Yesterday afternoon, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reported that the Seattle Seahawks had signed former professional basketball player Darren Fells to a three-year deal. For those of you who don't know who Fells is, he's the brother to New England Patriots tight end Daniel Fells and he last played football in high school.
This makes the length of the contract a bit surprising, but general manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll are definitely known for thinking outside the box. This signing isn't the first, nor the last unconventional move they will make during their tenure as head honchos in Seattle.
According to Doug Farrar of Yahoo! Sports, Fells was in town to simply meet with the Seahawks in anticipation of a Pro Day that he hadn't yet announced. However, Seattle wouldn't let the 6'7" 280-pound specimen out the door without a contract. No numbers have been officially announced at this point, but the contract gurus over at Spotrac believe it will total out at $1.485 million:
@tysonnfl Nothing. My guess would be the base 3 year $1.485M though.— Spotrac.com (@spotrac) March 6, 2013
A three-year deal at $1.485 million is pretty standard for an undrafted player who is virtually unknown. And honestly, money shouldn't be his concern because $495,000 is most certainly a pay increase from what he was making as a member of the Libertad Sunchales basketball team in Argentina.
Fells' main focus from now until the beginning of the season should be to prove his value as a football player, not an athlete. Over the past few years we have seen a multitude of college basketball players try and make the leap to the NFL without success. Not everyone is lucky enough to be Jimmy Graham or Antonio Gates, some turn out to be more like Fendi Onobun and Les Brown.
That's the gamble of signing a player of Fells' nature; the Seahawks have to trust what they saw on his basketball tape because that's the only thing they have to go off of. While watching his performances, it's likely they were looking for certain skill sets that would translate over to the NFL. Some of the most common things to look for would be the way he uses his body to get position, and the way he explodes with the ball in his hands etc.
Based on the video above, you can see Fells does both of those things very well. Moreover, he seemingly has a good vertical jump considering his rebounding ability and defensive skills, which would make him an immediate threat in Seattle's passing game. Yet all of that comes under the assumption that he will develop into a strong route runner that can create separation as he comes out of his breaks.
Even the tallest of guys are totally useless if they can't get open or run the proper route. Playing tight end in the NFL goes way beyond being the most athletically gifted player, it requires dedication to be a well-rounded player that can both block and catch passes.
So how Fells can become that well-rounded player and where does he fit into Seattle's plans as we look into our crystal ball?
The answer to the first question is rather easy, he should acquaint himself with Russell Wilson and not leave his side for the next six months. Gaining a rapport with Seattle's most valuable commodity will not only help him learn the Seahawks offense, but it will teach him a work ethic that few others have.
Wilson is a true student of the game—he goes above and beyond whether it's in the classroom or the weight room. It's not a coincidence that wide receiver Golden Tate and Wilson are spending the offseason working out together. The former golden domer knows being on the same page with his quarterback will help him take that next step in becoming an elite player.
As to where Fells fits in, the answer to that question isn't quite as clear. When the 'Hawks bought in Evan Moore last year, I feel like they envisioned him as a player who would be the perfect compliment to Zach Miller. He wasn't a good blocker, but that didn't matter because that wasn't his role. He left the blocking to Miller and Anthony McCoy. His primary duty was to work the middle of the field and put stress on the defense up the seam.
Unfortunately for Seattle, Moore was never able to grasp the offense and hold onto the football. His snaps varied from week-to-week and he only played consistently in blowout situations toward the end of the season. And even then he wasn't able to come through when called upon.
Therefore, Schneider and Carroll are still looking for a tight end to fill that roll, and Fells just may be able to do it. He will have an entire offseason to prepare for the 2013 season, not to mention the fact that he may end up being less injury prone than Moore.
Even though there is still a lot to learn about this former international basketball star, Seattle's investment involves more reward than risk at this point. With an abundance in free cap space, a league minimal deal is just a blip on its radar regardless of the signing working out or not.