#8 – Doug Baldwin

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Spoiler Alert:  Doug Baldwin is one of my very favorite Seahawks playing for this team right now.  You gotta like the underdogs, am I right?

We all know about Doug Baldwin, superficially.  Undrafted free agent out of Stanford in 2011, he earned a roster spot right out of the gate.  To be fair, the Seahawks had a real dearth of talent at the time.  Yes, they’d made the playoffs in 2010, but it was as a 7-9 squad with tons of turnover at the back-end.  It was a good time to be an undrafted guy, or a lowly-drafted guy, because there were tons of spots up for grabs.  I know Pete Carroll always says that everyone needs to compete for their spots at all times, but let’s be realistic:  if you’re good enough and talented enough, you’re not losing your spot.  Richard Sherman doesn’t have to worry about his job, no matter HOW talented Tharold Simon is.

In 2011, though, it was wide open.  And, to his credit, not only did Doug Baldwin take advantage of his opportunity, he thrived, leading the team in yards as a rookie.  His numbers hit a dip in 2012 due to injuries, but he returned in 2013 as good as ever.  And, in 2014, another opportunity has opened for him.  It’ll be interesting to see him once again seize this opportunity and surpass expectations beyond our wildest dreams.

Doug Baldwin has always had a heavy role in the offense, but this year he’s going to be a starter on the outside – rather than the slot – for the first time in his career.  Sure, he’s had some experience out there, but now that’s his primary position.  Instead of going up against a lot of nickel corners, he’ll be going up against the best of what other teams have to offer on the outside.  Will he be able to hold his own, the way Golden Tate was able to?  I think so, without a doubt.

Doug Baldwin can do anything he sets his mind to; you can’t say that about everyone.  I mean, think about it, we’re over here wondering if Cliff Avril can rush the passer from the LEO position – because he’s been so comfortable rushing the passer from the other side – and there’s a legitimate concern that Avril will struggle now that he has to go up against a left tackle on most plays.  To be honest, I DON’T think Avril can do anything he puts his mind to (don’t mean to pick on him, but that’s just the example that came immediately to mind).  Doug Baldwin, on the other hand, could probably figure out how to play quarterback if you gave him enough time!

Doug Baldwin has always been critical in making this offense go.  He’s got the most reliable hands, he runs the most precise routes, and he’s got the best body control on the team, which is how he’s able to make all those circus catches on the sideline.  He’s always there when we need to convert and Russell Wilson is running for his life.  The rapport those two share is unlike any we’ve seen between quarterback and wide receiver since Dave Krieg and Steve Largent (with an honorable mention going to Hasselbeck & Engram).

This year, though, Baldwin’s importance goes through the roof.  Most people talk about Percy Harvin replacing Golden Tate, but that’s not really accurate.  Percy Harvin’s role in this offense is going to look nothing like Tate’s.  In reality, Harvin is replacing Baldwin, because it’s Baldwin who is replacing Tate!

This offense is always going to have the threat of the deep pass at its disposal, because it’s always going to have the great running game.  With the great running game, you’ve got defenses who will want to crowd the line of scrimmage.  With Harvin also doing the bulk of his damage around the line, you’ve got to figure defenses will be more keyed in than ever before on what’s going on in the short field.  Which means that Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse on the outside will be the beneficiaries of a lot of our deep balls on play-action.  Can Baldwin do what Tate did?  Can he win more often than not on those jump balls?  Can he shed tackles and break plays for long runs?  Most of America doubts that he can, but not me.  I think he’ll be on-par with what Tate was able to bring.  And, at a fraction of the cost, it was why I wanted so desperately for this team to choose Baldwin over Tate in this past offseason.  I think Tate will be great in Detroit, opposite Calvin Johnson.  But, I think Baldwin will be the more important and more efficient player in Seattle.

Speaking of contract, Doug Baldwin is locked in for the next three years.  He was a restricted free agent, meaning he was going to get something around $2.4 million for this year.  Instead, we were able to lock him in at 3 years, $13 million – a VERY reasonable deal.  This bought us a few more years at a good cap number, while it gave Baldwin a little security and a nice payday.  After the 2016 season, Baldwin will be 28 years old, which is RIGHT in the sweet spot in his career.  If he’s able to continue his upward trajectory, it’ll be interesting to see the decision the Seahawks make on who to keep or not.  I know this is three years away, but if Baldwin does well, and continues to improve, he could be looking at a HUGE deal.  It would be nice to see Baldwin end up a lifelong Seahawk.  That Wilson to Baldwin connection needs to be something we see through to the bitter end.

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