Salary-cap pressure, and a premier draft class of pass rushers, may force a trade of Frank Clark. The Seahawks also need to find a successor to Doug Baldwin.
The first round is hardly everything. But it is the single biggest thing in the NFL draft. And it’s one thing the Seahawks haven’t done very well during the otherwise highly successful tenures of coach Pete Carroll and GM John Schneider.
The Seahawks are scheduled to pick 21st in the first round Thursday. Even the shyest snow leopard at the Woodland Park Zoo is aware that Seattle wants to trade down to acquire more picks, because at the moment they have four, fewest in the NFL and in club history. It’s a result of borrowing against the future, a draft principle Schneider was loathe to violate, but did so anyway.
In the hours ahead of the draft, they may decide to trade sackmaster DE Frank Clark. The aspiration is obtaining a first-round pick, according to a Saturday tweet from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com.
Seattle still is considering trading franchise DE Frank Clark and if he were to be traded before Thursday’s draft, the package would need to include at least a first-round pick, per league source.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) April 20, 2019
Finding another team to go along with the idea of giving up a No. 1, which then must pay top dollar for the young veteran, seems unlikely, especially since edge rusher is said to be the deepest position in football’s prom night.
However, discerning Seahawks fans are just fine with Schneider trading down for more picks, knowing he’s a fiend when it comes to the remainders table. Mismatched shoes, a sun-faded shirt, corduroy pants — doesn’t matter. Schneider will make second-hand into a GQ cover.
But keep him away from the Gucci store. The man from small-town Wisconsin is uncomfortable among the fashionistas.
Here’s a glance at the first picks in each of the Carroll/Schneider drafts. The 10 aren’t all first-round picks, because four times the Seahawks traded back into the second round to pick up additional choices.
Year/position/name/overall selection/Seahawks games, starts:
2018: RB Rashaad Penny, 27th: 14 games, 0 starts
2017: DT Malik McDowell, 35th; 0 games, 0 starts
2016: RT Germain Ifedi, 31st; 44 games, 44 starts
2015: DE Frank Clark, 63rd; 62 games, 33 starts
2014: WR Paul Richardson, 45th; 47 games, 19 starts
2013: RB Christine Michael, 62nd; 26 games, 9 starts
2012: DE Bruce Irvin, 15th; 58 games, 37 starts
2011: RT James Carpenter, 25th; 45 games, 39 starts
2010: LT Russell Okung, 6th; 72 games, 72 starts
2010: FS Earl Thomas, 14th; 125 games, 125 starts
A quick and somewhat unfair conclusion: One Hall of Famer, five more solid starters, three guys and a whiff.
The unfair part is Penny has had only a year as a backup, and the trades out of the first round have created more picks that sometimes turned into serviceable players. That includes the McDowell injury saga.
The Seahawks traded down from 26th to 35th and added four picks that became safeties Tedric Thompson and Delano Hill, CB Mike Tyson and RB Chris Carson. Three of those were solid choices, especially Carson. But the next player chosen after McDowell was Huskies star safety Budda Baker, who was first team All-Pro in his rookie year for Arizona.
Ah, well. For second-guessers, the NFL draft is like no other sports paradise.
Perhaps the most startling observation is that of the 10 first-round picks (two in the first year of 2010), only three remain on the roster — Penny, Ifedi and Clark. That accounting doesn’t include the 2013 first-rounder (25th overall) surrendered in the Percy Harvin trade (as well as the 214th pick that year and the 96th pick in 2014).
Of the seven top choices who reached eligibility for a second contract as a Seahawk, only Okung and Thomas were offered and accepted. Clark, now on the franchise tag but seeking a long-term extension, remains unresolved.
Three — Carpenter, Irvin and Richardson — weren’t offered, and left in free agency. Michael was the only top choice traded for anything, a seventh-round pick from the Cowboys in 2015.
The worst draft of the regime was 2013, a year after the 2012 draft yielded Russell Wilson and LB Bobby Wagner. That draft across the NFL has been deemed one of the worst ever, but perhaps no one was more zeroed out than the Seahawks:
Only fifth-round TE Luke Willson became a consistent contributor.
As draftniks know, all teams have had similar outcomes and major first-round busts. The Seahawks are hardly the worst, and the first four top choices — Okung, Thomas, Carpenter and Irvin — had big roles with the Super Bowl champions.
But because of the salary cap, success can make things harder for evaluating draft classes in terms of service to the drafting team. The best teams annually have to make decisions to let go a few average to good players in order to accommodate the core players who have become stars and thus more expensive.
That is the dilemma facing the Seahawks this week.
Clark is vulnerable to a trade because in addition to accommodating the ginormous contract of Wilson last week, the Seahawks want to extend the contracts of proven vets Wagner and DT Jarran Reed. None of this was unanticipated.
What did make news was the expensive market for Clark created by the Cowboys signing of DeMarcus Lawrence (five years, $105 million) and the iffy health of WR Doug Baldwin, who is coming off four surgeries and turns 31 in September.
The Seahawks’ biggest off-season need was another quality pass-rusher to pair with Clark. In their mostly Boom-less year, they gave up 240 yards passing, a mediocre 17th in the NFL. But now they may have a more urgent need to find a successor to Baldwin, even if he eventually returns.
A trade of Clark might yield a first, or more likely second, to address a need for immediate impact, and would be a better return than the big zeroes they received for Thomas and CB Richard Sherman.
The cost is the defense’s sack leader and second-best player (after Thomas’s season-ending broken leg). Keeping Clark and complicating the cap structure, then trading out of the first round, runs the risk of missing out on players who can seriously help in 2019.
It may be several years before the draft yields as many top-end pass rush candidates. If something good has to be given to balance a team worthy of the game’s highest-paid player, Clark is the logical sacrifice — even if the first round has had more than its share of bad Seahawks juju.