INDIANAPOLIS What did the Seahawks accomplish at the combine?
Besides put a punter through a staring contest, that is?
Seattle got an up-close look at Shaquem Griffin. The twin brother of Seahawks starting cornerback Shaquill Griffin was one of 60 players with whom the team sat down for formal interviews during the past week. Then they got what every other team in the league got by Shaquem at this combine: wowed. He became the sensation of the 2018 NFL scouting extravaganza with his 20 bench presses with one hand and 4.38 time in the 40-yard dash, the fastest by a linebacker here in 15 years.
The Seahawks and general manager John Schneider met with Earl Thomas’ agents about a possible new contract, over which the three-time All-Pro safety has been hinting to holdout. They also met with, among others, the representatives for Sheldon Richardson, to negotiate a new deal for the defensive tackle. Schneider said the team has no intention of using the franchise tag to keep Richardson from free agency, which the Seahawks have up until a Tuesday deadline to do.
But most notably and potentially impacting of all, the Seahawks went fishing. They cast far and wide across the league via a message to each of its other 31 teams: if you would like any of our veteran--and expensive--players, give us your best offer.
Schneider did this last offseason when he very publicly shopped Sherman.
This past week at the combine, he made it known this offseason he’s shopping his whole team.
Sure, trade talks and rumors are as prevalent at combines as three-cone times and late-night, see-and-be-seen outings across downtown Indianapolis between league coaches, staffers, scouts, agents and, yes, media members. So I’ve heard.
But Friday inside the Indiana Convention Center I gave Schneider the chance to declare someone--anyone--on the Seahawks’ roster as untouchable to trade consideration. He declined.
“Not at this time of the year,” Seattle’s GM said.
“We’re just open to anything.”
His words in one of only a handful of times he’s talked to the media in the past year weren’t just negotiating leverage, in the case of Thomas and his agents, in particular. They were Schneider’s way of very openly letting the rest of the NFL know that Thomas, Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman--heck, maybe even New York Yankee Russell Wilson--could, in theory, be yours. It and coach Pete Carroll passing on multiple chances to shoot down trade talk involving Sherman and Bennett the day before here were the Seahawks’ ways of trying to entice a team to take away some of Seattle’s more vexing issues:
- Whether to re-sign Sherman or Thomas, or both, after their contracts expire at the end of 2018.
- Giving Bennett a three-year extension in December 2016 that guaranteed him $17.5 million. The three-time Pro Bowl defensive end has yet to play a down under that deal--and he’s already 32 years old, having played through three injuries last season.
- And the elephant not yet in the room, but out in the hallway, waiting to enter next year: How soon begin negotiations on another extension for Wilson, and how high above $30 million to offer him to keep their franchise quarterback in Seattle beyond the end of the 2019 season. They don’t have to do that yet. But the longer they wait, the more Kirk Cousins then Matt Ryan then Aaron Rodgers get in their new deals, the richer beyond $30 million per Wilson gets for 2020 and beyond.
Wilson, of course, has no reason to talk now. The longer he waits, the higher his price rises. The Seahawks have every reason to--other than the fact they have no clarity on where they will be with their other, most expensive veterans by next year.
Or do you want to imagine a Seahawks team without Wilson right now? They don’t, either.
Schneider’s come-one, come-all declaration for potential trade offers is one attempt for the team to gain some vision on where they might go from here. It led to national views that it would be a surprise if Thomas is still on the Seahawks instead of another team--Dallas?--when the next season begins in September.
It’s also produced at least one lead at the combine. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported over the weekend the Falcons have inquired about what it would take to trade for Bennett.
Trading or cutting Bennett before next season would save the Seahawks $2.2 million against the salary cap.
But there’s a huge caveat to Schneider opening Seattle’s trade market here at this combine. It’s one that should keep the Pacific Northwest from panicking that there’s a fire sale about to start.
Inquiring teams better bring absolutely mega offers.
No offers of, say, starters plus first- or second- or third-round picks to recoup some of what the Seahawks traded away during last season in the go-for-it trades for Richardson and left tackle Duane Brown that backfired? Then Thomas and Sherman, returning from a torn Achilles tendon and two ankle surgeries, play out the final year of their deals, buying Seattle time to judge whom to re-sign beyond 2018. Then Bennett and his 8 1/2 sacks through all the injuries last season return for a defensive line that right now has only one other proven pass rusher on the roster and ready to play this year: Frank Clark. And he’s in the last year of his contract.
There’s one other catch in Schneider saying there are no untouchables. The Seahawks are no longer in position to have any.
They aren’t a perennial playoff team anymore. Their famed “Legion of Boom” secondary and in fact core of Wilson, Thomas, Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Bobby Wagner, K.J. Wright and Doug Baldwin aren’t 25 anymore. They are pushing 30, the age when expense often meets expendability for NFL players.
Schneider talked at length Friday about Seattle’s need to put the next generation, the post-“Boom” Seahawks, on the field. Delano Hill. Tedric Thompson. Mike Tyson. And not just for special teams, either.
“You know, it’s a fun challenge right now,” Schneider said. “It’s like a reset: OK, how did we get here? We got here drafting players and putting guys on the field. I think it’s been hard over the last several drafts for--don’t get me wrong, we haven’t made some great decisions, the best decisions we could possibly make in certain situations, I don’t think anybody does--but it’s been hard for these guys to get out there, especially on defense. We put guys out there right away, particularly on defense.
“Look, Earl played right away. Sherm played right away. Maxie (original “Legion of Boom” cornerback Byron Maxwell) would have played right away, if he hadn’t gotten injured right away. Bobby played right away. K.J. Those guys went, ‘OK, here we go.’ And so it’s kind of a challenge and a mindset to get back to doing that: ‘OK, let’s go. Let’s get these guys out there.’
“Pete and I talk about it all the time: No one’s talking about Delano or Thompson. Those guys who are...they are good football players. We took those guys higher--no disrespect to the guys we drafted in the past--but it’s been hard for those guys to get out there.
“And, you are getting to the point where we are interviewing these guys at the combine or you are at the school interviewing them, and they are thinking to themselves ‘Wow, I get to play with Kam Chancellor?’ No, you get to COMPETE with Kam Chancellor. That’s the mindset we have to get back to. They are a little bit in awe, you know. You know, they were in eighth grade.”
They are all grown up now. But no Seahawks coach fully knows if Hill and Thompson, drafted last year to possibly be the new starting safeties beyond Chancellor and Thomas, are ready this year to replace Chancellor or Thomas.
If Schneider’s and Carroll’s fishing expedition that was so prominently a part of their combine entices an unexpectedly attractive offer for one of Seattle’s would-be untouchables, we may soon find out.