2016 Offseason Planning Part III: Receivers & Tight Ends
The Seahawks are in great shape at receiver, even if they choose to let Jermaine Kearse walk. They have young depth that is ready to step forward, and could choose to add to the pile in the draft if they find someone they love. The tight end spot needs attention. Jimmy Graham may not play next year. The team has only one viable tight end under contract. They have to add to the pile in free agency. Leaving it to the draft would not make sense.
Receivers
Tight Ends - Receiving
Tight Ends - Blocking
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This series will examine seven position groups on the Seahawks, reviewing their 2015 performance, and how the front office may make changes, including free agency or the draft. The final part of the series will propose a cumulative plan.

Part I: Quarterbacks
Part II: Offensive Line
Part III: Wide Receivers & Tight Ends
Part IV: Running Backs & Fullbacks
Part V: Defensive Line
Part VI: Linebackers
Part VII: Secondary
Part VIII: Summary & Recommendations

Article

State of the position: Receivers & Tight Ends

 

Remember when the Seahawks receiving corps was derided as the weak link on the team? If they could just add a dynamic playmaker, the story went, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense could take off. Turns out, they already had one.

 

Wide receivers

Doug Baldwin finished the year tied for the NFL lead in touchdowns with fourteen. That’s not the leader in receiving touchdowns (which he also tied for the lead). That’s the overall leader in touchdowns in the league.

Baldwin combined with Wilson to go on a tear not seen in the NFL since Jerry Rice was in the league. Baldwin set the Seahawks franchise record for receiving touchdowns and became the first player to reach the 1,000 yard mark since Bobby Engram in 2007. In a snub sure to stoke his fire, Baldwin still was left off the Pro Bowl roster, keeping a streak alive where no Seahawks receiver has made the Pro Bowl since 1989 (Brian Blades).

Baldwin was not alone. Rookie Tyler Lockett had an outstanding season, and appears to be destined for greatness as a central part of this offense for years to come. Lockett hammered home the reality many in the NFL still do not appreciate when it comes to judging receivers. Height and weight are only part of the equation for finding a good receiver. Lockett excels at route running, getting a good release at the line of scrimmage, and has top-shelf speed and hands.

Jermaine Kearse had his best season and flashed reliable hands as mostly a possession receiver on catches over the middle. He is an unrestricted free agent this year, and the team will have to decide how much they are willing to spend on a player who fits well in their offense, but has a limited ceiling.

Waiting in the wings are three promising young players. Kasen Williams, Kevin Smith and Paul Richardson all could be viable replacements for Kearse, should he move on. Williams is a plus athlete with great size, who also has potential as a gunner and punt blocker on special teams. Smith is a solid all-around receiver who can play all three positions (flanker, split end, and slot) and has a knack for making plays. Richardson has the second round pick pedigree and electric speed, but has battled injury.

The Seahawks could sit tight with their receiver group, and they would still be in solid position. If a great option falls to them in the draft, they could grab him, but this is not an area of pressing need.

 

Tight ends

Jimmy Graham was having a solid season before injuring his patellar tendon against the Steelers. The offense performed well without him, but that was overplayed. The offense had started playing well with him. They simply continued to hum along after the injury.

Graham’s availability next year is in question.Victor Cruz has missed more than a season recovering from the same injury. The team has said they plan to keep him on the roster. While commendable, it would be a mistake to spend $9M on Graham next year if he is not going to play. The team could make significant improvements to other parts of their team with that money. Don’t be fooled by Carroll’s optimistic accounts of Graham’s status. He has a history of being overestimating injury recovery from key players.

If Graham is able to play, the decision to keep him would make sense. He was a good weapon who was becoming a great one for the Seahawks. His blocking was even improving. As it stands, Luke Willson would be the starter at tight end, and that is it.

Cooper Helfet is a restricted free agent, and there are some players on futures contracts. No matter how you slice it, tight end is a position of need entering this offseason, and the Seahawks plans very well may involve paying $9M to a player at that position who will not contribute in 2016.

 

 

2016 Seahawks Free Agent Receivers & Tight Ends:

  • WR Jermaine Kearse
  • WR Ricardo Lockette
  • TE Anthony McCoy
  • TE Chase Coffman
  • TE Cooper Helfet (Restricted)

 

Seahawks Receivers & Tight Ends Under Contract:

  • WR Doug Baldwin
  • WR Tyler Lockett
  • WR Paul Richardson
  • WR Kevin Smith
  • WR Kasen Williams
  • WR Jeff Fuller (CFL)
  • WR Deshon Fox (Futures Contract)
  • WR Antwan Goodley (Futures Contract)
  • WR Douglas McNeil (Futures Contract)
  • WR Tyler Slavin (Futures Contract)
  • TE Luke Willson
  • TE Ronnie Shields (Futures Contract)

 

Possible Free Agents To Consider

WIDE RECEIVERS

Jermaine Kearse

Kearse has been a terrific Seahawk, but it would be a mistake to spend fair market value for a position the team can fill for less and get comparable production. Kearse will always be underappreciated in Seattle for what he has done. The team simply has greater needs elsewhere.

 

Anquan Boldin

Boldin will probably stay in San Francisco, but there is no tougher player at the position in the league. He would make a terrific Seahawk, even in his mid-30s. This would only make sense if Boldin would take a small contract to chase a ring.

 

TIGHT ENDS

Jermaine Gresham

Gresham is a monster blocker and a capable receiver. His price tag will probably be too high, but he would be a great upgrade to the position, and a hedge against Graham.

