As much as receivers Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse complain about not getting any respect and being labeled “pedestrian,” the last two games of the season showed the criticisms have a lot of merit.
And when the Seahawks went to Ricardo Lockette — really?! — for the winning touchdown in the final seconds of the Super Bowl, it was a clear indicator that the Seahawks have to upgrade the receiver position in the offseason.
After playing horribly in the NFC title game against Green Bay — shut down for most of the game until they both came up big in overtime — Baldwin and Kearse were almost completely clamped by the Patriots’ secondary in the Super Bowl.
Until yet another undrafted player, Chris Matthews, came up big and sparked the Seattle offense, Russell Wilson had nowhere to go in the first half as Baldwin and Kearse were blanketed by Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner.
Baldwin ended up catching a 3-yard touchdown pass — and celebrated by apparently pretending to take a dump — and Kearse gained 33 yards on a juggling catch while he was falling to the ground on the final drive of the game, setting up Seattle at the 5-yard line.
But Kearse had cost the Hawks with a big drop in the third quarter. The Hawks had a seemingly good chance to extend their 24-14 lead when Wilson hit Lockette for a 25-yard gain to the Seattle 45 with 2:37 left in the third quarter. But, on third-and-2, Kearse dropped a perfectly thrown pass that would have gone 25 yards down to the New England 20.
Baldwin and Kearse finished with just four catches on seven targets, and they could not gain separation from the Patriots’ secondary — just as they could not for much of the game against the Packers.
The Hawks were smart to try Matthews. The 6-foot-5 former CFL standout caught his first NFL pass and ended up with four catches for 109 yards and a touchdown. Lockette caught three balls for 59 yards.
But the Seahawks really missed Paul Richardson. The rookie had come on strong in December and would have been a big help in the past two games.
The obvious lesson: Baldwin and Kearse are not good enough to carry the receiving game by themselves. They need a more talented player to lead the way. Golden Tate was that player in 2013, and Richardson could have been in the last two games if he had not gotten hurt.
Because Richardson is questionable for the start of next season as he recovers from an ACL injury, the Hawks are going to have to address the position in the offseason and hope Kevin Norwood, a fourth-round pick last year who was inactive for the Super Bowl, turns into something.
Kearse is a restricted free agent, and the Hawks seem likely to tender him at the second-round level, which would cost around $2 million. But is a No. 3-4 receiver really worth that? (Yeah, he’s starting, but there’s no way he should be.)
We’re not saying the Hawks should go out and blow more money on free-agent wide receivers (some fans are stupidly hollering for Larry Fitzgerald). Even if Denver’s Demaryius Thomas or Dallas’ Dez Bryant escapes the franchise tag or Philadelphia’s Jeremy Maclin becomes free, the Hawks should not throw money at them. They should have learned their lesson from the Percy Harvin and Sidney Rice debacles.
What they should do, though, is draft one or two — if the opportunity presents itself — and hope Richardson gets healthy fast and Norwood and perhaps Matthews step up to strengthen a position that struggled through much of 2014.