaker in space that Seattle could exploit. Add in the ability of Patterson to stretch the defense in order to allow Jimmy Graham and Doug Baldwin to exploit the seams and holes in the defense, and it is easy to see the possibilities.
In addition, by adding Patterson the team could hedge its future prospects in the return game and at the receiver position, just in case it takes longer for Lockett to return than anticipated. Obviously all the news on Lockett’s recovery and rehab have been positive so far, but that is very similar to the positive reports that were coming out last year right up until the season started when post-injury Thomas Rawls wasn’t the same player we knew before his injury.
Certainly there are differences in the type of injuries suffered by Rawls and Lockett, but adding a dangerous playmaker who could help alleviate some of the urgency regarding Lockett’s recovery might prove to be a nice hedge for the team, just in case.
Lastly, as mentioned, Patterson has 31 career rushing attempts and actually has a higher career average in terms of yards per carry than he does yards per reception. That makes him dangerous not only as a deep threat, but for the jet sweep as well. With corners often likely to play off coverage to prevent getting beat deep, Bevell could have a field day with the bubble screen, as Patterson’s size and athleticism would make him a mismatch in space. Just imagine Patterson and C.J. Prosise lining up next to each other on the outside. Who does the defense press and who do they protect against the deep pass? Either one of those guys lined up next to each other wide could present a threat to go deep or take a bubble screen and cause damage to DBs on the outside, as at 6-2, 216 and 6-1, 220, either one of them could muscle their way pasts many smaller CBs.
If the team were able to add Patterson it would allow the team to have a dangerous weapon in the kick return game regardless of Lockett’s recovery. With ADB, Paul Richardson, and Jermaine Kearse in the mix and under contract for 2017, it would add another name to the receiver position who also happens to be large and athletic enough to pose a threat in the red zone, while also offering Ricardo Lockette-type explosive speed, but not necessitating that he contribute materially as a receiver. Adding another name to the mix could allow the team to work Lockett back in as slowly as necessary, possibly helping to avoid any setbacks in recovery such as happened with Rawls early last season.
It’s easily likely that Patterson will quickly be priced out of the Seahawks range when it comes to free agency, but in addition to being a former Vikings receiver like Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin, he checks off many of the boxes that Pete Carroll looks for in a player, receiver, and special teamer.