John Schneider wasn’t going near any substantive answers to questions about QB Russell Wilson or DE Michael Bennett, but the Seahawks general manager did say Wednesday that a rookie replacement for traded C Max Unger was a reasonable possibility.
“I think with coach (Tom) Cable and his staff, I think it’s viable,” he said. “You have to remember on both sides of the ball are good teaching staffs. Like I said earlier, it’s understanding how different guys teach and what they’re looking for, and try to pull out (players’) strengths.”
Schneider met informally with local reporters, as he has done almost annually prior to the three-day draft, which this year begins April 30 with the first round only — in which the Seahawks have no selection because the pick (31st overall) was traded in March to New Orleans to acquire TE Jimmy Graham.
Schneider was quite pleased with the deal.
“When you acquire a player of Jimmy’s caliber with the 31st pick, that makes it that much easier to sleep at night knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get a player like that (in the draft),” he said. “To be able to know in your mind the caliber of player . . . it’s the same with (WR Percy Harvin’s 2013 acquisition in a trade), and the first and third round (choices surrendered), knowing what that looks like.”
In part because of his combustible personality, Harvin was traded to the Jets in October for a sixth-round pick, one of the worst personnel outcomes in the tenure of Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, given the Seahawks’ investment. But the Seahawks were not shy in busting a subsequent move, the one for Graham, a player whom a couple of his new teammates, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin, said was soft.
Despite ignoring the red flags with Harvin, Schneider proved with the Graham deal that he has reloaded his gumption.
“It was an aggressive attempt to acquire an extremely explosive football player,” he said of Harvin, referring to talent and not personality. “It’s hard to describe. I can’t say we wouldn’t do it again, but there’s definitely lessons I’ve learned that would lead us not to making that decision again. I can’t get into the specifics of that.”
Graham fills the hole created by the departure of well-regarded TE Zach Miller, who was injured and then cut. But the deal created another hole. Breaking down the Saints trade, if Graham was traded for a No. 1, the Seahawks were given a fourth-round pick for Unger, which is not bad. While still valuable, Unger may have been a salary-cap casualty as the Seahawks reshape the roster to accommodate a potential $20 million annual cap hit for Wilson.
Whatever the rationale, not only is Unger gone, so is left guard James Carpenter, lost in free agency. Asked if the offensive line is more of a need in this draft, Schneider said, “Sure, I think I’d be lying to you if I told you any different. But saying that, that doesn’t mean that we need to go hog-wild doing something, either. We are going to continue fixing as we go — I don’t mean fix it, ‘address it.’
“It could be the draft. It could be a cap casualty (from another team) in the summer. It could be someone who was just waived, it could be a trade yet. We’ll never stop evaluating every position.”
So the presumption is that if the Seahawks had the stones to start Wilson at quarterback three years ago, and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle last year, and use five undrafted players at wide receiver in the Super Bowl, they are not in April retching over the prospect of replacing Unger in 2015 with a first-year player.
On the two touchier subjects, Wilson and Bennett, Schneider was unsurprisingly terse. Bennett is skipping the voluntary strength and conditioning program underway now, presumably because he said he was unhappy with his contract, a $28 million, four-year deal he signed a year ago.
Asked if he talked to Bennett, Schneider said, “No. We have a number of guys that aren’t here for specific reasons. It’s voluntary right now, so, he’s one of them that’s not here.’’
Asked how he would characterize the talks to extend Wilson’s contract, which has a year to run: “I’m not going to get into specifics on Russell’s situation, other than to say that we all love Russell and we want him to be our quarterback for a long time.’’
Does he think the feeling is mutual with Wilson: “I do, yeah.’’
Then he was asked if it was OK to ask if talks were more sticky than anticipated, Schneider smiled.
“No,” he said, “you can’t.’’
Which is GM-speak for, “See you at the draft.”
Where, history says, the Seahawks will do anything but the obvious.