DETROIT — It was a play so deliciously entertaining and surprising that it earned two new nicknames — one for the player who pulled it off, and one for the play itself.
“You mean Aussie Sweep?’’ coach Pete Carroll said of punter Michael Dickson’s decision not to bother stepping out of the end zone to take a safety in the final minutes of Sunday’s 28-14 win over Detroit.
Instead, Dickson faked the punt and ran nine yards for a first down to the Seattle 12. That clinched the win.
The play was so audacious — Dickson admitted he wasn’t even sure that he had to get at least eight yards on the play, which snapped from the Seattle 3 — that it also earned Dickson his own new nickname from teammates.
And what would that be?
“Big balls,’’ Dickson said.
But then, who could argue that’s what it took for a rookie fifth-round pick from Australia to decide to run for?
“Yeah, so I was meant to run to the right and soak up some time before we took the safety,’’ Dickson said. “It was open. I thought, ‘Stuff it. Try and get the first down.’ “
Dickson laughed and admitted he “didn’t even really know how many yards’’ he had to get for the first down, but said he realized he’d pulled it off when he passed the first down marker at the 11-yard line.
He also said it briefly hit him that once he turned the corner “there was no backing up. So just go for it.’’
And what reaction did he get once he got to the sideline?
“Everybody was just laughing,’’ he said. “Who does that? It was just a weird thing for me to do. So they were just laughing.’’
Once he got the necessary yards, anyway.
Carroll said that some “superlatives’’ went through his mind initially, undoubtedly meaning expletives.
“It was like he went against all tradition, all thinking and everything,’’ Carroll said. “But he saw a situation and he took advantage of it. And I think that’s what great players do, and they surprise you sometimes. That was truly a surprise. That was a great moment, and I was really fired up for him.”
Carroll planted a tiny seed in Dickson’s head during a conversation at the airport in London last week.
“Pete came up to me and said, ‘When are you just going to run the ball?’ ” Dickson recalled. “I said, ‘When are you going to ask me?’ And he said, ‘Sometimes there’s a gap. Just take it.’ “
Carroll fessed up to that.
“He’s been after me,’’ Carroll said. “I said, ‘Sometimes you’re just going to have to take off and go.’ And the next time out, he did it. So, I don’t know. That’s something that a really good player can do. Sometimes the coverage, the return team takes off and they give you a soft edge and that’s what he saw. He was going to kill some time and took full advantage of it. So, that’s awesome.”
One coach not really in favor of it, Dickson said, was special teams coach Brian Schneider.
Dickson said he told Schneider of what Carroll said to him last week and Schneider said, “Don’t ever do that. Only at practices. And then today I was doing it and I was like ‘Pete said.’ “
Failure, Dickson knew, was not an option.
“Oh, man, I would be extremely embarrassed,’’ Dickson said. ”I don’t even know. That did not even cross my mind. Honestly, I knew I was going to get it, and I’m glad it paid off.”
Twelve tackles in 17 games — hardly stellar statistics for an outside linebacker in the National Football League.
for a linebacker with one hand, these statistics are truly amazing, as
is the player who recorded them, Shaquem Griffin of the Seattle
For those unfamiliar with Shaquem’s story, it
transcends football or any other sport. It is a powerful, poignant, and
inspirational playbook for confronting and tackling disabilities or
adversities with incredible courage, dogged determination, and boundless
Shaquem was born with amniotic-band syndrome, which
affected the normal growth of the fingers on his left hand. At age four,
the excruciating pain became so intolerable that he snuck into the
kitchen one night and attempted to self-amputate the digits on his left
hand with a butcher knife.
The next day, this hand was amputated. Undeterred by the surgery, Shaquem was running in the backyard with his identical-twin brother, Shaquill, the following day with a football tucked between his right hand and the bloody bandage on his left arm, according to Andy Staples of Sports Illustrated TV.
This incident foreshadowed the relentless can-do spirit that Shaquem
would later display on high school, college, and professional football
fields. No surgeon could remove his no-excuse work ethic or iron-clad
will to play sports during the next 19 years, despite the constant
chorus of doubters who told him that his physical impediment would
severely limit his athletic achievement.
In middle school,
Shaquem and Shaquill made a solemn promise to each other: When it came
time for college, they would stick together, according Byron Drahold of
After forging outstanding, multi-sport high school
careers side by side, Shaquem and Shaquilll once again became teammates
at the University of Central Florida. True to his word, Shaquill turned
down several football scholarships including a chance to play on his
dream team, the Miami Hurricanes, so he could play college football with
During his remarkable college career, Shaquem was a
dominant defensive force. He won the 2016 American Athletic Conference
(AAC) Player of the Year award for amassing such statistics as 92
tackles and 11.5 sacks. The following year, his 74 tackles and seven
sacks helped to propel the UCF Knights to an undefeated season. During
his final year at UCF, he was named the 2018 Peach Bowl Defensive MVP,
an All-American, and the AAC Defensive Player of the Year.
