Rost: Why Seahawks took the risk with Leonard Williams trade

Oct 31, 2023, 9:38 AM

Seattle Seahawks Leonard Williams Kenneth Walker III...

Seattle Seahawks RB Kenneth Walker III is tackled by the Giants' Leonard Williams in 2022. (Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

(Lindsey Wasson/Getty Images)

All gambles are inherently risky, but it’s a risk that Seattle Seahawks brass is willing to take.

Seahawks trade for DL Leonard Williams in blockbuster move

The gamble in this case isn’t a fourth-down desperation heave into the end zone or a trick play against a divisional foe. It’s a 2024 second-round pick for 10 games of play from Pro Bowl defensive lineman Leonard Williams.

Why take it? Because Seattle clearly believes it’s only a piece or two away from making that total more than 10 games — ending with a Super Bowl title.

A cautious gambler might feel hesitant parting with that second-rounder (also involved in the trade is a 2025 fifth-round pick). DK Metcalf was a second-rounder. So too was Kenneth Walker III, Boye Mafe, Jarran Reed, Frank Clark, Justin Britt, Bobby Wagner and Uchenna Nwosu, the latter by the Chargers.

The higher pick is intended to offset Williams’ salary cap hit; the Giants will pay all but $647,000 owed to Williams this year in exchange. Still, for some, giving away a Day 2 NFL Draft pick not for a surefire Super Bowl roster but simply for a shot to improve with Williams — a player Seattle will surely need to extend — could be seen as sacrificing sustainability and a chance to find younger, cheaper talent.

Seahawks general manager John Schneider would tell you that no team becomes a contender without risk. Seattle has taken risks before to varying degrees of success: drafting Bruce Irvin with a first-round pick; starting Russell Wilson over high-priced acquisition Matt Flynn; sending a first-round pick to the Vikings for Percy Harvin; a trade for Jimmy Graham; and years later, another high-stakes trade for Jamal Adams. Their biggest risk yet – sending Wilson, the franchise quarterback, to the Broncos – paid off with a new franchise left tackle and one of the league’s most promising young corners.

But risk must also be well-timed, and that’s what makes Monday’s trade for Williams especially notable for Seattle. This isn’t a move being done for future building – the 29-year-old Williams will become a free agent in March, barring an extension. This is a move done to take advantage of a shifting NFC playoff landscape. More simply: it’s a win-now move. And a chance to add a level of talent owned by the conference’s best teams.

“We all know guys of this stature come out in the draft and they get drafted in the top 10,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll told reporters Monday. “You have to be positioned in the top 10 to get him, and fortunately over our history we haven’t had that opportunity. But the unfortunate part is you can see the teams that have and they loaded up. They’ve got guys that can really wreak havoc, make a difference, and they’re the ones that you always wish you could have, but we haven’t had an opportunity to get him.”

For Carroll, that may also be an endorsement of not just the overall talent on the roster, but the type of team he and Schneider have curated: a young team with a well-balanced offense and a much-improved, physical defense. Through moves like this, they can round that out with talent they’d typically be unable to draft

There are questions, but also promise, and that’s enough in a division that just saw the 49ers lose three in a row.

More on Seattle Seahawks’ trade for Leonard Williams

Carroll: Seahawks have watched Williams for a long time
Why Leonard Williams can ‘hit the ground running’ in Seattle
What does trade for Leonard Williams say about first-place Seattle Seahawks?

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