Seahawks Insider Blog

How, why Seahawks didn’t give Austin Seferian-Jenkins hometown deal he wanted--and what’s next

Former New York Jets and University of Washington star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) wanted to sign a hometown deal with the Seahawks Wednesday. When that deal didn’t materialize he boarded a plane, flew to Jacksonville and signed with the Jaguars for two years and up to $11 million instead.
Former New York Jets and University of Washington star tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins (88) wanted to sign a hometown deal with the Seahawks Wednesday. When that deal didn’t materialize he boarded a plane, flew to Jacksonville and signed with the Jaguars for two years and up to $11 million instead. AP

Sheldon Richardson left to go visit Minnesota, after he didn’t get the numbers he’s seeking from Seattle. The defensive tackle’s fully into his first try at free agency.

Austin Seferian-Jenkins was waiting...waiting...waiting.... for the offer he wanted but never came. So he left, too, for Jacksonville. He confirmed Thursday afternoon he is signing with the Jaguars instead--as a I had learned early Thursday he was about to do.

Jordy Nelson was scheduled to visit--but never got here. The former Green Bay Packers wide receiver signed with Oakland Thursday, the day he had been scheduled to meet with the Seahawks. His two years with $13 million guaranteed from the Raiders was more than Seattle would have offered, had it gotten that far.

Ndamukong Suh, the defensive tackle whose last try in free agency netted him a $114 million jackpot from Miami a few years ago, waits and weighs the market that the Seahawks appear to have yet to enter with an offer. That’s one that may or may not come.

What has come two days into the NFL’s official free agency period is clarity that despite the $19 million they saved by shedding former mainstays Michael Bennett, Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead in the last week, the Seahawks lack the buying--or even offering--power to be anywhere near the top tier of the free-agent market. As usual, the Seahawks will shop the secondary tiers, instead.

In the meantime, Seattle’s scorecard so far in the last eight days: seven former starters gone, with one new addition: outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo.

Hours after Richardson showed up at Vikings headquarters in Minnesota Thursday, Seferian-Jenkins signed with in Florida with Jacksonville. The deal for the 25-year-old former University of Washington tight end from Gig Harbor High School and Fox Island who first wanted to come home to play for Seattle is two years. It’s worth up to $11 million, counting incentives.

Seferian-Jenkins visited with the Seahawks for much of the day Wednesday. He told me Wednesday night he had an 11 p.m. redeye flight from SeaTac Airport to Jacksonville. He said of a Seahawks deal then “hopefully we’ll get it done before I leave.”

But Seattle also was scheduled to host free-agent tight end Ed Dickson from Carolina. Dickson has in the past been a run blocker and even a part-time fullback for the Panthers, and Seahawks coach Pete Carroll has vowed his top priority this year is getting his offensive back to the run.

Before free agency began, Seferian-Jenkins would have signed with the Seahawks for anywhere close to the two years and $8 million the New York Jets had offered him last month to stay with them.

I mean, he REALLY wanted to come home to play.

He wanted to be the departed Jimmy Graham’s replacement as Russell Wilson’s big receiving target. He, like Graham, was a college basketball power forward; Seferian-Jenkins was briefly the last months of one season for Washington while playing football for the Huskies.

He could be playing an hour from where he grew up, from his mother, Linda Seferian. From his friends and his father, John, and his grandparents he caught up with last weekend when he made his rounds through Gig Harbor. Heck, he worked out Monday with Seahawks linebackers Bobby Wagner and K.J. Wright, who were on their own in a Seattle-area gym.

“I’m just hoping the Hawks come through with a better offer,” he told me after that workout.

They didn’t.

The Jets came back to him Tuesday with a sweetened offer. Chicago, Indianapolis and New Orleans were interested in signing him.

But it came down to Seattle and Jacksonville. He knew if he got on the plane Wednesday night and made it to Jaguars headquarters Thursday morning without a Seahawks offer anywhere close, he wasn’t turning back. He was signing with Jacksonville.

Seferian-Jenkins had a career-high 50 catches for the Jets last season, in his redemptive 2017 that included a year of sobriety for which he marked an anniversary in January. His receptions last season were five fewer than he had in his first four NFL seasons combined. He was suspended for the first two games of the 2017 season for violating the NFL’s substance-abuse policy in 2016. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers drafted him in the second round in 2014 out of UW, then gave up on him and waived him two years later, two games into the 2016 season, after he was arrested for driving under the influence.

