Clayton: Why Seahawks’ pick of Malik McDowell could leave positive legacy

Apr 19, 2018, 10:00 PM | Updated: 10:37 pm
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The Seahawks snagged some potential starters by trading out of the first round last year. (AP)

There are several reports that the Seahawks are planning to release defensive tackle Malik McDowell, who hasn’t played a snap in the NFL and may not be able to play football again following last summer’s ATV accident. And when it makes financial and salary cap sense to release him, the Seahawks need to move on. But what we don’t know is whether the language of the contract affects any remaining guarantees, nor whether the Seahawks can get back some of the money they spent on the second-round pick.

O’Neil: Malik McDowell proved to be costly, not bad, pick for Seahawks

McDowell spent all last season on the non-football-injury list, which gives the Seahawks some protection. As general manager John Schneider learned from Hall of Fame general manager Ron Wolf: if something doesn’t work out, you move on to the next deal. That’s what the Seahawks did when things weren’t working out with Percy Harvin – they traded him.

The interesting part of the McDowell story is that there could be a positive legacy from his selection in last year’s draft. As the Seahawks were getting close to the 26th pick in the first round, they had already identified that McDowell was their choice. Knowing that, Schneider made trades from No. 26 to No. 35 overall and ended up having a legacy of four players they later drafted: safeties Delano Hill and Tedric Thompson, cornerback Michael Tyson, and halfback Chris Carson, who is the leading candidate to start next season. Hill or Thompson could get a starting job if Earl Thomas is traded, while Tyson is an intriguing prospect in the secondary.

As successful as Schneider has been as a general manager, he realizes the one thing every general manager eventually learns: no one is perfect.

Schneider is among the most aggressive GMs when it comes to making draft day trades, and the McDowell story is a classic example of what makes Schneider tick.

The Seahawks’ success of being a perennial Super Bowl contender comes at a price – contenders draft toward the bottom of each round. Most teams have about 15 to 18 players who are given pure first-round grades. And while most teams – Seahawks included – have grades on players from 19 to 40 that are very similar, one team’s 21st pick could be the next team’s 38th depending on their scheme and personnel demands.

McDowell was considered a top 10 talent, but his off-the-field issues allowed him to drop. The Seahawks are willing to take chances – and they usually succeed.  Defensive end Frank Clark was considered a bit of a gamble but he is a rising star at defensive end.

Taking a gamble is one thing. Hedging that bet is another. By adding four players while still getting the player they wanted, Seattle allowed room for mistakes. Teams usually consider a draft successful if they can come up with three starters. McDowell might have developed into a starter were it not for the accident, but that ship has sailed. But if Hill and Carson emerge as starters and Thompson eventually starts, last year’s draft would be considered a success.

Remember: no general manager is perfect.

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