The Seahawks Tuesday made a procedural move that allowed receiver Malik Turner to become a free agent for the moment, withdrawing an exclusive rights free agent tender the team had given him last month.
However, indications are that Turner could well return to the Seahawks at a later date, possibly signing a split contract along the lines of what guard Jordan Simmons did earlier this year.
Turner had been an exclusive rights free agent, and the Seahawks had made him a qualifying “tender” by the March 18 deadline.
That usually effectively binds a player to that team for that season as the only choice a so-called ERFA has is to sign the tender or not play the following season. That’s opposed to restricted free agents, who can get offers from other teams even if they have been given tenders, with his original team given the chance to match or get compensation.
That the tender was withdrawn means Turner is now a free agent and Seattle’s rights to him are terminated.
Under the terms of the tender Turner would have gotten a non-guaranteed contract for the 2020 season for a minimum salary of $750,000.
But indications are that Seattle may have made the move so that they can sign Turner to a “split” contract at close to the same overall salary at a later date, but which mean Turner would get paid one amount if he’s on the active roster and another if he ends up on Injured Reserve. In essence, it provides the team some potential salary cap relief if Turner were to get hurt and end up on IR.
Seattle also did not tender Simmons as an ERFA, which led to an initial thought he would not be back. But he later re-signed to a “split” contract.
Still, for now Turner is a free agent.
Turner played in 15 games for Seattle last year with three starts and finished with 15 catches for 245 yards and one touchdown, which came in a win at Philadelphia.
He saw increasing playing time late in the year as the Seahawks searched for a third receiver — and after the loss of Josh Gordon to suspension — including getting a start in the playoff loss at Green Bay when he was on the field for 27 snaps, or 44 percent of all offensive snaps. Turner played 30 percent of the snaps in four of Seattle’s last eight games, including the playoffs.
But Turner had no catches in the loss at Green Bay on three targets, and had a critical drop on Seattle’s final possession. The play came on first-and-10 at the Seattle 37 with 4:13 left. Had he caught it, the Seahawks would likely have had the ball around midfield.
Instead, left with a second-and-10, Russell Wilson’s next pass was incomplete and then he was sacked on third down and the Seahawks were forced to punt. They never got the ball again.
Turner played 21 games for Seattle over the last two seasons after initially signing as a free agent in July 2018 after going undrafted out of Illinois.
The move leaves the Seahawks with seven receivers on their roster for now: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, John Ursua, David Moore, Penny Hart and Cody Thompson.
Moore was given a tender as a restricted free agent $2.13 million and being tendered means Seattle can match any offer he would receiver and keep him. The deadline for restricted free agents to sign offer sheets is Friday.
While the Seahawks added Dorsett to compete as a third receiver behind Lockett and Metcalf, Seattle is sure to add to its receiving corps via free agency and the draft. The draft is considered especially strong in receivers and Seattle could well use a pick or two on receivers, and could also sign an undrafted free agent or two, as well.
Seattle is also thought to be willing to re-sign Gordon should his suspension be lifted. But at the moment, he remains indefinitely suspended for violating the league’s rules on substances of abuse, and it’s unclear when that may be lifted.