Schneider’s big Combine mission: Set up trades

Schneider at combineThis week’s wild Russell Wilson rumor aside, it has been a quiet stretch in Seahawks Land — no action since the team signed Paxton Lynch in mid-January. Like most of the rest of the league, the Hawks have been heads-down planning offseason moves and prepping for next week’s Combine.

John Schneider will have three tasks in Indy. Beyond scouting players and gauging the free-agent market, the biggest mission will be laying the groundwork for possible draft trades.

We all know Schneider is going to move down from 21st overall and might not make his first pick until the second round, looking to add to his four selections (Rounds 1, 3, 4, 5). He’s probably hoping to pull off a repeat of 2017, when he went from 26 to 31 to 34 to 35 and added four picks (Rounds 3, 4, 6, 7).

He should be able to do it, using teams’ desperation for quarterbacks and offensive tackles and their love for certain receivers or pass rushers, the two positions that are the strength of this draft. The Combine is where those trade talks always start.

Here are a few scenarios that could emerge:

The Chargers might want to move up from 28 to get over Houston (23) for a tackle or Baltimore (22) for a linebacker. That move would net the Seahawks a third-rounder.

The Colts could consider jumping from 26 to add a favored receiver or defensive lineman. That could net Seattle a third, too.

Philadelphia (25) might want to get over Baltimore for a linebacker or receiver. That could bring Seattle a fourth.

New England will have six picks in the first two days — barring deals for veterans, of course — and might be interested in moving up to get Rob Gronkowski‘s successor or a receiver. The move from 32 would be worth the Patriots’ pick at the end of Round 2.

Kyler Murray, the two-sport star who chose to play QB, could be a big wild card. If he slips out of the top 15, teams could be aggressive in trying to get him. Oakland is rumored to be highly interested, which could get teams to jump over the Raiders’ pick at 24 (assuming they don’t draft him fourth overall).

Even if Murray is gone, Schneider could dangle other passers. Maybe Missouri’s Drew Lock or Duke’s Daniel Jones slips deep into the first, prompting a QB-needy team such as Denver (yes, even after the Joe Flacco trade), Washington, Miami or Cincinnati to move up from the top of the second round.

Of course, the bait doesn’t have to be a QB. In 2017, the 49ers moved up from 34 to Seattle’s spot at 31 for linebacker Reuben Foster. This year, maybe someone will love one of the top tight ends or another tackle or receiver enough to get back into the first round.

Schneider also could build his draft stock the Patriot way — by moving some veteran players. It’s unlikely, because Schneider never deals players who have much value, but here are some trades he could consider leading up to the draft:

Trade Bobby Wagner: Schneider should re-sign Wagner (assuming the linebacker is fine not getting a big raise). But, if a deal seems unlikely or Schneider simply doesn’t want to pay Wagner, he has to explore a trade. If the Hawks could get a first-rounder — or a second-rounder and maybe another pick (or a veteran defensive lineman) — now is the time. Yeah, it would be yet another unceremonious end in Seattle for a longtime star; but, if Schneider doesn’t want to pay Wagner past 2019, he absolutely needs to get something for him.

Trade Frank Clark: If Schneider doesn’t want to pay Clark, he should tag and trade him — if he thinks he can get a first-rounder or a second and another pick or player (obviously not Antonio Brown). Schneider could know the potential market for Clark by the end of the Combine, in plenty of time to tag the defensive end by the March 5 deadline. If a trade is the best move, he could use the money he saved to add a couple of cheaper free-agent pass rushers, and the pick(s) would give Seattle more options in the draft.

Trade Doug Baldwin: The 30-year-old receiver’s days in Seattle seem numbered, due to wear and tear and high salaries, and Schneider should see what his value is on the trade market. If he can get a Day 2 pick or perhaps a defensive lineman (Robert Quinn, Vic Beasley, Gerald McCoy, et al.), he should consider it.

Trade Justin Britt: The center’s salary spikes in 2020, so the Hawks could consider moving him now if they thought Joey Hunt (or someone else) could take his spot. This deal would be worth it only if the Hawks could net at least a third-rounder and replace Britt. Schneider also could try packaging Baldwin and Britt for a first-round pick.

Trade Chris Carson: If some team is willing to give up a Day 2 pick for Carson, Schneider could re-sign Mike Davis, then trade Carson and elevate 2018 first-rounder Rashaad Penny to the starter’s role. Next to Wagner and Clark, Carson might be the most valuable trading chip the Hawks have. He’s cheap and productive, which might seduce a team into giving up a second-round pick for him. Seattle wouldn’t take a cap hit in trading him (unlike Penny). A Day 2 pick in exchange for the former seventh-round pick would be a solid move.

If you don’t like those ideas, don’t worry: Schneider is very unlikely to deal any of those players; he’s just not that shrewd or ruthless. He’ll likely just stick to his safe draft-day trade-downs, adding three or four picks.

He’ll start setting up those deals next week, when he and the Seahawks (and the rest of the NFL) really get back to work.

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