The Seahawks once were in the position of the Kansas City Chiefs, possessing a dynamic young quarterback with skills well beyond his salary level. They, too, felt like they were knocking on the door of the Super Bowl and moved aggressively to acquire a piece they saw as a game-changer.
It was March 11, 2013 when Seattle bundled its first-round pick in the upcoming NFL draft, plus a seventh-rounder, plus a third-rounder the following year, for Minnesota’s Percy Harvin. And the next day they announced a six-year, $64.25 million contract extension for Harvin, a wide receiver who was explosive as a pass catcher, a ball carrier and a returner.
It didn’t work out in Seattle with Harvin, a spectacular bust, as has been well-documented – though Harvin did return the second-half kickoff for a touchdown in the Seahawks’ Super Bowl romp over Denver. And they did use their subsequent trade of Harvin (after he fought with Golden Tate and Doug Baldwin and provided minimal production) to the Jets for a sixth-round draft pick as part of a package that got them receiver Tyler Lockett.
I bring this up not to taunt the Seahawks but rather to praise them, for finding a desperate, hungry team willing to meet, and even exceed, their asking price for Frank Clark. Title-lust will do that for a team, and the Chiefs were agonizingly close to the promised land last year. They know the day is fast arriving when they’ll have to pay quarterback Patrick Mahomes, so the time to strike is now.
This is also not to say Clark will be another Harvin. He may well turn out to be the missing piece on a KC defense that ranked 31st in the NFL last year. The Chiefs certainly think so, because they essentially traded Dee Ford and a first-round draft pick to acquire Clark, when you sort out all the machinations.
But the Chiefs’ success is not really Seattle’s concern. The Seahawks also are a team with Super Bowl aspirations this season, and every season – just ask coach Pete Carroll. And on the surface, they just compromised those chances to some extent with the trade of Clark, one of the league’s leading pass rushers. His departure leaves the Seahawks with nothing but questions at the rush-end position, only a day after Carroll gave a soliloquy on how valuable that very spot is.
You could say the Seahawks helped themselves in the long term with this deal, and be correct. General manager John Schneider was breaking into a cold sweat imagining a draft in which he was allowed to pick only four times, which is where the Seahawks sat, pre-trade, heading into Thursday’s first round. If anything in this world is a certainty, it was that Seattle would not allow that situation to stand.
Now Schneider has two first-round picks and the means with which to maneuver for more selections. And you can take this to the bank: He will do just that.
The beauty is that this is a draft being touted as the best in years for defensive talent, and one of the best in history for defensive ends.
Voila. The Seahawks’ biggest need (along with wide receiver) coincides with the draft’s most overflowing commodity – impact pass rushers.
It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see the Seahawks use one of their first-rounders on a potential Clark replacement, and the other as a trade chip to begin the process of stockpiling draft pieces.
That’s an art at which Schneider is the NFL’s acknowledged maestro. Seattle’s GM has traded his first-round draft pick seven years in a row, and now he has two to play with, a circumstance that will prove irresistible.
But where does that leave the Seahawks in 2019? It leaves them weaker, unless Schneider and Carroll can weave some of the draft magic we saw earlier in their tenure. In 2010 and 2011, they pulled off an astonishing haul of front-line and even all-time talent, much of it away from the first round.
Every draft is vital to a team’s future, but the stakes of this one just got raised. The Seahawks have just sent 13 of their 36 sacks, and 27 percent of their quarterback pressures, out the door. Now they will need someone like Quinton Jefferson, Jacob Martin and/or Rasheem Green to make a huge leap. But mainly, they need to find someone in the draft who can make an immediate impact.
That’s not an easy task. Clark himself had just three sacks as a rookie. Only one rookie had double-digit sacks last year – Denver outside linebacker Bradley Chubb with 12. Joey Bosa, with 10.5 sacks in 2016 for San Diego, is the only rookie defensive end since 2007 with double-digit sacks (though Seattle’s Bruce Irvin came close with eight in 2012).
The Seahawks, however, have to make up for Clark’s production somehow, somewhere. Maybe they can sign a Ziggy Ansah or another stopgap vet as a fallback if their young ends don’t develop.
That they were willing to put themselves in this predicament says more about the contractual impasse they had with Clark than about the lack of salary-cap room after signing quarterback Russell Wilson to his $140 million deal – although that played a role as well.
I’d suspect it also has something to do with allowing Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas, after reaching the same point in their contract, to walk away without getting anything back. The Seahawks didn’t want that to happen with Clark, and it was headed in that direction.
There is a sense of urgency to all this. Carroll’s contract runs through 2021, and he’ll turn 68 during the first month of the upcoming season. Schneider also is signed through 2021, and Wilson through 2023.
The proverbial championship window won’t stay open forever for that triumvirate. The Seahawks just made a huge bet that they can find a way to prop it open despite sending off a player of Frank Clark’s caliber to a team that was hungrier for him than they were.