The Seahawks have not confirmed the report.
Seahawks defensive lineman Malik McDowell, Seattle’s first pick in the 2017 draft, has not been cleared to return to football due to injuries sustained in an ATV accident last July and will be waived by the team soon, according to a report Monday from Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league’s official media arm.
Rapoport further wrote that “the hope is that another team will medically clear him.”
There was no confirmation from the Seahawks on the report.
But if true, it will mean McDowell will be let go having never played a game for the Seahawks, destined to go down as one of the team’s most disastrous draft picks in its history.
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McDowell, taken with the 35th overall pick in the second round out of Michigan State, was on the non-football injury list all of last season after suffering a head injury in an ATV accident last July. Coach Pete Carroll referred to his injury as “a really bad concussion.” There were also reports of facial injuries, though indications are it is the concussion/head issue that is the most serious.
Asked about McDowell at the NFL league meetings in Orlando last month, Carroll said he no update on McDowell.
“No, sorry,” Carroll said when asked if there was anything new on McDowell. “I haven’t had a good response for you in a long time on that one, sorry.”
Asked a similar question at the league meetings, Seattle general manager John Schneider said the team was “waiting on the scans” before it would know more about McDowell’s future.
The guarantees in McDowell’s contract means Seattle won’t be saving any money in cutting McDowell now, and in fact depending on how and when he is waived could take more of a cap hit in 2018 than waiting (if McDowell were to be claimed, another team would take on his contract, which would save Seattle money. But that would seem unlikely).
That indicates the Seahawks may be making the move mostly just to move on from one of the more dubious draft picks in team history in an offseason in which Seattle has already done some heavy retooling.
According to OvertheCap.com, Seattle will take a $3.65 million dead cap hit for 2018 if it were to waive McDowell now and $2.07 million in 2019.
Seattle could attempt to get back some of the $3.19 million signing bonus McDowell received when he signed a four-year contract worth up to $6.95 million last year — the slotted contract for where he was drafted per the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement — but would likely have to go to arbitration to do so unless there is some sort of agreement being made.
It’s unclear if there was any sort of deal being done ahead of McDowell potentially being waived. McDowell’s bonus is pro-rated in installments of $799,619 over each of the four years of his contract. Seattle likely couldn’t get back last year’s bonus but might be able to retrieve some or all of the final three seasons. Any returned bonus money would be added to the salary cap.
McDowell had been regarded as a potential high-first rounder in the fall of 2016 before a disappointing junior season led to some questions about his maturity level and resulted in his stock dropping a bit.
“He is a boom-or-bust guy,” an anonymous scout was quoted as saying in the 2017 NFL draft preview. “There is no in-between.”
The Seahawks, who said later McDowell was who they had their eye on all along, traded out of the 26th pick in first round to move down three times and ultimately take McDowell, getting four extra picks in the process that turned into safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill, cornerback Mike Tyson and running back Chris Carson.
And while Carroll and Schneider acknowledged the rumors that led to McDowell slipping, they also said they were confident the pick would work out.
“He’s a very young man, 20 years old, who has a lot of growing,” Carroll said on the day McDowell was drafted last April 28. “We think he has great upside. He had a fantastic sophomore season that we weighed heavily and we think we have a really special player and we’re really happy to get him. Had a good visit when he came in, all that, and it paid off.”
Schneider was memorably captured telling McDowell “don’t forget our conversation” during a phone call after the team drafted him.
“We had him in for a visit, we had a great talk in my office and then I called him a little bit before we selected him as well, to just make sure we were all on the same page,” Schneider said the day the draft concluded.
Along with being injured and not playing all season, McDowell was also arrested last December for disorderly conduct after getting into a dispute at a club over a $600 bill.
“He got in a situation and made a mistake and hopefully this will be a learning experience for him,” Carroll said in December about McDowell’s arrest. “I don’t know much more than that about it. … I know he felt really bad representing in that manner. … I think we’re definitely going work to help him in every way that we can. We’ve already talked about that; and let’s hope that this isn’t an indicator of things to come. I hope that he has turned with this experience. He sounds very much intending to do that, and we’ll see what happens.”
Even if McDowell is indeed waived soon, his lost 2017 season and truncated Seattle career will continue to linger.
It was the absence of McDowell that helped compel the Seahawks to trade their 2018 season-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse to the Jets the week before the season began for defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson, who was brought in to fill essentially the same role the team had pegged for McDowell.
Richardson played one season for Seattle then signed last month with the Vikings as a free agent.