This is the third part of a guest-post series written by Curtis Allen
#3 Wide Receivers
Players under contract for 2021: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain
Players under contract for 2022: DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain
Restricted Free Agents: none
Unrestricted Free Agents: David Moore, Philip Dorsett, Josh Gordon (suspended)
Exclusive Rights Free Agents: none
Players signed to Futures Contracts: John Ursua, Will Fuller, Cody Thompson, Penny Hart
Salary Cap Notes
2021 Cap Commitment: $14.6 million (8.30% of $178m cap)
Tyler Lockett has $12.7m of his 2021 salary non-guaranteed
2020 Season Overview
As a whole it was a terrific year for the position group. Russell Wilson set career highs working with his wide receivers.
Two significant franchise records were set this year – Tyler Lockett with 100 catches and D.K. Metcalf with 1,303 receiving yards. It is an impressive achievement that the marks were set by two different players in the same season.
Metcalf took a huge step forward in year two. He increased every measurable receiving statistic dramatically. That was due not just to his skill but his hard work to expand his route tree and become a weapon of broader use in the offense. His career trajectory numbers-wise after only two seasons is tracking with the best to play the game.
Lockett sandwiched several everyday-effective performances with some outstanding games again in 2020. The games where he was the focal point of the offense were really a sight to see. His 15-catch, 200-yard, three-touchdown game in Arizona stands with the best performances of the season in the NFL.
David Moore set career highs for catches and touchdowns. His pylon-kicking body control touchdown catch against the Patriots defied the laws of science. He also had fantastic downfield catches against the Rams and Washington.
Freddie Swain established himself as an available option as a rookie and gave the Seahawks flexibility in the offense.
And yet… in light of the inconsistent manner of the offense and the disappointing end to the season, it is hard not to think of the catches, first downs and potential touchdowns the Seahawks left on the field this year.
– A brilliant D.K. Metcalf catch and run touchdown to seal the Cardinals game that was called back by an unnecessary blocking penalty
– The group had an awful 19 passes dropped this season
– D.K. Metcalf celebrating too early in the Dallas game on a deep completion, getting stripped and costing the Seahawks a touchdown
Also, the play calling and game planning suffered several inconsistencies that did not maximize the talent in the group:
– Stubbornly avoiding quick passes when facing formidable pass rush teams, resulting in Russell Wilson being sacked 47 times and throwing the ball away in several others
– At times trying too hard to feature David Moore and calling plays that do not suit his skill set, to the exclusion of Lockett and Metcalf or finding rhythm on offense
– Failing to get Metcalf targeted early in games. Just one example — the key division matchup against the Rams in Week 10. In a game in which they desperately needed playmaking, they waited until late in the third quarter to throw the ball to him
– Several third and short plays the Seahawks could not convert, preventing the offense more opportunities to throw to the wide receivers
Offseason Questions to Address
1. How will the wide receivers fit in the offense in 2021?
In Pete Carroll’s end of year press conference he called for running the ball more. That does not necessarily mean the team will not use prime assets like Russell Wilson, Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf.
In fact, it is possible that a reinvestment in the offensive line and running back groups could open up possibilities for the wide receivers not experienced under Brian Schottenheimer in 2020.
A strong running game aided by an improved offensive line will keep drives alive more frequently, which gives the wide receivers more chances for targets.
It would also assure that teams can’t just stick to two deep safety looks all game. There will just be too many players to cover.
But really, the question for the wide receiver group is whether the new offensive coordinator scheme better in game planning as well as in-game adjustments? Can they put together a package of plays that utilizes the wide receivers’ skills and playmaking ability that does not always require a seven-step quarterback drop and three full seconds to develop?
How about adopting what other teams are doing? Running out an unusual package that gets defenses confused and then running five or six different plays out of that package to keep defenses guessing?
The Seahawks had a couple plays of this nature in 2020 but never returned to them. For instance, the Freddie Swain touchdown play against the Patriots. The Seahawks lined up Tyler Lockett in the running back spot and the Patriots were yelling out adjustments at the line. They then sent Lockett on a route and everybody was looking at him. That cleared out the middle for Swain to come across and then scoot down the sideline for his first career touchdown.
How about running that two or three times more during the season? Then throwing a wrinkle into that formation by throwing deep to Metcalf when everyone has bitten on Lockett or Swain?
