NFC West: John Schneider

Doug Baldwin doesn't really mind his nickname of Angry Doug, but he doesn't consider it accurate.

"I'm not angry," Baldwin said Thursday. "I'm passionate about what I do."

That passion paid off Thursday for the Seattle Seahawks wide receiver when he signed a contract extension that will pay him $13 million over the next three years, including $9 million that's guaranteed.

[+] EnlargeDoug Baldwin
MCT via Getty ImagesDoug Baldwin was willing to take a little less money to stay in Seattle for three more years.
It's a nice sum, but a little less than what was first reported. And maybe not what he could have gotten as a free agent next year had he opted to play out 2014 on his one-year tender offer of $2.2 million and test the NFL market in 2015.

That's not what he wanted, not now anyway. He wanted to stay with what he calls his family, and that starts with cornerback Richard Sherman, his long-time friend from their days together at Stanford. Sherman was sitting on the front row at Baldwin's news conference Thursday.

"I called [Sherman] to discuss the terms of the deal before agreeing so I could ask his opinion," Baldwin said. "The first thing he said was we'll be able to be together a couple of more years.

"That was the overwhelming factor. I love this organization and my teammates. It's about being able to play side by side with my family. That's huge for me."

That feeling extends to Seahawks coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider, the men who gave him a chance to prove himself as an undrafted free agent in 2011.

"Those guys have been instrumental in my progress on and off the field," Baldwin said. "They're not only my bosses, but my friends. And I like to call them teammates.

"That John and Pete were willing to reward my hard work is a testament to the philosophy they have. Every word that has come out of their mouths has been honest and trustworthy, and that goes a long way for me."

Schneider pointed out a couple of key stats that show why Baldwin has been successful -- 92 percent of his fourth-quarter catches last year were for first downs, and his average of 10.7 yards per targeted throw was second-best among NFL receivers.

Nice numbers, but that really misses the point of why the Seahawks wanted to keep him.

"We are rewarding Doug for who he is more than what he does," Carroll said. "He's a great team guy. The leadership he brings is exactly the kind of makeup and mentality we seek.

"He's just the epitome of a great competitor. He always battles to the point that they call him Angry Doug. There's just a way about him that stands out."

Schneider said it's Baldwin's ability to get the job done in the clutch that stands out for him, along with his relentless attitude.

"Doug is a guy who represents what our organization is all about and the culture we have here," Schneider said. "He plays with a chip on his shoulder. He's reliable, smart and incredibly passionate. He acts like a pro and a champion every day. So we wanted to let everyone know how special this guy is and that he's a core part of what we do here."

Baldwin has played in the slot most of his three years at Seattle, but Carroll said he will move to split end in 2014, taking over the spot vacating by Golden Tate's departure to Detroit.

That likely means Percy Harvin will start in the slot, which won't surprise anyone. Baldwin also threw his name in the hat for the punt returner job in 2014.

"Doug always has shown the ability to do whatever we needed him to do," Carroll said. "He has extraordinary quickness and the ability to separate from anyone.''

But it's Baldwin's determination to prove his doubters wrong and overcome his obstacles that got him where he is now. Just like his buddy Sherman, Baldwin has accomplished more than most experts thought he could.

"Nothing changes for me just because I signed my name on a piece of paper," Baldwin said. "Obviously, I have a little more security, but that's not why I play football. I play football because I love the game and I put everything into it.

"This is about leaving a legacy and sharing it with other players. It's not about individuals here. We're always trying to get better and make each other better."

Which is why Baldwin was willing to take a little less to stay in Seattle for three more years.

"It was the best for both sides," Baldwin said. "When this comes up again, I'll still be young (28). And it leaves us flexibility as a team to be able to do certain things with other guys."

The main guy in that equation is quarterback Russell Wilson, who can renegotiate his contract after the 2014 season.

For Baldwin, Thursday was about sticking with his family and sending a message.

"The message is that hard work does pay off," he said. "I have a 12-year-old brother [Devon]. Since my junior year of college, I decided to live a life in a way he could look up to. So the message also is to him that you can accomplish whatever you want in life, even if you have failures, if you continue strong to get to where you want to go."
As you might expect, Seahawks general manager John Schneider won’t say anything specific about the team’s draft plans, but he did reveal some things about the process in an informal conversation with reporters Wednesday.

He did admit one drawback that winning the Super Bowl had in his draft preparations.

“I felt like I was behind,” Schneider said. “Our staff wasn’t. Our scouts were ready. I needed to get caught up, but obviously, I’d rather do it this way.”

Schneider said one key component to the draft is trying to get a feel for what other teams will do, what they need and what tendencies they have.

“It’s based on previous history of certain teams’ track records for what they might do in the draft,’’ Schneider said. “For example, San Francisco, Green Bay, New England, Philadelphia, since 2011, have been more likely to move around [trade up or down].”

Schneider also talked about bringing in former Miami general manager Jeff Ireland last week as a draft consultant.

“He gives us another experienced draft guy who can help us with our draft board,” Schneider said. “We’ve been friends for years, but it's nice to be able to openly talk about players now. I used to call him and say, ‘What do you think of this guy?’ And he’d say, ‘Well, I kinda like him, maybe.’ And I’d say, “Yeah, maybe I do, too.’

“Now we don’t have to B.S. each other. It’s refreshing.”

Schneider said he doesn’t know if Ireland will continue with the organization after the draft process is over.

In general, Schneider said the Seahawks' staff is looking more at the type of person a potential draft pick is than they have in the past.

“We have a group of very competitive young guys,’’ Schneider said. “So [draft picks] have to have a certain quality about them to fit in.”

But Schneider said the overall goal never changes.

