Why Doug Baldwin’s absence could loom larger than any past Seahawk
With the report that wide receiver Doug Baldwin is considering an injury-related retirement, 710 ESPN Seattle’s Danny, Dave and Moore took time Tuesday to consider Baldwin’s impact on the Seahawks franchise.
It wouldn’t be the first time losing a long-time starter for the Seahawks, a team that saw the departures of Richard Sherman, Kam Chancellor, Cliff Avril, and Michael Bennett all within the last two seasons. But for host Danny O’Neil, Baldwin’s absence might have the biggest impact — which is saying something, considering his retirement would follow the loss of several All-Pro defenders.
“The Seahawks have had to move on from other mainstays, yet I feel that Doug Baldwin in some ways is going to leave a bigger void, even though those other guys were closer to the top of their position in terms of their league peers,” O’Neil said. “Doug Baldwin has been a very good — really good — number one receiver for the Seahawks. But he’s also been one of the only really consistent, year-in and year-out players. (Baldwin’s loss would be) maybe a bigger hole than Earl Thomas.”
Doug Baldwin’s impact
Baldwin originally signed on with the Seahawks in 2011 as an undrafted rookie free agent out of Stanford. Baldwin didn’t just work his way onto Seattle’s 53-man roster; he became the top target for then-Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, and finished his rookie year with 788 yards and four touchdowns. He remained Russell Wilson’s top target in all but three seasons (2012, 2013, and 2018), and holds franchise records for most receiving touchdowns in a single season (14, set in 2015) and most catches in a single season (94, set in 2016). He ranks third in all-time yards (6,563) behind Brian Blades and Hall of Famer Steve Largent, and is second only to Largent in career touchdowns (49).
However, after playing through a 2018 season that was marred by injury, Baldwin has undergone three surgeries already this offseason to repair damage to his shoulder, knee, and repair a sports hernia.
“I’m not ready to move on with Seahawks football without Doug Baldwin,” Dave Wyman said. “I don’t know how obvious it’s going to be. But that was a guy you could always count on to get open. And I wish they actually used him more. When they were wringing their hands over the red-zone threat, which brought in Jimmy Graham, I felt like Doug Baldwin’s your answer, man. There’s nobody who gets open faster and better than Doug Baldwin. So I’m going to miss that guy.”
What options do the Seahawks have at WR if Baldwin retires?
With Baldwin being limited in 2018, wide receiver Tyler Lockett became Wilson’s No. 1 target, marking the first time in five years that the spot was held by someone other than Baldwin.
Lockett has a chance to build on his career-best season in 2019 and beyond – the Seahawks signed him to a multi-year contract extension prior to last season.
Joining Lockett in the wide receiver room is Jaron Brown, David Moore, Malik Turner, Keenan Reynolds, Caleb Scott, Amara Darboh, D.K. Metcalf, Gary Jennings, and John Ursua. Only Brown and Moore were regular starters in 2018. Turner and Reynolds both saw time on the field during the regular season, though had fewer snaps than former Seahawks receiver Brandon Marshall. Darboh spent 2018 on the injured reserve list, while Scott remained on the team’s practice squad. Rookies Metcalf, Jennings and Ursua made up Seattle’s three receiver selections in the 2019 NFL Draft. (At least one additional receiver, Northwestern Jazz Ferguson, has also been linked to Seattle as an undrafted rookie free agent.)
“John Ursua is probably the guy whose game most resembles what Doug Baldwin can do,” Wyman said of the former Hawaii receiver, who played over 90 percent of snaps from the slot. “Kind of a long shot there, but he led the nation in receiving touchdowns, so the guy can score. Gary Jennings, he can run every kind of route. You see him do the same things D.K. Metcalf did, as far as running a go route and catching it with one hand, but then you see him running little whip routes, corner, post, the whole thing. I feel like he’s probably the most complete. But again – and I’m sort of contradicting what I’ve been saying – it’s really hard for receivers to break in their rookie year. You don’t see receivers making a huge dent, no matter if they’re first round or second round. There are a few examples (of that happening), but I think that’s one of the positions that’s the hardest to manage (as a rookie).”