We constantly heard last offseason that covering Lockett and Metcalf is going to be a huge chore for defenses and will open things up. Why then did the Seahawks struggle so much to find mismatches and open men at times? It never seemed that David Moore or Freddie Swain were able to feast on third or fourth string cornerbacks. The tight ends rarely found zone bubbles in coverage to sit down in, or wide open seams in the middle of the field.
There is no doubt some of that is on Russell Wilson not finding them. But still, an offensive coordinator’s job is to make things simple for his quarterback. We need to be honest. Nothing was simple for Russell Wilson in 2020.
This group is too talented not to give an offensive coordinator all kinds of options to work with in 2021.
2. How much higher can D.K. Metcalf climb?
Metcalf had a fantastic 2020. He graduated from an impressive rookie season to a Pro Bowl second season. He demonstrated improved route-running ability, he only recorded one more drop than 2019 despite an almost 30% increase in targets and reduced his fumbles from three to one.
He accomplished all this despite regularly being matched with the opponents’ top cornerbacks.
His impact and skill set are so blinding it is easy to overlook that he has several issues to work on if he wants to reach the top tier of NFL wide receivers.
Understanding how he can better use his huge frame and wingspan to his advantage in the passing game should be his number one assignment this offseason.
Metcalf at times plays like a small, quick wide receiver in that he utilizes his speed to beat his man. It is very easy to rely on that speed as his primary weapon. After all, he has had so much success with it.
But being able to body out defenders as well as better high pointing of the ball will send his impact on the game into the stratosphere.
Imagine Metcalf being able to box out defenders on quick slants and gaining an easy 7-12 yards anytime he wants. What kind of effect would that have on the defensive backfield? Those slants are good eating for safeties looking to deliver a smack. But do they really want to do that when the receiver is a 6’4” 230lb freight train coming at you? It has been tried.
Many times those players have been knocked to the ground with Metcalf standing over them on the field, looking at them like he had just swatted a fly. Now imagine after a handful of those, sending Metcalf on a slant and go route, streaking past them as they hesitate to consider whether they want to get whacked by him.
Consider what improved high pointing skill can accomplish. Being consistently matched up with a 5’11” cornerback and giving your quarterback the option to throw to you at any time, whether it is along the sideline or in the end zone, knowing Metcalf can jump out of the gym and go get the ball. That would open up all kinds of options in the playbook.
His mental focus needs some work. He had seven drops in 2019 and eight in 2020. No drops in 2021 would be ideal but a reasonable goal would be to cut those drops in half.
He also had several mental mistakes that cost the Seahawks at key times during the season:
– The Dallas game fumble
– A drive-killing procedural penalty against the Rams
– Failing to set a proper pick on a 4th down pass to Tyler Lockett in the Arizona game
– Failing to set the edge on the David Moore jet sweep play at the goal line in Philly
Metcalf needs better focus when called on to complete mundane plays.
Perhaps it is just a natural progression and he will improve? Maturing personally and the game slowing down for him in his third year will likely be beneficial. Yet they need to be addressed and cleaned up this offseason.
Just think on the possibility that Metcalf is able to improve on all these areas this offseason. Even just a little.
Defensive coordinators will not be able to stop him. He will be able to wreck their entire game plan by himself.
Consider what that does for Russell Wilson and his confidence.
Consider what options that opens up for the offensive coordinator.
Would you like a cherry on top? Metcalf will be on his rookie contract for the next two seasons. If he continues to improve his game, the Seahawks will be getting easily ten times the value of the contract they’re paying him.
But it is up to him to put in the work this offseason.
3. Will they look at extending Tyler Lockett?
They extended Lockett in 2018 with a year left on his original deal. He is in the last year of his contract and counts $15m against the cap in 2021. He has provided terrific value, snagging 239 passes for 28 touchdowns in the three seasons since he signed it. He is currently not in the top twenty wide receivers for contract value and that should be rectified.
He will be 29 when the 2021 season starts. He has plenty of good years left and he has proven to be incredibly durable for a player of his size.
Extending him now does more than just reward fine play. It keeps the pairing with D.K. Metcalf intact. It underlines the case to Russell Wilson that he has a really good thing going in Seattle.
