Colin Kaepernick is an obvious thought as Seattle renews its search for a backup quarterback. But the Seahawks also figure to cast a wider net.
ORLANDO, Fla. — No sooner had Seahawks coach Pete Carroll finished taking questions for an hour at the NFL league meetings Tuesday when a new one arose — what to do about a backup quarterback?
This became an issue for the Seahawks Tuesday when less than an hour or so after Carroll’s media session ended, a report surfaced of domestic violence allegations against backup Trevone Boykin, with the team then releasing Boykin less than an hour after the report became public.
Boykin proclaimed his innocence later in the day, but the team apparently had just had enough considering Boykin’s two earlier legal run-ins, one a year ago when he was with the Seahawks.
That leaves only Russell Wilson on the roster at quarterback — Seattle will surely have at least three when the offseason program rolls around in May.
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One of those is likely to be a rookie.
Seattle may not use one of its eight (at the moment) draft picks on a QB, though it certainly could — for a number of reasons it might make sense to use a pick on a QB again for the first time since taking Wilson in 2012. But at the least, the Seahawks could use one of the 15-20 or so undrafted free agent slots they figure to have to find someone new to groom.
The Seahawks were thought interested looking seriously at adding a rookie QB last year, with rumors they were even considering trying to find a way to draft Patrick Mahomes, who instead was taken by the Kansas City Chiefs.
Seahawks GM John Schneider attended the Pro Days for both Sam Darnold and Josh Allen last week, admitting on the NFL Network he wanted to see Allen throw in person. It’s hard to figure how Seattle would get one of those two, and maybe Schneider is just having some fun with it all and also doing the due diligence that every team does this time of year (or should be doing, anyway) since you never know what might happen down the road.
But in the wake of Boykin’s release, it was impossible not to also immediately wonder if Seattle might again revisit the idea of Colin Kaepernick, who the team had in for a tryout last May before deciding not to sign him.
He remains a free agent with his social activism undoubtedly a factor in his continued unemployment.
It’s unclear if Seattle would be interested in looking at Kaepernick again, though. Recall that Carroll said at the time in explaining why Seattle didn’t sign him that Kaepernick is “a starter in this league. And we have a starter. But he’s a starter in this league, and I can’t imagine that someone won’t give him a chance to play.”
There’s some thought that was code for the Seahawks either realizing during Kaepernick’s visit —- or just being worried — that he might not easily accept that he would not be considered as competition to Wilson and would instead be solely a backup.
True, one of Carroll’s mantras is “Always Compete.’’
But there are some limits to that when it comes to NFL roster construction — you’re not going to pay a backup much of anything when you have a quarterback who is among the most highly-paid in the league — and locker room dynamics.
Seattle’s offseason of change will result in Wilson becoming even more of a face and leader of the team on and off the field than he already has been.
And with Wilson entering a critical time of his career — starting over with a new position coach and coordinator, the first such changes of his NFL career, and with just two years left on his contract, meaning this is the set-up year for getting an extension sometime following the 2018 season — the makeup of the quarterback room looms as vital as error.
Carroll said at the league meetings the hope is that new OC Brian Schottenheimer will challenge Wilson in ways he may never have been challenged before after Carroll appeared to decide that Wilson had hit something of a plateau in 2017.
Maybe it could be argued bringing in someone like Kaepernick would add to that challenge.
But the Seahawks might also prefer that the challenging come from the coaches and let Wilson find his way in a tweaked offense and coaching structure without the added specter of a well-known backup QB whose every move would be highly-scrutinized and with the inevitability of many on the outside (if not necessarily on the inside) trying to find ways to pit the two against each other.
What factor Kaepernick’s social activism would play into any Seattle decision is hard to know for sure.
Along with maybe the 49ers and Eagles, the Seahawks have supported actions by their player as much as any team in the NFL.
But Carroll also sent some strong signals as last year wore on that he hoped the in-season focus returned more to football down the road.
Carroll quickly dismissed a question Tuesday about a report that the Seahawks hoped the locker room would get “a little quieter’’ in the wake of the trade of Michael Bennett.
“Yeah there will be a difference,’’ he said. “As those guys move on other guys move in too, you know. So I don’t know about some talk (of wanting a quieter locker room). There is going to be a change. There will be a shift. Those guys (also referring to Richard Sherman) have been around for some time now.’’
But if the Seahawks have supported social activism heartily in the past, they might also be happy now to not be at the forefront of it with a team that is in the retooling stages and coming off its first non-playoff year since 2011.
Who knows? Maybe they sign Kaepernick tomorrow — I’ve learned to never think I know for sure what the Seahawks are going to do in any given moment.
But a lot of tea leaves in the wake of the Boykin release seemed to suggest to not expect it.
So if not Kaepernick, then who?
As noted earlier, it’ll be a surprise if the Seahawks don’t acquire a rookie QB in some manner during or right after the draft — and maybe more than one. And maybe the Seahawks let that suffice.
One thing to consider is that if Seattle finds a young QB it wants to groom it may not want to have anything invested in a veteran since it’s unlikely the Seahawks would keep three QBs on their active roster with Wilson having proven to be one of the most durable around. And if Seattle found a young QB it likes, it probably wouldn’t want to risk trying to sneak him on to the practice squad.
If the Seahawks go the veteran QB route there are two obvious names with ties to the team and coaches who each are free agents — Austin Davis and Mark Sanchez.
Davis was Seattle’s backup last season and also was the starter for eight games for the Rams in 2014 when Schottenheimer was the OC there.
Sanchez famously played for Carroll at USC and then also was the QB for the Jets when Schottenheimer was the OC and New York advanced to the AFC conference title game in 2009 and 2010.
Davis last year played for the veteran minimum – in his case, $855,000 — and Seattle could likely get either of the two again for the veteran minimum or not much more.
Schneider also surely has had his eye on some of the backups on other rosters who depending on how the rest of free agency and the draft unfolds could become available later — it’s not necessarily an issue the Seahawks have to solve right this minute with the draft now less than a month away.
Until they do, intrigue will loom.