SEATTLE – While there’s understandable excitement about the addition of Sheldon Richardson to a defense that was already Super Bowl caliber, it did come at something of an immediate personnel cost – receiver Jermaine Kearse.
True, Kearse had a rough season in 2016, was unlikely to be back in 2018, and was likely ticketed for a role as being at best the third or fourth receiver this year. That Kearse was the only player on the current roster the Seahawks had to give to the Jets to get the deal done surprised more than a few around the NFL.
But couple the departure of Kearse – who say what you want about him had a special rapport with Russell Wilson that led to a number of big plays in his career and was as durable as any player on the roster – with the decision to waive Kasen Williams and the the Seahawks’ receiving corps suddenly looks a bit different than it did in the preseason.
It means that Seattle will be depending greatly on the ability of Tyler Lockett to pick up where he left off before suffering a broken tibia and fibula last December.
The trade of Kearse and waiving of Williams could be seen as a pretty strong vote of confidence that the Seahawks are not all that worried about Lockett, who will team with Doug Baldwin and Paul Richardson in the team’s three-receiver sets immediately, and will undoubtedly play substantially in two-receiver sets.
“It’s such a great comeback for him to be able to come back from just a major injury,” Seattle offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Wednesday. “It’s a testament to him, a testament to the fortitude that he has, the work ethic, the commitment, the dedication to all of the stuff he has to do that wasn’t even football. So to be able to see him back out on the field and playing at a high level for us right now is really exciting.”
The only other receivers on the roster are second-year player Tanner McEvoy, who played just 132 snaps last season, and Amara Darboh, a rookie who might be inactive for some games depending on how the roster breaks out. In case there was any doubt, Bevell said Wednesday that McEvoy will be the team’s fourth receiver with Darboh the fifth receiver.
The Seahawks would also note that tight ends Jimmy Graham and Luke Willson will often be used in what are essentially receiver roles, as will running back C.J Prosise, meaning three “true’’ receivers may be all Seattle really needs most gamedays. As a story on the team’s website, Seahawks’ com, noted in a stat that seemed also making a point, Seattle had the same amount of receivers on the 53-man roster to start last season, five, as it did this year,
Still, there are some questions of durability that had led many to believe Seattle would likely keep at least six receivers including Williams – Richardson has had some noted injuries and hurt a shoulder in the one series he played in the first exhibition game before coming back to play in the third game, and Lockett also battled a knee injury early last season before suffering the broken leg at the end of the year.
As Seattle coach Pete Carroll said Monday, the Seahawks had hoped to keep Williams on the practice squad as a contingency plan if depth issues arose.
Instead, Williams was claimed by the Cleveland Browns, where he is now wearing No. 82.
In his first comments since his waiving, Williams said he was surprised to have been let go by Seattle, thinking he had for sure made the team after leading the Seahawks with nine cathes for 208 yards in the preseason.
“That was the last thing that I was thinking, based off of the preseason that I had,” Williams said according to the team’s official website, ClevelandBrown.com. “But at the end of the day I couldn’t control the decision that they made. I was just ready to move on and go play for a team that saw me as the guy that I think I am.”
The Seahawks instead kept two other receivers on the practice squad in seventh-round pick David Moore and free agent Cyril Grayson, though if significant injuries occur Seattle is likely to pick up any veteran who might be available.
Bevell said Wednesday he’s confident in the group Seattle has retained.
“It’s a different group,’’ Bevell said. “Obviously, we had Jermaine Kearse, who was a great piece for us and he’s obviously moved on. We really like the group. Have great speed with a guy like P-Rich, a guy like Tyler Lockett. Obviously, Doug is the master for us at that position. He can do anything we ask him to do Darboh and Tanner are really good pieces. Like their size. Both of them are big, obviously Tanner is 6-5, you can’t coach that either. They all bring great skills, they’ve looked great out here in practice. So it’s really a good group and I expect good things from them.’’
Bevell said the decisions on who to keep at receiver came down to “who was the best fit for us. A lot of times it comes down to special teams as well. Obviously, the more you can do. So special teams ends up being a big factor, as well as the position they play and how they fit us and how we think we can use their talents.’’
That those factors led to the receiving corps the team has now has elicited no lack of debate the last few days. The real answers will be found in what happens over the next few months.
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