After the Seahawks over the weekend went 1-0 to start the NFL season with the acquisition of DE Jadeveon Clowney, the next personnel question arises: Who catches passes besides Tyler Lockett?
Presumably, general manager John Schneider’s first remark figures to be: Hold my beer.
The one noteworthy, unexpected setback in the wake of trades and cutdowns that set the roster Saturday was having to release WR Jaron Brown. The saving of his $2.75 million contract was reportedly needed to put a dent in the $15.9 million suddenly owed on Clowney’s franchise-tag deal.
As season-starting problems go in the NFL, the incredible lightness of Seattle’s receiver unit is fairly small spuds, especially for a run-first team, and not as bad as it seemed Saturday.
On Sunday came news from ESPN.com that besides the small return in players taken (LBs Barkevious Mingo and Jacob Martin, neither starters) by Houston boss Bill O’Brien, he also agreed to pay $7 million of Clowney’s salary, making a bad deal worse for the Texans.
If this were a Western movie, Schneider appears to have come to town and stolen the horses, most of the whiskey, ripped the badge from the sheriff’s leather vest and ridden off with the dance-hall chanteuse.
But the departure of Brown meant the Seahawks behind No. 1 Lockett are three-year vet David Moore, second-year vet Malik Turner (two catches in 2018) and three rookies — second-rounder DK Metcalf, fourth-rounder Gary Jennings and seventh-rounder John Ursua. Moore is hurt, a broken shoulder bone likely keeping him out of Sunday’s opener at the Clink against Cincinnati, if not longer. And Metcalf had minor knee surgery Aug. 20.
In 2018, Moore averaged a team-high 17.1 yards per catch, but had only 26 receptions, which was 12 more than Brown. So we’re not talking key offensive cogs here. Still, the startling part of the 2019 strategy may have been revealed in Thursday’s fake-football finale at the Clink, a 17-15 win over Oakland.
The Seahawks completed five passes. Five.
Yes, it was the preseason. Yes, both teams were playing fourth-stringers. The only guess I have is that the Seahawks’ contribution to the NFL’s celebration of its 100th anniversary is to set the game back 100 years. Holy Decatur Staleys.
There’s no disputing the fact that the three rookies combined in the four exhibition games for six catches — Ursua four, Metcalf and Jennings one each. Their combined NFL game experience so far is one nad above nada.
So a few hours after this column was posted at 6:30 a.m. Monday, Schneider’s beer was returned to him.
Brown was re-signed by the Seahawks after TE Ed Dickson, who missed preseason with a knee injury, was placed on injured reserve, where he will remain for eight weeks. The Seahawks needed to wait until after the 53-man roster was set including Dickson at 1 p.m. Saturday to engage the procedural maneuver following Clowney’s official acquisition Sunday.
Clearly, Schneider had the workaround planned all along, with Brown a willing conspirator. Brown even posted a deke tweet bidding farewell to Seattle.
Thank you Seattle! Fell in love with this city, fans and organization! Next chapter for me
— Jaron Brown (@jaronbrown13) August 31, 2019
This is next-level personnel craftsmanship, or maybe it’s just Schneider having a little tee-hee at the expense of writers, fans and his contemporaries. Either way, the NFL may consider implementing retina scanners on subsequent Schneider shenanigans to filter out imposter maneuvers.
So the seven-man receiver unit for Sunday is led by the grizzled Lockett, 26, a fifth-year veteran, and includes behind Moore and Brown the nursery unit of three rookies and a second-year guy with two career catches.
Unless Schneider has a plan to pry loose Odell Beckham from the Cleveland Browns.
Schneider really has had himself an off-season. Here is how Jeremy Bergman of NFL.com put it:
He orchestrated historic extensions for his offensive and defensive quarterbacks (Rusell Wilson, Bobby Wagner), landed arguably the top free-agent edge rusher in Ezekiel Ansah and still made out with Clowney and a well-stocked front seven without mortgaging Seattle’s future. There’s a reason the Seahawks are always relevant in the NFC, despite significant roster turnover, and he doesn’t wear Air Monarchs.
He failed to mention that Schneider entered the April draft with four selections and came out with 11, nine of which made the team (the other two, OL Phil Haynes and DL Demarcus Christmas, are on the physically unable to perform list for six weeks).
Part of the rookies’ presence is a function of having to pay Wilson $35 million and Wagner $17 million, the highest-paid players at their positions in the NFL. And now they have Clowney, the roster’s third-most expensive player. The Seahawks are forced have to pay more players at lower rates.
Unless of course, O’Brien picks up the phone in Houston again. He may want to give Schneider J.J. Watt if Schneider agrees to let O’Brien go halvsies again on the contract.