If structured right, the Seahawks could gain some sorely needed 2021 salary cap room.
It demonstrates to D.K. Metcalf that this organization rewards outstanding play.
And speaking of Metcalf, a Lockett extension helps the Seahawks set up their roster and cap structure for when Metcalf’s rookie contract expires after 2022. Metcalf should be the clear top receiver on the team at that point and the Seahawks will have Tyler in the last year or two of his contract and it will give them options in deciding how to proceed in the draft this year and next, as well as flexibility when considering paying Metcalf a huge contract.
This makes too much sense for all parties involved for it to not happen.
4. What do they do behind Lockett and Metcalf in 2021?
There is not currently a proven third option behind their two starters at wide receiver.
David Moore is an unrestricted free agent. It will be fascinating to see what his market will be. The Seahawks tendered him at the $2.1m rate last year, kept him on the roster all summer and then on roster cut down day, negotiated his contract down to about half that and kept him on the roster.
His speed, ability to adjust and fight for deep balls and his record of clutch catches would seem to suggest a higher ceiling than he has shown in his Seahawks career. Unfortunately, he has developed a pattern where he typically follows a game with a breathtaking catch with two or three games with very little activity to speak of.
The Seahawks sought to expand his role in the offense with some plays at the line of scrimmage designed to open up looks for him. They did not really take advantage of his strengths and thus did not produce much.
Still, 35 catches for six touchdowns, a player that Russell has implicit trust in and some punt return duties on his plate are well worth $1million. If he finds himself without a large contract offer, he is a great fit in Seattle and needs to be considered.
At this point in his career though, it needs to be asked, is he a true third receiver? It would appear we have experienced the best he has to offer.
He appears to be a perfect fourth receiver. He is frequently used on special teams, he can take some snaps when the other receivers are hurt or need a breather and can catch the defense snoozing on him.
Could a new offensive coordinator get more out of him?
Freddie Swain had a nice rookie season but much about his future role is unknown at this point. It was a good sign that he got used in game action early in the season. Can he step into a bigger role in 2021? The coaching staff seemed very positive about him.
John Ursua was a roster stash throughout 2019 and then came in late in the season and had a couple key catches.
He then failed to beat Swain and Penny Hart to make the roster in 2020 and spent the year on the practice squad. He never once merited a game day activation spot. He has been styled as possible great fit at slot receiver for the Seahawks but just has not been able to get on the field.
Penny Hart was used on special teams and only had one catch in 2020.
Philip Dorsett and Josh Gordon were complete washouts, not seeing a snap of game action.
The rub therefore is, the Seahawks do not have a real third option on the roster right now. There are several free agents available but with their limited resources and the talent stacked ahead of them, the best option might be to try and add a couple inexpensive free agents and hope one of them pops.
It would appear that if the Seahawks fill some other needs before the draft, they would be free to take the best player available. If that is a wide receiver, he will definitely have a role available to him in 2021.
Rob’s Potential Draft Targets
It’s another strong looking receiver class. Ja’Marr Chase and DeVonta Smith will go off the board quickly. I expect Rondale Moore will rise when he’s had a pro-day and shown he’s one of the best athletes in America.
Assuming there are no lingering issues with Jaylen Waddle’s ankle injury, he will also be a high pick.
There are several players who could also go in the top-40 but have the potential to last to the Seahawks too. Elijah Moore is a dynamic, strong and sturdy receiver who plays beyond his size. Tutu Atwell is another diminutive pass-catcher but he’s explosive and quick with big-play potential.
The Seahawks seem to prioritise speed at the position and look for players running a 4.4 or faster. It’ll be interesting to see how the likes of Rashod Bateman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Tylan Wallace and Nico Collins run — but I suspect all might be 4.5 runners.
Kadarius Toney has talent and could be a mid-round pick. Again, speed will be key. He’s attending the Senior Bowl so might be one to watch. Seth Williams at Auburn lost his matchup with Jaycee Horn and slouched through the end of the season — but he’s better than he showed in his final few games. Terrance Marshall Jr also had a highly productive year in trying circumstances with LSU.
Sage Surratt wins a lot of contested catches but again — whether the Seahawks are interested will come down to how he runs.
For more on the draft please check out my interview with Vanderbilt’s Dayo Odeyingbo:
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