“It’s a constant search for what’s best and how to get better,” Schneider said. “We want the fans to have the belief that we’re doing the right thing as a group.”
Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider had some interesting things to say in an informal conversation with team beat writers Wednesday. Here are a few points:

Michael Bowie is the next man up. The 2013 seventh-round draft choice, who started eight regular-season games because of injuries to starters on the line, will get a chance to earn the starting spot at right tackle to replace Breno Giacomini, who signed with the New York Jets as a free agent.

Pryor
• Schneider said Terrelle Pryor is coming to Seattle to compete at quarterback.

"Right now, no other options have been discussed," Schneider said.

The key words there are "right now." The Seahawks sent Oakland a seventh-round pick to acquire Pryor, who is 6-5, 245 pounds and can run a 4.4-second 40.

"We felt he was a better athlete than what we could have gotten with a seventh-round pick," Schneider said, "so we felt it was worth it to bring him in."

• Schneider wouldn't say whether strong safety Kam Chancellor or left tackle Russell Okung had surgery since the Super Bowl. Schneider will leave those questions for coach Pete Carroll to answer.

"I don't think it's appropriate for me to comment on those things," Schneider said. "It will be addressed by Pete once the players starting practicing."

Baldwin
Chancellor reportedly had minor hip surgery and Okung may have had surgery on the ligament tear in his big toe that caused him to miss eight games last season.

• Schneider didn't know when or if receiver Doug Baldwin plans to sign his tender offer of $2.187 million as a restricted free agent. Baldwin has until Friday to receive offers from other teams, which is unlikely now.

But Schneider did say Baldwin is part of the Seahawks' long-term plans. Signing the tender does not stop Seattle from trying to work out a contract extension with Baldwin. But Baldwin also has the option of signing the one-year deal and testing the free-agent market after the 2014 season.

• Schneider said he expects Sidney Rice to be 100 percent healthy by the start of the 2014 regular season. Rice, who was released before re-signing with the Seahawks in a one-year deal worth $1.4 million, had ACL surgery last October. Rice says he'll be ready by training camp in late July.
Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas was running a little late for a news conference in his honor Tuesday, so he might have gone a tad over the speed limit on the way there.

A police officer pulled him over just up the street from the Seahawks' facility. The officer took one look at the driver and let him go with a warning, immediately becoming the most popular policeman with all the 12s.

After all, it was Thomas' big day, the official announcement of the contract extension to make him the first $10 million-a-year NFL safety. The exact numbers are a four-year, $40 million deal with $27.75 million guaranteed and a $9.25 million signing bonus.

"This is a family to me," Thomas said. “I love everybody in this organization. It's not about me. It’s about the people that helped me along the way, too. This is where I grew up [as a football player]. I’m excited to keep this going.”

So are the Seahawks. General manager John Schneider called it a “historic day.”

Coach Pete Carroll said of Thomas’ extension: “It's a very proud moment for us.”

Cornerback Richard Sherman, who also is negotiating a contract extension that could be completed soon, sent out this tweet and Instagram photo.

 

Asked about Sherman's contract, Thomas said he's not worried. “Sherm's got it under control.”

Thomas's extension will piggyback on the final year of his current contract, which pays him $4.6 million in 2014. So the extension keeps him in Seattle through the 2018 season when he’ll be 29.

Thomas said the contract negotiations started out of the blue. He wanted to have it done before training camp.

He said it was important to him to become the highest paid safety, not for the money, but to show his separation as a competitor.

When the news conference ended, Thomas asked all the Seattle defensive coaches to join him on stage because he wanted them to be a part of it.

That says a lot about why the Seahawks were willing to make Thomas’s salary reflect the fact he is the best safety in football.

And being a Seattle hero and good guy might also help you get by with a warning -- this time around -- when you're caught speeding.
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Mission accomplished. The Seattle Seahawks did what they wanted to do and kept the man they really wanted to keep.

Michael Bennett, possibly the No. 1 defensive lineman among this year's free agents, signed a four-year deal with Seattle on Monday that will pay him $28.5 million-plus, including $16 million guaranteed and $10 million for 2014.

“It was close, but I'm happy to be coming back with the Seahawks," Bennett said. “I have a good situation, so why would I want to change it? And I got as much guaranteed as any other contract out there. This is a great team and great organization. I want all our guys to come back."

Seattle general manager John Schneider said all along that re-signing Bennett was a top priority, along with keeping the core of the Super Bowl-winning team together.

Bennett was the team's best defensive lineman last year after signing a one-year contract for $5 million. He had 8.5 sacks and was a constant disruptive force with his ability to play tackle or end.

So the question is, can the Seahawks still re-sign their other top free agents after spending this much money on Bennett? Does this signing mean wide receiver Golden Tate is gone? Does it mean they can't keep defensive tackles Clinton McDonald and Tony McDaniel? Does it impact the ability to re-sign kicker Steven Hauschka?

Not necessarily.

The Seahawks were able to keep Bennett for less money than some people thought it would take for him to stay. Some thought Bennett would get as much as $40 million over four years.

What Seattle is paying Bennett is similar to what they would have paid defensive end Red Bryant this year if they had kept him.

Tate is probably Seattle's next priority. The Seahawks released receiver Sidney Rice to free up money to try to keep Tate. But Tate believes he can get more than $7 million per year, possibly from the New York Jets. If so, he is probably gone. If the Seahawks can keep him in the $5 million range for four years, he could return.

Top kickers in the league are getting $3 million or more, which is what Hauschka will want in order to stay. He's worth it. Hauschka missed only two field goals all season, and one of those was blocked.

