What’s Going To Happen With The Seahawks & Tyler Lockett?

There was always kind of a Big 4 when it came to Seahawks cuts this offseason, in order to maximize our cap room and set the stage for a new era in Seattle (maybe a Big 5, if you count Bryan Mone and his $5 million we freed up yesterday). The first three were knocked out right in a row: Diggs, Adams, Dissly. But, the final one was conspicuously missing, which leads me to wonder: what is Tyler Lockett’s fate?

People have talked about it so nonchalantly, it’s kind of shocking, if I’m being honest. Lockett has been such a mainstay since entering the league in 2015. He’s always in there, he’s always getting open, he’s consistently making big plays. There’s been no let-down in his 9 years in the league. I wouldn’t say he’s the greatest Seahawks receiver of all time, but I also don’t see how you can keep him out of the Top 5. Steve Largent is #1 by a mile. Then, I think you can make an argument for Brian Blades, Darrell Jackson, Doug Baldwin, and Tyler Lockett all in that next tier, with guys like D.K. Metcalf, Joey Galloway, and Bobby Engram not far behind. Indeed, Lockett is #2 in receiving yards, receptions, and touchdowns, so honestly if you rated Lockett #2, I wouldn’t get bent out of shape (though, I think I would still take Doug over him, if I just needed a guy who could do everything and could always get open when we’d need him the most).

Of course, I understand why Lockett is a cut candidate. His cap hit this year is almost $27 million; we could open up $7 million in space if we let him go. And that still might happen. There’s an outside chance that the team didn’t want to lump him with the other three guys we cut this week, to shine a light on all that he’s done with the Seahawks. But, it would seem to me, if you’re going to cut him, you’re going to do it early, to allow him to find his next home. If nothing else, he’s earned that courtesy.

Which leads me to wonder if there’s another way the team wants to go. I’m starting to hear more and more about the team wanting to restructure his deal. While there’s been no let-down in his productivity, I would say his 2023 season seems like the beginning of an inevitable decline. Prior to 2023, he was on four straight years of 1,000+ yards receiving; in 2023 that fell to 894. His yards per reception rate has fallen in the last two seasons, and he only accounted for 5 touchdowns, which is the fewest he’s had since 2017. Anecdotally, his number of explosives seems to have gone down, and his number of times seen breathing from an oxygen mask on the sideline has skyrocketed. That isn’t to denigrate him by any means; I think Lockett is a brilliant tactician out there and has been a joy to behold since his college days. I think he’s wise to get down before taking too many massive hits. And, if the oxygen helps him recover for the next drive, whatever it takes to play your best! But, you know, he’ll also be 32 years old this September, and it’s easy to project a further decline.

There’s two more years left on his deal. It seems hard to fathom that the Seahawks would play out as it’s currently constructed. Over $30 million of that is base salary that’s not guaranteed. With D.K. Metcalf earning what he’s earning, and with Jaxon Smith-Njigba being a first round draft pick last year, $30+ million just feels like a lot for someone who’s destined to be this team’s third receiver by the time his contract expires. There’s also the fact that he’s a pretty successful Real Estate (agent? mogul?) person who seemingly has gotten to this point in his career where he’s in good shape, has his wits about him, and has a bevy of interests outside of football that should carry him through the next chapters of his life. Does he really need to play into his mid-30’s?

The odds seem to be pointing to a restructure, but how does that even work? What does that look like? Presumably, you tear up the existing contract and write a brand new one. But, aren’t you still on the hook for all the dead money of the previous one? That’s a hair under $20 million that we’d have to eat this year. And, also presumably, he’s not going to come back just to play for the minimum. Maybe he’s not worth $15 million per year, but he’s also not worth $1 million. Maybe he gives you a bit of a discount, I still feel like we’d have to be in the $8-$10 million range. And, with that, you’re not getting any savings whatsoever on a one year deal. So, that means you’re signing him to a minimum of a 2-year deal, with the bulk of it likely front-loaded (with the expectation being: either we cut him after this year, he retires after this year, or we go year-to-year until he hangs ’em up).

Maybe that’s the play. Absorb the bulk of the financial hit this year – when we have this windfall of cash that we weren’t expecting (and that we aren’t necessarily expecting to continue at this rate going forward) – while making his eventual release/retirement much more palatable down the road, and allowing him to exit the team/league gracefully.

I’ll tell you what, that would be MY preference. I also don’t necessarily think the Seahawks are in any position to contend for championships in the next two years. So, while we’re on this youth kick, why not keep Lockett around as a mentor? As long as he’s still producing, as long as he’s still helping you convert third downs and whatnot. Seems like the best for all involved.

If it’s not that, then I suppose there’s always a chance of a restructure followed by a trade to a contending team who could use a veteran like Lockett. You’re telling me the Bills or Chiefs or Ravens couldn’t use him? Just not the 49ers, please. My heart can’t take it.

I’m fascinated to see how this all shakes out. Nothing will diminish Lockett’s esteem in my eyes, though. He’s one of the best to ever wear a Seahawks uniform, and we were exceedingly fortunate to get to watch him on a weekly basis display his cool and casual brand of excellence.

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