Seattle Seahawks: 30 NFL Stars Who Could Have Come to the Emerald City
There will come a time or two this upcoming NFL season—maybe on Sept. 25, maybe on Jan. 1, maybe both—when Kevin Kolb will do something to make Seattle Seahawks fans imagine he was wearing their team's uniform.
And maybe the same will be true for every quarterback Seattle faces, but Kolb is different because he realistically could have become a Seahawk.
Now they get to see Kolb twice a year in the NFC West, and if he is as good as his new team believes, Kolb will give Seattle fans plenty of chances to wonder what could have been.
It's not entirely unique. Every NFL fan can think of a few players who, under difference circumstances, could have built All-Pro careers for their team instead of against them.
Maybe it was a missed opportunity in the NFL draft. Maybe it was a trade that fell through at the last minute. Maybe it was a free-agency decision that went down to the wire. But every franchise has a list of especially regrettable decisions.
Before going any farther, here's a reminder in case you didn't catch the version of this piece I wrote for the Seattle Supersonics:
With an exercise like this, you have to suspend reality a little bit. If the Seahawks had always made the right draft pick or the right trade, the team's record would put them in different draft and trade positions down the road.
So take these on a case-by-case, year-by-year basis. And feel free to use your imagination.
Also, since it's not fair to single out one team for underrating a player that everybody else underrated, I put in a 10-pick margin for error when it comes to the NFL draft. So if Seattle had the 10th pick in a round in which, say, Osi Umenyiora went 24th, it'd be unfair to say they should have known to take Osi that high when nobody else did.
With that, here are the top 30 players over the past 15 years who could have been Seahawks:
30. Matt Schaub, QB
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Over the last two years, Schaub has been one of the most productive quarterbacks in the NFL.
In 2009, he led the league in passing attempts, completions and yards, connecting on 67.9 percent of his throws for 29 touchdowns. Last season, Schaub's 4,370 yards ranked fourth in the league, to go with 24 touchdowns.
Considering what the Seahawks went through during that same span as Matt Hasselbeck fell apart like a bridge made of popsicle sticks, the idea of having Schaub in their back pocket would have been attractive.
And they could have landed him in the '04 draft, too, when Schaub was picked six spots after Seattle took offensive lineman Sean Locklear.
29. Allen Rossum, CB/KR
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Rossum wasn't a standout cornerback during his 12-year pro career—he was never even a full-time starter on any of the six teams he played for—but he was statistically one of the best kick returners the game has ever seen.
Rossum averaged 23.2 yards per kickoff and 10.0 yards per punt return, and his 15,003 combined return yards are the second-highest total in league history. He made the Pro Bowl in '04 as a kick return specialist and finished his career with eight return touchdowns.
No NFL team would use a third-round draft pick on a guy who pretty much only returns kicks, but still, the Seahawks missed a gem when they used their 1998 third-rounder on RB Ahman Green, nine spots ahead of Rossum.
28. Nick Collins, FS
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Collins has been Green Bay's starting free safety since Day 1, having collected 21 interceptions, five defensive touchdowns, three Pro Bowl selections and one Super Bowl ring in six seasons.
That kind of consistent production would have been welcome in a Seahawks secondary that has been up and down over the years.
But when Collins went 51st in the '05 draft, Seattle had already chosen LB Lofa Tatupu with the 45th pick.
27. Tedy Bruschi, LB
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He wasn't the most talented or productive member of the group, but Bruschi was the centerpiece and leader of New England's three-time Super Bowl championship defense.
Seattle's front office knew all about Bruschi when he entered the '96 draft, as he'd steamrolled offenses throughout Pac-10 territory as an All-American defensive lineman at Arizona.
But because Bruschi was always considered undersized, it was no big deal when the Seahawks took offensive lineman Robert Barr with the 77th pick, nine spots before Bruschi.
The Patriots turned Bruschi into a linebacker, and he proceeded to rack up 680 tackles, 12 interceptions and 30.5 sacks during his career to go with those three Super Bowl rings.
Barr never played in an NFL game.
26. Stephen Davis, RB
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The most surprising element of the infamous Michael Westbrook vs. Stephen Davis training camp brawl wasn't that the notoriously hot-headed receiver sucker-punched his teammate in front of the whole team and a bunch of TV cameras.
It was that a wide receiver actually beat up Stephen Davis. (In hindsight, it wasn't that bad, though, since Westbrook is now a professional MMA fighter.)
Standing 6'0" and weighing 230 pounds, Davis was a truck who covered 8,052 yards on the ground for 65 touchdowns in his NFL career.
The Seahawks passed on the eventual three-time Pro Bowler in the '96 draft when they took DE Phillips Daniels, three spots before Davis.
