Here in the great Pacific Northwest, and everywhere else the 12s call home, we believe that we have one of the best wide receiver tandems in the league.
Admittedly, we’re biased . . .
. . . but that doesn’t mean we’re wrong.
Top WR tandems the last 3 seasons
- Buffalo Bills: Stefon Diggs (1,535) + Cole Beasley (967) = 2,502 receiving yards
- Seattle Seahawks: DK Metcalf (1,303) + Tyler Lockett (1,054) = 2,357
. . .
- Los Angeles Rams: Cooper Kupp (1,947) + Van Jefferson (802) = 2,749 receiving yards
- Cincinnati Bengals: Ja’Marr Chase (1,455) + Tee Higgins (1,091) = 2,546
- Los Angeles Chargers: Mike Williams (1,146) + Keenan Allen (1,138) = 2,284
- Minnesota Vikings: Justin Jefferson (1,616) + K.J. Osborn (655) = 2,271
- San Francisco 49ers: Deebo Samuel (1,405) + Brandon Aiyuk (826) = 2,231
- Seattle Seahawks: Tyler Lockett (1,175) + DK Metcalf (967) = 2,142
. . .
- Miami Dolphins: Tyreek Hill (1,710) + Jaylen Waddle (1,356) = 3,066 receiving yards
- Philadelphia Eagles: A.J. Brown (1,496) + DeVonta Smith (1,196) = 2,692
- Buffalo Bills: Stefon Diggs (1,429) + Gabe Davis (836) = 2,245
- Las Vegas Raiders: Davante Adams (1,516) + Mack Hollins (690) = 2,206
- Seattle Seahawks: DK Metcalf (1,048) + Tyler Lockett (1,033) = 2,081
. . .
Pretty cool, right?
Of the top two teams in 2020, only the Seahawks made the top six the following year, and of the top six teams in 2021, only Seattle made the top five in 2022.
Sure, I probably skewed that a little bit by excluding tight ends and finishing each list with the Seahawks.
Now that the sunshine and roses portion of the article is done (DK + NoE = good combo ... CHECK!), let’s turn our attention to some less flattering aspects of this pairing.
Numbers, numbers, and MORE numbers
Here’s a Fun Fact for you . . .
Seattle was 5-1 last season when someone other than DK Metcalf or Tyler Lockett led the team in receiving yards.
That’s not a typo.
Neither is this:
The Seahawks were 3-4 last year when Lockett was the leading receiver, and 1-4 with Metcalf leading the charge (including 0-1 in the playoffs).
Fact (but not a Fun one): DK Metcalf has performed something of “a disappearing act” right before our eyes.
Don’t believe me?
- During the 2020 season, DK Metcalf was the leading receiver in 75% of Seattle’s regular season games (12 of 16), plus their playoff loss to the Rams.
- In 2021, Metcalf was the leading receiver in five of Seattle’s first seven games . . . and none of the final 10.
- Last year, as previously noted, Metcalf was the leading receiver in four out of the 17 regular season games (plus the playoff loss).
Here’s that breakdown in a bleaker view:
- From Week 1 of the 2020 season through Week 7 of the 2021 season (24 games, including the playoffs), DK Metcalf was the Seahawks’ leading receiver 18 times.
- From Week 8 of the 2021 season through the end of the 2022 season (28 games, including the playoffs), DK Metcalf led the team in receiving yards 5 times.
18 of 24, then 5 of 28.
75% then 17.9%.
The natural reaction to what some might consider a bombshell revelation is to assume that Lockett led the team in receiving yards whenever Metcalf didn’t.
That was true in 2020; since then, not so much.
- In 2020, Lockett was the leading receiver in the four games that Metcalf wasn’t. (Yay, intuition!)
- In 2021, Lockett led the team in receiving yards eight times, Gerald Everett led three times, and Freddie Swain led once.
- In 2022, Lockett led seven times, Noah Fant led twice, Marquise Goodwin led twice, and both Colby Parkinson and DeeJay Dallas led once.
