Pete Carroll, John Schneider say tight end's skills, passion are just what Seattle needs.
RENTON — Two years ago, when John Schneider and Pete Carroll were beginning the task of rebuilding what Tim Ruskell had torn down, they couldn’t have afforded a risk like Kellen Winslow.
The Seahawks needed to get younger. They weren’t in a position to gamble on a tight end like Winslow, whose practice time is limited because of the wear and tear on his knees. They needed guys who were all-in, all day, every day.
Two years ago, their focus was broader. They didn’t have room on the roster for specialists.
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But it is a sign of the maturity of the 2012 Seahawks that they can go after specific needs. They can make a trade, as they did this week with Tampa Bay for a player like Winslow, whose skills perfectly fit the Seahawks’ offense.
“This falls under the category of a team need,” general manager Schneider said as the sun finally broke through the clouds Thursday. “He’s a guy that brings that energy and passion that fits our group and our locker room right now.
“Kellen is so passionate about the game. He really is all ball. And those are the kind of guys you feel like it’s worth bringing into your program. He’s the type of guy who wants to be great.”
This was a trade worth making. It is the kind of trade that a team that thinks it can win a division this season makes. Winslow, 6 feet 4, 240 pounds, is another necessary puzzle piece.
“He’s a wide receiver in a tight end’s body,” coach Carroll said.
Winslow can be the field-stretching receiver the Seahawks needed but didn’t get in the April draft. He can be a big-play guy. He can be dangerous in the red zone. With a salary this season of $3.3 million, he is cap friendly. And the Hawks surrendered only a conditional seventh-round choice.
“I’m a little surprised,” Winslow, 28, said of the trade. “But whenever a new regime comes in it’s a little tough because everybody has a clean slate. I just wasn’t part of their (Bucs’) vision and I’m here and I’m happy. It’s good to have a job.”
The Seahawks want to make their tight ends more a part of their passing game. Last year, because of injuries to the offensive line, they were forced to use tight end Zach Miller more as a blocker.
Now they envision a versatile Winslow, who can line up in many different places, teaming with Miller like the New England tight-end tandem of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.
“We kind of fit that mold,” Winslow said. “You want to create mismatches, so I’m kind of a knight in the chess game. You can move me around and control the middle of the field.”
Winslow is coming off a 75-catch season for the Bucs, but new coach Greg Schiano installed a new offense that didn’t fit Winslow. They signed former Colts tight end Dallas Clark.
“Kellen is a unique football player,” Carroll said. “He’s got special talents. He’s got a tremendous record of consistency to his play. We added a guy we know can make things happen. We like guys with special dimensions, and he’s got them. He’s a real route runner and a great, great catcher. He loves to play the game, and we can’t have enough of that around here.”
Since his motorcycle accident, when he suffered a torn right ACL and lost the entire 2005 season, Winslow has had to be cautious with his knee.
Still, Winslow has played in all 16 games in five of his past six NFL seasons and has averaged 78 catches in those five seasons.
The team will closely monitor Winslow’s practice time, but Carroll said the tight end needs to practice to gain familiarity with quarterbacks Matt Flynn, Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson.
When Schneider worked in Green Bay, the Packers had a similar situation with Pro Bowl cornerback Charles Woodson.
“You have to, at some point, recognize where they are in their careers and be able to take care of them and get them ready for the games,” Schneider said.
“So they’re getting the mental reps and then they’re also getting the reps that are specific to their skill set. We’re going to sit down and come up with a great plan. It’s not like he’s not going to practice. It’s how to handle it appropriately.”
Winslow brings some baggage. Recently he and his wife were accused of doing $133,000 worth of damage to their apartment.
But Schneider, who is friendly with Bucs general manager Mark Dominik, talked frankly with Dominik about Winslow and said they were able to make the deal in a matter of days.
Winslow’s history says it should work in Seattle.
Even he admitted that the trade felt like a breath of fresh air — literally.
“I can breathe out here,” Winslow said. “My allergies were kicking up in Tampa.”
Steve Kelley: 206-464-2176 or firstname.lastname@example.org