It’s a riddle for many draft desperadoes. But for the Seahawks, it’s “relief.”
The division-rival Rams and 49ers, plus the Eagles, Vikings, Jets, Browns, Bills, Texans, Jaguars — heck, even the defending Super Bowl-champion Broncos — do not have a proven franchise quarterback entering Thursday’s NFL draft.
The Seahawks have Russell Wilson.
Tuesday, two days before the latest draft crapshoot begins in Chicago, their leaders are thankful for that.
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“It is a great relief,” coach Pete Carroll said inside team headquarters, “to have a quarterback who has played for us and knows our system and knows us. We know him. And that has been so effective.”
Wilson, who is still only 27, is the first quarterback to start two Super Bowls in his first three seasons. The supposedly too-small third-round draft choice in 2012 set a league record for most wins by a QB in his first three seasons. He’s led the Seahawks into the playoffs in all four of his seasons, and last season set the franchise record as its first 4,000-yard passer.
Last summer the Seahawks rewarded him with a four-year, $87.6 million contract extension. That keeps the team from having to intensely scrutinize every angle of draft prospects at the sport’s most important position — what’s their hand size? — through at least the 2019 season.
“We are lucky to have Russell,” Carroll said. “It’s a secure feeling, and we like it. And we are fortunate to be in this position.”
Oh, yes, many teams would love to trade places with Seattle.
Then again, the Rams and Eagles have already traded just about everything except their beaches and the Liberty Bell in search for that elusive franchise passer in this quarterback-driven league.
The Rams will begin Thursday’s first round by taking either California’s Jared Goff or North Dakota State’s Carson Wentz. Those are the consensus top two quarterbacks in this draft. For the right to do that, Los Angeles traded to Tennessee this month its first-round pick (No. 15), two second-round selections (No. 43 and 45) plus a third-round pick (No. 76) this year. The Rams also sent the Titans their first- and third-round choices in 2017.
Philadelphia will draft either Goff or Wentz second overall, whichever the Rams don’t take. For the right to start over at QB with a new coaching staff and get the No. 2 pick, the Eagles sent Cleveland the No. 8 selection in Thursday’s first round, a third-round pick (77th overall) and a fourth-round choice (100th overall) in this year’s draft. Philadelphia also gave Cleveland its first-round pick in 2017 and a second-round choice in ‘18.
“Two huge trades going at the top of the draft,” is what Seahawks general manager John Schneider called them Tuesday, “so I think we are going to see a lot of really fun stuff.
Except for Sam Bradford. The Eagles’ incumbent passer is apparently infuriated by his team’s surprise trade up this month. He’s now skipping Philadelphia’s offseason workouts.
Bradford was the Rams’ supposed franchise savior and first overall pick six years ago. That was before he had two seasons ended by knee injuries and then got discarded.
You can see how inexact the science of finding the right quarterback can be.
Except for Seattle.
Hitting jackpot on the 75th overall pick in 2012 set up the Seahawks for four years and counting of being able to reinforce and augment the rest of their team. They haven’t had to devote precious salary cap resources and time to finding the most expensive piece to a roster; they already have it. Every other position on the team has benefited, with the exception of the bereft and exposed offensive line — where this regime has shown it doesn’t believe in spending top dollar anyway.
Want to sign starters and complementary pieces on the defensive line (Ahtyba Rubin, Chris Clemons) and in the defensive secondary (the failed Cary Williams last spring)? One-year “prove it” deals to get competition for starting jobs (Kevin Williams two seasons ago, offensive linemen J’Marcus Webb and Bradley Sowell this spring)? Can do, and did.
Want to get premier tight end Jimmy Graham, at the cost of trading your Pro Bowl center and a first-round pick? Schneider and Carroll did that last year, too.
Seattle has traded out of the first round in each of the last three drafts, and could make it four on Thursday. This streak of trading down began the year after the Seahawks made Wilson their starter from Day One as a rookie.
They haven’t needed those first-round picks, haven’t needed to spend one on a quarterback, with No. 3 on the job.
“It’s freed us up to do a number of things in free agency that we normally wouldn’t have early on, based on where he was acquired,” Schneider said Tuesday of Wilson, whose six-figure salaries in his first three years were the best bargains in sports.
And Wilson’s extension last year clarified how the Seahawks can move forward into 2020.
“We did a new deal with him last year, so moving forward we have to have a clearer plan in place,” Schneider said.
For the here and now, the trickle-down effect of the two mega deals to get the Rams and Eagles quarterbacks at the top of Thursday’s first round means the best overall players in this draft won’t begin getting picked until No. 3, by San Diego. The Chargers are one of the fortunate ones to have a franchise QB, though not one that’s won a Super Bowl, in Philip Rivers. So they’ll draft likely this year’s best college offensive tackle, Mississippi’s Laremy Tunsil, or perhaps Jalen Ramsey, Florida State’s exquisite free safety. It means one of the top defensive linemen, Ohio State’s Joey Bosa, might fall to near the Giants at No. 10 instead of getting drafted closer to Dallas at four.
Other quarterback-needy teams such as the Jets may feel compelled to draft Paxton Lynch of Memphis or another of the second-tier of passers later in the first round. That would mean one more team to pass on top-five talents with character concerns, perhaps down to Seattle at No. 26. Those include pass-rushing defensive ends Robert Nkemdiche of Mississippi and Noah Spence of Eastern Kentucky. Or perhaps a defensive tackle or even that offensive linemen the Seahawks need.
Anything but a quarterback. They, thankfully, already have that.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle
Our top draft prospects
1. Jared Goff, California: Rams traded half their draft stock away to get the best big-school thrower out there.
2. Carson Wentz, North Dakota State: Eagles traded half their draft stock away to get lower-division QB many think is better than Goff.
3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State: Stands in there against blitzes, takes hits, remains poised – and zings passes all over. Better than most perceive he is.
4. Connor Cook, Michigan State: Just looks the part of an NFL QB. Shoulder injury late last season will worry some teams.
5. Paxton Lynch, Memphis: Gigantic — 6-7, 244 — with a cannon-like arm. But played in dink-and-dunk offense, so who knows?
Possible Seahawks fits
Jacoby Brissett, N.C. State: Athletic former Florida starter has worked with Russell Wilson at Seahawks camps twice, so maybe he’ll be vouched for.
Cody Kessler, USC: They say at 6-1, 220 he’s not big enough. Senior season didn’t match great junior one. But any Trojans QB has at least some of Pete Carroll’s attention if not support.
1. Laquon Treadwell, Mississippi: 6-2, strong — and strong-willed in comeback from ugly 2014 leg injury. Compares to Dez Bryant for unique physical skills.
2. Will Fuller, Notre Dame: Very impressive in person at the combine. Crazy fast (4.28 40). So what he’s not mammoth? He’s a home-run deep threat.
3. Sterling Shepard, Oklahoma: Knock is lack of size (5-10, 194). But every time I watched OU he was best player on the field.
4. Corey Coleman, Baylor: Big-play man in a huge-play offense that routinely put up 60 on overwhelmed foes.
5. Josh Doctson, TCU: A 2016 rarity: A fifth-year senior who is a star.
Possible Seahawks fits
Shepard: Carroll and John Schneider must love how produces — and what he’s been through. Wore No. 3 at Oklahoma to honor his late father, Derrick, an OU WR in the 1980s. But not a position of need for Seattle right now.
Devon Cajuste, Stanford: 6-4. Catches everything thrown in his zip code. Carroll loves big receivers. This former tight end could be around in the fifth round.
Gregg Bell: firstname.lastname@example.org