Still, the doubters weren’t convinced that he could advance to the big leagues.
a game against the Houston Cougars in 2016, Shaquem had to play with a
cast on his broken right hand, which constricted the movement of his
fingers. Still, he made 14 tackles, sacked the opposing quarterback
twice, recovered a fumble, and picked off a pass that had caromed off a
″ I’ve played football one-handed. I’ve played
football with no hands,” he emphasized after the game. ” I’m waiting
for someone to say: ‘You can’t do it.’ ” – – play professional football,
After graduation, Shaquem was a late invitee
to the NFL-draft combine, a test for undrafted hopefuls. His
extraordinary showing included performing 20 reps in the bench press
while wearing a prosthesis and completing the 40-yard dash in 4.38
seconds, the fastest time for a linebacker since the NFL has released
In April 2018, Shaquem became one of 253 NFL
draftees from a pool of more than 16,000 NCAA-eligible players. He was
picked in the fifth round by the Seattle Seahawks, allowing him to once
again play alongside Shaquill, now a second-year cornerback on the team.
Nagy, former Seahawks scout, had been keeping an eye on Shaquem since
he began scouting Shaquill. He remembers clearly what he saw on a
sweltering August afternoon in Orlando that convinced him to draft
Shaquem, he told John Boyle of SEAHAWKS.COM. After a grueling practice,
Shaquem spotted an offensive lineman who was struggling as he was
leaving the field. He knelt next to his teammate, let him rest on his
shoulder, and held him.
“You saw it, you saw the leadership, you saw the type of teammate he
was … you saw the energy he practiced with. That’s all I needed to
see, ” explained Nagy.
During the 2018 NFL season, Shaquem
started only one game as a replacement for an injured teammate. He made
three tackles and played in 41 defensive snaps. He spent the remaining
games as an outside linebacker on special teams, logging only nine more
Shaquem received mixed reviews on his rookie season.
pundits characterized his performance as sub-par and unproductive, “not
good at getting bunches of snaps . . . and very bad in pass coverage,”
believes Lee Vowell of 12thManRising.com.
But Seahawks’ coach Pete Carroll is more optimistic. “We threw him in there so early . . . for anybody coming off the big transition that he was making (from college to professional football and from defensive back to pass rusher) . . . . He’s way better schooled now than he was earlier,” he told SEAHAWKS.COM.
Fair assessment? Maybe, from the perspective of professional football.
in the larger game of life, there are other more authentic and
meaningful measures of success. And, for this football fan, Shaquem’s
actions off the field make him a true champion.
Shaquem used his NFL platform to encourage and inspire young athletes across the country and around the world.
seven tackles powered the Seahawks’ defense in defeating the Oakland
Raiders in their final 2018 preseason game. Well after 11 o’clock that
night, Shaquem walked back on the field of a nearly empty stadium and
was swarmed for hugs and photos by 30 young campers from NubAbility
Athletics, a non-profit group that encourages, inspires, and instructs
“limb-different” youth by “getting them out of the stands and onto the
playing field,” according to Boyle. “He wasn’t just another adult
telling those kids that they can accomplish anything – – he was living,
breathing proof of it,” explained executive director Sheila Trznadel.
also met with “limb-different” children during the regular season at
games and practices in Seattle as well as in cities where the Seahawks
played on the road.
Three year-old Blake Venier of Gibralter,
Mich., was born without a left hand. Every time Shaquem’s Gillette
commercial (discussed later in this article) airs on television, he
points to the screen and insists: “I want to play with him.”
wish hasn’t come true yet. But, thanks to his grandmother and Seahawks’
staff, he got the next best thing. On the sidelines before a
Seahawks-Lions game, Blake and Shaquem bumped fists with their right
hands. This fist bump helped to erase the sadness that Blake felt after a
playmate warned other kids to “keep away from the monster, the boy with
no hand,” as reported by Mike Vorel of the Seattle Times.
Similar inspiring stories about Shaquem’s impact on “limb-different” children and adults were repeated across the country last season and continue into the post-season.
In mid-February, Shaquem was given true rock-star treatment at Brooks
Rehabilitation’s annual Celebrate Independence 2019 event in
Among the many excited fans of all ages and abilities who met their
hero at the event was seven year-old Shepherd Reavis who, like Shaquem,
was born with amniotic-band syndrome that affected his left arm. Too
excited to sleep the night before, Shepherd nervously gave his idol a
football marked with his handprints and a message: “Thank you for being a
great example ! Your biggest fan . . . Shepherd.”
million-dollar smile, Shaquem then scooped up and held his young fan, a
heart-melting moment captured in a photo that immediately went viral,
according to PEOPLE.com.