The Seahawks probably will need to choose between McDonald and McDaniel. If so, they should keep McDonald. He made only $592,000 last year and had a breakout season with 5.5 sacks.

So the price was right for keeping Bennett, who turned down more money from the Chicago Bears. They offered Bennett $32 million over four years. However, Illinois has a state income tax and Washington doesn't, so it's probably a wash.

Bennett said the contract details did play a small part in his decision, but not a big part. The fact is that Bennett wanted to stay in Seattle, despite his earlier words that “this isn't Costco” when asked about giving a hometown discount.

"It's about the fans, the team and the city," he said. "I think this is the No. 1 football city in America."



Bennett also said Seattle cornerback Richard Sherman begged him to stay and influenced his decision.

The Seahawks also are likely to make a couple of more moves with veteran players to add salary-cap space. Defensive end Chris Clemons, whose cap value is $9.6 million in 2014, probably will be released, but could re-sign for less money. Tight end Zach Miller, with a cap value of $7 million this year, probably will need to restructure his contract in order to stay.

Once again, Schneider is showing he is the master manipulator on salary-cap issues. He managed to keep one of the defensive stars of a Super Bowl-winning team, and did so for less money than many thought it would take.

Don't count the GM out when it comes to keeping most of the other key free agents who helped Seattle win a championship.

There was a time, when John Elway wore a helmet at work instead of a tie, when the Denver Broncos and Seattle Seahawks were division rivals.

From 1977 to 2001, the two teams did their football business together in the AFC West and now these former division rivals, who have gone their separate ways since -- through good times and bad -- now arrive to Super Bowl XLVIII as the matchup many wanted to see.

The Broncos' league-leading scoring offense -- which produced an NFL record 606 points with Peyton Manning at quarterback -- against Seattle's league-leading defense (14.4 points per game), a physical, brash group that led the league in scoring defense, total defense, pass defense and interceptions.

It is the first time the league's No. 1 offense and No. 1 defense have met in the Super Bowl since 1990, when the Buffalo Bills and New York Giants authored a classic, a 20-19 Giants win decided when Scott Norwood's kick drifted wide right.

ESPN.com Seahawks reporter Terry Blount and ESPN.com Broncos reporter Jeff Legwold discuss Sunday's game:

Legwold: Terry, in your mind, what are some of the major decisions John Schneider and Pete Carroll have made to put the Seahawks in this position?

Blount: Jeff, first and foremost, the one decision that almost everyone will point to is selecting Russell Wilson with a third-round draft choice two years ago when so many experts felt Wilson was too short to be an effective starter in today's NFL. That led to another big decision when Carroll named Wilson the starter after the team had signed Matt Flynn to a big-money deal -- a brave move, to say the least. But pointing to one move doesn't begin to tell the story of a team that Schneider and Carroll completely revamped over the past four seasons. Only four players remain from the team they inherited in 2010. Schneider and Carroll's strengths are their trust in each other and their ability to make stars, or at least quality starters, out of players that other teams overlooked such as cornerback Richard Sherman (a fifth-round pick), slot receiver Doug Baldwin (undrafted) and guard J.R. Sweezy (a seventh-round pick). They also made one of the best trades in team history, acquiring Marshawn Lynch from Buffalo in 2010. It's an example of how Schneider and Carroll are willing to take chances on players who might have had off-the-field issues.

Let me ask you a similar question, Jeff. Elway gets huge props for convincing Manning that Denver was the place for him to end his career, but obviously, it took more than one move to get the Broncos to the Super Bowl. Aside from Manning, what has made Elway's tenure so successful?

Legwold: Elway's mission, for owner Pat Bowlen, when he took the job, wasn't just to make the team competitive as quickly as possible after the 4-12 finish in 2010, but to fix the cracks in the foundation. This meant addressing the personnel and salary-cap issues that needed to be dealt with if the team was going to succeed over the long term. Elway always says people talk to him about a "win-now philosophy," but he wants the team to win from now on.

Elway and the Broncos' front office cleaned up the cap a bit, and though Elway is a former quarterback, he thinks big picture. They've drafted plenty of defensive players -- 11 of 23 picks under Elway -- and they've made finding the guy they want more important than simply making big-ticket splashes in free agency, other than Manning of course. Signing players to one-year deals with little or no signing bonuses, such as Shaun Phillips (10 sacks), Paris Lenon and Quentin Jammer (two starters and a situational player in the defense), have made it go. Starting center Manny Ramirez was released by the Lions at one point. John Fox, hand-picked by Elway, and his staff also have gotten more from players who were holdovers such as Knowshon Moreno and Demaryius Thomas. Toss in some big-time draft hits -- Von Miller and Julius Thomas -- and you have back-to-back 13-3 finishes.

For their part, the Seahawks have played quality defense all season long. Terry, how do you think they will attack Manning?

Blount: They will line up and say, 'This is who were are and what we do. Beat us if you can.' I honestly don't think they'll change a thing. Whether it's a rookie calling the signals or one of the all-time greats such as Manning, the Seahawks don't believe anyone can outperform their defense. They are as talented a group as I've seen. Two things set them apart: incredible overall speed, especially at the linebacker spots, and a physical approach that borders on all-out violence and intimidation. Calling for crossing patterns over the middle against this bunch is asking for punishment. The one thing defensive coordinator Dan Quinn said they will do is change the wording and signals on their calls. And what they must do in this game is get a push up the middle on the defensive front and force Manning to move in the pocket. Defensive tackles Brandon Mebane, Tony McDaniel and Clinton McDonald have to outmuscle Denver interior linemen in this game.

Seattle's Legion of Boom secondary is an extraordinarily talented group that includes three players who were voted into the Pro Bowl. They play a lot of press coverage and almost dare a quarterback to try to beat them.

