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Kellen Winslow Jr. joined the Seahawks via trade last night. Seattle reportedly surrendered a 7th round draft choice that can turn into a 6th if certain performance measures are met. General Manager John Schneider continues his pattern of limited downside, significant upside moves with the former Pro Bowl tight end whose worst full season output would represent a 20% improvement over John Carlson’s best season, and comes far cheaper (Carlson signed a 5 year, $25M deal with the Vikings). Adding Winslow gives the Seahawks two Pro Bowl tight ends, a Pro Bowl running back, and a receiver who made the Pro Bowl in his last full season. The team has quietly assembled the best offensive arsenal in the NFC West, and one that stacks up favorably with some of the best in the NFC.
Arizona Cardinals fans will quickly point out they have the best offensive weapon in the division in Larry Fitzgerald, and running back Beanie Wells, who nearly matched Marshawn Lynch’s output last season. Early Doucet is a nice complementary receiver, and rookie Michael Floyd is a wild card. Most rookie receivers fail to make much of an impact. Todd Heap is a nice tight end, but is 32 years-old.
Much hinges on Rice’s health. He was on pace for a 1,000+ yard season last year despite terrible early offensive line play and mediocre quarterback play. Rice outplayed Fitzgerald in their one match-up last season, for what that’s worth.
Doug Baldwin and Doucet have to be considered equals until one of them separates from the other. Fitzgerald is better than Rice, but not by leaps and bounds when Rice is healthy. Lynch and Wells are roughly equivalent in terms of production, but Lynch is more durable and deserves the nod for more consistent output. Zach Miller is 26 years-old and has proven that he is a threat receiving. Last year was an aberration due to the line and quarterback. Healthy players don’t have their production cut in half because they all-of-sudden stop being talented. He was a Pro Bowl player the year before Seattle acquired him, and undoubtedly is the superior player when compared to Heap. Winslow Jr. versus Jeff King? Add Leon Washington, Robert Turbin (it is far easier to project immediate contributions from rookie running backs than rookie receivers), and whoever emerges from the scrum of Ricardo Lockette, Mike Williams, Kris Durham, and Golden Tate. It is hard to argue the Cardinals have any advantage up and down the depth chart outside of Fitzgerald.
San Francisco has the best tight end pair in the NFC with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. But, wait, do they? It was surprising to see that Winslow Jr. has dramatically outproduced Davis in some key areas.
Kellen Winslow Jr. has produced better per-season averages than Vernon Davis in key stats
Take out Winslow Jr.’s rookie season when he only played two games due a major off-field injury, and his per-season averages for receptions and yards far outpaces Davis. Davis is considered one of the best tight ends in all of football. Seattle just acquired a player that outproduces him for a 7th round draft pick. Miller has made a Pro Bowl, and is among the best blockers at the tight end position in the NFL. Perhaps, we should not be so quick to hand the best tight end pair crown in the division to the 49ers.
San Francisco added Randy Moss, Mario Manningham, and rookie AJ Jenkins to Michael Crabtree. The group is a mix of unpredictability and talent. Nobody should be surprised if Moss has another big year, but what happens next year? Crabtree put up some decent numbers, but has never approached a player defenses need to game plan for. He could easily see his production drop precipitously with the other players thrown into the mix. Manningham is just a guy. He benefited from playing with a decent quarterback in a pass-heavy offense. Baldwin is a better player than either Crabtree or Manningham. Rice and Moss cancel each other out due to their high upside and unpredictability. The upside of a player like Lockette is more appealing than many of the receivers on the 49ers roster, but he has two career receptions.
Frank Gore has been a great back, but is 29. Kendall Hunter and LaMichael James are great young players behind him. The overall collection of Lynch, Turbin and Washington wins largely on Lynch being even with Gore on talent/production, but being years younger. Hunter does not look like an every down back, and James is questionable in that role. Gore’s time is winding down, and someone needs to step into that position.
The difference between the 49ers and Seahawks offensive weapons is not quite what I expected. Arguments could be made on either side, but Seattle’s weapons are young enough to grow with the team. San Francisco has some players aging out of value, and others that are short-term band-aids. They may be more effective in 2012, but beyond that favors Seattle.
With all due respect to Stephen Jackson, the Rams just aren’t worth evaluating on offensive weapons yet.
Consider what the Seahawks ran out there before Carroll and Schneider joined. Julius Jones at running back, with Justin Forsett and Edgerrin James behind him. T.J. Houshmandzadeh, Deion Branch, Nate Burleson and Deon Butler at receiver, and Carlson and Josh Owens at tight end. Burleson was a great receiver (still is), but the rest of that is cringe-worthy. Schneider has completely made over the offense in three off-seasons. Now, it’s up to Matt Wilson Jackson to get them the damn ball and score some points.