John McGrath

Stick to running the Seahawks offense, Russell. Let Schneider handle the draft and scouting

Though Russell Wilson remains under contract and in Seattle's plans for almost ever, Seahawks general manager John Schneider was in Laramie, Wyo., last month for this Pro Day workout for quarterback Josh Allen at the University of Wyoming quarterback. Schneider explained why this past week.
Though Russell Wilson remains under contract and in Seattle's plans for almost ever, Seahawks general manager John Schneider was in Laramie, Wyo., last month for this Pro Day workout for quarterback Josh Allen at the University of Wyoming quarterback. Schneider explained why this past week. AP

Josh Allen is a 6-foot-5, 240-pound quarterback whose cannon arm and mobility out of the pocket have drawn comparisons to Carolina’s Cam Newton.

And though the Seahawks are facing quite more urgent priorities in the upcoming draft than obtaining a quarterback, general manager John Schneider is intrigued. Schneider attended Allen’s recent Pro Day workout at the University of Wyoming, where the big fella put on a show of arm strength only slightly enhanced at an elevation of 7,200 feet.

Representatives from half of the NFL were on hand to check out Allen, and why the entire league wasn’t there baffles me. Just because a player profiles as a high first-round pick doesn’t mean he’s out of any team’s picture.

Remember the 2005 draft, when Cal’s Aaron Rodgers, a candidate as first overall selection, slid all the way down to No. 24? Schneider remembers. He remembers Green Bay wasn’t desperate for a quarterback – the starting job belonged to some guy named Brett Favre –but Rodgers’ long-term potential trumped the Packers’ short-term needs.

That Schneider took the time to evaluate a top college prospect in Wyoming shouldn’t have been newsworthy. But it became newsworthy the other day, when Jim Trotter of the NFL Network reported that Schneider’s trip aroused some curiosity from the folks at Frontline Athlete Management, better known as Russell Wilson’s agents.

Trotter paraphrased the conversation between Frontline and the Seahawks.

Agent: “Is there anything we need to here? With all the changes going on, does this mean anything for Russell?”

Seahawks: “Our plan is for Russell to play quarterback for us in 2018.”

After that, it gets complicated. Wilson is a free agent following the 2019 season. If he stays healthy and sustains the peak performance level of a future Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, Wilson figures to command a multi-year contract guaranteeing him at least $30 million annually.

Money is no issue for a franchise owned by a man whose wealth is estimated at $21.6 billion, but the salary-cap ramifications are profound. Investing $30 million a season in a single player means surrounding that player with a supporting cast culled from the thrift shop.

And there’s this: Wilson will be 31 when his Hawks contract expires. His durability has been remarkable – everything he does on a football field is remarkable – but guaranteeing more than $100 million to a 31-year old QB poses an obvious risk.

Which explains why Schneider went to Wyoming, and why he’s assembling a detailed scouting report on Josh Allen.

Allen’s size, athleticism and arm are pluses. But there negatives, too. He completed 56.2 percent of his passes at Wyoming, which competes in the Mountain West Conference, college football’s version of a mid-major.

There was a time when a college passer’s 56.2 percent completion rate identified him as a sort of marksman. That time is not now.

Baker Mayfield, the 2017 Heisman Trophy winner, completed 70.5 percent of his attempts last season at Oklahoma. He threw 43 touchdown passes, with only six interceptions. It won’t be a surprise if Mayfield is drafted before Allen, and it won’t be a surprise if USC’s Sam Darnold, and UCLA’s Josh Rosen, precede Allen in the first round.

Mayfield, Darnold and Rosen, products of big-time, power-conference programs, are more safe for a general manager to bet on than a quarterback who had accuracy issues at Wyoming.

But then, if we know anything about Schneider, we know his proclivity for roster-move gambles. The Seahawks could trade to move up from their No. 18 pick in the draft, or they could trade down to restore relevance to second and third rounds rendered vacant by the deals for defensive tackle Sheldon Richardson (gone) and offensive left tackle Duane Brown (here).

I would place the odds of the Hawks maneuvering to acquire Allen at, oh, 0.5 percent. But where there’s a number, however slight, there’s a possibility.

The Seahawks have one quarterback in their fold right now, Russell Wilson performing the trapeze act without a net. He’s gifted and brilliant and expensive, poised to become historically expensive.

When his agent learned that the Hawks GM had attended a quarterback’s Pro Day in Wyoming, he asked “What’s that about?”

The polite response: “Don’t fret, my friend. Russell is still our quarterback.”

The more appropriate response: “Mind your own business, dude. We’re in the NFL. We’re preparing for anything and everything.”

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