Some observers think Seattle’s big move to add Sheldon Richardson is a sign that team brass thinks the Super Bowl window is closing.
Quite the contrary: The Richardson deal will help the Seahawks in the future as much as it helps them in the present.
We previously talked about Young Sheldon’s expected impact as a one-year Big Bang rental, but the deal also gives Seattle a lot of flexibility as John Schneider and Pete Carroll decide how to configure their roster for 2019 and beyond.
By acquiring Richardson in his contract year, Schneider set up Seattle for a third-round compensatory pick in 2019, after Richardson presumably lands a huge deal with another team in 2018. That third-rounder would offset the second-rounder Schneider gave up in the trade with the Jets.
Schneider also cleared $8.8 million in 2018 cap space, trading Jermaine Kearse and then releasing Ahtyba Rubin, whom the Seahawks decided was superfluous with the addition of Richardson. Both Kearse and Rubin were unlikely to be on the team in 2018 anyway; Schneider just moved them a year early.
Schneider made another advance move by trading contract-year player Cassius Marsh to New England, essentially for Justin Coleman and a fifth-round pick — getting more for the special-teamer and pass-rush reserve than the Seahawks would have in the comp formula. The Marsh trade gave the Hawks picks in these 2018 rounds for now: 1, 3, 4, 5, 5, 7, 7 (add another 7 if lineman Isaiah Battle, acquired conditionally from Kansas City, doesn’t stick).
Schneider also reportedly shopped Jeremy Lane but found no takers for his guaranteed $4 million salary. That’s a sign that Lane seems likely to follow Kearse and Rubin out the door in 2018 (adding another $4.75 million in cap space).
All of those moves continue Schneider’s plan for 2018: Create flexibility for re-shaping the roster.
The core of the team — Russell Wilson, Doug Baldwin and seven Pro Bowl defenders — will still be under contract in 2018. So Schneider’s moves next offseason will be geared toward keeping the team a contender beyond that.
He will need to decide whether to extend 29-year-old Earl Thomas, 29-year-old K.J. Wright, 30-year-old Richard Sherman, 32-year-old Cliff Avril and 2015 picks Tyler Lockett and Frank Clark.
Schneider can make some of those decisions knowing he will have another big comp pick haul in 2019 — like the nine Seattle has received in the past three years.
Richardson is the 18th player to arrive or return on a one-year deal this year. A few of those guys are gone, but 14 remain (including injured Dion Jordan): Richardson, K Blair Walsh, OL Luke Joeckel, RB Eddie Lacy, TE Luke Willson, OG Oday Aboushi, S Bradley McDougald, LB Michael Wilhoite, LB Terence Garvin, QB Austin Davis, DE Marcus Smith, CB DeShawn Shead, OL Matt Tobin.
Add those guys to pending free agents Jimmy Graham (if not extended), Paul Richardson and Thomas Rawls (restricted), and a third of the roster will be free agents in 2018.
Schneider surely will try to keep some of those players — at prices that fit Seattle’s budget. But a number of them will join Sheldon Richardson in leaving for better deals.
If the Hawks let Graham go in 2018, he and Richardson likely would net two third-rounders in 2019.
If not re-signed, Joeckel, Lacy, Willson and McDougald all could merit comp picks, too. Their deals this year equate to a fourth, a sixth and two sevenths in the comp formula. If even a couple of them were to earn better deals elsewhere in 2018, the Seahawks could very well end up with the maximum four comp picks in 2019 (as they did in 2015).
That’s certainly all part of Schneider’s plan to keep this team fresh and evolving as some of the older players phase out. So, no, Seattle’s window is not closing. Schneider is just getting ready to open it even wider.