This may be the most competitive position group on the roster. It was certainly the most actively addressed during the offseason.
The Seahawks brought in five receivers (if you include Sidney Rice) and lost one (Golden Tate).
Obviously, the effectiveness of the Seahawks’ passing game can’t be explained in totals since they throw the ball so infrequently. Russell Wilson finished 12th in completion percentage and seventh in passer rating last season, showing a solid and efficient passing game.
According to Football Outsiders’ wide receiver value chart, Doug Baldwin was the most valuable on the team. He was ranked 12th overall in the league via their metrics among receivers with at least 50 catches. Tate was 24th.
Jermaine Kearse was fourth among receivers with 10-49 catches.
Yet, Seattle spent a small amount of free agent money and two prime draft picks on new receivers. Let’s take a look.
The team’s highest-paid offensive player and most dynamic offensive option when healthy, Harvin will be expected to have a huge 2014. The glimpses he provided in limited playing time last year — like when he basically ended the Super Bowl by returning the second-half kickoff for a touchdown — only heightened expectation about what he can provide the offense.
Angry enough to play the slot and outside, Baldwin showed he’s one of the league’s best bargains. He’s currently wrangling with the team about his contract status. He said on 950 KJR he won’t sit out this year, so he’ll either being playing under a second-round tender or will work out a longer contract. Considering all the new receivers the Seahawks brought in, my guess is the two sides will have a hard time meeting at a mutual number for a two- or three-year deal.
The question for Kearse this year is if he can maintain such a high level of efficiency. Kearse was targeted just 38 times last season, only 10 more than backup tight end Luke Willson and three fewer than Sidney Rice, who was lost for the year in October. In those 38 regular-season targets, he made 22 catches and finished second on the team to seldom used Ricardo Lockette (16.4), with 15.7 yards per catch. His fourth-down touchdown catch in the NFC Championship game was one of the biggest plays of the year.
The second-round pick has striking acceleration, hence his self-assigned catch phrase, “don’t blink.” Richardson will be going form a situation where he was basically the entire offense at Colorado, to where he’s a receiver in an offense that averaged 25 passes per game last season, among the lowest in the league. Though, Pete Carroll thinks that adaptation is a non-issue.
“That’s not even a factor,” Carrol said after the draft. “He’s coming out here trying to make this club and make a spot for himself. What happened in the past just showed who he was and what kind of player he was, but it doesn’t have anything to do with it. He’s not geared that he’s got to be the guy to be an effective player. He’s ready to go, he’ll come out competing and will fit in, as will all of the guys. I don’t think that’s an issue at all.”
The next group
The Seahawks’ other wide receiver draft pick comes from Alabama, where he played in a run-first system. Norwood was known for being timely with his catches, earning him the nickname, “Mr. Clutch.” Norwood has decent size at 6-foo-2 and 200 pounds. His greatest impact is likely to come on third down.
The question for him is simple: Is he healthy? Coming off an ACL tear, Rice is on a one-year deal. Rice, 27, told the TNT he expects to play several more years. How he fits in the Seahawks’ receivers room this year — and beyond — is a bit of a question. Rice will have to fend off the young guys and show he hasn’t lost anything because of his surgery.
At 6-foot-5 and 218 pounds, Matthews is one of the great wild cards of camp. Matthews was the CFL rookie of the year in 2012. He missed most of 2013 because of injuries.
Lockette showed flashes of his speed and caught five passes on seven targets last season. He also turned out be an intriguing gunner, nearly decapitating LaMichael James in the NFC title game.
Each will have a very hard time making the team.