Jeff, does man-to-man coverage help or hurt Manning and his receivers?

Legwold: Man coverage almost never hurts Manning, unless those defensive backs consistently knock the Broncos' receivers off their routes, or Mother Nature brings a windy night. And not just a breeze, but something on the order of the 40-mph gusts the team faced on a frigid night at New England this season. But even then Manning was sharp and aggressive on a late drive to tie the game at 31-31. Where some defenses have had some success this season -- Indianapolis, New England and to a certain extent Jacksonville -- was when they essentially tossed aside the idea of adding pressure to try to get Manning, because he gets the ball out too quickly, and play as physically as possible against the Broncos' receivers to disrupt their routes and disrupt the offense's timing. That said, Manning still threw for 386 yards and three touchdowns against the Colts to go with 295 yards and two touchdowns against the Jaguars. And while the Patriots held him to a season-low 150 yards on Nov. 24, Manning still looked sharp late, throwing the ball in a game in which the Broncos rushed for 280 yards because New England often left six-man fronts after dropping so many players into coverage. In the AFC Championship Game against the Patriots, who used much the same philosophy as in November, Manning threw for 400 yards and two touchdowns. The mix for some kind of defensive success is usually to get the Broncos receivers out of sorts and find a way to pressure Manning in the middle of the field so he can't step into the throws.

Staying at quarterback, Terry, how do you think Wilson, certainly well-known for his poise and maturity, will handle his first Super Bowl behind center?

Blount: I realize it's a lot to ask of any second-year quarterback to enter this setting and not have it effect his performance, but Wilson is an extraordinary young man. I've said all season that he has the unusual quality of being at his best when things appear to be at their worst. He thrives on the big stage. I've never seen him rattled, and when he does make a mistake (such as fumbling on the first play in the NFC Championship Game), he acts like it never happened. And I've never seen any athlete who prepares with the time and detail that Wilson prepares. You can't fool him. People often compare him to Fran Tarkenton because of his scrambling ability, which is true. But in some ways, I see him more of a Bart Starr-type quarterback, a man who had the ultimate respect of his teammates, understood the skills of the men around him and made them better. Wilson said his goal every game is to be the calm in the storm and stay in the moment. Well, there's no moment like this one. It's cliché to say, but I think he truly believes he was born for this moment.

Jeff, there has been a lot of talk about how extreme weather conditions could benefit the Seahawks and hinder Manning's ability to throw the football the way he normally would. Do you think that's overblown?

Legwold: There may be no more overblown idea circulating around than Manning's ability to play in the cold. The cold-weather stats are always tossed around, but there are at least two of those games in some of the totals people are using when Manning played only one series because the Colts had their playoff position wrapped up. One of those was in Denver to close out the 2004 regular season (32 degrees at kickoff; Manning threw two passes in the game). The wind has been a far-bigger deal for Manning. Post-surgery, he has had to make some adjustments to his game because of some grip issues in his right hand. He wears a glove on his throwing hand in a variety of temperatures now. This season, he wore it in New England (22 degrees, wind chill of 6 degrees), against Tennessee (18 degrees), as well as in Houston (kickoff temperature was 58 degrees) and at Oakland in the regular-season finale, when the kickoff temperature was 70. And with the glove on his throwing hand in 10 games this season, including both of the Broncos' playoff wins, Manning has thrown 33 touchdown passes to go with five interceptions. He's had four 400-yard games and six games when he attempted at least 40 passes. People have scrutinized every wobble of every pass this season, but somehow he threw for 5,477 yards and 55 touchdowns. And wobbles or not, Manning has not been sacked and the Broncos have punted only once in this postseason.

In the Seahawks' defense, Terry, how big of an impact did signing Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency have on that group?

Blount: It's this simple: The Seahawks would not be playing in the Super Bowl without them. Seattle's big weakness last year was the lack of a consistent pass rush and a lack of depth on the defensive line. Not anymore. Along with those two, Seattle also signed veteran defensive tackle Tony McDaniel, a mountain of a guy who has been a disruptive force inside. Bennett may be the most underrated defensive linemen in the NFL. He has been everything the Seahawks hoped for as a hybrid down linemen who can play end or tackle effectively. He is a relentless, high-motor guy who never takes a play off. Avril is a gifted speed-rusher whose claim to fame is his uncanny ability to knock the ball out of a quarterback's hands and force a fumble, something he has done five times this season and 13 times over the past three years.

Jeff, everyone talks about the matchup between the Seahawks' No. 1 defense against the Broncos' No. 1 offense, but how do you think Denver's defense matches up against Seattle's offense and its power-running game with Lynch?

Legwold: Since Champ Bailey's full return from a left foot injury he originally suffered against the Seahawks in the preseason -- Bailey played in just five games in the regular season and was shut down for several weeks after a failed return in early December -- the team has played far better. It's surrendered 17 or fewer points in each of the past four games, including both playoff wins. And while Denver's numbers, as well as its play at times for that matter, haven't always been pretty, the Broncos do play better out of their base defense.

They will be in their base defense against the Seahawks if Seattle chooses to pound Lynch out of a two-tight-end or two-back set. They inserted a veteran, Lenon, into the middle linebacker spot down the stretch in the base to add some bulk. With Lenon, Nate Irving and Danny Trevathan at linebacker, they have speed to the ball if their defensive end can consistently set the edge. Against some of the power teams they have faced this season, including those with some read-option things in the offense such as Washington and Oakland, the Broncos showed a little more of a 3-4 look on early downs. It will be intriguing if the Seahawks -- seeing the Broncos have done far better in the heavier looks -- try to run against the nickel and dime packages and how the Broncos respond.

