John Schneider has been a gambling man plenty of times in the past, and here’s a gamble he really needs to make today: Use the franchise tag on Sheldon Richardson.
Schneider has a base 75 percent chance of winning a tag gamble. The only negative would come if Richardson insisted on signing and playing on the $13.9 million tender. That seems very unlikely, which leaves three winning scenarios for Schneider: (1) Strike a long-term deal, (2) trade him for a Day 2 pick (and something else), (3) rescind the tag, let Richardson leave in free agency and end up with a high comp pick in 2019.
At the Combine last Friday, Schneider said he needed to “figure out how to compensate” for Seattle’s gaping hole on Day 2 of the draft. Trading 32-year-old Michael Bennett won’t do it. But tagging Richardson likely would — whether he stays or goes.
The only minor issue with tagging Richardson would be cap space while the tender was in effect. But that could easily be overcome.
Cutting Cliff Avril and Jeremy Lane and trading Bennett would net about $14 million in cap space — coincidentally almost exactly what it would take to tender Richardson.
After a weekend of trade rumors, Seattle reportedly is focused on re-signing Earl Thomas. An extension for the All-Pro safety could clear $4 million in 2018 cap space. A new deal for Duane Brown could add $6 million or so. And that would be enough to add a few affordable veterans.
Keeping Richardson also would help offset the losses of Bennett and Avril and would give Seattle something in return for that second-round pick the team sent to the Jets (along with Jermaine Kearse) for Richardson.
A long-term deal with Richardson obviously would be preferred — locking him up with the team for a few years and lowering his 2018 cap hit. If no deal could be reached and he preferred to go elsewhere, that’s where the trade would come in. Seattle certainly could get a second-rounder and a lower pick for him.
In the worst case — if no contract or trade were possible and Richardson had not signed the tender — Schneider could simply rescind it and let him go his merry way, content to take the high comp pick in 2019.
At the Combine last week, Pete Carroll said “all of those (tag) choices are out there,” and Schneider said they had not decided: “We have time.”
Well, time is up today. And Schneider should tag him.
After a weekend of trade talk surrounding Thomas and Bennett, NFL Network reported that Bennett could be traded in the next week but the Hawks are focused on re-signing Thomas. Jimmy Graham is still expected to leave in free agency.
As we expected, the Falcons appear to be the leading team of interest for Bennett — with other teams reportedly in the mix.
Seattle doesn’t seem likely to get much for him though. Robert Quinn, 27, drew only a fourth-rounder (and swap of sixths), so that would seem to be the cap for the 32-year-old Bennett. Maybe they can make it a conditional deal, taking a 6 this year and a 4 or 5 next year. But if it’s just a 6 or 7 this year, Seattle would be better off keeping him.
As for Graham, despite his 10 touchdowns last season, it became obvious in December that he wasn’t worth what it would take to keep him. Other than 10 touchdowns, he had a forgettable 2017 season — we referred to him as Jimmy & Hyde. He didn’t fit Seattle and he knew it. He figures to have a good market, which apparently might include his former team, the Saints.
While Graham, Bennett and Richardson all figure to leave as early as March 14, when the league year starts, we expect the Seahawks to make a couple of keeper moves that day — tendering RFA Justin Coleman for $2.9 million (second-round level) and Dion Jordan for $1.9 million (original round, aka first).