Antonio Gates

Crazy? Not necessarily. Gates is 35 and could be interested in a cheap contract to chase a ring. A short term gamble on an elite older player could be the perfect situation for the Seahawks.
Craig Stevens

Stevens is a 31-year-old blocking tight end. He will not be a factor in the passing game, but the team could add a proven blocker to help the line, and for a small amount of cash.

Mercedes Lewis

Lewis is a terrific blocker and a decent receiver. He is 31, and could be an affordable option.

 

Clay Harbor

Harbor played for the Jags, like Lewis, and has been seen as more of a receiving target, but has proven to be a capable blocker as well. This is the type of under-the-radar signing that could bolster the position without breaking the bank.

 

Andrew Quarless

A solid blocker and below average receiver.

 

 

 

 

14 Responses

  1. marcos vilela

    hey, what about delanie walker? i think he’s a very good blocker and receiver. always under the radar because never had a good QB (although that changed a bit with mariota). he’s like the baldwin of TEs: has few targets when compared to others players in same position, but has an amazing record in completions. even before we had graham i was hoping that we would sign him.

  2. Safari Ken

    I’ll miss Kearse if he leaves. He’s made some of the most dramatic catches I’ve ever seen!

  3. Raymond

    Boldin would be major upgrade over Kearse. Exactly the kind of move this team needs.

    • Paul Goode

      Kevin Smith and Kasen Williams are speed demons compared to Boldin; Kearse is a hair slower than Paul Richardson and Tyler Lockett. Boldin is 35 years old and catches a lot of passes only because he’s targeted so often. Kearse is younger, faster, and more efficient. Kearse is coming off the best season off his career; Boldin’s best days are behind him. I’m not seeing an upgrade, major or minor.

      • Raymond

        Boldin moves the chains because he is the toughest receiver in the league. Strong hands and reliable. He is consistent and a major upgrade

        Kearse will have a game of 130 yards and then get 20 yards a game the rest of the month. Kearse can’t get separation but Boldin knows how to get open and is a superior route runner.

        With Boldin you will pick up critical 3rd down and move the sticks. With Kearse you overpay for a guy who has hit his ceiling and seeing his role reduce as he has already been passed.

        Boldin is better and cheaper. Win/Win and adds leadership

      • Paul Goode

        Targets/Catches/1st Dn/YAC/YPG:

        Bouldin: 110/69/35/232/56.4
        Kearse: 68/49/32/224/42.8

        In other words, Kearse did almost as much damage despite getting 62% of Bouldin’s targets.

        Normalized to 100 targets:

        Bouldin: 100/63/32/211/51.3
        Kearse: 100/72/47/329/62.9

        As for overpaying, last year Bouldin made $5.5MM to Kearse’s $2.36MM. Relatively, either Bouldin was overpaid or Kearse was a bargain.

        Two years ago, you had a point. In 2016, Kearse is simply the more productive player. It’s not even a question as to who is the better value.

      • Raymond

        Boldin was hurt last year and SF QB situation was a mess. Boldin will bounce back. Year before kearse barely caught over 50% of his targets. Wilson carried kearse. Kearse was overpaid last year and wants a raise. Boldin likely taking less money as his career winds down to win. He is better value with more upside and great experience. You can rely on Boldin. In games Seattle needed kearse to step up he was a ghost.

      • Paul Goode

        You mean like the 2013 NFC Finals? Or the last game against Carolina? And you want to plan on a 35-year old returning to form and having upside. Good thing that you aren’t GM.

      • Raymond

        Kearse didn’t do anything against Carolina until they were down 31-0.

        I’m referencing his 0 yards against GB.

        38 yards against Cincy

        0 yards against Carolina

        10 yards against Arizona

        34 yards against Arizona

        The best teams Seattle played last year he didn’t exactly help move the ball

        He isn’t worth 4M. If Seattle adds a FA though in 1-2M range be a significant upgrade if a guy like Boldin was interested

        That’s just a fact

  4. KC

    Boldin really slowed this season. Being in NorCal, I listen to a ton of KNBR, the 9rs station, and it’s recognized he had multiple poor games. Solid player, but just a step slower than he used to be. Hawks could do better I think.

    • Raymond

      Boldin played all year with hurt hamstring and blaine gabbert throwing to him. Expect him to bounce back

    • Raymond

      Marcellus wants out of his bears contract because he wants a major raise. Not a FA at this point but if he is released he will be looking for at least 7-8M a year

      SEA can’t afford that for that position

  5. HD

    With all of the free agent TE’s there are plenty of options. I noticed that Seattle now lists Brandon Cottom as a TE under a futures contract……he was an UFA out of Purdue last year at FB/RB who was cut and added to the practice squad in Nov…This is the move I thought Seattle should have made last year. Cottom at 6’2″, 262 is agile and pretty quick for a guy his size. He’s also is a good blocker and did well out of the backfield as a receiver for Purdue. He has limited highlights, but made some big runs as well.

    Cottom is a low cost option with H-Back upside as well (he could also play FB). His physical ability makes him a better blocking option than Helfet or Graham and he is young with Seattle having control over him on the cheap for the next few years.. Luke Willson is a FA next year and will drawn interest in 2017.
    I think Seattle might be wise to focus their resources on their lines in FA/Draft…with possibly adding a RB.
    Chris Polk might be a great under the radar FA option from Houston. The former Husky has 4 years in the league, and might be a great 3rd down back…he showed improved receiving skills in 2015, and is a physical runner and blocker …not to mention should be very affordable.

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