It was just over two years ago that a group of "pedestrian" receivers helped the Seahawks defeat the highest scoring offense in the history of the NFL, and the 2016 Seahawks are poised to potentially have the most dangerous receiving corps fielded by the team during the Pete Carroll era.
Gone are the reclamation projects like Big Mike Williams and CFL refugee Chris Matthews. If the season were to start today the team’s receivers would feature the 2015 NFL leader in touchdown receptions and a Pro Bowl return man who also happened to finish in the top three in receiving yards for rookie receivers in 2015. In addition, the team can call on an explosive former second round pick who has show the ability to get behind defenders and a clutch receiver who doesn’t do anything special, unless catching game winning touchdown passes in every NFC Championship game the Seahawks have played in over the last decade counts as something special.
Even beyond these weapons the team has an entire stable of players with significant upside potential. Kasen Williams was a five star recruit coming out of high school until injuries sidetracked his college career. Kenny Lawler catches everything thrown his way, but might need to put on a little bit of weight before he’s able to survive going over the middle in the NFL. Kevin Smith showed some prowess as a run blocker in limited action last year, and with another offseason under his belt might push for a spot on the roster. Tanner McEvoy is taller than everyone on the roster who isn’t an offensive lineman or named Jimmy Graham. It should be an interesting battle in camp at the receiver position for the last couple of spots on the roster.
Of those who are effectively locks to make the roster, Doug Baldwin is the undisputed leader of the receiving corps having led the team in yards each of the past two seasons. Baldwin is not only the leader of the receiving corps, individually he has as more career receptions, yards and touchdowns than all the other receivers on the roster combined. Many fans, myself included, would love to see Baldwin receive an extension before he makes it to free agency next spring, and according to recent reports even though extension talks have yet to formally start, Baldwin and John Schneider have talked about wanting to get something done. With just under $10 million in cap space available, and needing approximately $6 million of that for IR and the final two roster spots once the season rolls around, there is some money for the team to play with as it sees fit.
Of note, however, is that in contrast to the prior extensions the team has signed, Baldwin is already on his second contract, having signed a three year extension upon the expiration of his original UDFA contract. Thus, already slated to carry a cap number of $6.3 million this coming season, the Hawks could actually increase their cap space for 2016 by signing Baldwin to an extension which lowers his 2016 cap number. John Schneider doesn’t seem to be the type of guy who would push expenses out to the future unless necessary, but if the teams suffers a substantial number of injuries in camp or early in the season and are looking at potentially being tight against the cap like they were last season doing that could become an attractive option. By converting any of the base salary Baldwin is due this season to a signing bonus, the team could reduce the cap hit this season by moving it to the future.
Beyond the talent at the receiver position this season, perhaps even more importantly Russell Wilson is slated to enter the season with more experience and, presumably, better chemistry with his receivers than in any year prior. Between the excitement Tyler Lockett generates each time he touches the football, the years of experience Wilson has with both Jermaine Kearse and Baldwin and even Paul Richardson having two years of experience in the system, Wilson should have the better offensive weapons at his disposal than at any point in his career.
Putting the weapons the Seahawks offense has together with a defense that returns nine of eleven starters, and the Hawks have the potential to be dominant on both sides of the ball, and explosive in the return game with Lockett and Prich bringing explosiveness to the return game.
It’s going to be a long season for a lot of opponents.