OAKLAND, Calif. Jermaine Kearse hasn’t heard from the Seahawks on his future.
But he absolutely knows what he wants to have happen over the next two days.
“Obviously, I want to be here,” the veteran of five Seattle seasons at wide receiver and man who has caught some of the biggest passes in franchise history said Thursday night after he and just about every other Seahawks regular didn’t play in their 17-13 rally past the Raiders in the preseason finale at the Oakland Coliseum.
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It was one day after an ESPN report said the Seahawks are shopping him to trade before Saturday’s deadline to cut roster down to 53 players for the regular season. Coach Pete Carroll said Thursday night he’s not going to answer that report, or any other rumors about players his team may or may not be looking to send away.
Kearse, a former University of Washington receiver and Lakes High School star, was clear on what he wants.
“I’ve got a lot of great relationships with the guys here. Been here with a lot of them for the past five or six years,” he said. “I’m really just taking it one day at a time. Like I said, I really don’t know what’s happening. I haven’t talked to them. So I’m just going to take it one day at a time and focus on that.
“I haven’t spoken to anybody. So I really don’t know.
“You always have those conversations. I guess I really don’t have a reaction until I hear from there. Just wanting to see, to have that conversation, pretty much. I know just as much as you guys.”
Kearse signed a three-year, $13.5 million contract before his sub-par 2016 season that he admitted in December was “humbling.”
“I know what I’ve put out there and what I’ve done,” he said, adding he feels like that has earned trust and faith from the team for a rebound 2017 from him -- here in Seattle, not elsewhere.
“I feel it has. I mean, we’ll see. Like I said, just take it one day at a time.”
Carroll wanted no part of the issue -- which was the opposite of this offseason when he and general manager spoke openly of fielding trade offers for three-time All-Pro cornerback Richard Sherman.
“Yeah, just because someone said something in the news, you know, there’s a lot of things mentioned,” Carroll said. “We’re not talking about it here. We have a lot of work to do.”
Including how to sort out a crowded wide-receiver battle for many three open roster spots.
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.
Amara Darboh, the rookie from Michigan, had zero catches and done little in the Seahawks preseason until his first three NFL catches for 22 yards Thursday. But he 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. He had one catch for 3 yards Thursday, playing into the fourth quarter, and a bad drop early in the game.
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.
“Positivity--we preach it all the time,” Kearse said after his most triumphant Seahawks moment, after that overtime catch won the NFC title in January 2015.
Now, in his most unsettled moment since his rookie year, he has to rely on that.