Rich Eisen: QB Sam Howell takes pressure off Seahawks in NFL Draft

Mar 19, 2024, 7:29 PM | Updated: Mar 20, 2024, 8:36 am

The Seattle Seahawks were a team many were keeping an eye on when it came to quarterbacks in the upcoming NFL Draft, but that appears to no longer be the case.

Rich Eisen thinks Michael Penix will be drafted earlier than expected

Late last week, the Hawks made a notable trade by sending third- and fifth-round picks to the Washington Commanders for quarterback Sam Howell and fourth- and sixth-round picks.

Howell, a fourth-round pick in 2022, is 23 years old and started all 17 games for the Commanders last year. He passed for just under 4,000 yards but struggled with interceptions (21) and sacks (65), leading the NFL in both categories.

Howell isn’t expected to start for the Hawks in 2024 as they have Geno Smith returning for another season in Seattle, but the addition of the young quarterback certainly changes things for the Seahawks, as radio host Rich Eisen told Seattle Sports’ Brock and Salk on Tuesday.

“I think Sam Howell’s addition takes the pressure off them trying to find a quarterback now,” Eisen said of the Seattle Seahawks. “I mean, Sam Howell has an entire year’s worth of experience now in his repertoire. And also, he got (beat up). I thought he was impressive at times.”

With Howell in the mix for the Seahawks now, if there isn’t a quarterback they love available with the 16th overall pick, they won’t have to reach for one.

“If (UW’s Michael Penix Jr.) is not there at 16, Seattle will have a whole host of really, really terrific football players to choose from,” Eisen said, “whether it’s offensive line, wide receiver, whether it’s some of the defenders that are out there in this draft. Because if the top of the draft goes (like mock drafts project it to) in reality, the first defender may not be off the board until pick seven or eight. Atlanta might be able to just stick (with the eighth pick) and get the their choice of any defensive player in the draft, and that just keeps pushing more and more talented players down for Seattle to choose from best available. So if it is Sam Howell backing up Geno, then that’s not that bad.”

Howell sat for all but one game as a rookie in 2022 before starting every game in 2023. But now he’s expected to be a backup, and it’s unclear if he’ll get a chance to start again soon barring injury.

“In the NFL, it’s just like if you don’t flash like Justin Herbert or Joe Burrow right off the bat, you’re officially garbage and a bust,” Eisen said about young quarterbacks in the league. “I mean, it’s kind of getting crazy right now.”

Eisen spoke last season to Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff, a former No. 1 overall pick, and asked him how long a quarterback should get to “marinate” and develop. Goff said four to five years, which isn’t exactly feasible in today’s NFL.

“The way the NFL works these days is the feeder system is college football. I mean, spring (professional) leagues are kind of back now and we’ll see how legit that is in terms of developing quarterbacks, but I mean, the Europe League and all that is gone,” Eisen said. “… Quarterbacks are coming out of college, they don’t get a ton of reps. Right now, if Sam Howell was still on the the Commanders, they would not be able to have him in the building for the new head coach (Dan Quinn) and for (new Washington offensive coordinator) Kliff Kingsbury to coach him up. Right now, Seattle does not have their hands physically on Sam Howell until April, and that’s just the way it works. That’s my long-winded way of saying if Sam Howell is the guy this year for Seattle and they don’t draft (a QB), it’s not like Sam Howell is trash and that he has no chance of becoming a really good quarterback in this league or a playoff-winning or a Super Bowl-winning one.”

What could make things tricky for Howell’s development is that the amount of reps he gets will likely be slashed compared to last season. A conversation with former Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel last year really hammered that point home to Eisen, who asked about then-rookie quarterback Will Levis, who was a second-round pick last year in 2023 and, at the time of their conversation, a backup.

“We just sat down with Vrabel for the broadcast of Ravens and Titans, and I asked Vrabel towards the end, I’m like, ‘How’s Will Levis looking?’ and he shrugged,” Eisen recalled. “He’s like, ‘Your guess is as good as mine because we don’t get the practice reps for him. He doesn’t get the reps and we don’t have the time for the reps.'”

Hear the full Brock and Salk conversation with Rich Eisen in the podcast player near the top of this post.

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