NFL teams appear to take significant risks pretty regularly, but the more we know about the teams' thinking, the less risky some of the moves tend to appear.
That has certainly been the case regarding some of the seemingly unconventional personnel moves the Seattle Seahawks have made in recent seasons. Danny O'Neil, Tom Wassell and I compared notes during our most recent conversation on 710ESPN Seattle.
NFC West moves to add Percy Harvin, Alec Ogletree and Tyrann Mathieu carried some risk for different reasons this offseason. Teams tend to mitigate risk when making these types of moves. Seattle figured its offensive coordinator and some players with ties to Minnesota could inform the Harvin decision and increase the chances for a successful transition. The St. Louis Rams traded back in the first round before selecting Ogletree, a player with off-field concerns. The Arizona Cardinals waited til the third round before selecting Mathieu. They also figured multiple current players with ties to Mathieu's time at LSU could improve the odds for success.
Last season, the Seahawks appeared to take a risk when they named quarterback Russell Wilson their starting quarterback over Matt Flynn. However, they thought Wilson outperformed Flynn. They made the move on merit. Going with Flynn would have seemed less risky at the time, but only from the standpoint of public relations. Seattle went with the player who won the job. In retrospect, keeping Wilson on the bench would have carried greater risk for Seahawks coach Pete Carroll, who was coming off consecutive 7-9 seasons to begin his Seattle tenure.
A few years ago, I recall thinking the San Francisco 49ers were taking a risk by deciding against re-signing dependable veteran linebacker Takeo Spikes. But when I asked general manager Trent Baalke about the move at that time, he said the team wasn't gambling. The 49ers strongly felt that the then-unproven NaVorro Bowman would emerge as one of the better inside linebackers around. Bowman has done just that. Knowing what the 49ers knew back then, sticking with Spikes, the perceived safe choice, would have been the riskier move.