The fifth-year option is not something that comes of all that often for the Seattle Seahawks, who have consistently traded down or out of the first round over the last seven years, but 2019 is an exception. Barring an unexpected trade, the Seahawks will have to make a decision on right tackle Germain Ifedi by May 3 as far as if they want to ensure themselves the right to keep him under team control through 2020. It would seem like an easy choice to retain a former first rounder who has started 44 games in three seasons, but it may be hard to reconcile with the idea that Ifedi is as valuable on the field as the fifth-year option would cost the team.
Seattle’s had the right to exercise Ifedi’s option since December 31, but the deadline doesn’t come for another five months so there’s no reason to rush it. What would it cost? The rule goes that a top-10 pick will be paid the average of the top-10 paid players at their position while picks 11-32 get the average of players ranked 3-25 in salary. Someone smarter than me could calculate what that would mean for a tackle in 2019, but nothing is set in stone and the NFL will announce those figures at a later date; last year, it was revealed on April 20.
In 2018, 20 of 32 fifth-year options were exercised, which was the same figure as 2017. Of course, this gets less likely the further you go down the list: from picks 26-32, only Byron Jones and Damarious Randall had their options picked up, and Randall was traded from the Green Bay Packers to the Cleveland Browns shortly before — the Packers weren’t going to pick it up. Both players are also DBs and both were transitioning to new positions, Jones from safety to corner and Randall from corner to safety. Oddly, that means that Randall is getting paid $9 million next season (if the Browns don’t cut him, which they can as the fifth-year option holds zero guarantees other than injury guarantees) while Jones is only getting about $6 million, and those are the positions they didn’t play, not the positions they did.
Moving back to Ifedi and offensive tackles.
The NFL classifies all offensive linemen the same as far as fifth-year options go and last year that meant a salary of $9.625 million for players picked outside of the top 10. Andrus Peat and D.J. Humphries had their options picked up while Cam Erving, Cedric Ogbuehi, and Laken Tomlinson did not. Erving and Tomlinson are no longer with the teams that drafted them, while Ogbuehi spent most of the season as a healthy scratch for the Cincinnati Bengals. Humphries was a risky one as he missed all of his rookie season plus 11 more games in 2017, but the Arizona Cardinals picked up his option anyway; Humphries played in nine games and then went on injured reserve, so I assume his 2019 salary is now guaranteed just as Blake Bortles’ was for the Jacksonville Jaguars when he got hurt at the end of 2018.
When the third round of the 2015 NFL Draft came about, the Seahawks knew they wanted to take a wide receiver. They traded four picks to the Washington Redskins to take the player they had been eyeing: Tyler Lockett.
The Seahawks can expect big things from Tyler Lockett in 2019. His 2018 season was an unexpected performance that no one will forget. It was a season that was statistically shattering for him.
Prior to the 2018 season, the Seahawks signed Tyler Lockett to a three-year $31.8 million contract extension. To some, this huge extension came as a surprise as Lockett hadn’t had a big season since his rookie year. From the start of 2018, it became clear why Lockett was extended such a generous contract. Lockett had multiple receptions a game; except one, where he only had a single reception. He also had his career-high in single-season yards (965) and touchdowns (10).
Throughout the season, Pro Football Focus was all over grading Lockett’s tremendous performance. Some of his accomplishments in the season include zero drops, the highest grade on Go routes (132.2), 158.3 passer rating when targeted (first among wide receivers), and a career-high overall grade of 80.3.
The Seahawks have always had an underrated receiving corp. They’ve never been considered among the best in the NFL but have made a big enough impact to keep Seattle in the playoffs nearly every year since the Pete Carroll era started. The Seahawks are clearly set up for a good receiving group in 2019 with Lockett, Doug Baldwin, and David Moore. It’s likely they could even target another in the draft to cement depth at the position.
Lockett’s outstanding 2018 season projects good things for him and the Seahawks in 2019. Especially, with a quarterback like Russell Wilson. Hopefully, after seeing Lockett’s production improve, offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer will find ways to implement a more vertical passing game in such situations that can be successful for both Lockett and Wilson.
The Seattle Seahawks are messing with fire in a meaningless game versus the Arizona Cardinals and they just got singed a little bit.
In the first quarter, starting left cornerback Shaquill Griffin was having one of his best run-stopping efforts of the season with five total tackles (two solo tackles) and a tackle for a loss but his good game just wasn’t meant to be or maybe he was playing a bit too hard (no such thing) because he turned his ankle on an early defensive play and had to hobble off the field.
