The Seahawks Blew All Of Our Minds; Traded Max Unger For Jimmy Graham*

* – plus gave up a 1st round draft pick for a 4th round draft pick

Not gonna lie to you, it was going to take a lot for me to be interested in these offseason moves the Seahawks were making.  Anthony McCoy re-signed?  Will Blackmon brought back?  Cary Williams as our Byron Maxwell replacement?  Marshawn Lynch extended?  Yeah, that’s all fine, but it’s not moving the needle of my own personal interest.

I thought FOR SURE there wouldn’t be any big splashes this offseason.  You know, aside from extending our own guys (Lynch, Wagner, Wilson, etc.).  I watched as Suh signed with Miami, Julius Thomas went to Jacksonville.  Hell, even the Jets managed to bring in Brandon Marshall for a song!  The Eagles were making their moves, the Colts look to be making their moves, the 49ers are falling apart, the Cardinals are making middling deals, the bottom-feeders with all the money will throw it around like it’s raining titties in their faces.  And meanwhile, the Seahawks would bide their time, collect as many compensatory draft picks as possible, and rummage through the scraps when all was said and done.  It wouldn’t be flashy, it wouldn’t even be all that pretty, but we’d cross our fingers, hold our breath, and hope for the best.

And then yesterday happened.  There was, like, a 1-2 hour window where everything on Twitter was a clusterfuck of adventure.  You know what everyone was talking about before noon yesterday?  How there’s going to be a Zoolander 2; DO YOU EVEN REMEMBER THAT NOW???  Then, look at what happened after noon:

  • Patrick Willis officially announces his retirement
  • The Bills & Browns going after Charles Clay
  • Various reports of the Saints shopping players, including Jimmy Graham
  • Speculation on where Reggie Bush might end up
  • Then, Jay Glazer brings the hammer down with Seahawks talking about Jimmy Graham with Saints
  • Then, almost immediately after, the deal is all but official
  • Then, almost immediately after that, Haloti Ngata goes to Detroit
  • Then, the Rams trade Bradford to Eagles for Foles (and picks traded also)
  • Then, the Pats let Browner walk
  • Then, Denver signs Owen Daniels
  • The Raiders sign Malcolm Smith
  • Frank Gore & Andre Johnson visit Colts

And, that doesn’t even get into Jake Locker RETIRING.  And everything else that happened afterward.  Just, absolutely, INsane.

My first coherent thought was:  there are no half measures with the Seahawks.  They’re not making blockbuster trades for scrubs.  It’s hard to ask for much more – talentwise – than Percy Harvin and Jimmy Graham (I know these aren’t the only trades we’ve made, but these are the trades that cost us the most).  On paper, there’s not much to dislike about Jimmy Graham.  He’s been in the league five years and in four of those years he’s caught over 80 balls, at least 9 touchdowns, and over 800 yards.  And that’s on a Saints team with some really talented pass catchers through the years.

But, you know, it’s not even really about ALL of that.  We didn’t trade for a guy who’s going to catch 100 balls or 1,000 yards per season.  Just like we didn’t trade for that guy when we brought in Harvin.  Bottom line:  what we did was secure a dominant force in the red zone.  And he doesn’t even need to necessarily be who he’s been!  Granted, if we line him out wide, and he’s guarded one-on-one by a cornerback, we’re probably going to exploit that matchup more often than not.  But, just having him out there is going to draw the lion’s share of the red zone coverage (and in ways it never would have been with Harvin in the fold).

Speed is nice and everything, but it doesn’t make up for size when you’re down inside the 20.

The flipside of all of this is:  we lose Max Unger and we lose our first round draft pick.  Again.  Did you know Bruce Irvin was our most recent first round draft pick?  That was in 2012 for Christ’s sake!

Now, to be fair, trading for Jimmy Graham – as opposed to signing Julius Thomas for a comparable amount of money – means we retain a likely 3rd round draft pick in 2016 (a compensatory pick for losing Byron Maxwell in free agency).  So, in fairness, yes we lose the #31 overall pick this year, but we gain an extra 4th rounder from the Saints, AND we preserve our 3rd rounder next year.  So, that mitigates things a bit.

But, I dunno, I guess it’s just annoying.  There’s value in drafting in the first round, even if it is in the low 30s.  Maybe we do like we did last year and trade it back to gain a 2nd & a 4th.  Maybe we flip it for a first rounder next year!  Or, shit, maybe we keep that pick and draft a guy who starts for us immediately!  Maybe it’s not an all-world tight end or wide receiver, but I bet that hypothetical player would’ve been someone good!

All I’m saying is – when this blows up in our faces – you’re going to be reading many a blog post about how the Seahawks could’ve drafted So-And-So if they kept their first rounder.  Happens ALL THE TIME.

