DANNY ONEIL

O’Neil: The Seahawks’ acquisition of Sheldon Richardson is an old strategy with a new twist

Sep 5, 2017, 7:13 AM | Updated: 10:25 am
Sheldon Richardson is the kind of over-the-top acquisition the Seahawks have been known for. (AP)...
Sheldon Richardson is the kind of over-the-top acquisition the Seahawks have been known for. (AP)
(AP)

Now this is the kind of move the Seahawks are known for.

Trading for a Pro Bowler with little warning. Giving up future draft picks for a present-day gamebreaker. Even overlooking a question mark or three along the way.

The acquisition of Sheldon Richardson on Friday was such a Seahawks kind of move. An over-the-top acquisition for an already loaded team. Kind of like when Seattle acquired Percy Harvin. Then Jimmy Graham. That should give you an idea of just how good Richardson is, which is to say that he’s really good. He is a defensive lineman who’s big enough to play tackle and athletic enough there were times the Jets played him at linebacker. He had eight sacks his second year in the league and made the Pro Bowl and he’s now being added to a defense that already includes seven former Pro Bowlers not to mention three guys with double-digit sack seasons on their resume.

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But while Richardson’s profile fits with the kind of top-shelf talent that Seattle has tried to poach from other teams, the way the Seahawks went about adding him is significantly different.

Not in the trade per se. The Seahawks have sacrificed draft picks before. Both Harvin and Graham cost a first-rounder. The Seahawks are giving up a second-rounder in addition to receiver Jermaine Kearse to acquire Richardson.

The difference this time is the possibility that Richardson is a short-term addition with a little more long-term cost.

Richardson is scheduled to be an unrestricted free agent after this season, and while being in a contract year is a great motivator, it also creates the possibility that he’s going to get real expensive, real fast.

And that brings us to the potential cost because even now, Richardson is hardly cheap and the Seahawks had to get creative to clear room for Richardson’s $8 million salary. The bulk of that space came from restructuring the contract of Doug Baldwin, a move that was reported hours before the acquisition of Richardson.

Essentially, the Seahawks took $5.2 million that would have counted against their cap this year and spread it out over the next four years. It’s not entirely unlike using a credit card to get something more expensive than you would have been able to afford with the understanding you’re going to have to pay for it down the road.

It’s not a huge deal. Teams do it all the time. But the Seahawks haven’t done that. At least not recently under general manager John Schneider. They have signed stars early. They have kept deals shorter than usual. And they have not made a habit kicking the can down the road on cap costs.

This was a bit of a different circumstance, and not just because of Richardson’s talent though that’s part of it.

The Seahawks needed a boost to their defensive line, and they needed it now. And when the guy they drafted to provide that boost was injured in an offseason accident, the Seahawks decided that they couldn’t wait to see what he’ll be able to do and when.

So instead, they went out and made the kind of addition that they’ve been known for. The difference this time is that Seattle will be paying for it down the road.

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O’Neil: The Seahawks’ acquisition of Sheldon Richardson is an old strategy with a new twist