Terry, if the Seahawks win, what players beyond Wilson will have had the biggest roles to make it happen?

Blount: Probably the defensive linemen we mentioned earlier: Bennent, Avril and the defensive tackles getting pressure on Manning. If they do, the Legion of Boom will shine and come up with an interception or two that could change the outcome. No matter how well this rugged defense performs, it won't matter unless Wilson can throw effectively. Having receiver Percy Harvin on the field could help, but it really comes down to the same story all season. If Lynch has a punishing day running the ball, someone will be open for a big play in the passing game.

Jeff, if you had to pick one thing that Denver must do to win this game what would it be?

Legwold: Overall, they have to manage the moment. Teams don't win the Super Bowl as they go through all the build-up, but plenty have lost it when they got distracted by the bright lights and attention only to forget why they were in the Super Bowl city in the first place. As Phillips put it: "If guys want to party in New York, New York will still be there next week." But on the field, they have to keep Manning clean, give him some space to work in the pocket and with that their receivers have to play with an edge, fight for both their real estate and the ball.


The Seattle Seahawks could not have known before acquiring Percy Harvin from Minnesota that the dynamic receiver would require hip surgery before he played a snap for the team. They certainly knew Harvin carried medical risks in general, however. The fact that Harvin will have surgery Thursday exposes the Seahawks to criticism from those who considered Harvin prone to injuries.

Now, what? The trade to acquire Harvin becomes a short-term success if he returns in time to play a leading role in the playoffs this season. The trade becomes a long-term success if Harvin produces at a high level upon returning from this injury. But if Harvin continues on the course that led him to miss practices frequently and 11 of 67 total games (16.4 percent) with Minnesota, Seattle will fall far short of getting adequate return on investment.

Injuries happen. Good decisions sometimes turn out badly. Still, the Harvin acquisition was the highest-risk move Seattle has made since coach Pete Carroll and general manager John Schneider arrived in 2010. The risk stemmed from the massive contract Harvin received ($25.5 million guaranteed) and the draft picks Seattle sent to Minnesota after the team that knew Harvin best, the Vikings, decided he wasn't worth the investment.

Seattle hasn't been afraid to wheel and deal under Schneider and Carroll. We recount some of the trades here.

Five trades to like

2010: Seattle trades Darryl Tapp to the Philadelphia Eagles for Chris Clemons and a fourth-round pick used for E.J. Wilson. Clemons fits the Seahawks' defense perfectly and quickly becomes a quality starter. Tapp remained a rotational player.

2010: Seattle trades a 2011 fourth-round pick and a 2012 conditional choice to Buffalo for running back Marshawn Lynch. Lynch becomes the team's most important player on offense, at least until Russell Wilson arrives in 2012.

2010: Seattle trades a 2010 fifth-round pick to the New York Jets for Leon Washington, and a 2010 seventh-rounder used for Dexter Davis. Washington scores four touchdowns on kickoff returns over three seasons with Seattle. Washington was an injury risk, but Seattle gave up relatively little to get him.

2010: Seattle trades receiver Deion Branch to New England for a 2011 fourth-round pick used to select linebacker K.J. Wright. This one makes the list only because Wright panned out as the fourth and final 4-3 strong-side linebacker drafted that year.

2011: Seattle trades cornerback Kelly Jennings to Cincinnati for defensive lineman Clinton McDonald. Jennings did not fit in a super-sized Seattle secondary. McDonald became a valuable rotation player for the Seahawks.

Two trades to spike

2010: Seattle trades a 2010 second-round choice and a 2011 third-rounder to San Diego for quarterback Charlie Whitehurst and a lower 2010 second-round choice. The Seahawks needed to acquire quarterbacks, but Whitehurst never impressed before or after joining Seattle.

2010: Seattle trades guard Rob Sims to Detroit for Robert Henderson and a 2010 fifth-round pick. This one doesn't look so bad in retrospect because that fifth-round choice became Pro Bowl safety Kam Chancellor. Unfortunately, Sims was a good, young starter at a position where Seattle needed good, young starters. Sims didn't necessarily fit the scheme Seattle's line coach at the time, Alex Gibbs, was running. But Gibbs wasn't long for the job and Seattle would wind up using future picks for guards, notably John Moffitt and James Carpenter, who converted from tackle.

Note: Trade info from prosportstransactions.com.
Our Future Power Rankings Insider seek to identify which teams are best positioned for success in 2016. That made me wonder which NFC West teams had their head coaches and general managers under contract that far into the future.

A look at the landscape for each NFC West team:
  • Arizona Cardinals: Coach Bruce Arians and GM Steve Keim signed contracts through the 2016 season. In both cases, the team has an option for 2017. These two are just starting out together.
  • St. Louis Rams: Coach Jeff Fisher signed a five-year contract running through the 2016 season. GM Les Snead is signed through the 2015 season. Fisher and Snead were hired at about the same time. They enter their second season together with the NFL's youngest roster.
  • Seattle Seahawks: Coach Pete Carroll's five-year deal runs through the 2014 season. GM John Schneider initially signed a three-year deal through 2012. Schneider and the Seahawks quietly extended his contract through 2016. The deal has been done for more than a year, without fanfare. Carroll would seem to be in line for an extension over the next year or so.
  • San Francisco 49ers: Coach Jim Harbaugh's five-year deal runs through the 2015 season. GM Trent Baalke is signed through the 2016 season as part of an extension the team announced in February 2012. The 49ers are pretty much set.
A successful three-year run under general manager John Schneider has led to promotions in the Seattle Seahawks’ scouting department.