Wherever he goes, Shaquem’s message is
the same: “For those of you who have dreams and aspirations to be great
in life, do not let negativity dictate who you’re going to become.” Work
hard. Give it your all. Don’t quit when times get tough. Eventually,
you can achieve anything, Shaquem told SEAHAWKS.COM.
As a disabled person for more than 25 years due to severe rheumatoid arthritis, I was immediately drawn to Shaquem’s story.
disabilities are far less severe than the life-long loss of a vital
body part. But I can relate to the difficult emotional challenges that
all disabled persons experience to varying degrees: anger, acrimony,
resentment, self-loathing, a diminished sense of self-esteem and
It’s so easy (and understandable) to be consumed with
self-pity, to let your disability define you, and to fall into that
dark hole where your disability can become a convenient cop-out. In this
dark hole, you can readily absolve yourself from taking the initiative
and mustering the will to overcome obstacles that can ultimately lead to
a more productive, purposeful, albeit imperfect life.
Shaquem for not allowing himself to fall into that dark hole, starting
in pre-school. I admire his guts, grit, sweat, mental toughness, and
grueling persistence that collectively compensate – – I strongly believe
– – for his missing left hand.
“It’s not a deformity unless you make it one. You’re not disabled
unless you say: ′ I’m disabled, ′ ” Shaquem often emphasizes. Is there
more powerful proof of the axiom: “mind over matter?”
Thankfully, Shaquem’s compelling story has now reached well beyond football and athletic circles.
fall, Nike included Shaquem in its special 30th anniversary celebration
of its signature slogan, “Just Do It.” The text of Shaquem’s
advertisement asks: “Who would ever think a kid like me would go pro?
Gillette recently redefined its long-running “The Best a Man
Can Get” campaign by introducing a new series of advertisements with
the tagline, “Your Best Never Comes Easy.” The first advertisement of
this campaign focuses on the Griffin family with father, Terry, teaching
Shaquem and Shaquill to play football and to shave, according to Chris
Jasurek of The Epoch Times.
At this point, no one knows what
Shaquem’s football future will look like: Will he survive a second
season or forge a Hall of Fame career?
But a few things are
already certain. During his young life, he has become a tireless
advocate and charismatic role model, proving that those who are
physically “different” are no longer doomed to spend their lives sitting
on the sidelines.
And Shaquem ” will keep doing what he does – – running, tackling, smiling, serving,” believes Vorel.
could have played the victim card, spending his life seeking sympathy
and lamenting about what he couldn’t do. Instead, he chose to “Just Do
It” – – and he did.Norine P. Bacigalupo, an avid sports fan, taught journalism at Suffolk University in Boston for 28 years.
If it was the drafting of Shaquem Griffin that drew gasps of joy from
Seahawks’ front office personnel and fans alike, it was the selection
of tight end Will Dissly that allowed those in the team’s war room to
Recall that the Seahawks initially passed on Griffin with the 120th
pick in the fourth round when many figured the time had finally come
for Seattle to draft him to instead take Dissly, a tight end from
Washington and a player the team feels can play a vital part in reviving
its running game with his in-line blocking.
taking defensive end Rasheem Green at 79 with a pick they got in a
trade, and without a third-round pick of their own (it had been sent to
Houston as part of the Duane Brown deal), the Seahawks had to wait for
40 more picks to pass before they could take Dissly, who they later said
was a player they regarded as pretty much a must-have (Seattle then
took Griffin at 141).
“We just held our breath all the way through the draft in hopes that we would get him,’’ coach Pete Carroll said Saturday. “In the draft, there’s a lot of excitement because you anticipate and you hope, and he made it to us.’’
And nine days into training camp, Carroll says the Seahawks are
seeing in Dissly exactly what made him such a priority in the first
With prospective starting tight end Ed Dickson remaining on the
Non-Football Injury list, Dissly has generally been the backup tight end
behind Nick Vannett.
The Seahawks saw some early signs of what they hoped for out of Dissly during the offseason program. But since blocking is expected to be his forte — as Carroll said, “we really wanted his line of scrimmage stuff’’ — it wasn’t until the team put on pads after the first week of camp that Seattle could really get a sense of what it has in Dissly.
Dissly’s first impression, the Seahawks hope, becomes a lasting one.
“The first six days that we’ve had him in pads, he’s shown nothing
but a good savvy, a good understanding and a good mentality for it,’’
Carroll said. “(He’s) 270 pounds, he’s strong and physical.’’
Dissly on Saturday also showed off his hands on catches from Russell
Wilson on two straight plays — one a short reception on third down to
keep a drive alive and then a 15-yarder to set up a touchdown.
Each was evidence of what the team
thinks could be more immediate receiving impact out of Dissly than his
reputation as a blocker — he was called the best blocking tight end
available in the draft by analyst Mike Mayock of the NFL Network — might
“He’s been, in my opinion, one of the stars of camp,’’ Wilson said Saturday. “You know that you expected a guy who is going to work really, really hard and be a really good player, but he keeps showing up. I really, really like how he’s playing.’’
