Doug Baldwin, a constant in the Seattle Seahawks’ offense since he signed with the team as a UDFA following the 2011 NFL Draft, had perhaps his most trying season yet in 2018. A knee injury took away most of training camp, before another during the opener in Denver hobbled him further. Like the warrior he is, Baldwin still managed to put together a respectable season: 50 catches, 618 yards and five touchdowns. However, for the first time since his sophomore campaign, Seattle couldn’t totally rely on Baldwin.
Luckily for the Seahawks, Baldwin’s first truly injury ravaged season coincided with a terrific breakout season from Tyler Lockett. By now, Lockett’s efficiency in 2018 could be recited on command. Not only did Lockett justify his extension, he made it look like a stroke of genius from John Schneider and Pete Carroll.
Though the signing of Brandon Marshall didn’t pan out, David Moore’s brief emergence as a solid outside wide receiver helped to fill the void. But Moore’s disappearing act down the stretch has to be taken into consideration when looking forward to 2019. Moore has tremendous size and athleticism, and shouldn’t be given up on.
As I wrote in late January, wide receiver should be addressed, but in a way that doesn’t marry the team to the new addition or to Moore. And so that’s the lens we’ll view this year’s free agent class through. Players that can come in and give Seattle another option, without necessarily harming Moore’s development or the team’s long-term salary cap outlook.
One of the more curious personnel decisions last offseason was the Jaguars’ signing of Moncrief. The extension given to Blake Bortles, who was set to play in 2018 under the fifth year option, saved Jacksonville $9M. They turned around and gave that $9M to Moncrief ($9.6M to be exact), who was fresh off a 26-catch season. It was an odd way to try and maximize a supposed Super Bowl window.
Moncrief failed to turn his one-year deal into a lucrative extension, as the fifth year WR caught 48 passes for 668 yards. However, Moncrief is still young—entering his age-26 season—and he possesses good size at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds. Though his breakout sophomore season seems far away now, Moncrief remains an intriguing option. He may want to opt for a longer deal elsewhere, but on a one-year deal, Moncrief could be appealing to the Seahawks.
Approximate deal: Moncrief isn’t going to get $9M per year on his new deal, whether it’s a short- or long-term contract. Slashing his cap hit in half from 2018, to between $4.5-$5M, would be palatable for Seattle, and give them another high-risk, high-reward option at wide receiver, along with Moore.
The former Seahawk, much maligned during his time in Seattle, has reached the end of the three-year extension given to him by the Seahawks in 2016. Though Kearse’s biggest moments came with Seattle, his most productive season came with the Jets—a 65-catch, 810-yard 2017 with five touchdowns.
The Seahawks need to give themselves another option on the outside, and Kearse’s connections with the franchise run deep. If we are operating under the assumption Seattle wants to add a stop-gap who can provide solid production, Kearse is about as safe as it will come. Which is a wild sentence to type.
Approximate deal: The Seahawks’ cap space could help them out a ton in making a deal with Kearse work. A two-year deal, to take Kearse through his age-30 season, would be favorable. A heavily front-loaded contract worth around $8M total, allowing Seattle to get out with ease in 2020, would work.
Of the wide receivers listed here, Conley would be the one most likely to become a part of the Seahawks’ long-term plans. The 27-year-old wideout is highly intriguing: A 98th percentile athlete who possesses the size (6-foot-2, 213 pounds), physicality and speed of a true X wide receiver. However, Conley was disappointing during his four seasons in a friendly offense, with career highs of 44 catches and 530 yards in 2015, and a high of five touchdowns in 2018. The uber-athlete has struggled to become a consistent catcher of the football, with the 12th highest drop rate in the NFL in 2018.
The Chiefs crave athleticism on offense and could make a generous offer to retain Conley. Playing with Patrick Mahomes is surely an incredibly appealing proposition, too. But if Conley seeks another opportunity, Seattle similarly loves athletic marvels, and have a need.
Approximate deal: Trying to get Conley’s second contract in the right ballpark is a curious thought exercise. Generally, a player in Conley’s situation should receive a short-term prove it deal—one I would put around one or two years, worth $5M-$6M per year. However, last offseason, the Dolphins came out of nowhere to give former Kansas City wide receiver Albert Wilson a three-year deal worth $24M ($14.45M guaranteed).
Wilson’s peak numbers with the Chiefs hardly overshadowed Conley’s production (highs of 42/554/3), and he’s a lesser athlete in a diminutive frame. They’re completely different players, but was Wilson’s deal simply Miami being Miami, or a premium we can expect former Chiefs to receive? I would assume the former, and estimate Conley’s deal at two years for $12M.
The wide receiver market could prove to be tricky for the Seahawks and their current need. The majority of players in their term and price range would be overlapping current skill sets, whether it’s predominantly slot receivers—Randall Cobb, Adam Humphries or Jordan Mathews—or field stretching threats, such as John Brown and Phillip Dorsett.
There are a handful of players Seattle could look to as long-term difference makers, meaning the expectation would be that Baldwin is released prior to the last season of his deal in 2020. Such a decision would be difficult to project this far ahead. However, if that’s the direction they go, a reunion with Golden Tate could be in the cards, while Tyrell Williams would be a tremendous fit.
A mid-to-late round draft pick could be used in an attempt to throw another dart at the board, or they could simply hope to get a breakout season from Moore or Amara Darboh. Something has to be done at wide receiver, and at this stage, a reunion with Kearse is most likely.