Tag Ribary goes from pro personnel director to overseeing team security, football video, facility and equipment departments, the team announced. Trent Kirchner replaces Ribary after serving as assistant pro personnel director. Dan Morgan, the former Carolina Panthers linebacker, goes from pro scout into Kirchner’s former job.

Four of the players Seattle drafted since Schneider’s arrival in 2010 have achieved Pro Bowl status. That figure ranks tied with Cincinnati for the NFL lead. Among the Pro Bowlers for Seattle: 2010 first-rounders Russell Okung and Earl Thomas, 2010 fifth-rounder Kam Chancellor and 2012 third-rounder Russell Wilson. Richard Sherman, a fifth-round choice in 2011, has earned All-Pro honors at cornerback.

On the pro side, Seattle acquired top contributors such as Marshawn Lynch and Chris Clemons at bargain prices. The team also recouped value for Aaron Curry, a disappointing first-round choice inherited from the Seahawks’ previous leadership. Most recently, Seattle acquired Percy Harvin by trade before signing Cliff Avril, among others, in free agency.

In other moves announced by the Seahawks, Josh Graff goes from scouting intern to national scout overseeing the Carolinas Region.

Jim Nagy joins the Seahawks as an area scout from the Kansas City Chiefs. Nagy replaces 22-year Seahawks scouting veteran Derrick Jensen. Jensen, who played for the Los Angeles Raiders in the 1980s, has been battling ALS. The team announced his departure during the 2013 draft and honored him by having him make the team’s final two selections.

These moves should promote continuity under Schneider, who has worked alongside coach Pete Carroll to overhaul the roster. The Seahawks have won a playoff game in two of their first three seasons together.
We hear quite a bit about NFL coaching trees. Personnel trees can be important, too, as like-minded former associates compete for the same players.

Implications for the latter came to mind Monday when the New York Jets announced Rod Graves' hiring as their senior director of football administration. Graves, the Arizona Cardinals' former long time general manager, will work under new Jets GM John Idzik, an NFC West alum with ties to the Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks.

Look around the league and you'll see connections with implications for NFC West personnel departments. The Seahawks in particular could find themselves competing against their former associates:
  • Jets: Idzik, who was involved mostly with contract negotiations during his time with Graves in Arizona, studied personnel more closely under Seahawks GM John Schneider. He has taken what he learned to the Jets.
  • Packers: Green Bay GM Ted Thompson worked with Schneider for the Packers and in Seattle before taking his current job. There is overlap in their approaches to scouting.
  • Titans: GM Ruston Webster worked with Idzik and Schneider in Seattle before taking a job with Tennessee.
  • Chiefs: New Chiefs GM John Dorsey worked with Schneider and Thompson in Green Bay. Again, there is overlap in their approaches to scouting.
  • Jaguars: New coach Gus Bradley's connection to Seattle is via coaching, but it's already clear he's looking for players similar to the ones the Seahawks have acquired on defense, notably at cornerback.
  • Raiders: GM Reggie McKenzie is another member of the Green Bay personnel tree with strong ties to Schneider.


There are surely other connections I've overlooked. Each person brings his own style to the job, of course, but similarities in their thinking can provide a common philosophical foundation. We'll be on the lookout during future drafts and free-agent signing periods for evidence these teams are, at times, interested in similar players.

Elsewhere, note that the San Francisco 49ers lost one of their highest-ranking personnel people this offseason when Tom Gamble left for the Philadelphia Eagles.
Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider just finished an interview with SiriusXM radio in which he addressed Bruce Irvin's recent suspension for using performance-enhancing drugs.

A few highlights:
  • Above and beyond: Schneider said the Seahawks through their player-development programs go "above and beyond what the league has done" to educate players on the PED issue. He called Irvin's situation "very disappointing" in that context.
  • Addressed with team: Schneider and coach Pete Carroll sat down with Irvin to discuss the situation. Carroll addressed the situation with the team. Irvin also addressed the team. The Seahawks have an organized team activity (OTA) session open to reporters Monday. That begins at 11:45 a.m. PT and concludes at 1:30 p.m. PT.
  • Body blows: Schneider said good organizations must overcome "body blows" such as the Irvin suspension. He called Irvin's suspension "a learning situation" and said it's one that "obviously needs to be addressed" while other players step up to fill the void. Seattle has suffered an NFL-high five PED-related suspensions under Carroll. Cornerback Richard Sherman avoided adding to that total by winning an appeal.
  • Contingencies: Schneider mentioned backup linebackers Malcolm Smith and Michael Morgan as players the team could "move around" from a personnel standpoint while Irvin and possibly injured defensive end Chris Clemons miss time. He also singled out starting strong-side linebacker K.J. Wright as a player with versatility. Seattle was going to adjust its personnel use anyway after adding Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett in free agency. Irvin's suspension will force additional changes. Schneider: "We have to treat it quite honestly like he sustained a high-ankle sprain and you make those adjustments" whether in a game or navigating the offseason.
The San Francisco 49ers and St. Louis Rams earned praise around here for maneuvering their way around the 2013 draft.

Both teams entered the draft with considerable capital -- enough to facilitate significant trades up and down the order.

The Arizona Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer from Oakland for late-round draft considerations, a low price for a starting quarterback.

The Seattle Seahawks, meanwhile, pointed to Percy Harvin's acquisition as the centerpiece of their 2013 draft efforts.

A glance further down the draft order showed Seattle adding two players in the later rounds with picks acquired for long-forgotten veterans. Neither new draft choice projects as an immediate contributor. Both still have to prove they are worthy of spots on the 53-man roster. But for a team that has occasionally found starters in the later rounds -- Kam Chancellor and Richard Sherman were fifth-round choices, for example -- those selections also deserve some attention.

