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Why Seahawks must focus on "the farm system" instead of trading for the next "Erik Bedard"
It’s been over 10 years since I’ve even thought of the word “Mariners” and what it symbolizes. It doesn’t take more than a minute of browsing their recent past on baseball-reference to remember that in American sports, Mariners still stands for “no playoffs.”
The longest playoff drought of any team in the MLB, NFL, NBA, or NHL. And yet, four winning records since 104 is at least favorable to what Seattle’s baseball team became after making the worst trade of the decade and attempting to capitalize on a single moment—at the cost of the entire future.
It’s all coming back to me now and it is not pleasant. Like Tim Allen on Home Improvement, the Seahawks can learn a valuable lesson from their neighbor.
Following a minor resurgence of relevancy with an 88-74 record in 2007, and the impending rise of Felix Hernandez as a perennial Cy Young candidate who was still only 22-years-old, the Mariners traded five players for left-handed pitcher Erik Bedard; among them, two top-100 prospects in outfielder Adam Jones and pitcher Chris Tillman.
Bedard, 29 at the time, was coming off of a season in which he led the majors in strikeouts and hits allowed per nine innings, but he had also failed to ever reach the 200 innings mark over four seasons. That would prove to be the biggest red flag of all.
The Mariners got 81 innings from Bedard in 2008 and they lost 100 games for the first time since 1983. Bedard managed 83 innings in 2009 and Seattle went 85-77 under new manager Don Wakamatsu. The lefty then missed the entire 2010 season and when he returned the following year with a minor resurgence after 16 starts, the Mariners dealt Bedard to the Red Sox as part of a three-team deal that did not land two top-100 prospects.
In Baltimore, Jones made the All-Star game as a 23-year-old in 2009, then four more times over the course of an 11-year career with the Orioles. Tillman was slower to develop as a major leaguer than Jones and like Bedard, suffered through injuries, but eventually came around to give the O’s four solid seasons as a full-time starter.
Tillman gave over 1,100 innings to the Orioles, compared to 255 innings pitched by Bedard with the Mariners.
Different sport, different leagues, different rules—same idea: the Seattle Seahawks MUST use the 2022 offseason to “re-stock the farm system” and to AVOID a) a trade for Deshaun Watson or Kirk Cousins and b) the selection of a quarterback with a top-10 pick.
The Seahawks entered the 2022 offseason with no picks in the top-40 of the NFL Draft. They now have two picks and one of those will come with a fifth-year option. The NFL may not have a minor league system, but it is no less important for football teams to have players on cost-controlled rookie contracts who are performing at a high level and yet are also cheap enough to not add stress to their development by being necessary in the next two years; perhaps even more important because the NFL has a salary cap and baseball doesn’t.
The reigning Super Bowl champion L.A. Rams were mostly cited for their big name acquisitions, but it was integral for Sean McVay to stock the team with quality young players through the draft for Aaron Donald’s moment to finally happen last month:
Cooper Kupp in the third round in 2017
Joe Noteboom, Brian Allen, Sebastian Joseph-Day, and Travin Howard in 2018
Taylor Rapp, Darrell Henderson, David Long, Greg Gaines, and David Edwards in 2019
Cam Akers, Van Jefferson, Jordan Fuller in 2020
Ernest Jones and Chris Garrett in 2021
Of course, the Rams famously did this without any first round picks since 2016, but few of those star acquisitions like Matthew Stafford, Von Miller, and OBJ would have ever come to L.A. if it weren’t for the franchise finding Aaron Donald with the 13th overall pick in 2013.
The Seahawks do not have a single player on the roster like Donald and while that is true for most teams—perhaps 31 teams—a top-10 pick in the 2022 NFL Draft gives Seattle a fighting chance to find someone great. Like last year’s “someone great” picks in that same area of the draft: Micah Parsons, DeVonta Smith, Rashawn Slater, Penei Sewell, Patrick Surtain, or Alijah Vera-Tucker.
