BY Art Thiel 06:00AM 03/16/2021

Thiel: Seahawks stay quiet, but Jets’ Darnold?

As usual in free agency, the Seahawks are shopping at Costco while other NFL teams go to Gucci. Meanwhile, the Wilson saga takes a turn toward a New York state of mind.

In a 40-3 loss to the Seahawks Dec. 13 at the Loo, Jets QB Sam Darnold got to know Seahawks DT Jarran Reed a bit. / Drew Sellers, Sportspress Northwest

Seems as if everyone these days is looking for a shot in the arm. But if Seahawks fans were looking for anything other than a COVID-19 vaccine Monday, they got nothing.

The two offensive linemen said to be the best available at the start of NFL free agency went elsewhere, leaving unmet Russell Wilson’s fervent desire for better bodyguards.

But at least the results maintained a tradition at this time of year as familiar as green beer: Seahawks fans lamenting, “Why can’t we have nice things?”

Former Packer Corey Linsley, a potential upgrade from free agent C Ethan Pocic, left Green Bay for the Los Angeles Chargers and a five-year deal worth up to $62.5 million. Good for him, and bad for Seahawks Twitterverse.

Making larger bank was former Patriots guard Joe Thuney, who signed up to help save the precious backside of Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes for five years, $80 million, $32.5 million guaranteed.

Again, scorn.

A third lineman, Kevin Zeitler, formerly of the New York Giants and a teammate of Wilson’s at the University of Wisconsin, moved to help save Ravens QB Lamar Jackson for three years and $22 million.

As fans have learned, Pete Carroll and John Schneider rarely shop at Gucci when Costco has it all, plus $1.50 hot dogs.

To be honest, in the NFL, free agency for most teams is often an inefficient use of dollars under the salary cap. The potential is alluring, because for every expensive hire that succeeds, the B.J. Finney/Greg Olsen/Phillip Dorsett-style busts tend to be lost in the cloud of confetti.

But this year, matters for the Seahawks seem to have an urgency that feels like it should top logic. Primarily since Wilson made public demands for better pass protection, the popular knee-jerk response would to go top shelf for replacement help. And the Seahawks do have  vacancies at left guard with the retirement of Mike Iupati, and the free agency of Pocic.

Yet because needs are many besides the O-line — tight end, running back (free agent Carlos Hyde signed Monday with Jacksonville), No. 3 receiver, rush end and up to two starting cornerbacks, plus decisions on contract extensions for SS Jamal Adams, FS Quandre Diggs, re-hiring LB K.J. Wright, and paying DT Poona Ford $3.3 million — the $17.1 million space under the salary cap hardly is adequate.

So the Seahawks’ silence on the first day of free agency — contracts agreed to on Monday and Tuesday won’t be signed until the business start of the new season at 1 p.m. Wednesday — speaks to a longer game of filling roster holes. A middle class of free agent players over days and weeks figures to be more robust this time, because so many teams have to cut back payroll to fit under a shriveled cap.

Speaking of silence, intriguing news came Sunday in a report from NFL.com, the league’s house organ, that the Seahawks bosses have only listened to, and not negotiated with, teams bearing incense and myrrh seeking to trade for Wilson.

“No one I’ve spoken with has said that Seattle has actually engaged in any of these talks,” reporter Ian Rapoport said. “It is a long way from anything happening here.”

That sounds as if the free agency period is adjacent to, but not part of, the decision-making regarding Wilson’s future. Except that if the Seahawks want to restructure Wilson’s contract to gain more cap room, they need to activate that automatic feature before 1 p.m. Wednesday.

Perhaps they already have made other plans — with the New Jets.

The New York Daily News quoted an unnamed NFL source Monday afternoon saying, “Keep an eye on Seattle for Darnold.”

That would be Sam Darnold, the one-time USC star last seen in Seattle Dec. 13 when the Jets lost their 13th game in a row, this one 40-3. The third overall pick in the 2018 draft was 14 for 26 for 132 yards. Bad as that looks, Wilson a month later was 11 for 27 for 174 yards against the Rams, and a pick-six.

Carroll was long gone from USC  by the time Darnold rolled through. His NFL career has been disappointing, the Jets moreso — one winning season and no playoffs in 10 years.  There’s a reason the Jets weren’t on the list four teams for which he would waive his no trade clause.

Things change.

With three of Wilson’s four proposed trade destinations (Raiders, Saints and Cowboys) seemingly settled at quarterback, and with popular ex-Seahawks assistant Robert Saleh as the Jets’ new head coach, the prospect of a spectacular turnaround in the Big Apple would appeal to Wilson’s ego.

Based on Carroll’s remarks about Darnold in the run-up to the Jets game, the notion is less than outlandish.

“I think he’s really talented, without question,” Carroll said. “He’s got great throws in him. He’s a real quarterback. He sees things. He makes big plays and big throws in difficult situations because of his talent. It’s just a matter of time.