Pretty heady talk for a player who was a backup defensive lineman at
UW less than three years ago before famously switching to tight end
prior to Washington’s bowl game in 2015.
“It’s funny, because you never would have known that,’’ Wilson said
when reminded of Dissly’s relative lack of experience at tight end. “. …
When you think about how good he’s playing right now, well how much
better can he get if he plays tight end for the next 10 years here?’’
Said Dissly when asked about what Wilson had said: “That’s
really cool. Whenever a veteran says that you’re doing good things, your
eyes kind of brighten up a little bit and you get really excited about
what they said.’’
But Dissly knows that nine days of training camp hardly a career makes.
“Definitely no time for that,’’ Dissly said when asked if he’d
allowed himself to take a moment to soak in wearing an NFL uniform.
“We’re in the heart of fall camp. We’re working hard, so no time for
that but it’s cool. I’m really blessed to be given this opportunity and
I’m trying to make the most of it.”
At the moment there seems little doubt Dissly will not only make the
roster but have a key role on Sundays with the Seahawks likely to make
great use of multiple tight-end sets.
“We’re going to need him,’’ Wilson said. “We’re going to need him to step up in a big way.’’
That’s an expectation formed during those anxious moments in April
that haven’t changed in the months since, even if Dissly says all the
team told him is what they usually tell rookie.
“You know, I was just told to come in and compete,’’ he said.
“That’s kind of the whole thing about the Seahawks. You come in and
compete and work really hard and good things can happen.”
SEATTLE — Three running backs were drafted in the first round of the 2018 NFL draft. Over the weekend one of those players won offensive rookie of the year (Saquon Barkley) and another started and scored the only touchdown in the Super Bowl (Sony Michel).
The third, Rashaad Penny of the Seattle Seahawks, had a quiet weekend and a mostly-quiet season.
If you’re looking for a snapshot of Penny’s rookie season with the Seahawks, the last game would do.
In the third quarter of their wild-card loss to the Dallas Cowboys, Penny took a handoff, made a subtle cut in the backfield to get outside and then turned on the jets as he split a pair of defenders on his way to a 28-yard run.
His other three carries gained a net of one yard and he played only five of Seattle’s 55 offensive snaps, the fewest of the four tailbacks who suited up for the Seahawks.
It was that kind of year for Penny, an occasional flash but a lot more inaction. And while his final regular-season numbers weren’t all that bad on their own — 419 yards, two touchdowns and a 4.9 yards-per-carry average that was best among their running backs — Penny’s debut wasn’t what anyone had in mind when Seahawks chose him 27th overall.
To be sure, no one who was paying close attention thought it was a foregone conclusion that Penny would claim the starting job right away. It seemed even less likely when Chris Carson separated himself from the rest of the backfield over the offseason, showing that he was all the way back from the leg injury that cut short his promising rookie season. And it was out of the question entirely by the time Penny missed the final three weeks of training camp with a broken finger that, in coach Pete Carroll’s words, left him “rusty” early in the season.
The bigger disappointment was Penny couldn’t overtake Mike Davis as the clear-cut No. 2. As a result, he averaged about 13 offensive snaps in his 14 games. He played fewer than 10 snaps three times and didn’t play at all in two of them, not counting the two he missed in December with a knee injury.
Comments from Pete Carroll around midseason suggested Penny wasn’t applying himself the way he needed to. That was the impression Carroll left when he said Seattle’s coaches had been pushing Penny and “challenging him to get right.” Carroll seemed more pleased with how Penny, who turned 23 on Sunday, handled the adjustment to the NFL as the season went on.
“He did really well,” Carroll said at his final news conference of the season. “He’s been growing throughout the process. It was a jump for him, like it is for the guys. It’s a jump to be in the limelight, particularly when you’re a No. 1 pick and everyone puts the pressure and expectations on you. There’s a lot going on. You’ve just got to go through it. He’s a young kid.
“[Rookie defensive end] Rasheem Green is 21. I don’t know how old Rashaad is right now, but he’s a young kid too. There’s just so much ahead of these guys. Every day was a learning experience for him and to see what it’s like. They’re not playing behind old guys that have been here for six or eight years or 10 years that can tell them the ropes and all that. They’re learning with new guys. Chris just had his first full season playing. These guys are all learning together and they’re growing well together.”
An underwhelming rookie season is nowhere near enough evidence to write off a high draft pick. The Seahawks have some recent examples, all from the second round. Golden Tate (2010) was benched for what would have been his NFL debut then caught 21 passes that year. Justin Britt (2014) bounced around the offensive line his first two seasons, essentially failing his way from right tackle to left guard to his permanent home at center.
Of course, Christine Michael (2013) never panned out and the jury is still out on Ethan Pocic (2017), two more second-rounders.