25. Adalius Thomas, LB
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Adalius Thomas, the 186th pick in the 2000 draft (by Baltimore), made 401 tackles and 53 sacks and scored six defensive touchdowns in his Pro Bowl career.
Tim Watson, the 185th pick in the 2000 draft (by Seattle), never played a game in the NFL.
24. Antoine Winfield, CB
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Winfield is widely considered the best tackling cornerback in the NFL today. And the 792 tackles on his ledger would rightfully make him the anti-Deion...except Winfield also has 23 interceptions and four defensive touchdowns to his name.
Going into his 13th pro season, Winfield has been getting better with age—all three of his Pro Bowl appearances have been in the last three years.
In the '99 draft, Seattle took DE Lamar King, one pick ahead of Winfield.
23. Matt Light, OT
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Light was the starting left tackle on New England's three Super Bowl championship teams, and he has three Pro Bowl nods to go with those three rings.
In 2001, he was drafted eight spots after the Seahawks chose CB Ken Lucas.
22. James Farrior, LB
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Farrior's first four years in the NFL were pretty quiet before his breakout season with the Jets in '01.
The following year, he went to the Steelers, where he's since made the Pro Bowl twice and won two Super Bowls.
The Seahawks could have used their No. 3 overall pick in the '97 draft on Farrior, but instead, went with CB Shawn Springs.
He ended up being a Pro Bowler for Seattle, but Farrior (drafted eighth), has totaled 938 tackles in his career and is one of the best linebackers in the league.
21. Robert Mathis, DE
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One could argue that Mathis wouldn't have registered 74 career sacks, 36 forced fumbles and three Pro Bowl nods had he not been lining up across from Dwight Freeney on the Colts defensive line all these years.
And maybe one would be right, but it would have been interesting to see Mathis give it a try as the No. 1 pass-rushing threat on a team.
Could Mathis have been that for the Seahawks if they hadn't picked LB Solomon Bates three spots before him in the '03 draft?
20. Brian Westbrook, RB
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If the day ever comes when Donovan McNabb is inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame, Westbrook should be on the short list of candidates to give the introductory speech.
From '02-09, Westbrook was as crucial to the success of the Philadelphia Eagles as anybody, a triple-threat running back/receiver/returner who was often the team's only legit home-run threat.
He's playing out his latter years as a backup in San Francisco, but Westbrook has 6,335 rushing yards and 3,940 receiving yards to go with 73 total touchdowns.
In the '02 draft, Seattle passed on Westbrook with the 85th pick, taking DB Kris Richard before Westbrook went six spots later.
19. Al Wilson, LB
Wilson was the rock in the middle of Denver's defense for eight seasons, five of which ended in Pro Bowl appearances. In that time, he made 560 tackles and 21.5 sacks, before neck and back injuries cut his career short at 29 years old.
Seattle missed out on Wilson in the '99 draft, taking DE Lamar King with the 22nd pick, nine spots before Wilson went to the Broncos.
18. Roddy White, WR
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If all you value in football are highlights and fantasy stats, you really can't find two positions farther apart than a wide receiver and a center. And yet in real life, each one is equally important to the success of the team.
In the '05 draft, Seattle took center Chris Spencer with the 26th pick, and he would go on to start for the team for five full seasons after takikng over for longtime starter Robbie Tobeck.
With the 27th pick that year, Atlanta took receiver Roddy White. He would go on to make the Pro Bowl three times, and last season he led the NFL in receptions (115).
White moves the ball downfield in significant chunks and is a regular on the weekly highlight reel.
Spencer anchors the most important unit on the offensive side of the ball. So which team got the better deal?
17. Marcus Stroud, DT
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Pro football is a "What have you don't for me lately?" type of business. So hopefully the events of this offseason—Marcus Stroud being signed by New England in March, then released four months later before he'd ever stepped on the field—don't take away from how good Stroud was in his prime.
Stroud made three Pro Bowls from '05-07 with the Jaguars, and for his career, has 312 tackles and 29.5 sacks.
He might be done as a 33-year-old with a bad shoulder, but Stroud definitely had a better run than WR Koren Robinson, whom the Seahawks drafted with the ninth pick in '01, four spots before Stroud.
16. Peter Boulware, LB
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Don't get me wrong: Shawn Springs was a very good cornerback for the Seahawks after they picked him No. 3 overall in the '97 draft. He made one Pro Bowl and collected 20 interceptions in his tenure with the team.
But it's hard to look at the resume of Peter Boulware—the No. 4 pick that year—and wonder what could have been. Boulware racked up 70 sacks in his career with the Ravens, along with 295 tackles, 14 forced fumbles, an NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year nod, four Pro Bowl appearances and a Super Bowl ring.
