By Daniel Luu
We’re in the middle of the dead zone of the offseason. The NFL combine just wrapped up last weekend, giving us a good preview of upcoming NFL prospects. In most other years, March would actually be exciting due to the free agency period, but thanks to the NFL owners and NFLPA we won’t know when free agency or anything else will start. But the one thing we know for sure will happen is the draft on April 28th.
Before we hunker down into the depths of draft analysis, let’s talk for a second about the state of the quarterback situation here in Seattle. First up is big number 8, Mr. Hasselbeck. As it stands right now, Matt’s contract has expired and he is an impending free agent. Talks between the team and Hasselbeck's agent to re-sign him seemed to escalate last week, but according to various sources those negotiations have since cooled off and both sides appear to be far apart. Nonetheless, for now we can assume that eventually a deal will get done with Hasselbeck as soon as there is a new CBA in place.
Next up is Charlie Whitehurst. Under contract for one more year ($4 mil), he’s our current backup quarterback and would be the likely favorite to start for our Seattle Seahawks should we fail to re-sign Matt Hasselbeck. I don’t know about you, but that isn’t quite music to my ears.
After these two guys (contractually, only one), we have literally nothing. J.P. Losman, last year’s third stringer, is a free agent. Nate Davis, whom we picked up off waivers from the 49ers last month, was cut a few days ago. But even if we still had those two guys under contract, I still wouldn’t be very confident in our quarterback group. I’m just going to say it straight out: the Seahawks need to draft a quarterback in round one of the draft this year.
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So why draft and not go veteran-style via free agency or a trade? Well for starters, without a CBA in place we can’t sign or trade anyone, and at this rate who knows how long it’ll take for that to get done. In addition, if the free agency period were to begin after the draft, what would happen if we skipped out on drafting a quarterback only to miss out on landing a starting-caliber free agent quarterback? I guarantee you, that’s the LAST thing you want to have happen to our team.
But let’s suppose for a second that Seattle’s front office wants to pursue a veteran anyway. Who would be available?
The highest profile target out there is probably Kevin Kolb, backup QB for the Eagles. While I wouldn’t mind seeing him on the roster, we’d have to give the house to get him. Philadelphia has so much leverage in this trade that we’d have to give up at the minimum our first round and fourth round picks. This team is definitely not just a quarterback away from making a deep run in the playoffs. We have so many needs that I can’t see any reason to trade all our picks for Kolb.
After Kolb, it’s pretty slim pickings via trade. Kyle Orton in Denver? At the moment he’s not even on the trading block. Matt Flynn in Green Bay? He has about the same amount of experience as Whitehurst. Besides, if he were a potential all-star John Schneider would have already made a move for him, given that he was part of the group that drafted Flynn three years ago.
The group of quarterbacks currently available in free agency is also pretty thin. Donovan McNabb? At this age, is he really even that much of an upgrade, if at all, over Hasselbeck? Carson Palmer? If Palmer is playing football this year, it will be for the Bengals or for nobody. The team's owner, Mike Brown, has made it clear that Palmer will not be traded. Still want to pursue a veteran now? I would think not so much. Here’s why I’d take a QB in round one:
1) Assuming that we re-sign Hasselbeck, it would provide a prime opportunity for us to draft a QB and let him hold the clipboard and learn for a few years. The QBs in this year’s class have all the potential in the world, but every one of them still needs a bit of refinement. Hopefully Seattle could pull off something similar to what Green Bay did with Aaron Rodgers in 2009: grab a QB late in the first round and stash him on the roster as the backup for a few years.
2) Even if Pete Carroll and company make 1000 transactions in their first four years, the one thing they will ultimately be judged on is who they decide to settle on as their longterm QB. Twenty years down the road, when we think of the Hasselbeck era we will think of his time he spent playing for Mike Holmgren, not Carroll (unless he wins a super bowl next year with Haselbeck, that is). My gut feeling is that he won’t go with an older veteran.
3) Round one. If the Seahawks are going to pick a QB in this draft, it has to happen in the first round. Of the 32 teams in the NFL, 10 - 12 need a QB. However, only two or three will decide to pull the trigger in round one, leaving guys like Jake Locker, Ryan Mallet, and Christian Ponder, all talented guys, available to us at pick #25. But if the 2011 quarterback class is so deep, why not wait until round two? The reason is because most of those QB-needy teams who didn't pick one in the first round will take one in the second. At most positions in the draft class this year the first round talent runs 3 - 5 guys deep, and every team that needs a QB aside from Seattle has draft choices within the first 16 picks of each round. What I’m saying is that many will skip out on a QB in the first round to get other guys, then grab a QB in round two. If we were to take the same approach, we’d go from potentially getting the 3rd or 4th best quarterback in round one to getting the 7th or 8th best guy in round two. Do guys like Nathan Enderle and Ricki Stanzi sound appealing to you as the future of the Seahawks franchise?
But what about other positions? This is the hard part, and I would love to take an OL, DL, or CB at #25. But here's where the value of the QB position comes into play, because the position is so important that you can’t win without one. Take a look at the playoff contenders every year, and you'll see that they all have solid QBs in place. Even if your team has many needs, drafting the right QB will buy you a few years to continue building. Look at St. Louis, for example. They spent many years trying to build their team around their gaping hole at QB, and it was a mess. The year after they draft Sam Bradford, the team performed dramatically better and suddenly their future looks bright again.
Our non-QB needs this year are offensive line, defensive line, cornerback, and wide receiver. I’d love to take a closer look at each of those positions, but this article is already long enough as it is so let’s just briefly skim through. At OL, we need interior guys. Other than Mike Pouncey from Florida, I’m not sure there is another guard worth picking 25th overall. We can probably get a solid guard in free agency (whenever that is) or later in the draft. DL is a strong possibility for a first round pick, and I’d say this is almost as likely as the chance of us taking a QB. CB is a glaring need, but one we’ll only consider if Patrick Peterson, Prince Amukamara, or Jimmy Smith fall that far down the board. WR is the same story, with the only chance of us pulling the trigger on one in the first round being if A.J. Smith or Julio Jones is still available.
Don't get me wrong, I’m not at all saying that drafting a QB will solve all our problems. The Seahawks are far from being a Super Bowl contender. But the position is just that important in the pass-driven NFL, and aside from Hasselbeck the veteran options just aren’t that appealing.
So what do you guys think? Do we go with a sexy pick like QB or WR in round one, or do we take a more traditional approach and go for a guy in the trenches? Please let me know what you think about my writing. I love the NFL and the NFL draft, so if you guys enjoy this article I’d love to write more!