What Does A Future Without Jermaine Kearse Look Like?

Word around town is that Jermaine Kearse doesn’t expect to be back in a Seahawks uniform in 2016.  You can take that one of three ways:  either this is a negotiating tactic, letting the world know he’s not giving any discounts and is most certainly looking for the most money; or he’s got it on good authority the Seahawks will lowball him or perhaps not offer him a deal at all; or he’s got it on good authority that another team is going to blow him out of the water with the type of deal he knows unequivocally the Seahawks won’t want to or be able to match.  I don’t think you make a statement like that by just reading tea leaves and guessing the Seahawks won’t be interested.  It’s my opinion the Seahawks would very much like to have him back, but at a price that won’t break the bank.  As such, you gotta figure somewhere out there Kearse is going to find a team to break that bank.

Let’s face it, the salary cap is rising and all over the league you’re seeing teams with dozens of millions of dollars to spend.  Jermaine Kearse is nobody’s elite, #1 receiver, but he’s a perfect complement, a good route runner, a physical blocker, and a guy who can make big catches in traffic (as we’ve seen time and time again).  I wish him the best in his endeavors and truly hope he’s able to maximize both his bank account and his opportunities on a team that likes to throw the ball a lot more than the Seahawks.

It’s no secret that as a University of Washington alumnus and Seahawks fan, I’m a pretty big Kearse fan, so in that sense, this is tough news to take.  I know there are more Husky receivers where he came from, and plenty of undrafted underdogs to root to glory, but I like Kearse for more than where he came from, and how hard he fought to get there.  Kearse fits this offense like a glove.  Over his 4-year career – especially the last three years of it – he’s come in here, done his job, and helped this offense achieve great things.  With him most likely leaving, there’s a big hole to fill; bigger, I think, than most fans realize.

Jermaine Kearse doesn’t get the credit he deserves.  I get the sense that most fans feel we can just plug anyone into his spot and not skip a beat; I’m not so sure that’s necessarily the case.

Yes, ideally, someone like Kevin Smith will take a big leap forward in his development this year and come in, ready to compete for the third receiver spot behind Baldwin and Lockett.  But, I dunno.  I hear about all the amazing catches Smith makes in practice – apparently he’s known for making at least one spectacular play per day – but I’ve yet to see him really make an impact in a game.  Obviously, when he’s the 4th or 5th receiver, there aren’t a ton of opportunities for someone in that position.  Maybe my fears will subside this fall, but I think it’s fair to question whether he’s ready for an increased role.

I guess, if you want to look at the obvious option, we still have Paul Richardson.  A guy who was a high draft pick, with a lot of speed and a lot of talent, who made a pretty solid impact as a rookie in 2014, getting better as that season went along.  But, then he got injured, and it essentially cost him all of the 2015 season (save one game, where he had one catch for 40 yards).  Word on the street is that he’s fully healthy and will be able to participate in all offseason programs, so at least we’ve got that going for us.  Nevertheless, you can’t help but be concerned about his injury risk.

If you just focus on the upside, there’s a lot to like about a 3-headed monster of Baldwin, Lockett, and Richardson.  Lots of good speed, good hands, and good route running there.  As we maybe transition to somewhat of a quicker-passing offense, those are three guys who can get open in a hurry (they would have KILLED IT back in Holmgren & Hasselbeck’s heyday).

Beyond that, there’s Kasen Williams, who’s probably more raw than Kevin Smith; and there’s Ricardo Lockette, who’s technically a free agent (but I doubt he’s going anywhere), and who’s someone you have to wonder if he’ll even be able to lace ’em up again.  His road to recovery might not be anywhere near complete by the time the season starts anyway, and you know how I feel about wide receivers who start on the PUP list and try to play later in the season (see:  Richardson, Paul … they tend to get re-injured a lot, okay?).

Taken as a whole, there are two receivers you can depend on, one receiver you have to worry about, two receivers who might not be ready to make the jump, and a guy coming off of one of the scariest injuries I’ve seen on a football field in a long time.  Therefore, I don’t think I’m speaking out of school here when I say the Seahawks might be wise to invest in this position a little bit (this would be especially prudent when you look at Jimmy Graham’s injury and the fact that he might not be ready to do any football activities whatsoever until the regular season starts, if not later).

What does that mean?  Well, it sure as shit doesn’t mean trading away our #1 pick for another veteran from another team, I’ll tell you that!  I also don’t mean that I necessarily want the Seahawks to USE that #1 pick on drafting a receiver, though I suppose I’d be okay with it if someone uber-talented happened to fall all the way to the mid-20s in the first round.  If I had my druthers, all positions being equal in the realm of “best player available”, I’d want the Seahawks to use their top pick on either an offensive or defensive lineman (preferably a guard or a defensive tackle).  But, I wouldn’t be opposed to the Seahawks using that 2nd or 3rd round pick to go after another receiver.

I’m pretty sure the Seahawks will look at receiver SOMEWHERE in the draft, anyway.  The question remains:  can we strike gold twice in a row?  Tyler Lockett came out of the third round of the draft last year ready to play right away; that’s pretty rare.  Hell, you’ll run into a lot of first round receivers who aren’t ready to play in year one!  For every Julio Jones, it seems like there’s twice as many Nelson Agholors or Kevin Whites.  Now, factor in where the Seahawks are picking (near the end of most rounds) and the odds of finding another diamond in the rough are pretty slim.

So, in short, you have to really wonder about the strength of this position in the short term.  2016.  If there’s a rookie who isn’t ready, or doesn’t start producing until near the end of the season, that leaves us pretty much with the guys I listed above.  Baldwin and Lockett as your top two, Richardson and probably Smith as your next two, and then who knows who fills out the final spot or two?

Obviously, we’ll know more once Training Camp and the pre-season rolls around.  Things might start looking better once we see these guys in action and start reading reports from bloggers and beat writers and whatnot.  Maybe someone I don’t even know about will pop and force his way onto the team.  As a fan, I feel less secure with the position without a glue guy like Kearse.  But, it’s also a little exciting (in a scary way) to see what’s going to happen.  You never know, with more opportunities, maybe we’ll find a guy or two who will show us something we never expected!  And MAYBE we’ll even be better for it!

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