But Seattle did employ Peter's little brother, SS Michael Boulware, for a few years. So there's that.
15. Brian Orakpo, LB
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Orakpo is a superstar in the making.
In two NFL seasons he has made the Pro Bowl twice while posting 74 tackles and 19.5 sacks and is already the centerpiece that the Redskins are (or at least should be) building their defense around.
The Seahawks passed on Orakpo in the '09 Draft, using the No. 4 pick on fellow outside linebacker Aaron Curry and allowing Orakpo (13th) to fall to the Redskins.
Curry has been good during his short career, but so far, not great.
14. Jared Allen, DE
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The '04 Draft was a good one for pass-rushers.
The Saints plucked DE Will Smith in the first round, and he's gone on to make 55 sacks and help them win a Super Bowl. The Chargers landed LB Shaun Phillips in the fourth round, whose 56.5 sacks rank third in franchise history. DE Jason Babin, another first-rounder, bounced around the league before a breakout 2010 season saw him post 13 sacks and led to a big contract with the Eagles this summer.
But no sack artist from the '04 class has been as successful as Jared Allen. In seven years, split between the Chiefs and Vikings, the three-time Pro Bowler has made 83 sacks, along with 326 tackles and 12 fumble recoveries.
Coming out of Idaho State, Allen was on the board until the 126th pick (fourth round), 10 spots after the Seahawks chose LB Niko Koutouvides.
13. Andre Gurode, C
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Considering all the headaches and disappointment that TE Jerramy Stevens caused in his Seattle career (college and pro), a lot of Seahawks fans would preferred almost anybody else given a do-over of the '02 draft.
One option would have been Gurode, the 37th pick (Stevens went 28th) who has gone on to make five Pro Bowl teams as a member of the Cowboys.
12. Matt Birk, C
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For eight years, Birk was the leader of a Minnesota O-line that paved the way for some of the league's best offenses of the 2000s.
He helped make everybody from Daunte Culpepper to Brad Johnson to Tarvaris Jackson to Gus Frerotte look good at QB and cleared the running lanes for Robert Smith and Adrian Peterson and a host of random running backs in between.
Birk made six Pro Bowls with the Vikings and is now calling the shots on Baltimore's line as they contend for a championship.
In the '98 draft, the Seahawks took WR Bobby Shaw with the 169th pick—four spots ahead of Birk.
11. Asante Samuel, CB
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The four-time Pro Bowler is often criticized for taking too many gambles on the field, but his 42 career interceptions and four touchdowns show he's at least as solid a gambler as Phil Ivey.
The Seahawks might get in on that action, considering its secondary was one of the team's weak spots last season. Plus it would be a second chance for Seattle to take Samuel when they missed him before—in the '03 draft, when the 'Hawks took QB Seneca Wallace with the 110th pick—10 spots before Samuel.
10. Joe Horn, WR
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Joe Horn may go down in history as just another loud-mouth, attention-starved wide receiver who once planted a cell phone in the end zone for a TD celebration and talked in third person too much.
Which is too bad, because Joe Horn was a beast on the field.
Joe Horn recorded 603 catches, 8,744 yards and 58 touchdowns in his career—most of it during his six-year stint in New Orleans—and made four Pro Bowls.
The Seahawks could have used some of Joe Horn's playmaking ability, but in the '96 draft, they took linebacker Eric Unverzagt with the 131st pick, four spots before Joe Horn.
Unverzagt played nine games in the NFL.
9. Kris Jenkins, DT
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At his peak—particularly in '02 and '03 when he was an All-Pro first teamer—Jenkins was arguably the best defensive tackle in the league. But perhaps more impressive was that after injuries caused him to miss most of the next two seasons, Jenkins bounced back to make another Pro Bowl in '06 and the All-Pro second team in '08.
It would be like if Grant Hill had come back from his injuries to not only make the All-Star team (which he did), but also re-enter the discussion as maybe the best small forward in the NBA.
Jenkins retired this year with 220 tackles and 24 sacks under his belt, and had he stayed healthy, he could have been Hall of Fame material.
The Seahawks could have drafted him in '01 but chose CB Ken Lucas 40th overall, while Jenkins went 44th.
8. Steven Jackson, RB
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Steven Jackson came along at a time when the Seahawks didn't really need a running back, when Shaun Alexander was in his MVP prime.
But after Alexander's rapid decline, it would have been nice (if not spoiled and lucky) to have Jackson around.
Seattle (understandably) passed on S-Jack in the '04 draft, using their No. 23 pick on DL Marcus Tubbs. Jackson went one pick later to St. Louis.
