On the day after the trade that surprised the league, and there is still a buzz around the team for getting New Orleans' 2013 All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham.
"It's a big deal for us, everybody in this building," Seahawks general manager John Schneider said this morning from the team's Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton on Seattle's 710 ESPN radio.
"He makes everybody better."
Schneider told the station Graham was chillin' on a beach on the west coast of Florida yesterday when he got call of trade that also nets Seattle a fourth-round choice in next month's draft from New Orleans in exchange for two-time Pro Bowl center Max Unger and the Seahawks' first-round pick April 30.
How did Graham get to the beach? Schneider said Graham flew. See, he's a pilot:
The GM said Graham is due at team headquarters today for a physical.
My story for today's News Tribune starts with how this began going down -- with perhaps the greatest, routine cold call in Seahawks history by Schneider to the Saints.
Columnist John McGrath wrote that this is going to end up being the Seahawks best trade since fleecing Buffalo of Marshawn Lynch in the middle of the 2010 season.
Here's what the man who has thrown 171 completions and 26 touchdowns the last two seasons to Graham thinks of the deal:
Correcting and clarifying the salary cap comparison of trading Graham for Unger:
Adding Graham has an $8 million cap hit ($2.9 million in guaranteed base salary for this year, a $5 million roster bonus due to him tomorrow and a $100,000 workout bonus). Subtracting Unger‘s base salary of $4.5 million and adding $2.2 million in salary-cap acceleration, the deal appears to add $4.6 million to the Seahawks’ 2015 salary cap. That leaves them with an estimated $14.5 million to spend this year.
The Seahawks saved $2.29 million against this year's cap by releasing Miller on Friday.
Essentially the Seahawks released Miller, plus traded Unger and their 31st-overall draft choice for Graham and New Orleans’ fourth-round choice for a total additional cap cost this year of $2.31 million.
With the league’s salary cap beginning at $143 million for 2015, that’s almost a wash.
And a coup.
“In some respects it actually helps us” financially, Schneider said. “It turns out a first-round draft choice (for Seattle it was going to be 31st overall next month) costs close to three and a half million. And to go out and sign a tight end to a big bonus … would cost more.
“We are on course. We are on budget. We have a lot of goals, a lot to accomplish (yet this offseason).”
Lost amid all the fun: Malcolm Smith agreed to sign with the Raiders, reuniting with former Seahawks linebackers coach Ken Norton Jr. who is a month into his new job as Oakland's defensive coordinator.
And former Houston Texans star wide receiver Andre Johnson is reportedly down to picking between the Colts and Seahawks, according to ESPN's John Clayton.
Schneider also mentioned on 710 ESPN radio this morning there were "some hurt feelings" that had to be mended with Marshawn Lynch's camp following the team not re-doing his deal before last season. He said, as he has before, that the Seahawks didn't want to set the precedent of renegotiating or extending a contract that still had two years remaining on it.
He also said the parameters of Lynch's two-year, $24 million extension through 2017 that also guarantees him $12 million this coming season essentially got done in Indianapolis late last month during the NFL combine. That means it took Lynch weeks -- and a trip to Turkey and back -- to decide whether to agree to it before he did during a meeting with Schneider, coach Pete Carroll and Seahawks owner Paul Allen on Friday.
As for the expiring rookie contracts of two-time Super Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson and All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner that the Seahawks want to extend for big pays, Schneider said he met with Wilson's representatives "a couple weeks ago" and with Wagner's at the combine last month.
He said those representatives for Wilson and Wagner "know we have certain things we have to get accomplished, to improve the team in general, and then we'll get into that."
Here is most of what Schneider and Carroll said yesterday afternoon in a conference call with Seattle-area media following the Graham trade:
Head Coach Pete Carroll and General Manager John Schneider
March 10, 2015
(On how the trade for TE Jimmy Graham came about) John Schneider: “We started talking to them (New Orleans Saints) probably three days ago just about general things, lots of different players. This time of the year, there are a lot of teams that are trying to move pieces around and figure things out as we move closer to the deadline to cut down for salary cap purposes and start the new league year. It was no different than a regular call like that. This was one of the players that was brought up and we continued to pursue it.”
