INDIANAPOLIS — The end of the NFL scouting combine means the league is quickly turning to another phase of its offseason — the free-agent signing period, which begins next Wednesday, but unofficially seemed to kick off with a flurry of moves around the league Monday, including Seattle finalizing a new deal with quarterback Geno Smith.
But before putting the combine fully in the rearview mirror, let’s review some of what we learned — with a Seahawks slant — during a week in Indy.
1. Yep, QBs are out there
The thought that this is a good year to need a QB at the top of the draft was only further solidified during what was an overall impressive set of workouts by the quarterbacks in attendance. The standout player was Florida’s Anthony Richardson, who ran a 4.43 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, 244 pounds. Measurables obviously aren’t all that makes a good NFL QB, and that Richardson was a full-time starter for just one year at Florida has him pegged as the ultimate “high-risk, high-reward” pick.
But Richardson’s combine performance bought some huge benefit of the doubt by making clear he is one of the more intriguing athletes playing QB the league has seen in a while.
His emergence might only further pique Seattle’s interest with the fifth pick, assuming Alabama’s Bryce Young and Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud are off the board by then.
Despite Monday’s news that Smith is getting a three-year deal to stay in Seattle, the Seahawks made it clear at the combine they could still consider a QB with the fifth overall pick.
As general manager John Schneider said at the combine, Seattle would consider taking a QB at five even if Smith is re-signed because quarterbacks “don’t grow on trees.”
And according to The Athletic, the Seahawks met at the combine with Richardson, with the website stating that Richardson felt “an instant rapport” with Pete Carroll.
And if nothing else, the value of Seattle’s pick at five — and what the Seahawks might be able to command from a QB-needy team — appears to have grown in the last few days.
2. One position that shined that’s good for Seattle
That it’s also a good year to need edge rushers — which the Seahawks surely do — was reinforced at the combine with a number of impressive workouts, with at least six or so considered likely first-rounders, and another six or so second-rounders.
Georgia’s Nolan Smith ran a 4.39 40, maybe helping to overshadow any lingering concerns about his weight of 239 pounds.
“The marquee talent is there,” wrote CBSSports.com draft analyst Chris Trapasso on Monday. “So is the quality depth.”
And with five picks in the first three rounds, Seattle could be tempted to take more than one edge rusher, depending on how free agency works out.
The free-agent class of edge rushers — which hasn’t been regarded as strong — grew a bit on Monday with the news that the Chiefs are expected to release former Seahawk Frank Clark, the Rams are expected to release Leonard Floyd if they can’t trade him, and the Titans are releasing Bud Dupree. And hey, Jadeveon Clowney is available again (we kid, we think).
There will be options for Seattle to add to the edge-rushing group, and one interesting aspect of that search will be the impact of Brandon Jordan, hired over the weekend to an assistant coaching role as a pass-rush specialist.
3. One position group that didn’t shine that might impact Seahawks
This isn’t regarded as an overly strong year for receivers, and two big-name prospects — Louisiana State’s Kayshon Boutte and USC’s Jordan Addison — didn’t do anything to dissuade anyone of that notion by turning in slower-than-expected 40 times.
That means that a year after six receivers were taken in the top 18 picks, there could be just two or three taken in 2023’s first round.
But Seattle figures to be looking more in the middle rounds for a No. 3 receiver if it goes that route, with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett locked in to big contracts.
Or maybe more likely, the combine could help persuade teams like the Seahawks to more avidly attack finding receiving depth in free agency.
4. The Seahawks — and a lot of other teams — could have a tough decision to make on Jalen Carter
The big news early was Carter, a defensive tackle from Georgia who many think could be the first pick in the draft, returning to the combine after turning himself in to Athens police Wednesday and posting a combined bond of $4,000 on charges of reckless driving and racing in relation to a fatal crash in January that killed a teammate and team staffer.
Carter did not do on-field drills or media interviews after returning to Indianapolis. How Carter’s legal issues may impact his draft stock is hard to know, and the news on Carter broke after Schneider and Carroll met the media.
But Carolina GM Scott Fitterer, who worked in Seattle’s front office from 2001-20, probably spoke for most of the NFL when he said of Carter: “There are going to be a lot of things to look into. I don’t want to jump to any conclusions. We’ll let it all play out and make a decision. Luckily, the draft is not until April (27-29).”
But if Carter slips at all, he could well be there for Seattle at five. If the Seahawks don’t want a QB at that spot, there will undoubtedly be a heavy discussion about him.
5. Yep, Seattle needs a center — and they may have found one at combine
One of the bigger pieces of Seahawks news during the week was veteran center Austin Blythe’s retirement. Not only is Blythe out of the picture, but his backup, Kyle Fuller, is a free agent.
That means Joey Hunt is the only center Seattle currently has under contract.
The Seahawks figure to address the position in free agency. But they might also do so as they did last year, when they signed Blythe to a one-year deal, and then try to find a longer-term option in the draft.
One possibility is Minnesota’s John Michael Schmitz, who might be available with either of Seattle’s picks in the second round — if the first round is too early to go for a center. Seattle at least seems to be interested, as Schmitz mentioned the Seahawks on Saturday as one of seven teams with whom he had formal interviews at the combine.
Seattle hasn’t drafted a center since taking Ethan Pocic in the second round in 2017 (though Pocic began his career at guard before moving to center), much to the consternation of many Seahawks fans who wanted the team to take Oklahoma’s Creed Humphrey in 2021.
Humphrey was available when Seattle instead drafted receiver Dee Eskridge at 56, with Humphrey falling to 63, where he was snatched up by the Chiefs and has started every game since, earning All-Pro second-team honors in 2022.
But with 10 picks this year instead of the three of 2021, center might rise as a Seahawks option this time around.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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