BY Art Thiel 07:46PM 04/22/2015

Thiel: Seahawks’ new center might be a rookie

GM John Schneider said replacing traded C Max Unger with a rookie was viable, and was thrilled get a player of Jimmy Graham’s caliber for the Seahawks’ top pick in the draft.

John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made a potent tandem for player acquisition in six years with the Seahawks. / Drew McKenzie, Sportspress Northwest

John Schneider wasn’t going near any substantive answers to questions about QB Russell Wilson or DE Michael Bennett, but the Seahawks general manager did say Wednesday that a rookie replacement for traded C Max Unger was a reasonable possibility.

“I think with coach (Tom) Cable and his staff, I think it’s viable,” he said. “You have to remember on both sides of the ball are good teaching staffs.  Like I said earlier, it’s understanding how different guys teach and what they’re looking for, and try to pull out (players’)  strengths.”

Schneider met informally with local reporters, as he has done almost annually prior to the three-day draft, which this year begins April 30 with the first round only — in which the Seahawks have no selection because the pick (31st overall) was traded in March to New Orleans to acquire TE Jimmy Graham.

Schneider was quite pleased with the deal.

“When you acquire a player of Jimmy’s caliber with the 31st pick, that makes it that much easier to sleep at night knowing that we wouldn’t be able to get a player like that (in the draft),” he said. “To be able to know in your mind the caliber of player . . .  it’s the same with (WR Percy Harvin’s 2013 acquisition in a trade), and the first and third round (choices surrendered),  knowing what that looks like.”

In part because of his combustible personality, Harvin was traded to the Jets in October for a sixth-round pick, one of the worst personnel outcomes in the tenure of Schneider and coach Pete Carroll, given the Seahawks’ investment. But the Seahawks were not shy in busting a subsequent move, the one for Graham, a player whom a couple of his new teammates, Michael Bennett and Bruce Irvin, said was soft.

Despite ignoring the red flags with Harvin, Schneider proved with the Graham deal that he has reloaded his gumption.

“It was an aggressive attempt to acquire an extremely explosive football player,” he said of Harvin, referring to talent and not personality. “It’s hard to describe. I can’t say we wouldn’t do it again, but there’s definitely lessons I’ve learned that would lead us not to making that decision again. I can’t get into the specifics of that.”

Graham fills the hole created by the departure of well-regarded TE Zach Miller, who was injured and then cut. But the deal created another hole. Breaking down the Saints trade, if Graham was traded for a No. 1, the Seahawks were given a fourth-round pick for Unger, which is not bad. While still valuable, Unger may have been a salary-cap casualty as the Seahawks reshape the roster to accommodate a potential $20 million annual cap hit for Wilson.

Whatever the rationale, not only is Unger gone, so is left guard James Carpenter, lost in free agency. Asked if the offensive line is more of a need in this draft, Schneider said, “Sure, I think I’d be lying to you if I told you any different. But saying that, that doesn’t mean that we need to go hog-wild doing something, either. We are going to continue fixing as we go — I don’t mean fix it, ‘address it.’

“It could be the draft. It could be a cap casualty (from another team) in the summer. It could be someone who was just waived, it could be a trade yet. We’ll never stop evaluating every position.”

So the presumption is that if the Seahawks had the stones to start Wilson at quarterback three years ago, and rookie Justin Britt at right tackle last year, and use five undrafted players at wide receiver in the Super Bowl, they are not in April retching over the prospect of replacing Unger in 2015 with a first-year player.

On the two touchier subjects, Wilson and Bennett, Schneider was unsurprisingly terse. Bennett is skipping the voluntary strength and conditioning program underway now, presumably because he said he was unhappy with his contract, a $28 million, four-year deal he signed a year ago.

Asked if he talked to Bennett, Schneider said, “No. We have a number of guys that aren’t here for specific reasons. It’s voluntary right now, so, he’s one of them that’s not here.’’

Asked how he would characterize the talks to extend Wilson’s contract, which has a year to run:  “I’m not going to get into specifics on Russell’s situation, other than to say that we all love Russell and we want him to be our quarterback for a long time.’’

Does he think the feeling is mutual with Wilson:  “I do, yeah.’’

Then he was asked if it was OK to ask if talks were more sticky than anticipated, Schneider smiled.

“No,” he said, “you can’t.’’

Which is GM-speak for, “See you at the draft.”

Where, history says, the Seahawks will do anything but the obvious.