It’s too early to tell with Penny, but his potential was never more evident than when he rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries when Carson was sidelined against the Rams in November. There were other flashes, like his 30-yard run the next week against Green Bay when he cut back all the way across the field and covered 82.3 yards of actual distance, according to Next Gen Stats.
Penny, listed at 220 pounds, told The Seattle Times in December he started to eat better as the season went on. He lost weight and regained the burst that he had in training camp. His progression wasn’t lost on offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer.
“Huge strides,” Schottenheimer said of Penny on Dec. 20. “Learning the playbook, No. 1, was a challenge for him coming and learning all of the different things that we do. They were very, not simple, but they were very two-back oriented at San Diego State so that was a big thing. We’ve always known he’s talented. I think people think it’s just going to turn on automatically for him. It doesn’t, especially when you’re playing multiple guys. Just the look in his eye now, the confidence even when he’s rehabbing and in meetings when I’m sitting there and I’m talking to him or I’m asking him a question. There’s a quiet confidence where maybe in early August or even early October, I’d ask him a question and he’d have to think about it or he’d look at me and now he just spits the answer out. It just comes with the maturation process of a rookie.”
It isn’t hard to imagine Penny factoring more into the offense next season. Davis, who made about $1.5 million in 2018, is one of the team’s 14 unrestricted free agents and figures to find a better opportunity elsewhere than what the Seahawks will be willing to give him. They’ll want to find out what they have in Penny, for one thing, and they won’t need a veteran tailback as insurance as much as they did this past offseason when they weren’t quite sure how Carson would come back from his injury.
Carroll may have had that eventuality in the back of his mind when he looked ahead to a “one-two punch” at running back next season — i.e. Carson and Penny — before amending his comment.
It’s entirely fair to think the Seahawks erred in drafting Penny as highly as they did as opposed to addressing a position of greater need such as defensive end, though the reasoning was understandable at the time. And you can question the wisdom in drafting any running back that high given how the middle and later rounds have yielded plenty of productive ones, including Carson, a seventh-rounder.
Either way, Penny is still an intriguing prospect, one the Seahawks figure to ask more of in Year 2 than they did during his mostly quiet rookie season.
“Just be with us again,” Carroll said when asked what Penny needs to do be more of a factor in 2019, “go through the whole offseason, hope for good health and just compete. He’s going to be really good. He showed it again the other night [against Dallas]. He’s going to be a really good player for us. It gives us a tremendous one-two punch — one-two-three punch. We’ve got combinations to throw at you with our guys. The competition, we’ll play that out.”
The fifth day following the Super Bowl, the fifth day of the league’s after-season waiver period, is the trigger date for guarantees in some Seattle players’ contracts for the ensuing year.
Friday Kam Chancellor got $5.2 million of his $10 million Seahawks salary for 2019 guaranteed (yes, he’s still on the roster because he hasn’t retired despite his career-ending neck injury in 2017). Chancellor had a clause in the extension the four-time Pro Bowl safety signed in August 2017, months before he injured his neck. It guaranteed him $5.2 million for 2019 in the event of injury.
That guarantee, and the one for $6.8 million against injury he received this time last year, are why Chancellor has not officially retired. He still has one more year after this one remaining on that legacy contract he signed almost two years ago, one that still stings the Seahawks and their salary cap. If he retires, he forfeits those guarantees.
That’s the danger of agreeing to a multiyear extension with upfront cash to a rugged veteran who had a history of injuries. Even when he was that team’s soul.
Chancellor sustained a nerve injury in his neck Nov. 9, 2017, making a tackle late in a win at Arizona. That was three months and a week after Chancellor signed an extension through the 2020 season that included $25 million guaranteed against injury.
That deal and paying a guy who can’t play for them is part of why the Seahawks played hardball and did not give three-time All-Pro Earl Thomas the richest deal for a safety in the league last offseason and preseason. Then the 29-year-old broke his leg for the second time in three years, in late September in another win at Arizona. Thomas is on his way to free agency next month. His Seahawks’ contract is expiring instead of it getting extended or him getting traded, as he wanted throughout 2018.
Chancellor’s salary-cap charge for 2019 is scheduled to be $13 million, including prorated bonuses. If the Seahawks released him before June 1 they would save $2.3 million of that $13 million against their cap and would have a $2.5 million cap charge for him in 2020. The $2.5 million is the prorated amount of the signing bonus that would remain on Chancellor’s contract.
If the Seahawks release him after June 1 they’d save $4.8 million against their cap this year.
It’s basically a choice of whether the Seahawks want to save $2.5 million against their cap this year, or next.
They are in the best cap shape they’ve been in for years. They had $52.7 million in cap space as of Friday, eighth-most in the league, according to overthecap.com.