He wants to go back to college and finish getting his degree; he said he is 54 credits short of graduating. He was hoping to do that more easily, comfortably, on his old campus. He visited his friends and former academic-support advisers at UW last weekend.

“It’s so important--so, SO important--to me,” he said of going back and graduating. “Just being in a more responsible stage of my life. Just being an adult. That’s part of the motivation of life. It’s a whole new learning experience for me. And I can’t wait.”

Seferian-Jenkins wanted a two- or three-year contract so he can potentially become an unrestricted free agent again when he’s still 28 years old. So he could still sign with Seattle. In 2020. Wilson will be on a new contract by then; Seattle’s deal with its franchise quarterback ends after the 2019 season.

“I feel like my best football is coming up in the next five years,” Seferian-Jenkins said before he signed with the Jagaurs. “Let me prove it again. I have no doubt in myself.”

The Seahawks still have the need at tight end.

Graham was too expensive to bring back at age 31 following a 10-touchdown season for Seattle in 2017. He agreed Tuesday to a free-agent contract with the Green Bay Packers reportedly worth the same $10 million per year the Seahawks inherited from the New Orleans Saints in a trade in the spring of 2015.

The 30-year-old Dickson is eight months younger than Graham. Dickson had 30 catches last season for Carolina, with one touchdown. That was nine fewer than Graham got with Seattle in 2017.

The Seahawks also may lose Luke Willson. Their incumbent No.-2 tight end became a free agent when the market opened Wednesday afternoon. Willson has scheduled a visit to the Carolina Panthers later this week.

Nick Vannett, who has played two seasons since the Seahawks drafted him in 2016 out of Ohio State, entered Thursday as Seattle’s only tight end with any real experience on the depth chart who is signed for 2018. Undrafted former University of Texas quarterback Tyrone Swoopes, a Seahawks practice-squad player for most of his rookie year of 2017, is also on the roster as a tight end.

The Seahawks appear to be holding much of their $22 million or so in salary-cap space (after agreeing on Wednesday with Mingo and including the rookie pool for next month’s draft picks) for a competitive offer to re-sign Richardson, and for the possibility they will have to make a Plan-B offer to Suh. Then there are the possible extensions for left tackle Duane Brown and safety Earl Thomas to consider. Do they extend them both beyond this final year of their contracts?

Multiple reports say the Seahawks are asking for a first- and third-round pick from teams inquiring about trading Thomas. They are asking for at least that much. No reason for Seattle and general manager John Schneider to not ask for just about the moon. Thomas, the three-time All-Pro safety, is his team’s only, premier trading chip left on a undeniably transitioning team.

Oh, and then there’s that $30 million-plus-per-year issue of Wilson’s contract that will be dominant this time next year.

As you can see, very limited buying power.

It wasn’t enough to keep Seferian-Jenkins home, either.

“It’s time for the next chapter of my journey,” he wrote on his Instagram page after he signed with the Jaguars. “Jacksonville, I’m ready for you...”

 

Gratitude. The only word I can describe my experience of being a @nyjets. Gratitude to Mr. Johnson for allowing me to be part of his organization. Gratitude to Coach Johnson and Coach Morton for believing me in and pushing me to be a better man and Tight End every single day. Gratitude for Coach Bowles and Mr. Maccagnan for understanding that we are human and despite our mistakes, there are things in life called second chances. And that’s exactly what they gave me. Gratitude for Brian Heimerdinger for instilling in me that my story was a fresh start at the Jets and that I was able to rewrite my wrongs. Gratitude to @bmarshall for becoming a brother, a friend, and most importantly a mentor to support me through the tough times. Gratitude for my brothers.. my teammates who kept me pushing when I needed it the most. Gratitude for the front office staff who accepted me into the organization with a fresh start. And most importantly, gratitude for some of the most amazing fans in league! The loyal ones. The ones who have allowed me to share my story but more importantly been along for the journey. I will truly miss the city of New York and all that it represents to me. I have so much love for this city and it holds such a special place to me. It’s surely not a goodbye but a see you later New York. Wishing the entire organization nothing but the best, but it’s time for the next chapter of my journey. Jacksonville, I’m ready for you. Ready to represent the teal, black, white, and gold. Duval County, I’m ready to see what the #DTWD is all about! . #gratitude #thankful #nextstep #newjourney #Jaguars #DuvalCounty

A post shared by Austin Seferian-Jenkins (@i.am.asj) on

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