After deflecting an interrupting call from Russell Wilson—”I’m in a press conference. I’ll call you back. Sorry”—Pete Carroll looked down at the list of players on the table below him.
That list was almost twice as long as he thought it would be. It was almost three times longer than it was entering the week.
“We just took 11 guys!” the Seahawks coach exclaimed Saturday afternoon at the end of an NFL draft in which his team went from sulking bystanders to successful bounty hunters.
“I never thought that would happen.”
Eight trades—starting with dealing away top pass rusher Frank Clark to Kansas City Monday and ending with sending Jacksonville a sixth-round pick among their 12 choices in the 2020 draft to get back into this draft’s seventh round to select slot receiver John Ursua from Hawaii on Saturday—netted Seattle seven additional picks.
The Seahawks always trade in drafts; Friday made it eight consecutive years they traded their first-round pick. They have made 31 trades involving picks in the 10 drafts general manager John Schneider and Carroll have run the team.
But, heck, this was even beyond their wildest imaginations for best-case bulk this weekend.
We’ll see in the years to come if these players Seattle drafted can perform in the NFL. But this fact is certifiable right now: The team that values cultivating as many young, hungry, fast, big players as it can find to compete for jobs in every roster corner each year went from a league-low four selections at the beginning of the week to tied for the second-most in the NFL.
Arizona and the Giants also drafted 11 players. Minnesota took 12.
“This,” Carroll said, looking to his left at deal-maker Schneider next to him, “is beyond our expectations.”
Schneider and Carroll had thought they might, if everything broke their way, end up with seven picks in this draft.
Yet through all the trading down and moving up, the frantic calls to multiple teams by multiple staffers on multiple phones as pick deadlines ticked down, this Seahawks’ biggest story of their long weekend was the future of their longest-tenured offensive player. A star who didn’t even participate in the NFL’s draft extravaganza nine years ago.
Schneider said Saturday it will be “weeks,” not months, before Seattle’s Pro Bowl veteran and top wide receiver has resolution on an ongoing contractual process with the league and player’s union. But all signs are the Seahawks’ longest-tenured offensive player will retire at age 30 following three offseason surgeries, on his knee, shoulder and abdomen.
That is why the Seahawks drafted three wide receivers in two days.
And it’s why Carroll was still beaming Saturday about basically stealing the draft’s phenomenon of a wide receiver, Mississippi’s hulking, zooming freak D.K. Metcalf, at the bottom of round two Friday.
He was projected by many to be a first-round pick because of his combine and workout heroics, his Superman speed and Popeye arms, and his reported 1.9-percent body fat.
By the way, Metcalf says it’s up to 3 percent now. Must have been Friday’s dinner.
“We never would have thought that we would have had a shot to get him,” Carroll said of the 6-foot-3 1/2, 229-pound physical wonder who runs the 40-yard dash in 4.33 seconds.
“I was shocked. I just never thought that we would have that guy on our team.”
When Carroll and Schneider noticed at pick 64 overall Metcalf was still there, after Seattle had used its first-round pick on TCU defensive end L.J. Collier and its second-rounder on versatile Utah safety Marquise Blair, the GM grabbed the phone. He called New England. Within minutes that seemed like seconds he sent the Super Bowl-champion Patriots the Seahawks’ 77th-overall choice in round three and 118th pick in the fourth round to get the 64th pick.
“All of a sudden, out of nowhere,” Carroll said.
Then Schneider and Carroll called Metcalf to tell him the Seahawks had drafted him.
Metcalf, and Carroll, cried tears of joy,
“He had me tearing up, too,” Carroll said. “He was so emotional about the wait and the anticipation of the pick was hard on him. It challenged him and he was most grateful and excited and all that. You couldn’t help but feel his emotions.
“We know that he’s a great worker and it means the world to him to be great. It’s not a surprise that it was emotional for him to finally get it figured out. He’s come to a place that we’re really excited about. I thought the way that was handled, I thought John did a fantastic job of setting up the opportunity to get that guy. It just worked beautifully.
“This is a guy that as we know has extraordinary potential. We’re really excited about the fact that he’s a downfield guy because he has great speed, but he’s also a big guy.
“I know his QB was watching this and he was really excited about it too. We look forward to it.”
Saturday the Seahawks selected 6-1, 216-pound West Virginia wide receiver Greg Jennings in the fourth round. And Seattle’s intent to replace the smaller, shifter Baldwin and his exquisite underneath routes with bigger, faster, pass catchers who sprint for home runs became obvious.
“It was really important going in,” Carroll said. “That was the number-one thing; we wanted to get fast, make sure we can complement the stuff, like running down the field, take advantage of Russell’s ability to throw the ball down the field, which is awesome. And to...make sure that (Tyler Lockett’s) not the only fast guy who can take the top off.
“We’re really excited about that.”
And the definitely-not-big, 5-9 Ursua? Schneider said he will compete immediately for the slot-receiver role in which he had a national-best 16 touchdown catches last season at Hawaii. Slot receiver is where Baldwin made his biggest catches for Wilson, especially on third downs.
“He’s going to come in and compete for that slot spot,” Schneider said of Ursua, who will be a 25-year-old rookie because of a two-year church mission in France, Belgium and Luxembourg.
Through all the trades, the Baldwin news, losing Clark, then the NFL’s leading rushing offense last year gaining a new approach in the passing game, Carroll sat back and smiled. It was a grin of accomplishment.
Then it was off to sign a dozen or so undrafted rookie free agents, to fill remaining holes such as defensive tackle, pass rushers and more.
“This draft,” Carroll said, “it was really, really well done.”