Other Seahawks getting guaranteed cash for 2019 on Friday: wide receiver Tyler Lockett ($3,907,000, from the extension he signed last summer), center Justin Britt ($2.25 million), safety Bradley McDougald ($1 million) and left tackle Duane Brown ($1.75 million). All are central to the team’s plans and fortunes in 2019.
Former agent Joel Corry, who writes on salary-cap issues for CBS Sports, noted Friday the Seahawks’ date for vesting guarantees in their contracts is the earliest in the league. Most happen in March, in the days after the new league year begins.
The money Chancellor, Lockett, Britt, McDougald and Brown got Friday were all expected guarantees. After all, the Seahawks wrote them into each player’s contract.
The unexpected Seahawks guarantee Friday?
Yes, a live Seahawks snow cam guaranteed we all could see every flake of snow falling at team headquarters, Crystal Mountain and Stevens Pass style. It was mounted on a upper-floor window of the Virginia Mason Athletic Center in Renton, facing south overlooking the Seahawks’ practice fields along Lake Washington.
That’s how big an event the much-hyped Seattle Snowpocalypse was already Friday afternoon. It was not even one hour after the snow we’ve been hearing about here all week began falling on the Seattle-Tacoma area.
Even Lockett, a native of Tulsa, Okla., who played his college football at Kansas State, was impressed: Gregg Bell is the Seahawks and NFL writer for The News Tribune. In January 2019 he was named the Washington state sportswriter of the year by the National Sports Media Association. He started covering the NFL in 2002 as the Oakland Raiders beat writer for The Sacramento Bee. The Ohio native began covering the Seahawks in their first Super Bowl season of 2005. In a prior life he graduated from West Point and served as a tactical intelligence officer in the U.S. Army, so he may ask you to drop and give him 10.
The Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers are two sides of the same coin that appear to be moving in different directions but one thing they have in common at the moment is outspoken wide receivers who have been given free rein to express themselves.
With the Steelers trade saga involving wide receiver Antonio Brown hitting week one million and one, the situation has reached peak drama — the Seahawks know a little something about peak drama. With a deal nearly done — depending on who you believe — Brown was seemingly on his way to the Buffalo Bills before talks broke down. Some have stated Brown killed the trade by not wanting to go to Buffalo; others have reported no trade was ever close and talks between the Steelers and Bills broke down days ago.
Whatever the situation, Seahawks wide receiver Doug Baldwin is tired of it and he brought a simple message where Antonio Brown was concerned on Friday.
“Free AB!” Baldwin tweeted with a fist emoji.
Phrasing the situation as Brown needing to be set free is an interesting choice considering the circus that surrounds all parties at the moment in Pittsburgh. But consider a player’s perspective. From all accounts, this situation began when quarterback Ben Roethlisberger and Brown’s relationship became untenable due to friction over Roethlisberger’s needling. The organization clearly chose their elder franchise quarterback over a receiver who coincidentally is no spring chicken himself.
And then at the last second, they tried to ship him off to Buffalo with better options on the table.
Of course, Brown would do everything in his power not to go to a team/situation he doesn’t want and why would Baldwin not see it was Browns right to do so?
The question for the Steelers now will be can they get the value back following this latest calamity? What will be the price of a possible last hour decision to move Brown to Buffalo gone awry especially with the perception — right or wrong — that Brown nixed the deal?
For right now, one thing is certain. Despite Baldwin’s pleas for Brown’s emancipation from the Steelers, the Seahawks aren’t interested. According to CBS Sports Jason LaCanfora, the Seahawks kicked the tires around internally on acquiring Brown early in the process but decided against getting into the scrum. Even if the price is lowered, it’s still hard to see them getting into the mix due to having only four draft picks. Their second, sixth and seventh-round draft picks are all missing. Besides, the Seahawks have Baldwin and wide receiver Tyler Lockett who fill the same role as Brown. The money to pay Brown would likely be better spent elsewhere unless they plan to release or trade Baldwin.
For now, the Seahawks and Baldwin sit from afar watching a disaster movie play out in a similar fashion to their own retooling from 2018. Except for all the criticism the Seahawks received, their problems always stayed in-house until the players in question left or were clearly leaving. So while the Seahawks struggled to trade Richard Sherman and Earl Thomas and failed to do so, both soldiered through final seasons that only ended because of injury not because of a public catastrophe like Brown. In fact, the Seahawks even successfully reintegrated Thomas back into their system after a lengthy, messy holdout.
Certainly, the Seahawks have not been perfect and it would be only the greatest of stretches to suggest they’ve been without drama. Earl Thomas’ middle finger says hello. But what they’ve been without unequivocally is a player so fed up with his situation/coaching staff/teammate he would sit out the final game of the regular season not to mention have a player who sat out the whole season. Le’Veon Bell waves vigorously at the camera
So while the Seahawks and Steelers both let their players express themselves like Baldwin’s doing now or Brown has done whenever he likes; the Seahawks have cultivated an atmosphere where they can come back together if any bickering caused by that self-expression and/or strain of business relations occurs.
