Is Charlie Whitehurst the Seattle Seahawks' Next Matt Hasselbeck?

Chris CluffCorrespondent IIMarch 18, 2010

SAN DIEGO - SEPTEMBER 22:  Quarterback Charlie Whitehurst #6 of the San Diego Chargers looks on before taking on the New York Jets on September 22, 2008 at Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego, California. The Chargers defeated the Jets 48-29.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Nine years ago, Mike Holmgren brought an inexperienced but promising backup quarterback from Green Bay to Seattle by swapping first-round picks and giving the Packers a third-rounder. 

That deal worked out quite well, as Matt Hasselbeck overcame a shaky first year to turn into a Pro Bowl and Super Bowl quarterback (and the Hawks got future All-Pro guard Steve Hutchinson in the swap from the 10th pick to the 17th).

Now another general manager newly arrived from Green Bay, John Schneider, has swung a similar deal to bring the son of a former Green Bay quarterback.

Time will tell whether Charlie Whitehurst (whose father, David Whitehurst, played with the Packers from 1977 to 1983) will turn into Seattle’s next Pro Bowl and Super Bowl quarterback, but coach Pete Carroll and Schneider obviously think he is worth a swap of second-round picks (dropping from 40th to 60th) and a 2011 third-rounder.

Basically, they gave up the equivalent of a second-round pick for him.

In a statement released by the team, Schneider called Whitehurst a “big, talented, athletic guy with a strong arm and a competitive streak. We believe he has the potential to be a successful quarterback in this league.”

Added Carroll: “We are all about competition. Charlie has tremendous talent and upside, and we are very excited to watch him develop and help our football team.”

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The Seahawks paid more than we thought they would need to in draft picks but exactly what we thought they would need to in money if they were going to lure Whitehurst away from signing with Arizona.

While the Seahawks are reportedly paying Whitehurst $4 million per year for the next two, the Cardinals instead signed Derek Anderson for about $3.6 million per year.

We suggested a $5 million payout in 2010 would be enough to get Whitehurst to sign. We also had suggested an incentive-driven contract and an option bonus after the second season so the Hawks could decide whether they wanted to keep him.

Well, the two-year, $8 million deal reportedly has $2 million in incentives, and the Hawks made it a straight two-year trial, without the option. After 2011, they can decide whether to give him a long-term contract. Assuming the franchise tag stays in the new CBA, they could always use that to keep his rights in 2012, if necessary.

In 2010, the 27-year-old Whitehurst will be a well-paid understudy to the 34-year-old veteran Hasselbeck, who is making $6.75 million in the final year of his contract. But Whitehurst should be an immediate upgrade over Seneca Wallace, who proved to be an incapable fill-in (5-9 as a starter).

Fortunately, this move greatly diminishes the likelihood of the Seahawks drafting a quarterback. This is a weak class for signal callers anyway and the Hawks have too many needs at other positions.

They also still have a second-round pick, which they could use on a rookie or package in a deal for Denver receiver Brandon Marshall if they so desire.

By draft day, the Broncos will be ready to get rid of him for less than a first-rounder, and the Hawks will be able to offer up their second-rounder and perhaps one of their fourth-rounders.

Marshall is not worth any more than that, and would be a major gamble even at that price.

Whitehurst is a gamble, too, but only on the field. He’ll be worth the cash and the third-rounder if he becomes the next Hasselbeck.

At 6-4, Whitehurst has perfect size, a strong arm, excellent mobility, and good pocket presence. He lasted until the third round in 2006 because he was too inconsistent at Clemson; the scouting report on him says he tried to force too many throws downfield.

Having been coached by Norv Turner for the past three years and watching Philip Rivers evolve into one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Whitehurst surely has learned what it takes to play in the NFL.  

What does Whitehurst’s arrival mean for Hasselbeck? Not much this year. Hasselbeck will remain the starter in 2010. 

If Hasselbeck plays poorly or gets hurt again and Whitehurst plays well, the Hawks probably will let Hasselbeck go in free agency in 2011 (or perhaps keep him as the backup).

But, if Hasselbeck plays at a Pro Bowl level, the Seahawks would have to decide whether to give him a new contract next year and keep Whitehurst as the backup again.

It’s a short-term—albeit spendy—commitment to Whitehurst, but Seattle can afford to see how this plays out over the next two years.


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