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Despite pleas to keep him, did Ed Dickson really do enough to stay?

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NFL: NFC Wild Card-Seattle Seahawks at Dallas Cowboys Shane Roper-USA TODAY Sports

The Seattle Seahawks caught some flak last year for cutting, trading, or not re-signing certain key stars, but the reality is that they just didn’t have the cap space that they wanted in order to have a roster that there were comfortable with at all 53 spots rather than allocating a large percentage of their cap to a few players at the top and feeling weak at the bottom. You can argue with the results, but this has always been the process for Pete Carroll and John Schneider.

The fact that the Seahawks haven’t been as competitive in the last three years is likely a testament to the idea that they’d eventually struggle to keep the “core” together for long and maybe the front office just hasn’t adjusted as well as they would have liked. They haven’t quite yet found their next Earl Thomas or Richard Sherman or Marshawn Lynch or Michael Bennett. They’ve found some other things and they’ve got players with talent and potential at those positions (Tre Flowers, Chris Carson, etc.) but I can’t sit here in this wicker chair I found outside a few months ago and tell you that Seattle is as viable as a Super Bowl threat as they were in 2013 and 2014.

My proof is that they went to the Super Bowl in 2013 and 2014 and haven’t done so again in any of the last four years. But the plan isn’t too unlike a team that I often compare the Seahawks to in process: the New England Patriots.

The Patriots are perhaps the most well-balanced cap team in the NFL. They’re often aided by Tom Brady’s low salary cap hit, but what high-priced superstars does Bill Belichick really sign? Cornerback Stephon Gilmore was an expensive signing in 2017 but his cap hit over the last two years has only been $8 million. Rob Gronkowski’s $11 million salary in 2018 was by far a career-high. But they do have a lot of players who make $2 million or more, spreading that cap around to shore up the leaks on the roster rather than just trying to be a team with a “core” of superstars. New England’s core has long been unheralded players like Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Julian Edelman, and so on. That seemed to be more of the direction that Seattle was looking to follow in 2018, releasing players like Sherman and trying to find role players who could develop in more if they fit Carroll’s system as well as Belichick’s finds often fit his.

That’s where two-year deals for players like Barkevious Mingo, Ed Dickson, Jaron Brown came in.

In 2017, the Seahawks made some notable signings but didn’t go over two years in any of them. Instead, they wanted to see if someone like Eddie Lacy, Luke Joeckel, or Bradley McDougald could prove worthy of more years with the team. Of course, only McDougald worthy-proved thyself.

They changed motion a bit in free agency last year, just as they did in changing coordinators and moving on from veteran players, and used some of their savings on two-year deals for Mingo, Brown, and Dickson. All three were rather cheap in 2018 but will receive not insignificant (but not massive) raises if Seattle opts not to release them instead. I would expect at least two of them to be goners, but some are of the belief that Dickson should stay.

Ah, I’ve given myself away. Not unlike how someone gave away this not-totally-comfortable wicker chair.

Mingo straight up came from the Patriots, further pounding home the copycat mentality of searching for success. He of course still contained the “potential” of a former sixth overall pick so a two-year deal seemed like it could turn into a potential 2019 bargain if Mingo had finally found a great home for himself. Instead, he was mostly just fine as a linebacker, but totally expendable and probably did more to prove that Seattle still needs a much better third linebacker if they are going to run many plays with three linebackers. He was heavily used on special teams, but that doesn’t necessarily mean he was great on special teams, which as we all know is still a weakness.

The Seahawks save $3.3 million by releasing Mingo.

Brown brought in experience at receiver after four years with the Arizona Cardinals and perhaps he was just underrated after spending much of that time on a bad offense when Carson Palmer wasn’t healthy. He was also expected to contribute heavily on special teams. Though Brown was monster in DVOA because of his five touchdowns on a low number of targets, he did only command 19 targets, with a season-high of three.

The Seahawks save $2.75 million by releasing Brown. By releasing both, Seattle shaves $6 million off their 2019 cap and increases their space to $61 million, with an expected release of Kam Chancellor also cutting some money off of their commitments.

The trickier decision is Dickson, but I don’t think it would be as significant of a loss as some believe and I think that’s because so few people understand or can properly evaluate the contributions of blocking. I include myself among them. Dickson was not a marquee free agent signing at tight end but people were familiar with the name and he had a reputation as one of the best blocking tight ends in the league. And Seahawks fans are desperate for anyone who has a good reputation as a blocker. Seattle signed him to a two-year deal but could they move on, return Nick Vannett, hope for a healthy season by Will Dissly, and search for an even better tight end than Dickson?

He spent the first six games on NFI, then caught 12 of 13 targets for 143 yards. I want to repeat that because I don’t think people really remembered how little Dickson actually did as a receiver: 12 catches over 10 games and barely more than one target per game. I’ve heard that Dickson had great “chemistry” with Russell Wilson, but not so great that Wilson would look for him or find him more than twice in a game — something he did only once all season. In the playoffs, Dickson caught four of five targets for 42 yards, but he had zero or one target in 60% of his regular season games.

And was he a good blocker? He had that reputation, but I know of at least our own Matty F Brown saying that Dickson struggled as a blocker this season. In fact, George Fant might have been even better even if he’s not an actual threat as a receiver other than in our ever-living dreams of him being so.

The Seahawks will save $2.8 million by releasing a tight end who averaged 14 yards per game.

I think all three are viable cap casualty candidates, including Dickson. Just as they saved that kind of money by releasing Sherman last season so that they could sign Brown, Dickson, and Mingo, they could get it back by releasing those same players. Finding a WR4, a rotation LB/special teamer, and a blocking tight end is something they could do for a lot less than $9 million.

I’ve now draped a soft blanket over the wicker chair. That’s much better.