Perhaps, that’s the freedom Baldwin wants Brown to find. Unfortunately, there’s only one place to find it and they’re not open for business when it comes to an Antonio Brown trade. Or maybe he just wants him to be able to leave Pittsburgh.
Some things are metaphorical and some things are not and sometimes, it’s both.
Quarterbacks get paid, mid-tier quarterbacks get paid a lot and elite quarterbacks get paid a lot and without any questions. Yet here we are with Russell Wilson quietly having only one year left on his contract and entering what can only be called a lame-duck year in 2019. There is no doubting Wilson’s bonafides; he has been to the playoffs multiple times, he has won a Super Bowl, he has been in the MVP discussion on an annual basis and he’s done it despite limitations around him offensively, from offensive line to receivers to scheme.
But according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on the Pick Six Podcast Friday (it’s a daily NFL show, you can hear the full interview below and you should probably subscribe right here), there has been zero contact between Wilson’s camp and the Seahawks as it relates to an extension.
This doesn’t happen. If a stud quarterback under the age of 35 is heading into the final year of his deal, he should be getting an extension. And it begs the question as to whether the Seahawks and Wilson might be headed towards some kind of divorce or even just an aggressive game of three-way chicken that involves the quarterback, the team and the upcoming CBA (more on that factor in a second).
“All offseason, while the Falcons were falling all over themselves to sign Matt Ryan and the Packers were falling all over themselves to sign Aaron Rodgers […] and Seattle not making any attempt to get ahead of Atlanta or Green Bay, to say nothing of now you’ve got [Ben] Roethlisberger coming back up,” La Canfora said. “It is what it is — these salaries continue to grow exponentially. What is Russell, what is he worth? And if they come to you with $160 [million] for four [years], you’re sitting there thinking, well, they’d have to franchise me the first time for this and the second time for that and the third time for this and that point we’re in a new CBA and who even knows what’s going on.
“If Kirk Cousins wins a Super Bowl, he’s going to make $90 million in three years. That’s Kirk Cousins, who’s never won a playoff game and is what, 4-24 against winning teams. So what is Russell Wilson worth on the open market?”
The answer is like $35 million per year at the absolute bottom. It might be more. If Wilson was released right now (that’s a complete hypothetical, obviously, because it’s not happening), he would be heavily pursued by a horde of teams, willing to give him something upwards of $200 million for five years. That sounds insane, but it’s not: the Packers had control over Aaron Rodgers for multiple seasons and extended him with a deal that pays the quarterback $134 million over four years. Cousins got $84 million fully guaranteed over three years.
Wilson would get paid $40 million per year by some team if he hit the open market, completely unregulated. Could that happen? Yes it could. If the Seahawks don’t work out an extension with Wilson before the end of next season, they’ll be forced to use the franchise tag on the quarterback.
“I’ve been trying to tell people, this is not a slam dunk. This is going to be much more interesting and intriguing dance than anybody really giving it credit for unless you’re really paying attention,” La Canfora continued. “The Seahawks, at the 2019 combine, if they’re not falling all over themselves to re-sign Russell Wilson then they might as well be trying to trade him. Because franchising him for two years and losing him, you put a very finite window on your chance to win and he’s never going to have as much trade value now as he would at any other time.
“There’s not a ton of teams who need quarterbacks, I get it. But I’m sure Ciara would be cool living on South Beach too.”
JLC was referencing a report/some buzz from Colin Cowherd on his Fox Sports radio show this past week where he threw out that he’s hearing entertainment agents in Los Angeles chatter about the long-term future of Wilson and his wife and where they want to live in relation to where he plays football.
The gist of what Cowherd hears is that Ciara would love to live in New York and that these agents see the possibility of the Giants making some deal for Wilson in order to bring the quarterback to New York to replace Eli Manning once his run is up.
It’s not THAT crazy. La Canfora said Friday if the Seahawks aren’t making a move on a contract extension this offseason — like, next week — they might want to consider the possibility of putting Wilson on the trade block.
“If you’re Russell Wilson, you don’t have to do a darned thing. If Joe Flacco and Kirk Cousins gambled on themselves and won, what might this guy bring on the open market?” La Canfora asked. “If you go back to the trade that the Bears made before the season for a pass rusher, not a quarterback, and all they gave up for him plus paying him a record contract. What would teams give up for a quarterback? What was Jay Cutler, two ones back in the day?”
Wilson would command a massive haul in a trade. A MVP-caliber, Super Bowl-winning, 31-year-old quarterback who takes immaculate care of his body and, despite his running skills, makes sure not to take too many shots? We’re talking three first-round picks here.
There would be multiple teams with aging quarterbacks interested in Wilson if he was on the block or the open market. Feel free to include the Patriots, Saints, Steelers and Chargers if we’re talking about a post-2019 situation (no know KNOWS what will happen with Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger and Phillip Rivers after any given season, that’s just the nature of time).
