With most of the attention this week being on the Seattle Seahawks’ “must-win” game against the New York Jets, I thought I’d use my thoughts for other things - some of which might involve the Jets, minus the playoff implications.
While it’s not yet official, indications are that Tyler Lockett will be active for Sunday’s game against the Jets. Considering that he broke his finger in Week 15 and had surgery prior to the Week 16 game against the Chiefs, this is borderline unbelievable.
Looks like he inherited an unlimited supply of nanobubbles when Russell Wilson was shipped off to Denver.
The aforementioned indications about Lockett being active on Sunday include this quote from Pete Carroll, courtesy of Bob Condotta:
Carroll says Tyler Lockett "did everything'' in walk-through and "looked great.'' Says "we'll see'' if he can play but reiterates walkthrough "was excellent.''— Bob Condotta (@bcondotta) December 28, 2022
Mastering Pete-speak can take a lifetime, but I view it as a good sign that Pete didn’t say anything about Lockett having a “legit” injury.
When Lockett does return, whether it’s this week or next week, he’ll have a chance to etch his name in the Seahawks record book next to the original Seahawks great, Steve Largent.
By adding 36+ yards to his 2022 receiving total.
If he does that, it would make this his 4th-straight season with 1,000 or more receiving yards. Largent is the only other player in franchise history to accomplish that feat.
Sticking with the wide receiver theme a little longer . . .
The next pass that’s thrown to DK Metcalf will be #129 this season - which will match the career high that he set in 2020 and matched in 2021.
He’s already got a career high for receptions with 86 (topping the 83 he had in 2020).
His catch rate (67.2%) is also a career high.
But perhaps the most impressive thing about Metcalf’s season is the fact that he quietly set the franchise record for most receiving yards in a player’s first 4 seasons.
The record had been held by Joey Galloway with 4,122 from 1995 to 1998; D.K. officially passed him in last week’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs and now sits atop the list with 4,175 receiving yards (with 2 games left to play).
Note: For the purists out there, Galloway had 64 regular season games available to him over his first 4 season; DK passed him in career game #64.
Flipping over to the other side of the ball . . .
Sunday’s game features two cornerbacks who are frontrunners for the Defensive Rookie of the Year award, with Ahmad “Sauce” Gardner the betting favorite over Tariq “The Freak” Woolen (aka “The Avatar”).
From a nickname perspective, Woolen wins. In part, because he has two nicknames whereas Sauce Gardner only has one. But also because sauce is something you add to an entrée or dessert, not the main attraction.
To be fair, Sauce Gardner is listed as Sauce Gardner on most (if not all) of the major sites, including ESPN.com and PFF.com, so maybe I’m biased on this one.
Stripping bias out of the comparison, Woolen kicks the snot out of Gardner from a value perspective.
Woolen was a 5th-round pick who was widely expected to be a project after having only played corner for a couple of seasons in college.
Gardner was a high 1st-round pick, #4 overall.
Putting that another way . . .
Gardner was picked 149 spots ahead of Woolen and will earn more than 8 times as much as Woolen will over their first 4 seasons in the league.
- Contract Value: $33,450,798
- Signing Bonus: $21,507,852
- Fully Guaranteed at Signing: $33,450,798
- First Year Cash Payout: $22,212,852
- Average Per Year: $8,362,700
- 2022 Cap Hit: $6,081,963
- 2023 Cap Hit: $7,602,454
- 2024 Cap Hit: $9,122,945
- 2025 Cap Hit: $10,643,436
- Contract Value: $3,992,216
- Signing Bonus: $332,216
- Fully Guaranteed at Signing: $332,216
- First Year Cash Payout: $1,037,216
- Average Per Year: $998,054
- 2022 Cap Hit: $788,054
- 2023 Cap Hit: $953,054
- 2024 Cap Hit: $1,068,054
- 2025 Cap Hit: $1,183,054
Performance-wise, I would argue that Woolen vs. Gardner is a push.
(Most of the stats below are courtesy of PFF.com)
- Coverage snaps: 578 vs. 562
- Targets: 61 vs. 55
- Receptions: 27 vs. 31
- Catch Percentage: 44.3 vs. 56.4
- Yards Allowed: 285 vs. 460
- Yards per Reception: 10.6 vs. 14.8
- Yards per Coverage Snap: 0.493 vs. 0.8185
- Yards After Catch: 94 vs. 174
- Touchdowns Allowed: 1 vs. 5
- Interceptions: 2 vs. 6
- Pass Break-Ups: 12 vs. 7
- Penalties: 4 (2 declined) vs. 8 (2 declined)
- Quarterback Rating when Targeted: 50.2 vs. 74.6
- PFF Coverage Grade: 89.3 vs. 77.3
- PFF Overall Grade: 88.0 vs. 71.3
As a reminder, I’ve already admitted to being biased toward Woolen.
And, yes, that’s why Woolen besting Gardner in INTs while trailing in every other stat listed equals “push” in my book.
Bottom line: Tariq is a Freak and I am super glad that he’s on our team.
But . . .
Gardner isn’t just in contention for Defensive Rookie of the Year, he’s PFF’s #1 corner through 15 games and arguably has a case as one of the 5 best defensive players in the league this year.
I recently wrote about what would need to happen for Seattle to end up with the #1 pick in the 2023 NFL Draft (courtesy of the Denver Broncos).
It’s a bit far-fetched but still within the realm of “decently possible”.