(On how Graham will fit in on offense and how they plan to replace C Max Unger) Pete Carroll: “The opportunity to get a player that can make these types of plays that we’ve seen Jimmy Graham do for a number of years really got us excited in complementing the rest of our team. We think he’s a fantastic target that we can implement in a number of ways. I think all the ways we’ve come to understand is pretty clear – he’s a big receiver, plays big, makes plays in a crowd, makes plays on top of guys, is a very effective player in the red zone, he’s been a consistent scorer. So all of that stuff, we’re going to fit it into our offense and make him a very obvious complementary part of it. When you have to deal with Marshawn (Lynch) and it starts with the run game and Russell (Wilson) doing his thing to complement the receivers that we have that have made so many plays for us and done so many cool things – we think this is a great addition and should really…. You’re best players always help your other guys play well and be productive. That’s what we’re hoping for. We’re going to miss Max (Unger). We love Max and he’s been a great part of our team but at this time, this was part of the conversation and we had to go here to get this done so we’ll miss the heck out of him.”
John Schneider: “Yeah, any time you’re making these types of trades for a player like this, it’s not just going to be a hand-over. Both teams had specific needs. For us, obviously we’re going to miss Max’s leadership. He’s been a core part of what we’ve been doing the last couple years. He was here when we got here. Coach Carroll and his staff actually moved him to center from guard and he took off. But we have to continue moving this thing forward. We always talk about not having any finish lines and this is just part of it. Tough decisions, but exciting futures as well.”
(On CB Cary Williams) John Schneider: “Well I think with Cary, it starts first and foremost with his length and his height, his aggressiveness and just the style of play that we have here, playing a lot of press. He’s a guy that last year—well I should say the year that Baltimore won the Super Bowl, he finished the season extremely strong. He had a great year that year, really stood out and that’s the year Philly went after him. When you watched him especially play against every team’s big players last year like Dez Bryant, right towards the end of the season and then you watch him against (Odell) Beckham with the Giants, they moved him around the field and he played star coverage with him. He was just intriguing. We’re going to miss (Byron) Maxwell but we had to be ready to go. I think it’s a testament to Coach Carroll, Kris Richard, all the guys that have worked so hard with our defensive backs. I mean here’s a sixth round draft choice that leaves for a monster contract and we’re all going to miss Byron a lot, we’re very excited for him but we’re also very excited to add Cary. We felt like we needed to do it early because of the competition at the cornerback position and we feel blessed we were able to finish it up last night.”
(On if tight end was a position they had targeted going into this free agency period) Schneider: “Yeah it absolutely was. We love Cooper (Helfet) and RaShaun (Allen) and were able to re-sign Anthony McCoy and you guys saw the year that Luke (Willson) had. This is an offensive weapon that we’re adding – a guy that is a big-time difference maker at his position, arguably a top-two, three tight end in the league. We just feel like it’s adding a big receiver and any time we can do that, we’re going to. I think it’s a great group of tight ends now.”
(On the altercation before the 2013 playoff game between Jimmy Graham and Bruce Irvin and if that’s bygones now) Carroll: “Yeah, I don’t have any thoughts that there’d be a problem. I think that’s gamesmanship and guys getting ready to play and all that and that’s all understood. I know a number of our players have already contacted him and talked to Jimmy and I’m sure that helps him if he had any thoughts. We’ve had good visits with him already, as well. I’m not worried about it a bit. It’ll be great to get him in here with our guys. I’m sure they’ll get together well before we can even start working here at the facility and expect that all of the groundwork for that relationship will start all over again.”
(On how Graham can help in the red zone -- Seattle was 29th in TD pct. inside the 20 last season) Carroll: “Well he’s been a very productive player. If you look, I think he has 46 touchdowns since 2011. He’s a big target. He has the basketball background. He has the ability to get off the ground and play high. He’s got a real sense for finishing plays. We’ve seen everything he’s done, obviously, from the last couple years and watched him finish plays around the goal line and find his way in after the catch. Just a fantastic talent and a great weapon for us. I’m sure he’ll be a great benefit for our passing game and for the productivity that we want down there. We always want to run the football but we need those targets and he brings us an obvious opportunity to get the ball in the end zone.”
(On signing Marshawn Lynch to an extension and how the meeting went with him) Carroll: “We had an excellent meeting. Marshawn was in a great place and was real excited to get to us and to make this commitment and look down the road. He was really enthusiastic about the season, about our team and about moving forward. I was really pleased with his outlook and excited to be able to make a deal, really for everybody. Our locker room of course loves the guy and the coaching staff does, and for our fans as well. Everybody in the league knows what kind of player he is but he’s a big deal to us. So for us to be able to take this step together and be excited about the future was a big moment. I’m really fired up about it and really impressed and pleased with his approach to it.”