By Danny O’Neil
The Seahawks have one of the most run-oriented offenses in the NFL yet they boast one of the league’s deepest groups of receivers.
They have four different players who caught 45 or more passes in at least one of the past two seasons yet Seattle is one of only five teams that hasn’t had a single player surpass 1,000 yards receiving since 2007.
2012 stats for the top four wide receivers on Seattle’s depth chart:
|Percy Harvin (MIN)|
|Yards per catch:||10.9||Touchdowns:||3|
|Yards per catch:||15||Touchdowns:||7|
|Yards:||688||Yards per catch:||15.3||Touchdowns:||7|
|Yards per catch:||12.6||Touchdowns:||3|
Those are just some of the contradictions you must wade through in order to project the impact that can be expected from one of those more expensive pieces of real estate on Seattle’s roster. Terrell Owens has had a 1,000-yard receiving season more recently than any Seahawk player, a fact that’s not necessarily going to change this year even after the team’s addition of Percy Harvin.
Seattle’s offense will be built around the run. Coach Pete Carroll hasn’t wavered from that mandate since he was introduced as the Seahawks coach, and yet receiver is where Seattle has been most predisposed to spending large chunks of money over the past three years.
Remember, this is a team that flirted with Brandon Marshall before he left Denver in 2010, sniffed around Vincent Jackson when he was still with the Chargers before ultimately signing Sidney Rice as a free agent in 2011. Rice isn’t even halfway done with his five-year contract, and the Seahawks took the single biggest risk of general manager John Schneider’s tenure by trading three draft picks for the privilege of paying Harvin a top-shelf contract.
It’s not as hard to sketch out the likely depth chart at receiver as it is to estimate the production Seattle will get from that position. After all, only San Francisco ran the ball a greater percentage of the time than the Seahawks did last season, but the addition of Harvin adds to Seattle’s down-the-field options, and expect Seattle to be more aggressive over the top in 2013.
It will be the quality of the opportunities, not the quantity of throws that will determine the effectiveness of Seattle’s receivers.
Roster locks: Harvin, Rice, Golden Tate.
Seattle has kept an average of 5.5 receivers at the 53-man roster cut since 2002.
Rice played all 16 games last season for only the second time in his NFL career, and he led the Seahawks with 50 catches, seven of which were touchdowns. He turns 27 this year, and the fact he’s 6 feet 4 makes him stand out for Carroll, who’s had a great deal of success with big targets.
To understand Seattle’s plan for Harvin, you need to look at the structure of his contract. He counts $4.9 million against the Seahawks’ cap this year, but that charge balloons to over $13 million in 2014. That means he’ll jump toward the top of the payroll next season, which could squeeze Rice out of his current deal barring a huge season.
There’s no doubt about Tate making this roster, but he is the biggest uncertainty in the future of Seattle’s offense. He will be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and while the team believes he can thrive alongside Harvin, it’s fair to wonder if Seattle is planning to pay another sub-6-foot playmaker.
Safe bets: Doug Baldwin, Chris Harper.
It’s hard to see either of these players failing to make the roster, but it’s also hard to project their roles.
Baldwin had a great offseason after injuries held him back in training camp a year ago, and two years after leading the team with 51 catches as a rookie, he’s fighting to hold onto his opportunities in the slot after the addition of Harvin. Baldwin has shown he can be an invaluable target on third down, but just as surely, he wants more than that.
Danny O’Neil looks at where the Seahawks stand at each position group heading into training camp.
At 230 pounds, Harper is a bigger-bodied receiver, but after looking impressive during the three-day rookie minicamp after the draft, he didn’t do much to stand out during the offseason practices. While he may have been a fourth-round pick, he’s still going to have to play his way into the receiving rotation.
Sixth sense: The Seahawks have kept six receivers each of the previous two seasons. Whether they do so again may depend upon the status at other positions, especially if Seattle opts to keep both Michael Robinson and Spencer Ware at fullback.
Charly Martin made the team a year ago with an impressive training camp. Stephen Williams is an imposing target the team tried to sign in 2011 as an undrafted free agent only to lose him to Arizona, while Jermaine Kearse made his way onto the field last year largely because of his value on special teams. Another candidate is Bryan Walters, a Juanita High graduate who was previously with the Chargers. Greg Herd, Arceto Clark, Brett Swain, Justin Veltung and Phil Bates will also be trying to springboard training camp into a regular-season job.