The Seattle Seahawks‘ scorecard for the NFL’s pre-free-agency negotiating window includes two departures, one re-signing and zero additions.
A day after keeping versatile safety Bradley McDougald on a three-year deal, Russell Wilson saw two of his top targets join the recent exodus of Seahawks starters on Tuesday when Paul Richardson agreed to sign with the Washington Redskins a few hours before Jimmy Graham chose the Green Bay Packers.
Just like that, a Seahawks offense that struggled badly enough in 2017 to fire its coordinator lost a pair of players who combined for 16 touchdowns.
But let’s hold off on counting the Seahawks among the early losers of free agency.
Letting Graham and Richardson walk were entirely understandable decisions — arguably the correct ones, even — given what it would have cost to keep them.
Yes, the Seahawks have to find a way to replace Graham’s 10 touchdowns from last season. And it would have been interesting to see if new coordinator Brian Schottenheimer could have coaxed more consistent production from Graham after his three uneven seasons in Darrell Bevell’s offense.
But that would have been a dangerous bet. Graham is coming off a season in which he was largely absent outside of the red zone, finishing with 520 receiving yards and a career-low 9.1 yards per catch. That plus the fact that he’s 31 with a balky knee that requires constant maintenance suggests his best days might be behind him.
Wilson was close friends with Graham and had developed a nice rapport with the speedy Richardson. The latter was evident over the past two seasons, particularly in 2017 as Richardson set career highs in catches (44), yards (703) and touchdowns (six) while serving as Seattle’s No. 2 receiver behind Doug Baldwin.
But remember, Tyler Lockett had ascended to that role late in the 2016 season before he broke his leg on Christmas Eve. It’s hard to fault the Seahawks for not paying Richardson when Baldwin is already making big money and Lockett has a year left on his rookie deal. Plus, the Seahawks spent a third-round pick last year on Amara Darboh. They also have David Moore (2017 seventh-rounder) and newcomer Marcus Johnson (acquired last week in the Michael Bennett trade) in the mix.
General manager John Schneider probably didn’t give it a second thought when he saw Richardson’s price tag reach a reported $40 million over five years, the result of an exploding market for free-agent receivers.
Details of Graham’s three-year deal with Green Bay were slow to emerge, but you can bet it isn’t cheap. There’s no way Graham took a bargain deal on the eve of free agency, not with the New Orleans Saints also vying to sign him and not with Trey Burton — a backup tight end for the Philadelphia Eagles — getting a reported $8 million a year from the Chicago Bears.
Seahawks fans are probably getting antsy over their team’s lack of any major move so far, especially with Richard Sherman and Bennett gone, but this sort of disciplined approach is pretty much par for the course under Schneider. Save for a few splashes — such as the Percy Harvin trade in 2013, when Seattle acquired him and then signed him to a massive deal — the Seahawks have generally sat back at the start of free agency and let other teams spend the silly money.
The same year the Seahawks traded for Harvin, they added Bennett and Cliff Avril a few days into the signing period. Those turned out to be two of the best free-agent signings in franchise history, not just because of the impact those players made in Seattle but also because those initial deals were bargains relative to what other top pass-rushers are paid.
The Seahawks can’t stand idle for too long, of course.
They only have two tight ends on their roster, and neither of them — Nick Vannett or Tyrone Swoopes — are viable options to replace Graham as the starter. Luke Willson, Graham’s backup the past three seasons, is an unrestricted free agent.
The Seahawks’ secondary is far from set even with McDougald remaining in the fold as a likely replacement for Kam Chancellor at strong safety. Re-signing DeShawn Shead would be a big step in addressing the major void at cornerback left by Sherman, but he’s off making the free-agent rounds. The NFL Network reports that Shead is visiting with the San Francisco 49ers on Wednesday after spending Tuesday with the Detroit Lions. So Seattle has competition there.
Defensive line might be the biggest need of all. With Bennett gone and Avril not expected back, that group could use some reinforcements even if Sheldon Richardson is re-signed and especially if he isn’t. Ndamukong Suh could be an intriguing fallback option if the price is right, which is a big if.
And the Seahawks could use veteran upgrades elsewhere on their roster, including along their offensive line and perhaps at strong-side linebacker.
But for now, losing Graham and Paul Richardson hardly means they’re losing free agency.