INDIANAPOLIS The Seahawks have no untouchables they would not trade for the right offer.
“We’re just open to anything.”
That was the word(s) from general manager John Schneider Friday at the NFL scouting combine. He further extended Seattle’s unveiled invitation for all teams to make their best deal for Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and...
Anyone? Are there any players untouchable for trade considerations?
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“Not at this time of the year,” Schneider said inside the Indiana Convention Center, while offensive linemen prospects ran 40-yard dashes for scouts inside Lucas Oil Stadium next door.
“It’s not. I told you guys this when we got here in 2010: We are going to be in every deal. And then you want to be able to walk away. You don’t want to have the opportunity to--you don’t want to miss any opportunity. That’s how we built this thing, and that’s how we are going to build it. Now, do we have some challenges this year? Absolutely (salary-cap constraints, an aging, injured core, a return from their first non-playoff season in six years).
“We are not, you know, we are pretty disappointed the way our season ended. We went 9-7, you know, and you would have thought that we won two games. It’s a pit that sits in your stomach and really fuels you. And we are excited about the challenges ahead, because we feel like we want to get rolling on this thing.”
This is in concert with coach Pete Carroll passing on his opportunities here Thursday to squash the idea Bennett, Sherman and Thomas in particular could be gone from Seattle’s defense in 2018.
No doubt, the Seahawks are goin’ fishing this week in Indiana. They are casting far and wide across the league in search whatever bites they can get, for any of their older, more expensive stars. Then they hope to have legitimate offers to weigh or discard when they get home, and beyond.
The Seahawks did this on a more limited, specific basis last offseason, very publicly floating Sherman as a potential trade target for other teams to explore. When they didn’t get near the offer they sought--high draft picks, perhaps a starting player, in return--they kept the three-time All-Pro cornerback.
Sherman tore his Achilles tendon in November, recently had surgery on his other Achilles and is now walking with a boot over the left foot, and has one season remaining on his contract.
The Seahawks could save $11 million by trading or releasing him before next season. That has led to the team and Schneider at least hinting the appearance they are shopping Sherman for the second consecutive offseason.
But who would offer Seattle anything of value--let alone the second- or third-round draft choice the Seahawks currently don’t have in April’s draft, or a starting player, or both--for a 29-year-old cornerback coming off a season-ending Achilles tear then surgery on the other ankle?
Asked about reports from Thursday if Bennett, the three-time Pro Bowl defensive end who told me on New Year’s Eve following the 2017 season finale “I probably won’t be back” in 2018, is on the trading block, Schneider said: “You know what? That’s a great question. I was reading about that last night. We don’t get into people’s contracts. But I understand why that’s out there.
“This time of the year, the combine has really developed into a lot more of the--I have a couple of friends in baseball--kind of like the baseball winter meetings. I mean, I’ve been here since Monday night and I’ve literally been in meetings the whole time, whether it’s league meetings, committee meetings. I met with the NCAA (Thursday). We are just constantly talking to people, all the time.
“Part of our challenge right now--I want to say this appropriately--is sustaining our level of success that we’ve had. And we are just open to anything.”
Trading or releasing the 32-year-old Bennett would save Seattle just $2.2 million against this year’s salary cap. Thing is, with Dion Jordan a restricted free agent who’s played just three games the last three years and Cliff Avril’s career in doubt because of a neck injury and surgery, Frank Clark is the only other proven pass rusher on the roster. And Clark’s contract ends after this year.
Dealing or cutting Thomas would save $8 million against the cap. But, again, who would replace him? Seattle drafted Tedric Thompson last year to potentially play free safety, but Thompson barely played on defense, appearing in just two games at safety while doing far more on special teams.
Schneider said he’s met this week at the combine with Thomas’ agents.
“I've talked to his representatives. Yeah, I mean, that's all I can say,” Schneider said. “Earl is under contract. I've talked to his representatives in the meetings we've had down here.”
It was telling Friday that Schneider mentioned now is the time for Thompson and fellow 2017 rookie draftees in the secondary, strong safety Delano Hill (behind now-injured and endangered Kam Chancellor) and cornerback Mike Tyson to get out of awe mode at being around Thomas, Chancellor and Sherman and start competing to show whether they can play.
That is to say, whether those young guys can ultimately prove worthy of replacing Thomas, Chancellor and Sherman.
No doubt--whether through trade or attrition--these Seahawks are transitioning.