Saturday, February 26, 2011

Seahawks Off-Season Analysis Part V: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends

The Tight Ends did their thing at the combine today, so let's kick off part five of this series focusing on the receiving corps, including tight ends.

Brandon Marshall was the talk of the early off-season last year as the Seahawks looked for that classic #1 receiver who could challenge defenses. Vincent Jackson became a focal point once he held out in San Diego. TJ Houshmandzadeh and Deion Branch were kicked to the curb, and players like Mike Williams, Deon Butler and Ben Obamanu were all given new chances that each took advantage of to varying degrees. Brandon Stokley became a great compliment to Williams in the slot. Stokley, Obamanu and Williams played only a handful of healthy snaps together all season. They formed a solid, if not spectacular, unit when they were all there. Butler was an unheralded part of the mix that gave a much-needed vertical stretch. This group could come back untouched and be among the strongest on the team, but it is one game-breaker away from being a team strength. That's an amazing turnaround in one season. 

The Tight Ends were another story. John Carlson entered the 2010 season as a player expected to benefit from Jeremy Bates tight end friendly system and Matt Hasselbeck's return to health. Instead, Carlson was possibly the biggest disappointment on the team. He's never been a good blocker, but was horrible even by his low standards. Route running, catching, in-route adjustments and chemistry with Hasselbeck also fell far short of expectations. He had a great playoff game against the Saints, but it did little to erase 16 games of futility. Pete Carroll and John Schneider had drafted a promising young talent in Anthony McCoy, but he was placed on injured reserve midway through the season. Chris Baker did what he was supposed to do as a veteran blocking TE that could make a catch on occasion. The pleasant surprise of the group was second year Cal product Cameron Morrah. Morrah has elite speed for the position, but looks more like a WR than a TE. He is a try-hard blocker, who will never overpower someone, but he looks like Walter Jones compared to Carlson. Look for this to be an open competition heading into training camp, with Carlson having to earn his starting spot far more than he did last year. 

2011 Seahawks Free Agents: WR, TE:
  • WR Brandon Stokley
  • WR Ruvell Martin
  • WR Isaiah Stanback (re-signed)
Seahawks WR, TE Under Contract:
  • TE John Carlson
  • TE Chris Baker
  • TE Cameron Morrah
  • TE Anthony McCoy
  • WR Mike Williams
  • WR Ben Obamanu
  • WR Deon Butler
  • WR Golden Tate
The Seahawks should bring back Stokley if he's interested. He formed a good bond with Hasselbeck, and was a valuable asset for what should be a low price. Martin was a fine fill-in, but is exactly the kind of player the team needs to avoid. He's got a low ceiling, and is not getting any younger. Those roster spots should be used on young prospects that can be groomed. The only thing saving Golden Tate from massive criticism is the fact that receivers rarely emerge in their rookie years. His donut caper made for good reading, but was just the first indication that the kid is not taking his job seriously enough. The evidence was clear in how Hasselbeck talked about him, and most importantly, how the coaches used him. Tate is not a breakaway speed kind of player, but could be a valuable part of the mix if he works his tail off. 

Tight end is largely addressed with four players under contract. It's always possible the team will add a player in the draft if there is a solid value pick after the fifth round, but the team has many larger needs to address.

Adding a wide receiver in free agency is expensive, and there are many good prospects in the draft. Let's look at some top free agents wide receivers in 2011:

WR Santonio Holmes
Supposedly a top priority for the Jets to re-sign. Would be a great fit opposite BMW.

WR Santana Moss
His yards-per-catch has dropped the last few years, and he is getting up there in age, but could be a great addition at the right price.

WR Sidney Rice
Brett Favre's big-play guy. A little higher risk given injuries and the chance that he was lifted by Favre's best statistical season.

WR Plaxico Burress
Burress will be an intriguing option for some team coming after his year in prison. 

There are some good wide receivers on the free agent market. There are also a pretty deep group of quality wideouts in the draft. The Seahawks will add talent to that part of the team. Whether they go big-name free agent or draft a prospect will depend on what falls to them for offensive line, defensive line and quarterback. Those areas have to get addressed first. How hard the team goes after a receiver in free agency will tell you a little about their confidence in Tate's development as well. 

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