Built into this discussion is also the matter of the new CBA. As JLC and I noted in the podcast (again, listen above), Wilson might well be timing his situation with the implementation of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The 2021 season could very well be taking place under a new labor deal. Maybe that deal calls for quarterbacks to get 25 percent of the salary cap. Maybe it removes the ability of the Seahawks to franchise tag Wilson multiple times.
If the latter, it would mean that Wilson, after playing the 2020 season under the tag, would be a completely unrestricted free agent in the first year following new television deals, which would likely mean the first year with the cap spiking. He could get $50 million per year on the open market at that point on a three-year deal and two years removed from right now, there could be several more quarterback openings on the market.
Maybe he and his agents even timed his deal — the one he’s playing under right now — with the new CBA, understanding that Russell could potentially be the beneficiary of a major market shift if they planned everything at the right stages. It’s not like Wilson and/or Ciara are going to be hurting for money in the next three years. Russell could retire right now and be set for life with the money he’s made through football and endorsements.
Perhaps all of this goes away with a quick extension from the Seahawks and Wilson’s camp at the combine. But as noted earlier, these two sides haven’t been talking contract for quite some time now. Rumors of Wilson departing Seattle via trade have been percolating for almost a full calendar year.
If nothing happens in the near future, the drumbeat is only going to get louder, because it will become clear Wilson is willing to bet on himself and play out the string while seeing what the future holds with the open market and labor rules. This has quietly been a huge NFL story for months. That won’t stop without a new deal, except for the quiet part going away.
The Seahawks may have their replacement for K.J. Wright, if they need one.
But first, they have to wait out a prison sentencing.
Seattle has agreed to re-sign veteran linebacker Mychal Kendricks. The former Super Bowl starter for Philadelphia started last season for the injured Wright as the Seahawks’ weakside linebacker—when Kendricks wasn’t suspended, or hurt, that is.
Wednesday’s deal on the first day of the new league year is worth “about $4 million,” according to NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo.
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ESPN reported the total, with incentive bonuses, could max out at $5.3 million. At that money, the Seahawks may not be in the market for Wright. He could command $5 million or more himself in free agency.
Kendricks’ sentencing in federal court in Pennsylvania for insider trading was postponed from Jan. 25 to April 4.
His new contract is unlikely to have much money guaranteed, a risk-free fall-back for the Seahawks in case he can’t play in 2019.
Wright, the team’s Pro Bowl veteran, officially became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on Wednesday. Coach Pete Carroll has said the Seahawks have been working on re-signing Wright. But the market for Wright, who turns 30 in July, could rise higher than the patient Seahawks want to spend, even in the now-secondary waves of NFL free agency.
Before Kendricks’ sentencing hearing got postponed from January, the team was going to know whether he was getting months or years in prison—or perhaps a suspended sentence and no time in jail—before they made a definitive contract offer to Wright.
Sentencing guidelines in federal court in the eastern Pennsylvania suggest 2 1/2 years for Kendricks’ crime. Some there believe he will strike a plea bargain with prosecutors.
It’s possible the Seahawks have through the NFL and Kendricks’ attorneys a read on a likely length and scope of Kendricks’ punishment for the crime to which he admitted last summer.
The U.S. attorney for the eastern district of Pennsylvania charged Kendricks and a bank analyst conspired in a scheme from the summer of 2014 to spring of 2015. The alleged plot gave Kendricks non-public securities information on future investment-bank mergers.
Kendricks admitted last summer in a statement he released through his then-Cleveland Browns that he participated in the scheme.
The Browns subsequently released him without Kendricks playing a regular-season game for them.
The Seahawks signed him the following month, on Sept. 14. That was weeks after Wright had knee surgery, last August. It was also one game after rookie Shaquem Griffin struggled as Wright’s’ fill-in at weakside linebacker, in the opening loss at Denver.
While Wright’s knee issue lingered into November, Kendricks played in four games for Seattle last season. His first of three starts for the Seahawks came in week three against Dallas.
He said he was “blessed” to be playing football again.
He would have started 10 of the 11 games Wright missed in 2018. But Kendricks served an eight-game NFL suspension for the insider trading, from the beginning of October into December. Upon his return he injured his knee and leg starting a game against Minnesota. That put him on injured reserve and required surgery.
Carroll said after Kendricks went on injured reserve the Seahawks wanted to re-sign him for 2019.
“It’s been such a difficult season for Mike. My heart goes out to him,” Carroll said Dec. 12. “He wants to be a part of this thing so badly. But he doesn’t get to this time around. We’ll look forward to getting him back next time and keeping him with us.”
Wednesday’s agreement shows the Seahawks have faith in Kendricks’ recovery from the knee and leg injuries.
They seem to have faith in his dealings with the criminal-justice system in Pennsylvania, too.