The Cliffs Notes version is: 2 Denver losses + 1 Chicago win + 2 Houston wins.
Current draft order, courtesy of Tankathon:
That article (+ Tankathon) got me curious about the worst-case scenario re: the Denver pick - i.e., How low could Denver’s pick fall if the perfect storm of unbeneficial outcomes happened over the final 2 weeks of the season?
And in order for that to happen:
- The Arizona Cardinals need to beat the Atlanta Falcons this week and lose to the San Francisco 49ers next week
- The Indianapolis Colts need to lose to either the New York Giants (Week 17) or the Texans (Week 18)
- In addition to losing to the Cardinals, the Atlanta Falcons also need to lose to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- The Los Angeles Rams need to lose to the Los Angeles Chargers and/or to US (I vote for this one for obvious reasons)
- The Carolina Panthers need to lose to both the Bucs and the New Orleans Saints
- The Las Vegas Raiders need to drop their final 2 games against the Niners and the Chiefs
And, in addition to the above, Denver would need to beat the Chiefs AND the Chargers with an interim head coach and a quarterback who has clearly lost his mojo this year.
Note: The Cleveland Browns and the Saints could both finish 6-11 if they lose-out, but neither one would leapfrog Denver in this scenario because they have a higher Strength of Schedule (.522 for Cleveland and .502 for New Orleans) than Denver does (.490).
For those that might have missed it, ESPN had a nice article on December 28th about Geno Smith’s resurgence - from career backup to Pro Bowl quarterback - going “exactly as planned.”
It’s a good read, with Rex Ryan calling Geno’s resurgence “the best story in the league” this year, and Pete Carroll saying, “What a thrilling story for the kid. He just hung in there so tough and outlasted it, and now he’s enjoying all the fun of it.”
That said, this ESPN+ article from the same day is far more interesting: Geno Smith, Jalen Hurts, Tua Tagovailoa: Keys to their breakouts, contract predictions.
I won’t rehash the entire thing, but I will share the contract projections:
- Smith: 3 years, $80-$90M with $40-$45M guaranteed
- Hurts: 5 or 6 years at over $50M per year
- Tagovailoa: Long-term deal close to the RW3 / Aaron Rodgers range (i.e., a hair under $50M per year) - OR - a 3-year deal based on 3 years’ worth of franchise tag values.
Again, I’m biased, but if those projections turn out to be accurate, I would rather tie the fate of my team to Smith’s contract than to either of the other two.
Sticking with Geno Smith’s next contract for a moment . . .
I’m starting to get the sense that Seattle will (a) try to negotiate a semi-team-friendly deal prior to free agency, and (b) use the non-exclusive transition tag if they can’t secure Geno’s signature by the time the new league year starts.
From a dollars perspective, the difference between the franchise tag and the transition tag is (expected to be) about $3.45M ($31,497,000 vs. $28,049,000 per OverTheCap).
The real difference between the two tags is that the franchise tag ties Geno to the Seahawks exclusively (unless Seattle negotiates a sign-and-trade with another team) whereas the transition tag allows Geno (and his agent) to talk to every other team in the league in order to determine his true market value - AND - it returns two first-round picks to the Seahawks if Geno signs an offer with another team and Pete and John decline to match said offer.
How funny would it be if the Seahawks netted two R1s (and more) for trading Russell Wilson and then netted two more R1s from Wilson’s former backup the following year?
And how sad would that be at the same time?
Kenneth Walker III has 803 yards on 176 carries with 9 touchdowns and 0 fumbles.
That’s a pretty good stat line for a rookie.
Especially when you consider that he’s only started 9 of Seattle’s 15 games and missed 2 games (Week 1 and Week 14) due to injury.
What could make it better?
Hitting 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns.
At his season-long pace of 4.56 yards per carry, K9 would need 44 carries over the final 2 games to top 1,000 yards.
And with his season-long average of 1 TD per 19.56 carries, he’d finish with 11 TDs if he carried the ball an average of 22 times per game against the Jets and the Rams.
That’s certainly doable - but it also feels like something of a “stretch goal” given the way the past few weeks have gone.
Regardless of what happens in the final two games (and the playoffs, should the results fall in Seattle’s favor), I consider this season a WIN.
For several reasons:
- We’ve matched our win total from last year (and still have two games to play);
- The Rams fell off a cliff (always a win in my book);
- Our 2022 rookie class is amazing - NFL.com’s Bucky Brooks recently ranked it #2 overall (behind the Jets);
- We got away with starting two rookie tackles . . . and they were arguably the best parts of our O-line for most (if not all) of the season;
- Four Seahawks were named to the Pro Bowl and six others were named Pro Bowl Alternates;
- We have a solid understanding of where we need to improve (D-line, pass rush, stopping the run, tackling, 3rd downs - conversions and stops) - AND - we should have the cap space and draft capital to address it;
- The first-round pick we got from Denver is probably going to be in the top-3 and, as noted, cannot be any worse than #9;
- (Assuming we re-sign him) Geno Smith has done well enough that we don’t have to use any draft capital on a quarterback . . . unless we want to;
- Year 2 with Shane Waldron’s offense was MUCH better than Year 1;
- D.K. Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Kenneth Walker III, and Geno Smith had memorable years - and, as a bonus, three of the four are currently signed through 2025;
- Pete Carroll finally went for it on 4th down (instead of punting from the opponent’s end of the field every damn time);
- I threw a lot fewer bean bags at my TV this year than I have in years past;