Rost: Do Seahawks need to repeat their Frank Clark trade to add draft picks?
The Seahawks don’t have much wiggle room salary cap-wise and own just four selections in this year’s NFL Draft, but general manager John Schneider is no stranger to spinning straw into gold when it comes to maximizing offseason resources.
Case in point: the 2019 draft.
Seattle had just four picks and was set to pay defensive end Frank Clark $17 million after putting the franchise tag on him. Then just two days before the draft, Schneider traded Clark (and his tag) to the Kansas City Chiefs and received back a package that included a first-round pick that year (No. 29 overall) plus a 2020 second-rounder.
On the day of the draft, Schneider traded back from Seattle’s original No. 21 pick to 30th overall, then after taking defensive end L.J. Collier with the pick acquired from Kansas City, he made another swap with the No. 30 selection to move out of the first round while adding even more picks. A series of additional trades eventually landed the Seahawks 11 rookies, including 2020 Pro Bowl receiver DK Metcalf.
Fans should never rule out a trade when it comes to Schneider and Seattle’s front office. They’re no stranger to bold moves. I still remember Pete Carroll telling reporters in 2017 that the Seahawks wouldn’t be trading Jimmy Graham for Duane Brown after a midseason win over the Houston Texans. The next day, they did trade for Brown – though in a nice display of semantics (and I mean that sincerely) they didn’t give up Graham.
This year, though, the Seahawks will have a harder time creating the 2.0 version of a Frank Clark deal.
For starters, Seattle may not be as willing to part ways with its best trade pieces. Back in 2019, the Seahawks made clear their desire to keep Clark as part of their team, but they also settled on a franchise tag rather than a long-term deal early on in their negotiations. Clark was coming off his best season as a pro, was just 25 years old, and it wasn’t a certainty that he and Seattle would commit to one another for the long haul. Enter Kansas City, which desperately needed pass rush help.
There’s no similar scenario this year. Are there players who could net Seattle at least a first-round pick? Absolutely, but parting ways with them will be a little trickier than with Clark.
So, what can they do?
The Seahawks’ best return, in the form of multiple first-round picks, would be for quarterback Russell Wilson. Wilson’s comments about his dissatisfaction with being sacked – and implied unhappiness with his protection – certainly makes for interesting offseason conversation. How serious is it? Considering just how little controversy Seattle’s quarterback has stirred up in the past decade and how controlled he is with public speaking, it’s fair to assume there’s a rift or frustration of sorts with Wilson and the powers that be. But the story is far from written. Fans will never be privy to much of the conversations Wilson and Seahawks’ brass will have moving forward, though many are surely hoping those issues will be resolved.
The entire situation has probably left a few folks worried Wilson will be traded this offseason, but Seattle would absorb nearly $40 million in dead money in that scenario, which doesn’t just eliminate that possibility but also takes Wilson off the board for trade pieces this year.
Next up: linebacker Bobby Wagner. Few Seahawks are more beloved than the longtime veteran All-Pro middle linebacker. Wagner is one of the league’s best and his accomplishments put him in rare company; only he and Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald have been Pro Bowlers and First-Team All-Pros in each of the last five seasons. Trading Wagner would leave the Seahawks with $12.5 million in dead money – significantly less than Wilson but still far from a palatable sum. If K.J. Wright signs elsewhere in free agency, trading Wagner would leave the Seahawks thin at linebacker.
With Wilson turning 33 and Wagner turning 31, the Seahawks may feel more tempted to lean into the current window of its two superstars rather than trade to extend a window without them.
With Wilson and Wagner off the table, Metcalf and safety Jamal Adams would net Seattle the best return in a trade. Much like Wilson and Wagner, it’s hard to see Schneider doing that. Metcalf is Seattle’s most explosive weapon and trading him would hurt efforts to keep Wilson through his current deal. Likewise, trading Adams would be the undoing of a very recent blockbuster trade and very recent improvement in what was a bottom-of-the-league pass rush before his arrival.
So, the Seahawks may just be entering draft day with the fewest number of picks they’ve had in years. Don’t be surprised to see them spin a second-rounder into more, but if you’re wondering about the best thing Seattle can do to make the most of its 2021 season, it may not be the new talent its able to bring in alone. Rather, the Seahawks need to make sure they make the most of the talent they’ve already acquired.
Looking to prove themselves will be a trio of recent first-round picks: Collier, running back Rashaad Penny and linebacker Jordyn Brooks. More important than recouping a first-rounder this year is ensuring the development of the picks the Seahawks have already made. After all, what good are four at-bats without a hit?
Collier improved this past season and Brooks had a promising rookie year. And should running back Chris Carson opt to leave in free agency, the resurgence of Seattle’s run game will fall on Penny’s shoulders.
Ultimately, the Seahawks may not need another Frank Clark deal to make the most of their new season. The development of its young core – the follow-up to Schneider’s impressive draft-day maneuvering – will be key to the success of Seattle’s 2021 campaign.
More from Stacy: How Seahawks can address their biggest needs