“Sam’s going to be a really big-time QB. He’s thrown a lot of balls in three years. He’s had a lot of experience. It will pay off in the long run.”

After that Dec. 13 game, it’s hard to imagine Darnold as a long-run answer. Then again, the same was said of Wilson in his rookie year, when he was 24. Darnold is 23.

Things change.


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YourThoughts

  • Mark Stratton

    This wouldn’t be worth discussing but for the potential of Wilson being more unhappy after this year because the Hawks didn’t genuflect sufficiently. If he demands a trade next year they won’t be able to get near the value, as other teams will know the Hawks are under the gun to move him. That no-trade clause could put them in the same situation as the Texans with Clowney. Yikes! Do the Jets have a stud d-lineman? They definitely have a lot of first round picks.

    • art thiel

      If Wilson stays in ’21, there’s going to be a lot of happy talk about forgetting the tension and moving on. But every faltering, every loss, will be seen through the Carroll-Wilson filter of acrimony.

      • Ed Walsh

        Yes. Lot of the fairy-tale fun stuff just went away. As you say, this will be commentator sidenotes even in mid-game.

  • Stephen Pitell

    Valuing Darnold at about a 2nd round pick, if they throw in 3 #1’s and an OL on a cheap contract I might agree to that trade after the June deadline…..not legal I suppose.

    • art thiel

      You drive a hard bargain. 3 #1s? Not sure if Schneider knows what to do with a high first.

      • Mister Tacoma

        Turn them into 12 later round picks. ;)

        • Archangelo Spumoni

          For EACH.

        • art thiel

          The news Wednesday was the Bears’ offer included three ones, a three and two starters. Schneider said no. We don’t know the names, but since there was no QB in the mix, the Bears’ pick at 20 this year wouldn’t get them one of the top 5 rookie QBs. I’d say no too.

      • Husky73

        The fewer first round picks for Schneider, the better.

  • jafabian

    The Schneider – Carroll regime doesn’t throw money at big name free agents. Instead they let the market settle and then survey what’s on the landscape. They hope for something like when they picked up Michael Bennett and signed him to a one year deal. If anything their player evaluations have been mixed though that probably isn’t much different than other teams. They’ve had better success with trades but they’ve lost quite a few draft picks with their recent trades. However Brown, Diggs and Adams have been solid. The window is closing on Brown though and no replacement is in sight.

    Darnold would be intriguing depending on what would come with him but history shows to win a Super Bowl you need an All Pro QB which Wilson is though “only” as 2nd team in 2019. A good journeyman QB usually doesn’t cut it though Nick Foles blows that theory out of the water. Personally I’d like Goff just to poke the Rams. And have Alex Smith and Josh Rosen as the backups. The NFC West would never be the same!

    I should be an NFL GM! Hey, I’m off the M’s bandwagon now. Until the next column at least.

    • art thiel

      We’re all NFL GMs these days, thanks to Wilson’s wandering eye.

      Yes, Schneider has been good with his in-season moves, no so much in the off-season. No NFL GM admits it, but making off-season deals when you have to pay top-tier money to a top-tier QB is hard under a cap. They don’t want to sound whiny. I’m sure Schneider has been tempted to deal Wilson for that reason alone.

  • WestCoastBias79

    Big market newspapers have always treated smaller markets like they’re shopping carts and invent news in blind stabs to create self fulfilling prophecies. Annually, there seems to be rumors birthed in New York involving wishlists to save their garbage Knicks, Mets, or Jets. When they actually do happen, the rumor is usually the wrong franchise. Ask Kevin Durant.

    • art thiel

      NY is one of the last competitive newspaper markets in the country. Instead of nit-picking, pray it continues.

  • Husky73

    This room is surly and reactionary when the Seahawks go 12-4, win the division and lose in the playoffs. What will be the reaction when a Sam Darnold-led Seattle team goes 4-12? These aren’t Mariner fans or Husky hoops fans.

    • art thiel

      I think responders here reflect a diversity of opinion, and the Seahawks have presented them with wildly diverse outcomes and possibilities. Most fans most of the time want it all, and are disappointed when denied.

  • Husky73

    Chicago, Dallas and (looks like) New Orleans got quarterbacks. The Raiders don’t seem interested. Russ’ window is closing, unless he opens it for the Saints and Jets.

    • jafabian

      The Saints were on his approved list. Verbally the Raiders say they’re happy with Carr but they’d trade for Wilson in a heartbeat. Remember on draft day Gruden raved about the Seahawks pick of Wilson. When a star player complains about his team it never ends well. They might stay for a few more seasons but they always eventually move on.

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      • art thiel

        The public complaints are a bad sign, especially in the NBA. Which is why I’m not foreclosing on any option. But neither do I accept the blanket notion that all such ruptures are irreparable. It takes unusual people to create a compromise. Wilson and Carroll are unusual people.

    • art thiel

      As I mentioned in the next column, Wilson went 0h-fer-four.