The moves figure to forever be linked in the minds of Seahawks fans, the drafting of D.K. Metcalf one minute, and then a report breaking that Doug Baldwin may have played his last NFL game the next.
But if the easy conclusion was the Seahawks made the quick move to trade up and take Metcalf with the last pick of the second round of Friday’s draft as a reaction to the Baldwin news, the Seahawks said otherwise.
“It didn’t really weigh in,” said Seahawks general manager John Schneider.
Instead, the team has known for a long time that Baldwin might have trouble returning from a trio of injuries that have required some off-season medical work, most specifically a knee that also proved troublesome last season.
And while the Seahawks have sent some signals all offseason that Baldwin’s future is uncertain, the most definitive report yet that he may well have played his last NFL game came in a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter Friday night that Baldwin “might be unable to play again due to the cumulative effect of multiple injuries” and that there was a “real chance that Baldwin … has played his last NFL down.”
Schneider and coach Pete Carroll then only added to the idea that Baldwin may be done after eight NFL seasons, each saying he is indeed thinking of retiring.
“He is considering it, yeah,” Schneider said. “But there is a process to go through with that. … He’s at a point in this career where he is considering a lot of things and once you get there there is a lot of different ways there is stuff with the league office, with the union that you know we need to work through with him.’’
And Carroll, when asked the possibility that Baldwin has played his last game, said: “We will find out. We are going to deal with Doug and respect everything that is going on. We don’t know.”
While Baldwin also had reported shoulder and sports hernia surgeries this offseason, Carroll indicated it is his knee that is the biggest concern.
“He had a process that was done, I don’t think it was real surgery but it was a process that was done and he still had some concerns about it,” Carroll said.
Rumors have circulated all offseason about the future of the 30-year-old Baldwin after an injury-plagued 2018 campaign in which he was held to 50 catches, his fewest since the 2013 season.
Baldwin dealt with myriad injuries and missed three games in 2018 — the first time he had sat out since 2012 during a career in which he is third in team history receptions (493) and receiving yards (6,563) trailing only Steve Largent and Brian Blades in each category, and second in receiving touchdowns with 49, behind only the 100 of Largent.
Carroll and Schneider each said Friday that Baldwin has been at the team’s facility in Renton working out.
“We know Doug is going to have a hard time, you know,” Schneider said.
Baldwin has two years remaining on a four-year, $46 million contract signed in June, 2016. But there is no more guaranteed salary in the contract and the Seahawks could get some significant savings against the salary cap if he were to be released. According to OvertheCap.com, if Baldwin were to be designated a post-June 1 release the Seahawks could save $10 million and $11 million against the cap in 2019 and 2020, respectively, while taking dead cap hits of $3.1 million each year. If he were to be released prior to June 1 then the 2019 numbers would be $6.2 million in dead money and $6.8 in savings in 2019 with the 2020 numbers remaining the same.
Baldwin missed two games early in the 2018 season with a sprained knee and then another late in the year with a groin/abdomen issue, presumably the injury on which he had surgery earlier this month.
In December, prior to his return for a game at San Francisco, Baldwin talked frankly about his future stating “I do” when asked if he wondered if the 2018 season could be his last as a Seahawk.
“Oh, I am on the downside of my career,” Baldwin said. “I’m 30 years old.”
He rebounded to play well the next two weeks, keying a win against Kansas City with seven receptions for 126 yards and a touchdown, again speaking frankly after the game about the challenge of the season.
“This year has been hell,” Baldwin said. “This year has been absolutely hell. I’ve been … oh my goodness. We don’t have enough time for that. It’s been hell. But I’m so grateful to be healthy enough to be on the field with my teammates to celebrate victories and just enjoying playing football again, just like a kid.”
Metcalf was one of the stars of the NFL combine after running a 4.33 40, which many draft experts figured had solidified his status as a first-round pick. That was a few weeks after he became something of an internet sensation after posting a post-workout photo in which he resembled a body builder more than a receiver — he said Friday he is at 3 percent body fat.
But some had questioned Metcalf’s production at Ole Miss — he had just 67 receptions in three seasons, though he showed big-play potential, averaging 18.3 yards per reception with 14 touchdowns — as well as his durability.
He suffered a neck injury in the seventh game of the season that required season-ending surgery and played just 21 games in three seasons at Ole Miss.
Those two factors undoubtedly contributed to him being drafted lower than many draft pundits expected.
Schneider said the team was surprised he was still available as the second round came to a closeand made a trade with the Patriots to deal picks 77 and 118 to New England to move up to 64.
“Yeah we were,” Schneider said. “We thought he was going to go earlier. That’s why we made them move to go get him.”
But Metcalf said he has been cleared to play fully and that “so I’m not going to have any more issues with it.”
As for his perceived slide down the draft, Metcalf betrayed no disappointment to the media, saying, “it’s not for me to say. I’m just happy that Seattle took a chance on me.”
As for the wait, Metcalf said: “I was kind of like anxious just to find out where I was going to go.”
Metcalf, though, was emotional after his call from the Seahawks, the stress of the wait finally lifted.
“It was hard on him,” Carroll said. “It challenged him. … he got me tearing up.”
The team got well acquainted with Metcalf during the pre-draft process including a memorable meeting at the Combine when Metcalf — at the urging of a Seahawks scout — walked into the room with Carroll and Schneider without his shirt.
“He came in with his shirt off,” Carroll recalled. “That kind of pissed me off so I took my shirt off, too. Not for long, though.”
“Too long,” Schneider said.
Metcalf has impressive bloodlines as his father, Terrence Metcalf, played offensive line in the NFL from 2002-10. He is a cousin of Terry Metcalf, a graduate of Seattle’s Franklin High who went on to play running back in the NFL in the ’70s and ’80s. Eric Metcalf, who also played in the NFL and was born in Seattle, is also a cousin.
In comments supplied by the team, Seahawks scout Aaron Hineline said of Metcalf: “D.K. fits the mold of smart, tough and reliable. He obviously has a great pedigree and is a freak of an athlete. He’ll be a great fit with all that we ask of our guys at that position. He blocks well and can contribute on special teams.”
As for Baldwin, everything sounded ominous, Carroll at one point offering what almost sounded like a post-mortem.
“He has been an extraordinary part of this program since he has been here and he has given us everything he has had,” Carroll said. “Been a great competitor, a great player and all that. And we believe in him so much and trust in him so much that wherever this goes we are going to support him forever. He has been a great contributor in so many ways, not just on the team but in the community and everything else. He has been awesome. So we will see what happens. And he is working through it and we are going to follow Doug with this one.”