Seahawks release Malik McDowell, the most mysterious--and worst--top draft pick in team history

Pete Carroll: “No room” for Frank Clark punching Germain Ifedi; more on Malik McDowell

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he's "disappointed" Frank Clark and Germain Ifedi got into a minor scuffle.
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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he's "disappointed" Frank Clark and Germain Ifedi got into a minor scuffle.

The Seahawks’ part of the Malik McDowell mystery and lost opportunity has ended.

Saturday Seattle reportedly waived from its non-football injury list its top draft choice from 2017, who never played a game for the team.

The move was according to Ian Rapoport of the league-owned NFL Network.

The NFL doesn’t typically publish official transactions for Saturdays or Sundays in the offseason. It saves such weekend transactions for official notice on Mondays.

A Seahawks spokesman did not respond to a request for clarification of McDowell’s official status on Saturday.

McDowell, 22, had been on the Seahawks’ NFI list since the team waived him last July 26. No other team claimed him and then Seattle put him on the NFI list for all of last season.

He is leaving as the most unfortunate—meaning worst—draft pick in Seahawks history.

They are releasing him two years after drafting him 35th overall, and without him ever playing or even practicing for them. That’s because of a mysterious ATV accident weeks after he signed his rookie contract and collected a $3.2 million signing bonus.

Defensive tackle Malik McDowell sounds like he's ready to be a Seahawk. He was the team's first pick in this year's NFL Draft.

He and his family obviously believe he still could someday play in the NFL. They are not ready to close the door on his playing career.

It’s by now also obvious the Seahawks’ medical staff believes he either cannot or should not play football, because of the injuries from his accident that McDowell’s family has kept a tightly controlled secret.

Last year Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said: “I think, for the family, we’ve been told...they’ve asked us, you know... so we are (mindful of how to) express all that took place, and all that.

“We will honor that.”

And now they are giving McDowell the opportunity to see if another team will give him a chance the Seahawks don’t think he has, to play in the NFL.

Pete Carroll won't/was not able to answer if top rookie pick Malik McDowell will play this season.

Cutting him with $471,843 of his $1.1 million base salary for this year guaranteed leaves Seattle with a $2.07 million salary-cap charge for him for 2019, according to But that doesn’t account for any agreement or adjustment in pay that may or may not be a part of the most unusual and unfortunate draft-pick case this team has ever had.

The Seahawks could, per league rules for the non-football injury list, withhold parts of McDowell’s salary. The team has not given any indication it did or will do that.

The consequences of McDowell sustaining what Carroll has vaguely termed was a serious head injury in what is believed to be an ATV accident in the summer of 2017 have rippled through the Seahawks’ franchise for years.

Carroll acknowledged during the 2017 season his team would not have traded wide receiver Jermaine Kearse and a second-round pick to the New York Jets that September for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson had McDowell been available to play. Richardson, a 2014 Pro Bowl defensive lineman with the Jets, played just that 2017 season for the Seahawks. He signed last spring as a free agent with the Minnesota Vikings. He was essentially nothing more than a rental player for the Seahawks in their non-playoff season of 2017.

Kearse, the Lakewood native and former Lakes High School star from the University of Washington, had a career season debuting for the Jets: 61 catches and five touchdowns in 2017, before his production dropped last year. He’s now a free agent.

Plus, the Seahawks lost a second-round pick in the 2018 draft in that trade that wouldn’t have happened had McDowell not gotten seriously injured.

The bottom line: this big of a whiff on a top pick—zero games played in his career—sets a team back for years.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said he's "disappointed" Frank Clark and Germain Ifedi got into a minor scuffle.

McDowell’s accident was allegedly in Michigan, but there are no public records of one involving him in that state. That is according to a series of searches of and calls to agencies across Michigan last year. The accident occurred weeks after the former Michigan State University star turned 21, and after he signed a four-year contract with Seattle worth $6.96 million with a $3.2 million signing bonus.

From his accident in July 2017 into the fall of 2018, all doctors allowed him to do physically was walk. His prospects on returning to the field were so far out of the team’s plans the Seahawks allowed him to fly back home to heal in Michigan throughout all of training camp and their 2017 preseason. McDowell was not a part of the Seahawks’ daily functions. He came to team headquarters only later in the season. In November, Carroll announced McDowell would not play for the team in 2017.

In December, while the Seahawks were in Jacksonville to play the Jaguars without him, McDowell was arrested in Atlanta for disorderly conduct at a nightclub. McDowell went on a profanity-filled tirade against two officers in Atlanta that early Sunday morning, including about taxes he pays. The arresting officer reported she felt she almost had to use pepper spray and a stun gun to subdue McDowell, but ultimately did not. He was booked for disorderly conduct and released on $325 bail, a report stated.

So why has McDowell’s ATV accident stayed so secretive? Why is there no apparent public record, with his family protecting his privacy and prognosis?

Source with knowledge of Malik McDowell's situation back in his home state of Michigan confirms it was an ATV accident.

The accident could have escaped public documentation under McDowell’s name for several reasons, Michigan officials told The News Tribune last year. If he was injured on private property, he could have gone to a hospital on his own. Even if a 911 call was placed for emergency transport, some counties only record the name of the caller, not all injured parties.

Continuing to honor the requests of his family, the Seahawks and Carroll have not disclosed all they know about the accident and McDowell’s injuries.

Asked this week at the NFL combine what McDowell’s status was with the team, general manager John Schneider said: “You know, I can’t talk about him. I really can’t.”

Because of the same reasons the team hasn’t talked about the accident or his injuries?

“Yeah,” the GM said. “Yeah.”

Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.