RENTON, Washington – The story of the Seahawks’ weekend – heck, of the entire 2018 NFL draft – was and will remain Shaquem Griffin.
On Sunday, Griffin continued to rack up endorsement contracts in the wake of becoming the first one-handed player drafted into the modern NFL, by Seattle. Nike signed him. So has Bose, JCPenney, Eleven James. You can bet companies in the booming Puget Sound region will follow in the coming weeks.
Seattle taking the speedy, hard-hitting linebacker in the fifth round, reuniting him with his twin brother Shaquill, was a moment that led to a first: tears flowing inside Seahawks headquarters over a draft choice.
Yet Griffin is just one of multiple players Seattle drafted this past weekend that continue coach Pete Carroll’s and general manager John Schneider’s common thread through eight years: Seeking guys who, for one reason or another, carry chips the size of Mount Rainier on their shoulders.
From defensive lineman Rasheem Green in round three through the constantly counted-out Griffin to fifth-round choice Jamarco Jones, Ohio State’s left tackle the past two years who slipped deeper down the draft than he thought he deserved, the Seahawks again stocked up on the self-motivated.
“I think that kind of goes along with all the guys that we’ve always picked,” Carroll said. “They have a chip on their shoulder. They want to prove something even more so, and it goes a little bit deeper. That kind of response we recognize as a positive.
“It’s unfortunate that they feel like that. But it works for them and helps us, too.”
It doesn’t stop at the draft, either. The Seahawks are taking a large stake in their quest to rebound in 2018 from their first non-playoff season in six years in the dozen or so undrafted free agents they continued signing Sunday.
The past half-dozen years the Seahawks have cornered the market on undrafted free agents – that is, the overlooked and ticked off. In 2016, the last playoff season for Seattle, nearly half the team entered the league undrafted, 26 of 53 players on the active roster. The Seahawks were among the league leaders again last year. And with 14 roster spots open following the nine draft choices this past weekend, the team has left open chances for as many as two dozen undrafted free agents to again be on this year’s team.
Indeed, Seattle’s success in turning undrafted rookies into Super Bowl starters – such as eventual $46 million wide receiver Doug Baldwin and since-traded Jermaine Kearse – is a convincing recruiting pitch in the phone calls Carroll and Schenider made to players and their agents Saturday night immediately following the draft.
“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told people that Kearse and Baldwin started for us in the Super Bowl and they were rookie free agents; ‘You too can be the same,’ ” Schneider said in the middle of making those recruiting calls Saturday evening.
Indeed, the Seahawks’ history of seeking and signing the overlooked and underappreciated precedes them.
“I was just on tons of calls just now and the guys are really excited about it,” Carroll said. “They know us. They’ve grown up watching us and they know the area. They know what the stadium looks like, the fans, the 12s. They know that. They know the story. They seem highly enthused about being part of it.
“We still have to do the bargaining and all that with the money that we pay them and all that. But it’s a pretty obvious following.”
Green was an inside force at defensive tackle on USC’s athletic, hugely talented defensive front. He said he prefers playing outside, but the Trojans had NFL-caliber ends on its defensive front while he was with them.
He also prefers not having to watch 78 players, including 16 other defensive linemen, get drafted over two days. Only after that did the Seahawks select him Friday with the 79th overall pick as their second choice of this draft.
“It’s tough watching guys getting drafted that play the same position when I personally feel like I’m a bit better than them” he said. “But it is what it is.”
What Green has in Seattle is the chance to take over Michael Bennett’s old role. Carroll said Green is going to start out in the role Bennett, the Pro Bowl pass rusher excelled: as an outside, five-technique end on early downs and then inside as a hybrid tackle simply too quick for most guards and centers to handle.
The Seahawks essentially replaced 2017 top pick Malik McDowell, who may never play because of an ATV accident and head injuries, with Green in the inside-outside pass-rushing role. They need help there after trading Bennett last month and with fellow Pro Bowl end Cliff Avril’s career in doubt because of a serious neck injury.
“We’re going to play him at defensive end and use him as an inside rusher as well in nickel situations,” Carroll said, “and we’ll see what that brings us. That’s the thought right now. We needed a little help there so it’s a good get for us.”
The chip on Griffin’s shoulder is self-evident. Nobody has played in the NFL with only one hand.
But Schneider said his advanced-analytics team showed him Griffin, the American Athletic Conference’s defensive player of the year in 2016 for Central Florida, didn’t miss many more tackles in college than all the other linebackers in this draft . And the intangibles Griffin has are, as the GM called it, “off the charts.”
“There have been so many doubters in everything I do. I still have doubters now,” Griffin said Saturday on the telephone from the draft in Texas. “I’m glad I’m on the right team, and I am with guys that I will be able to grow with, and better myself.
“I will be able to unleash everything that I have been holding to the other teams that didn’t give me a shot.”
The chip on the shoulder extends to Jones. Starting for two years at the most important position on the offensive line for J.T. Barrett, the winningest quarterback in Ohio State’s illustrious history, the two-time Big Ten champion QB and conference record holder for career touchdowns, Jones figured he was worthy of more than being the 168th player taken in this draft. But poor pre-draft workouts scared many teams off him, and left Seattle with what many think was the steal of Saturday’s fifth round.
“I think anybody who is a competitor and believes in themselves wants to go as high as possible.,” said the 6-foot-4, 299-pound Jones, who Carroll said will begin working at left tackle behind Duane Brown, who is entering the final year of his contract .
“But, at the end of the day, I’m just glad that I have an opportunity to go somewhere and compete and play the sport I love.”
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