So, when we hear about LSU cornerback Tharold Simon and Vanderbilt guard Ryan Seymour at Seattle's rookie minicamp beginning Friday, we should remember how those players made their way onto the Seahawks' roster.

Seattle selected Simon, a 6-foot-2 corner, with the 138th overall choice, acquired from Oakland as part of the Aaron Curry trade. The Seahawks selected Seymour 220th overall with a pick acquired from New Orleans in the Barrett Ruud trade.

Curry and Ruud were players the Seahawks were looking to unload. Both were candidates for release if trades could not be worked out. The value they returned via trade has names and faces now that the 2013 draft class is in place.

Simon in particular appears to be an interesting prospect. Seattle selected him in the fifth round, the same round where the Seahawks drafted Sherman, another tall and rangy corner, back in 2011. Sherman became an All-Pro, which assures nothing for Simon beyond unrealistic expectations. The chart compares combine measurements for both corners, capped by a headline warning against reading too much into the similarities.

As Seahawks general manager John Schneider warned before the draft, "The mistakes that we've made -- or perceived mistakes -- have been things where I’m trying something that I probably shouldn’t have. And then I learn my lesson and don’t do it again -- two in particular. One was comparing a player to another player that we’d had in the past. You never know what’s in somebody’s heart, so you can’t do that. Then the other was just assuming that a player was completely locked away from a football standpoint because he’s been productive, and that he was squared away and confident."
NFL coaching and scouting can be itinerant work.

The San Francisco 49ers' announcement Wednesday that they had made promotions within their scouting department brought into focus crossover within the division.

Matt Malaspina, promoted to college scouting director after eight seasons with the team, previously spent five years with the Seattle Seahawks. Mike Williams, promoted to director of pro personnel, spent the 2009 through 2011 seasons with the St. Louis Rams.

Last offseason, the Seahawks announced Todd Brunner's hiring as an area scout. He had been with the 49ers from 2001 through 2011. The Seahawks in 2010 hired former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan as a top assistant to their own GM, John Schneider, who previously worked with the 49ers' current GM, Trent Baalke, with the Washington Redskins.

One of the Arizona Cardinals' scouts, Chris Culmer, worked previously for the Seahawks.

Teams usually wait til after the draft to make changes to their scouting department.

The changes San Francisco announced followed Tom Gamble's departure to the Philadelphia Eagles in February. Gamble had been the 49ers' director of player personnel, reporting directly to Baalke. The 49ers promoted Joel Patten to fill Gamble's role. Patten previously was director of college scouting.
Christine Michael and Marshawn LynchGetty ImagesChristine Michael, left, gives the Seahawks additional running back depth behind Marshawn Lynch.
Jump ahead to 2015 and put yourself in John Schneider's seat as the Seattle Seahawks' general manager.

By then, you will have re-signed or lost elite players such as safety Earl Thomas and cornerback Richard Sherman.

Your quarterback, Russell Wilson, will be entering the final year of his rookie contract. Wilson will be eligible to sign a new one for the first time under the NFL's labor rules.

The same goes for Bobby Wagner, your starting middle linebacker, and Bruce Irvin, your highly drafted pass-rusher. All will cost much more than they're costing right now.

Your Pro Bowl left tackle, Russell Okung, will also be entering a contract year.

One receiver, Percy Harvin, will have a contract counting $12.9 million against the salary cap. Another, Sidney Rice, will have a deal counting $10.2 million.

Oh, and one other thing about this 2015 adventure: You'll have to decide whether to pay a $2 million roster bonus and $5.5 million salary for a running back entering his ninth season.

Marshawn Lynch is that running back, and right now, in 2013, he's about as good as they come, this side of Adrian Peterson. But you'll need younger, more economical alternatives for some of your best players down the line. These aren't the sort of immediate needs that show up in draft previews, but they're always lurking.

Now, thanks to one of the more surprising moves in the 2013 draft, the Seahawks have bought insurance for their future at the position most vulnerable to age.

Christine Michael, the Texas A&M running back Seattle unexpectedly selected 62nd overall Friday, must by rule sign a four-year contract through 2016. His deal will run past the contracts that Lynch and backup running back Robert Turbin signed last offseason. It will count far less against the cap than the $9 million Lynch's deal is scheduled to count in 2015.

Seattle probably did not draft Michael with the distant future in the front of its mind. One explanation trumps all others when determining why the Seahawks used a second-round draft choice for a running back with two perfectly good ones on the roster already. The team thinks Michael can be special.

"He was the highest-rated player on our board and we lost Leon Washington, so we were looking for a little bit of depth there, and he is just our kind of runner," Schneider said. "He's a tough, intense, up-field, one-cut guy, and he's just a very good football player, competitor."

Adding Michael does not imperil Lynch for the 2013 season, of course. It does provoke natural tendencies to wonder whether there's more to this story.

"I could be far-fetched here," Kevin from McKinney, Texas, wrote to the NFC West mailbag, illustrating how far the mind can wander, "but is it possible John Schneider and [coach] Pete Carroll are concerned with Lynch's future effectiveness due to the new lowering of the crown rule? It seems to me that is a big part of his game and significantly contributes to his yards after contact."

There is no way the rulebook pressured Seattle into drafting a running back.

Carroll and other coaches fear officials will struggle enforcing the new rule preventing runners from lowering their heads and delivering an aggressive blow to the opponent with the top of the helmet. The rule could affect Lynch, but league officials said they discovered only a few would-be violations per week when studying tape from last season.

