The Seahawks selected Malik McDowell 35th overall in the 2017 NFL draft. After an ATV accident shrouded in mystery, he will go down as the Seahawks' highest pick to never play a snap for the team.
The Malik McDowell saga has finally come to an official end for the Seahawks, roughly 22 months after the team drafted him with the hope that he might become the next Michael Bennett.
Instead, the 35th overall pick in the 2017 draft out of Michigan State will now officially go down as the highest-drafted player in team history to never play a down for the Seahawks as he was officially waived by Seattle on Saturday.
If that seems at all confusing it’s because McDowell was also waived last July, a move that basically ended his Seattle career. But at that time, he was waived with the non-football injury designation due to injuries he had suffered in an ATV accident in July 2017, which prevented him from even so much as suiting up for a Seahawks practice.
When he was not claimed off waivers — any team doing so would have had to claim the rest of his contract — he reverted to Seattle’s nonfootball injury list. He remained there all of last season and was still on Seattle’s roster until Saturday when the Seahawks waived him off the roster for good, as first reported by Ian Rapoport of the the NFL Network.
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Rapoport reported that McDowell, who is represented by Drew Rosenhaus, hopes to play again. But that will require passing a physical and getting cleared to play. The Seahawks’ waiving of McDowell made it clear the team did not think there was any chance he would play again. McDowell could be claimed off waivers, though more likely is that he is not and becomes a free agent.
He had remained on the roster largely for salary-cap reasons, and that the team was potentially negotiating with McDowell over whether he would receive and/or keep all of the $3.1 million bonus that he was due as part of a four-year contract paying him up to $6.9 million overall that he received for being taken 35th overall.
Seahawks general manager John Schneider said Wednesday at the NFL combine in Indianapolis he could not specifically talk about McDowell’s situation.
“You know, I can’t talk about him,” Schneider said. “I really can’t.”
According to McDowell’s contract details on OvertheCap.com and Spotrac.com, the Seahawks will take a $1.599 million dead salary hit for the 2019 season but will save about $1.4 million against the cap in 2020 by waiving McDowell.
Seattle was undoubtedly motivated to make the move now to clear up some future cap space as it continues with negotiations on a contract extension with defensive end Frank Clark. It’s thought the team is hoping to get a long-term deal done with him rather than use the franchise tag for 2019. The deadline for placing a tag on Clark is March 5.
In part due to privacy laws as well as the potential for arbitration with McDowell’s contract, the Seahawks were vague about the specifics of McDowell’s injuries other than coach Pete Carroll at one point saying he had suffered “a really bad concussion” in the ATV accident.
Carroll said that in October 2017 when the team appeared to briefly hold out hope that McDowell might be able to return to the field some day. But those hopes faded quickly, and unlike in 2017 when he was seen at times in the team’s locker room and on the sidelines at practices, he was never seen publicly around the team in 2018.
The Seahawks drafted McDowell — who spent just three seasons at Michigan State — envisioning that he could play a versatile defensive line role similar to that of Bennett, who was an end in the base defense and a tackle in passing situations.
Seattle traded down from 26th to take McDowell, and if there is a silver lining to his drafting it is that the Seahawks got four picks for moving down those nine spots, and used those on safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill, cornerback Mike Tyson and running back Chris Carson.
Still, the flameout of McDowell will haunt the Seahawks for some time.
Asked a general question last week at the combine about the successes of the last two draft classes, Schneider made clear the McDowell situation is still a fresh wound, beginning his answer by stating, “We had that unfortunate situation with Malik two years ago, but these last two classes have done a nice job.”
To date, the highest-drafted player by the Seahawks who never played a down in the NFL is offensive lineman Robert Barr, according to Pro Football Reference, who was the 77th overall pick in the 1996 draft out of Rutgers. Running back Owen Gill, the team’s first pick in the 1985 draft at number 53 overall, never played for the Seahawks but did play two full seasons and part of another in the NFL.
Not having McDowell available in 2017 compelled the Seahawks to trade for Sheldon Richardson, giving up a second-round pick and receiver Jermaine Kearse (with the two teams also swapping seventh-round picks). Richardson played just one season before leaving via free agency to Minnesota last spring and Seattle enters another offseason still looking for another long-term answer on its defensive line to pair with Clark and tackle Jarran Reed.