One of the questions for the Seahawks beginning on-field practices this week — the most popular, controversial one — has already answered itself.
Will Colin Kaepernick compete for Seattle’s backup quarterback job during organized team activities?
Not yet, anyway.
The Seahawks began seven Organized Team Activities (OTAs) over the next two weeks, the first Tuesday at team headquarters. The team’s website posted pictures from the closed practice. One showed Trevone Boykin and Jake Heaps as the quarterbacks with Russell Wilson.
Another photo showed three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman merrily greeting teammate Jimmy Graham. Sherman has been the subject of trade inquiries, weirdly open trade talk by the Seahawks and stories of internal rifts this offseason.
Nothing changed the fact Kaepernick remained unsigned.
The Seahawks have $8,797,000 remaining under their 2017 salary cap, according to overthecap.com. They have three more rookie draft picks to sign, after top choice Malik McDowell’s deal for $6.96 million over four years from last week.
Any Kaepernick deal is likely to be low — perhaps in the $1-2 million range — in base pay and high in playing-time incentives. Those bonuses would accumulate into a deal more in line with Kaepernick’s starting experience should Wilson have a second consecutive season of injuries and Kaepernick have to play.
The momentum for Kaepernick becoming a Seahawk has cooled. Almost daily, there are postings, opinions and unsubstantiated national reports saying there is nothing imminent. Pat Kirwan, an NFL analyst with Sirius/XM satellite radio and a friend of Carroll’s, posted on his Twitter account Tuesday he didn’t think Kaepernick will get a deal done with Seattle.
Kirwan and Carroll have known each other since 1990, when Carroll was the New York Jets;’ defensive coordinator and Kirwan was a Jets staffer.
The Seahawks have been essentially negotiating against themselves for Kaepernick, while also working out other veteran quarterbacks such as Austin Davis last week. Seattle is the only team known to be even remotely interested in signing Kaepernick. He has angered many in the league and around the country with his kneeling during national anthems before 49ers games last season as a protest to social injustice in America.
While it’d be advantageous for the Seahawks to get a deal done with any new, veteran QB soon so he could learn the offense during OTAs and the team’s lone mandatory minicamp June 13-15, it’s not as if Kaepernick needs offseason time to acclimate. He’d be signing for the No. 2 job and competing with 2016 undrafted rookie Trevone Boykin. Unlike Boykin, he’s started in the league for the past five years. It’s not like he couldn’t pick up and hone his role in training camp that begins at the end of July.
His desire to accept or reject whatever the Seahawks offer him in the lower range of QB salaries appears to be the determinant in whether he signs here. Meanwhile, the Seahawks move along, shopping for backups that would fit their price and salary-cap constraints.
Where will Luke Joeckel be practicing?
The former second-overall pick has played 34 of his 39 games at offensive tackle, almost always on the left side. But Seahawks general manager John Schneider has said since signing Joeckel in March — to a one-year contract with more than $7 million guaranteed — that he’s liked him more when he’s played left guard. That’s what Joeckel did in the first five games of 2016 for Jacksonville, before a season-ending knee injury then surgery.
Joeckel may not be fully participating in every spring and summer practice coming off that surgery. He is the domino after which the rest of the offensive line will fall into place, at least to begin this season. If Joeckel starts at left tackle, which his money suggests, Mark Glowinski could return to his 2016 starting spot of left guard. If Joeckel starts at left guard, Glowinski could be competing with offseason free-agent signing Oday Aboushi to be the new right guard. The Seahawks have already said they want to try Germain Ifedi at right tackle; last year’s top draft choice started at right guard in his rookie season.
Seattle drafted Ethan Pocic in the second round because, at 6 feet 6, the former LSU center can also play tackle and guard. Second-round picks usually play, if not start, right away. The Seahawks know Pocic can play center behind the line’s lone sure thing, Justin Britt. Pocic’s place during spring and summer practices then training camp will give another indication of how the starting line might look Sept. 10 in the season opener at Green Bay.
How is Earl Thomas progressing?
Well. That is, at least according to the pictures the team posted on its website from Tuesday’s OTA. Thomas was in his white practice uniform, blue number 29, wearing his helmet on the field and talking to coach Pete Carroll.
This week marks six months since the three-time All-Pro free safety broke his tibia. He’s likely to be limited into training camp. Yet all signs continue to point to Thomas starting in the opener at the Packers.
How tenuous is Jermaine Kearse’s place on the 2017 roster?
Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, recovering from a broken leg he got on Christmas Eve, are locks. Paul Richardson finally stayed healthy and emerged late last season. The newest, most intriguing additions to the wide-receiver group are rookie third-round pick Amara Darboh, whom Schneider loves for his smooth routes and hands, and undrafted free agent Cyril Grayson.
Grayson was an All-American, 400-meter sprint champion at LSU. Seahawks senior personnel executive Ed Dodds went to Louisiana try him out this spring, then had him on a plane to Seattle before the rest of the league could process his potential as an NFL wide receiver.
Carroll sounds excited and intrigued by Grayson, likening his development plan to what the Seahawks did years ago with college track standout Ricardo Lockette. The more Grayson zooms through offseason and preseason practices, the more he makes spins and lightning-like cuts that have teammates “oohing”, like he did in rookie minicamp this month, the more likely Grayson wins a spot as the latest undrafted free agent to stick.
That and Darboh’s progress could jeopardize Kearse’s place. The former Lakes High School star and Washington Husky is coming off a subpar 2016 with 41 catches and just one touchdown in 16 games, and he lost his starting spot late in the season. He has two years and $7.2 million in non-guaranteed base salaries remaining on his three-year contract extension. The Seahawks could save $2.2 million if they would cut him after June 1. They could save $5 million against the 2018 cap if they cut him next year.
But remember this: Wilson instinctively and implicitly trusts Kearse. It’s a bond they first formed on side fields after practices when they were both rookies in spring minicamps of 2012. They cemented it with their mammoth connections in past playoffs, including Super Bowl 49 three postseasons ago. As long as Wilson is throwing Seattle’s passes, it will take a lot (of failures) to let go of Kearse.
Gregg Bell: @gbellseattle