General manager John Schneider and head coach Pete Carroll put their final stamp of approval on the Seattle Seahawks' offseason plans when the team announced a contract extension for wide receiver Doug Baldwin on Thursday.
Based on the contractual numbers and overall length of the deal, it’s safe to say the Seahawks and Baldwin both struck gold with the two-year extension.
Why? Because Seattle was able to lock up one of its most valuable players at a bargain-bin price, while Baldwin got paid with the chance to hit the open market again before he turns 30 years old.
Sure, the Seahawks would have probably liked to make the length of the deal a little bit longer, but they were smart to accept a shorter deal considering the fourth-year wideout is one of the most productive pass-catchers in the NFL on a per-snap basis.
In fact, the analysts at Pro Football Focus (subscription required) believe Baldwin was the 12th-most productive receiver in the NFL in 2013 (playoffs included).
The analytics website awarded Baldwin with a plus-16.9 grade overall, 13 positively graded games out of 19 and the ninth-best drop rate in the league.
This means Baldwin only dropped two catchable passes that were thrown his way in 19 games. That’s an impressive feat since quarterback Russell Wilson threw Baldwin 65 catchable passes during the season.
However, Baldwin did more than just prove he was sure-handed with the football. He racked up first downs at an alarming rate, forced missed tackles and beat defensive backs deep down the field.
Per PFF, Baldwin tallied the second-highest catch rate on targets of 20 yards or more down the field. Of the 19 downfield targets he received, he garnered 13 receptions, 436 yards receiving and two touchdowns.
The only player to amass a higher catch rate was New York Jets wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Holmes’ catch rate of 72.7 was 4.3 points higher than Baldwin’s.
Despite Baldwin’s pedestrian numbers (50 receptions, 778 yards receiving and five touchdowns), it’s evident one doesn’t truly understand the value he brings to the table before going in depth and breaking down his statistics at an advanced level.
Nevertheless, the game of football is more than just numbers. It’s about a player’s skill set and what a particular player does when the ball isn’t in his hands.
Here’s what Matt Miller of Bleacher Report had to say about Baldwin’s route-running ability when he evaluated him at the end of the 2013 season:
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 good as Baldwin is at catching the ball and beating defenders deep, those two assets would be irrelevant if he was unable to get open on short and intermediate routes.
In turn, Baldwin’s route-running ability is his most coveted asset. This should come as no surprise given that he was lauded for his quickness and fine route-running ability at Stanford.
When it comes right down to it, there wasn't a player on Seattle’s roster more deserving of a contract extension than Baldwin.
The 25-year-old offensive weapon embodies everything the Seahawks look for in a wide receiver. Baldwin can play both inside and out, runs every route on the route tree, is a willing and able blocker in the run game and has a knack for making big-time plays in important games.
Furthermore, Baldwin is a leader in the locker room and lets his play on the field do the talking. Honestly, what more could you want out of a wide receiver?
A tip of the hat to Schneider and Carroll: Seattle has done an incredible job of planning for the future and staying ahead of the curve when it comes to locking up its star players.
Unless otherwise noted, all statistics via Pro Football Focus (subscription required).