John Schneider has not been afraid to make bold gambles with the Seahawks’ roster — Percy Harvin, Jimmy Graham and Sheldon Richardson being prominent examples. As the 2018 offseason approaches, he has a chance to make another one.
Richardson figures to command a hefty contract on the open market, and he and the Jets reportedly are interested in a reunion — just months after the Jets traded him to Seattle for a second-round pick and Jermaine Kearse (and a swap of seventh-rounders).
Schneider could shrug and let the defensive tackle go, content to look forward to the third-round comp pick Seattle likely would get in 2019 — a partial offset for that trade. Or Schneider could be a lot more devious and daring, if he felt he could manipulate the situation to Seattle’s advantage.
Schneider has not used the franchise tag since his first year in Seattle, 2010, when he retained kicker Olindo Mare. But he should consider it for Richardson. And then trade him.
Here’s how it ideally would work:
- Schneider tags Richardson at the projected $14.5 million franchise tender.
- Schneider offers Richardson a deal the Hawks could afford, which would be too low (think a max $10 million a year vs. the minimum $15 million Richardson’s agent likely will target).
- Schneider then lets a presumably disappointed Richardson shop himself in a trade.
- Schneider takes no less than a second and third from the Jets or another interested team.
If it all worked out, Schneider would recoup both the high 2018 picks he traded for Richardson and Duane Brown (the third-rounder) and have a full complement again (Seattle has 1, 4, 5, 5, 5, 7, 7 right now). And he would have money to use on other free agents.
Schneider could make this gambit only if he knew he was getting cap relief from the retirement of Cliff Avril ($7.5 million) and the release of Jeremy Lane ($4.75 million) and a $2 million credit player (Seattle has several). That all would add up to Richardson’s franchise tender, protecting Schneider in the event no deal (contract or trade) were made and Richardson ended up playing under the tag in 2018.
The franchise tag is not designed to facilitate trades, of course, but franchise players have been dealt before. In 2000, Seattle’s own Mike Holmgren traded Joey Galloway to Dallas for two first-rounders. In 2008, Kansas City traded franchise DE Jared Allen to Minnesota for a first and two thirds. In 2009, New England traded “franchise” QB Matt Cassel to Kansas City for a second.
Schneider has been aggressive in acquiring players at times — dropping two first-rounders, two seconds and two thirds in deals for Harvin, Graham, Richardson and Brown. But he has not yet pulled off a blockbuster that sent a star player out in return for such high picks. If he’s willing to gamble $14.5 million, he could get a couple of draft picks back this time.
The franchise tag window is Feb. 20 to March 6, and the new league year (and trading period) begins March 14. We’ll find out then.
Meanwhile, Earl Thomas sounds like he doesn’t care whether he returns to Seattle. Asked about his contract situation, he said, “I don’t know. Actions speak louder than words. … I know whoever gets me, I’m balling. That’s it. I know I’m hot.”
His nonchalance about his Seattle future probably stems from (1) his disappointment in the way this season has gone and (2) recent conjecture that the team might trade him.
But you can bet Schneider is going to keep the Pro Bowl free safety, paying him market value (upwards of $13 million a year) on one more deal. And we at least know Thomas is not considering retirement. So count on Area 29 being covered for a few more years.