Consider this scenario. The Seahawks miss out on Julius Thomas and the New Orleans Saints aren’t willing to trade Jimmy Graham. Jordan Cameron signs for the Dolphins. You’re stuck at #31 trying to find a dynamic receiver or tight end for your offense.
You’ve scouted the players, you’ve studied who’s likely to be available. Nobody really fits the bill. The only chance you’ve got to fill this hole is to trade up. Go after one of the big three — Amari Cooper, Kevin White or Devante Parker. In yesterday’s two-round mock draft they were all off the board by pick #14. To move up from #31, you might have to try and get into the top ten. A jump of 21 picks.
It’s not such an unrealistic quandary. The Seahawks did miss out on Julius Thomas. There are serious concerns about Jordan Cameron’s health. Without the Graham deal, you face the prospect of forcing a receiver pick at #31 or trying to move up.
They had to address this need.
To move from #9 to #4 last year, Buffalo gave up a future first and fourth rounder. That was just to move up five spots. Imagine the price tag to jump more than twenty places? Especially in a draft with 15-18 prospects with first round grades.
At the very least you’d be looking at a Julio Jones type deal. In 2011 Atlanta moved from #27 to #6, giving up their second and fourth rounder plus a first and fourth rounder in 2012. The total cost for Jones? Two first rounders, a second rounder and a fourth rounder.
To add Kevin White, for example, that’s the bare minimum Seattle would have to spend. All for a player with one season of solid college production. A rookie — trying to make his name and get to the all important second contract.
The Seahawks gave up much less for a proven commodity. One pick for one player. In this instance the value of a perceived top-ten rookie is much greater than the value of a 28-year-old elite player. It doesn’t really seem right.
It’s not even worth considering the loss of Max Unger as part of this deal. The Saints gave the Seahawks a fourth rounder — this is essentially Unger for a fourth and Graham for a first. You might argue Unger is worth more than a fourth rounder — the Seahawks still swapped their first pick for one of the top-two X-factor tight ends in the league.
If this trade flops like the Percy Harvin deal, what has it cost you? A late first rounder — essentially a second round prospect in this class. The Graham trade, unlike the Harvin deal, doesn’t even include any future compensation in next years draft. It’s all in the here and now. If it’s a disaster, there are no lasting repercussions.
If Sammy Watkins flops, it costs the Bills three picks including two first rounders. If the Seahawks wanted to go all-in on Cooper, White or Parker — it would’ve cost them at least two first rounders, a second rounder and an extra pick or two.
When you consider it in these terms, how can you not describe the deal as a bargain? Obviously none of the players drafted in the late first will possess Graham’s unique physical talent or production. They’ll be younger. That’s it.
Fans love to see first round picks spent on rookies. That’s just the way it is. Had the Seahawks acquired Graham on his current contract as a free agent, it’d receive universal approval. The fact they’ve spent a first rounder suddenly adds a layer of doubt or suspicion for some. It shouldn’t. Every early pick is some kind of gamble. Even the perceived ‘safe’ prospects bust — look at Aaron Curry. Taking a chance on Graham is far less risky than taking a chance on the fourth, fifth or sixth rookie receiver in the 2015 draft. It doesn’t mean it’ll work out, but it’s much less of a gamble.
Seattle’s biggest need this off-season was an X-factor in the passing game. They’ve added one of the NFL’s biggest (literally) playmakers for the price of one solitary pick. It would’ve cost so much more to trade up for an unproven equivalent in the draft. That’s pretty remarkable when you think about it.
Free agency thoughts
We’re well into the second phase now. We’re still seeing some sizable contracts (eg Ron Parker’s $30m extension with Kansas City) but things are slowing down. This is when you usually find the value. We’ve already seen Washington pick up Terrance Knighton on a bargain $4m one-year contract.
There are plenty of defensive tackles facing a similar situation. Vince Wilfork, Randy Starks, B.J. Raji, Kevin Williams, Letroy Guion and Red Bryant could be in for a wait. There are less options at defensive end — Greg Hardy will eventually get a deal. Michael Johnson will sign with Cincinnati or Minnesota. The next best available is Dwight Freeney.
The most appealing option for the Seahawks could be Randy Starks, as we’ve discussed previously.
There are lots of options at corner — Tramon Williams for example remains unsigned. It’s perhaps unlikely the Seahawks would consider another veteran here after adding Cary Williams and Will Blackmon.
Greg Jennings was cut today by Minnesota, adding to the options at receiver. It just seems like an unnecessary expense to add an ageing wide out to the current group. Is that what Seattle needs? Especially with the recent addition of Graham and a talent-rich draft at the position.
Really it comes down to the offensive line. It seems like they want to add a veteran, that’s why they met with Shelley Smith (signed with the Broncos) and Stefen Wisniewski. It’ll have to fit into the limited price bracket. The Seahawks chose not to convert Jimmy Graham’s bonus before the deadline (a move that would’ve saved $3.3m in 2015). They could still approach Brandon Mebane to take a pay cut. They have limited funds to spend (possibly $3-5m only) because they need to earmark money for expected contract extensions for Russell Wilson and Bobby Wagner.
Wisniewski can’t expect to earn as much as Rodney Hudson ($8m) — not at this stage of free agency. He’ll likely take other visits. It’s whether another team steps up to the plate offering a better opportunity (difficult) or more money (not so difficult). If he doesn’t sign they move on — much like they did with Jared Allen and Henry Melton a year ago. If they don’t add a veteran, however, it’ll make for a very youthful offensive line in 2015 — including possibly two rookie starters and a second year right tackle (Justin Britt).
For that reason a veteran addition seems likely but not guaranteed. It’s all down to value. Last year Allen and Melton got the tempting offers. We’ll see what happens with Wisniewski.