At the NFL Scouting Combine, Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider made it known that the organization’s biggest offseason priorities were to re-sign defensive end Michael Bennett and wide receiver Golden Tate.
This was no surprise based on the fact Bennett and Tate were the most productive Seahawks at their respective positions. Bennett led the team in quarterback sacks, quarterback hits and quarterback hurries. Tate, on the other hand, led the team in targets, receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.
For their efforts, both players were handsomely rewarded with long-term contract extensions. The only difference was one player re-signed with the Seahawks, and the other left the Pacific Northwest for the Motor City.
As we all know by now, Bennett was the one who stayed in Seattle, and Tate was the one who headed east for Detroit.
According to Tate, he had an opportunity to stay with the Seahawks, but their final offer was “laughable.” Here’s what the second-round pick out of Notre Dame told the Bob and Groz Show on March 18th:
I didn't mean a 40 percent discount. I’m going to earn in one year at Detroit what Seattle was going to pay me for two years. Seattle offered numbers that were laughable. I thought, 'I've given you everything and this is what you give me?’
It’s hard to know what the Seahawks' offer to Tate was, yet it’s clear he was unimpressed. Now, Seattle has to move on and figure out how it is going to replace his production. Will Doug Baldwin emerge as the team’s No. 1 receiver, or will Percy Harvin stay healthy and become the threat he has shown he can be in the past?
As this point, no one really knows. Yet, we can analyze how Tate's loss will affect the Seahawks and examine which players will see an uptick in production because of his departure.
Even though the draft is still a little less than two months away, odds are Baldwin’s production skyrockets because of Tate’s departure. Let’s not forget, he became the first undrafted rookie free agent in league history to lead his team in receptions and receiving yards since the AFL-NFL merger.
During his rookie season, he tallied 788 yards receiving on 51 receptions and scored four touchdowns. No, he hasn’t topped his rookie totals since, but he came extremely close in 2013. On 445 pass routes, Baldwin averaged 15.6 yards per catch, amassed 778 yards receiving and scored five touchdowns.
Furthermore, the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) awarded Baldwin a plus-11 overall rating. Over the course of 16 regular-season games, he recorded 10 positively graded games and finished the season as the 22nd-best receiver in the NFL.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Baldwin’s game, the fourth-year pass-catcher earned high marks from PFF thanks in large part to his sure-handed nature and route-running ability.
Matt Miller of Bleacher Report spoke highly of the 25-year-old wideout when he evaluated his skill set for B/R NFL 1000. Miller believes Baldwin is the 39th-best receiver in the league and gave him an 83/100 grade:
From Week 1 all the way through the Super Bowl, Doug Baldwin (5’10”, 189 lbs, three seasons) proved himself as a consistent threat for the Seattle offense. In a run-heavy offense, Baldwin didn’t see as many targets as most, but after evaluating those throws, you see his consistency. Over the middle, he’s special, showing strong hands and good concentration. His few drops were more an issue of catch radius and reach than poor hands.
Baldwin shows good quickness and cutting ability on routes over the middle and when working the intermediate flats. As a deep-ball route-runner, he is more limited due to a lack of height, length and speed. His best route is, without question, a shallow dig into the heart of the defense.
As far as Harvin goes, he arguably has one of the highest ceilings of any wide receiver in the NFL. However, as I mentioned above, there are major red flags concerning his health. In five seasons, he has missed 25 games total. It’s hard to be an impactful player when you’re constantly on the sidelines.
Nonetheless, there’s a reason he’s scheduled to make $13.4 million in 2014. When he is healthy and in the starting lineup, he makes the game of football look way too easy. Aside from having exceptional hands, he makes tacklers miss in the open field and plays the game one step faster than the defenders trying to cover him.
Prior to his season-ending ankle injury in 2012, Harvin garnered some MVP consideration. Through nine games, he accumulated 62 receptions, 677 yards receiving, 542 yards after the catch, three touchdowns and 22 forced missed tackles.
Of those figures, none were more impressive than the number of missed tackles he forced. Despite missing seven games, Harvin still led all receivers in forced missed tackles. The next closest player ended up being Chicago Bears wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He finished the season with 17 forced missed tackles.
Another name to keep an eye out for is Jermaine Kearse. Like Baldwin, he joined the Seahawks as an undrafted free agent and made some monumental plays at particular points throughout the season. Of his 22 receptions in 2013, five of them went for 20 yards or more and four went for touchdowns.
Yet, a lot of the hype that surrounds Kearse is based on his overall ceiling as a player. If he wants to be a key contributor in 2014, Miller of Bleacher Report thinks he needs to catch the ball more cleanly on a regular basis:
Throughout the regular season we saw flashes with his game. The key for Kearse is securing underneath passes before trying to turn upfield. Once he eliminates those drops and missed chances, he’ll move up here.
Miller’s right: In two seasons, Kearse has six drops as a part-time receiver.
Nevertheless, it’s apparent the Seahawks have the necessary talent to replace Tate. All they have to do is coach the youngsters up and pray for Harvin’s health.
Additionally, one shouldn’t be surprised if Seattle targets a receiver in the draft. Rob Rang, a draft analyst for CBS Sports, says he thinks getting a big receiver may be the Seahawks' top priority in this year’s draft, via Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times: “Pete Carroll in the past has always wanted to have real tall, lanky receivers.”
Depending on how things shake out, Rang may be on to something. Per Mike Mayock of NFL.com, “It’s the best wide receiver draft I’ve seen in years.’’ If that truly is the case, the Seahawks should have no problem snagging a big-bodied receiver with the 32nd pick.
At this point, Seattle’s options are endless. Mike Evans of Texas A&M, Jordan Matthews of Vanderbilt and Kelvin Benjamin of Florida State are all real tall, lanky receivers. Matthews and Benjamin will both be in play if the Seahawks stay put at No. 32 overall. The same can’t be said about Evans. In all likelihood, Schneider would have to trade up to nab the first-team All-SEC member.
As good as Tate was for Seattle last season, it’s evident his loss won’t affect the Seahawks. The Hawks’ offensive success is still predicated on All-Pro running back Marshawn Lynch and the run game.
The Seahawks ran the ball 509 times in 2013, which means one shouldn’t expect that to change in 2014. Carroll believes in running the football and playing sound defense. That has been and will continue to be his modus operandi for as long as he is a head coach, via Clare Farnsworth of Seahawks.com:
There are so many good things that come from running the football. It adds to the mentality of your team. It adds to the toughness of your football club that you present.
Because you're always going to play tough defense, hopefully. We're always going to be tough in special teams. But you can be other than that on offense if you don't run the football. We want to be a physical, aggressive, tough, get-after-you football team. And that's where we can send the biggest message about that commitment to that.
Hat’s off to Schneider and Carroll for sticking to their guns and letting Tate walk in free agency. They had a set price for him and weren’t about to get in a bidding war with other teams for his services.
Without a doubt, they are thankful for Tate and all he did for the organization, but business is business. At the end of the day, the front-office duo not only has to put the best product on the field, they have to manage the salary cap in a responsible manner.
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