Although it might seem like it, this isn’t necessarily an indictment of DK Metcalf, because while he’s been the leading receiver in only 9 of the team’s last 34 regular season games, he’s been the second-leading receiver in 16 of them, making him the #1 or #2 guy 25 times over the last two seasons (plus the playoff game last year).
Add in 2020 and he’s been the #1 or #2 receiver 38 out of 50 times in the regular season (plus both playoff games).
Flipping the focus to Tyler Lockett:
- In 2020, Lockett was the #1 or #2 receiver in 13 out of 16 games, plus the playoff loss to the Rams.
- The following season (2021), Lockett was the #1 or 2 guy in nine out of the 16 regular season games he appeared in.
- Last season, Lockett’s numbers were exactly the same as 2021: he was #1 or #2 in nine out of the 16 regular season games he played in (and #3 in the playoff loss to the 49ers).
Looking at this from another perspective
So far, I’ve thrown a lot of numbers at you . . .
Here are some more.
These are from our opponents’ perspective though, since their goal (or one of them) is to take away Seattle’s best weapons in the passing game.
- In 2020, opponents took away Metcalf in three of 16 games (18.8%); they took away Lockett the same number of times (3 of 16, 18.8%), but they didn’t take away both Metcalf and Lockett in ANY games.
- In 2021, Metcalf was taken away in tgree of 17 games (17.6%); Lockett was taken away in seven of 16 games (43.8%); but, again, there were zero games in which the opponent took away both of them.
- Last season, opposing defenses shut down Metcalf in six of 17 games (35.3%); they shut down Lockett in six out of 16 games (37.5%); and . . . they shut down both Metcalf AND Lockett four times (!!!!).
Here are those 4 games:
- Week 1 vs. Denver: Colby Parkinson + Will Dissly led the team with 43 yards apiece. DK had 36; Lockett had 17.
- Week 6 vs. Arizona: Noah Fant led the team with 45 yards and Dee Eskridge was #2 with 39 yards. DK had 34; Lockett had 17.
- Week 7 at L.A. vs. the Chargers: Marquise Goodwin had his 2nd-best day as a Seahawk with 67 receiving yards (and a season-high 2 TDs). Will Dissly was #2 with 45 yards (4 targets, 4 catches). Technically, Lockett tied Dissly for #2 as he also had 45 yards, but it took 8 targets and 7 catches for him to get there so he’s listed behind Dissly in the boxscore. DK was targeted twice and had 1 catch for 12 yards.
- Week 17 vs. the Jets: DeeJay Dallas was #1 with 55 yards, Noah Fant was #2 with 40 yards, and Colby Parkinson was #3 with 36 yards. Tyler Lockett finished the day with 15 yards; DK Metcalf had 3.
Interestingly, Seattle won all four of those games.
But there’s also a lesson in there.
The Seahawks can be successful when opponents manage to take away both Lockett and Metcalf because they have (or, in the case of Marquise Goodwin, had) players that can step up when the need arises.
Last year, a different player led the team in receiving yards in each of the four games where DK and NoE were relegated to supporting roles.
But is that sustainable?
Does anyone really believe that the Seahawks will continue to win games in which the opposition eliminates the two biggest threats in the passing game?
The elephants in the room
Given everything I’ve laid out thus far, it shouldn’t come as a surprise when I say that Seattle has two big issues with their wide receivers that need to be addressed. One is an ongoing and immediate issue; the other is a fast-approaching future issue.
However, before we talk about those issues (and the shared solution), I’d like to take a moment to share my feelings about DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett . . .
I love DK Metcalf as a player.
He’s been Seattle’s leading receiver two of the last three years.
DK has the potential to be Megatron 2.0 and could etch his name in the both the team’s and the league’s record books.
But, heading into his 5th professional season, DK still lacks maturity, he still lets opposing cornerbacks get in his head, and, as shown earlier, he’s been disappearing in more and more games as his career moves along.