The Seahawks selected Michael because they thought he was the best back in the draft and well-suited to their offense. They wanted additional depth for their running game, which will remain the focus of their offense. They have to realize that Lynch's back spasms, while manageable to this point, could become more problematic with additional wear and tear. And they surely realize that Lynch's occasional off-field troubles dating to his time with the Buffalo Bills could recur, inviting sanctions.

Adding Michael doesn't mean the team thinks less of Lynch or Turbin, a 2012 fourth-round choice. There are no indications the team is anticipating a Lynch suspension in relation to his DUI arrest last offseason.

Still, I would bet against Lynch playing out the final year of his deal when Michael and Turbin figure to be available at a significant discount.

Seattle was fortunate in 2010 to have a running back of Lynch's caliber and young age (then 24) become available by trade at reasonable cost. The team was wise to re-sign Lynch one year ago to a four-year deal featuring $17 million in guaranteed money.

This marriage should be good for both parties for the next couple of seasons.

Lynch's deal pays him $7 million in salary with an $8.5 million salary-cap charge in 2013. It carries a $5 million salary and $7 million cap number in 2014. The team will have a decision to make at that point because Lynch's deal includes a $5.5 million salary and a $2 million roster bonus with a $9 million cap figure for 2015, the contract's final year.

Michael, a luxury buy at present, should be much more than that by then.
The NFC West's fiercest current rivals, San Francisco and Seattle, both wound up selecting tight ends from Rice University in the recently completed NFL draft.

How the 49ers and Seahawks selected those tight ends invites a question: Did the 49ers snatch from Seattle a player the Seahawks would have selected?

Tight end was seen as a primary need for the 49ers and a secondary one for the Seahawks based on how each team has run its offense recently.

When NFL teams selected three tight ends between the 21st and 47th selections, San Francisco risked watching more players at the position come off the board before it was scheduled to select with the 61st overall choice. So, with Green Bay on the clock at No. 55 and Seattle scheduled to pick at No. 56, the 49ers traded into the Packers' slot to select Vance McDonald, the more prominent of Rice's tight ends last season.

Seattle then traded back six spots to No. 62 before selecting Texas A&M running back Christine Michael. The Seahawks later selected McDonald's teammate, tight end Luke Willson, in the fifth round at No. 158 overall.

To my knowledge, no one asked 49ers general manager Trent Baalke or his Seattle counterpart, John Schneider, about the sequence when San Francisco jumped past the Seahawks to select McDonald. The two men worked together in Washington years ago and could have a good feel for the other's tendencies. However, there is no way the 49ers could have known whether the Seahawks or any other team was going to select McDonald between the 55th and 61st selections.

"There's times when you want to sit tight and there’s a lot of times where people will question, 'Well, why did you move up five when he would have been there?'" Baalke told reporters when discussing trades in general. "Well, there’s no proof that the player would have been there. So, you do what you need to do to make sure you get the players you want to get."

By trading up six spots, the 49ers moved past Atlanta, New England, Denver, Houston and Seattle in the draft order. Three of those five teams selected tight ends later in the draft. Atlanta used a fourth-rounder for Stanford's Levine Toilolo. Seattle used the fifth-rounder for Willson. Houston used a sixth-rounder for Ryan Griffin from Connecticut.

Baalke could have sized up those teams' needs collectively when deciding to move up for McDonald. He might not have had only the Seahawks in mind.

The 49ers had enough picks to move around the board freely to fill needs at values agreeable to them. The price they paid Green Bay for the 55th choice -- the 61st and 173rd picks -- was lower than the price Seattle commanded for the 56th selection (Baltimore handed over the 62nd, 165th and 199th picks for that one).

[+] EnlargeVance McDonald
AP Photo/Dave MartinSan Francisco traded up in the second round to select Rice tight end Vance McDonald.
Comparatively, then, the 49ers got a good deal. Why not move up if the price is right? The Packers have long been known as a team willing to move back for additional picks. They simply could have made for a convenient trading partner whether or not Seattle was scheduled to select one spot later.

Teams usually have several players in mind for each selection they hold. They move up when the list of players they consider worthy of a certain value range dwindles, or if a specific player within striking distance is rated far higher than others likely to be available to them. They move down when the list of worthy players is longer.

"I don't know that you ever trade back six, seven, eight picks and hope one player's there," Baalke said when explaining why the 49ers traded back six spots to No. 40. "That's risky business. So, we had a number of players that we were willing to take. And at that time we felt that one of that group of guys was going to be available at 40, and we would have been happy with all of them."

The fact that McDonald and Willson both played at Rice before winding up in the NFC West seems coincidental.

"Vance was obviously the more stout guy, if you will," Schneider said. "Willson was more of the down-the-field threat, but there is no question Vance was much more involved in their offense."

Injuries limited Willson in 2012. He previously played first base on the Canadian national team and spent time in the Toronto Blue Jays organization. According to the Vancouver Sun, Willson posted impressive numbers at his pro day: 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, 38-inch vertical leap, 10-plus feet in the broad jump and 23 reps of 225 pounds in the bench press.

"We like the fact that for us he was the second-best tester of all the tight ends in this draft," Schneider said. "He is 6-5 1/2, running 4.51 and great hands, can get down the field. He is quick off the ball, gets his shoulders around quick. He is a really interesting prospect for us."

Baalke said his team valued McDonald's versatility in particular. McDonald also led all tight ends at the NFL scouting combine with 31 reps on the bench press.

"He's 260-plus pounds, he's got a huge wingspan, he's got big hands," Baalke said. "He lines up all over the place. He lines up a little bit in the backfield. He lines up on the line of scrimmage. He lines up in the wing position, off the line of scrimmage. And he also lines up outside. He's smart, he's tough and he is a good fit within our system."

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