He has since accumulated 7,948 rushing yards and 47 touchdowns, making three Pro Bowls and surpassing Eric Dickerson as the most productive Rams running back of all time.
7. Warrick Dunn, RB
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Anybody who has ever met Warrick Dunn will say he's a better person than he is a football player. Which is high praise, because the man was amazing doing what he did on the field.
During a 12-year career playing for the Buccaneers and Falcons, Dunn produced 10,967 rushing yards (19th in NFL history), 4,339 receiving yards (18th among running backs) and 64 touchdowns. He made the Pro Bowl three times and won NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year in '97.
That same year, Seattle used the No. 3 draft pick on CB Shawn Springs, while Dunn stayed on the board until the 12th pick.
6. Casey Hampton, DT
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So maybe he'll never be put on the same level with "Mean" Joe Greene, but Casey Hampton has been good enough to help the Steelers win two Super Bowls as the monster in the middle of Pittsburgh's defensive line.
A five-time Pro Bowl pick, Hampton's career numbers of 183 tackles and nine sacks don't jump off the page, but you can't quantify his ability to eat up blockers and clear the way for teammates like James Harrison, James Farrior and Troy Polamalu to make plays.
Seattle passed on Hampton twice in the '01 draft—first with the No. 9 pick (WR Koren Robinson) and again with the No. 17 pick (OG Steve Hutchinson).
Granted, nobody is going to fault the Seahawks for taking Hutchinson, but had they left Koren on the board and picked Hampton, Seattle could have had two interior line anchors on which to build a dynasty.
5. Tony Gonzalez, TE
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Another Class of '97 draftee whom Seattle overlooked in favor of CB Shawn Springs, Gonzalez (13th pick) is the most frustrating coulda-been because he wound up being arguably the greatest NFL player of all-time at his position.
Gonzalez has his own chapter in the NFL record book for tight ends: career receptions (1,069), career yards (12,463), career touchdowns (88) and single-season receptions (102) being the most prominent.
His spot in the Pro Football Hall of Fame is secure—they should have already carved his bronze bust—and Gonzalez is still going.
Last season, he registered 70 catches and six touchdowns at 35 years old.
4. Randy Moss, WR
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Maybe you hated Randy Moss. Maybe you couldn't get behind anything he stood for. Maybe you think his talent wasn't worth his infamously bad behavior and prickly personality.
But if you're a Seahawks fan, you have to admit Moss would have been worth it with the No. 15 pick in the '98 draft. Seattle instead used that pick on LB Anthony Simmons, while Moss dropped to Minnesota with the 22nd pick.
All he did since then was catch 954 passes (eighth in NFL history) for 14,858 yards (fifth all time) and 153 touchdowns (third all time).
3. Troy Polamalu, SS
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The Seahawks did almost everything right. With the 11th pick in the '03 draft, they chose the Pac-10 phenom defensive back who would anchor their secondary for the next eight or so years.
They just chose the wrong one.
Pro Bowl CB Marcus Trufant (Washington State) has been a star for the Seahawks, but his career doesn't measure up to that of six-time Pro Bowl SS Troy Polamalu (USC), who was drafted five spots later.
The reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year has 394 tackles, eight sacks and 27 interceptions to his name, as well as two Super Bowl rings.
2. Ray Lewis, LB
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It doesn't even seem right to entertain the idea of Ray Lewis playing for another franchise. He is the Baltimore Ravens—the team's second-ever draft pick whose name is spread across almost every possible category in the team record book—as well as one of the NFL's marquee players of his era.
Lewis has made 12 Pro Bowls, has won the NFL's Defensive Player of the Year award twice, has a Super Bowl MVP on his mantle and a Super Bowl ring on his finger and he's racked up 1,452 tackles, 38.5 sacks and 30 interceptions while intimidating a countless number of opponents.
Could he have been that kind of franchise-defining player for the Seahawks?
In the '96 draft, five spots before Baltimore chose Lewis with the 26th pick, Seattle took OG Pete Kendall.
1. Tom Brady, QB
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To be fair, every NFL teamm aside from the Patriots, knows they could have had Tom Brady. And that they blew it multiple times.
One of the most decorated quarterbacks of all time sat around until the sixth round of the 2000 draft, finally going to New England with the 199th pick.
And then starting QB Drew Bledsoe got hurt, Brady the backup, stepped in, and he went on to win three Super Bowls while piling up 34,744 passing yards and 261 touchdowns (and counting).
Nine picks before Brady became a Patriot, the Seahawks drafted DL John Hilliard, who registered 24 tackles in 27 NFL games.