No Seattle personnel spoke at the first day of the NFL Combine, but that doesn't mean there wasn't plenty of news with a Seahawks slant.
INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Combine began Wednesday with a myriad of press conferences held by coaches and general managers (OK, to be technical, it was officially 38).
None involved the Seahawks, who will make their first appearance here Thursday when coach Pete Carroll speaks to the media at 9 a.m. Seattle time.
But that doesn’t mean you couldn’t find some news that had at least a little but of a potential Seahawk slant to it.
Here are five things seen and heard Wednesday and how they could impact the Seahawks, in no particular order.
1. The Raiders say they aren’t cutting Bruce Irvin
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There had been growing speculation the last few weeks that the Raiders might dump Irvin, the Seahawks’ first-round pick in 2012, due to a contract that features an $8.25 million cap hit this season with no dead money.
Some of that speculation grew out of a tweet sent by Irvin, which then led to further speculation that Seattle might be interested in bringing him back, especially with the return of Ken Norton Jr. as Seattle’s defensive coordinator (Norton coached Irvin in both Seattle and Oakland).
But Oakland coach Jon Gruden indicated in his press conference Wednesday that he wants to keep Irvin, and general manager Reggie McKenzie was later quoted as telling Raiders’ reporters that Irvin will stay in Oakland.
Gruden, though, also indicated that the team might streamline Irvin’s roll to have him concentrate on edge rushing.
“I like Bruce Irvin,’’ Gruden said. “I know Bruce Irvin. I like him because he plays. If you look at play time, the amount of percentage of snaps, he’s out there all the time. He played through a back problem early in the season. And I really thing he’s playing a difficult position because he’s really an edge player, and when you ask him to play over the tight end or over the offensive tackle, at his size he can get beat up. But I think he’s still a very good pass rusher. I think he plays with good effort. We just need to get him some help so that he can do the things that he does best more often.’’
2. Carolina waives running back Jonathan Stewart and the Colts say they won’t try to re-sign Frank Gore
The Seahawks could be in the market for a veteran running back this year with Eddie Lacy almost certainly not back and Thomas Rawls’ future also unclear, and Stewart and Gore — each suddenly available — could make some sense.
Stewart, the leading rusher in Carolina history, attended Timberline High in Lacey and took a recruiting trip to USC when Pete Carroll was the coach there and his style could fit Carroll’s goal of getting back to a physical running game. And set to turn 31 in April, he likely wouldn’t cost a ton (it was said he would have taken a pay cut to stay but the Panthers decided to release him and save $3.7 million against the cap).
Gore is a free agent and the Colts announced at the Combine they will not try to re-sign him with general manager Chris Ballard hinting Gore wants to play for a contending team.
“Frank knows we’re at a point we need to get younger and look, I want to give Frank a chance to go see what’s our there and see if he finishes in a place he wants to finish it,’’ Ballard said.
Gore turns 35 in May but still managed 961 yards on 261 yards this season for the Colts. And he has ties to new Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer (who was QB coach of the Colts the last two years) and offensive line coach Mike Solari, who coached Gore for a while with the 49ers.
3. Looks like the Jets are keeping Jermaine Kearse
When the Seahawks traded Kearse as part of the deal to get defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson, one reasoning mentioned is that it was considered possible — if not likely — that Seattle would release Kearse following the 2017 season given that his contract balloons to a $5.5 million cap hit with no dead money in its final year in 2018. Essentially, dealing a player who might have had just one year left on the team in Kearse for a player in Richardson who had just one year left on his contract (and with the way the Seahawks have commonly brought back players, maybe opening the door for Kearse to return, as Russell Wilson suggested the week the trade was made).
But it appears the Jets will keep Kearse for the final year of his contract after a season in which he set career highs with 65 catches for 810 yards and with New York’s leading receiver — Robby Anderson — facing possible discipline from the league after being arrested in January on nine charges that included resisting arrest and reckless driving.
“It worked out great for us,’’ Jets coach Todd Bowles said Wednesday of the trade for Kearse. “Obviously he came in and made some plays for us. He’s a very steady, very intelligent player, very tough player. Glad we got him.’’
4. The Jets also release Muhammad Wilkerson
Bowles also confirmed that the Jets will release Wilkerson, 28, who signed a five-year contract worth up to $86 million two years ago but will make only about $36.5 million of that amount and will give the Jets $11 million more in cap room for 2018 (he was benched for the final three games of the season, reportedly for being late to a meeting).
That gives the Jets even more room to go after Sheldon Richardson if as expected he becomes a free agent (it’s not expected that Seattle will place a franchise tag on him). It’s been reported at least twice that the Jets and Richardson might be interested in a reunion despite New York having traded him before last season. Seattle would hope to get a third-round pick in 2019 as compensation if Richardson signs elsewhere.
And with Wilkerson free, could Seattle take a chance on one former Jets’ defensive lineman to replace another?
Despite the way his Jets’ tenure ended, Wilkerson figures to have plenty of suitors thanks in part to this being considered an exceptionally weak defensive line free agent class (one reason Richardson also won’t be easy for Seattle to retain).
Wilkerson also won’t factor in to the compensatory pick formula since he has been released, all of which might still make him too rich for Seattle — assuming the Seahawks might be interested.
5. The Packers say they want to get a contract done with Aaron Rodgers “sooner rather than later’’
That was the phrase from new Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst about the desire of Green Bay to lock up Rodgers to a longer-term deal with his current contract set to expire following the 2019 season.
“I don’t know if there’s pressure, I think we certainly would like to get it done sooner rather than later — not necessarily for those reasons,’’ Gutekunst said. “But when you have the best player in the National Football League, it’s not going to be inexpensive, you know what I mean? Obviously Aaron is a high priority, he’s a great player and I think that should take care of itself at some point.
Also a potential free agent in two years is Wilson and it hardly needs to be said that both Wilson’s agent, Mark Rodgers, and the Seahawks will be watching closely to see how things evolve with the Packers and Rodgers.
All parties will first watch to see what deal the Saints give Drew Brees, who can become a free agent next month. Whatever Brees gets – and you’d think he will top the $27.5 million per year of the 49ers’ Jimmy Garoppolo, who is currently the highest-paid player in the NFL — Rodgers will likely get more.
And whatever Rodgers gets may be viewed by the Seahawks as a ceiling — it was not a coincidence that Wilson in 2015 got a contract with a per-year average of $21.9 million, just under Rodgers’ $22 million.
The question will then be if Wilson’s side also views it as a ceiling instead of a bar to cross.