That said, he’s the league’s 6th-highest paid wide receiver for a reason.
Note: DK is tied with Stefon Diggs with an average annual salary of $24M. The 5 players ahead of him are Tyreek Hill ($30M), Davante Adams ($28M), DeAndre Hopkins ($27.25M), Cooper Kupp ($26.7M), and A.J. Brown ($25M).
Lockett is a pro’s pro.
He has a solid case as the 2nd-best wideout in Seahawks history and, as SI.com recently pointed out, he might be paving the quietest route to the Hall of Fame ever.
Sure, his “business decisions” can be frustrating at times, but given the gruesome leg injury he suffered earlier in his career, I think it’s understandable that he tries to avoid contact whenever possible.
If there’s anyone more reliable in the clutch than Tyler Lockett, I don’t know who it is.
Which is why I think he deserves every penny he’s paid as the league’s 17th-highest paid receiver ($17.3M per year).
Seattle’s ongoing and immediate issue
Three years ago, David Moore was Seattle’s WR3 and ended the season with 417 receiving yards and 6 touchdowns. That was the 3rd-most receiving yards on the team, behind DK Metcalf (1,303) and Tyler Lockett (1,054); and ahead of RB Chris Carson who was #4 with 287 receiving yards. It was also the 3rd-most touchdown receptions (Metcalf and Lockett had 10 apiece; Chris Carson had 4).
Somewhat surprisingly, or perhaps not, Moore was let go after the season.
Two years ago, Freddie Swain took over the WR3 role. This was a well-earned promotion for Swain, who had caught 13 of his 21 targets the year before for 159 yards and 2 touchdowns. (That was sarcasm.) Swain responded by catching 25 of 40 targets for 343 yards and 4 TDs, finishing 4th on the team behind Lockett (1,175 yards), Metcalf (967), and TE Gerald Everett (478).
Somewhat surprisingly, or perhaps not, Swain was let go after the season.
Last year, Marquise Goodwin was the #3 wideout. He ended the year with 27 receptions on 42 targets for 387 yards and 4 TDs. Like Swain the year before, that put Goodwin at #4 in receiving yards. D.K. (1,048) and Lockett (1,033) finished 1-2 in receiving yards; TE Noah Fant (486) was #3; TE Will Dissly (349) was #5, only 38 yards behind Goodwin.
Somewhat surprisingly, or perhaps not, Marquise Goodwin was let go after the season.
Noticing a trend yet?
On a related note, Seattle tried to address the WR3 position in the 2021 NFL Draft by selecting D’Wayne Eskridge in Round 2 with the 56th overall pick.
So far, that hasn’t worked out.
Eskridge has missed 7 games in each of his first two seasons and has struggled to contribute when healthy.
In 2021, Eskridge had 10 receptions on 20 targets (50%) for 64 yards with 1 TD.
Last year, he had 7 receptions on 13 targets (53.8%) for 58 yards.
Bottom line: Seattle needs a legitimate threat at WR3; on that can not just replicate, but exceed what Marquise Goodwin, Freddie Swain, and David Moore have provided the last three years; someone who can help take the defense’s focus off of Metcalf and Lockett.
Seattle’s fast-approaching future issue
As amazing as Tyler Lockett has been and continues to be, Father Time is nipping at his heels. Already on “the wrong side” of 30, Lockett will turn 31 during the first month of the upcoming season (9/28).
Does he have another 1,000-yard season in him? I think so.
But can he top 1,000 yards 2 or 3 more times? Decades of NFL history would imply that the answer is, “No.”
Sure, Lockett can be productive without topping 1,000 yards. In his first three seasons, he had 664 yards, 597 yards, and 555 yards. In Year 4, he had 965 (with a career-high 10 touchdowns).
But Lockett has topped the 1,000-yard mark each of the last 4 years and the contract extension that he signed on Apr. 2, 2021 is a reflection of that.
The team expects Lockett to be one of its top two receivers through 2025, but Father Time says that’s not very likely.
