The Seahawks lost Paul Richardson in free agency but return every other receiver who was on the roster in 2017.
That Pete Carroll has said he’d like the Seahawks to get back to being a physical, run-first team may obscure how important the passing game was to Seattle’s 2013 Super Bowl run.
In fact, while that team finished fourth in the NFL in rushing, it also set a team record for average gain per pass play at 8.35.
And that’s the template — the ability to run when needed and the capability to hit big shots in the passing game — that Carroll would most love to replicate in 2018.
Aside from all else that’s needed to get that done — an offensive line and running backs, to name two — is the question of whether the Seahawks have the receivers who could also pull it off.
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There’s no doubt about Doug Baldwin, who turns 30 in September and has three years left on his contract, appearing on his way to becoming the best receiver in team history not named Steve Largent.
But everything else about the receiving corps brings with it some question marks.
Here’s a look at Seattle’s receivers as we continue our annual review of each Seahawks position group heading into the draft.
Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett.
Jaron Brown, Marcus Johnson, Amara Darboh, David Moore, Cyril Grayson, Tanner McEvoy.
Key offseason departures: Paul Richardson, who led Seattle with an average of 16 yards per reception last season and also had six touchdown catches, signed a five-year contract worth up to $40 million with Washington.
OVERVIEW: Other than Richardson, every receiver from last year returns while Seattle also added Brown — who caught 86 passes over the last five years with Arizona and averaged 15.4 and 17.0 yards per catch the last two — via free agency, and Johnson (five receptions last season with the Eagles) in the Michael Bennett trade.
While the Seahawks are obviously hoping for more of the same from Baldwin (78, 94 and 75 catches the last three seasons) they are also counting on a breakout year from Lockett, who will be entering the final year of his rookie contract. Carroll said at the league meetings in March that he thought Lockett was still shaking off the effects of the leg injury that ended his 2016 season for most of 2017 and thinks he could vastly improve on the 45 catches and two touchdowns he had a year ago. Baldwin, Lockett and Brown as of today would likely be the team’s top three receivers.
But Seattle also is expecting a breakthrough from Darboh, a third-round pick last year who had just eight catches as a rookie, and that Moore — who played just one game last season after spending most of the year on the practice squad — can become a consistent producer.
Recall the Seahawks thought enough of Moore — a seventh-round pick last year — to elevate him to the active roster last November when another team reportedly was going to sign him.
Seattle also is enamored with Johnson’s speed and special teams abilities (some have compared his possible special teams role to that of Ricardo Lockette) and at 6-1, 204 pounds he also has decent size for a Seattle receiving corps that needs some.
That could mean a tough road for McEvoy to make the roster for a third straight year, while Grayson — a track star at LSU who returned to football last season — remains a project.
DRAFT NEED (on scale of 1-10): 7.
Figure Seattle to add 3-5 receivers or so over the next few weeks via the draft or undrafted free agency. How big of a need receiver is may be an eye-of-the-beholder thing — the Seahawks may be a lot higher on the potential contribution this year of the likes of Darboh and Moore than those on the outside. But Seattle has taken at least one receiver in all but one of eight drafts of the Carroll/John Schneider era and this year would seem to be no different.
POTENTIAL DRAFT FITS
Christian Kirk, Texas A&M: Seattle had Kirk in for a private visit as well as attending his workout, indicating they are doing a lot of legwork on a player who some think could sneak into the late first round. The 5-11, 200-pounder might be best suited for the slot but scouts think he could play outside, as well. He also is one of the best returners available, with six punt return TDs at A&M. In other words, he sounds a lot like Lockett, who can be a free agent following the season.
Courtland Sutton, SMU: The 6-3, 218-pound Sutton may be the best “big receiver’’ in this class and could be tempting for Seattle at No. 18 (or a bit lower if the Seahawks trade down) who have been trying to find a consistent big receiver for years.
Dante Pettis, Washington: Pettis figures to be available on the second day and like Kirk could also contribute immediately as a returner.
Keith Kirkwood, Temple: Seattle hosted Kirkwood for one of its 30 pre-draft visits, the only other receiver so far along with Kirk to make the visit to the VMAC. He’s likely an undrafted free agent, but his 6-3, 220 size is intriguing and he produced well down the stretch last season for the Owls with five touchdowns in the final five games.