Officially, the Seahawks broke even on starters on the latest day of free agency.
They signed Ed Dickson to a three-year, $14 million with a $2.6 million signing bonus and his 2018 salary guaranteed. The 30-year-old from the Carolina Panthers is the replacement for departed Jimmy Graham as Seattle’s lead tight end. He’s more of a blocker than Graham ever wanted to or will be.
But Friday’s one departure stung. Hard.
Sheldon Richardson, the three-technique defensive tackle the Seahawks traded for in September, signed a one-year, free-agent contract with Minnesota.
Richardson, 27, is getting “about” $11 million from the Vikings, according to Yahoo! Sports. NFL Network broke that down as $8 million in base pay, plus up to $3 million in incentive bonuses.
That combined is about $3 million less than the Seahawks were willing to pay him in the most direct way they could have kept him for one year, the franchise tag. Seattle declined to do that in its window to do so this month, because $14 million was far too expensive for them.
“They gave me a better off than Seattle did,” Richardson told the St. Paul Pioneer Press —and the trend this month for the Seahawks.
Seattle traded a second-round choice in April’s draft plus wide receiver Jermaine Kearse to the New York Jets days before the 2017 regular-season began to get Richardson. The only reason they paid that price was because McDowell—another dynamic, versatile defensive lineman seven years younger—sustained serious head and other injuries in a mysterious ATV accident in his home state of Michigan in July. He didn’t practice, let alone play for Seattle all last season.
At the league’s scouting combine in Indianapolis two weeks ago, coach Pete Carroll said the team still doesn’t know when McDowell will be able to make his overdue debut.
“Nothing new. Same kind of thing. He’s got a process he is going through,” Carroll said March 1. “We get information rarely in his case, but there will be a time when you will hear more.
“Don’t have much for you now. Sorry.”
Richardson had an impacting season in Seattle. Forget sack numbers; Richardson was best between in the guard-tackle gap stuffing blockers to free All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner for a season worthy of NFL-defensive-player-of-the-year talk last season.
When the Seahawks acquired Richardson he was entering the final year of his rookie contract. That’s why they began talking to the 27-year-old Richardson and his agents about a contract extension in December. They made it a big priority to get a deal with him done this offseason. And Richardson said he was interested in staying.
But until this week the Seahawks didn’t have money available under the salary cap to give Richardson a competitive offer that might keep him from testing free agency. They traded Michael Bennett and waived Richard Sherman, Jeremy Lane and DeShawn Shead to save $19 million in cap room. By the time they finally had that cap room, the Seahawks couldn’t get a deal done before the NFL’s official start of the free-agency signing period on Wednesday.
Once Richardson left to shop as an unrestricted free agent for the first time, he was gone.
On top of that, the Seahawks lost Paul Richardson, Kearse’s replacement by November as No. 2 wide receiver, this week in free agency. He signed a $40-million, five-year contract with Washington.
The double-Richardson whammy is a part of the 11 former starters gone from the Seahawks in the past nine days. They have gained two imports in that span: outside linebacker Barkevious Mingo and Dickson to free-agent deals.
If Dickson’s signing underwhelms you, welcome to the new, changed Seahawks.
Dickson is eight months younger than the 31-year-old Graham.
At $14 million for three years with what the Charlotte Observer said is a $2.6 million signing bonus, the Seahawks will be paying Dickson per year about 40 percent of what it paid Graham the last couple years to be their No. 1 tight end.
Dickson had 30 catches and one touchdown for the Panthers last season. That was nine fewer scores than Graham had for the Seahawks before he signed for $10 million per year with Green Bay this week. The Panthers often used Dickson as a blocking tight end in pass protection and sometimes as a fullback. Then top receiving tight end Greg Olsen broke his foot in September, and Dickson became more of a pass catcher.
Carroll has vowed his top priority for 2018 is getting his offense back to the run. Seattle hasn’t had an adequate run-blocking tight end for years. Last season, the Seahawks didn’t have a fullback, either. The result of that was not only the NFL’s lowest rushing production by running backs last season but in many seasons.
No, Seattle no longer wants to be the same offense it wanted to be when the team traded to get Graham in 2015.
Dickson comes about $5.5 million per year more cheaply than Seattle paid Graham the past two seasons.
The 11 former starting Seahawks the team has waived, traded or let leave into free agency in the last nine days: Bennett, Sherman, Lane, Graham, Paul Richardson, Sheldon Richardson, Shead, Mike Davis, Thomas Rawls, Luke Joeckel and Oday Aboushi.
The net of minus-eight starters this month underlines how changed this team will be this year.
Earlier Friday, Graham made his arrival in Green Bay official by saying goodbye online to Seattle.
“I am humbled by the magnificent experience with this city, the 12s, my teammates, coaches, front office, equipment staff, owner and aviation community.
“Thank you 12s for embracing me into your households and supporting me these last 3 years with the passion and kindness reserved for family. It is a very special time in my life that I will look back on with great sincerity. …
“After the debilitating knee injury, when I didn’t know if I’d ever play again, the loyalty shown by everyone in this great organization and community to get me back was extraordinary. I cannot thank you enough. Thank you, Thank you, Thank you.”
MORE SIGNINGS: The team re-signed defensive back Akeem King. He was on the practice squad injured last season. King has played cornerback and safety. … The New England Patriots signed offensive lineman Matt Tobin to a one-year contract, the Providence Journal reported. The Seahawks acquired Tobin last August in a trade from Philadelphia for depth after tackle George Fant’s season-ending knee injury.