I’m less upset about losing Unger, because let’s face it, that guy is breaking down like nobody’s business.  When he’s healthy, he’s as good as it gets – especially in the run game – but each year he’s getting more and more dinged up.  We blew through four centers last year!  And, I know it wasn’t always pretty, but we managed.  The reason we struggled for so long wasn’t just because Unger was out.

I’ve been saying all along that the Seahawks need to draft a Center Of The Future this year, and that was when I still factored Unger in as our starter!  You have to think that guy’s out of football within two years; better to unload him now and save a bit of money with all that we’re taking on with Graham’s contract.

My concern about Jimmy Graham – outside of everything that we gave up – is twofold.  The first reason is more abstract:  the Seahawks traded away a first round draft pick for a receiver (and make no mistake, Graham is more wide receiver than tight end); teams that trade away first rounders for receivers almost ALWAYS see that shit blow up in their faces.  The Seahawks don’t have to look any further than Deion Branch and Percy Harvin.  Shit, everyone creamed in their pants over Harvin, and look at how that ended!

Now, the good thing about this one is that Graham doesn’t appear to be quite the hothead or mental case that Harvin was and is.  While there might be some hurt fee-fees after some of the jawing the Seahawks defense did with him a couple years ago, I doubt that’s going to single-handedly dismantle the locker room chemistry like Harvin managed.  That’s the kind of lightning you DON’T want to see strike twice!  That’s, like, actual lightning striking you twice.

My more concrete fear is the softness of Jimmy Graham.  He’s the same delicate little flower that would disappear for weeks at a time, while padding his stats against the bottom-feeders of the league.  Now, like I said before, I don’t necessarily need him to take over the entire offense between the 20’s.  But, I’m going to need a manly man in that endzone when we’re trying to convert drives into touchdowns!

Luckily, he only has to face the Seahawks’ defense in practice and not in games.  But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again:  you put a body on Graham and he’s going to crumple!

Now, factor that in with the fact that he’s a bigger, taller gentleman.  6’7, 265.  These guys tend to break down on a football field.  He’s already not all that fast, but he’s going to slow down to Antonio Gates levels in a hurry.  That might not mean a whole lot on the goalline, but he also can’t be TOTALLY anonymous between the 20s either.  2015 will be his sixth year in the NFL.  I feel pretty safe to say that it’s going to be the last year of his “prime” and it’s all downhill starting in 2016.

Meaning?  We better not lose him for a season like we fucking did with Harvin.  Because, if he goes down with a hip or an ACL or some damn season-ending thing, I don’t think there’s any recovery.  And, not only that, but we blew yet another first round pick, while all of our core gets another year older.

A lot is riding on this deal working out.  MUCH more than with the Harvin trade.  At the time, you could argue that Harvin was the cherry on top of an already championship-level sundae.  This time, we’re talking about the difference between maintaining a championship level vs. falling back to the pack.

Cards on the table:  before the Graham trade, the Seahawks were well on their way to being just another playoff team.  You could’ve argued that the Packers, Lions, Cowboys, Eagles, Cardinals, and even the Giants were making waves in the NFC.  We were no longer the clear leaders of the pack; we were just part of that pack.

Now?  Now, I think this is a move you can safely say makes the rest of the NFC cringe a little bit.  The Seahawks WERE a team without much talent in the receiving game.  We were going to have to hit the draft hard and hope someone popped, but more likely, it would’ve meant a receiver popping in the next year or two.  Jimmy Graham is an influx of elite-level talent that makes us much more balanced on offense.  He bumps Baldwin, Kearse, and everyone else down a level, back down where they belong.

Sure, we’re stuck now replacing 40% of our offensive line, but I would argue that we needed to do that anyway.  Letting James Carpenter sign elsewhere is a boon.  He’s always getting dinged up, and now we get another compensatory pick for him.  Getting rid of Unger helps mitigate some of the cost we’re taking on, plus it throws a little more urgency in our search for his replacement.  A search – I’ve argued before – needed to happen regardless.

Overall, I feel much more at ease than I did before this all went down.  Yes, there’s risk.  Yes, there’s ALWAYS risk, in anything you do.  But, in the short term, it brings a lot of things into focus.  The Seahawks can be a little more choosy in their drafting and in their signing of low-level free agents.  One MAJOR hole has been filled.  Doesn’t mean you stop building, or thinking about the future.  But, at least this way, if the Seahawks run across a top-level player in the second round who isn’t necessarily our most-pressing need, we can still pick him up and bolster our roster.

Now, if we can just encase Jimmy Graham in carbonite until September, I’ll be much more at ease.

One thought on “The Seahawks Blew All Of Our Minds; Traded Max Unger For Jimmy Graham*

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