For the first time in his life, Jermaine Kearse will not be playing for his hometown team.
What the Seahawks got in trading him could make their renowned defense even more dominant.
Seattle officially announced Friday afternoon what had become known a couple hours earlier: They traded Kearse, its homegrown wide receiver from the University of Washington and Lakes High School, to the New York Jets -- and got in return big, often-dominating defensive lineman Sheldon Richardson.
Seattle is sending New York its second-round draft choice in 2018 and also are swapping seventh-round picks in a deal that the entire NFL is noticing.
Richardson, 26, was the 2013 NFL defensive rookie of the year then made the 2014 Pro Bowl after an eight-sack season. He had five sacks in 2015 and 1 1/2 last season for New York.
Here’s what Seattle is getting:
He is what the Seahawks thought they were getting when they used their top draft choice this spring on Malik McDowell: a defensive tackle who can rush the passer as well as stop the run. McDowell is unlikely to play in 2017 following serious injuries in an ATV accident in July.
Richardson’s ability to play multiple posistions fits the personality and preferences of Seattle’s defense. Pro Football Focus charted all of his snaps last season for the Jets.
That shows the Seahawks can use Richardson as they do Pro Bowl end Michael Bennett: inside on some passing downs, outside on others. Richardson has also played as a stand-up, rush linebacker off the edge in his NFL career, all with New York after the Jets selected him 13th overall in 2013.
Richardson’s trade apparently got done after the Seahawks reportedly got wide receiver Doug Baldwin to agree to turn salary money into a signing bonus to save $5.2 million against this year’s salary cap. Richardson is in the final year of his contract, with all of his $8,069,000 salary guaranteed.
Baldwin then saluted Kearse, posting on Twitter a picture of them together on the sidelines at a Seahawks practice with the words: “Football aside, this man is my brother and nothing can or will change ever change that. #WOOTS” Baldwin including an emoji of a watch; Kearse and the receivers tapped their wrists after big catches as a shared code.
Here’s to wishing only the best to Kearse.
Yes, it’s trendy in Seattle to bash him following his sub-par 2016 with just one touchdown catch, a season that Kearse said was “humbling.” But he was a clutch performer for some of the biggest moments in Seahawks’ history. He and Baldwin share the team record for postseason touchdown catches with six.
That was after he’d been doubted while playing for UW. He then signed with the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent in 2012 and scrapped his way into the league on special teams.
Kearse is a selfless presence in the community in and around his hometown of Lakewood, especially with military families from Joint Base Lewis-McChord. His Jermaine Kearse Foundation: 15 to 1 has for years supported the families whose military servicemen and women have been deployed to war in the Middle East.
I wished him the best last night after talking with him in the locker room following Seattle’s preseason finale at Oakland. He seemed to sense then that could be last time in a Seahawks’ locker room, but was wanting to hear something from the team.
Friday, he did. In a big deal.
After the Seahawks announced the trade, their owner thanked Kearse -- and used a photo of his catch in overtime that beat the Green Bay Packers in the NFC championship game in January 2015 and sent Seattle to Super Bowl 49.
For a glimpse of who Kearse was and what he did beyond the field for Seattle, this is what I wrote the day he signed his contract extension before last season:
The $13.5 million deal started going down early Wednesday afternoon. Jermaine Kearse got a call that prompted him to uncharacteristically cancel an appearance at a robotics event for grade-school-aged kids and up at Graham-Kapowsin High School.
The moment was finally at hand, the one for which Kearse had been playing football since he was growing up in Lakewood and his dad was an Army sergeant at Fort Lewis. And for which he starred for coach Dave Miller at Lakes High School in the 2000s and then at the University of Washington. Kearse was on the cusp of signing his second NFL contract, the big-money one for which anyone who wears a helmet and shoulder pads aspires.
Yet Kearse’s conscience bothered him about missing the robotics event in his native Pierce County. So he called a teacher who’d led the kids to the event.
"We’ve got some pretty resilient kids here who miss you," the surprised teacher said on speakerphone to Kearse.
She passed her cell phone around a semicircle of giddy, even-more-surprised kids seated on a floor in the high school. One boy was wearing a blue Seahawks game jersey with "Kearse, 15" on the back.
"Where did you go?" the boy asked almost in a whisper, gasping that he was speaking to his hero.
"I wish I could be with you guys," Kearse replied to him and all. "I’m sorry I couldn’t make it. I hope you guys do fantastically and have a great time."
Here’s more of what Kearse did in the community here during his five seasons with the Seahawks.