The Seahawks officially announced Griffin as questionable to return with an ankle injury but he has not seen any action since injuring his ankle and that’s probably for the best with a playoff matchup coming next week and the team already having some injuries in the secondary. The Seahawks didn’t even start free safety Tedric Thompson due to his ankle injury despite the fluid in his chest clearing out, which was the injury that held him out week 16 action. They also have Bradley McDougald’s patellar tendonitis in which to monitor. He is playing on Sunday despite being listed as questionable on the injury report.
For now, Griffin remains out of the game as the Seahawks entered halftime in a matchup becoming more meaningless by the second. He’s been replaced by Akeem King who the Arizona Cardinals have been targeting to some success in the first half.
The Seahawks currently lead by a score of 14-13 but that lead may not matter in the end. The Chicago Bears currently hold a 13-3 lead over the Minnesota Vikings and if the Vikings lose, the Seahawks clinch the fifth seed even if the Seahawks loss. The Seahawks can also clinch with a win but none of that is worth losing a starting player over in the first place.
Currently, Griffin is the only player the Seahawks have seen suffer any real damage and according to reports on hand, it shouldn’t be that big of a deal. According to the Seattle Times’ Bob Condotta, Griffin got the ankle taped and looks like he could go back onto the field if he needed to do so. He didn’t even go back to the locker room; so that’s a good sign. The Seahawks may not need him this week but they certainly need him versus Amari Cooper and the Dallas Cowboys.
Head coach Pete Carroll will have the final word on Griffin’s status but they appear to have averted disaster. But if they plan to continue to play their starters, they have another half of football to get through. And since they’re decidedly not blowing out the Cardinals, he can’t pull the starters based onBu the game flow, which means he’s unlikely to pull them at all.
The selection of Ethan Pocic in the second round of the 2017 NFL Draft was supposed to signal a change in the Seattle Seahawks’ philosophy. Following a year in which the Seahawks’ offensive line finished 26th by Football Outsiders, Seattle drafted a lineman in Pocic who was less explosive than their previous standards, and didn’t hit on any of the existing thresholds.
However, Pocic was also a known quantity. He was coming from a national powerhouse in LSU and he had pedigree, being named all-conference twice and All-American once. Plus, he was versatile, having started 27 games at center, nine at right guard and one at right tackle in college. With the Seahawks, his career began well enough, as Pocic started 11 games as a rookie. But following the conclusion of his rookie year, offensive line coach Tom Cable was fired, and a new coach in Mike Solari and a new system was on its way in.
To prepare for the change in scheme, Pocic bulked up, gaining a reported 20 pounds over the offseason. He also spent time at the OL Masterminds summit, working in the classroom and on the field with some of the game’s best linemen. And with D.J. Fluker suffering an injury that kept him out of the first two games of the 2018 season, Pocic began the year as a starter, before ceding his spot to Fluker upon his return.
As Fluker was set to miss Week 10 through another injury, it was presumed Pocic would step back into the starting lineup. But, less than an hour before kickoff, GM John Schneider announced it would be Jordan Simmons, not Pocic, starting in Fluker’s place. The reasoning, per Schneider, was Simmons being a better scheme fit.
The decision to start Simmons came as a surprise for a number of reasons. Pocic had previously started this season and had changed his body to be a fit for the scheme. Simmons was questionable coming into Week 10 with a calf injury. And, he is a former UDFA who, in his second season, was just claimed off waivers in September. All of that adds up to be a damning indictment of Pocic’s place on the roster.
But wouldn’t you know it, against Aaron Donald, Michael Brockers and Ndamukong Suh, Simmons justified the decision, playing well in his first NFL start. He anchored well in 1-on-1s on numerous occasions and helped Seattle to a massive performance on the ground. Following the Seahawks’ loss, Carroll singled him out during his post-game press conference for his performance. (Carroll also gave a slightly different reason for Simmons’ start, saying “We wanted to make sure we had a big guy in there, a solid guy who could hold up against their guys.”)
So now, Pocic finds himself in a strange spot on Seattle’s roster. He isn’t the immediate backup at guard, and was even inactive in Week 9 in favor of Joey Hunt. Offensive line guru Brandon Thorn has consistently stated he believes center to be Pocic’s best position, but that doesn’t help him either; the earliest the Seahawks can get out of Justin Britt’s deal is following the 2019 season.
Pocic is perhaps without a role on Seattle’s 2018 roster, but at the very least, he has time on his side. His rookie contract runs through the 2020 season, and this offseason showed he’s willing to put in the work to fit Solari’s system. The Seahawks may seek to trade the former day two selection in the coming offseason but for now, he’ll ride out 2018 as the fourth or fifth guard on an offensive line that’s (for the most part) come together.
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.