Ignoring the prorated signing bonus (which counts $7.05M against the cap each year), Lockett is scheduled to earn $9.7M in 2023, and up to $17M in both 2024 and 2025 ($15.3M base salary + up to $1.7M in per-game roster bonuses each season).
Is Lockett worth $9.7M in 2023? Absolutely!
Is he worth $17M in 2024? That’s harder to say and is entirely dependent on how he does in 2023.
How about 2025; is he going to be worth $17M then? As a 12, I hope and pray the answer is, “Yes,” but I know the reality is, “Probably not.”
Releasing (or trading) Lockett after the 2023 season would save the team $9.85M in 2024, plus his entire cap hit in 2025.
Releasing (or trading) Lockett after the 2024 season would save the team $16.9M in 2025.
Bottom line: No one likes to admit it (or think about it), but the end of Lockett’s career is fast approaching and Seattle needs someone who can replace him - either in the Robin role to DK’s Batman, or in the Batman role itself.
A shared solution
Seattle needs to find a wide receiver who can fill the WR3 role this year in a meaningful way (say 50+ receptions for 500+ yards with 5+ touchdowns) while possessing the talent and potential to replace Tyler Lockett (target 80+ receptions, 1,000+ yards, 8+ touchdowns) in a year or two.
In theory, that player could be Dee Eskridge.
I’m not holding my breath, but maybe . . . if he’s 100% healthy . . . yeah, who am I kidding? Eskridge is a depth piece, if that, until he proves otherwise.
Obviously, Seattle could sign a free agent to fill the role . . . but have you looked at the free agent market lately?
With D.J. Chark having agreed to terms with the Carolina Panthers on Friday, the top wideout under age 30 who is still available is probably N’Keal Harry, a former R1 pick (2019, #32 overall) whose best season was 2020 when he had 33 receptions for 309 yards and 2 TDs. Last year, in 8 games, he had 7 receptions for 116 yards and 1 TD.
The second-best WR under 30 is . . .
Anyone heard of Olamide Zaccheaus, Rashard Higgins, or Trent Taylor?
Yeah, me either.
Trading for a wideout is an option that Seattle could explore.
DeAndre Hopkins is the biggest name on the trade market but he’s only three months younger than Lockett and equally expensive (Hopkins’ base salary the next two years totals $34,365,000).
Denver is reportedly entertaining offers for Jerry Jeudy (15 games, 67 receptions, 972 yards, and 6 TDs last year). He turns 24 in April and would only cost Seattle $2,681,767 against the salary cap in 2023. Jeudy is a free agent after the season though, and is going to want a healthy raise. And Denver isn’t going to give him away for free.
That brings us to the draft.
This year’s wide receiver class is considered to be reasonably deep, but it lacks a clear-cut #1 wideout.
And I’m not just talking about a #1 among this year’s class; I’m talking about a wide receiver that can join a team and become its WR1 by the beginning of his second season.
Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba (JSN) might be the safest bet since his former teammates, Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave, made an indelible mark on the league last year: both finished in the top-20 in receiving yards league-wide (Wilson was #15, Olave was #18), and Wilson was voted the Offensive Rookie of the Year.
Then there’s this video, in which Wilson and Olave say that JSN could be one of “the best of all-time” (1:43 mark) and agree that he’s the best athlete among the 3 of them (2:02 mark).
TCU’s Quentin Johnston might be the next-safest bet.
Boston College’s Zay Flowers and USC’s Jordan Addison might be on the list.
Maybe North Carolina’s Josh Downs as well.
Beyond that . . .
There are lots of guys in this year’s class who can have solid careers (A.T. Perry, Jalin Hyatt, Rashee Rice, etc.), but precious few that will become a team’s top option. Especially on a team that already has someone like DK Metcalf.
Fortunately, the Seahawks don’t need a WR1 (yet); they just need a “legitimate threat” who can own the WR3 role in 2023 and become WR2 (or WR1) in either 2024 or 2025.
Easy peasy lemon squeezy, right?