Not “someone great” like Justin Fields, whose first season with the Chicago Bears resulted in the firing of the head coach and general manager, a 6-11 record despite “only needing a QB!”, and one of the worst rookie quarterback campaigns in history.
The Seahawks are not at all setup to support a rookie quarterback right now—they could get there by ‘23 by ignoring every QB option at their disposal who isn’t of similar regard and cost as the one they just landed in Drew Lock. It’s time to accept that Seattle needs to enter the “Davis Mills” era for 1-2 seasons and to not make any considerable Bedard-sized sacrifices because of a delusion that the team could be back in the playoffs next season.
They can’t win 10 games and even if they could, a one-and-done postseason trip will not do anything to calm Seattle’s fan storm in a year.
As former Seahawks tight end Greg Olsen noted to Colin Cowherd following the trade, Pete Carroll’s Seahawks place importance on the QB position well after they’re thinking about defense and running the football. Malik Willis might end up as the most elusive running quarterback in the league one day—but that is NOT what Olsen is referring to with “running” the football.
But the disaster of drafting Willis or Kenny Pickett or Matt Corral or Sam Howell pales in comparison to a scenario by PFF’s Eric Eager and former Field Gulls writer Ben Baldwin that the Seahawks might be better off trading for Kirk Cousins. Trading for Cousins would officially mark the end of innocence for Seattle’s football team and bring back memories of one name and one name alone by comparison: Bill Bavasi.
And trading for Cousins would not be better or worse than trading for Watson, as Aaron Wilson and many others have asserted is a realistic possibility for the Seahawks. Giving up draft picks and salary cap room for either quarterback would be equal levels of stupid.
As I will lay out in many mock drafts to come, including the two-rounder that I posted on Wednesday morning that landed Seattle an offensive tackle and two premium defensive prospects, the Seahawks have to turn their entire focus on finally creating a roster again that opposing teams fear. Not just opposing pass defenses either.
Want those mock drafts delivered to you by me by HAND:
It is pure delusion to think that Seattle should or could be focused on anything other than fixing their massive issues on defense and along the offensive line. When Pete Carroll made it to the Seahawks in 2010, he drafted Russell Okung and Earl Thomas in the top-14 picks, then Golden Tate late in the second.
In 2011, Seattle went offensive line with their first two picks, then K.J. Wright in the fourth and Richard Sherman in the fifth. Millions, maybe even BILLIONS, of Seahawks fans were beyond their boiling point that Carroll had done nothing to address quarterback in the draft and by the end, despite McDonald’s claims, Billions of people can be wrong.
What the Seattle Seahawks finally have for the first time in over 10 years is a ton of draft capital in the next two years. They also have the most cap space in the next two years and as I wrote on Tuesday, the Seahawks could now be major players in free agency—not to set themselves up for immediate success, but so that the team can be competitive again in 2023 when they do draft a QB. One who will be coming into more of a “Joe Burrow situation” than a “Tua Tagovailoa” one.
Looking at which players are signed for 2023 and assuming that Tyler Lockett might not stick around that long, that leaves Seattle’s true building blocks as: Jamal Adams, Jordyn Brooks, Damien Lewis, Darrell Taylor, Michael Dickson, Tre Brown, Colby Parkinson, Dee Eskridge, and Alton Robinson? Even if the Seahawks extend DK Metcalf and Cody Barton before then, how could anyone possibly make the argument that Seattle should ADD a quarterback to help them win right now at the cost of adding players who could help the team from 2023-2026?
You can be legally allowed to drive.
You can be allowed to say that the Seahawks should trade for Cousins or draft Willis.
But you shouldn’t be allowed to do those two things concurrently.
This week should be treated as the most exciting moment that the Seahawks have had as a franchise since they were on top of the world as Super Bowl champions, even if it simultaneously the most terrifying. But you need to have patience. You need to be willing to sit through one season of “Drew Lock” or someone like him.
Don’t make the same mistake that the Mariners made.
Do not be the Seattle Mariners.