Could the Seahawks have so many wide receivers worth keeping they are about to shed one of Russell Wilson’s most trusted ones?
That’s what an ESPN report said Wednesday.
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This time of the preseason, with Saturday’s roster cut-down deadline from 90 players to the regular-season limit of 53 approaching, leaks from agents, team or NFL officials or friends of a friend of players that state “trying to trade” often foreshadows the release of a rumored player. The team shops the player in question for a couple days, sees if it gets any offers for, say, a late-round pick, then if not releases him on cut-down day.
The Seahawks have a logjam of proven plus talented wide receiver. Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, returning from a broken leg, are set as starters. Paul Richardson emerged late last season after Lockett got hurt. Kasen Williams had an outstanding preseason, making five ridiculous catches in the first five quarters of exhibition-game play plus tackles and increasingly prominent roles on special teams.
If it’s true the Seahawks are thinking of letting Kearse, the native of Lakewood and former Lakes High School star, go at the start of year two on the three-year, $13.5 million extension he signed before his poor and self-described “humbling” 2016 season, consider this: It may be Williams that ultimately cost Kearse his job. Williams and Kearse were both starring receivers at the University of Washington, with Williams arriving at UW as Kearse was leaving there as an undrafted Seahawks rookie in 2012.
A trade would be a boon for the Seahawks, if they are indeed thinking of releasing him. A trade would mean the acquiring team takes on Kearse’s contract. It is scheduled to charge his team $4 million against the salary cap this year and $6.83 million against the cap in 2018.
Cutting him Saturday would save Seattle $2.2 million in 2017 -- Kearse’s non-guaranteed base salary for this year. But that essentially would just be kicking the can of salary-cap charges down the road, because the team’s “dead money” for him would be spread over the next two years. Releasing Kearse would leave the team with $3.66 million in “dead money”: a $1.83 million cost against the 2017 cap and $1.83 million next year. Those are the final two of three accounting prorations on Kearse’s $5.5 million signing bonus for the deal he signed in March 2016.
There is, of course, more to this than financial considerations.
The fact Amara Darboh, the rookie from Michigan, has zero catches and done little in the Seahawks preseason but is a third-round pick complicates Kearse’s future in Seattle. Team scouts and player-evaluations staffs don’t like to give up on a third-round pick and admit such a relatively high-profile drafting error a few months after they selected him.
Tanner McEvoy’s emergence last season as an unlikely, undrafted wide receiver and former college quarterback further muddles the roster calculus involving Kearse. McEvoy made big plays in limited receiving opportunities last season.
Baldwin, Lockett, Richardson, Williams, Darboh and McEvoy. That’s six wide receivers. Seattle doesn’t often keep more than that on the 53-man roster to begin the season.
More than that, Kearse has been a trusted target of Wilson’s since they were playing pitch and catch on the side field just trying to get on the field in rookie minicamp during the spring of 2012. Wilson talks often of those times spent together with Kearse. Kearse has made some of the Seahawks’ most important catches during their five-year run of playoff appearances. He made a spinning run for a touchdown after a catch to help Seattle bury Denver in Super Bowl 48.
After Wilson threw four interceptions all in Kearse’s direction before Seattle’s miraculous rally to tie Green Bay in the NFC championship game at the end of the 2014, the quarterback called an audible against a safety blitz in overtime to a post pattern to Kearse. With the season on the line, Kearse made that grab to send the Seahawks into Super Bowl 49.
Still lost amid all the furor over Marshawn Lynch not getting to run the ball from the 1-yard line and Wilson throwing an interception instead to end that title game and hand the Super Bowl to New England: Kearse’s ridiculous catch off his legs while on his back in the final minute. Without that, the Seahawks would never have had that chance to win from the 1.
Yet as every player knows, this is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately league. The only time Kearse has had fewer touchdown catches than the single one he had last season was in 2012, when he was that undrafted rookie. He was a part-timer in the Seahawks’ offense then -- he had three catches in seven games in 2012 -- and played mostly on special teams his first year.
On Monday, he before the Seahawks left for Thursday’s preseason finale at Oakland, Carroll was asked about his crowded wide-receiver competition.
“I can’t call it right now. We are just going to go into this week again—this week of practice and the game—and see what happens,” Carroll said. “These guys are really battling and there is a lot of positives. It’s not all the stuff that has happened in the games. Some of the guys have had better ops than other guys but, yeah, it is a really good position for us. And it’s going to be some tough stuff to figure out.”