  • 1coolguy

    It would be awesome if Miller wasn’t picked up and the Hawks signed him, as he was such an important part of the O when healthy. Maybe he will rehab and be a factor.

    • art thiel

      The coaches already like Luke Willson and Anthony McCoy. I think they have moved on.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Are they “Ready for the spotlight” receivers?Defenses will be apt to key on Graham.Opportunities to shine for our guys.Willson is a fun talent to watch and McCoy deserves a break somewhere other than on his body.It would be nice to see Luke have a nice spike in productivity.Anthony healthy all season long?Who knows what he is capable of in a full season.It is hard being stoked about this stuff in April.I wish we were teeing it off in St Louis this sunday.

  • coug73

    Let’s call Graham a receiver. Not a tight end in the running game. Split him out wide, or in the slot frequently and slip him into routes from the traditional TE position. If Zack Miller can contribute sign him. In ‘Tom Cable we trust’ is going to be challenged this year (again).

    • art thiel

      Graham will line up in several spots for mismatches. Wilson can finally just hoist in a direction and there’s a receiver to make him look good.

      • John M

        Art, you make it seem so simple. Of course it is, you just need the other team to accept the mismatch . ..

        • eYeDEF

          Some teams won’t have a choice but to accept it. It’s hard to match up with a 6′ 7″, 240 pound wide receiver with basketball skills.

    • John M

      Yes, if you call Graham a receiver, it takes some pressure off. Losing Carpenter was OK, Unger made me bleed. For Pete’s and Bevell’s system to work well we have to have a good O-line. The guys they have I think could be OK, but they must address the line as a priority in the draft. It would be great if Zack could come back.

  • jafabian

    Hurts seeing Carpenter and Unger leave when the line seemed to find it’s voice in the playoffs. From what I understand Unger probably would have been a salary cap casualty so trading him shouldn’t be a surprise. That being the case I’ve wondered if the NFL has ever thought of adopting anything like the NBA’s Larry Bird Exception rule, where teams can exceed the cap for a player if said player stays with the team for at least 3 years. Seems like nothing like that is in place unless being franchised is their version of the Bird exception. Not a fan of the franchise rule.

    • art thiel

      Owners won the CBA last time. They wanted more, not fewer, options on their side of the table. No Bird rules.

  • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

    This could be a subliminal message that Seattle would gun fairly early for Oregon center Hroniss Grasu, the player in some mock drafts mentioned as a possibility for Seattle with the 95th pick. If you cant have Max get another former Duck?Unger’s shoes are big ones to fill. It should be interesting.

    • art thiel

      Can’t speak to Miller’s health by this fall. He did have two surgeries. Grasu may br gone 63rd, let along 95th.

      But Graham has not been near the blocker Miller was. And he will be split wide more than Miller.

      • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

        Yes, a Lean year at center position for NFL caliber types wouldnt you know. Unger was a 2nd rounder.Would they trade up for a center?As you pointed out with Seattle the unexpected is expected.It is anybody’s guess that they might let go of their 4th rounder to move up and pluck the duck should they think he would not last to 63.
        With”Miller time” it isn’t at this moment until the rehab picture is clear.But it is a nice thought somewhere down the line.

        • eYeDEF

          Lean at the center position? First I’ve heard that. You need to consider converting a guard to center is also always an option, and there should definitely be depth there for possible conversion targets.

          • Its onlySports(DavidWakefield)

            That source was so called “expert” Dan Shonka of….his direct comment was Shonka’s take. He said this year’s draft is “really
            lean” at center, so much so that it’s possible only five or six of them
            get drafted. In that case, will Grasu still be available by the time
            Seattle makes the 95th pick?(end~Quote).
            As with your carrying this point that the Seahawk way is viewed by some as unconventional?A Guard convert might fall under that descript@might carry the day in terms of need@be better accepted by brass as the best effort in going forward in the “Post Max”seasons.
            I remember the day they spilled a 2nd rounder for Unger.The prevalent thought was their SECOND Round pick?Well he must be special or it wouldn’t have been spent on this kid from Oregon.It is a matter of Trust and therefore faith is needed in this pick but a Center?Interesting! I might be in for the same thought this year. Go Hawks!

  • I’m willing to bet a bright, shiny quarter they draft O-line in early rounds. If there’s a need anywhere on the team, that’s it. Not so much for skill, but for health. Maybe a big wideout – maybe interior D-linemen – but definitely some youth and strength for the offensive line.