The first question everyone will ask is - does this rule out Michael Crabtree? I'm going to guess that by this time next week, the majority of mock drafts slating the 'Hawks to pick Crabtree will have changed their prediction. Jamie Dukes and Charles Davis from the NFL Network have already begun the trend. Personally, I wouldn't be so quick to rule out Crabtree. The Seahawks were in part decimated at receiver last year because they relied too much on Deion Branch and Bobby Engram - neither 100% healthy to start the 2008 season. Nate Burleson will begin 2009 in a similar position to Branch last year - recovering from a serious knee injury. Branch has shown an inability to stay healthy - whilst Bobby Engram is unlikely to be retained. They can avoid such a situation in 2009 by adding Houshmandzadeh and drafting Crabtree, releasing the pressure on both Burleson and Branch to be starters in week one.
What today's signing does guarantee is the team won't be handcuffed into getting a receiver in the draft, be it Crabtree or someone else later on. In 2008, the Seahawks were forced into an aggressive trade to get John Carlson - filling a big hole at tight end. They have avoided such a need in 2009, but the option is still there should a receiver top their big board any time they're on the clock. Let's also remember, Houshmandzadeh will be 32 when the season begins. He's a solid short term option, but the Seahawks may want to add a play maker who can contribute some now (without total dependency) but be a more dominant weapon in 2010 and 2011.
However, the knock for Crabtree is the amount the team has now invested at wide receiver. With Houshmandzadeh, Branch and Burleson all taking up a large chunk of cap space, they may find it hard to justify another big contract (probably in the $10m a year range) on a rookie receiver taken fourth overall.
They may instead look to invest money elsewhere. So far, they have filled two glaring needs. Colin Cole fills a gap at defensive tackle, and Houshmandzadeh comes in at receiver. There have, however, been no improvements to the offensive line which has lost depth with Ray Willis entering free agency. It is unclear whether the Seahawks intend to pursure Willis.
Although one of Jason Smith or Eugene Monroe is expected to go to St Louis second overall, one could also be available to the Seahawks should they wish to select a long term replacement for Walter Jones. Alternatives? They could even look at a quarter back such as Mark Sanchez, whom it is believed will soon be coming to Seattle for a work out. Selecting either an offensive tackle or quarter back would be with an eye towards the future, albeit an expensive one.
If you're looking for 'impact' prospects who can start right away, then you're probably looking at guys like Brian Orakpo (DE, Texas), Knowshon Moreno (RB, Georgia) and Chris Wells (RB, Ohio State). It would be a big reach to select any of these players with the fourth overall pick, perhaps making a longer term investment more likely.
One thing is for sure, the signing of Houshmandzadeh is a statement of intent for the immediate - this team want's to win now.