Whoever the Seahawks select with the fourth overall pick, it's likely to have some consequences to the current roster. Whether it shows a long term plan to replace an ageing veteran or simply the end of the road for a fringe backup - the amount of money involved in the first round will no doubt lead to some casualties. Ahead of this week's combine, we look at what some of the consequences may be as the Seahawks look to hit back from a 4-12 season.
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The pick is... Matt Stafford / Mark Sanchez (QB)
Consequences: If the Seahawks select a quarter back with their first round pick it's a statement of intent from the franchise. Teams regularly look for 'their own guy' at quarter back after seeing a change at head coach or offensive coordinator. A younger player can be moulded how you want especially if you plan on making significant changes to the playbook and scheme. The Seahawks have already signalled their intentions to keep Matt Hasselbeck as the team's starter for 2009, but will they look for a future replacement? Hasselbeck will be 34 in September and struggled with an injured back during most of the 2008 season. Stafford or Sanchez, if picked, would present the long term future for the Seahawks. However, with the money involved - the long term would likely become the short term very quickly.
The pick is... Michael Crabtree (WR)
Consequences: After suffering an injury plagued season at the receiver position in 2008, Tim Ruskell has already stated his desire to avoid a similar situation in the future. Crabtree is being touted by many as a future Seahawk and his inclusion into the roster could suggest a lack of faith in the teams young receivers. During the 2008 training camp, Seattle coaches regularly talked up the potential of receivers such as Courtney Taylor, Logan Payne, Ben Obomanu and Jordan Kent. Further evidence was shown in pre-season with some eye catching performances.
When the 'Hawks suffered a crisis losing Nate Burleson to injured reserve in week one (and with Deion Branch and Bobby Engram already missing) it was time for the unproven guys to step up. Obomanu was also added to I.R. during pre-season and he was quickly joined by Logan Payne. Kent had few opportunities but failed to make an impression, whilst Taylor was generally criticised for his inability to get open.
Drafting a receiver like Michael Crabtree will suggest that despite early promise, Seattle will not be holding out too much hope for this group - possibly leading to cuts. Both Branch and Burleson will be given the chance to get healthy and the team also has the option to pursue free agent Bobby Engram. Big name free agents such as T.J. Houshmanzadeh are also on the market. Mike Hass, a former Biletnikoff winner like Crabtree, was recently signed to compete for a roster spot. The position will be focused upon during the off season and this may lead to some changes.
The pick is... Jason Smith/Michael Oher/Eugene Monroe (OT)
Consequences: Many fans and pundits are championing taking an offensive tackle with the fourth overall pick. Although no one prospect stands out, it is a deep class and Seattle will have the opportunity to grab a long term addition to their offensive line. Walter Jones recently underwent micro fracture surgery on his left knee. This is a notorious act that has often spelled the beginning of the end for a sportsman's career. Jones' knee will be under scrutiny all the way to training camp as he hopes to return for a 13th season.
Taking a left tackle with the fourth overall pick would secure the position in case Jones is unable to make a full recovery. In the worst case scenario - he has to retire before or during the 2009 season - the Seahawks would be prepared for the situation. It would also be a sign that Seattle do no expect the future hall of famer to be a long term fixture on the roster. At 35 years of age he's certainly approaching retirement consideration and as with the quarter back discussion earlier, you don't pay a rookie $10m a year to sit on the bench for a few seasons.
Selecting a tackle won't just affect Walter Jones however. When the team re-signed Sean Locklear in 2008 to a big £32m contract they purposely included incentives for playing at left tackle. The deal suggested the team view Locklear as the long term answer to the blind side position. Drafting a rookie LT would almost certainly show the team have given up on that proposition, keeping Locklear on the right hand side indefinitely.
The pick is... Malcolm Jenkins (CB)
Consequences: Seattle drafted corner backs with their first picks in 2006 and 2007 (Kelly Jennings & Josh Wilson). Jennings began the 2008 season starting alongside Marcus Trufant but was benched after a series of errors. Wilson got the chance to start and although inconsistent at times, showed enough playmaking ability to warrant greater consideration as a starter in 2009.
By selecting a corner back such as Malcolm Jenkins in the first round, it would almost certainly bring an end to Jennings career in Seattle and jeopardise Wilson's future in the process. Considering both corner's were taken by current GM Tim Ruskell, it would be a surprise to see the Seahawks so blatantly suggest they had 'made mistakes' by drafting yet another corner back. The position gained further attention when Marcus Trufant was locked up to a $50.2m deal last off season. Still, if the team feel Jenkins presents that 'can't miss' value with the fourth overall pick - there may be no room for sentiment.
Jenkins does come from a big school, is a four year starter and offers a high character personality - all Ruskell traits. Jennings has two years left on his contract, but could be a potential cut if the team drafts another corner back with a high pick.
The pick is... Chris 'Beanie' Wells / Knowshon Moreno (RB)
Consequences: Many were suprised when Tim Ruskell signed both Julius Jones and TJ Duckett in free agency last year. Both experienced restricted first seasons in Seattle, with Mike Holmgren reluctant to use a multi-back system. He instead regularly went with 'the hot hand' and Duckett was sparingly used in short yardage situations. Maurice Morris is a free agent this year and could move away from the team that drafted him back in 2002. Leonard Weaver, a talented RB or FB, is another free agent who will test the market.
Should the Seahawks draft a running back in the first round and inherit the cost that comes with such a pick, there may be further changes. It would be difficult to cut either Duckett or Jones, so they will likely remain on the roster in 2009. However, without a rookie to compete both will see an increase in carries and become a focal point of Greg Knapp's new offense.
If a Beanie Wells or Knowshon Moreno arrives on the scene it could keep Duckett on short yardage duties and Jones may experience another frustrating season of sharing the load. Drafting a rookie may also make things ominous for 7th round pick Justin Forsett.